Look out for Virgin Atlantic downgrades (and no Premium Economy) as 787 problems mount

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

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.

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

Where can you fly on BA from T3 to visit the new Qantas and Cathay Pacific lounges?
My review of the Aer Lingus lounge in Dublin Airport Terminal 2

Click here to join the 15,000 people on our email list and receive the latest Avios, miles and points news by 6am.

Amazon ad
AMEX Gold 20,000 bonus points
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. This has affected me a lot in recent months. I fly VA monthly between LHR and JFK and my last 3 flights were suddenly changed to become “Delta operated”. This seems to be the easiest workaround for Virgin but the products and service are not the same. I witnessed anger at JFK from many British passengers who, upon check in had found our that they had been moved to Delta. I ended up requesting to be rerouted via Boston so that i could have my VA upper class experience on the way home. The saddest thing for me is that within a couple of years, the VA brand is going to disappear and VA staff will be in Delta uniforms. I may stop my loyalty with them at that point.

    • Oh Matron! says:

      Same here to Atlanta 10 days ago. Staff are infinitely better on long haul than trans con and being able to use iMessage and WhatsApp for free was cool. Delta’s IFE isn’t bad either. But when I compare it to last night’s UC back from Seattle, it’s no comparison at all.

  2. I believe BA are also affected, at least one -9 was parked outside BA maintenance at Heathrow last Thursday.

  3. edit, sorry, one engineless -9 🙂

  4. Flew a BA 789 on Friday in PE. I’m not sure if it’s a common feature as it was my first time in PE but I found it very quirky that the partition between PE and CW interfered with the overhead locker and the cabn crew had to unlatch the partition and fold a portion of it down in order to open the locker. I thought it was a really poor design.

    Other than that a very nice flight, but I felt the A350’s I’ve flown on where a little quieter and smoother i general. The windows did seem huge on the 787 though which was nice.

    • To be fair, the cabin is not part of the aircraft but is installed after manufacture by whichever company BA selected – nothing to do with 787 quality.

    • roberto says:

      The 777 has the same partition/locker issue between Club and WTP.

      • Yep. Spotted that last week on the 777 I was on flying back from the Caribbean. What was more annoying was no dedicated toilets for WTP so had to go through curtains to use ones in WT just behind it. Don’t know why they can’t move the curtain back a little so we don’t have to share.

  5. Flight recently out of LHR to Miami switched to a geriatric A340, it was a truly dreadful experience. The cabin was an embarrassment for UC, the videos didn’t work in half the cabin were tiny and of poor quality. Food selections ran out, white wine ran out….seats and layout are awful…. even fell below the abysmal standards of BA and that is saying something.

  6. Jason Hindle says:

    I would have thought it should be possible for an Upper Class passenger to cancel. After all, Virgin advertise these seats; the advertising sets certain expectations. Trading Standards?

  7. #MarriottRewards are early today with the NFL trivia quiz.
    I believe the answer is 160ft#RewardPoints

  8. or better 160#RewardPoints

  9. David plain says:

    Ah I wondered why there were a few 787s parked by the virgin hanger at lhr with engines missing. Anyone departing off 27right will be able to see them out of the right side of their aircraft

  10. James A says:

    Lots of people have written nice things about the 787…none of them from the economy cabins 😛

    • the real harry1 says:

      if you’re asking if I would vote for that rascal Corbyn if he said he’d reverse Brexit: yes, I would

  11. Virgin have always had issues with inadequate backup for planes with problems. BA usually has spare planes just lying around – when our 747 had a technical problem at T5 a few months ago, another 747 was conjured up and left within 2 hours. Considering we had to disembark and reboard the new aircraft, that’s pretty good.

    BA also often have a spare plane at JFK “just in case”

    Virgin fully utilise and so have less scope fr recovery

    • Not only does BA have a plane, there is a full crew for that plane sat in a hotel rooms somewhere on the Heathrow periphery.

      • Richard says:

        And with EU261 rules as is, it probably doesn’t cost them any more than it would to not have them there.

Please click here to read our data protection policy before submitting your comment.