Everyone’s talking about that stunning new Upper Class product onboard Virgin Atlantic’s A350-1000. While it’s certainly something special, the airline has made some serious upgrades down the back of the plane too. Here’s why we love the economy cabin on the A350, and why it could be a gamechanger for Virgin.
The wow factor
Stepping onboard the A350 for the first time guarantees a sense of ‘wow’. Entering via The Loft immediately sets the tone that this is a great aircraft; something really special. Arriving in economy, the tasteful colors and super modern design, offset by mood lighting, often in gorgeous Virgin purple, makes the cabin look a whole lot better than simply coach.
The cabin is laid out in a 3-3-3 arrangement and is Virgin’s largest economy class barring that onboard the 747. In total, the carrier offers 235 seats here. While this is a lot, the high ceilings and straight sidewalls of the A350 give a sense of space, preventing it from feeling claustrophobic.
In a world where polyester reigns supreme, the woven wool blend fabrics of the A350s economy seats are a refreshing change. The deep red of the center panel is offset with a brown surround and seat pad, topped with a leather headrest that moves pretty much anywhere you want.
The headrest itself is superb, well-cushioned and easy to move. As well as changing shape in terms of its curve, it can also be raised and lowered, covering around 6 – 8 inches of vertical variation, making it easy to get comfortable no matter how tall or small you are.
The rear of the headrests is bright red leather and gives the cabin a cool flash of color whenever anyone has their headrest fully extended. The seat pockets too have a flash of red, and the bright red Virgin blankets finish off the color scheme perfectly.
Space to relax
While there’s nothing too unusual about Virgin’s seat dimensions, it’s definitely on the comfortable side of things. The seat width comes in at 17.4 inches, which is 0.2 inches narrower than British Airways’ A350. However, nobody’s really going to notice that 0.2 of an inch, and by stealing that little bit of space from each seat, Virgin has created more space in the aisle, making it easier for people to pass one another.
The pitch is 31 inches in economy, rising to 34 inches in economy Delight. That’s about on a par with most widebody operators, and significantly better than some. In row 45, the first two of economy, the seats have a massive pitch and are not even ‘Delight’ so don’t require extra payment.
All the seats recline (unlike economy on BA’s A350, which has six seats in row 35 that don’t recline at all) and have a total recline of 5 inches. Along with the nimble headrest, that makes for a very comfortable way to cross the Atlantic.
In the seat itself, the ergonomic design makes for a generous amount of legroom (pith number isn’t always everything) and the bi-folding tray means it’s easy to get in and out of the seat, even with a drink to take care of. The large overhead bins mean everyone can keep their baggage nearby too.
The real gamechanger here has to be that stunning inflight entertainment screen. Weighing in at an incredible 11.5 inches, these screens are bigger than those in Virgin’s old Upper Class! Not only that, but they are full HD, making the clarity as good as anything you’d watch at home. At a time when multiple airlines are tearing out seatback screens in favor of a bring your own device policy, it’s great to see a carrier willing not only to commit to in-seat IFE but also to make it one of the best products out there.
In comparison, BA’s seatback screens on the A350 are 10 inches, and Delta’s A350-900 comes in with screens of 11 inches only. Most carriers have screens of around 7 – 9 inches in economy. As far as we can tell, only Emirates beat this screen size, with their 13.3-inch economy offering. Being able to watch that stunning tailcam in full HD on such a large screen is a real treat for any fan of flying.
Although there’s no AC power in economy, every seat has two USB charging ports to keep devices topped up.
The onboard WiFi is very reasonably priced, starting at £2.99/$3.95 for messaging only. What’s really refreshing is that Virgin offer WiFi with unlimited data, so for a fixed fee, passengers can use whatever they like with no limit on the MBs downloaded.
While there’s lots to love about the Virgin Atlantic A350, the economy cabin offers a massive improvement over anything that has gone before. In comparison to other carriers running the London to New York route, it’s vastly superior to anything else in the industry.
In terms of price, Virgin is on a par with all the lowest priced carriers operating out of LHR to JFK. While a trip to Gatwick would get you to JFK for up to £35 less with low-cost long haul specialist Norwegian, why would you bother? And when it comes to LHR-JFK, there’s not much competition for these comfortable seats and superb IFE screens.
Will you fly transatlantic in Virgin’s new economy cabin? Let us know about your experience!