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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.
We’ve known for a while that the first Virgin Atlantic A330’s with the refurbished Upper Class cabin will first appear on the airline’s Atlanta and Miami routes at the end of October but we now have a further update from the airline.
Barbados & Newark Routes To Get Refurbished Upper Class
From 12 December Virgin’s Heathrow – Barbados route will feature the refurbished Airbus A330s and, from 30 March 2018, the Heathrow – Newark route will get the refurbished aircraft too.
The schedules are as follows:
VS131 LHR 13:15 – 17:55 BGI (Tue, Sat A330 service – refurbished)
VS132 BGI 17:15 – 19:45 LHR (Tue, Sat A330 service – refurbished)
VS1 LHR 02:25 – 08:10 EWR (Daily A330 service – refurbished)
VS2 EWR 09:30 – 19:45 LHR (Daily A330 service – refurbished)
Is There Really Going To Be Any Improvement?
I have been very careful to avoid calling the refurbished Upper Class cabin “new” as it’s anything but that.
The Upper Class cabins that are being fitted into the A330s are of the same type as currently found in the airline’s 787 Dreamliners and have been in the Virgin Fleet for years.
The airline is, in effect, giving up on the hopeless experiment that has been the A330 Upper Class cabin (it’s only a few years old) and is reverting to an older cabin design that appears to be marginally less terrible.
Here is the layout of the current A330 Upper Class cabin (courtesy of SeatGuru.com):
And here is the layout of the 787’s Upper Class cabin (which is what will appear in the refurbished A330):
As you can see it’s still the terrible herringbone layout and, if you’re in the centre section or on the right side of the aircraft you’ll still have a remarkable lack of privacy – the seats point at each other across the aisle.
Also, as far as I can tell (and I’m happy to be corrected here if anyone knows better), the seats that appear in the 787s (and therefore the refurbished A330s) are very similar (possibly even identical) to the seats in the existing A330 Upper Class cabin…and they’re just as terrible as the cabin layout.
As I mentioned in my A330 review, the seat suffers from a remarkable lack of storage space, it feels very confining, you can only recline it to about 60 degrees and you can’t really use the IFE screen while eating dinner.
Current Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class seating
The only improvements I can see is that the cabin will be less densely packed with passengers (admittedly that’s a big improvement) and there will be seats you can choose (on the left side of the aircraft) where you won’t have a fellow passenger staring at you from across the aisle.
The rest is pretty much business as usual.
Admitting that the A330’s Upper Class cabin was a bad idea was a good positive step by Virgin Atlantic…it’s just a shame that they didn’t follow up that step with a nice, new (and vastly improved) Business Class cabin.
After having suffered the existing A330 Upper Class cabin I don’t see enough improvements in the refurbished cabin to make me reconsider my negative feelings towards the airline’s premium product.
Until Virgin Atlantic installs a proper, modern, comfortable Business Class cabin I see no reason to pay good money to fly Upper Class across the Atlantic – it says quite a lot when I consider BA’s Club World and even Delta’s 767 premium cabin to be better options.