Virgin Atlantic gets first new Airbus A330, promises in-flight Internet, brings back red shoes for hosties

By David Flynn, April 5 2011
Virgin Atlantic gets first new Airbus A330, promises in-flight Internet, brings back red shoes for hosties

It's good to see an airline which clearly has its priorities right.

Virgin Atlantic has not only started flying the first of ten Airbus A330s to beef up its long-distance fleet, equipped with a new touch-screen in-flight entertainment system which later this year will include in-flight Internet.

The airline has also unveiled "new shiny red shoes for female uniformed staff" named Dorothy and Dotty (that's the name of the shoes, not the staff).

First, the Airbus A330: it's factory-fresh, unlike the two ex-Emirates A330s which Virgin Blue will use on its Sydney-Perth route from May 26 (Virgin Blue will get a further two all-new A330s next year).

Virgin Atlantic has set aside a cool $2.2 billion for the ten A330s, which will be delivered over the next two years and ply long-haul routes from the UK to the US East Coast,  Africa, the Middle East and India.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that there were no plans yet for the A330 to appear on the London-Hong Kong-Sydney route, which is currently serviced by Airbus A340-600s.

Virgin Atlantic’s first two A330 aircraft will be geared for leisure routes, ditching the Upper Class business class cabin for 59 Premium Economy seats and 255 Economy seats.

The remaining eight A330s will be configured in the airline’s more familiar three classes of Upper Class, Premium Economy and Economy.

All A330s will be fitted with a new touch-screen entertainment system from Panasonic with an iTunes-style 'scroll and swipe' user interface.

Codenamed 'Jam', it also has some unique features. Passengers can rate movies and music using thumbs up/thumbs down icons, with the results added to the main system and displayed to other passengers. You can also add your own tips and suggestions for Virgin Atlantic destinations.

Passengers in Upper Class and Premium Economy will find their handheld controller sports its own touchscreen display.

Virgin Atlantic says the A330s will be upgraded later this year to support in-flight Internet.

As for those shiny red shoes: both are patent leather shoes, with Dorothy perched on a 3 inch heel while Dotty is a lower 2 inches. They're modelled on the red shoes featured in recent Virgin Atlantic advertisements and will replace the current black shoes worn by female staff.

"We have been working very hard to develop a pair of patent leather red shoes that will reflect the glamour of our iconic uniform and I am very pleased to see the launch of the new shoe on a day when we launch our new shiny Airbus A330" observed Virgin Atlantic CEO Steve Ridgway. The airline is also embarking on a "three year project to design a brand new uniform for all Virgin Atlantic uniformed staff worldwide."


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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