Airlines Reviews

Review: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A330-900neo + Is the Retreat Suite the best business class to Europe?

a chair and table in a plane

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A330-900neo

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to fly 3 different times on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class A330-900neo and on one of those occasions my wife and I splurged for the Retreat Suite. Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900neo easily offers up the best Virgin Atlantic Upper Class experience out there regardless of where you sit, but the Retreat Suite is an exceptional way to fly long haul. I’d say it is the very best business class from the US to Europe ( London ).

Read our other Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Reviews

a room with a tv and a table

Flights Details

  • When: July to Sept 2023
  • Where:
    • LHR to ATL ( 57,500 )
    • LHR to ATL
    • LHR to JFK ( 47,500)
  • Cost
    • Between 47,500 and £627 pounds and 57,500 and £627 pounds per ticket
      • One flight was booked with a 30% discount at 40,200 + £627
      • Plus an extra £200 for each Retreat Suite
  • Seats
    • 1K
    • Retreat Suite
    • 8D/8G

a laptop on a table with a plate of food and a glass of water

Check In – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing

One of the best aspects of flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class out of London Heathrow is the ability to make use of the Virgin Upper Class Wing. It’s in Terminal 3, you’ll need to tell your driver ahead of time to use the private entrance, where you’ll be whisked to a completely private area of Terminal 3.

You’ll be met at the door, assisted with your luggage, and swiftly checked in and directed toward a private security area where I’ve only ever waited once ( I’ve flown Virgin Upper Class about 10 times now ).

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The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Clubhouse

60s Retro. Wait Staff. Very cool bar. Peloton. Pool Tables. Roof top viewing deck. It’s a whole vibe. Read the whole review here

a group of people sitting at a bar

Virgin Atlantic A330-900neo

Currently Virgin Atlantic has 4 A330-900neos with the following information.

G-VJAZ Billie Holiday
G-VTOM Space Oddity
G-VLDY Eliza Doolittle
G-VEII Queen of the Skies

Currently you’ll find the A330-900neo flying the following routes to LHR according to Flight Connections

  • Boston
  • Atlanta
  • New York JFK
  • Miami
  • Tampa
  • ( Bridgetown Seasonally )
  • Tel Aviv

Upper Class consists of 8 rows with the middle seats in Row one making up the Retreat Suite

a row of white screens on an airplane

Booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

There are three ways to book

  • Delta – 120k and up although surcharges are just $5.60
  • ANA ( must book roundtrip )
  • Hawaiian ( although temporarily halted )
  • Virgin Atlantic – 47.5k to 57.5k from the east coast
  • Flying Blue – 72k from NYC/BOS/IAD and 87k from ATL/MIA

Personally, I think there are really only two good options for booking Virgin Atlantic Upper Class – Virgin itself and FlyingBlue. It really comes down to how many surcharges you want to pay. The most will be using Virgin Atlantic ( although far fewer miles ) and Flying Blue ( which is more miles but fewer surcharges ).

Both programs are partners with all transferrable bank currencies

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Choosing seats on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A330-900neo

I’ve flown this in 3 different ways: on the window, in the rear of the cabin in the middle ( 8D and 8G ), and on the window in 1K. All are nice, include closed doors, but each have their own pros and cons. Personally, I’d go for the even rows which are set slightly off the aisle, but even the odd rows offer enough privacy once the door is closed.

a screenshot of a cell phoneYou can see in the cabin photo below how the seats alternate to and from the aisle. If you want the most privacy, choose the even rows which sit a close to the window and are the most private.

a group of people sitting in an airplane

1K

I loved this seat, plenty of light, storage, and yes it’s close to the galley, but there is only one bathroom in the front of the plane vs the lounge and 2 bathrooms between Upper Class and Premium Economy. None of this mattered and I’d choose 1A or 1K every single time I fly this on my own. The biggest downside is that it sits on the aisle, but with the door closed, I don’t think it really matters much in terms of disrupting your sleep.

a desk with a computer and a monitor on the side of the plane

8D/8G

I’m biased but I prefer the very back seats whenever I’m traveling since it’s much easier for me to film, photograph, etc and not disturb other passengers. In regards to noise…it can be a bit noisy with the lounge right behind you, but in all honesty it’s not too bad. The worst aspect of this is the foot traffic of other passengers going to the lounge.

As I mentioned earlier, the even seats are slightly off the aisle and make it much more private with the armrest as a barrier.

a person standing in a chair

The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Retreat Suite

I’ve flown nearly every single business class that flies from the US to Europe and nothing offers the space, comfort, and experience for 2 passengers like the Retreat Suite. Now, of course, there are first class offerings, which are incredible and handily beat this, but they’re in a different class of service.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class aims to split the difference between business and first, but in reality aside from the A330-900neo it’s a mid-tier, sexy, business class with a kick ass retro 60s lounge at Heathrow that while in the air, I’d rank in the bottom 3rd of business class experiences when it comes to the seat.

I’d argue that any seat on this plane puts Virgin in the conversation for best business class, but the Retreat Suite in particular, is hands down the best business class if you’re traveling as a couple or with someone.

My goodness…look at this space including closing doors.

a seat and arm rest in a plane

The Retreat Suite offers something different. Massive TV. Wider seat and open space for 2 people, and tons, literally tons of storage. What it doesn’t offer is any differentiation in service. If you’re a bigger person, a couple celebrating a special event, or on a buddy trip and want to soak in the Upper Class experience…it’s super fun.

When can you book the Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite

14 days ahead of departure, Virgin Atlantic releases 2 seats ( 1D and 1E in the Retreat Suite )

How much does the Retreat Suite cost?

£200 a piece

a black and white sign with white text

Amenity Kit

Whether you’re flying Retreat Suite or any other seat, you’ll get an amenity kit made from recycled materials. Candidly, it feels recycled, the amenity kit version of the paper straw.

a group of small items on a table

Pajamas aka flight suit

Typically on day flights they won’t hand them out, but if you ask, I’ve been lucky enough to get them all 3 times.

a man taking a selfie in a plane
Virgin Atlantic Pajamas

The Seat Features

Up until 2019, Virgin Atlantic offered herringbone seats which faced the aisle and were often called coffin class due to the feeling of, well, being in a coffine. Those are still found on the A330-300 and 787–9s. A big improvement was made when they introduced the A350-1000 into their line up, but the biggest complaint I’ve had with those Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats is storage.

Virgin Upper Class A330-900neo storage for regular seats

This is seat 1A

  • Not only do you get a cabinet that closes
  • But you get a small cubby that can hold various items Including a MacBook Pro
  • You also get enough space under the tray table/cubby to stow your bag

If this looks familiar…it’s because Delta uses the same seat in Delta One on the 767

a teddy bear on a bed

The Retreat Suite offers up even more storage

The Retreat Suites come with a moveable buddy seat – it can be high enough to fit a backpack underneath as you can see in my picture. In addition to that, each one comes with a large separate cabinet that can stow a lot of stuff ( 1D is larger than 1G as shown below ).

The Retreat Suite also comes with the standard cabinet with vanity mirror that you’ll find on the normal seats

a seat with a mirror and a drink in it

IFE, Wifi, Charging

The TV in the Retreat Suite is a whopping 27 inches vs the 17inches in normal Upper Class. That makes viewing tv and absolute dream. You’re supposed to be able to control with via your phone’s bluetooth. That has never really worked out that well for me.

a screen on a seat

The 17in tv you’ll find in the other seats

a screen on a desk

Charging –

There is a multi-national charge port as well as USB-C, USB, and a wireless charging. On all 3 of my flights, the wireless didn’t work.

a close up of a seat

Bed Mode

I found bed mode to be comfortable in any configuration, but if you want max comfort, go with the Retreat Suite – it’s a tad bit wider, longer, and far more open, especially around the feet.

As you can see, 1K is very close to the aisle, but I found it to be perfectly private with the door closed.

a bed in an airplane

Retreat Suite – the only odd thing is that the level of the bed is very close to the ground.

a bed in a plane

Dining

The dining service is the same regardless of where you sit, normal seating or the Retreat Suite. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal service on all three flights and the charming, tongue in cheek, playful service of the crew always makes for a fun flight.

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Overall – is the Retreat Suite the best to Europe?

Yes. I think it’s better than any other business class product for pure space, comfort, and just pure fun. The fact that 4 people could conceivably hang out all together, dine together is really only rivaled by Qatar Airways QSuites.

As for the normal experience. I’d put this specific A330-900neo Upper Class at the top of the heap of any business class offering from the US to Europe. It’s just as good as British Airways Club Suite, United Polaris, KLM 787-10, Air France A359,  AA ( 772, 773, 787 ) Service is great. Lounge is great. The seat is very, very good. Virgin finally delivers a seat with storage, easy charging, and a private bed; however I would say the United still takes the cake for comfiest bedding.

If you can snag one of these 4 planes, you’re flying one of the best business class products in the sky. If you get the Retreat Suite…congrats, it’s the best for couples, perhaps not if you’re flying alone tho.

 

 

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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