LONDON – Virgin Atlantic (VS) has showcased today to select media and VIPs, the interior of its forthcoming Airbus A330-900s.
Featured in the new airliners will be the latest generation of Virgin Atlantic’s business class, named ‘Upper Class,’ Bluetooth connectivity throughout all cabins, and two ‘Retreat Suites’ per aircraft, a new product offered by the airline.
The airline expects the first three A330-900s to be delivered in September, with the first revenue flight for the aircraft to operate to Boston in early October.
The airline originally ordered 14 of the aircraft at the 2019 Paris Air Show, with plans for the aircraft to eventually replace its A330-300s, which average 10.7 years old.
The new Airbuses are among Virgin’s ongoing initiatives to overhaul its fleet. In the last three years, the airline retired all of its Airbus A340-600s and Boeing 747-400s.
Commenting on the new A330-900s, Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic said that the new aircraft “play a significant role in our [Virgin’s] multi-billion dollar fleet transformation, demonstrating our commitment to the planet.”
“We know the most impactful thing we can do as an airline is to fly the cleanest, greenest, youngest fleet possible and the A330neo is integral to achieving this goal. It’s truly a plane for the future,” Koster added.
Upper Class Gets an Upgrade
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product has gotten a significant upgrade, bringing the airline’s new aircraft up to par with its flagship, the Airbus A350-1000.
The new A330-900s will offer 30 Upper Class fully-private suites, featuring a passenger-controlled mood lighting, and a 17.3” touchscreen In-Flight Entertainment (IFE).
The most fascinating addition to the airline’s new Upper Class product is the new ‘Retreat Suites.’ The suites will be the most spacious ones within the fleet, complemented with a 27” touchscreen IFE, an ottoman that doubles as an extra seat, wireless charging pad, and a fully closing door to maximize privacy.
According to the airline, the ottoman will allow up to four people to comfortably dine or chat together, a nod to the Q-Suites product of Qatar Airways (QR), which allows passengers to combine suites to create a larger living space.
Alongside VS’s Upper Class is ‘The Loft’, a social space that has set the airline’s inflight experience apart from competing airlines.
The space will make an upgraded return in the A330-900s, with space for eight people, four seats, and a new self-service fridge and drinks dispenser.
A Look at Premium and Economy
In addition to the new innovations coming to the aircraft’s Upper Class, VS’s Premium and Economy experiences will also receive substantial upgrades.
The aircraft will feature 46 Premium seats with 38” of seat pitch, calf rests at each seat, and a 13.3” touchscreen. In a unique twist, the airline will also offer an in-seat wireless charging pad for each Premium seat.
In Economy, passengers will also receive tech-related upgrades, with a 13.3” touchscreen IFE, AC power and USB ports. Mobile devices will be able to control the IFE thanks to the Bluetooth connectivity.
The A330-900s will include 156 seats in Economy Classic with 31” of pitch, and 28 seats in Economy Delight, with an increased pitch of 34”.
Virgin Atlantic’s Competition
Between the new aircraft’s transatlantic prospects and the new Upper Class suites offered by VS, the focus applied by the airline’s newfound competition with JetBlue’s (B6) new Mint product is clear.
Last year, B6 launched its long-awaited transatlantic operations with flights between New York (JFK) and London (LGW, LHR). With the new expansion came an all-new ‘Mint’ business class product that strongly rivaled legacy airlines.
Now, VS is hitting back with top of class suites of its own in an attempt to stand out within the busy transatlantic market.
Another prospect of VS’s newfound competition will be its Joint Venture partner, Delta Air Lines (DL), which operates retrofitted Boeing 767-400s with new ‘Delta One’ Suites on some of its transatlantic routes.
Virgin Atlantic’s new aircraft are bound to shakeup a rapidly developing transatlantic market that demands the latest products from airlines to stay competitive.
Featured Image: Virgin Atlantic