Virgin Atlantic released traffic figures today which showed it has seen a 26% increase in business class travellers in its last financial year. The increase is attributed to three factors; a 5% increase in available seats, following the delivery of new aircraft and the launch of new services to destinations like Sydney, Delhi and Las Vegas; a partial recovery in the business travel market; and market share shift to Virgin Atlantic from rival airlines following the launch and roll out of the award-winning Upper Class Suite.During the 12 months ending February 2005 the airline carried 352,095 Upper Class passengers, up from 279,714 in the previous 12 months. This gives Virgin Atlantic an Upper Class load factor of 56%, the highest enjoyed by the airline since 2000.
The Upper Class Suite was launched in November 2003 and is now available on all Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 747-400 aircraft and Airbus 340-600 aircraft. It is now being fitted onto the airline’s A340-300 aircraft. The Upper Class Suite is now available on all flights to New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Las Vegas, Orlando and the Caribbean (including the new services to Havana and Nassau).
Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic, said:
“We are delighted to report this welcome boost in business travellers for Virgin Atlantic. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the business travel market went into severe decline. Many airlines were going through Chapter 11 and almost all in our sector cut back on investment. This is when Virgin Atlantic took the brave decision to invest in our Upper Class product, knowing that by the time market conditions improved we would have a fantastic product that would be ahead of our competitors. These incredible statistics show that we were right!
“In the financial year ending February 2005 we’ve seen a 26% year-on-year increase in passengers travelling in Upper Class. 5% of that increase is down to the increase in seats offered as we added new aircraft to our fleet and expanded on routes and frequencies. We’ve also seen an overall increase in the number of business travellers as the sector finally arrests a four year decline. However, the majority of the increase has come from grabbing market share from British Airways and our other rivals.
“These figures show that the Upper Class Suite has been the most successful product launch in our history.”
Different from anything else flying today, the product was designed to be separately both the most comfortable bed and the most comfortable seat in the air. The Upper Class Suite is a unique product which consists of a reclining leather seat for take off, a place to sit and eat a proper meal opposite your partner, the longest fully flat bed in the world with a proper mattress for sleeping on and a private onboard bar to drink at with your friends.
The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class experience includes limo service to and from the airport, Drive Thru Check In, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse including Business Centre and Virgin Touch Salon, the restaurant style inflight Freedom menu, inflight beauty therapy treatments and award winning state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system.
The airline’s Upper Class Suite has won ten of the industry’s most prestigious design wards, including the D&AD Yellow Pencil for Product Design and the IDEA Gold Award for Transport Design.