Virgin Australia to replace business and economy seats in current domestic aircraft

By David Flynn, May 6 2011
Virgin Australia to replace business and economy seats in current domestic aircraft

If you liked the look of the leather seats in Virgin Australia's factory-fresh Boeing 737-800, here's good news: the airline is going to fit them into most of the current Virgin Blue aircraft.

"The new Boeing 737-800 business and economy class interiors will be rolled out across the majority of Virgin Australia's current domestic fleet by the end of the year" says Virgin Australia chief John Borghetti.

Virgin Blue already has 54 earlier versions of the Boeing 737-800 in its fleet, with 58 more on order.

Those new aircraft will sport the futuristic 'Sky Interior' cabin which we saw at this week's launch, but the same lush reclining business class seats and the 168 "next generation economy seats" will be retrofitted to most of the older aircraft.

The revamped cabin in Virgin Australia's 737 fleet will include this plexiglass divider between the business and economy sections (above) with space-saving slimline economy seats (below) to boost legroom.

"Our new business and economy class has been designed from the ground up by experts in their fields" Borghetti says.

"We have listened to what today's traveller wants from an airline and we are incorporating that into every feature and every part of our service, while maintaining competitive pricing."

The seats are supplied by aircraft interior specialist B/E Aerospace, with the company's Spectrum First seats at the pointy end of the plane and the slimline Pinnacle seats in economy.

However, a B/E Aerospace spokesperson told Australian Business Traveller that Virgin Australia had not ordered the same iPad-compatible version as Jetstar, which features an iPad bracket so that Apple's touchscreen tablet can be used as an in-flight entertainment system.

Virgin Australia's Creative Director Hans Holbusch told Australian Business Traveller that the airline had done a susbtantial degree of work in customising the basic seat frame, so that what Virgin Australia passengers would see wasn't just an off-the-shelf product.

The process of ripping out existing seats to install new seats will be undeniably expensive, but Sir Richard Branson offered his philosophy behind the decision – it comes down to making the people at the front of the plane subsidise improvements for everybody at the back.

"Virgin Atlantic and Virgin USA offer the best business class and because they do that we can afford to be competitive in the back end of the plane... because of that we can afford to put brand new economy seats across all of current fleet."

"Just because the price of a ticket is low, doesn't mean you can't get quality" Branson says. "If you give a quality product then people will go out of their way to fly you."

This is just part of Australian Business Traveller's comprehensive coverage of Virgin Australia's launch day:


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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