Virgin Atlantic Splits Economy Class Into Tiers

Mar 7, 2018

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On March 7, Virgin Atlantic announced that the airline will split its economy class into three tiers:

“Economy delight” offers passengers three inches of additional legroom over the other two options with a 34-inch seat pitch; priority boarding; checked luggage; and free seat selection.

“Economy classic” provides, well, the classic experience, with checked luggage and seat selection privileges but a standard 31-inch seat pitch and no priority boarding.

Finally, “economy light” makes travel “affordable and accessible for millennials, and customers jetting off on city breaks” by removing seat selection at booking and allowing only carry-on luggage. This fare does still allow you free seat selection, but beginning 24 hours before your flight, when checking in.

All economy travelers will share the same dining experience, with three-course meals as well as complimentary drinks and snacks from UK-local brands when possible. In addition, each economy row seat will now include a personal USB charging point, with high-speed WiFi available on every route.

On March 17, Delta updated its mileage chart to reflect how the new Economy Delight and Economy Light flights will credit to SkyMiles:

Meanwhile, the erstwhile “premium economy” class, which is a separate cabin, will remain the same, even though getting renamed simply “premium” class, with top-tier “upper class” also remaining intact. This means the airline now offers a total of five service tiers.

The split, which will retrofit each plane with up to 36 larger economy delight seats, represents Virgin Atlantic’s biggest change to its economy class cabins in more than 10 years, according to CEO Craig Kreeger.

The updates are part of a $417 million investment designed to address the challenge of competing against low-cost, long-haul carriers such as Norwegian Air. For many years, Virgin Atlantic has competed against British Airways for long-distance passengers traveling out of London. But as newcomer Norwegian continues to develop its base of operations out of London Gatwick (LGW), British Airways and other carriers have been forced to lower fares in order to keep up with customers who favor the budget airline’s price point.

Additional features of the new program include automated bag drop at London airports, beginning with four kiosks at London Gatwick this summer, followed by 18 kiosks that will be added in London Heathrow (LHR) come Winter 2018.

Furthermore, Virgin Atlantic will add 12 new Airbus A350-1000s to its fleet beginning in spring 2019, which will be pre-designed with the new economy-class layout. Finally, Virgin Atlantic has partnered with a Brit candlemaker to create a signature perfume called “Air.”

This article has been amended to include that passengers get free seat selection with the “economy light” fare, but only beginning 24 hours before flight. This article also updated on March 17 to reflect new Delta SkyMiles credit for the new classes of service.

All images courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

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