Earlier today Virgin America announced that they will add 10 Airbus A321 NEOs to their fleet to compliment their fleet of 58 Airbus A320s and A319s. In a statement, Virgin America said that deliveries are slated to begin “in the first quarter of 2017 continuing through the third quarter of 2018, and will be leased from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS).” Virgin America will be among the first of any airline worldwide to operate the NEO (New Engine Option) aircraft.
The new A321 NEO will be configured to carry 185 seats, giving the airline an additional 24% seating capacity verses their 156 seat A320 fleet. While the aircraft will be used to augment existing routes, the A321 NEOs also will allow Virgin America to operate Los Angeles (LAS) to Honolulu (HNL) without any weight restrictions.
Virgin America’ aircraft feature very modern cabins with amenities like mood-lighting, leather seats, RED-branded entertainment programming, and an innovative food and beverage on-demand service. While Virgin America’s service remains popular and trendy, their once-industry leading first class service has fallen behind transcon competitors like Mint, United’s PS, and American Airlines that feature lie-flat beds with American and Mint featuring partitioned seats. Virgin America’s announcement that the new aircraft will hold 185 people makes it unlikely that they will add any new amenities to their A321 fleet.