What it's like to fly Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic

I’ve had the pleasure of flying Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic Airways on a few occasions recently – coming back from New Delhi to Heathrow as well as a return trip to Cape Town – so I thought I would take this opportunity to describe what you can expect when booking the airline’s equivalent of a business class seat.

The first thing to note is that the Virgin Atlantic service begins from the moment you leave home. They’ll send a limo to your house to pick you up and take you to the airport (and take you home on your return) – a real treat, meaning you are dropped at the airport entrance, not having to worry about parking and all that that entails. In my case, I was driven to Manchester Airport where I also used ‘Little Red‘, Virgin Atlantic’s new domestic service for a quick and efficient way of getting to Heathrow. Despite it being just a short flight, I was served a drink and a packet of ‘plane’ crisps, and didn’t need to worry about my main case which was automatically checked through to Cape Town. The Little Red service operates multiple daily flights between London and the cities of Manchester, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Once at Heathrow, the process of changing terminals couldn’t have been easier and I soon found myself at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, a place where you could very quickly forget that you’re even in an airport at all. Here you can just relax with a drink and read a magazine, have a meal, do some work, or even get yourself a haircut or a spa treatment.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

This is the perfect start to air travel and a sign of things to come. With such a relaxed atmosphere, the last thing you’re thinking is “I’ve got a plane to catch” so it’s a good job that someone will come and find you should you forget.  Once on-board the aircraft – with priority boarding of course – you’ll find the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats are arranged in a herring-bone pattern in order to make optimum use of the space available and to give passengers the option of a very comfortable 33-inch wide flat bed.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats

Your footrest can serve as a seat should you wish to sit face-to-face with a travel companion for some of the journey or, if you just want some alone time, the pull-out screen offers everything from the latest films to TV to Skymap – in fact, it includes more than 300 hours’ worth of entertainment so should help even the longest of flights should pass relatively quickly!

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seating

There’s a pull-out table and in-seat laptop power should you wish to get some work done, as well as Aeromobile, allowing you to stay connected with texts, email and the internet.

With a pre-flight glass of Lanson Black Label Champagne in hand and a pair of pyjamas provided for the journey should you wish (I don’t envy the flight attendants having to diplomatically ask passengers what size they would like, but they do it admirably!), your attention soon wanders to the dinner menu.

Forget your usual airline meals; here your table is neatly laid with designer linen and you get ‘proper’ cutlery, crockery and glassware. The choice is good and the quality of food excellent given the restraints associated with serving food at 40,000 feet. Choose from main dishes such as herb-crumbed fillet of British beef with potato rosti and carrot purée, free range grilled chicken breast with a mushroom gravy and celeriac colcannon mashed potatoes and herb tournée carrots, or Goan-style prawn curry with basmati rice and sautéed cabbage and red pepper.

To accompany your meal, there’s a selection of fine wine from Berry Bros. and Rudd, one of the UK‘s most innovative wine merchants, boasting five Masters of Wine – or a choice of beers, spirits, etc. – as well as water from One whose profits fund amazing roundabout powered water pumps in Africa.

Need to stretch your legs after dinner? No problem. Upper Class passengers even have access to a futuristic on-board bar where they can sit and socialise with others over their tipple of choice.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class bar

To book a flight with Virgin Atlantic, log on to www.virginatlantic.com or call 0844 20 92 770.

Comments (130)

  1. Christine says:

    Hi Brian… VA’s UK website offer two Upper options, lowest and flexible… flexible includes the chauffeur service. I also believe the chauffeur service is not available if booking Upper via a reward seat.
    As Paul mentioned, the chauffeur service covers up to 75 miles, thereafter a supplement is applied.

    • Tammy says:

      They don’t tell you that until after you book the flight and then only when you queiry how to book your car. Very mis-leading advertizing door to door upper class travel. Not the case at all. Not all VA upper class tickets are created equal. They should be more honest and up front about what you are actually purchasing. I for one will never use them again after this flight. I would cancel all toghether but they will not refund the ticket price. Shocking.

  2. Rob says:

    Hi Brian, just to clarify as it can be confusing even to travel professionals. If you book upper class on the cheapest fare (Z Class) which most holidays would normally be booked using as client want the cheapest deals, you cannot have the chauffeur free of charge…….if you booked on their more expensive upper class fares (J,C,D or I class) you will get the chauffeur. I would contact the travel agent/tour operator you booked your holiday they will be able to tell you what fare was used for your holiday and if you can have the chauffeur. And as Christine said if you used you virgin miles they aren’t eligible for ground transfers.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience on upper class journey. I had a wonderful experience when I was traveling at Heathrow. Really the service in Upper class was too good. I was enjoyed more.

  4. Rick Wasserman says:

    We got bumped from British Air Business Class to Virgin Upper Class from Washington to London due to equipment problems. What great fortune for us! Everything going was excellent. Comfortable bed seats, fantastic food, and outstanding service. We had to take BA back, which while nice did not compare. Our vote is with Virgin, with which we hope to againot travel soon.

  5. Chris says:

    Agree Rick, Virgin Atlantic is the only airline we use. We’re flying UC again in November, using our miles to purchase reward seats. Spoke to a woman recently who’s flown VA PE, but for her next flight she booked BA WT+, ‘because it was cheaper’… she’s now reaping her decision and was very unhappy when I advised BA WT+ only had one inch more in width (18.5″) vs an economy seat, how she wished she’d paid the minor difference and booked VA PE. BA’s Club is 20″ vs VA UC 22″, many are unaware that VA’s PE 21″ seat width is often wider than many airlines business class, and when in a seat for 9 hours or more that extra inch makes all the difference!

    It definitely pays to research the difference in airlines, then book Virgin :)

  6. Corrine says:

    If you book a upper class seat leaving Heathrow . Why can you only get a limo pick up on a C, D, J, I. Seats.
    Why can’t you get it anyway , with fast track, and Lounge.

  7. Chris says:

    Hi Corrine – the limo is included with the the higher priced class of fare, that covers, I believe, 75 miles, then an excess is charged. The lower fare suits those of us who make our own way to the airport. To my knowledge all UC pax receive complimentary Clubhouse access and fast track. This link may help – http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/gb/en/the-virgin-experience/upperclass/upper-class-wing.html

  8. Chris says:

    Man airport’s VA staff/crew recently advised a friend a Clubhouse will be insitu next year. Read as an unproven ‘heads up’ until such time as VA make an official statement. Apparently this move surrounds additional routes VA (possibly code shared with Delta/others) begin next year. Perhaps a business pax increase makes a Clubhouse viable, especially as the refurbed Escape Lounge continues, in the main, to receive poor reviews, appearing unpopular by many UC/business pax. We’d patronise a Clubhouse, whereas we’ve given the Escape a wide berth since 2011.

    Should no official statement have been made, I’ll also enquire when we fly in November.

  9. Marion Robb says:

    I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class San Francisco to LHR July 2016. I preordered lactose free meals by telephone more than 48 hours ahead, as suggested. At SanFran progress via security was no different to mainstream – roughly 30 minutes to get through. Onboard, the crew were excellent but the food provided was simply disgusting – think British Rail on a very bad day. Starter was small segments (5) of pink grapefruit on undressed lettuce – that’s it. Entree was dry plain chicken served with plain white boiled rice, peculiarly and nastily soaked in sour fresh lemon juice, and overcooked green beans. Pudding was hard melon and hard\sour pineapple slices. All undressed and plain. Breakfast was so disgusting the senior stewardess literally flinched to serve it and put it down offering me a banana instead. I could eat the mushrooms, the rest was scrambled egg with no butter or milk, or seasoning (lactose free variables are readily available and inexpensive), the edible mushrooms and some vile green stuff which appeared to be overcooked and slimy spinach. When I got to LHR, after nearly 19 hours of travelling, hot, tired and starving with a 4 hour wait for my onward flight , I couldn’t shower in Virgin’s lounge area, as it was closed to incoming afternoon flights! Customer Services response has not been brilliant either. Upper Class? Well the crew are fab, and the fold down beds make it easier to sleep, but if you have food allergies, my advice is take a picnic, and all care and facility stops once you leave the aeroplane. Embarrassing.

  10. Karen says:

    We are travelling Virgin UC next year LGW – Orlando. We have managed to get seat opposite from each other and a little way from the bar which is good as initially we were told the only seats available were side by side next to the bar. My question is regarding the UC lounge. Is the maximum amount of time you can spend in the lounge prior to your flight. Have used the No 1 lounge previously you were limited to 2 hours prior to your flight departure which was a little unfair as the reality is you get 1.5 hours as flights board 30 minutes before departure normally.

  11. Chris says:

    Hi Karen – to my knowledge there’s no time stipulation in the Clubhouse, you’ve paid for UC, therefore you can make full use of the facilities for as long as you wish before boarding. I believe the Clubhouse opens at 7am.

  12. Pete says:

    A very interesting original review and equally interesting comments. I’m flying UC next week from London to Miami and will be my first time other than an upgrade to business back in 1991! Have only flown Virgin once since and was less than impressed although that was PE. As it’s going to be a day flight I’m more interested in the Clubhouse but am curious to see what the food is like on the plane. I’ve yet to have better food than on BA who have at least now recognised that human tastebuds are depressed at altitude so it needs more than just lots of salt to make food tasty.

    I’ve read that the jacuzzi in the Clubhouse can be “liberating” with users going in the buff. I don’t how much truth there is to that but I suppose it would save you having damp swimwear in your carry on luggage. I probably won’t have time for that anyway.

    As I’m on a reward flight I don’t get the limo but that’s OK. I’m no travel snob. I would have liked to try the Wing at Heathrow but as my return flight from Dallas is on BA I’ll be leaving my car in the long stay car park.

  13. Chris says:

    Hiya Pete… we flew return, Man airport, in UC last year and thoroughly enjoyed it, but then it was in the 747 LGW/Man config that only holds 14 seats, so an abundance of space – we gave the utterly grotty Escape Lounge (pre refurb) an intentional wide berth, unfortunately friends flew UC a few weeks ago (post refurb) and emailed with a ‘DON’T BOTHER’ in the subject heading… seems it was unappealing, not so clean, tables stacked with dirty crockery, bacon and sausage rolls left under a heat lamp and a coffee machine that literally spits out half a cup… they left within an hour, he was particularly ticked off that UC pax have to pay £5 if they want a Full English, so, make the most of the LHR Clubhouse Pete, apparently it’s exceptional and oft voted as one of the best lounges… go on, get naked in that spa bonny lad :) Onboard we found the food very acceptable, particularly the delicious afternoon tea, the sarny’s and bite size cakes are moreish and moreish again! Personally I’d have preferred the sandwiches for lunch and tea. Have you checked out an UC menu, which includes a Graze option, which includes bitesize burgers? Apparently VA trialed a new menu on certain JFK flights between the 12th to 16th September. This is an older menu pdf, not sure if it’s still valid but worth a look – http://www.virgin-atlantic.com/content/dam/VAA/Documents/upperclass/Upper%20Class%20matrix%20v4.pdf

    I did hear VA had plans in mind for a Clubhouse at Man airport, but then another contact ‘in the know’ with VA advised this isn’t true. Be canny if somebody can definitively confirm a yay or nay.

    Bit of a heads up for the future. Apparently, according to another forum, and perhaps within what one assumes is the current combining with Delta’s system, VA now charge £150pp fee on top of any upgrade charge if one wishes to upgrade after having bought their tickets. I don’t know if this charge applies if upgrading at the check-in desk tho.

    Enjoy your flight Pete – also try a You Tube search for VA UC on your aircraft type.

  14. Mary Bentley says:

    I always travel Upper Class when flying Virgin however despite the hype of the specially created dishes by a celebrity Chef the food is disappointing every time ~ so take your own picnic & hope to be on a 747 far nicer than an A300

  15. Chris says:

    Hi Mary – are you saying you’ve never had any acceptable food in UC? Not even the afternoon tea, or fruit on the bar, Graze menu, absolutely nothing? We used to take sandwiches when we travelled economy and PE as that was fairly meh! It’s a shame as likely the food is good when prepared by the caterer, but being reheated tends to either make it sloppy or dry it out. We have to be careful with certain foods, spicy etc, but we found UC food acceptable… I’m surprised anybody can fault the afternoon tea, perhaps I’m not as fussy an eater as I thought :)

  16. Paul Johnson says:

    This hasn’t been my experience of the food. As airline food goes, I actually thought it was very good.

  17. Chris says:

    Hi Paul – do you know who moderates posts? I replied to Peter about 2 hours ago, post still awaiting moderation.

  18. Mary Bentley says:

    Hi Chris, I usually just have a scone from the afternoon tea as although the tiny cakes look tempting – I don’t like chocolate & prefer plain sandwich fillings, so no chutney or coronation chicken for me.

  19. Chris says:

    Thanks Mary – hubs has a dodgy tum and watches what he chomps down on :) We were both surprised when told we wouldn’t need our usual Boots Meal Deal, to find the food canny, as you’ll have guessed I had a ‘thing’ for the tasty afternoon tea! I had one type of the small fancy cakes that was delicious, so hubs asked me to get him one… they had one left, just one, and I dropped it… I didn’t panic as I caught it in my mouth before it hit the floor :D

  20. Pete says:

    Thanks Chris. I’m going in with an open mind about everything although when you’ve read lots of reviews it’s hard not to develop some preconceptions. The bottom line is I haven’t really paid anything for the flight so anything half decent will be a bonus. I’m planning to get to LHR about 3 hours before my flight so will make good use of the Clubhouse. The aircraft is supposed to be a 787 Dreamliner so hopefully should be the most modern cabin interior. Very much looking forward to the flight. Will post again with my thoughts after the flight.

  21. Chris says:

    You’re wecome Pete… personally I think you’ll enjoy UC. It perhaps depends on your expectations, for us it’s all about the seat… width, pitch, foot/leg support, comfort and space, everything thereafter is a bonus. We both have arthritis and being shoe horned into economy is never going to happen again, so we find PE and UC very comfortable. We aren’t bothered about the Clubhouse, but if Man had one then we would utilise.
    Pete, if you want it, VA’s 787 offers wifi at a cost of £14.99. Have a great trip, I hope it meets your requirements.

  22. Pete says:

    So it’s been a month since I flew and I thought I would report back on my thoughts and observations. First off I would have to say I was very impressed with the Virgin staff, from the very helpful woman who greeted me in the Clubhouse to the cabin crew on the plane. Nothing was too much trouble and I was made to feel very welcome. As I had not flown UC before the Clubhouse facilities were explained and when I got on the plane they took the time to give me a run through of all my seat functions etc. So far so good.

    Like many others I indulged in the Clubhouse trying the food and having a couple of drinks. Disappointingly though, the hot tub was out of service. Is the Clubhouse better than the BA lounge at LHR? I don’t think so although it is more funky looking. And I’m only comparing with the business class lounge, not first class.

    On the plane I found the cabin clean and comfortable and the sense of privacy was nice. I was however very disappointed at the lack of places to put my phone, glasses and iPad etc by my seat. On BA you get a small storage tray. On Virgin there was nothing other than a tiny fold down tray that was right by my shoulder. The seat was OK and leg room fine. The food was generally very good. The seafood linguine was particularly good. Towards the end of the flight I had the mini burger and fries which was disappointing and barely lukewarm. A shame as it looked delicious.

    So, in summary, a very pleasant and enjoyable experience. Would I fly Virgin UC again? Possibly but only if I couldn’t get a BA flight. For me BA are still far better for business class. I’ll be flying first class to San Francisco next spring so will see how that compares. However, I suspect it will be far superior to UC.

  23. Bill D says:

    I will be flying from Orlando to Gatwick on December 21 and back again from Gatwick to the Orlando on January 2. I am going upper class. This is the first time I Will be flying with Virgin Atlantic. I went to the UK in June 2016 and flew first class on British Airways. It was fantastic. I have never been to Gatwick and I have a disability. I walk with a walking stick very slowly. My question is when I get to Gatwick will I be able to get assistance to help me get to the ticket counter?

  24. Chris says:

    Hi Bill – contact VA Special Assistance ([email protected]y.virgin.com) and they will make arrangements for you. You can also apply for assistance via your booking online. Have a good flight :)

  25. Bill D says:

    Thanks Chris I took your advice and contacted Virgin Atlantic assistance. their representative was extremely courteous and then very helpful. I should have no problems when I get to Gatwick. I plan on having a great flight both ways, thank you again

  26. Jake says:

    Having read the review here, I flew Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic last week (LHR-ATL) and found it a very pleasurable experience. Food was good, staff professional and courteous, and flat-bed was everything I expected. I would definitely choose to fly with them again.

  27. Marie Di Martino says:

    Could you please tell me if there is priority check in at disney springs for upper class as we will be going next easter and wouldnt like to go there to join one big queue. Thank you

  28. Claire Wills says:

    Thanks to my lovely hubby im about to travel, for the first time ever, in upper class with Virgin. Im just so excited. But at the same time im so worried about what to wear (im normally in jeans and a t shirt). Also panicking about what i shall need in hand luggage !! Help

  29. David Pope says:

    I did fly Virgin premium a long time ago and in thtose days it was a breath of fresh air. But these days here is a lot more competition and the brand just does not stand out anymore.

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