I flew home from London to LA on Virgin Atlantic’s new 787-9 in Upper Class, my first Virgin Atlantic flight since 2014.
I’ve got to say, I was disappointed. The flight attendants onboard were fabulous: very attentive, witty, and still polished. No complaints about them personally, but it took more than three hours to finish lunch service. What could possibly be the reason for dragging out the meal service for so long?
The lunch itself tasted fine. While my filet mignon was dry, it was covered in an exceptional chimichurri sauce that gave it a great overall flavor. But Virgin does seem to skimp on the main meal. For an appetizer, we were given a choice of salmon, salad, OR soup. And it’s not like this was served form a cart where you could take one or two or three. FAs asked which one you wanted.
Dessert comes before cheese, which seemed out of order. Unlike my last flight aboard the A340, no cappuccino or espresso was available on the 787-9.
With a rather small main meal, I had a hamburger for a mid-flight snack. It was very dry and no condiments were offered.
Finally, I enjoyed an afternoon tea service prior to landing. I appreciated the great selection of teas on the menu and you can never go wrong with scones or clotted cream. The sandwiches were not worth the calories.
Rather than a set pre-arrival meal, Virgin Atlantic offers a la carte items available on-demand after the first meal service.
Biggest Issue: Seat
What disappointed me most was the seat. I’ve flown the herringbone-style business class seat on many occasions in the past but found it terribly uncomfortable in the upright position on this flight. The seat is narrow, lacks privacy, and offers no recline: it’s lie-flat mode or fully upright mode only.
To make matters worse, I was not able to sleep and spent the whole flight awake. The cabin was very warm and even the air nozzles above the seat did not help cool my seating area.
I was seated in 10A, right near the bar. I feared the bar might get loud/crowded during the flight, but it never did.
I must admit my Virign Atlantic experience was disappointing. The Clubhouse in LHR was fabulous and I appreciated the FAs, but I far prefer the seat on American, British Airways, or United on the same route. The inability to recline greatly detracts from the business class experience. So does a warm cabin. Stay tuned for a full report.
What was your experience in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class like?
The over promise and underdelivery of the Virgin brand coupled with the 787 = lose, lose.
Here in the UK where we are exposed to far more than the airline we are used to Virgin never living up to the expectations created by their marketing and therefore you always expect to be disappointed and you usually are.
@ Matthew — These seats suck. One of the worst business class flights we’ve ever taken was Virgin Upper Class MIA-LHR. We will never fly them again.
Thanks so much for your review – always honest and helpful. One tiny point for you – in Britain we always serve cheese after dessert! Presume that’s not the case where you’re from?
Correct, I always have cheese first, then the sweets with coffee. Interesting. Thanks for pointing out. On BA I got the cheese first in business and first.
Warm cabins are absolute deal killers when trying to sleep. Absolute. I’d rather it be freezing with the ability to cover up than sweat. Oh, and their seats a really bad. Crews have been fabulous, as you said.
“Dessert comes before cheese, which seemed out of order.”
This is the British custom, with the idea that the cheese will be accompanied by port which you drink at leisure throughout the post-meal evening. As opposed to the French idea of finishing up your wine from dinner with the cheese course before moving on to dessert.
This is the same crummy seat they have been using since maybe the year 2000. When I flew on the 787 MIA-LHR I could not believable the same crummy seat and crappy tv screen that was so outdated. Interesting I got the ride on the 787 since Virgin took most of them out of service for the past 15 months plus. The MIA-LHR route is now old A330s they are using. Richard Branson always is the hype machine. The points guy has a podcast with Branson. Listen to it. He subtly mentions that he is 6 foot 7 and doesn’t fit well into that seat. Branson said he is not their target customer. The food is usually mediocre on Virgin. The crews are better than the crummy product
@Matthew those seats SUCK and really about the worst that exist with a major carrier although I got crummy seats on United coming back from China in business class last spring.
Ohhhhh the Clubhouse in LHR. I am there every month and it is great place to relax before catching a Delta flight home.
I noticed that you mentioned that the seat “offers no recline: it’s lie-flat mode or fully upright mode only.”
Was your seat damaged or anything? I’m not a huge fan of this seat, they do usually recline about 20 or 30 degrees. Not ideal, but not fully upright either.
I would have appreciated that, but mine did not recline at all.
I really wouldn’t want to be stuck in one of those seats with no recline at all. I don’t think I’ve ever sat in one fully upright!
My experience with Virgin Atlantic Crews has always been good
I also prefer a cold cabin temperature
High cabin temperature and low humidity increases body dehydration
Whenever I feel that it is too warm, I just tell the Cabin Crew
Why did you not ask your flight attendant how to recline your seat? It does recline! Still a far cry from other business class seats, I agree… Regarding food, I always order what I want, including multiple servings. Cabin temperature? If you feel hot, chances are you are not alone: just ask politely if the cabin temperature can be lowered a bit. It has always worked for me.
I pressed the button and nothing worked. It wasn’t my first time on Virgin, just the first time on a Virgin 787-9.
Could not agree more — fabulous lounge, great crew, uncomfortable cabin and HORRIFIC seats :-/ There’s a reason people have called them “flying coffins.”
The last time my husband and I flew in VS Upper Class, one of the FA’s actually had to administer oxygen to him (he has some respiratory issues), and admitted to him that “when the flight’s not full, we’re supposed to cut back on the oxygen in the cabin.” :-O I contacted VS multiple times about these issues, but they were utterly indifferent: At one point, they responded with “Well, no one else seems to mind.”
Clearly they don’t spend much time reading the online reviews of their product …
Thank you for your review. Last time I flew VS was 200/2001; once on their recliner style Upper Class seat (seated upstairs on 747-200) and the “New” Upper Class (on 747-400) seat BEFORE the current nightmare Upper Class seat. I prefer the older seats to the current seat. Service and lounge were always top notch and the bar is a great place to relax during a long flight. VS has made a statement that a new Upper Class seat will premier in 2019 with the introduction of A350 but VS does – not – plan on retrofitting the 787’s with it. (Seriously?!?!?!)
I never understood Virgin’s upper class seats on any of their planes. You can not relax in the seat. Why don’t they make it recline like every other business class seat. Last time I flew with them I flew in premium economy. I preferred that seat more than upper class but the food was awful in premium economy but service was as good as upper class. For the price difference premium economy is a much better value for a shirt flight from NY to London.
Thanks for the insight — I was just about to comment that I have an upcoming LHR-LAX flight in Premium Economy, wanting to burn the last of my Delta miles and having come to the same conclusion. The seats look good for the price difference, and the reviews are excellent for this PE product. I purposely avoided First because it was too expensive to be shoehorned into that coffin-like space, compared to United Polaris, etc. I never have expectations for food in any class of service, but that’s just me.
I really couldn’t agree more with you on the seat. I flew VA in Upper LHR-JFK in 2016, the experience started badly with an incredibly rude employee at the bag drop desk. The Clubhouse was great, which lifted my spirits again, but once on board the awfulness of that seat has put me off ever flying VA Upper. I had good crew and a decent meal, but I don’t book a window seat to face AWAY from the window.
Rumour is that Virgin Atlantic is getting one of those Delta/China Eastern/Shanghai Airlines suites with doors in 2019. That’ll be somewhat of an upgrade, at least!
Indeed. I’ll have to fly Virign again!
There is something tacky about calling this product “Upper Class”; maybe it’s meant to ironic or a joke and I’m missing the point.
You eat too much beef ( steak for lunch, burger for snack). Spare the planet ( and the cow) and eat something more environmentally sustainable, at least once in a while. Try the fish or chicken from time to time.
I like the meals and they’ve always let me have a second starter but yes the seat is only good at a discount price
sorry can’t fly with these seats… all wrong!!.. and I used to fly them all the time…
Just saw your article and fully agree on the seats. Just terrible, unless you’re 4’11”, like my wife. Flew united Polaris to LHR this year and was very surprised. Nice LAX Polaris Lounge, decent onboard food, comfortable seats. If only we could have a few VS FA onboard to provide some gracious serve, although I’ll take UA over Delta FAs any day!