I have flown Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy several times and it is my favorite premium economy airline offer. I had flown Virgin Atlantic Upper Class about ten years ago in my pre-travel blogging days. I remembered it as a positive experience – particularly as I got fun pajamas and there was a bar.
I was flying from London to Bhutan via Delhi and got an excellent deal with Virgin Atlantic on upper class – I was shocked by how reasonable the price was compared to flying with Virgin Atlantic upper class to the USA.
(NB I use skyscanner.net to compare costs across airlines for both premium economy and business class).
Here is my Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review, including how it compares with the airline’s premium economy offer and how it compares with business class on similar airlines.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review
Table of Contents
Check-in at Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic’s base is at Heathrow Terminal Three. The upper class has its own check-in section, which is always nice. Even better, it has its own elevator (with its own little red carpet), which takes Upper-Class passengers up to security, where Virgin Atlantic Upper Class has its own security area. Not fast track, its own security area. I was very impressed.
You won’t be surprised to read that there was virtually no wait to get through security.
The baggage allowance for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is:
2 x 16kg max hand luggage
2 x 32kg checked bags
Priority baggage delivery
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow Terminal 3
I then headed to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in area H. I was quite excited as the Virgin Clubhouse has a very good name which I discovered was well deserved. The clubhouse is big – much bigger than the average airline business class lounge.
It is divided into multiple areas for different purposes. There are power sockets everywhere which was great news.
The Virgin clubhouse at Heathrow Terminal three has a buffet offering. However, it is deli-style (which included things like smoked salmon, fresh fruit and Greek yogurt) and set up behind glass, so passengers must request that a server places everything on the plate.
There is also a QR code menu where guests can order food and drinks from their seats in the clubhouse on their phones.
I was on a late morning flight, so my visit was at breakfast time. The QR code menu for breakfast was impressive. It featured every type of egg dish you could imagine as well as things like French toast. Specialty coffee can be ordered as well as some fun smoothies and juices.
The clubhouse also has several areas that can be used for things other than working, eating, or drinking. There is an area with three exercise bikes set up to have views directly onto the tarmac.
There is an Instagram-friendly area with a cool hanging chair and fake flowers. Best of all was the area designed for sleeping/resting. These small areas featured deep, comfortable chairs with poofs and were much quieter than the rest of the clubhouse.
Unlike many lounges these days, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow terminal three still does overhead calls when flights begin boarding upper-class passengers.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Cabin
Once on board, Virgin Upper Class doesn’t feel much different from sitting in premium economy. To my mind, the key difference is that the seat turns into a lie flat.
The configuration of the upper-class cabin is quite unique in the world of business-class cabins. Each seat is on an angle, so they are “next” to each other rather than side by side. It is a 1 x 1 x 1 horizontal configuration, so it doesn’t really matter if you have a middle seat when it comes to space or ease of getting in and out of the seat.
However, if you have a seat in the middle, you will be directly facing those who have a seat on the right-hand side of the plane and vice versa. Personally, I didn’t really like this, as one of the best things about business class is having more of a sense of privacy.
I have read that Virgin Atlantic has changed this on their latest aircraft, and the seats are now all facing forward. They also have sliding doors to create a feeling of privacy. However, this will only apply to a minority of the fleet at the moment.
Newer planes also have the Retreat Suite area at the front of Upper Class. The seats have a more spacious area and also have “benches” at the end of the seat so that the area can seat four people. The Retreat Suite can only be booked 14 days before departure on a first come, first served basis.
There is quite a bit of seat size variation across the different Virgin Atlantic fleet planes. The newest Upper Class offer is in the Airbus A350-1000 and it has a seat width of 20 inches as does the A330-200. The bed width on both aircraft is 20 inches. The A330-300 and 787-9 (which is what I was flying on for this review) have seat widths of 22 inches. Bed widths on these planes are 33 inches.
Overall I was very satisfied with my 22 inch wide seat on the 787-9. However, I was surprised to find that I could either sit completely upright or completely flat – no halfway recline in between, which was quite annoying. Also, it is impossible to convert the seat from sitting up to flat without the assistance of a flight attendant, which I also find annoying.
Food and drinks
London to Delhi
The drinks offered on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class are excellent. They not only had French champagne (Champagne Chanoine Freres Reserve Privee Brut NV), but they also had English sparkling wine (Hambledon) and prosecco (NV Dea Del Mare).
Wines on offer were:
2021 Brook Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand
2021 Soave, Gianni Tessari, Italy
2021 Diemersdale Pinotage, South Africa
2021 Pinot Noir, Gianni Tessari, Italy
Quinta do Noval Black Reserve Port, Portugal
As with Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy, plenty of food is available at all times. The food was good, but I didn’t find it to be very different from the food on Virgin Atlantic in premium economy and like many airlines these days, the serving sizes are not large. However, the wine and bubbles on offer were a considerable notch up from premium economy.
Starters for dinner were a choice between a chicken parfait with apricot chutney and beetroot with a goat’s cheese mousse, plus warm artisan pieces of bread.
There were three choices for the main meal:
Chicken and wild mushroom pie with colcannon mash, garden vegetables, and a red wine sauce
Butter chicken curry with coriander rice, garlic fried okra, mini naan bread, and chilli garnish
Vegetable korma with green beans, pilau rice and paratha.
Dessert was two choices:
Black forest gateau with coconut vanilla cream and raspberry flakes or
Warm sweet brioche bread and butter pudding with fresh cream.
The cheese plate was composed of Snowdonia rock star cave-aged cheddar, Shropshire blue, Somerset brie with grapes, plum and ginger chutney and crackers.
I enjoyed a beetroot and goat’s cheese salad followed by butter chicken. I chose cheese rather than dessert.
Snacks are available after the first meal is served and until 40 minutes before landing. Passengers can order more than one of the following options:
Cream tea: plain and fudge scones with clotted cream, salted caramel spread and strawberry jam (I chose this option and wow the salted caramel addition was fantastic!).
Gourmet fish goujons hot sandwich with tartare sauce
Chicken Caesar club sandwich served with salted crisps
Chickpea fritter and vegetable samosa served with sweet chili pickle and carrot, cucumber and onion seed salad
There are also a variety of crisps and chocolate bars available at any time throughout the flight.
Delhi to London
On this leg “dinner” (which was served around 11 am local time) was as follows:
Tandoori Chicken bites with a cucumber, baby tomato and pepper salad
Barley salad with feta cheese, spring onions, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, pomegranate seeds, and a lemon mint dressing
Warm Artisanal Breads
Main was a choice of one of the following:
Pan-fried seabass, creamed mashed potatoes, grilled vegetables and a lemon butter sauce
Pepper chicken masala, carrot and beans poriyal, yellow dal and coconut rice
Kadai paneer, onion pulao, aloo saag and yellow dal
Dessert was a choice of:
Black forest tart with berry compote and chocolate soil
Warm date and walnut cake with custard
The cheese plate included Emmental, brie, Danish blue and was served with grapes, mango chutney and crackers
Extra bites “rules” were the same as the flight over eg after the first meal up to 40 minutes pre-landing and the following were on offer:
Seabass fillet marinated in green chutney with mustard potatoes and tomato sauce
Butter chicken slider with yoghurt slaw and potato wedges
Paneer tikka wrap and side salad
Salted caramel cheesecake with a berry compote
The wines and port available were the same as the flight from London Heathrow to Delhi
I flew from London to Delhi on a 787-9, which has quite a small entertainment screen of 11.1 inches (as does the A330-300). The A330-200 has a 15.3-inch screen, and the newest aircraft, the A350-1000 has a more generous screen size of 18.5 inches.
The inflight entertainment is good, with decent variation in the offers (300+ hours), but other airlines are offering a more extensive range.
Virgin Atlantic is well known for its onboard bar. There is a bar in upper class on the Airbus 330 and Boeing 787. The A330neo and selected Airbus 350 planes have an area called The Loft. This is a couple of couches and a screen.
The newest A350 planes are fitted with The Booth. The Booth takes two people and can be booked with the crew. Apparently, it is a luxurious and romantic spot for two.
The toiletries in the self-titled “goodie bag” are from Ren and were decent but not amazing. A lip balm, hand cream, and global protection day cream. There were also earplugs, a pen, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. The “bag” itself is plain purple and can be recycled eg it isn’t something you can keep and reuse, which is unusual for business class.
I was on a day flight, so I didn’t sleep but the linen was nothing special, nor were the headphones. Bog standard business class.
The wifi was a disaster both ways. I only managed to get maybe one hour over the 9/10 hour flight. Having said that, I think the problem may have been my slightly old laptop. I had the same issue the last time I flew with Virgin Premium Economy and it did appear that no one but me experienced problems with the wifi. But my friend who I was traveling with also had problems with them. I now have a new laptop, so I will update this next time I fly with Virgin Atlantic.
The wifi starts at £2.99, but you’ll have to pay considerably more if you want to do any work. Prices vary based on the route, and there is often an offer for a limited time period and one for access for the entire flight.
Virgin Atlantic Service
One of the highlights of flying with Virgin Atlantic is the extremely friendly staff, no matter what cabin you are in. On Virgin Atlantic, the staff in Upper Class actually come to your seat and proactively ask if there is anything more you would like. I have seldom experienced this, even in business class on other airlines.
My return flight from Delhi to London was also a day flight. But I want to start with a big thank you to Virgin Atlantic. I was traveling with a friend who had to change her ticket last minute, so she could only get an economy seat on my flight without spending a fortune.
We had problems in the transit area of Delhi airport due to a lack of staff and a broken printer (believe it or not, the transit area at Delhi airport does not take electronic boarding passes). Once we were sorted, I told the Virgin Atlantic representative that he could make it up to me by getting my friend either upgraded or empty seats next to her.
He found an empty row for her in the economy cabin, which was great news. However, once she got on the flight, she was confronted by an angry male passenger with his family who insisted that these were his seats, which was quite unpleasant.
The wonderful Virgin Atlantic staff brought her up to the bar in Upper Class and got her a glass of champagne. They found her a seat in economy with spare seats and said she could come up to the bar in upper class whenever she wanted during the flight.
Once the flight took off, it was clear that there were several empty seats in the upper class. Without me asking, one of the hostesses came up and said I could go and get my friend and move her up to upper class for the rest of the flight. It was incredibly kind of them and so thoughtful, as we hadn’t even asked. Thank you Virgin Atlantic!
NB – all airline lounges were closed at Delhi airport so I wasn’t able to check it out.
It is hard to beat Virgin Atlantic on the lounge front. The clubhouse has the most innovative and tasty offer in the world of business-class lounges. I also think Virgin Atlantic has the friendliest staff in both the upper class and premium economy. The food is very good, the drinks on offer are excellent, and they have a bar.
On the 787, the video screen is quite small compared to most other planes and airlines, and the content selection is decent but not amazing. The lack of a proper toiletries bag isn’t great as is only having a flat or upright offer for the seat.
As I mentioned, I also feel like the seating plan offers the lowest level of privacy in upper class. Virgin has fixed this in their newest aircraft but they represent the minority of flights.
I am a big Virgin Atlantic fan but the downside of them having such an excellent premium economy is that the step up to Upper Class doesn’t feel like a big deal, particularly when you consider it is normally at least twice the price of Premium. (Very unlike British Airways who has an average premium economy offer and a great business class offer)
In conclusion, yes, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class gets a good plus rating from me because of the staff and clubhouse. But I only think it is worth paying extra if it isn’t a huge jump from the premium economy price. Otherwise, you would be better off taking the premium economy offer.
If it were priced in line with other business class offers, I would still take it most times because of the service and the clubhouse. If it were a newer plane, I would definitely take Virgin Atlantic Upper Class versus its competitors at the same price.
I covered all of the costs of my return Upper Class flights with Virgin Atlantic. However, sometimes my articles including affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through the link I may receive a small commission. I wanted to let you know.
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