This month Virgin Australia is due to take delivery of its first ATR turboprop aircraft, an ATR 72-500 after previously expecting the aircraft in May. It will be the first of four -500 variants and will be followed next year by four ATR 72-600, which received EASA certification in May.
Virgin ordered up to 18 ATR aircraft in February. “The ATR will form the foundation of our regional network plans, with the first six ATRs replacing our current Embraer E170 fleet and the additional aircraft flying to new regional destinations,” chief executive John Borghetti said at the time. The E170 disposal was announced in August 2010.
Borghetti said the ATR72 burns one-third less fuel than the E170 and also burns 20-30% less than its competing aircraft, a statement likely in reference to the Bombardier Dash 8-400 aircraft that QantasLink operates on its regional routes, giving Virgin an advantage on economics and passenger comfort.
The -600 features as standard fit ATR’s new Armonia Interior, which it developed with Italian design house Giugiaro Design. As we reported at the time of the partnership:
Armonia’s cleanly-styled seats have been ergonomically designed to ensure greater knee clearance. Coupled with the Armonia ceiling; side panels; overhead bins, and LED lighting, the ATR Series 600 cabin will feel more spacious and airy, says ATR, noting that Armonia also uses lightweight materials, reducing its total weight by the equivalent of two passengers.
Although the Armonia interior is available on the -500 and can be retrofitted to it, Virgin’s -500s will not feature the cabin design. But its -600s will, and here’s an early of peek of what the cabin looks like in real life, as seen on Royal Air Maroc ATR 72-600 on show at last month’s Paris Air Show.
Note the interior colours, configuration, and design elements are specific to RAM, the -600′s launch customer, but you can get the gist of what Virgin will be pitting against Qantas Q400s on regional and low capacity routes on the east, and later, west coasts. Skywest will operate the Virgin-liveried aircraft.
The main passenger entrance is at the rear as the forward fuselage is used for the baggage hold and access door (more on that later).
The entrance opens to main cabin, which features the “Classic” economy seat in a 2-2 configuration that offers 17″ width at 29-31″ of pitch. All seats (economy, premium economy, and first class) are manufactured by Italian manufacturer Geven and are lightweight and designed for a long life.
The seats have a natural recline with no additional recline, which reduces wiring and extra material (and thus weight). ATR says each Classic seat weighs only 9kg.
Note the seat pocket storage on top that…
ATR says the overhead bins have push-button sliding doors and more storage space compared to unspecified other interiors. The bins have been designed for easier maintenance; engineers remove four pins to disassemble the bin and access the sidewalls, according to the manufacturer. It expects 70% of passengers can store a roller bag in the bin.
The passenger service unit has replaced the no smoking indicator with a no electronic device indicator. Note the blue LED lighting. ATR says this improves the sense of space.
The first row is also the exit row and features extra legroom.
The rainbow-coloured props may be eye-catching, but Virgin’s will be solid black.
The ATR72-600 also has orders from RAM, Air Nostrum, Azul, Air Tahiti, and leasing firm Air Lease.