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Virgin Atlantic investing GBP 50 million in 'Upper Class Suite'

Travel News Asia 16 July 2003

At a time when other airlines are cutting back on investment Virgin Atlantic is investing 50million in a revolutionary new first class product across its fleet.

The product, Virgin's new Upper Class Suite, 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, a private onboard bar to drink at, a private massage room and four limousines per return trip. Virgin stated that by charging the same as other airlines' business class for this first class product, it's new Upper Class Suite is not only expecting to attract BA's Concorde passengers, but its and other airlines' first and business class passengers as well.

The radical new product has been in development for over two years and will cost 50m to fit across Virgin's fleet. It will be introduced on all of Virgin's Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A340-600 aircraft starting from this summer, and will be on all those aircraft based at Heathrow by spring 2004 and all those at Gatwick by autumn 2004.

Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic, commented:

"We will keep battling to keep Concorde flying right to the bitter end. However, should we fail to do so, Concorde and other first class passengers will need a new super-luxury way of travelling. Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class Suite will give them all they need at a cost thousands of pounds less. Except, sadly, the beauty of supersonic travel.

"I am delighted to be launching this revolutionary product - calling it a "suite" signifies the leap in quality and comfort offered by Virgin over our rivals' "standard" business and first class seats. Our Upper Class Suite will move aviation forward by decades.

"At home you sit on a leather chair and sleep on a mattress yet every airline gives you a chair which doubles up as a bed. We will give you the most comfortable chair in the air which you can recline in for take off and landing and, for the first time, we will give you a separate luxury mattress which gives you the best and longest bed in the sky.

"We will also allow you to sit and eat at your seat with another passenger facing you or have a meal and a drink with friends at our exclusive private bar - the only bar in the sky. If you're feeling stressed we'll give you an inflight massage or manicure in a private treatment area or, if you prefer, at your seat.

"Today's announcement demonstrates our firm commitment to continue to invest in product innovation. Quite simply, our Upper Class Suite gives you everything and more than you get in others' first class - except the bill!"

Just like in the hotel sector where suites are more luxurious than standard rooms, Virgin's new product is not merely a seat but also provides a bed, space for communal dining and business meetings and inflight beauty therapy treatments at the passenger's seat. Different to anything else flying today, the product has been designed to be separately both the most comfortable bed and the most comfortable seat in the air. Instead of extending from a seat into a bed Virgin Atlantic's seat provides the passenger with a luxury leather armchair to relax on which then flips over into a separate bed with a mattress to sleep on. Virgin Atlantic has applied for a patent for this revolutionary design.

Joe Ferry, Head of Design for Virgin Atlantic, said;

"Traditional designs of business class seats where the seat extends into a bed ultimately result in a compromise in comfort for both products. Our radical new design provides passengers with customised furniture for sitting on and sleeping on so passengers do not have to compromise on the comfort of either."

The suites are configured in a unique herringbone style in a 1-2-1 arrangement, which means that all passengers have access to the aisle and half can have both an aisle and a window seat. This configuration also means that no suite faces backwards. Up to 45 new suites will be fitted to each aircraft.

Every suite has an extra seat which can be used for companions so passengers can eat together, hold meetings or for inflight beauty therapy treatments if the passenger prefers. The new Upper Class cabin also features a newly designed private bar in an area discreet from the cabin.

Upper Class already also offers a unique range of products and services compared with other airlines' first and business classes including four free limousines (to and from the airport at both ends of the journey), inflight beauty therapists offering a range of treatments and access to Virgin's award winning Clubhouses where you can get a suit made, have a haircut or a beauty treatment.

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