While counting down the days to this trip, I was irrationally excited for the legs in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. It has been a trendy carrier for a long time, and they definitely have good marketing to build up their brand. Of course having Sir Richard Branson as founder and face of the brand certainly helps as well. I didn’t know if/when I would ever fly on Virgin Atlantic. Once Delta bought a stake in the airline, I figured it would be a good use of some Delta miles I have been sitting on for a long time.
I happened to check for availability and found 2 seats in Upper Class from Chicago to Dubai via Heathrow for 70,000 Delta SkyMiles plus $52 or so each. This worked very well with our already booked flights in Etihad First Class, since that was only booked as a one way from Abu Dhabi. After a long wait, and a visit to the mediocre SAS Lounge at O’Hare, our Virgin Atlantic journey was about to begin.
A pre-departure glass of champagne in the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A330
First impressions once on board were of a beautiful, but very crowded Upper Class cabin. The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabin consists of 33 seats 1-2-1 between doors 1 and 2 of the A330-300. The seats are arranged in a herringbone configuration, with feet angled towards the aisle. While these seats are Virgin’s newest upper class seating configuration, I have seen reports that the this seat will eventually be replaced with an updated seat in a 1-1-1 configuration.
Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class cabin photo by Tom Mascardo licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class – the A330 seat
Originally, the newer Virgin Atlantic 787s were supposed to have the same seat as the A330s, but presumably due to poor feedback, these seats were not installed, rather an updated version of the standard Upper Class seat in the rest of the fleet was used, and eventually the A330s will be reconfigured like the 787s. As a point of comparison, the older A340 Upper Class configuration puts 25 seats in the same space, in a 1-1-1 configuration. Not to complain too much, as it certainly beat an economy seat, and it does lie totally flat, but the cabin is very crowded and the seat is pretty tight both in terms of width and length. I’m not very wide, but I am tall, and I felt pretty cramped in both dimensions.
Once seated, we were welcomed aboard by the friendly flight crew. They offered menus, and amenity kit and a sleep suit. Headphones and a water bottle were already at the seat. There is minimal storage for personal items, other than a small area below the footrest. I reviewed the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class amenity kit in a previous post.
Forward view from my seat 3K. My lovely wife is seated in front of me in 2K
The cabin was nearly full, possibly at 100%, so boarding was a bit chaotic. It seemed like several families on a summer vacation. I was glad we picked the seats we did. There aren’t really any seats great for pairs in this configuration, but maybe across the aisle would be better for chatting. The upper part of the dividers are opaque, so you can see your neighbors if so desired.
Included in the menus were a card for the pre-arrival service. Given the short trans-Atlantic flight I opted to skip the pre-arrival meal, taking sleep as a priority. That is my standard move on flights like this, plus I knew options on the ground would be better anyway.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Menus
As for the main meal service, we had a supper service, which seems to be a somewhat expedited service for the overnight flight. Here is the menu:
…and welcome. Whether it’s your first time on board Virgin Atlantic or you travel with us regularly, we’re delighted you’re with us.
Sleep might well be top of your list this evening. So why not choose a light snack, or something deliciously warming before you turn in? Then perhaps a chamomile tea or a nightcap, whichever you prefer.
We’ll also be round to offer you a luxurious plant oil pep-up to relax and revive you on the flight.
And of course when morning comes, we’ll be ready to set you up for the day with a tasty breakfast. Just tick what you’d like on your breakfast card and hand it to the crew.
If there’s anything else we can help you with, please let us know. We’re here to help make your journey a restful, refreshing treat.
Summer vegetable broth (v)
a warming and perfectly summery soup of vegetable pearls in a sea of vegetable broth.
Sweet marinated shrimps and scallops with roasted corn and jicama. A perfect plate to start with.
Strawberry and mozzarella salad (v)
Fresh strawberries and mozzarella on a bed of fresh salad leaves and peppery rocket. With a balsamic dressing.
Served with your choice of warm artisan breads
Wheat square with oats
Rusticata diamond with Parmesan
(v) Dishes are suitable for vegetarians.
All fish served on our menu today have come from environmentally friendly, sustainable sources.
Prime beef steak with sweet green beans and carrots and creamy mashed potato. All finished off with a peppery and slightly spicy chimichurri sauce.
Tropical chicken and quinoa
Succulent chicken breast on a bed of quinoa and barley vegetable salad, accompanied by a fruity mango and pineapple salsa.
On a bed of squid in fettuccine with a rich tomato beurre blanc, topped with tender stem broccoli.
Cobb salad (v)
Peas, corn, cherry tomatoes, olives, eggs, roasted coconut and blue cheese, all combined to make this classic American salad.
Sweet pastry filled with treacly pecan nuts. A deliciously decadent dessert.
Chocolate chip cheesecake
a lusciously creamy cheesecake bursting with chocolate chips on a chocolate biscuit crust – a truly awesome pudding
Cheese and port
Be sure to save some room for cheese and biscuits after that pudding. Today’s choices are served with table water crackers
– Ewe’s blue
– Le Chimay à la Bière
– San Geronimo
At the bar
Pop by for crisps and savoury nibbles, plus sweet treats and chocolate. And a selection of seasonal fruit.
About one and a half hours before we land we’ll be serving up breakfast. All the delicious goodies available are listed on your separate breakfast card. Just tick what you’d like, hand the completed card to your crew member and we’ll do the rest. If you prefer a quicker and more simple breakfast, help yourself to cereals and hot drinks from the bar.
Gardet Brut Premier Cru
2014 St. Véran, Rives de Longsault, Domaine des Deux Roches, Burgundy, France
2015 Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa
2015 Wakefield Riesling Clare Valley, South Australia
2012 Uvaggio Primitivo, Lodi, Califormia, USA
2012 Chateau Cissac, Cru Bourgeois, Haut Médoc, Bordeaux
2011 Berrys’ Rioja by Bodegas Amézola de la Mora, Rioja, Spain
Cocktail and bar list
Sapphire South SIde
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Gentleman Jack Whiskey
Glen Deveron Single Malt Whisky
Grey Goose Vodka
Bacardi Carta Blanca
Taylor’s LBV Port
Amarula Cream Liqueur
Heineken and Tiger Beers
Orange, apple, cranberry and tomato juices
Britvic American ginger ale
Coke and Diet Coke
R. White’s lemonade
Regular and low-calorie tonic water
Still and sparkling mineral water
American, filter, cappuccino, latte, espresso.
Liqueur coffees with a shot of your choice.
Delicious hot chocolate
We are proud to offer a comprehensive ethical tea range from Jackson of Piccadilly.
Ceylon Earl Grey
Cranberry, raspberry, and blueberry
Once we leveled off, drinks were offered. Feeling summery, and at the time only a month or so past the Kentucky Derby, I opted for the Appleberry Julep. Unfortunately, there was some snafu, so it took a long time before I got it. After my wife’s wine glass was refilled, I rang the call button to inquire. Apparently my drink required someone to make it at the bar, and there was some communication breakdown. Not a big deal, but just a slight service miss. The cabin was full, but many of the passengers were children and didn’t appear that too many cocktails being served.
The Virgin Atlantic Appleberry Julep
Served with crisps, or in American English; potato chips.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Meal Service
Once I had my drink, the main meal service began. The tray table was nice and sturdy, and it came from under the side wall. It was somewhat small, and square, but worked fine for this service. The seat looked aesthetically pleasing, but with lots of white finishes, even this relatively new seat was starting to show its age with wear on various spots.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A330 Tray table
The place setting was nice, with a place mat, glass of (still or sparkling) water, utensils, and bread plate. The salt and pepper shakers are cute, apparently named Wilbur and Orville, and the bottom says, ‘Pinched from Virgin Atlantic’. In retrospect I regret not pinching them for my own personal collection…
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class place setting
For the first course I went with the strawberry salad. Good for an airplane salad, served with a lemon balsamic dressing. Strawberries weren’t exactly in the prime of their freshness, but otherwise it was fine.
Strawberry and Mozzarella salad
Next was the main course. I went boring and had the chicken with quinoa. Boring maybe, but it was quite tasty. Skin was left on the meat, so it was flavorful and not dried out.
Chicken and Quinoa main course
‘How can you have any pudding, if you don’t eat your meat?’ Thankfully I ate enough of the chicken, so I was able to have my pudding. I went with the Pecan Pie. Probably tough to screw that one up other than the huge dollop of creme, which I mostly passed on.
I was done eating at this point, but the flight attendant twisted my arm and served a full cheese course as well. Okay fine, maybe it didn’t take that much convincing.
The meal was pretty tasty. Maybe just because the experience was different that what I’m familiar with on United or American across the Atlantic, but I do think this was noticeably better. Portions were small, but this is an English carrier; and with multiple courses, I didn’t really need any more food.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Flatbed Seat
I asked a flight attendant to make my bed, which included a mattress pad and a plush duvet. Given it was still pretty early, despite my best intentions, I really couldn’t sleep yet. So instead I watched some of the options on a rather expansive IFE system. The update their listings online, so click here to see current offerings.
“Perchance to Dream” tag on the duvet. A nice touch via Mr. Shakespeare.
Eventually I did sleep. As mentioned, the seats are narrow, plus the aisles don’t have much extra space, so I did my best to not intrude with my feet. Here is another view from while I was in bed mode.
Virgin Atlantic A330 Upper Class bed/coffin mode
I eventually slept enough to take the edge off, and missed most of the arrival meal service. After the flight I have to admit that I feel that Virgin was a bit of style over substance, but it was certainly a good way to get across the Atlantic. The seat isn’t the best, but food and service is mostly good. The flight crew on this flight was good, but not great. The full cabin was likely a factor, but that’s not an excuse for any service loss. Also, I didn’t see any one utilizing the bar at the back of the upper class cabin during the flight. This would probably be better on a longer flight, or especially on a daytime flight. But for me, both of my Virgin Atlantic flights were short-ish redeyes, where sleep was the priority.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Final Thoughts
I still have a few Delta miles to spend, and I wouldn’t hesitate to try to use them on Virgin Atlantic again. Next up was our long layover in London, some time in one of the best business class lounges in the world (The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse) then our onward flight to Dubai. This flight would be on an A340-600, so I’d get to try the older, but more spacious product. So there would be many more data points of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class experience for us to explore and for me to discuss here.