EXCLUSIVE | Virgin Australia's new business class seats won't debut on the Australia-US route until early 2016, with the airline delaying a planned November 2015 rollout due to certification issues.
"We have recently been advised by the Business Class seat manufacturer B/E Aerospace that they are still completing the certification process on the seat" a Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed to Australian Business Traveller this morning.
"Therefore we now expect the first reconfigured Boeing 777 to launch in early 2016."
The seats – which are identical to those already seen on Virgin's domestic Airbus A330 services – convert to a fully lie-flat bed and will sport an 18 inch video screen.
Travellers will also welcome direct aisle access due to the 1-2-1 seating arrangement, compared to today's 2-3-2 configuration.
Issues with certifying the seat also delayed its installation on the Airbus A330 fleet.
Virgin Australia flies five Boeing 777-300ER jets on the Sydney-Los Angeles, Brisbane-Los Angeles and Sydney-Abu Dhabi routes, with all aircraft previously slated to have the new seats – dubbed 'The Business' – by the end of February.
Virgin is now re-assessing the schedule for pulling its Boeing 777s out of service in order to fit the new seats alongside a regular maintenance check.
However, with the airline unable to ground the big jets during the January holiday period, it's now likely that the upgraded Boeings won't take to the skies until as early as March 2016.
(The airline's flights between Sydney and Abu Dhabi, which were previously to be suspended between October 27 and December 16, will now operate as normal.)
The extensive make-over for each Boeing 777 will also include a larger inflight bar, with face-to-face service for up to four seated guests and additional lounge seating behind the bar...
... and new premium economy seats.
These will feature an additional three inches of legroom over the airline’s current premium economy seats plus upgraded meals as part of a repositioning to become a 'business lite' proposition.
Further down the plane, Virgin Australia will also introduce ‘economy plus’ zones with extra legroom and a higher price tag to suit.
There will be 42 of these seats on each Boeing 777, although the airline hasn't specified how many inches will be gained over the standard 32 inch pitch.
Virgin says the fleet-wide upgrade of its Airbus A330s to the new seats remains on track for the end of October.
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