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23 marzo 2015

FLYING IN LUXURY ON THE NEW VIRGIN ATLANTIC 787 DREAMLINER

Economy seating on the Virgin Dreamliner.

The words barefoot, beleaguered and body-searched best describe how air travel feels anymore, but Richard Branson and his team of red-uniformed Virgin Atlantic employees are doing their darndest to bring back the glory days with the help of several new 787 Dreamliners.
“This aircraft is a game changer for us; it’s the most cutting edge plane out there,” explains Nik Lusardi, design manager for the airline. He’s right about that; the Dreamliner boasts larger windows, spacious “vaulted” ceilings, better cabin humidity and a seriously quieter ride. This plane is the Mercedes of the airways right now and Lusardi’s team gave it a distinctly Virgin spin with clever solutions to the problem of fixed space.
Indeed, the interior is an impressive stylistic and space achievement. Consider the ordinary seat pocket–reimagined into a softer, more expandable item for more give to keep knees from rubbing against it during flight. With all of the small tweaks, Lusardi’s team was ultimately able to squeeze in 1 ½ inches of more legroom per seat without removing anything—no minor achievement. Lusardi admits they ruffled some feathers along the way, “The manufacturers get really tired of us because we were always asking for special modifications,”—such as the built in neck pillow for each seat and a better seat cushion for maximum padding.
The Upper Class Bar on Virgin Atlantic's new Dreamliner
The Upper Class Bar on Virgin Atlantic’s new Dreamliner
Economy seating on the Virgin Dreamliner.

Boarding the Dreamliner is its own glamorous moment. The entire plane is bathed in a relaxing lilac and orange glow—part of a special lighting system that took Lusardi and his team seven weeks to perfect. They designed lighting for arrival, take-off, nighttime and work time. They even managed to develop a special window dimmer (no shades on this aircraft) so that natural light can be tuned to body clocks. The TV screen, (each passenger gets a screen ranging from 9” to 11” wide) is thinner, and all of the trims and finishes are swanky, with rich dark browns and red tones. “We made sure we expressed the Virgin DNA throughout,” says Lusardi. The plane is also one of the first to have international Wi-Fi as well as new technology such as InSeat Chat, which allows you to send messages to other passengers during the flight, and USB ports in each seat.
Upper Class flat-bed seating

In the Upper Class cabin, the trademark Virgin bar positively glows because of special mica added to the textured Corian surface. It’s all a bit dazzling as flight attendants circle around taking drink orders. Both the Upper Class bar and the Premium Economy “Wander Wall” (a dedicated area with self-serve snacks and drinks) were designed to promote customer interaction. “Our fliers want to be social. Having these spaces is important to us as a brand,” says Lusardi. He admits the design process was a huge challenge, but he notes, “It would be boring if it wasn’t a challenge.”
If a Dreamliner isn’t on your preferred route, take heart, they expect delivery of 21 by 2018. Currently the planes are flying from Newark, Washington and Boston–with JFK set for launch on March 26, 2015.
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