Virgin Atlantic has redesigned its Premium Economy product and service in a £12m revamp which includes a new wider seat - the largest in its class - and additional products and services to woo business and leisure passengers alike. Joe Ferry, Head of Design for Virgin Atlantic, said;
“We have created a calming cabin with a feel of luxury and quality, paying close consideration with the attention to detail of all elements in the space to ensure they enhance the Premium Economy passenger’s experience. Our Premium Economy passengers will experience a high level of considered design from the cutlery and crockery right through to the seating and cabin furnishings and colours.”
The leather seat, which is currently being rolled out across the fleet, combines a 38” seat pitch with a width of 21”, which is wider than BA’s current Clubworld and around 3” wider than other airlines’ Premium Economy products. It features enhanced ergonomics for improved comfort, a dual position footrest, lumbar support, adjustable headrest with wings, lap top power and a redesigned tray table.
Joe Ferry, Head of Design for Virgin Atlantic explained;
“Innovation is a key component to our brand. We saw a great opportunity to innovate a new type of Premium Economy seat that could devote more space and comfort to our passengers. We have extended the business class feel further by taking the knowledge from designing our multi award winning Upper Class Suite and interior and integrating it into enhancing the cabin furnishings and products as well as elevating the design and comfort for the new Premium Economy seat.”
Paul Edwards, Senior Design Manager for Virgin Atlantic said;
“From the start the aim was to provide the Premium Economy passenger with not only more space but also increased levels of comfort and control. We have challenged the constraints of traditional airline seating to create a seat capable of delivering a unique flying experience.”
Virgin Atlantic Airways commissioned and collaborated with London based design consultancy Pearson Lloyd to design the new Premium Economy seat. Pearson Lloyd had previously collaborated with Virgin Atlantic’s in house team to design the Upper Class Suite.
Luke Pearson commented:
“The ambition was to combine the highest level of comfort with a furniture culture not usually associated with airline seating. The structures and ergonomics of the new seat were optimised to achieve the best possible passenger comfort. This has been combined with an attention to detail, materials and user interface that delivers to the user a truly enhanced travelling experience.”
Tom Lloyd commented:
“A unique feature in the design of this product is the visual separation of the back of each seat, whose ownership is transferred to the passenger facing it. This process helps to define a much more complete and enjoyable sense of each passenger’s personal space.”
The decision to view the new Premium Economy seat as a piece of furniture provides the seat with the look and feel of a luxurious lounger. With the use of aubergine leather providing a connection to the Upper Class cabin, golden and high gloss materials bring a sense of glamour and an overt furniture aesthetic creates a sophisticated, calm, relaxing atmosphere within the exclusive Premium Economy cabin.
The standard aircraft seat’s architecture was reassessed and by relocating inflight entertainment components and using innovative production technologies, Virgin Atlantic has been able to ensure the seat provides its passengers with maximum personal space. As a result the seat has increased legroom and a seat width wider than many airlines business class seats.
With the focus on comfort and control a two-position leg rest and adjustable lumbar airbag enables the seat to be equally comfortable for passengers of all sizes. Whether working, resting or dining the increased recline, fully adjustable headrest, large dining table and ergonomically profiled seat foams provide excellent levels of comfort in all situations.
Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy passengers benefit from many dedicated services when they travel on Premium Economy which include a dedicated check in, separate cabin, priority boarding, priority duty free and quicker baggage reclaim and a dedicated toilet on the majority of aircraft. They also receive a pre-departure drink and post dinner liqueur.
The new additional services include dedicated cabin crew, a redesigned meal service and dedicated amenity kit. They will also receive a soft fleece blanket and a fruit bowl service where passengers can help themselves to fruit throughout the flight.
Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, commented:
“After successfully winning market share with the introduction of the Upper Class Suite, we are now focusing on the Premium Economy battleground which is worth nearly half a billion pounds per year. We are confident that this new product will ensure we remain the market leader offering passengers more than any other airline.”
Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to come up with the concept of a premium economy class. It was first introduced in 1992 as Mid Class, a service aimed at the cost conscious business traveller who for budgetary reasons travelled economy but still required extra space in which to work or relax. The product was rebranded as Premium Economy in November 1994. Today it is favoured by business and leisure passengers alike who want more flexibility, space and comfort. This month Virgin Atlantic won the Best Premium Economy Award at the Business Traveller Awards.
Last year Virgin Atlantic flew around half a million passengers in Premium Economy and between 2000 and 2005 the number of passengers flying in the cabin each year increased by 56%. All indications are that this market is set to grow even more.
Due to Premium Economy’s popularity Virgin Atlantic has increased the number of Premium Economy seats on its fleet by one third in the past 18 months. Currently there are 58 Premium Economy seats on aircraft based at Gatwick. The number of Premium Economy seats on aircraft operating from Heathrow ranges from 28 to 38. The configuration of seats on the Upper Deck of the Boeing 747 is 2 - 2 with the configuration of 2-3-2 on the lower deck of 747 aircraft and on all Airbus aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic’s in house design team continued their design award winning success this week by winning this years FX Design Award for Best Leisure or Entertainment Venue for the new Upper Class Clubhouse at London Heathrow. The design was created by Softroom architects with the Virgin Atlantic In-house design team. The Clubhouse design continues the successful partnership between Softroom and the In-house design team at Vrigin Atlantic who had previously collaborated on the multi-award winning Upper Class cabin Interior.