MailOnline Travel has lunch in Virgin Atlantic's new A330neo cabin

Virgin Atlantic unveils the cabin for its new A330neo aircraft and MailOnline has lunch in the star attraction – the Retreat Suite, which can transform into a social space for four people

  • The Retreat Suite on the A330neo is billed by Virgin Atlantic as ‘the most spacious suite in [its] history’
  • ‘It feels like a mini hotel suite,’ says MailOnline Travel Editor Ted Thornhill, who has an exclusive lunch in it
  • Ted is given a tour of the cabin by Henry Buckley, Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic
  • Other cabin highlights include bigger seatback screens in economy – and wireless charging pads in premium

Virgin Atlantic has unveiled the cabin for its new A330-900neo aircraft, which features a brand-new top-tier seat called the Retreat Suite, billed by the airline as ‘the most spacious suite in [its] history’.

MailOnline Travel was invited to have an exclusive lunch in it and discovered that it has the air of game-changer, not least because it can be configured to form a quad socialising area with the adjacent seat, with up to four people able to dine together.

It feels like a mini hotel suite.

Virgin Atlantic has unveiled the cabin for its new A330-900neo aircraft. The star attraction is the Retreat Suite (above)


Virgin Atlantic transported a section of the A330neo cabin to a studio in Hoxton, London, to demonstrate its features. MailOnline Travel Editor Ted Thornhill was treated to an exclusive lunch there, in the Retreat Suite (left). On the right is the Retreat Suite in quad dining mode, with the tables from both seats connected

Ted puts the lie-flat seat mode in the Retreat Suite to the test during his tour of the cabin with Henry Buckley, Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic

The first Virgin Atlantic A330neo (above) customer flight is expected to be to Boston from London in early October. Tickets will go on sale later in July

Thanks to Virgin Atlantic’s prodigious PR efforts, not only were we able to try out the Retreat, but also hang out in the new ‘regular’ upper class (Virgin-speak for business class), the updated version of The Loft lounge area and the tweaked premium economy and regular economy.

That’s because the airline had managed to transport working versions of these sections (bar the odd fake hand controller and misaligned panel) into a studio in Hoxton, East London, complete with a little crew galley.

We dropped by and were guided through the ‘cabin’ by Henry Buckley, Design Manager at Virgin Atlantic, who said that the airline’s goal was to ‘create magical moments within the customer journey’.

It’s job done with the Retreat Suite, which is spellbindingly glorious.

Henry revealed that this section, comprising just two suites at the very front, was created by remodelling the footwell area of a regular upper class seat. They don’t take up any extra space.

The regular upper class seat is a variation of the much-praised product found on the Virgin Atlantic A350, with a privacy door and lie-flat bed. The main difference is that the A330neo version (above) faces forward instead of diagonally

Ted puts the new upper class seat to the test during his tour of the A330neo cabin, with designer Henry and senior crew member Lisa Condell looking on

Henry (right) said that the airline’s goal was to ‘create magical moments within the customer journey’

Ted is pictured here chatting to Henry in the A330neo Loft area, which is a tweaked version of the space found on board Virgin Atlantic’s A350

The A330neo version of The Loft features self-service chillers filled with desserts and drinks, along with a self-replenishing dispensing tray for cans of water. It also has wireless charging pads 

The ottoman in the Retreat doubles as an extra seat for a companion, while the tray tables of both Retreats can connect to form a bigger table. Henry suggested that passengers could use this for meals, wine tasting or perhaps card games.

A privacy screen between the seats can be raised for those travelling solo or in pairs who’d rather keep themselves to themselves and the table can be moved forwards and backwards for comfort.

Other noteworthy features include an enormous 27-inch entertainment screen – almost 10 inches bigger than the regular upper class screen – and two oversized stowage compartments in the centre for small carry-on bags to reduce the necessity of storing items in the overhead bins.

Impressive.

And so is the size of the seat, which is 6ft 7.5in in lie-flat mode.

The Retreat Suites will cost an extra £200 on top of an upper class fare and will be bookable 14 days before the day of travel.

Our verdict at this point? Certainly a great place to sample some of the delicious dishes from the A330neo menu – hot smoked salmon with beetroot tartare, horseradish cream and sorrel cress; pork and Parmesan meatballs with pappardelle pasta, tomato ragu, lemon herb crumb and garlic bread; warm apple and blackberry crumble with fresh cream; and Stilton, vintage red Leicester and goat’s cheese with damson jelly and crackers.

The A330neo premium economy seats feature wireless charging pads (on the centre armrest) and adjustable ‘calf supports’


Henry talks Ted through the features on the A330neo economy seat, which has an improved screen size – 13.3in, up from the 11.6in screen in A350 economy – and an AC power socket in addition to a USB-A port

The Virgin Atlantic A330neo economy section 

The regular upper class seat is a variation of the much-praised product found on the Virgin Atlantic A350, with a privacy door and lie-flat bed. The main difference is that the A330neo version faces forward instead of diagonally, and some might notice that the screen is a wee bit smaller – 17.3in instead of 18.5in.

We love the way, though, that the seat lighting automatically dims after one minute when lie-flat mode is activated.

The base economy Recaro seat, meanwhile, is the same as that found on Virgin’s A350. Henry explained: ‘We’ve kept the Recaro seats in economy as it’s one of the best economy products on the market.’

But ‘the look and feel has evolved, there are richer fabrics’, and he points out a few other nifty new features throughout, which include AC sockets in addition to USB ports in economy, along with huge seatback screens – 13.3in, up from the 11.6in screen in A350 economy – wireless charging pads in premium economy, upper class and The Loft, and the latter’s self-service chillers that’ll be filled with desserts and drinks, along with a self-replenishing dispensing tray for cans of water.

Another change in The Loft is slightly higher seating, so crew don’t have to bend down so far to dispense drinks and have ‘better eye connection’ with passengers.

Senior Virgin Atlantic crew members, it turns out, were heavily involved in the development of the A330neo cabin, which seems like an eminently sensible strategy.

We can’t wait to see them on board for an actual flight.

The A330-900neos, powered by Rolls-Royce’s latest-generation Trent 7000 engines, are designed to be 11 per cent more fuel and carbon efficient than the A330-300 they’re directly replacing, ‘reaffirming [Virgin Atlantic’s] commitment to flying the cleanest, greenest fleet in the sky’.

Virgin has ordered 16 of them, with the first A330neo customer flight expected to be to Boston from London in early October. Tickets will go on sale later in July.

From September 2022, the airline will take delivery of three aircraft, with the remaining deliveries following between 2023 and 2026.

Corneel Koster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘When it comes to innovating for our customers, we never stand still. Our desire to create memorable experiences means we’ll continue to imagine with fresh ideas. We care about every detail of the cabin design and every step of our customer’s journey. We’re proud to unveil our state-of-the-art A330neo and show the evolution of our customer experience, with each of our customers receiving a premium experience regardless of the cabin they travel in.’

FROM 27-INCH SCREENS TO PRIVACY DOORS AND A LOUNGE AREA STOCKED WITH DRINKS: THE VIRGIN ATLANTIC A330NEO CABIN HIGHLIGHTS SEAT BY SEAT

ECONOMY ‘DELIGHT’ HIGHLIGHTS

13.3in touchscreen with Bluetooth audio

17.9in seat width

34in seat pitch

AC and USB-A ports

ECONOMY ‘CLASSIC’ AND ‘LIGHT’ HIGHLIGHTS

13.3in touchscreen with Bluetooth audio

17.9in seat width

31in seat pitch

AC and USB-A ports

PREMIUM ECONOMY HIGHLIGHTS

13.3in touchscreen with Bluetooth audio

18.5in seat width

38in seat pitch with ‘calf supports’ and footrests

Wireless charging

AC and USB-A ports

UPPER CLASS HIGHLIGHTS

17.3in touchscreen with Bluetooth audio

6ft 4in flat bed

Fully reclinable seat, from upright to bed

‘Enhanced storage, including shoe stowage and lockable in-seat stowage

Fully closing privacy door

AC, USB-A and USB-C ports 

Wireless charging

Do not disturb light

Passenger-controlled mood lighting (dims automatically when seat is in lie-flat mode)  

RETREAT SUITE HIGHLIGHTS

6ft 7.5in fully flat bed

Ottoman ‘buddy seat’

Dual or quad dining/socialising

Dual privacy screens

27in touchscreen with Bluetooth audio

Wireless charging

Dual carry-on bag stowage compartments

AC, USB-A and USB-C ports

THE LOFT HIGHLIGHTS

Dual panoramic 27in touchscreens

Eight Bluetooth audio jacks

Self-service fridge-freezer

Snack dispenser

Fold-out cocktail tables

Space for eight people

Four seats with seatbelts

Wireless charging

AC, USB-A and USB-C ports 

 

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