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Virgin Atlantic A330-200 unveiled – using four old Air Berlin aircraft

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Earlier this year Virgin Atlantic announced that the airline was going to lease four ex-Air Berlin A330-200 planes to replace Boeing 787 aircraft which need a full replacement of their Rolls-Royce engines.

Whilst Virgin will be receiving a fleet of new A350 aircraft very soon, the plan is to keep the Air Berlin planes – potentially beyond the initial four year lease, and definitely beyond the anticipated return of the 787s – and use them to expand capacity.

These A330-200s are currently receiving a makeover to fit in with the rest of the fleet.  The Economy cabin will be freshened up, a Premium cabin will be added and a new seat layout introduced to Upper Class.

To showcase their £10 million investment, Virgin Atlantic hosted a small press event last Friday giving us the chance to experience the new layout through VR glasses – and it did look great.

Virgin Atlantic did not have a lot of options for these A330-200 aircraft.  Developing a new aircraft seat takes, literally, years.  This is because a huge amount of testing and certification is required before the authorities will declare a seat to be safe in all possible emergency scenarios.  Virgin does not have the luxury of time here.

Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic is introducing a new Upper Class seat on the A330-200 aircraft.  This is, for certification reasons, based on the current Air Berlin design and layout, but the seats will be brand new with a number of improvements.

There are a total of 19 seats featuring ‘love suites’ for couples as well as corner and ‘freedom’ suites for solo travellers.  At present, these aircraft are being used primarily on Caribbean routes (Manchester to Atlanta is the exception) which attract a higher number of couples and family groups in Upper Class and the ‘cosy’ middle seat pairs are apparently not proving a problem.

The ‘pair’ seats also make up for the one missing feature on these aircraft which will remain missing – the on-board bar.  Virgin is hoping that couples who would sit at the bar in order to be able to chat (the traditional Upper Class layout makes it difficult to talk to your neighbour) will be happy to chat and drink at their seats.

All seats have direct aisle access and enhanced surface spaces. The entertainment screens will be slightly larger than in other aircraft. Click to enlarge this schematic showing the changes:

Virgin Atlantic refit for Air Berlin planes A330-200

and

Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Upper Class

The new seat fabric has been fully upholstered with natural and soft espresso leather:

and:

One new feature is that the armrests will drop down to become part of the bed, effectively creating a wider space than is currently the case.  Storage space has also been increased.

Premium 

As the Air Berlin planes didn’t have Premium Economy, Virgin Atlantic has chosen to rip out a few rows of Economy seats to make space for a Premium cabin.

The seats will be the same 38″ pitch seats that Singapore Airlines has in its aircraft.  By coincidence, Rob and I had a tour of a brand new Singapore Airlines A380 yesterday (report to follow) and the Premium Economy seats looked very good.

Economy

In the Economy cabin, passengers will find the existing Air Berlin seats with new covers and added power sockets.

To accommodate Economy Delight seats with the bigger 34″ pitch, some rows will be moved slightly.

From November this year the plan is to have the new cabin on flights out of Manchester to Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles as well as from Gatwick to some Caribbean destinations.  They should be easy to spot in the timetable as they will be shown as flights operated by an A330-200 but with a Premium Economy cabin.

If you are interested in what these aircraft are like at the moment, before the refit, Rob is due to be flying one next week and will report back ….

How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles from UK credit cards

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles.  That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.

(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.)

Comments (25)

  • A says:

    Flew on one of these last week back home to NYC. It was supposed to be a Dreamliner and got swapped out just before check in opened – I could tell immediately from seat map at check in.

    Premium was comfortable, fresh, and because bigger aircraft and cabin than the Dreamliner, it was empty – the entire bulkhead in premium was empty apart from me, and only something like 12 other people in the cabin. Much preferred it to the A340.
    Upper looked nice too – not a fan of upper normally due to the flip situation and facing inwards instead of towards window, but this looked worth a go. Problem is actually booking it and actually flying it due to virgin constantly doing aircraft swaps!

    • Paul says:

      Refurb of the A330-200 doesn’t start until November, and they currently don’t have Premium. Could it of been an A330-300 you flew on?

  • It’s Me says:

    Hmmm! So what about flights being taken on the A330 200 BEFORE November??

    • Rob says:

      You get what I will get on Sunday, which I will cover next week. If you search for the two Air Berlin A330 reviews that Anika and I have done over the years, you’ll also see the seat there. Although I imagine Virgin is less obsessed with serving sprouts than Air Berlin used to be.

      • vlcnc says:

        Oh god the sprouts salad!!! ????????????

      • Adelx says:

        It looks like Virgin’s refurb of the RR engines are slipping. LGW-UVF was operated using 332 equipment until 28th October. I’m booked to fly mid December originally on 333 (31 new 1-1-1 UC config) Now the December flight is showing as the Air Berlin 332 so no bar in UC (first world problems)

        Glad I didn’t downgrade the o/b to PE as that’s gone. The 332 Air Berlin UC cabin also has fewer seats. Do check your booking as VS are a bit slap dash in rebooking seats.

  • RichE says:

    Any info on pitch and width of the UC seat?

  • adelex says:

    It looks like Virgin’s refurb of the RR engines are slipping. LGW-UVF was operated using 332 equipment until 28th October. I’m booked to fly mid December originally on 333 (31 new 1-1-1 UC config) Now the December flight is showing as the Air Berlin 332 so no bar in UC (first world problems)

    Glad I didn’t downgrade the o/b to PE as that’s gone. The 332 Air Berlin UC cabin also has fewer seats. Do check your booking as VS are a bit slap dash in rebooking seats.

    • Rob says:

      Just done a 332. Better than Club World, debatable whether it is better than UC. I am not a fan of UC and I think I will actually prefer the 332 fleet when it is redone. The plane I had today was a bit knackered though.