In September 2021, Virgin Atlantic revealed a unique new onboard lounge concept on a subfleet of Airbus A350s. The first plane with this feature is now flying, and we’ve also learned about some of the unique experiences that will be offered here, ranging from a wine tasting to card games.
Virgin Atlantic gets “leisure” Airbus A350s
In the long run Virgin Atlantic’s flagship aircraft will be the Airbus A350-1000. The airline has a total of 12 of these on order, and the London-based carrier has already taken delivery of eight of these planes.
The first seven A350-1000s that Virgin Atlantic took delivery of feature a total of 335 seats, including:
- 44 Upper Class business class seats
- 56 premium economy seats
- 235 economy seats
The most recent Airbus A350-1000 that Virgin Atlantic took delivery of featured an all new configuration, intended for leisure routes. Virgin Atlantic’s remaining A350 deliveries will feature a total of 407 seats, including:
- 16 Upper Class business class seats
- 56 premium economy seats
- 335 economy seats
As you can see, the major difference is that business class seats are being traded for economy class seats. The leisure configured A350 features 28 fewer business class seats, but features 100 more economy class seats.
So while the standard configuration flies to destinations like New York and Los Angeles, you can expect the leisure configuration to fly to destinations like Orlando and the Caribbean. The first such A350 has just entered service between London (LHR) and Orlando (MCO), operating the VS135 & VS136 frequencies.
To be clear, this new configuration has nothing to do with coronavirus, and potentially reduced business demand. Rather these two different configurations had been planned all along, as Virgin Atlantic had similarly split up its 747 fleet (which has now been retired) — some 747s featured 44 business class seats, while others had just 14 seats.
New social space on leisure Virgin Atlantic A350s
Virgin Atlantic is known for long having social spaces on its planes. In the past, the carrier’s fleet consistently featured a (small) onboard bar.
Then with the introduction of the A350, Virgin Atlantic introduced “The Loft,” intended as a gathering place for business class passengers. While not a bar, the idea is that you could have drinks here, chat with fellow passengers, etc. This is located right at door two, behind business class.
With Virgin Atlantic’s new A350s, the concept isn’t as practical:
- That would be quite a big social space for just 16 passengers
- The business class cabin will no longer take up the entire space between doors one and two, so the social space would actually be in the middle of the premium economy cabin, and that doesn’t make sense
Therefore Virgin Atlantic is introducing a new concept on leisure A350s, known as “The Booth.” Rather than having a full lounge, the leisure A350s instead have a small area with a single table and two seats, so travelers can hang out together. This area features two 27″ touch screens, along with bluetooth audio connections, should passengers want to watch something there.
For those wondering, “The Booth” is located at the forward left door, where you might otherwise usually find a bathroom.
Virgin Atlantic’s “The Booth” features unique experiences
With “The Booth” now officially being offered on flights between London and Orlando, Virgin Atlantic has revealed some unique experiences that passengers can have in this space, designed specifically with leisure customers in mind.
What should passengers expect?
- A wine tasting experience with drinks by “The Uncommon,” the UK’s number one producer of wine in a can, including an English white, rose, and spritzer
- A cognac tasting with chocolate pairings, courtesy of Delamain; any passenger taking part in the experience will receive a tasting glass to keep as a memento of their journey
- A “dinner for two” private dining experience, should a couple wish to dine together in this space
- A “game time,” where guests can compete with their travel partners using exclusive Virgin Atlantic playing cards
Virgin Atlantic’s first leisure oriented Airbus A350 has just entered service between London and Orlando. The plane features a significantly smaller business class cabin (and a significantly larger economy cabin), and as a result, the airline is also changing up its onboard lounge concept.
Rather than having “The Loft,” the airline will instead have “The Booth,” a smaller space that can seat just two people. This makes sense, both given the logistics of the location of the Upper Class cabin, as well as how few seats there are. Virgin Atlantic has curated some cool experiences for this space, including a wine tasting, cognac tasting, private dinner space, and the ability to play cards here.
Personally I think the execution of this concept is pretty awesome. Currently “The Loft” is simply a social space with no real concept beyond that, while “The Booth” is great for people traveling together to dine face-to-face, which otherwise isn’t possible in Virgin Atlantic’s A350 Upper Class.
What do you make of Virgin Atlantic’s new “The Booth” concept?
A “game time,” where guests can compete with their travel partners using exclusive Virgin Atlantic playing cards.
Wow! How innovative. A real selling point.
If an airline is going to do a lounge/bar/social area, then at least make a 100% effort like Emirates or Qatar. Anything less is just sad, like this example and on QANTAS too. Put in another WC, put another seat or two....basically anything would be better than these half-arsed affairs.
The booth concept is not new. Back in the 60's, 707s had them up forward. I and a friend and two lovely lasses from Alabama, all eleven years old, set a speed and altitude record for Spin the Bottle somewhere over the North Atlantic.
But did you get to third base?
Seats 1A and 1D will be as close to hell as you can get in business class with a couple of drunken hooray henrys decrying the wine on offer loudly from the booth in front of you. Like being next to the bar on Emirates. Just awful. Thanks for the warning
There was a trade notice about the use of The Booth last year and Upper Passengers will be able to book a time slot with the crew during there pre departure meet and greet.
If the FAs treat this anything like the bar on most of their fleet (A3X0s and 787s), it'll just become a staging area for small service items. I can count on one finger the number of times the bar has actually been available for legit bar service - out of about 9 flights in recent, pre-pandemic history. And really, that's okay by me. The Booth looks like it's ultimately uncomfortable for more than one person...
If the FAs treat this anything like the bar on most of their fleet (A3X0s and 787s), it'll just become a staging area for small service items. I can count on one finger the number of times the bar has actually been available for legit bar service - out of about 9 flights in recent, pre-pandemic history. And really, that's okay by me. The Booth looks like it's ultimately uncomfortable for more than one person anyway and I've never felt the need to congregate with other pax, even ones I'm traveling with, that can't be done by just standing in the aisle to have a quick chat. Plus, I've never had an issue with service on any of my flights by simply remaining in my seat. I appreciate that they're trying to differentiate, but I really feel the lavatory is more of a necessity then this gimick.
Nope. Two people sitting there for the entire flight, and no passenger attendant is going to try and evict them, or another loo. I'll take the convenience (pun intended) of another toilet.
Nice concept but surely it's just going to end up with one group monopolising it unless they have some sort of booking system?
Not a fan - two people at best crammed in - maybe dining is the best option but I think the “concept” will die a quick death
Why do VS insist on using such a dreadful colour for their lighting? I'm almost expecting to see a scantily clad lady to be sitting in the booth, just like an Amsterdam shop window!
The booth looks so cramped and it will no doubt be a logistical nightmare to allocate its use.
I'll give it 6 months until it quietly gets removed.
It does feel very seedy, but I guess a smoking room vibe is what Virgin wants.
Agree that it looks cramped and I wonder if it is economic for the airline as they are selling less seats on that flight
I like the concept of having a lounge area, but modern aircraft don't have much room for them to be comfortable. As others have mentioned, The Booth looks cramped, so you better really like rubbing knees with your seating companion. Also, I'm not sure losing a lav is worth it for the lounge space given the usage of toilets on long-haul flights. It's nice, though, that Virgin is trying to offer something unique for its Upper Class passengers.
It will be where the toilet was before in the front. The idea is great but the implementation is terrible... Just check how big it is. You can't sit there comfortable face to face each other. If you have a belly you have to force in yourself and hopefully you will not stuck. You can't have a fake candle light dinner because only one tray would fit on the table. I would like to see real people testing it and not just the promotion videos with thin model size humans
I like that they are trying something different. Hopefully they will implement a reservation system so it's not a free-for-all after the seat belt light goes off.
A bigger booth that seats 4 would also have been preferred.
Back in the early days of the 747, PanAm offered the upstairs as a dining room for first class passengers. It was very pleasant to go upstairs for dinner. With a drink or two, this ended up with most of the Heathrow to Kennedy flight being spent upstairs, while the allotted first class seat, downstairs, was unoccupied.
This could be very pleasant for first class passengers, but it did not seem to be a cost effective way of monetizing available passenger space.
Stupid. There’s only space for 2 people in this “social” space. And you just know Karen and Ken are gonna hog it for the entire flight and not let anyone else use it. And the table is tiny, how are you gonna have a “candlelight dinner” there?
There are no windows, little space and no other amenities. It looks like a table seat on a train, but without the windows. Seriously, even a virgin logo on the wall or table would have helped the space look a little interesting. I suppose being able to schedule a tea time with a travel companion or an hour meeting would be interesting, but they kind of need to program that into the flight booking.
As long as access to this space would be managed by flight attendants on a time basis, that would be fine by me. Otherwise, I could see people treat this like resort pool chaise lounges--intimidating others from joining so as to effectively hog the space for hours on end.
Like the bar at the rear on QR A-380 & the library/lounge at the front of QF A-380.
Would be a pretty awesome place to join the mile high club.
The concept is attractive since when I am traveling for business, I occasionally need to sort out some last minute things with my team before landing and visiting our clients. Such a space would allow two to three of us to have some meetings in the air.
However, the execution looks poor. The cramped space along with the amenities seem to be an oversight, at best.
Therefore, I don't see the appeal.
Lol their knees in the last photo make the 6 seater on a LIRR train look downright spacious.
I also am confused...
@ben You said the leisure one will have 28 less business class seats while there’s only 16 total. I think you might have made a typo but great article!
@ John Ryan -- I could be missing something, but I believe 44-28=16. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?
@Ben Sorry! I didn't see you had the leisure configuration and I just got the numbers confused. Sorry for the confusion!
Where is the booth on the plane located?
@ Morgan -- That's a great question, and I haven't been able to figure that out yet. I'm not sure if it'll be in the very front of the plane where a lavatory might usually be, or if it will take up space behind Upper Class. If anyone knows, please report back!
All good, will have to keep an eye out!
Hey Ben, I've taken a stab at where it is on my site. I believe it's at Door L1 right at the front.
@ Jonny -- You had a good guess, because Virgin Atlantic also confirmed that. :)
And I managed to get an answer from Virgin Atlantic -- The Booth will be located at the forward left door. Interesting.
If I remember correctly, they had a similar booth setup in front of door L1 a while back where Upper Class passengers could receive in-flight massages (the only time I've flown them I got a hand massage). Perhaps this is a return of that space?
I am... indifferent? Maybe I need to see it in action but I don't fully see the appeal. The table looks too small to eat together but looks good enough to sit and chat. But if they can do candle light dinners....