Virgin Atlantic’s passengers will be able to book three different economy fares from this spring as the airline aims to dispel the ‘one size fits all’ fare structure.
The launch of economy delight, economy classic and economy light forms part of a wider GBP300m ($417m) investment although fares were not disclosed.
Many services, such as food and drinks, inflight entertainment, blankets and hand baggage will still be allowed across all categories but passengers are likely to pay more for the 34-inch legroom in economy delight, which also provides advanced seat assignment and priority check in/boarding. There will be up to 36 delight seats on every aircraft.
The more regular economy classic and economy light will both offer 31 inches of legroom though the latter marks Virgin’s first hand baggage-only fare – which is gaining traction among airlines on short-haul flights. It remains to be seen if passengers take it up on medium and long-haul routes.
Light will sell the cheapest tickets and classic now comes with advanced seat selection. USB chargers will be in every seat.
Premium economy, introduced 26 years ago, is to be rebranded ‘premium’ and upper class has also undergone changes; all 10 A330s have now been retrofitted with a sharp 31-seat cabin (two seats less than previously) and bar, and the aircraft is on the Dubai route.
Chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “We know that one size doesn’t fit all and from spring, our customers can afford to be choosy.”
He was confident delight would not dilute premium as the latter cabin will continue to have larger seats and different food – nor that the move will draw it into a battle with low-cost carriers which are notorious for their myriad fare structures.
Some B787s will need to be retrofitted but otherwise there will be no changes to existing seating configurations.
Daniel Kerzner, formerly with Starwood, is VP of customer experience and shows how traditional lines between hospitality and aviation are dissolving. Virgin’s renowned Clubhouse at London Heathrow Terminal 3 recently featured a pop-up collaboration with OneFineStay.
Virgin’s first of 12 A350-1000s will be delivered early next year.