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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review. A mixed picture

I had a decent flight on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. While their business class is pretty good, in some areas it lags behind rivals. The herringbone seat is narrow and lacks privacy, the amenity kit bag was cheap and the alcohol selection wasn’t the best. I’m not saying their business class is bad (it isn’t). It’s just not as good as competitors.

I’d flown from London to Mumbai via Upper Class. I used 75,000 Virgin Miles to book the return flight, which is an excellent deal. I’ve uploaded loads of photos to this review, and they all pop out into a slideshow.

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What I liked

  • Decent sized flat bad
  • Well made food
  • Friendly and attentive crew
  • Nice bar area
     

What could be improved

  • The seat was narrow and lacked privacy
  • Afternoon tea wasn’t good
  • Alcohol selection not as good as competitors
  • TV screen is small
  • Amenity Kit bag was cheap

Booking

I booked Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for 75,000 miles and £500 in surcharges. This is one of the best redemptions with Virgin Atlantic miles, and probably the best way to get from London to Mumbai. It’s something of a sweet spot in the Virgin redemption chart.

The miles are relatively easy to create. Transfer from AMEX, Citi and Chase. Virgin also partners with loads of airlines, including Air France and Delta.

The Seat

The Virgin Upper class seat has a herringbone layout. The seat is at an angle, with the passenger facing the aisle. The downside with this style of seat, is that it lacks privacy. You need to eyeball the attendants every time they come by! Very few airlines have this seat any more. Reverse Herringbone is far more popular. That is where you face the window instead of the aisle. Reverse Herringbone seats have more privacy and storage space.

The seat was perfectly adequate, but the limitations are clear to see. It feels very narrow and lacks storage space. The TV is also small - it pops out the side of the seat. You're not allowed to use it during take off and landing.

The seat reclines out to a fully flat bed. I had a couple of hours of sleep during the flight. The attendant made up the bed next to my seat, and said I could use it at any time. The bed was firm, which I like.

The Cabin

The Virgin Atlantic Business Class cabin is large, with 30 seats. There were only 3 Upper Class passengers on the day I travelled, so it wasn’t an issue for me. If the cabin was full, I imagine it would be pretty tight. Between Premium Economy and Upper Class is the on-board bar and seating area. There’s a high table with a few seats, and some snacks.

With only 3 passengers on the flight, I didn’t use the bar. That would have been weird! I did like it however – the area felt sociable. I prefer it to the bar on Etihad’s business class, which feels more like an afterthought. Virgin was one of the 1st airlines to have an onboard bar, and it’s still amongst the best.

The In-flight entertainment

There was a small TV to the side of the seat. You just pop it out when you want to use it. There were a variety of English options to choose from. In truth, I didn't recognise most of them - I don’t get much time to watch TV these days. I spend my time working on my business or with my family. So I couldn’t tell you if the selection was good or not!

I have another blog in addition to this one. It’s called Evolution Blogger. It focusses on real estate investment and other ways to become financially free.

The Food

I was impressed with their meal choices. The following options were available

  • Risotto
  • Duck confit leg
  • Cod


I went for the cod, based on the flight attendant’s recommendation. I probably would have gone for the duck otherwise. I might stop asking for flight crew recommendations, as it’s rude to choose something else after that!

The cod was a rather saucy creation, with mash potato and mushrooms. To be honest, I prefer fish to be pan fried. However, pan-fried fish or steak is generally a 1st class feature! Although the cod wasn't made to my preference, it was edible and flavoursome.

Before landing, we were served afternoon tea. British Airways offers afternoon tea on their flights too. Sadly, it wasn't good. There were 2 sandwiches, a scone, 2 mini cakes and coffee. The food had clearly just come out of the fridge, and the ingredients tasted 2 days old! The coffee was pretty average too!

Overall, I was satisfied with the meal service. In truth, very few business classes offer a high quality 2nd meal. It’s more of an exception, rather than the norm.

The Drinks

I wasn’t all that impressed with the variety of drinks. It’s another area where Virgin lags behind its rivals. They do offer champagne, but beyond that, the offering is a little spartan. Don’t expect Grey Goose Vodka or any single malt whiskey.

I went for a glass of champagne to begin with. They served Ayala Brut, which retails for about $45. I didn't like it too much.

I switched to Dewar’s scotch whiskey after that. It’s a pretty standard scotch whiskey, and I would never buy it myself. However, it was all they had.

On a side note, I’m currently on a diet plan. I’ve been told to avoid beer and spirits. Instead I should only drink champagne! As I didn't like the champagne, I had to make an exception. But flights don't count right?!

The Amenity kit

The Virgin Atlantic Business Class amenity kit had the following items

  • Socks
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Pen
  • Ear plugs
  • Mask
  • Lip balm
  • Hand cream
  • Moisturiser


I thought the variety was pretty good. The socks were lovely! They’ll happily reside in my sock drawer from now on! You can see a photo of them in the above slideshow. Quick housekeeping note – always wear shoes to an airline bathroom. If you want to find out why, read this article..

I was disappointed with the amenity kit bag, which was a cheap disposable item. There was a nice message on it, saying that it's sourced from recycled materials. However, if the Virgin Group wanted to save the environment, then they wouldn’t run an airline! This is a cost cutting measure, pretending to be green. Not cool! For comparison, Oman Air have a classy leather bag in their business class.

The service

The Virgin Atlantic Business Class crew were really friendly. Although it’s easier when there's only 3 passengers!

I generally find the crews on BA and Virgin to be pretty good, and this flight was no exception. The attendants were very friendly and quick to offer refills.

Conclusion

I have mixed feelings about this flight. There’s nothing especially bad about Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, but it’s not as good as rival products. The herringbone seat is narrow and lacks privacy. The TV screen is small and the amenity kit bag is cheap. Virgin has very good branding – it’s a pity that the reality doesn’t match it!

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