Why Virgin Atlantic’s New Business Class Seat Is So Disappointing

These new seats are going on Virgin’s Airbus A330 aircraft. It’s already a narrower plane than the Airbus A350 that they introduced their last new seats on. The reason for these new seats is that the last new ones wouldn’t fit on this aircraft – they start from a position of needing to give passengers less space because the plane is narrower.

Virgin is using the Thompson Vantage XL seat with doors. That’s the Delta business class suite. Delta’s offering was revolutionary when it was introduced six years ago. Delta has claimed to be the first with doors in business class, but that’s not quite true. Qatar Airways was actually first to market with a seat that is still part of one of the very best business class experiences.

New Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 Business Class, Credit: Virgin

Introducing the Thompson Vantage XL seat in 2016 was fantastic in 2016 when doors in business class was still a novelty. In 2022 it’s… okay, but something of an also-ran. The seat is tight. Not quite as tight as United’s Polaris, but certainly not spacious either. In terms of passenger space it compares unfavorably to American Airlines.

While Virgin claims it’ll be offering the best product across the Atlantic it’s likely to be inferior to the new British Airways seat (Super Diamond with doors) and even inferior to the new Air France business class that’s been announced (Cirrus with doors).

New British Airways Business Class

New Air France Business Class, Credit: Air France

Neither BA nor Air France are doing anything revolutionary, essentially putting doors on seats that have been flying for years, but they’re offering more spacious seats than Virgin is likely to be able to provide with Thompson Vantage XL as a base.

Ultimately a business class seat, once it offers full recline and direct aisle access, comes down to:

  • Whether it offers doors or not (BA does on some planes, Air France is adding this, so does Delta – and leaks have shown that American and United plan to as well)

  • How much space in the cabin is allocated to each passenger.
  • Adding doors to a seat that’s been flying elsewhere with doors for six years, without matching let alone exceeding space per passenger offered by competitors, may be a reasonable strategy. But it’s disappointing in a new product launch in the back half of 2022.

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