Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review. Still Special?
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review
This is a review of Virgin Upper Class, and includes the Virgin Wing Drive-in Check In and Virgin Upper Class Lounge at London Heathrow.
It has been a while since I last reviewed Virgin Upper Class, and as I have flown the service again to New York, thought it was time to take some new photos and write a fresh and new review. This is it.
Airlines are struggling. This is especially true on the London Heathrow – New York route which has been getting even more competitive over the last few years, as the old arrangement of only allowing 2 UK and 2 USA airlines to work the route was scrapped. The rapid increase in the cost of fuel, and the global downturn, added to the pressure on airlines. Fares seem to be on sale and offers more often than ever before, and it is well known that airlines like Virgin and their peers have often fallen in and out of loss.
Is this pressure on costs affecting service? Especially on Virgin which has always tried to have little additions, and special add-ons, to make it a bit less formal than the old “flag carriers” like BA and American. Overall I would say not.
There are still some touches and approaches that make flying Virgin Atlantic business class out of London Heathrow different and a bit more pampered.
Virgin Wing Drive-in Check-in
If you paid full fare on Virgin Upper Class you always were taken to a special secure drive-in area attached to the main departure hall. You were met at the car and checked in. Your bags are taken from the car, and then you have just a short walk and a dedicated security line. This meant you would almost never have to line up for security. It was very fast and very efficient.
Now you can use the drive in facility even if you are being dropped off for an Upper Class flight by friends – or even in a taxi. You have to register at least a day in advance to use this service. First by completing your Advance Flight Information required by the USA Authorities online (Passport, Where you staying on arrival etc), and then by calling a number supplied in the email they send you. When calling you confirm the rough time that you will arrive and the registration number of the car. If coming by taxi, you can call that in on the way. They need the registration as part of the security boom features when you drive in.
This service is a real advantage over other business class services offered by other airlines.
Virgin Upper Class Lounge Terminal 3
I wrote an article a few years ago that called the Virgin Lounge the best airline lounge in the world. I have visited many airline lounges all over the world. I think it still is. The lounge is vast. It has a huge range of dining options, including a restaurant, more informal deli and snacks area and meals are also served at the tables and seating areas through the lounge. It has a spa, hairdresser, games room, huge screen TV, outdoor patio, computer centre and huge bar serving all manner if drinks and cocktails. The staff are helpful and efficient.
It is a real treat, and many people (including myself) will come to the airport well before the flight to get to enjoy it.
Virgin Upper Class On-Board
The herring bone seats layout of seats in Upper Class are still the approach. There was some updating of them, but this is not on all of the planes on the route. The seats are very private, which is great when travelling by yourself, but less social if travelling with friends or family. This tends to mean people travelling together shout across at each other. They are very spacious and the seat flips over so you have a totally flat seat, versus a seat that lies down flat. This makes them much more comfortable. I am 6’2” and never feel cramped.
The choice of entertainment is pretty good, though the screen system feels more dated with the advance in screens that we are now used to from iPads and Tablets – and HD screens. But they are fine. The earphones are good and comfortable.
The amenity kit is a handy sized felt type bag, but with very limited goodies in them now. But they do have the items you are actually likely to use like eyeshades, earplugs, pen, toothbrush, tissues and toothpaste.
The food and menu has improved in my view. I always felt this was not as good as other airlines on the route, but is much better. I have photos of the meal I had (salmon starter, beef filet and sticky toffee pudding).
A great airline to travel in business in. It still has some benefits and features that set it aside from the alternatives!