Virgin Atlantic offers a very respectable long haul economy class product with great service, edible meals, and a wide library of in-flight-entertainment.
Virgin Atlantic 787-9 Economy Class Review
I flew from Los Angeles to London on Virgin Atlantic because it was the only flight that worked in my schedule. I redeemed miles for the booking, at a cost of 15,000 points and $150.30 in taxes and fees. Considering one-way and round-trip fares were both over $2,000, I found this to be one of my best mileage redemptions ever.
My meeting in the San Fernando Valley went until 8:00 pm, meaning I had to rush over to LAX Airport to make my flight. I had checked in online, parked in the short-term lot in the Tom Bradley International Terminal, then dashed into the terminal and through security just in time to board the flight.
Virgin Atlantic 24
Los Angeles (LAX) – London (LHR)
Thursday, September 15
Depart: 9:55 PM
Arrive: 4:10 PM+1
Duration: 10hr, 15 min
Distance: 5,546 miles
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 65K (Economy Class)
I entered via door 1L and was directed by the cabin crew to the back of the aircraft.
In economy class, Virgin Atlantic utilizes the Recaro 3620 slimline seat. These are arranged nine abreast in a 3-3-3 configuration. Economy seat pitch is 31 inches (though the front economy class cabin has legroom of up to 34 inches…these so-called “Economy Delight” seats were all reserved when I booked or else I likely would have paid for the extra legroom). I loved the mood lighting.
Seat width is 17.1 inches and the seat has five inches of recline with an articulating seat pan that moves forward to give the illusion of a greater recline. Each economy class seat on the Virgin Atlantic 787-9 features a nine-inch seatback touchscreen and all seats have a universal power port under the seat as well as a USB charging port under the monitor.
I also liked the hammock-like neck rest.
A coat hook was also available on each seat.
Every seat was taken onboard and thankfully my seatmate was quite petite, but I would never argue that any economy class seat is comfortable on a long flight…I was frequently awakened in an uncomfortable position.
A small red blanket and white pillow were provided, though I bought my own larger fleece blanket and neck pillow along.
IFE + Wi-Fi
Virgin’s “Vera” in-flight entertainment system offers hundreds of movies, TV shows, games, and audio files on demand…it is an impressive library.
I took the opportunity to watch Top Gun: Maverick, which I quite enjoyed, though it is absolute pro-military propaganda…and like, who was the enemy? Are we so politically correct that we cannot even name the enemy any longer? But I digress…I enjoyed the movie.
The headphones were cheap…but when turned up all the way I could hear the movie.
My one complaint concerns the wi-fi pricing. I prepare for every flight assuming the wi-fi will not work and this flight was no exception. The wi-fi did work, but the prices are absurd. Take a look:
Dear Virgin Atlantic, it is 2022. Time to recognize that minuscule data caps at exorbitant prices are a relic of the last decade.
On flights to London Heathrow, I always choose a window seat on the starboard side, if available, as it typically affords beautiful views of central London before landing. This flight was no exception.
I boarded the flight in my suit, wishing to pay my respects to the Queen in a proper suit and tie, but immediately changed into pajamas, something I rarely do in economy class. That made the flight more comfortable for sure and the lavatory was small, though clean.
Oddly, there are no rear lavatories on the 787-9 (and being in row 65, this would have been quite convenient). Instead, there are four lavatories in the middle of the economy class cabin, while the rear of the aircraft is just the galley.
Food + Drink
Virgin Atlantic managed to impress and disappoint me at the same time with its meal service.
Service began promptly after takeoff with a choice of beverages and pretzels. Alcohol, including hard liquor, is complimentary onboard. I almost ordered a can of wine (that’s right, the wine is served in an aluminum can) for the novelty of it, but just wanted to stay hydrated and therefore stuck to water.
The plastic cups on Virgin are tiny compared to their U.S. counterparts and I struggled to stay hydrated, at one point asking the flight attendants for three glasses of water. I wish bottles of water were provided.
Dinner was served next and Virgin is still serving its pandemic-style meals, which include a bread roll, packaged dessert, and main course in a box. Before the pandemic, meals were served on a tray and included a leafy salad, which I missed.
The main course, however, described as chicken fajitas, was excellent for airline food and frankly far better than many business class meals I’ve had this year. Of course, it helped that Mexican food is my favorite comfort food, but I thought it was delicious. A meager meal overall.
90 minutes before landing, a light breakfast was served. As much as I would have loved a full English breakfast, I appreciated the quality of the Virgin meal, which included a warm pain au chocolat and a box containing a blueberry breakfast bar and some vanilla Icelandic skyr.
How nice it was to have yogurt that had more protein than sugar and was not overly sweet. I asked for a second one and was happily obliged, as many slept through the breakfast service.
The flight attendants serving my side of the cabin were lovely–chatty and gracious. When I told them I was flying to London simply to pay my respects to Queen Elizabeth II, an instant kinship was formed, though all passengers were treated kindly.
I also appreciated that they were efficient. Both meal services went quickly and one advantage to being in the second-to-last row was that meal service began in both the front and the back and worked its way toward the center, meaning I did not have to wait long to eat or miss out on my first choice.
One other annoyance, though probably for the best on this flight, was that the dimmable windows were locked in dark mode. That was fine during the flight, but it would have been nice to watch the sunrise as we approached London. Finally, about 30 minutes before landing at Heathrow Airport the windows were unlocked and I was able to stream in some natural light.
Note that Virgin no longers offers amenity kits to economy class passengers.
Unlike many of my esteemed blogging colleagues, I am perfectly happy to travel in economy class if necessary. While I think it is time for Virgin Atlantic to bring back a heartier first meal with salad and find its wi-fi pricing ridiculous, I thought the flight was good overall and appreciated the friendly service and most of all the fact that I was able to leave LA so late and not miss my appointment.
Would I fly Virgin Atlantic again in economy class on the 787-9? Absolutely…if I had to. Certainly, my goal is to maximize miles and points to secure premium cabins, but there was nothing on this flight that would keep me from flying Virgin again behind the curtain.
The meal looks better than some of the UA J meal pics you recently posted, albeit a tiny portion
Yep. I don’t get the criticism made of meals on foreign carriers and the defence made of the slop served in premium US cabins
Nice review! I don’t mind flying economy but I do like the economy plus type seats when available. Makes a world of difference.
Who’s hairy legs are those lolllllll.
I’m terms of yogurt the ridiculous concern about “fat” still rules so it’s very hard to buy high fat low sugar yogurt. Sad really!!! I flew Icelandair twice in June and they offer a really delicious keto buy onboard meal.
Nice review, genuinely helpful given the dearth of economy reviews on these kinds of blogs.
3-3-3 seems like an OK configuration. The remaining 2-4-2 configurations seem every more useful. Given how poorly I sleep anyway on shorter transatlantic flights from NYC to Europe in business class, I should probably considering doing more economy flights. Get to the hotel and nap.
The remaining 2-4-2 configuration meaning JAL? I think they’re the only major player that has a 2-4-2 in 78x economy.
This native Texan and Mexican food snob holds those “fajitas” in abject contempt, but whatever those actually are, they do look tasty.
Agreed. Looks more like what I’ve seen referred to as “Mexican lasagna” – and this from a SF/SD fella.
I like the shorts and loafers
You flew from LA to London to pay your respects to the queen,wow,and you’re not even a commonwealth citizen.Wouldnt popping into some Santa Monica Brit pub and toasting a pint be enough..,Happy now?
I’m happy to hear your trip was nice on VA. They are one of my favorites.
P.S. I’m glad that you got to pay your respects to the Queen. Her passing was a huge thing for the World. What an historic person.
I am against shorts on flights
Believe it or not, in all my years of flying it was a first for me.
What would the queen protocol say about that?King Charles is in his 70s,another royal funeral looming,..can’t wait to miss it.
To be clear, I put my suit back on at the end of the flight.
Matthew, thoughts on the exit row seats on this aircraft? (Row 53) I’m taking the day flight in economy, JFK-LHR and have the option of exit row seats or other preferred seats. Definitely would love the extra legroom, but don’t want the bathrooms to be a huge problem.
There will be lavatory foot traffic…and probably an annoying amount. I’d actually aviod it, especially if I could get the 34-inch seat pitch in the front economy class cabin.
I think you meant to type seat *width* is 17.1 inches, not seat pitch.
Correct. Thank you.
The want of water troubles me. I have experienced this back in the day and was close to begging for water. Flight almost empty & rationing water! Yes they had some ridiculous excuse but stocking bottled water should be mandatory on a flight longer than a couple hours
I’m glad I’m not the only one.
Especially in economy and with kids we always bring our own water onboard. Kids travel with their water bottles.
The box is here to stay in the name of “eco-friendliness.” For what it’s worth, Premium (and of course UC) is getting full china again, so eco-friendliness only matters in coach I guess.
How is all that PFA laminated cardboard more environmental than reusable?
You never had Icelandic Provisions skyr yogurt before? They are my favorite brand of yogurt.
We buy it all the time – it’s why I was so pleased to see it onboard.
“Dinner was served next and Virgin is still serving its pandemic-style meals”
Do they at least give another option? Or chicken “fajitas” for all?
“frankly far better than many business class meals I’ve had this year”
Well, most of your business class flying this year has been on United, so it isn’t that shocking a statement…
Food quality aside, in terms of quantity, it does seem a bit underwhelming for a flight length from the West Coast of America to Europe.
I hate this headrest – it’s so hard to sleep on it
Just done MIA-LHR on a 787-9, albeit in Premium where a full English is served (and I managed to get a second too!) and I’ll agree with you, the WiFi on the 787 is shocking. I did outbound on the new A330 Neo which has significantly better WiFi with the ability to stream music and make IP voice calls for £12.99 or thereabouts. I didn’t try to stream video.
I took the mid tier on the 787 and it was, frankly, worse than useless.
The new A330s are the first to do away with the Herringbone Upper Class and The Bar, instead opting for a slightly odd social space that both Upper and on my flight, Premium pax were allowed to use as the Wander Wall is located here too. They also have a newer version of the VERA software, allowing Bluetooth pairing of a cell phone or headphones; I always take my noise cancelling ones, so can’t comment on the pax set although the model of headset was still in use back in the 3″ Airvision days on the oldest 747-200’s (remember that?!)
Some form of cellphone casting ability would be a real bonus and not technically impossible given there’s internal WiFi networks already. Being in Europe I tend to fly low-cost airlines on short-haul routes where there is no IFE other than the stuff I make myself by downloading content from Netflix, Amazon etc. ahead of time.
That said, the 787-9 appears far roomier than the A330 Neo. I do think the newer Virgin planes do have a slightly cooped up feel overall compared to the old 747’s however, but I understand the rationale for losing their 4 engined AC.