Welcome to the first of many airline reviews, today I bring you my Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review. This was a trip that I’ve been planning for a good few years now, for a significant birthday. Where better to go than my two favourite cities in the Americas; New York and San Francisco. I booked my flights with Virgin Atlantic (VS) in August 2015 for an outbound flight in June 2016 and a return flight in July 2016 – this for once wasn’t due to my love for planning ahead it was simply due to the fact that I wanted to use my Flying and Club (Virgin’s loyalty scheme) points to upgrade the flights to Upper Class. I booked my flights over the phone and the booking procedure was straight forward – going through all the options that provided me best use of my points vs cash.
Booking Upper Class meant that I could use the Upper Class Wing. Arriving at Heathrow (LHR) at 6:30am, rather than heading to the drop off point, my driver (AKA sister) took the slip road for the Upper Class wing and up a ramp to the VS Upper Class wing. Pulling up outside the doors in this swish little private area, my bag was taken from the car, tagged and on a conveyer belt and I was promptly handed my boarding card and directions to the VS private security wing and Clubhouse. It was seamless, stress free and calm, exactly how they describe it on their website. From arriving to the Clubhouse it was a matter of minutes, something I sure could get used to.
On arrival at the Clubhouse I quickly booked myself in for a complimentary beard trim (certain services are complimentary to Virgin customers). While waiting for my appointment I quickly settled into a glass of Lanson Black Brut NV and a Full English Breakfast. After the beard trim I spent a few moments exploring the lounge and stumbled upon a Lanson branded Table Tennis table, after quickly finding an opponent at the bar we had a quick game (I won’t reveal the score, it was embarrassing… for one of us, I won’t mention who.). On a more serious note the clubhouse staff were all superb, drinks were regularly refilled (with no judgement for my Champagne at 7am) and always smiling with a positive attitude.
A quick walk to my gate, and I was met by Emmeline Heaney a 10-year-old, Airbus A340-600 – the whole process from lounge to plane was as easy as my car to lounge process, I normally end having a “random” secondary search at the gate but this was not the case today. Walking straight on board.
I was shown to my seat by Eric the cabin crew member, who would be looking after me for the flight and quickly offered a glass of Champagne (I didn’t want to offend Eric, so I took him up on this). I had asked Eric if it was possible to visit the flight deck before take-off for a quick picture and after asking the pilot both Tim and I were escorted to the flight deck by the Flight Service Manager (FSM) – after a quick chat and photo with the pilots I went back to my seat to settle in for the flight and finish off the glass of champagne.
We pushed back from the gate on time with an estimated flight time of just over 7 hours, after the usual queue for take-off (seriously LHR really does need that 3rd runway) we were in the air by 9.21am. Drink and snacks were quickly dispensed once we were in the air and I had now opted to switch to VA’s Raspberry Mojito which is refreshing and not too sweet. Orders for lunch were taken at this point too.
I was quite disappointed with VA’s entertainment system, it all seemed to be quite dated compared to other carriers and the choices of movie on the flight weren’t that great. They did however have a film I missed in the cinema Dad’s Army which did pass some time whilst waiting for lunch. Lunch was timed well, with my table being set just as the film was in it’s final credits.
The menu was as follows:
Marinated prawns with avruga caviar
Classic Nicose salad
Italian tomato and basil soup
Roast chicken and gnocchi
Fillet of beef and sweet potato mash
Roasted sweet pepper
Kiln roasted smoked salmon salad
Lemon curd sponge pudding
Strawberry cream pannacotta slice
Cheese and port
For starters I opted for the Marinated Prawns with Avruga Caviar, these were served with juicy silverskin pickled onions, shaved radish, pea shoots and a lemon aioli dressing. And for the main, I opted for the Roast Chicken and Gnocchi, served with blanched asparagus and wilted spinach. I tried a bit of the starter and the main due to still being full up from my breakfast in the Clubhouse, the starter was excellent and quite an interesting flavour with the lemon aioli dressing. The main however I was less impressed with the Chicken and Gnocchi individually were fine but together as a dish I felt was too dry, there needed to be a sauce that added something to two dry components. After a disappointing main, I opted for the Lemon Curd Sponge pudding which looked so good that I forgot to take a picture sorry folks! The sponge was light and fluffy and filled with lemon curd, served with double cream, I must admit I was tempted for an Oliver Twist type moment and ask for another helping but resisted and opted for the cheese course before retiring to the bar for another Raspberry Mojito and a chat with fellow passengers.
After a chat about Brexit with a lawyer from Manchester and an investment banker from NYC, I returned to my seat for a strategic nap, as it had been an early start and with a busy day planned in NYC, it was vital for a bit of rest. Eric kindly converted my seat into a bed so that I could have a quick nap. After waking up refreshed my bed was converted back into a seat and I was offered the option of bites from the graze menu, I declined opting for a cup of tea and was pleasantly surprised when it was served in an actual mug, Tim opted for a pack of fizzy cola bottles which did lead to a bit of a sugar rush… but I’ll save that story for another time.
After one final drink at the bar I sat back down in my seat in preparation for landing, the cabin crew performed all their duties quite quickly and ensured that all passengers in UC were settled and set for landing.
Overall I was quite impressed with my Upper Class experience with Virgin Atlantic, my overall view is that the staff both on the ground on both sides and in the air are fantastic, they really do enjoy their jobs and for me were fantastic promotion for the brand. Happy, smiley, efficient and bubbly. As a passenger I couldn’t ask for any more. The seat albeit dated was comfortable and I ensured I picked seat 10A where there was a partition so that I could have some privacy.
The main negative would be on the entertainment system, it’s very slow/clunky, the screen is too small compared to other Business Class and you can’t use the entertainment system on the ground either which is annoying too, especially when you land/take off at LHR and JFK two very busy airports where you are often stuck on the tarmac waiting for a gate or to take off. I believe they are due large overhauls soon as some of the older A340-600’s like the one I was on are due to be replaced shortly. I look forward to seeing the changes in the future.
My flight recorded on my GoPro in Time Lapse mode.
My flight was paid for using air miles I have accumulated over the years with Virgin Atlantic, I paid for the taxes out of my own pocket. All pictures and text remain a trademark of TheTwoRoads.com
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