Virgin Atlantic is already making some improvements to its shiny new A350. Following customer feedback, the airline is taking out the large tray tables in Upper Class and replacing them with a new design for added passenger comfort.
Simple Flying recently had the pleasure of road testing Virgin’s new A350-1000 Upper Class cabin for ourselves. While the overall experience was incredible, there were a few niggles with the hard product itself.
One of the issues we commented on was the very well built but nonetheless massive tray tables in Upper Class. Despite being suitably sturdy for work and dining, the size of the tables themselves presented a problem for the comfort and safety of the passenger in the seat.
What’s the problem with the table?
While many premium cabins will have tables that lift out from the armrest, in the case of the Virgin A350, they unclip and fold down in one piece from the back of the seat in front. They can then be swiveled in an arc to land in front of the passenger.
While the engineering is impressive, the fact that the entire tray table folds down as one large unit means it is almost guaranteed to cause some level of discomfort to the passenger. With the chair in anything but the completely upright position, it became impossible to lower the tray table without it digging into their midriff. For passengers at the higher percentile of the average waist size, lowering the table was actually impossible, requiring that meals be served on the triangular surface to the right of the seat; not ideal.
More pressing, though, was the fact that once the table was down, passengers would find it difficult, if not impossible, to exit their seat. This author did manage to slide out from under the table to use the restroom mid-meal service, but I do a lot of yoga.
Anything that prevents rapid egress, for example in an emergency situation, needs to be dealt with swiftly. Thankfully Virgin Atlantic is keen to take feedback on board, and is in the process of redesigning and retrofitting a more workable solution for the A350.
What has Virgin said about the tray table?
When speaking with journalists from Runway Girl Network, Virgin Atlantic’s executive vice president for operations Phil Maher commented that,
“The early customer feedback we had some months ago, we weren’t giving the flexibility in the tray table that customers needed. We’re going to move that. We’ve already designed a new table that’s coming into service in October. We’re already ahead of the curve.”
So it sounds like Virgin are actively retrofitting their brand new aircraft with a redesigned tray table, starting now. Clearly, redesigning any part of a brand new aircraft is not good news, but it’s great to see Virgin Atlantic taking customer feedback seriously.
Simple Flying talked to Virgin for an update on the table situation, but they weren’t able to give us any further details at this stage. However, Maher did give some details away to RGN in his interview, saying,
“We’ve gone in with a design team, our design team and an external agency, redesigned the new tray table. Not only does it provide a single surface for the tray to come out and move backwards and forwards, giving you flexibility, it also gives you a second tray table to one side so you can put your iPad, your phones and stuff on the side.”
Virgin Atlantic have indicated that passengers will start seeing the revamped tray tables from October onwards. It’s a bold move to address an irritating niggle, and testament to Virgin’s commitment to going above and beyond for their passengers.
If you’re on a Virgin A350 in Upper Class, do let us know what the new tables are like!