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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biggest difference between the leisure fleet and the main fleet based at Heathrow is the removal of The Loft, which has been replaced by a smaller flexible space.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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Comments (54)

  • Ian says:

    A classic case of style over substance. What a load of absolute nonsense. What are the people at Virgin Atlantic thinking?

    • Babyg says:

      its better than hovering in a a dead space…

    • Rhys says:

      I think it will depend on how it is managed. I think it’s a nice idea if it can offer pre-booked exclusive experiences.

      And let’s be honest – I’d rather Virgin tried something new than nothing at all. You wouldn’t see BA trying this!

  • Edmund says:

    In the main picture the stewardess was wearing a mask this morning. Now it has been removed from the picture. Quite funny really

    • Prins Polo says:

      The same photo on onemileatatime still features a mask 🙂

      • Rhys says:

        Virgin asked us to replace it as they said it was a ‘forward looking’ customer experience and that they hope masks won’t be necessary forever!

        • Tim says:

          A bit like your headline on this occasion… as several other bloggers got there before you! It wasn’t my first look, that’s for sure 🙂

          • Rob says:

            That is complete crap. The official press release was released at 12.30. Virgin gave us and one other site a shared world exclusive, in an advance, to run at 10.30. This is because we had both seen and given feedback on the prototype back in early 2020.

            It wasn’t even hard to prove, because last night Google had time stamps against the stories. You won’t see them now because it is all marked ‘1 day ago’.

        • John G says:

          Yet I just now received an email from Virgin themselves showing the FA wearing a mask!

  • Littlefish says:

    Great insight in this article, thanks Rhys!
    Looks like its 7 + 5 for the A350 fleet then and of course 16 UC versus 44 in the seven older A350s is going to be interesting.
    Its moot at the moment due to US-entry restrictions but routes like LAX may end up continuing to split 789s and 350s where 2 flights a day; which risks A350 swap-outs and the sub-par 789UC. Its a shame there aren’t another couple of 44UC configs to look forward to.
    Virgin remains quite tricky in terms of fleet, even their excellent PE product is stronger on the 789 than A350 (narrower seats).

    • Babyg says:

      i like the 789, buddy dinning at every seat, no “hump” like the a350 inbed mode… yes the coffin is trickier to turn into a bed, and yes less privacy than an a350, and the telly is a little small, but i think the “do” (half a door) on the a350 is over rated…

  • ChrisBCN says:

    I like the idea of a booth with 40 minute experience slots. Then promote these to customers closer to the flight date, you’ll get a few takers each flight, and a small extra piece of revenue for little extra cost. I wonder if they’ve stumbled onto something here.

    • Memesweeper says:

      Quiet honestly I liked the bar. A spot to chat or not chat away from your seat and the IFE. But I’m not exactly the target market either…

  • Chris says:

    So I want to get out of my seat, have a stroll, maybe stretch my legs. Looking at that last picture of the booth, I’d rather be sitting in Economy!

  • Kevin D says:

    I think they should do something like speed dating in the booth for all the single people on the flight to avail of! That would be fun!

  • Lady London says:

    Should use the space for paid massages.

  • Dev says:

    Looking forward to the 1 business passenger on the flight booking it, and spending the entire flight working to the absolute disdain of the honeymooners and leisure passengers!

    • Rhys says:

      I don’t think it will be bookable for the entire flight! I imagine it will be done on time-limited slots.

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