Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on an A330 - ATL-LHR: Review

Mrs. Points Ninja and I just returned from a trip to Old Blighty for the Chelsea Flower Show.  What a great time! I highly recommend the show and will be doing a review of it as well.

One of the reasons I was particularly looking forward to this trip was that we were flying on Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class from Atlanta to London, a first for me.  I booked using the last of my Delta Skymiles stash (courtesy of the Suntrust Delta Debit card), at 125,000 Skymiles per ticket.  Taxes and fees were around $300 each.

Our Upper Class ticket allowed us to use Delta's Lounge in ATL's Terminal F.  The Lounge was quite crowded, but with decent snacks and Sweetwater 420 on tap, it was better than sitting at the gate.

Just before boarding was scheduled to start, we headed over to the gate.  After a short wait, we boarded and headed up to our seats, 5K and 6K.  Virgin runs an A330 on this flight, and our plane had the (soon to be replaced) Upper Class "Dream" Suite.  Our crew was friendly and efficient, but nothing really stood out on that score.

All in all, I'm not a fan of these seats.  The herringbone pattern means that "window" seats don't have a view out of the window (unless you twist around) and the seats are a bit too open to the aisle to have any sense of privacy.  Generally, I prefer window seats.  However, in this cabin I'd recommend seats G and K for a couple travelling together.  If both are in K seats, it's quite difficult to have a conversation.

Waiting at our seats was an amenity kit:
The kit came in a nice little Herschel Supply Co. bag, but I preferred the kit on our return flight, which came in a fold-out toiletry bag.  The contents of both kits were the same, though: socks, an eyeshade, earplugs, toothbrush, toothpaste, VA pen,and Rituals handcream/facecream/lipbalm.  No comb, or hairbrush, though, so bring your own!

During boarding, champagne was served:

And pajamas were handed out.  On some airlines, the pajamas run a bit small, but, at 5'10", 180lbs, VA's XL fit me nicely.

Menus were already at our seats, so I had a look at what was on offer:

Before dinner, drinks and crisps were served.  I tried the cranberry martini, which was nothing special:

I selected the smoked salmon for my starter.  It was quite tasty and fairly well presented:
I do like Virgin's airplane-themed salt and pepper shakers, along with the fact that the "pinched from Virgin Atlantic" label shows that they know how irresistible they are as souvenirs.  Since it was an overnight flight, I tried to be good and picked the nicoise salad for my main.  It was surprising good, and I'd definitely pick it again.

For pudding, I tried the raspberry cheesecake.  As you can see, it looked good enough that I forgot to take a picture before starting!
Of course, my distractedness may have been due to the fact that was watching Deadpool by this point.
I found VA's "Vera" entertainment system to be quite clunky, though the selection was good.  There were 60 movies and a large number of TV shows (with a heavy British influence, natch) available.  Vera's touchscreen is less than useless.  Fortunately, the inseat remote works pretty well for controlling the entertainment system.

After dinner, I had the FA convert my seat to a bed (which involves flipping the seat over and adding a pad and duvet) and tried to get some sleep.  This is where the Dream Suite really failed me.  It's true "lie flat," but because the seat is flipped over rather than reclined into bed mode, there's no way to adjust your recline or to sit up in bed.  In most business and first cabins, the beds remain adjustable and it's easy to sit up to read or watch TV before going to sleep.  No such luck with VA. #firstworldproblems.

After some fitful sleep, I woke to tea and a bacon sandwich. The tea was good (as it should be on a British airline!) but the sandwich was so so.

While it's difficult to look out of the windows, the left side of the plane does have some good views of London on approach:

A final slip up by VA was the failure to hand out "fast track" immigration vouchers to Upper Class, which hadn't been loaded. We were instructed to just use our boarding card, but this didn't make the lady guarding the fast track queue very happy at all.  It took some persuasion to get her to let us through, but it was worth it to avoid a moderately crowded immigration queue.

All in all, the VA experience wasn't bad, but I prefer Delta's Business Elite (now "DeltaOne") service for TATL travel.


  1. The one time I flew VS Upper Class, I didn't love the seat, either. It felt tight and claustrophobic and I didn't like that you couldn't adjust the seat or see out the window.

  2. Agreed. I'd read that it was difficult to look out the windows, but didn't really appreciate how difficult until I boarded! The bed conversion process makes no sense to me at all, and the resulting lack of adjustability is a real minus.