Towards the end of January I wrote about the new Airbus A330-200 aircraft Virgin Atlantic has brought into its fleet and, at the time, I focused my thoughts on the lack of a Premium Economy cabin and the different Business Class cabin that the aircraft currently have. I should have looked closer at the Economy Class cabin.
Delta, Air France/KLM led the way with transatlantic Basic Economy fares, last week the oneworld airlines joined in and now Virgin Atlantic has also announced that it will start offering Basic Economy (aka "hand baggage only) fares across the Atlantic within the next few months. Virgin Atlantic is actually doing things slightly differently to the other legacy airlines in that it's sub-dividing its Economy Class cabin into three separate offerings each of which offers a little bit more that the last.
I'm not exactly a fan of Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class product (at least not the A330 product I tried) but the airline's Premium Economy product is actually pretty good (for what it is) and, as I'm keen to give Virgin another go across the Atlantic, it was with interest that I noted that the airline is taking delivery of four new aircraft.
Every now and again I find myself taking a path that I'm not sure too many other people would take given similar circumstances. It's no secret that I like to travel in premium cabins wherever possible (at least on long-haul routes) but sometimes not even a great price can persuade me to pull the trigger on a fare when something doesn't feel quite right.
I really don't like Willie Walsh. I've never met the man and I have no wish to meet him, but anyone who thinks it's a good idea to stand up at a investors briefing in front of a slide that reads "show me the f*cking money" and then repeats the phrase is an idiot in my book.
The latest schedule changes posted to the reservations systems show Virgin Atlantic taking over one of the USA - UK routes currently operated by Delta as well as adding extra seats to two US cities out of its Manchester base. if you're looking for Premium Economy seats the news is good but, on the other hand, if you're hoping to book Upper Class rewards I'd brace for disappointment.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I posted a review of the Virgin Atlantic A330 “Upper Class” cabin and I concluded that it was possibly the worst modern Business Class cabin I’ve tried out. It was terrible. It would appear that Virgin Atlantic may agree with me (at least to a degree) as it is in the process of refitting its A330s with a different Upper Class cabin.
When booking our flights from New York to London on Virgin Atlantic I'd had a decision to make: Do I book us to fly out of JFK where Virgin has a highly lauded Clubhouse lounge and fly on an Airbus A330 or do I book us to fly out of Newark (where the lounge isn't really anything special) and fly on Virgin's Dreamliner which is reported to have the best Upper Class cabin?
Joanna and I had been planning to visit New York for some time and we were still in the middle of making our plans when the travel Gods smiled down on us in two wonderful ways. First Virgin Atlantic came out with some fantastic premium cabin fares for travel between London and New York and then Amex came out with an offer of $200 off a $1,000 spend with Delta.....and it doesn't really get better than that.
Last week Virgin Atlantic announced quite a big shake up in how it calculates the miles and tier points flyers will earn when flying on Delta and crediting their trips to the airline's Flying Club program. On top of that Virgin also changed the number of miles needed to book awards on Delta with Economy Class awards generally decreasing in cost but some Business Class award increasing in cost by over 70%. Award costs and earnings on Delta had long been out of step with earnings and award costs for flights taken on Virgin Atlantic so it was only a matter of time before Virgin put through the changes needed to align the two - that's what last week's announcement was all about.