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Transport : Airlines

In this trip report I review Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class. My flight flew from London Heathrow Terminal 3 To San Francisco and an Airbus A340-600. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class features in my top 10 best airlines for longhaul Business Class. Compare this flight with my other Virgin Atlantic flight reviews.

Upper Class is equivalent to Business Class on other airlines (even though it sounds more like First Class!). I have compared British Airways Club World Vs Virgin Upper Class so you can decide which Business Class product you prefer when travelling transatlantic. In this trip report I outline what it is like to travel on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class.

I paid for this flight using 135,000 Flying Club miles for a round trip and paid taxes. The equivalent flight in Premium Economy would have cost 55,000 miles return and 30,000 in Economy. This is cheaper than British Airways Club World which costs 150,000 Avios return (assuming you can find availability). Both airlines add around £500 in taxes. Virgin Upper Class therefore works out cheaper than British Airways Club World for the same routes.

My trip started with a few hours in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse airport lounge at Heathrow Terminal 3.

The Seat On Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic goes with the herringbone layout for their Upper Class cabin; where seats are angled, see seat map, which feels odd, with window seats facing towards the centre of the cabin. Across from the seat is the ottoman which has a seatbelt of its own for guests. It is worth noting that the Boeing 787 service offers the newest version of the Upper Class seat (with a curvier seat shell and a new shade of purply leather) but the Virgin seat varies across aircraft types and the one on the A340 is looking a little tatty.

The advantages of the Virgin layout are the privacy, as you face a wall rather than another passenger. If you fly on British Airways Club World you run the risk of being in the middle pair of seats. Every Virgin seat also has direct aisle access, (unlike BA), so no-one is going to jump over your feet in the middle of the night. The downside of this is that the booths are so private that you will have difficulty sharing the flight with your partner or children as you can’t see anyone else! Storage is mainly in overhead bins down the centre of the cabin as well as over the windows.

Sleep In upper Class

The Virgin seat itself flips to a bed like Singapore Airlines. This means that you do not sleep on the seat surface which makes it a more comfortable and restful sleep experience than Club World.

Food & Drink In Upper Class

Before take off I was offered a glass of champagne and crisps?! The champagne was Gardet Bru Premier Cru and pleasant. For my main meal, my table was set up with designer linen along with ‘proper’ cutlery, crockery and glassware. There was plenty of choice, from prawns and caviar starters to chicken, beef and salmon mains. Examples of puddings include lemon curd sponge, which is very good, and strawberry panna cotta. To accompany your meal, there’s a selection of fine wine from Berry Bros. and Rudd, one of the UK’s most respected wine merchants, or a choice of beers, spirits, etc. To finish, Virgin push a traditional cheese and port trolley around the cabin which is a classy touch.

Later in the flight you can eat a choice of sandwiches, cakes, jam and clotted cream scones or a burger as my flight was a day flight. Overnight flights offer breakfast at the end of the flight.

Amenity Kits

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class Relax Packs have been developed by Canadian lifestyle brand Herschel and come in two innovative designs; they are good but not great. On outbound flights from the UK, it’s a hangable wash bag. On inbound flights to the UK, they offer a bag inspired by the famous Herschel Network Pouch. I like the different bag supplied each way. Both packs include: A Rituals hand cream, lip balm and face cream. A toothbrush, a new larger, branded tube of toothpaste, earplugs, eyeshade, socks and a Virgin Atlantic pen. Find out which airlines offer the best amenity kits (Clue: it’s not Virgin Atlantic!).

Entertainment

The in-flight entertainment system offers an 11 inch TV with a limited selection of new movies and TV shows.

The Virgin Upper Class bar

On the Virgin Atlantic A330, there is an iconic onboard bar which is a great place to mingle with other flyers and is exclusively for upper class passengers. This bar is fully separate from the cabin and is the longest bar in the sky. On Virgin’s B787s and A350s the bar is less impressive but remains a place to grab a stool and a high-end spirit like Bombay Sapphire Gin and Grey Goose Vodka, as well as an extensive selection of red and white wine, Prosecco and snacks. On the A350 there are 3 wobbly stools by a small unimpressive bar. I really can’t criticise Virgin for the rather sad bar as this situation is the same for the smaller Emirates, Etihad and Qatar planes. Pick the Emirates A380 and Etihad Airbus A380s for the best airline bars.

Pyjamas

Virgin Upper Class supplies passengers on overnight flights with a black jersey sleep suit, a simple, cozy pyjama set. On British Airways you only get PJs in First.

Conclusion

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is consistently voted as one of the most comfortable airplane beds in the sky. The food is good but not great as is the wine. The A340 is not Virgin’s best plane. The seats were tatty and felt dated and there were no standard power outlets by the seats. For a more impressive version of Upper Class choose Virgin’s B787’s or A330 flights. Virgin also has 12 new A350-1000 aircraft on order for delivery in 2019 and these will also offer a more polished and newer product.

Virgin Atlantic does offer pyjamas, turndown service and a fancy lounge more akin to First Class, but the food, sardine seats, sad amenity kit and overall offering means that it is fundamentally a Business Class product. Virgin Business is better overall than British Airways Club World, but Etihad, Emirates and Qatar are far superior in Business Class.

If you are planning to book a flight, don’t book through the airline’s website direct, our flight experts will quote you cheaper for Economy, Premium Economy, Business and First Class long-haul flights.