Up to 200,000 Bonus Amplify Rewards Points - St.George Amplify Signature
Over 2 years when you spend $12k on eligible purchases each year.* Plus reduced first year annual card fee $179 (usually $279). New Amplify Signature cards only. Click here to apply.
Yes, Virgin Atlantic's all-new Airbus A350 Upper Class business class seat has a sliding door.
But oddly, that door doesn't close all the way to create the same private cocoon as British Airways' new Club Suite (also making an A350 debut mid-year) or the similar door de jour seats of Qatar Airways, Delta and China Eastern.
Instead, Virgin has opted for a door which slides just halfway across, in a unique 'semi-suite' design which the airline says is to maintain a social connection between passengers and crew.
The decades-old angled 'herringbone' layout of Virgin's Upper Class seats have been ditched for more conventional forward-facing berths, as shown here in a luridly-lit A350 cabin mock-up at Virgin Atlantic's London HQ.
(None of the sliding seat doors on these mock-up were operational.)
While the suite doors won't completely close, the privacy divider between the paired middle seats will slide all the way forward (although these early seat mock-ups lacked any such movement).
Virgin's A350s flying out of Heathrow will sport 44 Upper Class seats, while the jets based at Gatwick will have fewer business class seats, in keeping with the leisure-based nature of Virgin's Gatwick routes.
There's a decent amount of personal space around the seat where flyers can spread their stuff and keep items such as smartphones, tablets, books, reading glasses and other kit close at hand.
Each Upper Class seats converts to an 82-inch fully flat bed at the press of a button, so there's no more getting out of the seat to flip the back down into 'bed-mode'.
The bed itself is dressed with a thick mattress and pillow in the sky, while passengers can pre-order pyjamas – available in their choice of shorts or longer pants, paired with a T-shirt or long-sleeve top.
So how's the legroom? As you'd expect from this kind of seat, it's always a bit better in the very front row, as the seat extends into the bulkhead wall rather than beneath the passenger ahead.
Here's the legroom in a standard row...
... and wth the bed extended, the foot-cubby doesn't seem too much of a squeeze.
Other Upper Class creature comforts include an 18.5-inch HD video screen which can be controlled by your smartphone via Bluetooth, and personalised LED mood lighting in each suite.
However, those large screens flip out from the seat's shell and will likely need to be locked back into place during taxi, take-off and landing – which means no gate-to-gate boxed set bingefests.
The sophisticated warm colour palette of the business class seats and cabin echoes that of the Upper Class bar, or rather, the no-longer-a-bar.
Virgin has ditched its dedicated but sometimes boisterous stand-up bar for a lounge area dubbed The Loft.
The revamped social space double as a lobby-style entrance for passengers – similar in some respects to The Lobby of Etihad's Airbus A380 – with drinks and snacks available for those who are quick to perch at one of the five padded pews, with standing space for three slightly slower-moving travellers.
There's also a 32-inch HD TV for watching a movie or live sports, with audio piped over Bluetooth headphones.
Virgin's take is that The Loft "extends its renowned Clubhouse experience to the skies, offering a wide range of cocktails, and the option for customers to dine together and enjoy Mile High afternoon tea by Eric Lanlard and a selection of delicious new dishes by Donal Skehan."
The new Upper Class suites will debut on Virgin's twelve factory-fresh Airbus A350s, the first of which is due in late (northern) summer, but will not in their cutrrent form be rolled out across Virgin's existing long-range fleet.
Virgin Atlantic's first Airbus A350 will begin flying between London Heathrow and New York JFK in August, "followed by other services to JFK later in the year", with all twelve A350s due to take wing "by 2021."