A Guide to Flying Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic
I was recently fortunate enough to be invited aboard a celebratory flight with Virgin Atlantic from London to New York, as part of the launch of the latest addition to the airline’s fleet, the magnificent Airbus A350. And sitting in Seat 10G, in the sought-after Upper Class cabin, I must admit the experience is every bit as brilliant as you’d expect it to be.
The Loft seating area for Upper Class
The Loft seating area for Upper Class
The Check-in Process
With some flights, the experience begins onboard, or at the earliest once you have made it to the lounge. Not so with Virgin Atlantic. When flying in Upper Class from Terminal 3 at London Heathrow, as I was, you can get dropped off directly at the dedicated Upper Class Wing – a process made easier as names of passengers in this cabin are registered in advance, allowing you to gain access simply by having your driver state your name. Upon disembarking my taxi, I was greeted as if I were checking into a luxury hotel, with a porter on hand to assist with any luggage and a blissfully deserted check-in desk awaiting in the bright and airy atrium – a welcome reprieve from the usual queues you’re greeted with when arriving at the airport.
What I also loved about the Upper Class Wing was the dedicated security area, which I was able to pass through quickly and easily, meaning that I was in the terminal in no time at all. In fact, I timed how long it took from the moment I left my taxi to stepping foot in the duty-free section - just under 10 minutes in total, which must be a record! A super handy feature for those that have a schedule to keep, particularly if you are travelling for business.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse - Image: Ben Stevenson
The Virgin Atlantic ClubhouseImage: Ben Stevenson
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse was a part of the trip that I was very much looking forward to, and it certainly did not disappoint. Upon presenting my boarding pass, I was escorted on a whistle-stop tour. Virgin is proud of the Heathrow lounge, and rightly so – it’s the perfect place to unwind ahead of your flight. As soon as I stepped inside, I clocked the bakery, which was brimming with fresh croissants and pastries. I’d recommend leaving plenty of time to make the most of the lounge – especially the Spa & Wellness Centre, which also features an Aveda Salon. Pre-flight massage? Why not! With an outdoor area and viewing deck upstairs, and a huge range of pre-journey snacks and meals (afternoon tea, anyone?), you really are spoilt for choice here. And I haven’t even mentioned the main bar yet, which is some 14 metres long and themed around the former Dandelyan Bar at London’s Sea Containers Hotel. This was very much my next port of call – the signature Virgin ‘Red Head’ champagne cocktail was calling...
Upper Class seat - Image: Ben Stevenson
Upper Class seatImage: Ben Stevenson
So, onto the main event. After enjoying priority boarding and reaching my seat, I was given a hot towel and glass of Prosecco before being welcomed by our crew for the journey – for passengers flying overnight, you are also offered cotton pyjamas to change into before take- off, so that you can settle straight to sleep from the off. Upon first glance, the pod-style seating looked and felt a little more roomy than on other aircraft within the fleet – this is in part due to the A350 being among the widest planes in the sky, and Virgin moving to rows of four seats, with one by each window and two in the middle of the aisle. The 44-inch seats are angled towards the window, so there is more room to stretch out, and there’s plenty of storage space, plus the all-important tray table to house the various treats served throughout the flight. The obligatory amenity kit and headset were awaiting my arrival, as was a fluffy white pillow, referred to by Virgin as the ‘thickest in the sky’. The seat reclines to more than 80 inches and comes with a fitted sheet that you can add in advance if you know you want to catch some shut-eye, so you can move from being upright to horizontal without actually having to leave your seat.
Menu and Champagne Virgin Upper Class cabin - Image: Ben Stevenson
Menu and Champagne Virgin Upper Class cabinImage: Ben Stevenson
Virgin has always been passionate about on-board entertainment, and the range of options on my flight did not disappoint. While perusing the movies, box sets and music available on the 18.5-inch screen, I had a quick look at the flight map and tail camera, which allows you to view the outside of the plane from the rear of the aircraft – something I enjoyed watching during take-off! The seat also has a USB port for charging your own devices, while onboard Wi-Fi means that should you need to work, you are still able to log into your emails and send WhatsApp messages with no trouble.
Main course in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class - Image: Ben Stevenson
Main course in Virgin Atlantic's Upper ClassImage: Ben Stevenson
And then there’s the food. I was soon presented with a menu, and after being replenished with another ‘Red Head’ cocktail while I chose what to have, I gave my order to the Cabin Crew. On this particular flight, I was treated to cumin roasted cauliflower, followed by a delicious short rib of beef that I would have been happy to be served in a New York restaurant. Virgin has also partnered with celebrity pâtissier Eric Lanlard to create a range of afternoon tea goodies, including scones and pastries. Eric himself was onboard this launch flight and served the chocolate hazelnut tart to the Upper-Class passengers; a very nice touch indeed. In the name of being thorough, I was also sure to sample a glass of wine from each of the varieties on offer – I chose a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Bordeaux to begin, followed by a fine Spanish Rioja to accompany my main course, both absolutely excellent, and in keeping with the excellent fizz I had been treated to upon arrival.
A selection of cheese in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class cabin - Image: Ben Stevenson
A selection of cheese in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class cabinImage: Ben Stevenson
A Restful Journey
On this journey, we made up time on the schedule and arrived in New York a little early. After disembarking and heading into Manhattan for my stay, I reflected on just how smooth the flight itself was; take-off and landing were virtually unnoticeable. But the real clincher for me was just how fresh I felt while on the transfer into the city. I had not taken a shower upon arrival; my skin didn’t have that usual clammy feel that sets in after a long-haul flight. The A350 keeps humidity at 5% higher than other aircraft, meaning that the dryness that usually affects your skin, eyes and throat was blissfully missing. I felt genuinely rested, and already a good few steps ahead of any potential jetlag that was to come.
A few days later, as I returned to the airport for my flight home and enjoyed a final ‘Red Head’ at the Virgin Clubhouse, I found myself very much looking forward to what I already knew would be a restful night’s sleep in the sky. If only life could always be this comfortable!
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