Virgin Atlantic Airways may take plane interiors work in-house

Virgin Atlantic Airways is considering how to manage the interior design pitch for its new fleet of Boeing 787 aircraft.

The airline worked with Softroom and Pearson Lloyd on the interiors and seats for its current fleet, but claims that it might attempt an in-house redesign this time around.

‘We have gathered so much experience through our work on past aircraft interiors that we could possibly keep the work in-house, although we are also looking at working with external consultancies,’ says Virgin Atlantic Airways head of design Joe Ferry, who leads an in-house team of about 13.

Ferry claims that the airline would prefer to work with small, young design groups that are new to the airline industry. ‘We want to have our preconceptions about aircraft interiors challenged, and this happens most often when you work with fresh, creative designers who are naive about the industry and ignorant of its constraints,’ he says.

The airline is replacing its fleet of Airbus 340s and Boeing 747s, now about six years old, with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, the first 15 of which are scheduled to take off in 2011.

‘It takes about three years to design and fit an aircraft interior, mainly because you have to comply with so many safety standards,’ says Ferry. ‘We developed our lie-flat Upper Class seats pretty much from scratch, which made them very expensive to safety test.’ Each Upper Class lie-flat bed cost about £25 000 to design and build.

The design team for the 787 interiors will be assembled over the coming months.

Meanwhile, the airline opened its £1m Clubhouse at Boston Logan airport in the US at the end of February, the latest addition to its portfolio of Upper Class facilities. The lounge, designed by London group W1, Boston architect Bergmeyer and Virgin’s in-house team, consists of an open-plan space with a delicatessen counter, long dining tables and soft seating. It can accommodate up to 75 people.

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