Manchester hit by Virgin Atlantic plane changes due to 787 woes

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We recently covered the problems that Virgin Atlantic is having with its fleet of new Boeing 787 aircraft due to faulty Rolls-Royce engines.

This problem is not going to be solved in a hurry.  As a partial fix it is bringing in some replacement aircraft, rumoured to be four A330 planes previously used by airberlin.  Delta will also be flying some additional services on routes it jointly operates with Virgin.

It looks as if these aircraft will be based in Manchester.  This means that you may find yourself flying the airberlin business class product that Anika reviewed here, instead of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat.  This is not necessarily bad news – in some ways it depends on whether you are travelling alone or with your partner, and on which Virgin Atlantic aircraft you were originally booked.  Alternatively, Virgin may decide to refit these aircraft with Upper Class seats although there has been no announcement.

These aircraft do not have a Premium Economy cabin although Virgin is talking about retrofitting it ‘later in 2018’.  This is a rather worrying statement as it implies that the 787 problems could continue for a long time, even though the schedule changes announced below only run until the end of May.

In summary:

You can be rebooked in Economy for the cash price of an Economy ticket on the day you booked your Premium Economy ticket (and, if moved to a Delta aircraft, will be offered a seat with extra leg room)

You can move yourself to a flight on a different date which will still have Premium Economy

If you were booked from Manchester, you can rebook onto a Heathrow / Gatwick departure in Premium Economy but you will need to pay your own costs to get to London

You can move your flight to a different destination, subject to paying any additional fare

You can, of course, also request a full refund from Virgin Atlantic although the document does not mention that.

Note that this situation may impact you even if you are not booked onto a Boeing 787 aircraft, as other aircraft are being shuffled around to keep seat capacity in balance.

Here is the statement which has apparently been given to the travel trade, according to reports online:

We need to let you know that we’ve made a few changes to our flying programme because of an industry-wide supply issue with the Rolls Royce engines we use on our Boeing 787 Dreamliners. While some of these aircraft are temporarily parked, we’ve been working to make sure our customers’ travel plans can continue with certainty and in comfort. To support this, we intend to add four A330-200 aircraft to our fleet – they’ll be Virgin Atlantic aircraft, operated by our own pilots and world class cabin crew, delivering our own service and experience.

VS 127 / 128,  01 March 2018 to 14 May 2018 Manchester (MAN) to New York (JFK)
VS 109 / 110,  02 March 2018 to 31 May 2018 Manchester (MAN) to Atlanta (ATL)
VS 121 / 122 , 23 May 2018 to 30 May 2018 Manchester (MAN) to Boston (BOS)
VS 125 / 126,  22 May 2018 to 29 May 2018 Manchester (MAN) to San Francisco (SFO)
VS 77 / 78,  17 May 2018 to 31 May 2018 Manchester (MAN) to Barbados (BGI)

Any of your customers affected by this change of equipment can be viewed in your GDS from Sunday 10 December 2017 onwards.

Booking information for Premium Economy customers:

Initially, the aircraft will not have Premium Economy but we’ll look to retrofit our Premium Economy product onto aircraft later in 2018. For now there will be a small number of flights on which our Premium Economy service will not be available.

For passengers booked to travel in Premium Economy cabin:

We will offer partial refunds on their Premium Economy booked seat if the passenger is rebooked into Economy cabin on the same flight.

  • Fare recalculation for Seat Only ticketed and IT un-ticketed please see below:
  • Original K/H booking classes recalculate using fares at time of creation in N class for the sector updated to Economy.
  • Original S/W booking classes recalculate using fares at time of creation in Q class for sector updated to Economy.

Upon calculation please request the refund through BSP.

Passengers downgraded from Premium Economy to Economy cabin will be offered an extra-legroom seat at no additional cost subject to seat availability, and provided travel is on the original flight and departure date.

Alternative Options:

If the options offered are unsuitable, customers may be offered one of the following alternatives:

Customers on the affected flights may rebook to travel in Premium Economy on any VS operated flight between their original Origin and Destination between 01 January 2018 and 30 November 2018, at no additional cost, subject to availability in the same cabin. If original booking class is not available, please book lowest available.

Customers on the affected flights may rebook to travel in Premium Economy on VS operated or VS marketed (VS*) flights between their original Origin and Destination on the same travel date, at no additional cost, subject to availability in the same cabin. If original booking class is not available, please book lowest available.

Customers on the affected flights may rebook to travel from/to London Heathrow (LHR) or London Gatwick (LGW) to take a direct flight to/from their original origin/destination, subject to availability in the same cabin E.g. MAN-JFK change to LHR-JFK. If original booking class is not available, please book lowest available.

Travel to/from the alternative airport will be at customers’ expense.

Customers on the affected flights may rebook to travel to an alternative destination with no change fee, subject to availability in the same cabin and any applicable fare difference. If original booking class is not available, please book lowest available.

Customers on the affected flights may upgrade to Upper Class cabin on the same flight with no change fee, subject to availability and any applicable fare difference.

(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.)

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  1. Is this problem with 787 confined to the Virgin planes or more widespread? I’m due to fly with Qatar on their 787-8 planes in May 18 from DOH to KBV return and was looking forward to the experience. Am I being over optimistic?

    • Jonathan says:

      It’s more widespread but sounds like it’s having a bigger impact at Virgin than say BA.

    • I’ve flown on Qatar 787’s from MAN-DOH several times in the last couple of months so they are definitely still flying them. Beyond DOH I can’t comment.

    • Hi Dave, airlines are able to specify 787 engines from either Rolls Royce or General Electric.
      The issue referred to above is not an aircraft issue; it’s a problem with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine.
      Thus all airlines who specified the Trent 1000 are affected, including BA.
      ANA (of Japan) are hardest hit (I believe).
      BA have 2 787s grounded as far as I am aware.
      I don’t know which engine Qatar elected to fitb to their 787 fleet.

      • Thanks Tom.
        Potential to be a ‘Nightmare liner’ instead of. ‘Dreamliner’!

        • flyforfun says:

          Not flown it myself, but all those I know who have flown in Y cabins on different airlines definitely believe it’s the Nightmare Liner!!

    • No dont worry about Qatar – They use GE (General Electric) engines not RR so flying QR 787’s you’ll have no issue

  2. I booked MAN-MCO-LGW yesterday on Prem Eco and the plane being used in both directions is a 747. Prem Eco is unusually full so I guess rebooking is already occurring.

    • MCO is always operated by 747s from both LGW & MAN. The 787 problems shouldn’t have any impact on that route.

      PE is very popular and is often rammed to/from MCO even when Economy is quiet. In addition Virgin Holidays have a sizeable allocation of seats in PE which show as blocked on the seat maps even if they’re not actually taken.

  3. Qatar went with GE engines from what I can see so shouldn’t be affected. Air New Zealand have also grounded a number of planes and have leased a couple of replacements to cover.

  4. booked BA Club lhr to jed for december 23rd on dreamliner, my flights notified me it changed plane to 777

    • Looking at yesterdays flight stats for BA133 to JED it was a 772, so maybe they have switched this route from a 787 for now

  5. Or is VS retaining the ex-Air Berlin A330s into the future, hence why Premium will be getting fitted later in the year? Maybe they were able to pick them up relatively cheaply given their sudden availability.

  6. My wife has a client that works for RR and has just returned from Iceland where they destroyed 4 Trent engines.
    The problem is with the fans, it’s when the engine transitions from running red hot at take-off to hitting the cold air. It causes a split in the blades.
    They have done the necessary tests and when all the data is analysed they think they have it sorted.

    • They may have identified a fix but there is a global shortage of serviceable engines which will see the issue prevail within the industry for at least the next 18-24 months.

  7. Plenty of a380’s about that could be leased. This would solve premium economy seating issue

  8. Flown on Thai, Vietnam & Virgin Atlantic 787s over the last few years in Premium Economy and Business Class.
    There is absolutely no reason to choose the Binliner.
    The Airbus A350 is a far, far better aircraft. Quiter, roomier and much more comfortable.
    No, i don’t work for Airbus, but I do prefer some objective feedback on the aircraft and airlines i fly on. I actually prefer the A380 to any other aircraft except the good old B747. Sadly, they have almost seen their day.

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