APEX Media was among the select few to view the aircraft’s new Upper Class, premium and economy seats, as well as a life-sized mockup of The Loft – the largest of the airline’s social spaces in business class.
Virgin Atlantic hosted a special event at its base in Crawley, UK, yesterday to give guests a first look at the interior of its upcoming Airbus A350 fleet. The first four of Virgin Atlantic’s A350 aircraft will be delivered by autumn of this year, initially operating flights between Heathrow and John F. Kennedy International airports, and will eventually also fly from London’s Gatwick Airport. In total, Virgin Atlantic will take delivery of 12 A350-1000 aircraft by 2021 – an order worth $4.4 billion at list prices.
.@VirginAtlantic CEO @shaiweiss calls the airline’s @Airbus #A350 a labor of love. Watch live coverage from today’s reveal in @theapexassoc Instagram stories, including photos of the new Upper Class and The Loft. #LiveFromVirgin #PaxEx #AvGeek pic.twitter.com/dN4rHfGTg5
— Kristina Velan (@kristinavelan) April 8, 2019
Mark Anderson @VirginAtlantic: "Everything that we create onboard an aircraft can be copied, apart from the way we make you feel. Our frontline team bring to life the Virgin Magic." #PaxEx #AvGeek pic.twitter.com/PcVluIPrOT
— Stephanie Taylor (@sgracetaylor) April 8, 2019
Virgin Atlantic’s CEO, Shai Weiss, introduced the “star of the event – the A350,” highlighting the importance of fusing an unbelievable product with exceptional service. Mark Anderson, EVP Customer at Virgin Atlantic, echoed Weiss’ customer service-centric message: “Everything that we create on board an aircraft can be copied, apart from the way we make you feel. Our frontline team bring to life the Virgin Magic.”
Airline employees were on hand to make attendees feel at home – or in transit. Cabin crew served snacks and “Cloud Cocktails” (champagne adorned with cotton candy) and guests enjoyed treatments, including head massages and manicures, at the spa where Clubhouse employees are trained.
During the launch event, Virgin Atlantic designer Henry Buckley explained to spectators that The Loft was created together with Factorydesign in response to passengers requesting more versatility from the social spaces on board its aircraft, which he admitted can sometimes feel like it’s only there for “drinks service.”
With space for eight passengers in total – five seated and three standing – those in The Loft will be able to watch bespoke content (Buckley said the airline is yet to decide what this will be) on a 32-inch screen using bluetooth to connect to the audio, a first for Virgin Atlantic. There is also access to AC and USB power for those who wish to use The Loft as a work space.
In another first, the five seats in The Loft have seatbelts, and while they’re not for use on takeoff and landing, passengers could stay in the area during turbulence with a fastened seatbelt.
Buckley also said the airline had tried to create cohesion between The Loft and the main Upper Class cabin by using a new material to create “a translucent privacy panel” that gives Upper Class passengers a view of some soft lighting and silhouettes, “to create excitement about what’s happening [in The Loft].”
The A350 Upper Class cabin includes 44 “suites” in a 1-2-1 configuration. While Virgin Atlantic has faced every seat towards the window, the airline says there are greater levels of privacy thanks to higher walls around each suite as well as deployable privacy screens.
— Kristina Velan (@kristinavelan) April 8, 2019
Inside, a 44-inch seat pitch can accommodate a fully lie-flat bed. Other features include an 18.5-inch in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen, which allows passengers to use their personal electronic devices as a remote. The IFE systems also offer a bluetooth connection, the same as in The Loft, so passengers can use their wireless headphones for audio. Each suite also contains two USB power outlets and an AC socket, a dedicated cocktail table, shelving and a larger tray table for storing personal items.
William Bex-Russell, designer at Virgin Atlantic, explained how mood lighting within the suites could be controlled to some extent by the passenger, who can choose from three modes: “bright, medium, or completely off.”
The 56 premium economy seats on board Virgin Atlantic’s A350 aircraft each have a 36-inch seat pitch, 18.5-inch seat width, four-way adjustable leather headrest and seven-inch recline. The IFE system can be viewed on 13.5-inch seatback screens and controlled using personal electronic devices. The seats include USB power outlets and are designed to include more areas for storage, including a side amenity pocket as well as upper and lower seatback stowage.
Virgin Atlantic’s A350 economy class cabin is made up of 235 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration. All seats have a 17.4-inch seat width, but those traveling in Economy Classic and Economy Light will have a 31-inch seat pitch, while those with Economy Delight seating will have a 34-inch seat pitch. Controllable using personal electronic devices, the IFE screens are 11.6-inches in size. As in all classes, there is access to USB power.