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Your first look at the The Booth on Virgin Atlantic’s new leisure A350 fleet

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Virgin Atlantic has unveiled the new ‘social space’, The Booth, that will available to passengers on its upcoming ‘leisure configuration’ A350 aircraft.

It was two years ago that Virgin Atlantic revealed its A350 interiors and launched the aircraft on its inaugural flight to New York.

The A350 was destined as Virgin’s flagship aircraft. It sports its very newest Upper Class cabins and offers a more pleasant experience thanks to the quieter cabin, wider fuselage and lower cabin pressure altitude.

Virgin Atlantic A350

Since then the airline has received seven A350s which are currently operating on routes such as Atlanta, Barbados, Mumbai, Hong Kong, New York, Johannesburg and Los Angeles.

All seven A350s currently delivered feature the same configuration – 44 Upper Class suites, 56 Premium seats and 235 in economy. The aircraft also all feature ‘The Loft’, a communal seating area for business class passengers.

Virgin Atlantic The Loft

From December they will be joined be a new variant optimised for Virgin’s leisure routes.

Virgin Atlantic’s leisure A350 fleet

Virgin Atlantic always planned to introduce an A350 subfleet to cater for its leisure customers from Manchester and Gatwick. Whilst Covid has changed the airline’s plans slightly it is still pressing ahead and will introduce five leisure A350s optimised for holiday destinations.

As a consequence, they’ll have a slightly smaller Upper Class cabin with just 16 seats – almost two thirds less. This will still be the new Upper Class Suite unveiled in 2019 (review here) but the reduced seat count means the entire business class cabin will sit snugly between the front of the aircraft and the second set of doors.

Virgin Upper Class A350 2

The number of Premium seats will remain the same at 56 whilst there will be 325 seats in economy including 45 extra-legroom Economy Delight seats.

The Loft has been replaced with The Booth

The biggest difference between the leisure fleet and the main fleet based at Heathrow is the removal of The Loft, which has been replaced by a smaller flexible space. Virgin is calling it ‘The Booth’.

Virgin Atlantic A350 leisure The Booth

Instead of spanning the entire width of the aircraft it will offer a small nook with a single leaf table for up to two people to sit together.

There are two 27″ touch screens and two bluetooth audio connections in case you want to watch something together or simply put on some relaxing imagery.

Virgin Atlantic A350 leisure The Booth 3

Virgin Atlantic has yet to announce plans for how they expect The Booth to work. When Rob and I were invited to see the prototype at Virgin Atlantic HQ in early 2020 there was talk of making it a bookable space with custom experiences: for example, an extra-special cream tea spread or candle-lit dinner for two (fake candles only of course!). The airline is still finessing its plans but expect to hear more about this soon.

Virgin Atlantic A350

Where will the leisure A350 aircraft fly?

The original plan was for these leisure aircraft to fly from Gatwick and Manchester where Virgin Atlantic is less business-focussed. With no more flights from Gatwick and a reduced schedule from Manchester Virgin’s plans have changed slightly.

The first route to see the new configuration will be London Heathrow – Orlando. The inaugural flight is planned for December with the arrival of G-VEVE, named ‘Fearless Lady’ after Richard Branson’s late mum Eve.

Lady Emmeline (G-VLIB, named after Emmeline Pankhurst) will arrive in April 2022 and is expected to operate services to Barbados.

Three more aircraft will round out the ‘leisure’ fleet, with Soul Rebel (G-VBOB), Wendy Darling (G-VNVR) and Benny Jet (G-VELJ).

Conclusion

I’m a big fan of the A350 and I’m pleased to see that Virgin Atlantic is still accepting deliveries of the aircraft. Over time this sub fleet should allow passengers from Manchester (and possibly Edinburgh) to enjoy Virgin’s flagship aircraft.

Whilst The Booth is obviously much smaller than The Loft it offers some exciting opportunities. I’m looking forward to seeing how Virgin Atlantic will manage this space and what sort of experiences it will offer.


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How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (January 2022)

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(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  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 (54)

  • Blindman says:

    “bookable space with custom experiences: for example, an extra-special cream tea spread or candle-lit dinner for two ”

    Can you not do that at the existing UC seats?
    Remember having dinner with the Mrs a few times in UC.

    • Rhys says:

      The older seat on the 787s does although it’s a bit tight

    • Fraser says:

      Seems very odd, especially if this means there is no bar / loft. So basically reducing the “away from your seat” space to one for just two people (not for solo travellers) and for a limited time.

      While I’ve yet to experience the new UC seats, I’ve always been a fan of the old ones, and the buddy dining experience which was of course available to everyone, not just one couple as here.

      • Babyg says:

        #metoo for buddy dinning in your own seat(s).. all airlines seem to be killing this feature off..

  • Lady London says:

    Surely it would be worth Virgin keeping the larger Upper Class cabins for Barbados in the winter season in particular.

    For BA this seems to be a rich route with a higher % of passengers willing to pay much higher Club and First pricing than on other leisure routes. So I don’t see why it wouldn’t be the same for Virgin.

    • John T says:

      I’m surprised St Lucia doesn’t receive this treatment – I would have thought a high number of honeymooners/luxury travellers heading there.

    • Babyg says:

      I like the look of this, thou I would agree (more upper class is better), but i guess most people on HFPs dont ever pay for upper, its always a reward booking. I guess having options to swap planes in/out based on demand is a good thing. I do like the idea of “buddy dinning”, that was one great thing about the old seats (as rob says its abit tight but enjoyable. I was booked to fly on the 350 to Barbados, but moved my flight to feb, fingers crossed i get to try this new config out at some stage.

      • Fraser says:

        I’ve happily paid for cash UC flights as well as redemptions, but now have so many upgrade vouchers and open tickets it may be a while before I do so again! 🙂

    • Rhys says:

      Remeber these 5 aircraft are mostly aimed at Manchester/Gatwick holiday flights and I imagine they will return there once travel resumes.

      At Heathrow they can put the main A350s on leisure routes.

    • MVP says:

      I am sure they will flex between the two configs. They have always done this in the past so BGI has bigger J cabins in the winter peak.

  • Travel Strong says:

    Now just waiting for LHR-LAS to be moved to A350. BA have put A350 (and therefore club suite) on the LAS route, so makes sense for Virgin to up their offering to match.

  • Dan says:

    A “nook” to accom 2 passengers? Really?! Surely the space would be better used for actual biz class seats!

    • Rhys says:

      It takes up the space of a cabin monument (such as wardrobe or toilet etc.) Not sure you can actually put a seat here – it would effectively be dead space.

    • Harry T says:

      Depends if they allow nookie in the nook 😊

  • Oh! Matron! says:

    My last flight, the day before lockdown, was JFK-LHR on the A350. And, in the 21 years I’ve been flying in Bus / UC, it’s the first time ever I’ve gotten a good night’s sleep.

    This may be correlation or causation, I’m not sure, but I woke up refreshed.

    I can’t see out of the windows though without slipping a disk. I do miss looking out of the window

    Regards to the nook: Meh. The few times I’ve wanted to work in the bar area, it’s been dominated by loud drunks and z list wannabees.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Jealous. I never wake up refreshed after an Eastbound TATL where, subtracting the take-off and landing, you can get a maximum 5 hours of sleep…

    • flyforfun says:

      I think its the magic of the A350s. I did Cathay Pacific in economy from the UK to Australia and back, all 4 sectors on A350s and felt more refreshed than times I’d flown business! Very little jet lag. The wider aircraft gives 18″ seats compared to the 17″ wide seats on the B787 nightmareliner or the 10 abreast B777.

      I actively seek out routes/times that fly the A350 for long haul holidays. Well I did up to the Pandemic! Still not quiet ready to fly yet.

  • Ian M says:

    A reduction from 44 Upper Class seats to just 16 seems rather more than a slightly smaller upper class cabin!

    Is the thinking that The Booth will only be available to Upper Class passengers?

    • Rhys says:

      I believe so although if it’s a bookable experience they could presumably offer it to Premium customers etc at an extra cost.

  • AJA says:

    I calculate that the net effect of this change is that there will be an extra 90 economy seats offsetting a reduction of 28 Upper Class seats. Virgin must be confident that the loss of revenue from those 28 UC seats will be made up for by the extra economy seats. I find it a surprising move as I always thought biz class was what made the airlines their money.

    • Rhys says:

      It’s only where the airlines make money if they can sell it. I’m sure if Virgin were able to regularly fill 44 Upper Class suites from Manchester then BA would never have pulled out of the airport 🙂

    • JDB says:

      I think the best money maker may often be in premium economy these days?

      • Memesweeper says:

        Quiet likely — the premium zone is exactly the same size as the non-leisure A350. Only UC is shrunk.

    • lagdroid says:

      The thing is that many of the tickets on these routes are sold through virgin holidays by families so it makes sense to have that many economy seats

  • Jimmy says:

    Flying in April 22 in easter in UC LHR – MCO currently is a A330 – really hoping we get the new A350.

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