A pair of Virgin Atlantic A350 aircraft will be delivered in September. Both will head straight into storage at Manchester for the time being.
But there’s something different about G-VDOT and G-VRNB. Both of these aircraft are the first to be delivered in the leisure configuration, seating 387 passengers. All Virgin Atlantic A350’s have been configured with 335 seats up until now. As such, both of these aircraft will be based at Manchester.
Initially, the plan was for the Virgin Atlantic A350 to be the jack of all trades. Operating the more business oriented routes from Heathrow and leisure routes from Gatwick and Manchester. Then 2020 happened. Now the leisure operations from Gatwick have been shifted to Heathrow, meaning that a separate fleet of A350’s at one London airport has the potential to cause a bit more of a headache for operations.
Therefore Manchester seems to be getting their own brand new aircraft. Despite bigger plans, it’s unlikely (in my view) that Virgin Atlantic will be operating any major service from Manchester before 2021. Last week, the airline announced a route to Islamabad from Manchester. There is also the intention to serve Barbados from the northern UK city. There’s your two Airbus A350’s…
In the summer months, these new high density A350’s will prove very useful on the popular Orlando routes. At their busiest, Virgin Atlantic would send up to 6 Boeing 747’s to Orlando from the UK in one day. These aircraft had a seating capacity of 455, so these high density A350’s would be somewhat of a capacity drop.
Where Is The Extra Space Coming From?
As yet, thats unclear. The only information that was provided is that the latest A350 delivery has 387 seats. Previously, the Boeing 747 fleet in the leisure config had just 14 Upper Class seats. Currently, the Virgin Atlantic A350 has 44 of them. By disposing of 30, they can shoe horn in many more economy seats.
In fact, you could even fit the entire Premium cabin into the space left by the Upper Class suites that have been removed, and still have space for some economy seats behind. And that includes an additional pair of Upper Class suites. Its also feasible that the loft could be removed. Time will tell…
It’s Not Just A350’s Up North
These Airbus A350 aircraft won’t be the only aircraft Virgin Atlantic will operate from Manchester. The airline is also planning to schedule the smaller Boeing 787-9 aircraft on routes from Manchester. Then the Airbus A330-300 has to fit in somehwere as well. Although I have seen rumours online that they will remain grounded for the long term. The Airbus A330-200 aircraft are scheduled to be withdrawn far earlier than anticipated. Indeed, G-VMNK has already flown back to Dusseldorf for disposal.
Header image: © Enda Burke
All other images: © Virgin Atlantic
Information, courtesy of: @SPD_Travels