“The Booth” Debuts On Virgin Atlantic’s Leisure A350s

“The Booth” Debuts On Virgin Atlantic’s Leisure A350s

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Virgin Atlantic has just introduced a new onboard lounge concept on a subfleet of Airbus A350s, and I think I like it…

Virgin Atlantic is getting “leisure” 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 seven of these planes.

The seven A350-1000s that Virgin Atlantic has already taken delivery of feature a total of 335 seats, including:

  • 44 Upper Class business class seats
  • 56 premium economy seats
  • 235 economy seats
Virgin Atlantic’s 44-seat A350 Upper Class cabin

Later this year, Virgin Atlantic will be introducing an all new A350-1000 configuration, intended for leisure routes. The remaining five 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.

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.

Virgin Atlantic will have 12 A350s in its fleet

New social space on leisure Virgin Atlantic A350s

Virgin Atlantic is known for long having had social spaces on its planes. In the past, the carrier’s fleet consistently featured a (small) onboard bar.

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 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.

Virgin Atlantic’s A350 “The Loft”

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 will instead have a small area with a single table and two seats, so travelers can hang out together. This area will feature two 27″ touch screens, along with bluetooth audio connections, should passengers want to watch something there.

Virgin Atlantic’s A350 “The Booth”

For those wondering, “The Booth” will be located at the forward left door, where you might otherwise usually find a bathroom.

“The Booth” location on the A350

What’s cool with this concept is that Virgin Atlantic may get innovative with what it does with this space. While no exact details have been announced, the airline may allow passengers traveling together to reserve this space for a certain amount of time, and then offer them special experiences.

This could be an opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea face-to-face with your travel companion, or perhaps even have a (fake) candlelit dinner. Since Virgin Atlantic’s new business class seats don’t allow people to dine together, this area could be an opportunity to offer that.

Virgin Atlantic’s A350 “The Booth”

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic will soon start taking delivery of five leisure oriented A350s. The planes will feature 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.

Personally I think this concept could be really cool if executed properly. Currently “The Loft” is simply a social space with no real concept beyond that, while “The Booth” could be awesome 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?

(Tip of the hat to God Save The Points and Head for Points)

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  1. red_robbo

    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.

  2. iamhere

    Agree that it looks cramped and I wonder if it is economic for the airline as they are selling less seats on that flight

  3. Alex

    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.

  4. Patrick Evens

    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

  5. Paul

    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.

  6. J.A.D. Needham

    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.

  7. Robert D

    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?

  8. Mark G.

    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.

  9. SINJim

    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.

  10. Terry

    Like the bar at the rear on QR A-380 & the library/lounge at the front of QF A-380.

  11. Robert

    Would be a pretty awesome place to join the mile high club.

  12. Kent

    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.

  13. GuruJanitor

    Lol their knees in the last photo make the 6 seater on a LIRR train look downright spacious.

  14. Clifton Shelton

    Ben,

    I also am confused...

  15. John Ryan

    @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!

    1. Ben Schlappig

      @ John Ryan -- I could be missing something, but I believe 44-28=16. Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?

    2. John Ryan

      @Ben Sorry! I didn't see you had the leisure configuration and I just got the numbers confused. Sorry for the confusion!

  16. Morgan

    Where is the booth on the plane located?

    1. Ben Schlappig

      @ 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!

    2. Morgan

      All good, will have to keep an eye out!

    3. Jonny

      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.

    4. Ben Schlappig

      @ Jonny -- You had a good guess, because Virgin Atlantic also confirmed that. :)

    5. Ben Schlappig

      And I managed to get an answer from Virgin Atlantic -- The Booth will be located at the forward left door. Interesting.

    6. Super

      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?

  17. Chatter

    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....

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Ben Schlappig

@ 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!

red_robbo

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.

iamhere

Agree that it looks cramped and I wonder if it is economic for the airline as they are selling less seats on that flight

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