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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review

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 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.


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

The 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!

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! I had to break the diet plan on this occasion, as I didn't like the champagne.

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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!

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.

I recently stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills. Review here. Service was fantastic there too. It’s the most famous hotel in Los Angeles. The hotel hosts the Golden Globe Film Awards every year. In the article, I explain how I stayed at the hotel for a 64% discount. 


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!

Virgin have a network of highly regarded lounges. I visited the Virgin Clubhouse at New York JFK. Review here. It’s an excellent lounge. There is restaurant quality food, champagne on tap and a funky vibe.

I flew British Airways Long Haul Business Class. Review here. How does it compare to Virgin? It was better. Much better! The Club Suite is an excellent business class product. Comes highly recommended.

Virgin Atlantic isn’t the only product that I’ve reviewed! I recently stayed at the terrific Marriott Beach Resort Marbella - Playa Andaluza. It’s a family focused resort, with apartments and tons of activities. I had a terrific time with my family. The review also details how you can earn 15,000 easy Marriott Bonvoy Points.

One seat that I can definitely recommend is the Etihad Business Class. The Etihad Business Studio is spacious and comfortable. The food was high quality (although calorific!). The Acqua Di Parma amenity kit was super classy too.

Craig Bowe

Flew Virgin so called Upper Class from Orlando to London nonstop A330. The WORST business class i've ever flown in over 500k miles. Absolutely claustrophobic seats, weird 45 degree angle looking at the faces, legs and feet of those across the aisle and beside you. Zero privacy. Torsioned neck on takeoff and landing with G forces at that weird angle. Terrible food, not even suitable for premium economy. Very limited drink selection. Terrible 2nd tier movie selection. Gate crew in Orlando LIARS who said my seat was inoperative, but gave to a man who seat was inoperable beside his wife, so he moved back and forth to sit upright in his orginal seat when sleeping and in my original seat when sleeping, moved me to center section against galley. The flight crew was very nice and tried hard but they are in impossible situation. I really disliked all aspects of Virgin Atlantic and will never fly on them again, ever! Waste of $6k.

May 11, 2022

Karen Hardeman

Absolutely agree Craig. Horrible dark little cabin - squashed in like anchovies in a tin. Narrow seats with high rigid walls to the point of claustrophobia, zero privacy. Utterly flat tunnel of a bed or sitting upright - no extra pillows. Nasty nasty nasty - oozed cheapness. Tiny little bar. This is no ‘Upper Class’ Am utterly horrified. AVOID!

August 26, 2023

Patrician Knight

I recently flew from Manchester to Atlanta & the return trip with Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class. I’ve flown Upper class many times before over many years & this trip was by far the worst I’ve experienced. Seats have become narrower & pretty claustrophobic & virtually no storage space for belongings. On the outward trip the food was fine on the return trip it was awful. There are nowhere near as many “extras” you expect in upper class as there was a few years ago. When I checked in for the return trip in Atlanta I wasn’t offered access to a private lounge. The 1903 lounge in Manchester appeared to me to be very worn & tired, although the staff were brilliant. I will seriously think about paying so much extra for Upper Class with Virgin again. I’ve flown Business with just about all the transatlantic airlines & will certainly check them all out for my next trip.

October 30, 2023

poo

agree mate x

October 31, 2023

F O'Connor

I flew Virgin Upper Class NY to BOM. The first leg of the flight JFK-LHR was the newer upper class, which was perfectly fine. However, LHR-BOM was the herringbone seating. I got a panic attack just looking at my seat, so narrow, no elbow room, no privacy, seat facing away from the window. It is by far the worst airplane seat I have ever traveled in, in my life. I would never fly Virgin again, until they update all of their business class seats. The flight attendants were extremely nice, attentive, kind, and happy to be doing their jobs, that was the only plus.

March 4, 2024

Charlie Flynn

I have lived on airplanes albeit a short respite during Covid. I immediately it was over we were back on a plane to LHR and then on to Dubai, British Airways. Since then we have resumed our steady diet of flying at least one monthly, to London, LA, Vegas, New York etc. We fly business or first on every flight. Virgin is the worse business class in the air. They have gone from the top to the bottom since we last flew with them. It is like Ryanair entering the international market and trying to make an offering in a more luxurious and first-class business. Disappointed would be a huge understatement, and along with the departure from elegance and top-shelf drinks came the service staff trained by Easyjet to cajole you into silence and acceptance of their offering less and charging more. We were looking forward to the old Virgin Upper Class and were disappointed to see Jet Blue outshines them.

April 18, 2024

stuart timms

spent over 16000 dollars on 4 tickets was so excited to tell the family that we will be flying upper class with virgin! I’ve flown with them before and I flown with Emirates in business class we were very excited! then we got into this plane and I’ve never been so disappointed in my life to see these horrible small tiny seats in a herringbone shape. I’m 6 foot one 200 pounds and I mean talk about tight and absolutely no storage. Why are they still running this plane? Why wouldn’t they rip those seats out and convert them to the proper lay down that you’re expected! a massive massive waste of money! we had multiple friends meeting us in a location that flew Delta, British Airways and United and they all had the traditional laydown big area seats and we get stuck with this crap! and we still gotta go back to LA from London and it looks like we’ve got the same plane very very unhappy!! flew Emirates business class and I wish Emirates flew from LA to London with fly with them every single time they know how to supply a proper seat. but I will add the staff were really really good and the food wasn’t that bad. I think the staff must be embarrassed when they end up having to work that plane!

July 24, 2024

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