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Crowning the Best of Britain: British Airways vs Virgin Atlantic new business class

a man and woman in an airplane cabin

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These past few weeks have been uber exciting for AV geeks and luxury cabin enthusiasts. After long waits, and much speculation, we were introduced to A350 configurations that will premiere both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic’s new business class cabins. It was a surprising turn of events to say the least. I don’t think there were many who would have put money down that BA would emerge with a business class that may end up being the best in the sky after years and year of offering one of the least competitive in the market. Both airlines will massively improve the experience for passengers, and I thought it’d be fun to put them head to head.

What are they currently offering as Business Class seats/Cabins?

Two weeks ago I flew from JFK to London on British Airways Club World, and then flew back on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. Both offer completely 180 degree, lie flat, products.

Virgin offers a uniform seat in a herringbone configuration where every passenger sits head in, feet out, and has to get up in order to fold the seat forward into bed mode. You may have to encounter passengers like the one below which could be awkward for everyone. There is very little storage.

BA on the other hand offers a seat with a fold down footstool. The torso portion of the seat reclines down to meet it, and thus, pieces together the bed. Depending on cabin configuration you may sit in a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 configuration whereby nearly all center passengers have to step over the aisle passengers to gain access. It’s cumbersome and really incentivizes doing your research to find the best seat to sit in ( hint: some seats offer window and aisle access, but they are few and far between).

Here are the specs for each airline’s new product.

Looking at each airline’s new spec sheet, the products are very competitive. In fact, the Cirrus and Super Diamond are my two favorite airline seat configurations. I’ll note, I haven’t flown an Apex suite yet  ( feature on Korean Airlines/Oman), but I’ve flown just about every other configuration made. They’re both reverse herringbone, private, easily converted into beds, with a good seat width, ample storage, and a bed that is long enough to accommodate my 6′ 165lb frame quite well.

Having experienced both airlines in business class and then comparing them to what you’d expect from a hotel, I’d say British Airways offers something like  JW Marriott/Ritz Carlton experience whereas Virgin is more like W/Edition. Stately luxury vs say hip/modern.

Here’s what you’ll see from the aisle

Both airlines have fit their new business class cabins with reverse herringbone configurations. What this means is your head will be nearer the aisle and your feet angled in. This provides increased privacy from those walking up and down the aisle. I lean towards the stately refined experience as a matter of my own personal taste. Both seats look incredible tho.

What the seats look like from above

You can see that both will provide ample workspace. Virgin’s has integrated seating controls on the edge of the left table whereas BA’s operates from a touch screen. Both feature small cabinets for storage and if Virgin’s Cirrus is setup similar to Cathay/AA then there is a large storage compartment to the lower left vs BA’s will have storage under those panels above the seating controls. Virgin is apparently debuting better bedding, but having flown BA’s newly appointed White Company – it’s quite nice and only the Saks bedding from United has been better IMO.

One thing to note when it comes to IFE ( In-Flight Entertainment) is that Super Diamond seats have fixed tv screens. This affords you the ability to start watching a program as soon as you get onboard and then continue through take off and landing without ever having to stow the screen. Virgin, on the other hand, features the Cirrus design that offers a pop-out screen that usually needs to be stowed on take off and landing. I’d assume both IFE will offer programming before take-off and after landing so this is a difference to note.

Have we seen these seats on other aircraft?

Yes…in fact, AA, EVA, and Cathay operate versions of both seats.

And AA, Qatar, Hong Kong Airlines, Air Canada, and China Airlines utilize a Super Diamond

But…how bout the doors

Virgin will have a small sliding door feature, but it will only partially close. BA will feature a fully enclosed suite that be the first Super Diamond, reverse herringbone, closed door suite in the world. Ironically, BA blew the doors off expectations…with doors.

a woman wearing headphones sitting in a chair

Who will be crowned best British business class?

Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have greatly improved their existing

 

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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