‘Designed with love, built for the future’ – Virgin Atlantic unveils its new A350 design concept

Virgin Atlantic has unveiled the design concept for its new Airbus A350 aircraft which will debut in its fleet later this year. With the airline acknowledging that “the journey is as important as the destination” it is no surprise to see the interiors incorporate a range of new features and incorporate Virgin Atlantic’s unmistakable flair promoted under the title “designed with love, built for the future”.

The airline announced the order for the 12 A350-1000s back in Jul-2016 as part of a fleet modernisation programme which will see half of the airline’s fleet replaced over a six year period. They will replace its last remaining Boeing 747-400s and will be configured in a three class arrangement with 44 Upper Class Suites, a 56 seat premium economy cabin and 235 economy seats.

An initial four A350-1000s will arrive in 2019, followed by a further eight aircraft by 2021 with the new aircraft scheduled to debut on the London Heathrow – Newark Liberty International route from 09-Sep-2019 operating the VS001/VS002 return flight.

Its new Upper Class Suite’s will get all the attention. Moving away from its former herringbone design it is a more conventional 1-2-1 layout offering using customised versions of the Safran Cirrus seat, all facing forwards and outwards to the window.

Virgin Atlantic describes the suite as the “perfect retreat at 30,000ft” and while it incorporates the privacy of a sliding  door, unlike other airlines’ business class this will not fully close in order to maintain a connection between passengers and crew. The carrier values that interaction and believes its premium passengers also do.

The seat has a 44 inch pitch and 20 inch seat width and can be seamless transitioned from seat to a 82 inch fully-flat bed. The seat incorporates an 18.5 inch screen, includes USB ports and AC power socket (UK/US/EU) and has in-seat adjustable mood lighting.

The famous Virgin bar at the rear of Upper Class, popular with business class passengers, but maybe not so with premium economy passengers in the rows adjacent to it, has been replaced with a lobby-style seating concept dubbed ‘The Loft’.

Virgin describes the area as “a place to gather, chat, grab a drink or dine with friends”. This area can seat up to eight passengers and houses a 32 inch screen for viewing entertainment, with Bluetooth headphones for sound. Drinks and snacks will still be served in this area as well as a meal service.

Throughout the aircraft and across all cabins, Virgin Atlantic will offer what it describes as its “next generation entertainment system”. This will enable passengers to share content from their own devices and is certainly becoming the new standard now expected by travellers.

Virgin Atlantic were one of the first to incorporate a premium economy product into aircraft and in the A350-1000 this is a seven-row section of 56 seats arranged in a 2-4-2 layout. The leather Rockwell Collins MiQ seats have an 8.5 inch width, four-way adjustable headrest, 7 inch recline and full size bi-fold table. Virgin Atlantic has added a lot more storage options and the seat incorporates USB charging points and 13 inch screen for the airline’s entertainment system.

Meanwhile, the majority of passengers travelling on the A350-1000, after passing through the premium spaces on boarding, will find their seating in a mainly 3-3-3 layout in the economy cabin. The Recaro CL3710 seats have an up to 17.4 inch seat width and a 31 inch pitch for Classic and Light bookings and a 34 inch pitch for Economy Delight, which will spread across the first four rows of economy (36 seats).

Virgin Atlantic says its new economy seats are designed with “bespoke woven fabrics inspired by fashion houses”. They incorporate a six-way adjustable headrest for comfort and include an 11.5 inch seatback screen, while a USB charging point allows passengers to keep gadgets topped up with power.

Last week, Virgin Atlantic revealed that with the A350 it will replace the famous ‘Flying Lady’ motif that has adorned its aircraft for more than 30 years. In a move to better reflect the diversity of Britain today it will instead introduce ‘Flying Icons’, a diverse range of men and women, representing modern Britain.