Just prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, I enjoyed a wonderful trip to New York City and the Caribbean islands of Anguilla and St Maarten. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 Upper Class from London to New York (today)
- Review: 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York City
- Review: TWA Hotel at JFK Airport, New York City
- Review: JetBlue Airbus A321 Business Class (Mint) from New York to St Maarten
- Review: KLM Airbus A330 Business Class from Amsterdam to St Maarten
- Review: Bemond La Samanna, St Martin
- Review: Belmond Cap Juluca, Anguilla
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Anguilla
- Review: Delta Airbus A350 Business Class from Detroit to Amsterdam
Today (December 30, 2020): Review of Virgin Atlantic A350’s (new) Upper Class from London to New York
Early 2020, I flew with Virgin Atlantic in Business Class (or Upper Class, as it’s called by the airline) from London to New York. The flight was operated by a brand new Airbus A350, nicknamed Red Valvet. Virgin Atlantic has currently six A350s in its fleet (with six more on order) and these aircraft are equipped with a new Business Class product, which is a huge step forward compared to what you get on the carrier’s older A330 and B787 planes. Flying with Virgin Atlantic is an absolute blast (especially on the A350) as the carrier provides a top-notch experience with an exceptional lounge at Heathrow, great onboard amenities, a comfortable seat, and impeccable service delivered by a fun cabin crew.
Virgin Atlantic features in my top 10 list of the world’s best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
Have you ever flown Virgin Atlantic? If so, what was your experience like? Leave a comment.
- Trip: London Heathrow (LHR) to New York City (JFK)
- Airline: Virgin Atlantic
- Aircraft type: Airbus A350-1000
- Aircraft registration number: G-VLUX (delivered to Virgin Atlantic in 2019)
- On time departure: Yes (1 pm)
- On time arrival: Yes (3:40 pm)
- Miles: 3440 miles (5540 km)
- Flight time: 7 hours and 40 minutes
- Seat: 10K (window seat)
- Class: Business Class
In this review (more information & photos below my YouTube clip & slideshow):
- Cost of my ticket
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Amenities & bedding
- Onboard internet
- Onboard lounge
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict (score)
1. COST OF MY TICKET
I paid 1550 euro for my multi-journey Business Class ticket from Europe to the USA (London to New York and Detroit to Amsterdam). The ticket was booked on the Delta Air Lines website during a flash sale. Delta has a joint venture with Virgin Atlantic.
Virgin Atlantic’s flagship lounge – called the Clubhouse – is located at London Heathrow’s Terminal 3. The lounge’s entrance is one floor above the main concourse, and reached by a majestic grey-marble staircase. Here, the airline’s friendly staff welcomes passengers and checks boarding passes, as access to the lounge is limited to passengers traveling in Virgin’s Upper Class or Delta One, and to those with elite status within Virgin Atlantic’s frequent flyer program (Flying Club). Elite members of Delta (SkyMiles), KLM-Air France (Flying Blue), Virgin Australia (Velocity Club) and Singapore Airlines (KrisFlyer) are also allowed in the lounge on condition that they are arriving at London Heathrow on a Virgin Atlantic or Delta operated flight.
Considered one of the best Business Class lounges in the world, the Clubhouse is a stylish and funky space, designed as a single flowing landscape. The lounge’s centerpiece is a 14 m (46 ft) long bar, which serves award-winning cocktails created by London’s famous Dandelyan bar. In front of the bar is the lounge’s main (sunken) sitting area. The latter tends to get busy, although there are several other, more secluded nooks and crannies in the lounge to spend some pre-flight time. For example, just behind the bar (and separated by smoked glass) is a ‘quiet room’ with lovely views of the airport’s apron. A wide variety of seat types is available throughout, including wingback chairs, high level bar stools, and even hanging, swinging chair.
One side of the lounge features an open-plan, L-shaped dining room, divided into seperate sections. The restaurant has an à la carte menu which offers a choice of breakfast, smaller tapas-style dishes, or traditional afternoon, depending on the time of the day. Contrary to the Business Class lounges of most other airlines, there’s no buffet at Virgin Atlantic’s Clubhouse. In fact, nothing in the lounge is self-service, except for a deli near the entrance; the latter offers high-end meats, cheese, pastries, Bircher muesli, fruit, salmon, hot breakfast rolls, and more.
The lounge features top-notch facilities & amenities, which feel more like a First Class than Business Class lounge. Tucked away in a corner is a wellness center, offering a variety of hair and spa treatments. The Clubhouse’s other corner is transformed into a spacious children’s room (children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult in the Clubhouse). There’s also a cinema room with large wall of TVs displaying live sports and news. The far end of the Clubhouse features ‘The Den’, a games room fitted with retro video games consoles, a pool table and TVs. On top of the Den is the skyLounge, a small loft-like space enjoying some natural light (which is is mostly lacking in the main lounge area). IMHO, the lounge’s highlight is its small outdoor viewing deck, which affords great views of the runway.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Virgin Atlantic’s A350 aircraft features one large Business (“Upper”) Class cabin, which is located in the plane’s front section. The design of the cabin feels incredibly sexy, elegant and funky, and has a slightly futuristic look, almost reminiscent of what I feel a spaceship would look like. The cabin’s color palette of white, coral, red, and pink reflects Virgin Atlantic’s brand identity and feels warm, soothing and trendy.
There are 44 seats in A350 the Upper Class cabin, spread over 11 rows and arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, with direct aisle access for all passengers. The window seats are angled towards the windows in a ‘reverse herringbone’ layout, which allows for a high level of privacy (and great views!). The center seats face away from each other in a ‘herringbone’ configuration, which might be great for solo travelers but is far from ideal for couples. It’s surprising that Virgin Atlantic choose this unique layout (I don’t get the rationale behind their decision) since a reverse herringbone for all seats is so common these days among many airlines (and also caters better to couples and friends traveling together).
Click here for a seat map of Virgin Atlantic’s A350.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (+ BEST & WORST SEATS)
Upholstered in brown leather and trimmed with orange, brown and pink hues, the Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class seat is very comfortable. Each seat has a pitch of 44 inches (112 cm) and is 20 inches (50 cm) wide. Next to the seat is a console, which has a reading light on its wall and which holds a storage shelf for smaller personal items (e.g. glasses, cellphones, wallets, etc …) . The latter is more or less useless – especially during takeoff and landing – since it doesn’t have stripes to fix your belongings. Below the console is a small side table, with an edge that features the easy-to-use and straightforward seat controls.
In front of the seat is a 18.5 inch HD entertainment screen, that swings out at the push of a button (even during takeoff and landing, so you can enjoy entertainment from gate to gate). There’s no remote for the entertainment, and the only way to navigate the entertainment is by touching the screen. There are also eight Bluetooth audio jacks to enable passengers to view content together. Below the seat is a spacious footrest (ottoman), which becomes part of the flat bed when the seat is fully reclined. The bed itself is very comfortable and has a generous length of 82 inches (208 cm). It comes with terrific bedding (more on that below).
A large tray table folds down from the side wall of the seat, and can be slid towards the seat. Unfortunately, when the tray table is extended, the space between the tray table and the seat becomes very small, and some passengers might not be able to fit in the seat anymore. I am pretty slim and it was still too uncomfortable for me (moving the table farther out of the way was not possible). Apparently, Virgin Atlantic has received so many complaints about their A350’s tray tables that they are currently fixing this issue.
The seat’s aisle side features an armrest which can be lowered when resting or sleeping to increase the flat bed’s width. This side of the seat also features a small, sliding half-door, which adds an extra level of privacy, transforming the seat into a suite.
What are the best Upper Class seats on Virgin Atlantic’s A350? Click here for a seat map.
- Solo travelers should choose one of the window seats.
- Travel companions should go for the middle seats, although – as mentioned above – passengers in these seats face the aisle rather than their travel companion.
What are the worst Upper Class seats on Virgin Atlantic’s A350? Click here for a seat map .
- The proximity to the galley and lavatories might be bothersome for those passengers seated in the first (#1) and last (#11) row of the Upper Class cabin.
5. AMENITIES & BEDDING
Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class passengers receive the following onboard amenities:
- Called ‘goodie bag’, the Upper Class amenity kit is made of responsibly sourced, recyclable kraft paper. The bag is filled with sustainable items (e.g. pen, BambuuBrush, eyemask, socks, earplugs, and REN skincare products).
- Noise-cancelling headphones are provided and of good quality (the fact that the A350 is a quiet aircraft also helps).
- Top-notch bedding comprises a pillow, blanket, and mattress pad.
On this day flight from London to New York, a lunch was served shortly after takeoff. I choose the following selection from the menu card:
- Aperitif: soft drink + salty popcorn
- Starter: citrus seared prawns, served with watermelon salsa, coriander, mint, sweet chilli and lime dressing
- Main course: seared honey and thyme chicken linguine, served with broccoli, mangetout, pistachio, and mint pesto sauce
- Dessert: buttermilk malabi, served with rose and cardamom syrup, pistachios, tahini cookie
Food was nicely presented and tasted great (except for the dessert, which I was not a fan of). On a side note, I loved Virgin Atlantic’s table set up, which included airplane-themed salt & pepper shakers (so cute!).
Around 90 minutes prior to landing, a light snack and afternoon tea were served (although the snack could be ordered anytime directly from the touch screen). The snack consisted of a gourmet beef burger, served on brioche bun, with Swiss cheese, red cabbage slaw, and crisps. It tasted quite good!
Each seat is equipped with a 18.5 inch HD touchscreen TV. Virgin Atlantic offers a robust inflight entertainment with a wide selection of the latest films, hottest TV, and curated music to suit all ears. The entertainment’s highlight is the plane’s tail camera, which allows for great views of the A350’s fuselage, especially during takeoff and landing.
8. ONBOARD INTERNET
Virgin Atlantic offers WiFi on all its planes. Charges vary, depending on which package you choose and the aircraft type. Unfortunately, WiFi broke down during my flight, which was a bummer since I paid for it; the charge was refunded though within a matter of days.
9. ONBOARD LOUNGE
Immediately behind Upper Class Cabin is “The Loft.” This space is Virgin Atlantic’s new onboard lounge concept and replaces the bar that you find on the carrier’s other aircraft type (B787, A330). It’s a nice place to stretch your legs and chat with fellow Upper Class travelers. The Loft features several sofas with seatbelts, and there’s also a large 32 inch screen displaying the moving map.
10. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: The outstanding cabin crew on this flight was fun, professional, friendly, and above all genuinely proud to fly the brand new A350 flagship aircraft. The enthusiasm of the Virgin Atlantic’s cabin crew is just one of the many factors that contribute to the airline’s unquestionable X-factor.
# LAVATORY: There are two lavatories for 44 Upper Class passengers. Located behind the cockpit, they both feature a window and are stocked with high-end toiletries.
# VIEWS: We enjoyed clear weather for most of the journey, allowing for some nice views.
11. MY VERDICT
- Seat comfort (upright): 8/10
- Seat comfort (bed position): 9/10
- Food (quality): 8/10
- Food (quantity): 8/10
- Inflight entertainment: 9/10
- WiFi: 0/10 (broke down during the flight)
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin design: 10/10
- Overall experience: 8,6/10 (very good)