With any launch there’s always questions. Virgin Atlantic is moving into yet another decade of fierce airline competition, and as the rumour mill began to churn, “experts” couldn’t possibly see how the airline would manage to add in enough money maximising seats while also maintaining the features which make Virgin Atlantic so purple and different in a sea of blue. The first thing rumoured to go: the bar.
As to the seat…
Virgin Atlantic just went from the marmite of business class seats to a top ten stunner, in about five seconds flat. If you’re not British – the “marmite” bit means previously, you either loved the old Upper Class seat or hated it – nothing in between. Fast forward to the present, and Virgin airline has unveiled one of the best seats in the business class skies and it’s headed for New York.
Just FYI, every picture you see was taken by GSTP and are not press shots.
This eccentric new A350 business class seat is uniquely Virgin the way afternoon tea is distinctly British. You could put it elsewhere, but it just wouldn’t feel quite right. It’s like Richard Branson learned how to use his Instagram filters and has a new spin on the colours we know and love him for already. If you ask us, it looks really good.
Compared to the current “Upper Class” seats, it’s one giant leap.
- There are adjustable privacy screens at every seat.
- Every seat faces toward a window.
- USB and AC power ports at each seat.
- Every seat has direct aisle access.
- Every seat converts into a fully flat bed.
If you needed to point a finger to the next closest thing, the Cathay Pacific A350 business class seat would be your answer, but it’s far from compatible. For starters, this seat is years younger, and if you really want to win the argument, look no further than where every seat points. Virgin fully customized this product, and it’s the only airline flying it.
Does it have doors? No. Does it have screens which basically do the job? Yes. Virgin Atlantic made a conscious choice not to put “full” doors on these suites, though the capability to do so was obviously there from the design.
Airlines point centre seats inward toward each other for one reason, and one reason only: it saves space. Inward facing central seats, or staggered “in and out” configurations allow for at least another row to be added to the business cabin, but Virgin went a different way.
Words are one thing, actually sleeping on a plane is another. I tested the seat out in bed mode and aside from very good general comfort, my one big “oh, that’s great” was that the length of the bed which at up to 82” was much greater than expected. Another recently launched seat product is 79”, for reference.
There’s no mobile disco light system in each seat, but there are clever lighting features. Aside from standard reading lights, each seat panel has a button which allows you to turn the ambiance up or down.
Super-frequent flyers have one cross to bear with many seats, and that’s personal air vents. Virgin added multiple personal vent points to each seat, which help each passenger control their journey temperature while also enjoying fresher air. On a plane, that really helps.
As hoped, entertainment screens are big and they are vividly sharp. In speaking with Daniel Kerzner, Virgin wanted to be amongst the most consistent in all cabins, and have installed 18.5” screens which work almost identically to the way iPads or other personal electronics do.
Thanks to the new design which features content in each screen rather than on a huge system, if a screen isn’t working, which of course would never happen, a team member could simply snap a new screen in and replace it before the next flight, rather than disappointing future customers. It should also mean the end to “we’ll just need to reset the system”.
The bar is now the loft, and unlike many pub rebrands this bar is so much better. In the previous iteration, there were simply a few barstools right next to each other, which could either be amazing or incredibly awkward. If someone was already at the bar, you were essentially forced to sit next to them. For many, it was beyond British social awkwardness.
In theory, you can even have someone DJ a silent disco for 8 passengers. If you see this happen, it was my idea, no matter what anyone else says.
The Virgin Atlantic A350 is exciting in every cabin. Economy is laid out in a passenger-preferred 3x3x3 layout and the new entertainment screens are wicked fast. Premium Economy sees a next generation seat with even larger screens and of course, you now know everything about things in the pointy end.
Virgin Atlantic is bringing the Airbus A350 to New York first, with flights kicking off September 10th and going to 4x daily by December 2019. Here’s a resource which shows all the latest updates on the Virgin Atlantic A350 route map and the best ways to fly it.
Time to start spreading the news…