FLY­ING ECON­OMY DE­LIGHT WITH VIR­GIN

Business Traveller - - AIRLINES - Becky Am­bury

Vir­gin now of­fers three types of econ­omy ticket (see ta­ble on page 50-51) – Light, Clas­sic and De­light. Light is hand-bag­gage only (HBO), with an al­lowance of one item weigh­ing up to 10kg, plus a hand­bag or small back­pack. Clas­sic adds checked bag­gage and free seat se­lec­tion.

I flew De­light, with pri­or­ity check-in and board­ing, ad­vance seat se­lec­tion, checked bag­gage and 34-inch seat pitch (as op­posed to 31 inches). De­light re­places the pre­vi­ous op­tion of buy­ing ex­tra legroom.

Vir­gin says that, with the lead-in fare to JFK cur­rently £300 re­turn, the Light op­tion is cheaper than any­thing it has pre­vi­ously of­fered be­fore, even dur­ing sales, al­low­ing it to com­pete with low-cost car­ri­ers.

The ex­pe­ri­ence

On my A330, there were 185 econ­omy seats (28 of which were De­light in what were the ex­tra-legroom seats). Econ­omy De­light was lo­cated in the sec­ond sec­tion of the air­craft. All econ­omy seats re­clined 5 to 6 inches, had USB power points but not AC, and a pil­low, blan­ket and ear­phones. I had plenty of space to stretch my legs out. There were two re­strooms at the front of my cabin sec­tion, and two at the rear.

The same menu is served across Econ­omy, with a se­lec­tion of three dishes for the main meal, plus an af­ter­noon tea. Food was rea­son­ably good and there was a reg­u­lar drinks ser­vice.

The in-flight en­ter­tain­ment was ex­cel­lent – the A330s fea­ture the 9-inch VERA touch­screen sys­tem through­out econ­omy, and a com­pre­hen­sive se­lec­tion of the lat­est films, TV shows, games and mu­sic, plus ex­tras such as guided meditation with Headspace. Pas­sen­gers can play their own con­tent via a USB con­nec­tion. Good-qual­ity wifi is avail­able in all classes on Vir­gin flights, charged at £4.99 for an hour or £14.99 for the en­tire flight. Through­out the flight, the Vir­gin cabin crew were up­beat, friendly and help­ful.

Ver­dict

So is De­light worth pay­ing around £200 more than for Light and £100 more than for Clas­sic? Light pas­sen­gers who want to check bags will have to pay an ad­di­tional £45 each way. Ex­tra legroom, mean­while, used to at­tract an ad­di­tional charge of £50-£75 each way, but can now only be se­lected by pay­ing for De­light; the same for pri­or­ity check-in and board­ing. Light pas­sen­gers can­not up­grade once they have bought their ticket – though Clas­sic can be up­graded to De­light or Premium. Ad­vanced seat se­lec­tion (in­cluded in Clas­sic and De­light) costs a fur­ther £35 for Light pas­sen­gers.

In my case, I could hap­pily have opted for Light for shorter trips (the 10kg hand-bag­gage al­lowance would be ad­e­quate), but for a longer trip I‘d opt for Clas­sic. Legroom isn‘t a prob­lem for me as I am rel­a­tively short.

On bal­ance, the changes of­fer pas­sen­gers more choice in what they want to pay for in econ­omy. In­ter­net rates for re­turn fares LHR-JFK in mid-Oc­to­ber range from £400 for Light to £550 for De­light.

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