Upright business-class seat.

Business class bar.

Business seat made up for sleeping.

Exterior of Virgin Australia’s long-haul aircraft.

We love it when airlines compete against each other to fight for passengers. The end result is a better experience for the travellers.

Virgin Australia today announced their brand new business product which will start being rolled out early next year for both domestic and international routes on their wide body fleet. The familiar reverse herringbone seats are seemingly the current trend in business class travel, which offer increased privacy and more space, all aisle access whilst also providing passengers with window seats that actually look out of the window.

It also competes perfectly with the new seats that Qantas announced recently.

Whilst carriers like EtihadBA and Virgin Atlantic invest in their own unique seat products, Virgin Australia have cleverly employed product designers Tangerine to adapt the familiar and off the shelf B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, to use a tried and tested product, that have already received rave reviews – speeding up the delivery time of the seats.

The new seats will replace their current business class product, offering less seats on the A330 and more space per passenger, whilst also offering more seats on the 777s when they get refitted later in 2015. The more seats is due to the reduction in seats in their premium economy cabin, rather than a tighter configuration.

We need to expect more innovation and product development over the next three years; the revolutionary Business Class suites, which convert into 80 inch lie-flat beds, represent a major enhancement to the travel experience on board Virgin Australia’s Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft and the first major product innovation to be announced under the airline’s new strategy, Virgin Vision 2017.

“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.” Said Virgin Australia Chief Executive Officer John Borghetti on the new products. “We are committed to maintaining a competitive advantage in customer experience in order to ensure that Virgin Australia is the number one choice for premium travellers.”

The airline has adopted the industry standard 1-2-1 configuration and the new suites include all the usual excellent well considered design elements of the Super Diamond seat, including touchscreen seat controls, storage a plenty and comfortable seating, but they also include clever elements specifically for Virgin Australia, including a unique tablet holder, and an increased 18 inch touch screen for entertainment and to help set the mood, multiple lighting settings.

The seat, customised by London based design agency, Tangerine, also offers the ultimate comfort with new soft furnishings, a number of adjustable positions to suit the differing needs of customers and an adjustable arm rest, which sinks into the seat to increase the seat width when sleeping.

The designs are super sleek, and have an element of Air New Zealand about them, with a very monochromatic colour palette. The redesigned bar offers a much more interactive space, and the clever re-introduction of the leaf design on the roof panel also helps continue the brand image that has been implemented for the past couple of years, and touches of the design elements in the newly refreshed Virgin Australia lounges.

The exciting element is also the hint at a new premium economy cabin, which according to our friends at Australian Business Traveller, will actually be positioned more as a ‘Business Lite’ product with further increased seat pitch.

We know these business class seats well at thedesignair.net, already operational on airlines such as Qatar Airways and Air Canada, and know that the product will be not only practical and functional and commercially viable, but also extremely comfortable for the business class passenger.

The original 777 business class product of forward facing seats needed to be brought in line with the international offerings of premium carriers and the middle seats will no longer be the least desirable in the cabin. Well done Virgin Australia, and even more so, for getting the product into the sky quickly.

Here are some of the vital statistics.

New Business Class

  • Individual suites in a 1-2-1 seat configuration which convert into 80 inch fully flat beds.
  • Simply tailored, hopsack seat upholstery with leather head and arm rests.
  • Unique tablet holder specifically designed for Virgin Australia as well as dedicated side console with USB port and universal power socket.
  • Retractable privacy screen dividing centre seats.
  • Three types of adjustable lighting including reading light, soft ambient lamp and brighter overhead light.
  • Enhanced restaurant-style service with new Luke Mangan designed menus and table linen to complement the new suites.
  • Dedicated “Deep Sleep” turndown service by Cabin Crew with large pillows and duvet for guests.

Airbus A330 Features

  • New amenity kit design featuring REN cosmetics.
  • Larger 16″ gesture-based touch screens with ‘Red’ Panasonic eX2 system graphical user interface providing additional functionality and more than 300 hours of entertainment 

Boeing B777 Features

  • Newly designed Business Class bar, offering face-to-face service for up to four seated guests and additional lounge seating behind the bar.
  • Larger 18″ gesture-based touch screens with ‘Red’ Panasonic eX2 system graphical user interface providing additional functionality and more than 300 hours of entertainment.
  • Premium Economy cabin and seat refresh with 24 seat capacity.
  • An extra 3 inches of legroom on all Premium Economy seats with 41 inch seat pitch.
  • Transformed Premium Economy meal service.
  • Extra Legroom Zone in the Economy cabins.
Photo Credit: A lie-flat seat in business class. Virgin Australia