Virgin Atlantic is developing an all-new Upper Class seat product that it will debut on board its upcoming long-haul Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.
The UK carrier confirmed its order for 12 A350-1000 aircraft in mid-2016, with delivery of the first aircraft expected to commence from the middle of next year.
Speaking to Business Traveller, Oliver Byers, Virgin Atlantic’s senior vice president of sales and customer loyalty, said: “The A350-1000 is a great opportunity for us to introduce a new Upper Class seat and product, and we’re very excited to reveal what that will be before we start flying it next year,” said Byers.
Details are slim as to what the new product will feature, though Byers said it will be a “revolution” in premium seats and products.
“We’ve seen it, I’ve sat in it, it’s a fantastic seat,” he added. “What you’ll see is that it’s a next-generation product but it’s incredibly Virgin Atlantic – it’s exactly what you would think Virgin Atlantic is in terms of the look and feel, the design, the feel of the cabin and the warmth of the environment.
“That doesn’t just go for Upper Class – when you go through the whole aircraft in terms of premium and what we’ve done in economy as well, the whole thing is phenomenal.
As for when Virgin Atlantic will offer more details?
“I think we’ll start talking about it early next year – we don’t have an exact date, but it will be in the first quarter,” he added.
For travellers in Asia, especially those flying on the carrier’s daily services to Hong Kong and Shanghai, there’s the chance they may be able to experience the seats.
“Both [routes] are doing very well and have been seeing growth in revenue and passenger numbers over the past couple of years, and we operate a Boeing 787 into both of those markets today,” added Byers.
“What we really want to do is grow both of these markets over time by first looking at how we can add more capacity through going from a 787 to an A350-1000, and then in the future whether we can have second flights.”
That being said, Virgin Atlantic “[doesn’t] have any plans to do either of those things just yet”, Byers added, and the carrier is currently focused on how it can grow the two markets either by itself or through partnerships in order to support additional seats.
Virgin Atlantic’s most recent seat overhaul was to the Upper Class cabin of its A330s (pictured) last year, which were redesigned in the style of its 787 product. According to Byers, both aircraft are likely to keep these seats and cabins rather than be retrofitted with the upcoming A350-1000 seats.
The A350-1000 is currently operated by just two airlines – launch customer Qatar Airways, and Cathay Pacific.
Qatar Airways notably flies its A350-1000 on its London Heathrow route, offering its new Qsuite business class seat product. Cathay Pacific, meanwhile, flies the aircraft to Washington DC.