Look Out For Virgin Atlantic’s “New” Aircraft

Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission which helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published.

UPDATE 23 March 2018: Aircraft now added to more routes

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.

Sadly the four A330-200 aircraft that Virgin is having delivered aren’t actually new aircraft – they’re just new to the Virgin Atlantic fleet. These aircraft are being leased from the now obsolete Air Berlin to take the place of a number of Virgin’s 787 Dreamliners whose Rolls Royce engines are causing issues.

What’s Different About These Aircraft?

The aircraft may not be new but Virgin doesn’t have the time to refit them with standard Virgin Atlantic cabins so, while the outside of the aircraft looks like a regular Virgin Atlantic A330, the inside still has the original Air Berlin cabins.

This is both good news and bad news.

Bad news first.

These aircraft will only offer 19 Business Class seats. The Dreamliners they are replacing offer 31 Business Class seats in the Upper Class cabin so we can expect award space to be harder to come by.

Air Berlin never had a Premium Economy cabin so these 4 aircraft will not offer a Premium Economy cabin when they fist appear on Virgin’s routes. Virgin Atlantic has said that it plans to fit Premium Economy cabins to these aircraft by the end of 2018…..but the lack of specificity isn’t all that reassuring.

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Seats

The good news is that the Business Class cabin should be better than what Virgin offers on its other aircraft.

I find that the older Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seating configuration reminds me of a series of horse stalls lined up next to one another….

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

…and I find the seats themselves to be claustrophobic and confining. I really hate them and I can’t see much difference between these seats and the newer ones found on the airline’s Dreamliners.

With the Air Berlin Business Class cabin things are decidedly different and Virgin is using some amusing marketing to promote what the new aircraft offer.

Here’s the seat map Virgin Atlantic is using:

You’ll notice that Virgin has given names to the three types of seating arrangement on offer:

  • Love Suite – the centre seats in rows 1, 3 & 5
  • Solo Freedom Suite – the seats exposed to the aisle in rows 2, 4 and 6
  • Solo Corner Suite – the seats by the windows in rows 3 and 5

This isn’t too different from the seat layout you’ll find on the likes of the Iberia A330 Business Class cabin:

Iberia NEW Business Class Airbus A330-200Iberia A330 Business Class

Iberia Business Class Airbus A330-200Iberia A330 Business Class

All the seats offer direct access to the aisle and, although the Air Berlin seats aren’t quite the same as the Iberia seats, they should still be a significant upgrade on what Virgin Atlantic usually offers.

Air Berlin’s Business Class seat

The best seats for solo travelers will be the seats by the windows (“solo corner suites”) while the best seats for couples traveling together will be the “love seats”.

Where To Find These Aircraft?

Virgin Atlantic should have taken delivery of all 4 of these Air Berlin aircraft by the end of March and the airline will be basing them in Manchester (UK).

The aircraft will be flying between Manchester and the following cities (not all flights)….

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Bridgetown (Barbados)
  • New York (JFK)
  • San Francisco

…and London Gatwick and the following cities (not all flights):

  • Antigua
  • Bridgetown (Barbados)
  • St Lucia – Grenada
  • St Lucia – Tobago

These aircraft are already loaded into Virgin’s booking systems so you can use the seat maps to check if you’re booked on (or looking at) one of the Air Berlin aircraft or a traditional Virgin Atlantic plane – for the time being the lack of a Premium Economy option should be a giveaway.

Bottom Line

If you’re booked to fly Business Class on one of these aircraft I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much more spacious the seats feel compared to Virgin’s horse boxes – I’d happily book a Business Class seat on this aircraft.

The temporary (hopefully) lack of Premium Economy seating is annoying but at least Economy Class passengers have the option to pay a little more to sit in the “extra leg room” seats towards the front of the cabin. These seats offer 3″ more leg room and that can make a significant difference on long-haul flights.

Are you booked to fly on one of these aircraft? If you are, how do you feel about them?


Comments are closed.