**Update 14:20 UTC @ 30/3/21 – Virgin Atlantic Will Operate the A350-1000 through April on both the London and Manchester to Islamabad routes. Statement added**
Virgin Atlantic has operated its first-ever Manchester to Islamabad, Pakistan, service with the Airbus A350 this week. The route is usually flown by Virgin’s Boeing 787-9 but saw the service upgraded to the airline’s flagship jet recently. Let’s find out more about this flight.
Virgin Atlantic’s newly launched service from Manchester to Islamabad saw an equipment swap on Sunday. Unlike the usual 264-seat 787-9 that make the journey four times a week, Virgin opted to operate its flagship A350-1000 instead. For passengers, onboard the upgrade came as a surprise and were more than happy to fly the new jet.
Flight VS363 departed Manchester Airport at 11:38 AM local time, a few minutes behind its scheduled time. After a quick climb to the cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, the flight made its way over Europe, flying over the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea before entering Asia. The flight then flew over Turkmenistan and Afghanistan before landing in Islamabad.
While the flight departed slightly late, it quickly made up time during the flight and landed almost 45 minutes early. VS363 touched down in Islamabad at approximately 22:30 local time, ahead of its scheduled 23:15 arrival. A flight time of under seven hours is usually rare on this route, making this a special flight.
Prior to the flight to Islamabad, Virgin flew a repositioning flight for its A350 from London Heathrow to Manchester Airport. This short hop took under 30 minutes.
The aircraft flying this route was a 1.7-year-old Airbus A350-1000, delivered new to Virgin Atlantic in September 2019, according to Planespotters.net. The Rolls-Royce powered jets feature 335 seats, the largest in the fleet, with 44 in Upper Class, 56 in premium economy, and 235 in economy. Compared to the 787, the A350’s larger cabin and newer seats make for a more luxurious experience.
Passengers who were not expecting the A350-1000 would be pleasantly surprised by additions like The Loft in the middle of the cabin and much more. Travelers on the return flight to Manchester also had the chance to try out the A350 for themselves.
For the month
Ahead of the Easter holidays, Virgin Atlantic has opted to add the A350-1000 due to higher demand on the Manchester-Islamabad route. Demand is expected to remain high for the next few weeks, with even the London-Islamabad route seeing the A350 for the first time through April.
Sunday also marked a change in timings for the Manchester-Islamabad service, with flights departing at 11:15 AM instead of 12:35 PM. Going forward, the flight will now land in Islamabad at 11:35 PM instead of 01:00 AM local time.
In a statement about the swap, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said,
“We assess our network and schedule on a regular basis to cater for passenger demand. We’re delighted that the latest aircraft in our fleet, the A350, will be operating services to Islamabad from Manchester until the end of April”