Virgin Atlantic: Upper Class 787-9
Flight: VS 8
Flight Route: LAX to LHR
Flight Time: 9 hrs 35 min
Virgin Atlantic’s Dreamliner service is awesome. Period.
It doesn’t really matter where you sit on this airplane (I’ve sat in every class on this equipment), it is awesome. You’ll find out more why below and although this review is specific to Upper Class, I will be writing a review for Premium Economy on this equipment. I was traveling from LAX to LHR at this point by choice, I originated in SF and decided instead of flying out of SFO to LHR direct, I would go via LAX. Why? Up until early 2016 Virgin Atlantic operated their 747-400 and A340-600 out of SFO. The LAX flight was one of the first routes adjusted to be on their new equipment, their 787-9. There was a clear advantage to flying the 787-9 over the older equipment, mainly Wifi, major seat improvements, and the improved IFE.
Flight Review & Ratings
Everything below is on a 1-10 scale, to see my official ratings guidelines you can go here.
1. Quality of Seat: 8
Pro-Tip: Grab a seat on the left hand-side of a 787-9 cabin. In the upper class layout those rows are actually facing the back of the middle section seat, meaning it is much more private.
I’ve written about the older Virgin Atlantic seat <insert link>, however I will give Virgin a tip of the hat, they upgraded the seats and added the technical amenities that passengers expect these days. However, I will give them some heat for the fact that they still decided to use the standard herringbone seat configuration vs. reverse herringbone. Bonehead (pun intended) move in my opinion.
The 787-9 seats do have wifi and power ports, which is very beneficial when traveling for business.
2. Quality of Entertainment: 6
Virgin really did do well in upgrading their entertainment from their older equipment to their newer aircraft. They adjusted the screens to be touch screens (expected in this day and age), but the main addition that I enjoy is the Wifi and the ability to now have power on their aircraft.
3. Quality of In-Flight Food: 7
Quality of food is the same across their equipment so it really doesn’t matter if you’re on the older equipment or the newer, it’s fairly dependable and at the same level. Overall, Virgin’s in-flight menu is actually decent and they do have a bar, which on the 787-9 is positioned at a angle and they have a large touch-screen TV that you can interact with to see where you are in your journey.
4. Quality of Customer Service: 9
You can read my prior post on the A340 service which includes a lengthier description on Virgin’s customer service principles. In short they are fantastic. They continue the trend on their 787-9 service out of LAX. LAX itself is a disaster of an airport, a complete crap-hole. However. Virgin does it’s best to mitigate the mess, the private limo is offered and they can speed you through the always fickle LAX security. Once in, they have a new lounge (which I describe below) then they usher you to the plane. Overall, once again despite being away from it’s home base and in an airport where it is constantly busy, Virgin does an incredible job of showing their style and thought around the best customer experience possible here.
In-flight service on the 787-9 is excellent as the ratio of flight attendants to passengers seems to be around 6:1. One of the highest in the industry. Their Upper Class is significantly larger on their 747 and A340 aircraft vs the 787-9 and the A330, or at least Virgin makes it feel that way.
5. Quality of Fleet: 7
As stated in prior post, Virgin is really putting their best foot forward. The upgraded 787-9s are well done and I expect the A350s they have on order to be even nicer.
6. Flight Access and On-Time Reliability: 9
No issue with Virgin at LAX although if they were delayed, I wouldn’t mind sitting in their lounge a bit longer.
7. Lounge Access: 10
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LAX is a small stunning space. Taking on the poshness of London mixed with the vibe of LA, they did a fantastic job on this space. The drinks and food are also top-notch along with the lounge service and the view. My favorite part is probably the view, you can see your equipment plus you sit at the end of the main runway at LAX. You’ll be able to see multiple A380s take-off while sitting, sipping a cocktail, waiting for your beautiful upcoming Upper Class experience.
8. Availability & Cost: 8
Virgin has notoriously been cheaper than other competing airlines like American or BA but as of recent their prices have gone up and are now around the same range as those carriers. As I cannot afford Upper Class out-of-pocket, this is where I really find value in Virgin Atlantic’s mileage program, flying club <link to flying club>. Also, they allow you to upgrade with miles from multiple class of service, which I love. I’ve been in Economy several times and have used my miles to upgrade. That’s a fantastic use of miles in my opinion! They also seem to have fairly generous award space availability although in the recent months I have seen their more popular aircraft (787s) decline in award space, I am guessing because there is more of a demand from their standard customers on that specific equipment and therefore less award space. Either way, I’ve always been a huge fan of Virgin Atlantic’s mileage program and their award system.