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If you’re planning on flying Virgin Atlantic’s swanky “Upper Class” on an A330 any time soon you may want to try to hold off as retrofitted A330s will be rolled out in a staggered fashion throughout the year, depending on which airport you’re flying out of and which route you’re flying.
The impetus for the retrofit
Virgin Atlantic unveiled its “Dream Suite” for the Upper Class on the A330 back in 2012. Unfortunately, Virgin Atlantic decided to implement a 1-2-1 layout versus the 1-1-1 layout found on the 787 and formerly found on the A340. This new design led to a much more cramped in-flight experience with less privacy and space, which made a lot of Virgin Atlantic flyers unhappy and eventually led to the need for change. In short, the dream suite was more of a nightmare suite.
As reported by Runway Girl Network:
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson speaking on the changes stated, “We have taken the decision to reconfigure the Upper Class cabin on our A330 fleet to bring it in line with the 787…. This will improve consistency of experience for our Upper Class passengers and give more of them the opportunity to enjoy a product which has received excellent feedback from both our customers and our people on the 787.”
But why did Virgin Atlantic try this 1-2-1 configuration that seemed destined to fail?
As Runway Girl further states:
The Dream Suite was created to fix a problem: the existing Upper Class Suite, created for a 1-2-1 configuration in the main cross-section of the Boeing 747, wasn’t dense enough to compete economically on the narrower fuselage of the A340 and A330 — especially with British Airways’ Club World product, which went fully flat but didn’t (and still doesn’t) have direct aisle access.
So Virgin Atlantic tried to redesign a configuration successfully implemented in a 747 for an A330 in order to maximize revenue. The result was the overly cramped, narrow seats with little overhead bin storage space and a lot of complaints. It eventually got so bad that they decided to pull the configuration on the A330 in late 2015.
The new retrofits
So fast forward to 2017. This is the year of the Virgin Atlantic A330 retrofits.
Business Traveler recently updated the projected schedule for these retrofits (that is running behind based on previous projections).
It looks like routes out of London Gatwick and Manchester will have the new Upper Class configuration on the A330s by the end of March. Many of these routes are to vacation hot spots like the Caribbean but Manchester has two routes to the US: SFO and BOS.
Then, from September 1, it looks like the new A330s will roll out from LHR on routes to DXB, EWR, some JKF routes, and IAD. Also, routes from MAN to ATL and JFK will have the new retrofitted aircraft. And then finally, more will come out after October 30, when the retrofitted A330s will be active on services between LHR and ATL and some routes to JFK.
What will the new configuration be like?
I haven’t seen or heard any official announcements from Virgin Atlantic on what the new configuration will consist of. However, there are many reports from passengers who have booked future flights on the A330s that state that the seat maps for their flights are showing a 1-1-1 configuration. So it looks like it will be in line with that you’d find on the 787, but one has to wonder if we’ll see any other changes implemented?
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.