When Virgin Atlantic launched a new flight route from London Heathrow to Detroit to connect with the Delta hub and provide more routes across America, I tried the new route for this Virgin Business Class Review.
Well known for their stylish design and funky airport lounges, Virgin call their business class The Upper Class Suite. It even has a bar.
But what is it like to fly business class with Virgin Atlantic? And, truthfully, is it worth it?
The first thing you notice, because Virgin have made a point of making it a point, is the glowing white bar. That’s right, a stand up bar in the air with a qualified mixologist. While I always thought this looked like it would be fun, I wasn’t too convinced at how it would be on an overnight flight when you wanted to get some sleep (yes, that’s right, I’m not as young as I used to be.)
As it happens, it is a brilliant idea! It gathers up all the people who want to chat and party at one end, allowing everyone else to turn off the lights, plug in the earphones and get some sleep.
The seats are arranged in a chevron pattern with two seats in the centre and one at each window. No-one has to step over anyone else to reach the aisle and while it’s not impossible, it is quite difficult to chat for any length of time to the person next to you when sitting down. Depending on who you’re travelling with, that could be a blessing or a curse.
Seats fully recline to flat beds, which the cabin crew will help make up for you, complete of course with cotton sheets, pillowcases and duvets. There’s also the chance to recline your seat quite a way but the design involves flipping the bed over completely to make it flat so as a first time flyer you will need some help.
I loved the ergonomic design of all the storage areas around the seat: there’s space for a washbag, laptop and cables underneath the foot stool at the end.
The TV screen folds out from your seat’s “wall” which makes it a little fiddly if you’re also having dinner or tapping on your laptop but hardly an insurmountable problem. There are plug sockets and spacious overhead compartments, as well as some lost space behind the headboard you can make the most of if you wish.
Another nice touch is the LARGE fold out table so that you can adjust your notebook, notepad and glass of champagne in a dignified manner (all of which is important, especially the last point.)
Slick, stylish and friendly. Not too overbearing but certainly not inaccessible. Actually, quite good fun.
Plenty of space to bend your knees – always something I watch out for! Cabin crew are respectfully quiet and the Dreamliner auto-darkening windows mean you’re not accidentally woken up by someone suddenly admiring the rise of a new dawn!
As the first off the plane in an early morning ‘n’ empty London Heathrow, you’re out of the airport before everyone else is off the plane.
Make your choice about whether you want to work and sleep or chat and party – and then pick your seat accordingly. The further you are to the front of the plane, the quieter it gets.
Hm, now Detroit currently doesn’t have a Virgin lounge, it has a (very busy) generic one. Still, food, drink, newspapers, wifi, and power points are all present and correct.
London has The Upper Class Wing, which looks very interesting, but I haven’t had the chance to test that out yet.
The bar! Seriously, even though I didn’t use it. Especially because I didn’t use it. It kept all the people who wanted to stand around and chat well away from me, which let me settle down and sleep. (And, yes. I am that rock and roll.)
The plane-themed salt ‘n’ pepper creuset
The good night’s sleep
Because of the bar, seat choice is more important than in many business class cabins. Do you want to join the party? Sit near the bar. Do you want peace and quiet? Sit further ahead in the plane.
Disclosure – I received a complimentary flight for review purposes. As ever, as always I kept the right to write what I like because otherwise what’s the point, life’s too short etc etc Also, though I usually use my own images on this blog, for business class reviews I tend to use stock images most of the time. Why? Because people feel as though they’re in a private place when they fly (especially if they’re sleeping) and it just doesn’t feel right to plaster photos of people all over the interwebs like that without their consent. (And, it doesn’t really show you much more in any case.)
Abigail King is an award-winning writer and author who swapped a successful career as a hospital doctor for a life on the road. With over 60 countries under her belt, she's worked for Lonely Planet, the BBC, National Geographic Traveller and more. She is passionate about sustainable tourism and was invited to speak on the subject at the EU-China High Level summit at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.Here she writes about food, travel and history and she invites you to pull up a chair and relax. Let's travel more and think more. Welcome!
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