This story is produced in partnership with PaxEx.Areo - The Business of Passenger Experience
Virgin Atlantic now has an extra A340-600 to help fly its passengers around. The aircraft G-VNAP, named “Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated,” rejoins the carrier’s operations following extended issues related to the 787 fleet and Rolls Royce Trent-1000 engines. G-VNAP previously operated in the fleet as “Sleeping Beauty” and was stored in February 2015; returning it to service was a relatively easy move. That said, after a couple years in the desert a fresh coat of paint was necessary and Virgin Atlantic had some fun with that effort.
G-VNAP now features a custom paint job, thanking the company’s crewmembers in a 152 foot long mural on the side of the aircraft. But it is what’s missing from the plane that is arguably the important bit.
[A] global industry-wide supply issue meant extended ground time for some of our aircraft. We had to move swiftly if we were to protect our flying programme and not disappoint our customers. Some quick thinking and bold decision making by our fleet planning and commercial teams meant that we quickly acquired four Airbus A330-200 aircraft and brought Sleeping Beauty back into the fleet now flying under her new name, Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated. This innovative response, taken with our customers’ best interests at heart, protects our flying programme. We were able to acquire these aircraft and get them into service very quickly with our crew, delivering our onboard experience and our entertainment.
The A330s, formerly of Airberlin, will be based at the Manchester hub for the first half of 2018. It is unclear where the A346 will be based – it is currently in Manchester – but the company expects to not use it very much. At least that’s the story being told in explaining why it will not have inflight wifi connectivity installed.
Virgin Atlantic is one of only a few carriers boasting fleet-wide wifi on every flight. The service is split between the Panasonic Avionics GCS eXconnect solution on the Dreamliner fleet and Gogo‘s 2Ku solution on nearly all the other aircraft. The new A330s also have the PAC kit on board. But Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated is reentering service with no radome atop the fuselage. All indications are that the plane will not be fitted with wifi given the plans for only sporadic, short-term use.
Getting the 2Ku kit installed is a quick process. Gogo and its installation partners are delivering that modification in just a couple days at this point. Yes, it means ground time for the aircraft, but this plane is not being pressed into service such that the installation would cost Virgin real money in that context. But the 2Ku kit does not come cheap. The cost for the kit is in the $250,000 ballpark. And for a plane that is not really expected to carry many customers that’s a significant cash outlay.
And so for the few flights that Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated serves passengers will be without wifi on board. The aircraft does have a premium economy cabin, unlike the former Airberlin A330s, and the Vera inflight entertainment system installed.
Header image via Virgin Atlantic
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