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Virgin Atlantic will soon charge premium economy passengers for preferred seats

Aug. 10, 2022
4 min read
Virgin Atlantic plane
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Virgin Atlantic is about to start charging passengers an extra 55 pounds (about $67) to sit in certain seats in its premium economy cabin, the airline has announced.

Currently, travelers in premium economy can choose whatever seat they want to sit in for free as long as it isn’t already booked or in the bulkhead row, which is usually held for families with babies.

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However, starting Aug. 23, certain seats at the front of the premium economy cabin will be reserved for travelers who want to pay extra for a speedier exit from the plane or to sit closer to loved ones during their flight.

The move comes a little more than a year after Virgin Atlantic launched a similar “preferred seat” fee for economy passengers to “aid a speedy flight connection, an exit seat to stretch out in, or ‘duo’ seats for couples.”

According to Virgin, premium economy offers a little more legroom than other economy seating as well as a glass of “bubbly” when you board and a “tasty meal served on china crockery with proper cutlery." (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

“We want all of our customers to love their experience when they fly with us and recognise that many of them have their favourite place in the cabin," Virgin Atlantic said, justifying the latest charge.

Related: Qatar Airways will soon use Avios as its loyalty currency

“The extension of preferred seating to Premium customers provides more choice and control so they can select a location that suits their individual preference in our award-winning cabin. That could be to secure seats near the front of the cabin, a duo seat for couples, or simply the peace of mind that they’ll be sat close to their traveling party to sit back, unwind and enjoy the Premium experience together.”

The extra seating charges are a bid by Virgin Atlantic to align with joint-venture partners Delta Air Lines, Air France and KLM, which already operate similar systems.

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Read on for the fine print.

Where exactly will the preferred seats be?

They will be situated directly behind the bulkhead seats on all of Virgin’s planes, including the yet-to-be launched A330neos.

All of Virgin’s aircraft are long-haul, wide-body jets. No matter which one you fly, there will be a Premium cabin. Similar to the Upper Class cabins, the layout and comfort you might experience in each aircraft differ slightly.

According to Virgin, premium economy offers a little extra legroom than other economy seating plus a glass of “bubbly” as you board and a “tasty meal served on china crockery with proper cutlery.”

Here are how many preferred seats will be available on each plane:

  • Airbus A330-300: 13.
  • Airbus A350-1000: 16.
  • Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner: 11.
  • Airbus A330neo: 11.

Is there a downside?

Being behind the bulkhead, you may find yourself paying more for the pleasure of spending a flight sitting directly behind a screaming baby. (Photo by Emma Kim/Getty Images)

If you’re the sort of traveler who likes to sleep on flights, preferred seating could pose a risk.

You may in fact find yourself paying $67 for the pleasure of spending a flight sitting directly behind a crying baby.

Why? Because the bulkhead is where bassinets attach and those seats are therefore reserved for passengers with infants.

Can I still choose my seat elsewhere in the plane?

One key point is that you don’t have to pay extra if you don’t want to. You can still choose your seat elsewhere on the plane for free, just not in the preferred seating area. Virgin says that will take up about 30% of the cabin, depending on the aircraft type.

Related: 7 tips for picking the perfect airplane seat every time

Any special treatment for  Virgin Flying Club elite members?

Yes. Flying Club Gold as well as Delta Gold, Diamond and Platinum members are exempt from the charge and can choose a preferred seat for free.

The same goes for corporate customers.

What if I’m already booked to fly next month?

Virgin says existing Premium customers booked to travel after Aug. 25 were contacted about this change on Aug. 8, giving them a window of opportunity to secure a preferred seat free of charge. Travelers who make new bookings after that date will have to pay if they want a preferred seat.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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