Virgin Atlantic’s New Business Class Seats Disappoint

Virgin Atlantic unveiled their new business class seat today. It’s an improvement against the current seat. Every seat is angled towards the window, has power, and the center seats in the 1-2-1 configuration have privacy screens. All seats are fully flat with direct aisle access.

It’s an attractive cabin scheme but there’s nothing revolutionary about the seat, in fact my first thought was the goal must be to avoid being better than the new Delta 767 seat that will fly to London. Ultimately it may be a notch better than United based on spaciousness though it doesn’t appear to have very much storage space, and probably isn’t as good as the best American Airlines business seat.

It’s a modified Cirrus seat, first pioneered by US Airways and ultimately adopted by carriers like Cathay Pacific and EVA Air and by American Airlines for their Boeing 777-300ER.

Credit: God Save the Points

Personally I prefer the Super Diamond seat that American uses (found on Boeing 787-9 and some 777-200 aircraft) and that was Qatar’s new business class seat until they introduced the industry-leading QSuite).

British Airways is introducing a new business class seat with doors, taking the Super Diamond seat that American uses and adding greater privacy. Of course it will take an indeterminate amount of time to roll it out across the fleet, with BA saying they plan to be intentional (slow) about it.

The basic Cirrus product is probably a top 5 seat but not the equal of the Qsuite or Delta’s Thompson Vantage XL seat with doors (which I had sort of expected or hoped Virgin would use, since China Eastern is moving forward with it and Delta owns a much smaller stake in China Eastern than Virgin Atlantic). It’s in a class with the Super Diamond and Apex Suite. So ultimately what they’re doing isn’t at all revolutionary.

There are modifications to the seat to be sure, including a privacy slider that goes part way and an 18.5-inch screen controllable via smartphone using bluetooth and personalized lighting.

Credit: God Save the Points

Credit: God Save the Points

Instead of a bar is a space in the entrance to the aircraft with drinks and snacks that will be available for up to 5 passengers on stools and a few people standing around.

Virgin Atlantic says instead of being disappointed at the lack of doors in a new business class product, you should see it as a benefit because they’re a social airline want want connectedness between passengers and with crew. Of course if being a social airline means lack of privacy than here too they aren’t even trying to beat American Airlines, since American’s Super Diamond business class seats do not have dividers between middle seats.

Credit: God Save the Points

Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A350s will be delivered with the new seat, to debut on London Heathrow – New York JFK in August, with additional JFK service to follow, and ultimately (eventually) spread to the rest of the fleet.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sounds like “Sir Richard Branson” is going to have a few upcoming negative airline reviews soon from his customers’ travel experiences.

  2. So far i’ve noticed that all the negative reviews, have come from US-based blogs while all the positive ones are from the UK ones.

    It’s an improvement over what came for sure, and i see it as an improvement for anyone living in the UK because (combined with BA) we’re getting a better business class product from the major airlines here. I cant fly China Eastern to the USA, so the comparisons are moot to me.

    I’m not disappointed, because ultimately i’m not going to get privacy (which doors will not provide against anyone tall) in any aircraft with people in it.

  3. Why does every improvement have to be revolutionary?
    The seat is already better than the previous version. And if they can do this faster than BA and make more award seats available than BA then that’s all that matters for me.

  4. I don’t get the door fascination – the door height on the a350s is like 4 feet. If anything, it feels claustrophobic on the DL A359 and as my friend put it: “it looks like you’re in an office with a bunch of tiny cubicles.

    The 767-400 is using a similar footprint to what they have now, which means it will still be super-tight.

    These seats may not be revolutionary, but they sure seem to be above average and about on par with BA.

  5. @phil – it’s disappointing though because it’s not as nice a base seat as BA, and doesn’t have doors like the new BA seat. So the new product lags.

  6. Are doors that revolutionary? Personally, i don’t really care for doors and don’t necessarily see much value in them- perhaps there’s some distrust in other passengers and what they activities they may pursue with doors. I like the improvement and can tip my hat to Virgin. Frankly I’m more concerned with top-notch F&B, a great cappuccino, and a stellar ground experience.

  7. You missed a huge point.

    Virgin Atlantic’s new seat is 20 inches wide. On the A350.

    Delta’s seat on the A350 is 24 inches wide.

    Where’s the extra four inches? Remember, that measurement is the seat itself.

  8. @Phil – Virgin doesn’t have a first class, so the new seats should be able to be considered among the best around. Anything else is just starting with a second tier or worse product. When BA looks good by comparison with their new seat, Virgin has a problem.

  9. @Gary @Christian I like the base seats of both. The doors provide a claustrophobic sense and remove the cues that someone is standing there or watching over my seat. I’m only 5’4 so I don’t have feet cubby issues, but I do sleep on my front usually with elbows out, so that makes nearly every single business class seat “disappointing” for being too narrow for that.

    I consider doors to provide false privacy, but that’s my take on it.

  10. Not only is Virgin Atlantic’s “new” seat 4 inches narrower than what Delta uses in business-class on the A350, but it is 2 inches narrower than what Virgin Atlantic currently uses on the A330 and 747.

    How is everything missing this?

  11. Well I see these seats as superb (also Delta’s wider ones). I agree about ‘socially’ open; and from a safety and service perspective, it’s easier (and important) for FA crew to have visibility of passengers aside I understand, a traveler’s desire to sleep. The ‘partial’ sliders are sufficient to give a modicum of privacy, while facilitating crew awareness. Also, the Delta suites (to me) are isolating in a way I don’t care for (but some do); and give me the impression of being put in a cubicle or box; sort of out of the way, out of the mind, of FA’s. It’s almost like turning the business section into a ‘flying container’ ship; or more like the modules in the cargo hold :). Sort of kidding; but not entirely. I do use Virgin Upper Class (MCO – LGW) and like the arrangement on the 747; but not the cushions, which are not thick enough. If these have ‘memory foam’ padding, that would be a big help. Likewise I think Delta is adding ‘memory foam’ to all their new seat configurations; even economy and the joke that is called Comfort +. (I’m an old Flying Colonel and sort of married to Delta and generally pleased. Flew back from PVR a couple weeks ago; great service, mediocre First Class food; and nothing special with the seas or IFE on an A320; but terrific attention from the FA’s.)

  12. Judging a product on the presence of doors (or lack therof) is silly. Give me a comfortable seat/bed, decent legroom, and differentiate in the soft product.

  13. I think the new Virgin Business Class seat is a great improvement in comfort and privacy

  14. Business Traveller reported that Virgin has no plans currently to roll this out across the rest of the fleet – 789’s have just been delivered new with the old seats and the A330s have just been refurbed as well with the old seat, while 744 and 346 aircraft all being retired soon…

    It could be a very long time (many years if not a decade) before this product is rolled out across a majority of the fleet, if ever…

  15. News just in… Virgin Atlantic will debut A350 flights on the London Heathrow to New York JFK route:

    10-24 September 2019 6x weekly:
    VS153 LHR 1330-1625 JFK
    VS138 JFK 1900-0720+1 LHR

    From 25 September 2019 6x weekly:
    VS137 LHR 1150-1450 JFK
    VS138 JFK 1900-0720+1 LHR

    The A350 will initially run on six days per week, but will go daily – and take over other flights – as more of the new jets roll into Virgin’s hangars.

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