Virgin Australia's launch of its next-generation business class seats has been pushed back to mid-year, extending Qantas' valuable lead-time as the two airlines fight for premium passengers on the lucrative east-west market.
Virgin originally planned to have the extra-wide and extra-long lie-flat beds (below) debut in March, with all six of the twin-aisle Airbus A330 jets upgraded by August.
However, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti says the roll-out will now begin in "the middle of the year," a potential three month delay from the previously-slated launch date.
"In all of these programs there are always some issues you find along the way that you need to adjust, but it's not just issues" Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller during a media briefing on the airline's financial results for the first half of the 2015 financial year.
"But you also find some things you can make a little better, so you take the time and tweak that."
Borghetti maintains that "the completion of the program in August is absolutely still on track. We are very confident that in August the whole fleet will be done."
Borghetti wouldn't be drawn on a more specific date for the new A330 business class inaugural. "We do have a date that we want to launch it, but we want to make a big song and dance about it, so we’re not going to reveal it today."
A similar upgrade for Virgin's international Boeing 777s which fly to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi remains on track for November 2015, with the airline saying this would be completed “within three months.”
"On the Pacific route from Australia to Los Angeles this will be the business class to beat," Borghetti has previously said.
Like the Qantas Business Suite, Virgin's new business class adopts a 1-2-1 layout to provide direct aisle access for every passenger.
It also packs plenty of room to work and stow your carry-on kit plus a large (16-18 inch) HD video screen.
Qantas is already flying two domestic A330s fitted with its new Business Suite (below), with a third to join the fleet in early April to bolster the Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth routes and upgrade selected Brisbane-Perth flights.
Exclusive AusBT review: The Qantas Airbus A330 Business Suite
The Flying Kangaroo's schedule points to 11 Airbus A330s reconfigured by August, with that number roughly split between domestic and international aircraft.
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