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Virgin Atlantic has a solid Premium Economy product, a reasonable Economy Class product (or so I’m told – I haven’t flown it in years) and a truly terrible Business Class product. I tried out the Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class (Business Class) seat on an overnight flight not all that long ago and it’s one of the only Business Class seats that has ever made me wish I was back in British Airways Club World. I genuinely have no idea how a modern, European airline gets away with such a bad seat….but deliverance may be on the way.
Business Traveller has reported that Virgin Atlantic is set to unveil a new Business Class seat for its 12 A350-1000 aircraft that will start to arrive around the middle of 2019.
Oliver Byers, Virgin Atlantic’s senior vice president of sales and customer loyalty, is quoted as saying the following:
The A350-1000 is a great opportunity for us to introduce a new Upper Class seat and product, and we’re very excited to reveal what that will be before we start flying it next year
We’ve seen it, I’ve sat in it, it’s a fantastic seat
What you’ll see is that it’s a next-generation product but it’s incredibly Virgin Atlantic – it’s exactly what you would think Virgin Atlantic is in terms of the look and feel, the design, the feel of the cabin and the warmth of the environment.
Byers is also quoted as calling the seat “revolutionary” which is probably going a bit far (The Qatar Airways Qsuite was revolutionary and I can’t imagine a world in which Virgin Atlantic unveils anything as close to a seat as good as that one) but anything that’s an improvement on the current Upper Class offering will be very welcome.
From what Business Traveller has been able to elicit we won’t find out any more about the new Upper Class seat until early next year, but a strong hint has been dropped that the first routes to get the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 (and therefore the new seats) will be Virgin’s routes to Hong Kong and Shanghai.
Apparently Virgin Atlantic feels like these routes are doing well and is interested in using the new aircraft to increase the capacity above what the 787 Dreamliners (which currently operate on these routes) offer.
In further good news the seat changes aren’t confined to the Business Class cabin – Byers has confirmed that the Premium Economy and Economy Class cabins have been given an overhaul too and he has even called the changes “phenomenal”.
With Virgin already offering a pretty decent Premium Economy product it will be interesting to see how the cabin has been altered – if it genuinely is an improvement on what’s already on offer this could turn out be one of the more economical way to cross the Atlantic in genuine comfort.
On a negative point (and if Byers is to be believed) we shouldn’t expect the existing seats in the 747s, 787s and A330s to be ripped out in favor of the new A350 seat so the number of routes offering the new seats will be limited.
Whatever Business Class seats Virgin Atlantic introduces on its A350-1000s they can’t be any worse than the abomination the airline currently offers in Upper Class cabins and I suspect that the airline has realised that it needs to step up its game (even BA is introducing an improved Business Class seat on its A350s next year).
With Delta (Virgin’s partner and part-owner) offering good reverse herringbone Business Class seats out of London and starting to introduce its Delta One Suites on some of its other European routes Virgin Atlantic was at risk of looking like the ugly sister in the relationship…so it’s good to see that changes are being promised.
I’ll keep my excitement under control until we’ve actually seen what Virgin Atlantic’s new Business Class seat looks like but, although I don’t expect anything revolutionary (despite what Virgin may wish us to think), I’m really looking forward to seeing what the airline has come up with…..hopefully it’s good enough to shock British Airways into doing something drastic with its outdated Business Class cabins.