Virgin’s investment in the A350-1000 is already starting to pay off. The new plane has created quite a buzz about the UK carrier, as avgeeks and frequent fliers alike keep track of the stunning new arrival. But as well as expanding Virgin’s fan base, the A350 is set to revolutionize its operations. Let’s take a look at how.
It will cost less to fly
With 70% of its body made from advanced materials, including 53% composites, the A350 is lighter and more robust than older aircraft. The carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) used by Airbus in its construction are, as Virgin describes them, “lighter than aluminum, stronger than iron, and more corrosion resistant than both”.
Aerodynamic improvements on the A350-1000 are easy to spot. Those wingtips, for a start, bring additional aerodynamicity to the design, and the wings themselves are designed to flex and change in flight to maximize lift and reduce drag. Avgeeks will notice the adaptive dropped hinge flaps and droop-nose leading-edge devices… for those who prefer plain English, the wings are a really nice shape.
Then, of course, there are those engines. The Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines are huge, big enough to fit the fuselage of Concorde inside. The years and years of engineering that have gone into these engines makes them far more efficient than previous powerplants.
This all adds up to a super-efficient aircraft, with a 25% advantage in fuel burn and operating costs compared to previous generations of aircraft. This will not only make it economical for Virgin to fly, but it will also reduce the CO2 of each flight, ticking some serious ‘green’ boxes for the airline.
It goes further
In comparison to the A340 it is replacing, the A350-1000 adds another 900 miles (1,600km) or so to its range. Not only this, but it achieves this with around 68,000 lb less of fuel on board, making it lighter and even more efficient as a result.
Although we’ve only been told so far about New York, Los Angeles and the leisure routes coming in 2021, the A350’s exceptional range makes it possible to fly to so many more places. With Virgin’s clear interest in South America and Australia, you’ve got to wonder just where these birds could take them next.
It’s a massive crowd-pleaser
From nose to tail, the A350 has been built to make passengers happy. Virgin, of course, have gone a step further in making the PaxEx exceptional, with new cabins, new amenity kits and super speedy WiFi.
Those Trent XWBs are super quiet, and with the aerodynamic improvements to the body, it’s going to be a super quiet, relaxing journey. In fact, Virgin claim that the A350 is the quietest long haul aircraft in the sky. Not only that, but it’s quiet on the outside too. For anyone who lives on a flight path, that’s really good news.
Passengers will feel less jetlagged too, thanks to the A350 having the highest pressurization of any plane in the sky. That means less swelling, less stress on the body and, when accompanied by the higher cabin humidity, less drying out of the eyes and throat. In short, you’ll arrive feeling like you haven’t flown at all.
The cabin width is greater than its nearest competitor, the 787. This has allowed Virgin to be really creative with the space, bringing one of the most attractive and comfortable premium business class cabins to the market. For the transatlantic routes, this was a must if they wanted to stay competitive with the likes of British Airways.
Even back in economy, the A350 beats the 787 in terms of seating width, thank to the XWB (extra wide body, in case you hadn’t guessed!). It’s also got the highest ceiling of any aircraft, and vertical sidewalls that massively increase the sense of space on board.
Overall, the A350 is something of a gamechanger for Virgin Atlantic. Along with the forthcoming A330neos and the retirement of its 747s and A340s, Virgin Atlantic will have one of the newest and best aircraft fleets in the sky.