Virgin introduce the new “Booth” on leisure A350s
Both BA and Virgin have had different configurations on their long haul aircraft on leisure routes with Orlando being the top of the list usually. At the end of last week Virgin Atlantic revealed a new interior to its A350 aircraft, designed specifically with the airline’s leisure customers in mind. The changes include an increased number of seats in both the Premium and Economy cabins, alongside a new social space for its Upper Class customers. The new seat configuration offers 397 seats in total, 16 Upper Class suites, 56 Premium seats and 325 in Economy.
‘The Booth’ is the replacement to the current ‘The Loft’ on leisure heavy routes for their new A350s. Sadly the bar is gone and instead they have space that really would only fit a couple of people. Tucked away in the Upper Class cabin, The Booth “aspires to create a cosy corner, providing comfy lounge style seating for two, separated by a single leaf table.”
It has a similar appearance to the Loft and is surrounded by two 27” touch screen monitors, allowing fully immersive experiences. The content of the monitors will be continuously updated, tailored to the route and time of day, meaning that the look and feel of The Booth will evolve over time. Initial content will include a digital art gallery featuring up and coming artists and a tail and belly cam of the aircraft. Additionally, there are two Bluetooth audio jacks, meaning customers can connect headsets to the monitor’s audio.
Customers travelling between Heathrow and Orlando will be the first to experience the newest aircraft, with the first flight currently scheduled for December 2021. Other leisure destinations, including Barbados, will receive the new plane later in 2022.
Otherwise, other than the reduction in Upper Class Seats, the A350 is pretty much the same as the current ones and features the Upper Class Suite.
Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operations Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented;
“We’re famous for our on-board social spaces and the introduction of The Booth elevates the customer proposition for our leisure travellers to new heights. We love creating brilliantly different experiences, which is why we’re always evolving our ideas to offer something different and exciting in the air and on the ground.
“I’m delighted that we’ve curated The Booth specifically for our customers jetting off on holiday to our sunny destinations, such as Orlando, offering a truly stylish start to their trips.”
The first aircraft in the airline’s A350 leisure fleet will be G-VEVE, named Fearless Lady, after Eve Branson, late mother of Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson. Lady Emmeline (G-VLIB), which is inspired by the leader of the women’s suffrage movement Emmeline Pankhurst, will follow in April, completing the series with three planes set to be delivered by June 2023.
I am not really sure of the point of the Booth and it will need careful managing. It would be good if a couple could dine together perhaps but other than a slightly different environment it seems a bit pointless. Virgin will have to police it somehow as otherwise, a couple could sit there all day. One option is perhaps offering the ability to book it for special occasions at an additional cost.
What do you think of the Booth? Would you use it? Let us know in the comments below.
Virgin extend status and vouchers again
While they have had a few hiccups during the pandemic, one thing Virgin have done well is to extend status. Their tier points years are easier to manage as they are all the same, unlike BA’s which are individual. This has allowed them to extend status at six-month or less intervals and it has been done in a timely fashion as well.
Virgin Atlantic has announced a further extension to the timeframe for customers to maintain their Flying Club tier status. Members will receive an additional six months. This is the fifth extension to status versus for BA only a single extension for around half of its members and two extensions for those expiring in the second half of 2021. It equates to a 2-year extension from Virgin versus a single year from BA for many.
In recognition of the continued impact Covid-19 has had on its customers’ ability to fly, particularly to the US, the airline is offering an extra six months for Gold and Silver members to maintain their tier status.
In addition to tier extensions, Companion, Upgrade or Clubhouse vouchers, will be extended further.
In line with previous extensions and to ensure customers receive a seamless digital experience, changes have been automatically applied to members’ accounts. Customers will not need to call to update their status, as it will be extended automatically. Members will be able to download or print their digital membership card from the Virgin Atlantic website or app.
Siobhan Fitzpatrick, Chief Digital and Marketing Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented;
“With travel to the US still facing restrictions, we wanted to offer continued flexibility as our customers make plans to travel in 2021 and beyond. I’m delighted we can continue to offer our customers reassurance and flexibility with a further six month status extension.
“It’s now essential that the reopening of the transatlantic corridor is not delayed any further. President Biden has a clear opportunity to reciprocate and safely ease restrictions for fully vaccinated UK citizens, helping loved ones to reunite and businesses to restore ties with the US, our largest trading partner.”
Gold & Silver tier extension
Gold and silver members need to earn 1000 tier points (Gold) and 400 tier points (Silver) to maintain their status for another year. These members will have an additional six months added to their membership year to ensure they have extra time to achieve the required tier points. Members can login to their Flying Club account online to see how many tier points they have and the new end date of their membership year. I had a look and mine has not been updated yet.
Virgin has also said they will also any vouchers for upgrades, companion tickets or the Clubhouse. What none of the communications say is for how long! However, judging by previous communications, it should be a total of two years from when they were issued. This should now have been done automatically.
Virgin Atlantic offers unlimited free date and flight changes for new bookings and the rebooking horizon has been extended for all customers until 30 April 2023.