When I knew that I was going to be flying onboard Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product, I knew that writing a review wasn’t going to convey just how cool this experience was going to be. So, in order to really show you just how awesome this experience is, below you can see my very first video flight review! I hope you like it and I hope it complements the written review well.
Background: Virgin Atlantic
Living in London, I always had the urge to fly Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class product. In London, it is hard to go a day without seeing an advertising board showing the incredible service or luxury lounge. Last year, as James went to San Francisco, he had the privilege of flying Virgin Atlantic’s economy product and the review is still one of our most read reviews ever! With that in mind, I thought that you guys must LOVE Virgin Atlantic so on my trip to JFK, I tried the famous Upper Class product and fell in love.
Virgin Atlantic flies six times daily between London Heathrow and New York JFK while partner airline Delta flies two times daily. This means that flights depart at pretty much all times of day which gives flyers fantastic flexibility when booking. The first five flights of the day are on Virgin Atlantic’s A330-300 aircraft but seeing as I wanted to fly onboard the Boeing 787, I was happy to takeoff in the afternoon so booked a ticket on VS9.
Booking This Flight
If you want to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class then what are your options? Revenue fares can be quite high, especially at peak times of the year, so I advise to use miles and points. If travelling at peak times, Virgin will charge you £371 and 57,500 miles to book this flight. At off peak times, you can get it for as low as 47,500 miles and £371. However, those fuel surcharges are still very high.
The flight is also bookable through Delta SkyMiles who are an American Express partner with a 1:1 transfer ratio which can help to reduce the surcharge.
Living in the south of England makes getting to Heathrow pretty convenient by train but seeing as my family were flying from LHR about an hour before me, we opted to get a taxi together. The taxi arrived at 11.00am and the traffic was absolutely miserable meaning that we didn’t arrive at Heathrow until around 13.00pm. I headed straight to the check-in desks to drop my bag.
Virgin Atlantic’s check-in desks occupy the left side of Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and the entrance hall is buzzing with red-dressed staff eager to help. I walked straight into the Upper Class section which had no queue, checked-in, chose my seat, dropped my back and went on my way to security. Upper Class customers have a separate security lane just next to the check in desks but as my family were waiting for me at the normal security, I headed upstairs and was through within minutes.
Once through security, Upper Class passengers should follow signs to ‘airline lounges’ and head through the departure lounge to the lounge area. Here, you will see the lounges of British Airways, Qantas and many more airlines.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is world famous for its style. As soon as you get near the lounge, you can tell you’re in for a treat. The stairs are beautifully decorated with marble which is just a teaser of what is to come.
Once you get to the top, you are greeted by friendly Virgin staff who take you inside and explain the different features of the lounge to you in detail. This was a really lovely touch and made me feel very welcome.
Because this lounge was just SO incredible, I will actually be writing a separate article on it to go into more detail. Below are some pictures of the lounge for you to get an idea of what it is like.
Gate 21 was to be the setting for today’s flight to JFK so I made my way out of the lounge and started my walk.
The screens said it could take 20 minutes to reach the gates but I arrived after about 10 minutes. As I arrived, boarding had already started so I dropped into the speedy Upper Class line and entered the gate area. Soon after, Upper Class passengers and Virgin Atlantic gold members were called forward and within a few minutes of arriving, I was finally onboard.
Boarding takes place behind the Upper Class cabin and into the bar. This allows passengers who aren’t flying Upper Class to see the bar and instantly regret not buying a ticket!!
I was greeted by the Flight Service Manager (FSM) who directed me straight to my seat, 5K.
Virgin Atlantic have 47 aircraft in their fleet including 17 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. These state of the art jets were first delivered to Virgin towards the end of 2014 and have steadily continued to be delivered since then with the most recent delivery (G-VNYL) arriving in April 2018. My aircraft (G-VOOH) was actually one of the first to be delivered and arrived in February 2015.
The 787s are configured in a three-class configuration with 31 Upper Class seats leading onto 35 Premium Economy seats and 198 Economy seats at the rear. Today’s flight had only one free seat in Upper Class and a handful in Premium Economy.
The Upper Class seat is different to any business class product I have flown before. It is set up in a 1-1-1 configuration with the seats angled to face into the cabin.
This means that if you want to look out of the window, you have to uncomfortably turn your body to face backwards. My first impression of the seat was that it was actually rather narrow but as I sat down I found that it was very comfortable and easy to relax into.
There is a foot stall to put your feet on which is a fantastic edition to the seat. It has a mini belt to strap your feet in and a nice storage area underneath.
The features of this seat are really nice. To your right, you have a personal monitor and remote control.
Both the remote and the screen are fantastically responsive which I loved.
It almost felt like I was swiping on an iPad. While the screen wasn’t the largest, it was perfect for watching something while eating or lying in bed. The screen tilts to make it easy to watch in all positions and moves out of its right-hand side position very easily.
Next to the seat you have a storage compartment which has noise cancelling, single-pinned headphones, a safety card, a help sheet explaining how to connect to the WiFi and two inflight magazines. The headphones are absolutely fantastic as they are noise cancelling. I also loved how they were only single-pinned!!
Above the storage space is one of my favourite little areas. The small tray table can be released with a simple push and is the perfect size to store your drink or phone. It can also stay down when converting the seat into a bed.
Above this is one of two lights. They emerge with a simple push and are very bright. I would have liked to see an option to dim the light a little bit.
Behind the seat is a small storage area. It is where the crew store your pillow before the flight but I also used it to store my camera, amenity kit and chargers throughout the flight.
To the left of the seat are the seat controls. The seat controls are on the basic side but certainly get the job done.
You have the option to move the seat while in the seated position to suit your desire and also to eject the tray table. On the right side, near the aisle, are the controls used by the crew to put the seat into a lie-flat position.
One of the main selling points in this cabin is that each seat has direct aisle access. What makes it even better is that you can leave your seat even while you’re eating. The tray table is designed so that you can push it back far enough to sneak out next to it but you can also pull it close enough to you to eat in an upright position while watching something. The table is very large and sturdy which I really liked.
After taking my seat, I was immediately offered a welcome drink but having drunk more than enough I went non-alcoholic and chose water. This stint of not drinking alcohol lasted for approximately 15 minutes as we taxied out of terminal 3 and took off from runway 27R for JFK.
After we hit the skies and the seatbelt sign turned off, the crew came around with the offer of champagne and crisps! This is trademark Virgin Atlantic and they compliment each other really nicely.
Alongside the welcome drink we were also given today’s menu. The menu lists all the drinks onboard and the options for the meal service. You can see the full menu in the slideshow below.
Not long after the crew had taken our orders, it was already time to eat. The meal service began just as I started watching a film but I was already getting hungry by this point so put the monitor away. What was great was that I could continue watching my film as the food was brought to me.
Firstly, my table was set by one of the crew. The layout is lovely and it was lovely to see the famous salt and pepper shakers.
Very soon after my table had been set, the starter arrived. I opted for the Tomato and Mozarella carpaccio starter and it didn’t disappoint. The dish was excellent with my favourite part being the rich dressing.
As soon as I was finished, the starter was cleared away and cutlery arrived for my main course. There were lots of options for the main course and I went for the lemon and thyme roasted chicken. The layout was fantastic and the taste didn’t disappoint either. The chicken had been cooked to a perfect texture and was fantastically complimented by the sides it came with.
After my main course I was stuffed but it would be wrong to not eat dessert, right? There were two options for pudding and I opted for the burnt sugar custard tart. The flavour was overwhelming and very sweet! I ate half of it but couldn’t finish it off.
Overall, the meal service had been a phenomenal success. The starter and main went together incredibly, the layout was fantastic and the myth of airplane food being inedible was completely debunked!
After I had eaten and my meal had been cleared away, I decided to go and do some work in the Upper Class bar.
The bar was probably my favourite feature of this aircraft as it so nicely laid out. There are for fixed stools set up around the table area which mean you can sit around with friends and share your meal or do some work. In my case, I did both!
After lunch and before I had a sleep I spent a good hour working up at the bar and was fantastically looked after by the crew. They offered me drink refills, snacks and when I was ready to go to sleep they brought me pyjamas and offered to change my seat into a bed as I was getting changed. I was eager to see how the seat could be transformed so watched them. In an interesting process, the seat actually tips forward and essentially lies flat so that you lie on the back of the seat.
After my bed had been made I went and got changed into my pyjamas which were nice and soft.
I was sceptical about how comfortable this would be but after getting changed into my pyjamas, putting on my warm socks and lying down I was very surprised. The bed is made with a soft, padded layer which really adds to the comfort. The only problem is, you’re limited once your bed is made as you can’t then adjust the recline or lift yourself up a little higher which was slightly annoying as if I didn’t push myself all the way up to the top of the bed, my feet stuck off the end by an inch or so. I guess most of you aren’t 6’2 though!
Probably due to the large amounts of alcohol I had been consuming that day, I fell straight asleep while watching ‘The Death of Stalin’ and woke up a couple of hours later to watch a documentary on my favourite cricket player, Sachin Tendulkar, which was very interesting. As soon as the crew saw that I was awake, I was offered a cup of tea and shortbread which was a really nice touch. The tea comes in the most fantastic mugs which makes you feel like you’re in bed at home!
With around two hours to go until landing I went back to the bar area to get my clothes which the crew had hung up for me. It was then that I met three guys who were interested in why I was taking so many photos and videos during the flight. I explained to them what I was doing and we ended up chatting for the next hour about using credit cards, miles and points and all else flying! It was really awesome to see how enthusiastic they all were and we shared details so as to stay in touch!
As we were chatting, the crew proved themselves once again! They had begun serving scones to Upper Class passengers and instead of simply seeing we weren’t at our seats and ignoring us, they came to the bar, asked us if we would like some and then brought them to us there.
Once we were done, they even sprung some Victoria sponge cake on us! What a treat.
I got changed, headed back to my seat and started packing up as we began our descent into New York. We landed on runway 04R and taxied to our stand before disembarking and heading into JFK.
While judging this flight it is important to state that Virgin Atlantic’s seat is out of date and in no way comparable to business class seats like the Q-Suite. The privacy is ok, the IFE very responsive but limited in choice and the seat is only convertible into a bed by a crew member and limited in options once you’re down. This immediately limits how good this product this.
However, this flight was probably one of my favourite business class flights ever. Let me explain why.
Firstly, Virgin Atlantic’s crew are some of the most genuine and attentive I have ever had. Cabin crew are supposed to be attentive, especially in business class. On many airlines, however, that attentiveness is forced and the connection with the passengers seems a little fake. With Virgin, that is totally different. The crew were able to see which passengers to be formal with and which to show off Virgin’s sassy and cheeky side to. Virgin Atlantic is always presented as a slightly different airline and I could really see that. The flights are more fun and less formal which I absolutely loved. It takes well trained and energetic crew members to carry this out and that’s exactly what I had on my flight.
Secondly, the food was fantastic. Presentation was immense and the flavour was incredibly strong. The layout of the table boomed with ‘Virgin style’ from the tiny airplane salt and pepper shakers to the classily branded cutlery and champagne glass.
Overall, I have to say I was really impressed with Virgin Atlantic and had fantastic fun onboard. If I were to choose between BA and Virgin for flying between London and New York, I would have to choose Virgin. The lounge product is undoubtedly better than the galleries lounges at Terminal 5 and while the seat probably isn’t more superior in terms of privacy, I would rate the soft product and service a lot higher. With an onboard bar, also, Virgin has my money.
disclaimer: an economy class ticket was booked and then upgraded on a space-available basis by Virgin Atlantic. I was under NO pressure to give any opinions and all opinions are strictly my own. The crew were not told I was going to be onboard so as to make this review fair.