Virgin Atlantic has operated its first-ever Manchester to Islamabad, Pakistan, service with the Airbus A350 this week. The route is usually flown by Virgin’s Boeing 787-9 but saw the service upgraded to the airline’s flagship jet recently. Let’s find out more about this flight.
Virgin Atlantic’s newly launched service from Manchester to Islamabad saw an equipment swap on Sunday. Unlike the usual 264-seat 787-9 that make the journey four times a week, Virgin opted to operate its flagship A350-1000 instead. For passengers, onboard the upgrade came as a surprise and were more than happy to fly the new jet.
Flight VS363 departed Manchester Airport at 11:38 AM local time, a few minutes behind its scheduled time. After a quick climb to the cruising altitude of 39,000 feet, the flight made its way over Europe, flying over the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea before entering Asia. The flight then flew over Turkmenistan and Afghanistan before landing in Islamabad.
While the flight departed slightly late, it quickly made up time during the flight and landed almost 45 minutes early. VS363 touched down in Islamabad at approximately 22:30 local time, ahead of its scheduled 23:15 arrival. A flight time of under seven hours is usually rare on this route, making this a special flight.
Prior to the flight to Islamabad, Virgin flew a repositioning flight for its A350 from London Heathrow to Manchester Airport. This short hop took under 30 minutes.
The aircraft flying this route was a 1.7-year-old Airbus A350-1000, delivered new to Virgin Atlantic in September 2019, according to Planespotters.net. The Rolls-Royce powered jets feature 335 seats, the largest in the fleet, with 44 in Upper Class, 56 in premium economy, and 235 in economy. Compared to the 787, the A350’s larger cabin and newer seats make for a more luxurious experience.
Passengers who were not expecting the A350-1000 would be pleasantly surprised by additions like The Loft in the middle of the cabin and much more. Travelers on the return flight to Manchester also had the chance to try out the A350 for themselves.
It’s currently unclear why Virgin Atlantic opted to upgrade this service from a 787 to A350. There are several possible reasons. One could be that the airline is seeing strong demand ahead of the Easter holidays, prompting the largest aircraft to be deployed.
Sunday also marked a change in timings for the Manchester-Islamabad service, with flights departing at 11:15 AM instead of 12:35 PM. Going forward, the flight will now land in Islamabad at 11:35 PM instead of 01:00 AM local time. Could this mean a permanent equipment swap?
Currently, flight schedules like the Boeing 787 returning to the route from Tuesday onwards, possibly meaning the A350 service was a one-off flight. Keep an eye out to see if the A350 becomes a mainstay on this route!
Simple Flying has reached out to Virgin Atlantic for comment about the equipment change and will update the article once a response is received.