Virgin Atlantic Airways today challenged British Airways to go “bed to bed” with it to prove which airline offers the best service to business and First Class travellers. Since Virgin Atlantic launched its revolutionary new Upper Class Suite its been getting rave reviews and in a letter to Lord Marshall, BA’s Chairman, Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, laid down the challenges:
“We propose to fly 20 business travellers with their partners to New York on our Upper Class Suite while BA fly 20 in Club World. Passengers will swap airlines for the return flight. An independent research company will then interview them to see which service they preferred. The loser pays £1m to the charity of the winner’s choice.
“If, as I expect, Virgin wins the business class challenge we’ll give BA a “double or quits” challenge by testing BA’s First Class against Virgin’s Upper Class Suite. A further £1m will be at stake.”
Virgin Atlantic’s challenge is inspired by the public’s response to the new Upper Class Suite:
“Since we launched our new Upper Class Suite its been getting rave reviews. Passengers have congratulated us on our revolutionary design which gives them both a seat to sit on and a bed to lie on. They also love the fact that it’s seven and a half inches longer and three inches wider than BA’s Club World bed (and three and a half inches longer and two inches wider than BA’s First Class bed!), that a travelling companion can sit facing you for a meal or a meeting and that all seats have aisle access (so unlike BA, there’ll be no stepping over people and no flying backwards).
“They also enjoy all our previous ground breaking services, like the complimentary limos to and from the airport, the lounges, the onboard bar, the inflight massage and other treatments. Passengers who normally travel other airlines’ First Class are also enjoying saving thousands of pounds by travelling in our Upper Class, where they pay a business class fare for a First Class service.”
The challenge will be run by an independent research company. 20 passengers who are and have been UK members of both Virgin Atlantic’s flying club and British Airway’s Executive Club frequent flyer programmes since before 4 November 2003 (the “Nominees”) and hold Gold status in both. Nominees shall be selected from each customer base by the independent research company managing the Challenge. Each Nominee will be allowed to take one guest on the Challenge.
On 9 January 2004, 20 Nominees and their guests shall travel outbound to New York JFK on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite and the remaining 20 Nominees and their guests shall travel outbound to New York JKF on British Airways in Club World. At New York, the Nominees and their guests shall be booked into a luxury hotel in Manhattan and shall be taken out for an evening’s entertainment. On the following day, the Nominees and their guests shall travel inbound from New York JFK to London Heathrow on the airline they did not fly outbound on in either Virgin Upper Class Suite or BA Club World (as the case may be). The research company will then ask the travellers to compare the product and service offered by both airlines.
Virgin Atlantic has also launched a £5 million multi media marketing campaign to promote the new Upper Class Suite. The Suite is currently flying daily to and from New York and will be available on flights to other destinations across the Virgin Atlantic network in the coming months.