Virgin Atlantic has revealed the interiors of its forthcoming A330neo aircraft, which will be fitted with state-of-the-art economy and premium economy seats, a lounge and two types of Upper Class suites. Jenny Southan reports
Launching in October 2022 on the London-Boston route (tickets will go on sale later this month), Virgin Atlantic’s new A330neo aircraft will feature a transformed Upper Class (business class) cabin and a new social space called the Loft. It will also have the airline’s “fastest-ever” in-flight wifi (for a fee).
Economy class has been overhauled too, with stylish new burgundy upholstery, and the “largest ever” seat-back touchscreen entertainment display in economy class (at 13.3 inches).
There is also Bluetooth connectivity so people can use their own Airpods, for example, or even use their phone as a controller (although we are not sure why you’d bother when the screen is within easy reach – perhaps for hygiene reasons?). UK plug sockets and USB ports have been built in for charging. The A330neo will have 156 Economy Classic seats with 31 inches of legroom, while passengers who pay more will be able to choose from 28 Economy Delight seats, which provide 34 inches of legroom.
In premium economy there are 46 seats with 38 inches of legroom. When Globetrender tried out the seats at the airline’s recent launch event in London, we were impressed with the leg rests installed in every seat, which would make sleeping much more comfortable.Another feature we loved was the in-seat wireless charging pad for smartphones that is integrated into armrests.
What about Upper Class? The A330neo will be fitted with 30 newly desiged Upper Class suites that are all forward facing in a 1-2-1 configuration, as opposed to angled, as they are in the existing “herringbone format”.Seats can, of course, also be converted into fully flat beds, although also you can see from this picture, it might feel a little claustrophobic with your legs in the new “pod” section.On the plus side, the suites are more private, thanks to a fully closing privacy door and “do not disturb” feature. This is a perfect example of how the standard of long-haul business class products is becoming more and more similar to first class.
There is also more space and storage (we liked the a cupboard with amirrored door), as well as passenger-controlled mood lighting, 17.3-inch touchscreens monitors and wireless charging pads.
Finally, the Retreat Suite is a completely new innovation for Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, consisting of two exclusive suites at the front of the cabin. You have to admit, it looks fantastic. The airline’s most spacious suite yet, with a seat that converts to a six-foot, seven-inch-long bed, as well as a huge 27-inch touchscreen display for movies, the Retreat also comes with an ottoman that doubles as an extra seat so that up to four people can dine, chat or play games in their own private social space.
According to The Points Guy, the Retreat Suites will be offered for an additional £200 surcharge to Upper Class guests 14 days before departure. They may be available to book with Virgin Points, or if they remain unsold at check-in, offered to elite status Flying Club members on a surprise and delight basis.
Meanwhile, the Loft is Virgin Atlantic’s revamped “social space” (a version of it can also be found on the airline’s A350s), which has seating for eight people, “allowing guests to chat or enjoy refreshments from the new self-service fridge and drinks dispenser”. (Globetrender thinks that many passengers will miss the more glamorous cocktail bar found in Upper Class on older planes.)The airline adds: “Customers can also connect Bluetooth headphones to the dual panoramic 27” touchscreens or utilise the wireless charging facilities for their devices.”
It should be noted that Virgin Atlantic’s in-house design team worked in collaboration with Factorydesign to develop the Retreat Suite, new Upper Class Suite and the Loft.
In addition to all these interior innovations, Virgin Atlantic says the A330neo is “crucial” transformation its fleet into the “cleanest in the sky”.However, from Globetrender’s perspective, even though the A330neo has been designed to be 11 per cent more fuel and carbon efficient than the A330-300 planes it’s replacing – and will deliver a 50 per cent reduction in airport noise contour – it can hardly be called “clean” when it comes to the impact of flying on the environment.
In 2019, Virgin Atlantic became the first UK airline to announce a firm order for up to 16 A330neos from Airbus. Following a multibillion-dollar investment over the last decade, the airline operates a fleet with an average aircraft age of just under seven years thanks to 68 per cent of its planes being “next generation”. From 2027, 100 per cent of them will be next-generation.
From September 2022, the airline will take delivery of three A330neos, with the remaining deliveries following between 2023 and 2026.
Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer at Virgin Atlantic, says: “When it comes to innovating for our customers, we never stand still. Our desire to create memorable experiences means we’ll continue to imagine with fresh ideas.
“We care about every detail of the cabin design and every step of our customer’s journey. We’re proud to unveil our state of the art A330neo and show the evolution of our customer experience, with each of our customers receiving a premium experience regardless of the cabin they travel in.
“They’ll be better connected with their fellow travellers and our amazing crew in the air, and with their friends and family on the ground.”
He adds: “The A330neo plays a significant role in our multibillion dollar fleet transformation, demonstrating our commitment to the planet. We know the most impactful thing we can do as an airline is to fly the cleanest, greenest, youngest fleet possible and the A330neo is integral to achieving this goal. It’s truly a plane for the future.”