Virgin Zones In On Economy

While other carriers battle it out over first-class customers, Richard Branson's Virgin Airlines is courting the economy market. Last September, the carrier announced it would spend £12 million revamping its "Premium Economy" class, an offering of business-class amenities with an economy-friendly price.

Virgin is currently rolling out larger seats and more of them. By September 2006, the airline increased the Premium Economy seats on its fleet by one-third. It claims the seats are wider than its competitor British Airways' Club World seats, and that they incorporate ergonomics, dual position footrests, lumbar support and adjustable headrests with wings. The leather seats also provide passengers with laptop power sockets. New services include an additional meal service and an amenity kit, as well as fruit throughout the flight.

Virgin Atlantic says that the investment was made because its Premium Economy class is worth half a billion pounds per year. "Passengers are changing the way they travel, with many leisure passengers opting for a more business-class-orientated service for which Premium Economy fits the bill," says Joe Ferry, head of design for Virgin Atlantic. "We have extended that business-class feel further by taking the knowledge from designing our multi-award winning Upper Class Suite and integrating it into enhanced design and comfort for the new Premium Economy seat."