Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Launched: October 2022 – April 2023 roll out
Elements: Comfort • Interior Design • Catering • Technology • Service/Crew • CSR
Virgin Atlantic is aiming to redefine the inflight experience with a premium personalised service in its new-look A330neo cabins.
Developed from the belief that customers really value human connection, the goal in designing the new cabins was to provide physical spaces to facilitate in-person connection in-flight while also building connectivity and technology to enable interactions with loved ones back home.
As customers make their way down a sterile airport jet bridge, they head towards a transition into an exciting, vibrant onboard world. The interiors were designed to be inviting and welcoming, warm and familiar with intuitive functionality and contemporary styling and finishes.
The team listened to customer feedback and consumer trends to help future-proof the design. This resulted in revised physical and technological offers, improved lighting and a more personal service with greater crew interaction. The focus was on an holistic approach to provide exceptional customer experience.
New shared experience spaces include two upgraded front row Upper Class Suites, known as the Retreat Suites, and a social space at door two, known as The Loft. These open the way to shared service experiences not previously possible, and add an opportunity for more natural interaction with crew in a more relaxed setting.
Using exactly the same footprint as a standard Upper Class seat, each Retreat Suite has an open footwell, where a dual purpose ‘buddy seat’/ ottoman is located. The buddy seats create an opportunity for up to four people to socialise in their own private suite.
The trim and finish concept was inspired by the earths horizon that customers view out of their windows in flight. The horizontal strike lines are used on seat styling throughout the aircraft to establish a harmonious look and feel from nose to tail. Multiple new product features have been added including Bluetooth audio connectivity at every seat for use with personal devices – this helps the accessibility value of the system as Bluetooth enabled hearing aids can also connect to the IFE. The Virgin Atlantic A330neo offers wireless charging in Upper Class, The Loft and they are the first airline to offer this feature in a Premium cabin.
The new cabin reflects Virgin Atlantic’s determination to never stand still. The A330neo is a symbol of its continued evolution, developed nose to tail as an engaging, seamless experience that customers will love for many years to come.
The A330neo cabin includes a new self-service offer in the Upper Class cabin with two freely available fridge/freezers and a drinks dispenser. This is in addition to the meal service and represents a step change for F&B service. The units, known as tri-mode chillers, have three functions: fridge, freezer and chiller, for service flexibility, and products offered include ice cream and chilled drinks. In the upgraded Upper Class Retreat Suites, up to four customers can come together and enjoy shared food and beverage experiences in their own private seating area.
A new Upper Class ‘sleep sheet’, otherwise known as the mattress topper, includes a through hole allowing the three-point harness to be pulled through the product for use during taxi, take-off and landing. An extremely simple but effective idea, this has a clear customer benefit. The seat can be set up for sleep prior to take-off, ready for reclining to the fully flat bed position, and there is no need to pack away the sleep sheet before landing. This allows the window for in-flight customer sleep to be extended to it’s absolute maximum. Amenity kits are now sustainable, using recyclable craft paper, and feature REN Clean Skincare products.
The A330neo interior design has evolved the award-winning A350 Loft social space to create an iconic space for customer connection and engagement with crew. There’s space for eight people and four comfy seats. There are two 27” touchscreen screens which curate an engaging digital experience, plus extensive power outlets alongside the chillers. In a first for Virgin Atlantic, the Retreat Suite is the carrier’s most spacious suite yet – two exclusive seats at the front of the cabin with lots of extra space and oversized storage. Customers can choose to dine together or individually thanks to the buddy seat in each suite. A central electronic privacy divider can be dropped (by crew) so two adjacent suites convert to a social space where up to four passengers can dine together, play games or chat. These suites include 6ft7” fully-flat beds, 27” touchscreen monitors, wireless charging, and ‘do not disturb’ privacy feature.
Throughout the cabins there are rich, tactile fabrics in warm, signature colours. The finish has moved away from natural leather in favour of a 50% lighter material made without animal products. The faux leather still creates a premium look and feel and is used in areas traditionally trimmed in natural leather such as Upper Class, Premium, social spaces, crew seats, and Economy headrests. Inspired by the horizon line seen through the window, the seats have a bespoke aesthetic known as New Horizon with beautifully stitched lines and contours. This aesthetic flows through all cabin to tie everything together, offering a premium experience throughout. Mood lighting changes with each stage of the journey, customised to align with the cabin colours and create a fresh, relaxed vibe.
Using market leader Viasat, the carrier can offer its fastest ever onboard wifi which has already proven popular with passengers. There is wireless charging in Upper Class, the social space (The Loft) and, in an industry first, in the Premium cabin too. There are more USB connections and power outlets throughout the aircraft and Bluetooth-enabled IFE in every cabin allows customers to use their own headsets. The system pairs easily with Bluetooth hearing aids. The IFE system, supplied by SPI, features the carrier’s biggest screens yet with 27” monitors in the Retreat Suites, and 13.3” in Economy. All customers can also use their own devices to browse the entertainment library, control their screen and use the call bell and reading light.
Many customers love ticking off all the different aircraft they’ve flown on and enjoy discussing the registrations and quirky monikers, so the new aircraft each have a special identity. The airline pairs aircraft names with the registration and icons dress the aircraft nose. The names are inspired by Virgin’s brand heritage and are drawn from music, travel, British culture and the brand colours. The first four are: G-VJAZ – Billie Holiday – G-VTOM – Space Oddity – G-VLDY – Eliza Doolittle – G-VEII – Queen of the skies, named in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The A330neo is integral to the airline’s environmental transformation as it aims to operate the cleanest, greenest, youngest fleet possible. The A330neo is designed to be 11% more fuel and carbon efficient than the A330-300 they replace and will deliver a 50% reduction in airport noise. The removal of leather and beef menus (since end of 2019) reflects the environmental impact of the beef industry. The carrier has in recent years cut its use of virgin, single-use plastic items inflight by 90% by weight, which is 60m items. Sustainable amenities kits and a switch to canned wine and water further support the environmental goals. The entire VA fleet has an average aircraft age of under seven years.
Will Virgin Atlantic win Cabin Concept of the Year 2023? Join us in Hamburg on June 6 2023 as we unveil winners at the Onboard Hospitality Awards ceremony at the World Travel Catering & Onboard Services Expo (WTCE).