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With the Designer: Virgin Atlantic Shows Off Innovative A330neo Cabins
Virgin Atlantic’s first Airbus A330neo is preparing to touch down in the U.K. this September. The arrival of the first aircraft will mark a major milestone in the carrier’s fleet transformation over the past five years. The airline placed a firm order for up to 16 A330-900s in 2019, making up 6% of all A330-900s on order as of July 2022. The new aircraft is 11% more fuel efficient compared to the current A330-300 fleet and will replace the 10 current A330-300s that Virgin Atlantic operates. The aircraft will also assist with future capacity growth.
With a distinct and unique cabin on board each of its fleet types, Virgin Atlantic spent over five years researching and developing the right cabin for its upcoming A330neo. Last week, AirlineGeeks had the opportunity to tour mockups of the cabin with Henry Buckley, Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic, at an event in London that showcased the fascinating final products that will fly onboard the new aircraft.
Adding Virgin Atlantic’s Unique Touch to Each Jet
Buckley and his team had been hard at work over the past few years. After delivering brand new cabins for the airline’s flagship Airbus A350-1000, the team pivoted all attention towards the A330-900 to ensure the airline can create a unique experience that fits the profile of the new aircraft.
When boarding the new aircraft, frequent flyers will immediately notice that they are onboard a new jet. Virgin Atlantic’s signature social space, The Loft, has been upgraded on the A330neo. Upper Class passengers have access to this space throughout the flight.
The new Loft on the A330neo features space for up to eight passengers to relax with four seats. The space features dual 27-inch touchscreen monitors with access to Virgin Atlantic’s inflight entertainment. Up to eight Bluetooth headsets can connect to the screens, enabling passengers the option to view content together. The Loft also has seat belts so that passengers can continue to utilize the space when there is turbulence.
Buckley pointed out some of the unique characteristics of the space such as the elevated seating arrangement. This enables passengers to be able to easily converse with the cabin crew and other passengers that may prefer standing. Buckley’s team also included four types of charging options to ensure passengers have the option also to stay digitally connected while enjoying the space.
The Loft also features a self-service fridge and freezer that will be stocked with snacks, ice cream, and drinks throughout the flight. From the distinctive lighting to various unique features, The Loft is an amenity that other airlines competing with Virgin Atlantic don’t offer for their premium passengers.
A New Cabin for All Passengers
In the front of the cabin, Virgin Atlantic is introducing two brand new, extra spacious Retreat Suites. Buckley’s team was determined to create an exclusive space that builds on the Upper Class experience. The two suites feature plenty of additional space, large lockable storage lockers, customizable mood lighting, electronic privacy dividers, and larger 27-inch IFE screens. The fully flat bed measures out to 6 feet, 7-inches. The suite also includes a wireless charging station, AC, USB-A, and USB-C ports.
The airline selected the Thompson Aero VantageFirst for its Retreat Suite. The two suites are positioned together in the middle section of the first row of the Upper Class cabin. Virgin Atlantic is the only airline flying between London and the U.S. with a seat that allows passengers to create their own, private social and dining space for up to four people.
The new Retreat Suites will be sold as a $240 premium for passengers traveling in the Upper Class cabin. Passengers flying on board an A330neo will have the opportunity to upgrade from Upper Class to the Retreat Suite beginning two weeks prior to a flight. This concept is similar to the JetBlue Mint Studio, which offers more space than the Mint Suite and can be purchased for an additional sum before your flight.
Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class focuses on creating a flexible space that caters to various passengers’ needs. Buckley selected the Thompson Aero Vantage XL seat for the new 30-seat Upper Class cabin featuring sliding doors for added privacy. This is the same seat that Delta Air Lines uses for its business class cabin on board its A330neo fleet. Atlanta-based Delta owns a 49% share of Virgin Atlantic.
The new Upper Class seat has a 17.3-inch IFE screen and the bed length measures 6-feet 4-inches. Similar to the Retreat Suite, the Upper Class seats also have a lockable storage compartment, customizable mood lighting, and a wireless charging station.
The seat includes a large tray table that can easily be used as a workstation with space for a laptop and notepad. The back of the seat also has a unique cushion-like texture that makes it comfortable to relax against when the seat is in the lie-flat position.
While Virgin Atlantic already boasts a competitive transatlantic product with its A350 Upper Class, the A330neo seat takes it a step further with a spacious layout that includes multiple passenger-oriented innovations.
In Premium Economy, the airline is installing 46 Collins MIQ seats, each with 38-inches of legroom. This is the same seat used by other airlines around the world for international premium economy and domestic first class. These seats will offer a calf rest and a wireless charging station. The IFE screen will be 13.3 inches and there will also be AC and USB-A ports on each seat.
Economy will feature 184 seats designed with a new, eco-friendly fabric. The Economy Delight seats will feature 34-inches of legroom while the standard seats will have 31-inches. Similar to Premium Economy, each seat will have a 13.3-inch IFE screen. Each seat will also have direct access to AC and USB-A ports.
New Innovations from Nose to Tail
In addition to the new physical product, tech-focused upgrades are improving the passenger experience throughout the entire cabin. All IFE screens will be Bluetooth compatible, allowing passengers to connect personal headsets to their screens. Passengers can also connect their personal devices to the IFE screen in every seat. This allows passengers to browse the IFE library, control their seat (in the premium cabins), and activate the call bell and reading light all from their own device.
Each A330neo will also be equipped with Viasat WiFi. Passengers can purchase a 1-hour pass for $7.20 or a full flight pass for $22.80. The airline is also using faux leather throughout the cabin to boast a more sustainable interior. By using faux leather, the airline estimates that it will save about 3,000 cows across its entire A330neo fleet.
Preparing for a NEO Fleet Member
In 2019, Virgin Atlantic became the only U.K. airline to announce firm order for the A330neo. The order is worth $4.7 billion at the list price. The A330neo fleet will have 262 seats, while the airline’s 787-9 fleet flies with 264 seats onboard each jet.
The A330neo, however, has a higher premium seat density with one additional Upper Class seat and 11 extra Premium Economy seats. On the other hand, the aircraft will have 14 fewer economy seats than the airline’s Dreamliners.
Following the delivery of G-VJAZ in September, Virgin Atlantic expects to take delivery of three additional A330neos by February 2023. The final new aircraft is expected by 2026. Boston will receive the inaugural A330neo flight in October and the airline’s next U.S. destination, Tampa, will see the aircraft by November. With the introduction of A330neo flights across the Atlantic, Virgin Atlantic will continue to position itself as a top player amongst the various carriers that connect the U.K. with North America.
Stay tuned for additional exclusive coverage of Virgin Atlantic’s 24/7 Maintenance Operation at Heathrow and an in-depth look at the airline’s newest route to Austin, Texas.
- With the Designer: Virgin Atlantic Shows Off Innovative A330neo Cabins - July 24, 2022
- Trip Report: JetBlue Raises the Bar for Transcontinental Flying - July 3, 2022
- Austin Welcomes New Airlines, Prepares for Record-Breaking Capacity - January 13, 2022
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