The last bright red shoe has finally dropped. Last night at a “celebration” in London helmed by Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger, the airline laid out their vision of “three ways to fly”, Virgin’s latest approach to economy which removes complimentary checked baggage from it’s lowest fares. Virgin Atlantic was the last major airline offering this benefit across the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s everything you need to know about the new offerings launching later this spring- and what to watch out for if you want to save.
Virgin Atlantic will launch three tiers of economy ticket: light, classic and delight. Light will unmistakably resemble the benefits, or rather subtractions, offered by the airline’s low cost competitors. No checked bag will be included with “light” fares. Classic will deliver the traditional Virgin experience at a slightly higher price point than light, with one welcome new addition. Finally, “delight” will offer an “upgraded” economy experience. Both classic and delight will still offer a checked bag. These fares get you in the door by matching the lowest prices of other airlines and appealing to your affinity for the Virgin brand, but then again, they were doing that before they took bags away.
No Checked Bag
For the first time in 34 years, Virgin Atlantic “light” fares will not include a checked bag or seating assignment. Seats will become available at 24 hours on “light fares”, at which point customers can select what’s left for free. All passengers, including “light” fares will still enjoy Virgin Atlantic meals and complimentary beverages . At the London launch party, we asked Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger, how the airline will differentiate the new “economy light” from low cost carriers. The only answer offered was “The Virgin Experience”.
Simon Calder drew our attention to an important factor regarding the new “light” fare offerings. Virgin Atlantic offers the lowest carry on allowance of any major long haul carrier across the Atlantic. Bags are limited to just 10kg for carry on, and your “personal item” is meant to remain compact. British Airways and even Virgin’s partner Delta offer far more favorable carry on allowance of 23kg, making “light” fares without checked baggage more realistic. It’s hard to imagine a transatlantic trip with a single 10kg carry on.
The silver lining comes with the new “classic” fare. Or, rather, the fare which will resemble the way you currently experience Virgin Atlantic economy with one upgrade. These middle tier fares, which will inevitably be more expensive than “light” but less than “delight” will offer free seat selection, a privilege that was taken away by Virgin Atlantic in recent years.
Delight is Virgin Atlantic’s new economy ticket with benefits, entirely similar to Delta’s Comfort+ launched years before. Passengers will receive priority check in, fast track security and a seat with 3” of extra legroom. It will be a very suitable economy option and more affordable than Premium. The airline was not able to specify a price point for this new offering. From similar offerings offered by other carriers, we’d estimate this somewhere around $100 premium each way over “economy light”.
Giving customers less for the same price, especially when masking it as “choice” is not something we celebrate. Virgin Atlantic already competes on price with low cost carriers out of necessity, and this new offering is simply a way to extract more money for what used to be free. It’s a business, we get it. But Virgin Atlantic’s beautiful red shoe was the last one floating in the traditional economy sky. No longer.