Virgin Australia will introduce what it calls a business/first class seat on transcontinental routes from Perth as part of one of the most dramatic upgrades of cabin product even seen by an Australian airline.
Unveiled in Singapore on Wednesday, Virgin chief executive John Borghetti promised the travelling public that the new offering, to be rolled out in March, would widen the gap between Virgin and Qantas much more in “our favour”.
The airline will fit all of its A330s that are used across Australia and its international Boeing 777-300ERs that fly to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi with the new lie flat business bed suites.
“Our new product is business/first,” Borghetti said in Singapore on Wednesday morning.
He added that the new lie flat bed suite was wider and longer than the Qantas one to be introduced in December on domestic routes.
However, Virgin’s new product would not cost any more.
“We will be competitive and have reduced fares since we introduced business class,” Borghetti said.
The new business class suites, which convert into 80 inch (203cm) lie-flat beds, were set in a 1-2-1 configuration which guaranteed every direct aisle access and maximum privacy.
Currently, the airline’s business class beds were in a 2-2-2 layout on the A330, and 2-3-2 on the 777.
The suite included a unique tablet holder, a 16 to 18-inch (41-46cm) touch screen for entertainment, multiple lighting settings and heaps of storage.
Virgin enlisted the support of famous design agency, Tangerine London, to lead the industrial design of the new seats and cabins. The seats were manufactured by B/E Aerospace, which named the new Virgin business class seat “Super Diamond”.
Borghetti said that the “new suites will set a new standard in business class travel, not just in Australia but around the world”.
“Our Virgin Vision to 2017 is to become Australia’s favourite airline group and today’s announcement is central to our strategy as it will see Virgin Australia deliver the best premium travel experience in Australia,” he said.
Roll out of the new seats in Virgin’s Airbus A330 fleet were due to begin in early 2015, with the first aircraft expected to be in service by March and the complete refit of the fleet to be finalised by August.
In the A330-200, the number of business class seats will be reduced from 24 currently to 20.
Installation of the new business class product for the Boeing 777 fleet was due to commence in November 2015 and be completed by early 2016.
Meanwhile, Virgin Australia also planned to revamp its international premium economy offering through extending the seat pitch by 3 inches (7cm) to 41 inches (104cm).
“This product will be a ‘business lite’ rather than premium economy,” Borghetti said.
The changes mean Virgin’s 777-300ER will have 37 business class seats, up from 33 currently, while premium economy will shrink from 40 seats to 24.
The airline will also introduce on international routes an economy plus product with extra legroom, although the airline was tight lipped on the detail in Singapore on Wednesday.
“That will be another announcement soon,” Borghetti said.
Meanwhile, members of Virgin’s Velocity and Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer programs will be able to convert miles and points between both schemes from November in what the airlines claim is a world first.
No conversion rates were available when the initiative was announced in Singapore on Wednesday.