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Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Virgin reveals growth plans as it unveils new A350

Virgin Atlantic is looking at expanding further into Asia, possibly adding more flights to China, as part of its growth stategy.

Speaking at the launch of its new A350 aircraft, the first of which will join the fleet in late summer, new chief commercial officer Juha Jarvinen said the airline was looking for more destinations outside the US.

The airline recently announced it will launch its first flight to South America, to Sao Paolo, next year, and it will also start flights between London Heathrow and Tel Aviv in September, mainly to feed into its transatlantic services.

"We are looking to Asia as well," said Jarvinen. "China will be the biggest aviation market in the world by 2022.

"We have the US well-covered with [our partner] Delta, we are focusing on the launch of Tel Aviv and Sao Paolo for now, but we are also looking elsewhere."

In China, Virgin already flies to Shanghai and Hong Kong from London and Jarvinen said the new A350, four of which will be delivered later this year, gives the airline new opportunities to grow.

"It's about 30% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft it's replacing, so that enables us to look at other routes," he added.

The A350, of which Virgin has 12 on order, will replace the airline's ageing Boeing 747 fleet. The first of the new aircraft will be deployed on the Heathrow to New York JFK route, possibly as early as August, although the exact date has yet to be confirmed.

New innovations on the A350 include a social area for Upper Class passengers, called The Loft (above), which replaces the bar on the 747s. Passengers are able to sit in The Loft, even during turbulence, there are power points to charge personal devices, and a 32-inch TV screen.

Upper Class suites have new seats that can convert into fully-flat beds without passengers needing to get up, and larger privacy screens. All are window-facing.

There's a new inflight entertainment system throughout the aircraft, allowing passengers to attach their own devices, and the size of the screens has been increased. High-speed wifi will also be available throughout the aircraft.

In economy (below), the seat has been redesigned with adjustable headrests. Standard economy passengers get 31-inches of legroom on the A350 while Delight passengers get 34-inches, and there's 38-inches in Premium economy.

Heathrow-based A350s will have 44 Upper Class seats, 56 Premium (below) and 235 economy; from Gatwick, there will be significantly fewer Upper Class and more Premium and economy seats.

Also speaking at the launch, new CEO Shai Weiss said: "By the end of 2022 we will have entirely transformed our fleet and we will have the youngest, greenest and most environmentally-friendly fleet in the sky."

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