Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to resume flying passengers again, from July 20th. Cheers to that. When the airline does resume flying, like all airlines, the experience will be a little different. Now, we know how. For starters, each guest will receive an amenity kit with masks, wipes and gel to keep everyone safe. Importantly, it’s not just for passengers in one end of the plane or the other.
Here’s what to expect from Virgin Atlantic’s new meal service, as well as safety measures in the airport and on board, and yes – you’ll still get a hot meal, if you want one…
Virgin Atlantic At The Airport
Virgin Atlantic plans to use floor markers on the ground to help people keep social distancing wherever possible as the airline reboots passenger flights in late July to New York, Los Angeles, Orlando, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Among travelers greatest present concerns are close interactions with others, and to tackle this key issue, any touch points, such as check in kiosks are to regularly be wiped down, and customers are asked to wear a mask once inside. Better yet, many touch points are being eliminated.
In a logical step to reduce physical contact, Virgin Atlantic will have passengers hold up their own passport and or boarding pass, rather than handing it over to a member of staff. By most accounts, the fewer people that touch your stuff, the better right now…
Until covid-19 is in the rear view mirror, Virgin Atlantic will board 10 customers at a time. Tthe move will ensure that no one stands around tightly confined areas, such as the aisle of a plane for too long. When 10 people make it to their seats, the next 10 can board.
The airline also plans to block seats around people to create distancing on board wherever possible, stating….
“You may notice that some seats are left empty for spacing on your flight. We are doing what we can to keep seats empty between travellers on separate bookings. Please mind the gap as you sit down.”
So what about lounges? Virgin Atlantic is rumored to be working on temporary solutions for lounge access, in the time until home base at Terminal 3 reopens. Currently, Terminal 3 at Heathrow is not in use, and Virgin Atlantic will operate out of London Heathrow Terminal 2 until further notice. The sooner the 14 day quarantine plans are nixed, the sooner airlines will be able to operate at a level closer to a new normality.
In outposts such as New York JFK, eligible passengers would still have access to Delta Sky Club’s, which remain open with solid service, including waiter service for drinks. Everyone loves a Clubhouse, but something is better than nothing in the interim.
Virgin Atlantic: On Board
Unlike some competitors, Virgin Atlantic specifically states face masks will be mandatory, at least in the interim as the world looks to recover from covid-19. Also unlike many other airlines, they’re giving all customers 3 masks, wipes and gels to take full control of their environment and help protect others.
Masks are said to only be effective for 4 hours of use, so the move puts best health advice practices in the hands of passengers.
In addition, hot meals will still be served in all cabins, which the airline states as being a part of being “most loved”, in a time when other airlines are drastically cutting offerings beyond health and safety concerns, purely to save cash.
One interesting distinction is that planes will be cleaned and decontaminated after every flight, whereas many low cost airlines state plans to clean planes once daily, after they finish service. For long haul flying, this is a very important differentiator.
If you want to risk making yourself or someone around you sick, by refusing to wear one for any reason other than an medical inability to, fly another airline. The theory with masks has always been that they’re most effective if everyone wears one, and this move ensures everyone does their part. By providing one of medical grade, it takes a lot of the “ask” out of the equation.
As to hot food, customers are said to expect a sealed meal in a simplified place setting, but it’ll still be an actual meal with substance, not just a little snack. Meals will be sealed at the secure catering facility, to ensure safety.
There’s no question that flying will be different, at least for a few months, but it’s nice to see that Virgin Atlantic isn’t bailing on bringing a solid value proposition to customers. As travel bans lift and flying reemerges, safety will be the most important initial concern to prevent secondary spikes, and providing masks, wipes and other hygiene elements put the airline among the best in the business.
For an airline with branding and style at its heart, one can only hope Virgin Atlantic will take medical grade masks to the next step, with designer patterns to make them useful and reusable long after the flight is over. I did love that my Etsy mask stole the show from my trip last week ; )…