Virgin Atlantic’s 787 woes continue

Virgin Atlantic continues to face troubles with its 787 fleet. The Rolls Royce Trent-1000 engines have kept planes grounded for inspection and repair in recent months, causing some schedule adjustments (e.g. Delta flying additional JFK-LHR services). Resolving the problems is taking longer than Virgin Atlantic expected, however, such that the carrier is now set to lease additional aircraft to serve passengers.

While the full interior configuration of the new planes is unclear we do know that they will not have a premium economy cabin on board. The company sent a notice to travel agents today announcing the arrangement, specifically calling out the lack of premium economy seats:

We’re continuing to work with Rolls Royce to source replacement engines as soon as possible, but in the interim we’ll be proactively introducing other plans to make sure our customers can travel with certainty and in comfort. As part of this plan, we aim to lease additional aircraft into our fleet. These will be Virgin Atlantic aircraft, operated by our pilots and managed by our world class cabin crew. This will ensure our customers continue to receive the service and experience they know and love us for.

It is unclear which routes will be affected. Indeed, the company appears uncertain right now:

We’re currently working on exactly what our flying programme will look like so we can’t give specific route and date details at this point, but you may currently find less Premium Economy availability on some of our flights.

But because these replacement planes are not stock Virgin Atlantic aircraft it is likely that other on-board amenities will vary as well. The company has in-flight internet available on the 787 fleet through the Panasonic Avionics eXConnect platform. It is unlikely that the replacement planes will carry that kit.

Similarly, the lie-flat beds in Upper Class will almost certainly be a different product and layout than what Virgin flies on its Dreamliner fleet today. It is possible the new service will be angle-flat or recliner, not the fully-flat, direct aisle access product.

The 787 issues are compounded, at least in the short term, but an A330-300 stuck at JFK. Ship G-VRAY was involved in an incident with an Egyptair 777 on Monday night, shearing the wingtip off the A330. Its repair time and return to service is unclear.

Virgin Atlantic is not the only carrier forced to ground aircraft as a result of engine issues. ANA has several 787s on the ground at Tokyo-Haneda with engines removed as well.

Seth Miller has over a decade of experience covering the airline industry. With a strong focus on passenger experience, Seth also has deep knowledge of inflight connectivity and loyalty programs. He is widely respected as an unbiased commentator on the aviation industry. He is frequently consulted on innovations in passenger experience by airlines and technology providers. You can connect with Seth on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .