Virgin America recently announced service to Hawaii with much fanfare, including a fair amount from their inflight teammates, but today, that changed.
Virgin America released a video to its flight attendants detailing the changes coming to their -200 series aircraft, the next 10 deliveries the airline is accepting. These aircraft will be delivered ETOPS equipped and be used to fly trans-pacific launching their Hawaii service and will certainly be used throughout the mainland as well. They’ll also feature Airbus’ new “Space Flex” galley. However the new galleys aren’t really flight attendant friendly and specifically, a big problem for Virgin America’s service.
If you haven’t flown on the airline, after an initial pass through with their food and beverage service, the rest is on-demand. When the aisle service is completed orders are placed through your seat-back television and the flight attendants receive, fulfill and run the order out to your seat. They’re truly the hardest working flight attendants in the United States because their service never ends. Imagine 150 people ordering anytime they want.
Now, in the new “Space Flex” galley, the jumpseats have been “relocated” to place two restrooms inside the aft galley. Meaning, there will be a constant stream of passengers through the galley to use the restrooms while Virgin’s flight attendants constantly work to keep up on the inbound orders.
Further, if a break or a lull in the orders should arise, there is no where in the aft galley for the flight attendants to sit. This goes for any airline accepting a plane with “Space Flex,” one of the aft jumpseats has been relocated to be flush (no pun intended) next to the restrooms. The jumpseat unfolds to block a portion of the half galley, hindering any passenger requests while sitting, and needs to swing past a restroom to either open or close. The aft facing jumpseat cannot be used during flight as it’ll restrict access to the opening of a restroom door, and the forward facing also looks like it would restrict access to the flight attendant workstations within the galley. It’s always been recommended that flight attendants stay evenly distributed throughout the cabin, but is it fair to suggest those working in the aft must remain on their feet the whole flight long?
Also, this creates a high safety risk for the flight attendants. Sudden turbulence or a request from the flight deck to take their seats now requires one lavatory to be empty before the jumpseat can be used.
It will be interesting to see how Virgin adapts their service to the new design, and how this issue is resolved within the airline’s first contract negotiations with the TWU which now represents their inflight teammbers. Trying to run orders past a bathroom line has always been tough, now it’s about to get more interesting.