A behind-the-scenes look at the seat installation on a Virgin Atlantic A350

Jan 24, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Last month, I was lucky enough to spend the morning in Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow hangar to see its final 747, named Pretty Woman. I was even luckier at the end of the event to be led out of the hangar doors, leaving Virgin’s oldest aircraft behind me to step onboard its very newest plane.

This Airbus A350, registered as G-VDOT and known as “Ruby Slipper,” was delivered to Manchester from the Airbus factory in Toulouse on September 9, 2020.

Whilst some aircraft are delivered fully fitted from the manufacturer, Ruby Slipper was originally a test aircraft for Airbus. So, Airbus and Virgin decided to install the aircraft’s Upper Class seats in the U.K. at the same time as carrying out the entry into service checks.

After being delivered to Manchester, Ruby Slipper took a 35-minute flight to London Heathrow (LHR) on November 30, 2020, ready for its makeover.

It was fascinating boarding a plane that was still midway through its cabin installation. I turned left — naturally. Inside the aircraft, I found a true building site, full of engineers, tools and wrapped-up suites ready to be fitted.

Below are some of my own pictures of a finished cabin to give you a sense of the product passengers see compared to the work in progress.

The seats being installed are Virgin’s new Upper Class Suites. Virgin launched the new product in autumn of 2019, and I was onboard one of the very first commercial flights to review it.

The finished cabin I experienced in 2019 certainly looked a little different.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class

The seats usually take 14 days to install, with crew working 12-hour day shifts. But on Ruby Slipper, it took Virgin crew took 21 days to complete the project in order to weigh the aircraft, carry out pre-entry into service safety checks and ensure the inflight entertainment systems were fully functioning.

Virgin Atlantic engineering teams installed the seats with assistance from Safran, the seat manufacturer, and AIM, which supplies the lounge area of the Virgin A350, known as “The Loft.” A further team from Safran are present to oversee the inflight entertainment and connectivity systems.

Sometimes, a low-cost solution is required to solve a potentially costly problem. Expensive D369 series election connectors line the floor of the cabin, waiting to be connected to the suites. With so much foot traffic and equipment moving around the cabin, the engineers fit tennis balls over the top of the connectors to keep them safe.

Down the back, the economy and Premium cabins were already fitted, just waiting for the protective plastic to be peeled off. The famous “new plane smell” was definitely present — even through my mask.

Ruby Slipper is now fully fitted and in service and you can catch her plying Virgin’s New York, Lagos and Los Angeles routes.

All photos by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.