Lots of people have written a lot of nice things about the Boeing 787. It has big windows, it is fairly quiet and – for airlines – it is amazingly fuel efficient.
Unfortunately there is a downside that few people are writing about. The planes are often dogs. A BA insider told me recently that, taken across the industry, he believes it is the least reliable aircraft currently in service.
This is hitting Virgin Atlantic harder than most. As this article by Seth Miller points out, a number of its Boeing 787 aircraft are currently out of service awaiting a full replacement of their Rolls-Royce engines. At $50m each, this is going to be expensive surgery.
With no spare engines apparently available (ANA also reportedly has grounded 787 aircraft awaiting new engines), Virgin Atlantic has written to travel agents warning them of changes to come. It is going to lease a couple of long-haul planes in order to keep the schedule going.
The problems will be:
these planes are unlikely to have a business class product on a par with Upper Class
these planes are unlikely to have Premium Economy at all, since there are few 3-class aircraft available for charter
At least, if you are travelling in Premium Economy, you would have the opportunity to cancel if it turned out that you were booked on an aircraft with no PE cabin. Upper Class passengers would not have a legal right to cancel, as they would still be sat in a business class seat even if it was a substandard, possibly not even fully flat, one.
Virgin’s problems are compounded by the well publicised incident in New York last week when an A330 damaged a wing in a ground collision with an Egyptair plane.
If you have a Virgin Atlantic booking for the next few months, I recommend keeping an eye on the Virgin website to check for any changes to the plane type or your allocated seating.
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