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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A350-1000
If you’re looking for the absolute best experience on the quintessentially cool, Virgin Atlantic, you’ll want to fly Upper Class on the A350-1000 out of London Heathrow. Why? The two biggest factors of flying in a premium cabin are the ground experience and the in-flight experience. The A350-1000 is Virgin Atlantic’s best plane and features their latest iteration of the Upper Class seat and service, and London Heathrow Terminal 3 is where you get the flagship Virgin ground experience:
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Check-in
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class private security channel
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Clubhouse
Unfamiliar with Virgin Atlantic Upper Class? It’s their version of business class, often characterized as a split between first and business class, and currently is offered in 3 layouts. The A350-1000 Upper Class features the latest iteration and is hands down the best configuration offering the most privacy and comfort.
A little history
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class was my first ever premium product which I experienced on the 747-400 ( now retired ) back in 2015. The airline is not only super cool, but will always hold a special place since it was my first ever experience. It was one of the coolest experiences because you sit right in the nose of the aircraft. Very few airlines still fly the 747, but Lufthansa is one of them – you can read what it’s like to fly Business Class on the upper deck here, and first class in the nose here.
You can see a full YouTube video of my first time flying the A350-1000 from JFK to LHR below
- When: January 2022
- Where: LHR to ATL
- Flight: VS 103
- Depart: 2:55pm
- Arrive: 7:40pm
- Flight Time: 9h45min
- Booked: 57.5k Virgin miles + $600+ taxes and fees
- Seat: 5D
How I booked:
I made use of the Amex 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic that ran at the end of 2021 and transferred over 100k Amex points to populate 130k Virgin Atlantic miles. Prices were coming in at 57.5k per ticket and $600 in taxes and fees. The taxes and fees are the biggest downside to flying out of London, and you could minimize these by flying on one of the US based carriers ( typically they are more in the $300 range ).
Here’s a look at the seating chart. The seating was actually quite full and we ended up flying in Row 5. The seat map has us selected in 7D which we flew on the
How we earned the miles to book this
Currently American Express is a transfer partner of Amex, Chase, and Citi
I mentioned before that American Express had a 30% transfer bonus so we took advantage of the offer and populated our Virgin Atlantic with 30% more miles. It was an instantaneous transfer.
Credit Cards we’d recommend most
- American Express Platinum
- Loaded with benefits for when you travel including lounge access, upgrades, and over $1k worth of credits
- American Express Gold
- The Amex I use most with outstanding 4x categories that help you earn points where you spend most
- American Express Green
- Can we say Chase Sapphire Reserve killer? Most of the same category bonuses for a lower annual fee
- American Express Business Platinum
- 1.5x on all purchases over $5k and loads of benefits for when you travel
- American Express Business Gold
- Get 4x where you spend most, top 2 categories will earn 4x points up to $150k/year
- American Express Blue Business Plus
- Get 2x everywhere, up to $50k/year
- Citi Thank You Premier – arguably the most underrated credit card on the market
- offers 3x dining, groceries, travel, and gas
- Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great starter premium card and one that I actually carry
- I think this is a great card to view as your Chase cornerstone
- Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited have amazing offers currently running and I would highly recommend both cards
- They were improved in September of 2020 and at least one should be in your wallet
- Chase Sapphire Reserve Is also worth your interest and includes many additional perks, but has a much higher annual fee
- Chase Ink Business Preferred is one of the best business cards you can carry and I actually have two of them in my wallet ( different businesses )
- 3x on a litany of categories and earns transferrable points
- Chase Ink Business Cash
- rotating quarterly 5x categories make this a great card to keep in your wallet to maximize spend
- Chase Ink Business Unlimited
- earn 1.5x on every dollar your business spends
Getting Covid tested at London Heathrow
At the time of our flight, a negative rapid antigen test was sufficient for US entry, and the easiest way is to buy them via Emed – you can order 6 tests for $150. The biggest problem is that they expire, so if you don’t have a few international trips planned, and your party isn’t big enough, you may be better off doing one wherever you’re flying from.
We booked in with ExpressTest and had a quick antigen test done prior to check-in at Terminal 4. We arrived at 8:40 for a 9:20am appointment and weren’t asked to queue until it was our appointment time. We left around 10am so I would plan accordingly.
The cost was £35 per person – This is roughly $40 a test.
As soon as you enter Terminal 3 you’ll veer right to the Upper Class Check in. Before you can drop a bag off etc, you’ll need to have all of your documents checked so make sure those are handy.
You’ll see a private, red carpet, elevator just next to check-in that leads to the Upper Class security. This is one of the best aspects of flying Upper Class – a separate, exclusive security lane that allows you to circumvent all of the chaos of Heathrow’s general security.
The Lounge: Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London
- Located beyond duty free in the H lounges above the AA Admirals Club.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London is the flagship lounge of Virgin Atlantic and is quite the treat. You should definitely plan to spend some extra time here prior to your flight to enjoy the amenities and have a high quality meal. We had roughly 2 hours and it was filled with food, champers, and fast wifi.
You can read our full review here, but it’s complete with a dining room, spa ( closed for Covid ), showers, pool table, outdoor space, and transports you back to the 1960s. It’s effortlessly cool and serves fantastic Laurent Perrier champagne.
Boarding with the dreaded SSSS:
We departed out of LHR Terminal 3, gate 22. You’ll get your docs checked again prior to the holding area for all passengers. I unfortunately had the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. If you’re unfamiliar with what this entails, have a gander at our article on it and how you could potentially avoid it. Essentially, I was put through another round of enhanced screening where they search your hand luggage – this took just a few minutes, but I have had it take close to 15 minutes in the past.
We boarded through the 2nd door in between Upper Class and Premium Economy and straight into the new lounge hang out which is closed for Covid.
The color scheme and vibe is effortlessly cool, and truly makes you feel as if you’ve arrived. The new Upper Class is configured 1-2-1 in a combo of Herringbone middle seats, and Reverse Herringbone window seats. All come with aisle access.
Seat: Zodiac Cirrus NG
As I’d mentioned before we selected middle seats 5D and 5G. Since the new middle configuration is herringbone, it actually favors those who want to be closer to one another, but the lack of a full divider could make it awkward if you don’t.
Notice in the two pictures below that difference in configuration.
The window seats put your head to the aisle and feet to the window, which I think creates the most privacy. However, the middle seats flip that around and place your head to the inside and feet to the window thus putting passengers nearer each other compared to traditional Cirrus seats you’d find on Cathay, American, EVA, Air France. Those links all lead to our reviews.
Seat 5D + 5G
Here’s a look at 5G. For a herringbone seat, it’s quite private and fliers will enjoy ample space, but here’s the thing…
I’m quite befuddled to the choices Virgin made specific to the seat. The bones are great, but Virgin chose to essentially provide no means of private and secure storage. Yes, you get an overhead, but the area that usually houses a little cabinet was instead made into shelves.
Storage, or lack there of
The items placed here easily fall out during take off and landing, and are you really going to leave your wallet in plain site for the flight?
One place that you can use for more security is actually the tray table. I was able to fit my passport and wallet in the tiny shelf inside, but it’s pretty inferior considering it was a purposefully designed just 2 years ago.
Compare that to Cathay Pacific…which chose a Zodiac Cirrus, but fit it with a cabinet that closes, under ottoman space for a backpack, a lower storage unit, and the armrest ( with water bottle ) you’ll find a hidden cubby which is accessible in bed room ( when the armrest comes up.
Seating Controls and IFE
The color scheme is gorgeous, but there were more issues. The seating controls look really cool, but were very finicky, as was the IFE. In fact, the last time I flew the A350 I was roughly 20 minutes into a film when it went black, came back on, and the film had been deleted. I wasn’t the only one that faced IFE issues, the man in front of me complained about issues as well.
On many films the headphones had a weird low pitched hum which forced me to leave it on the side of my head instead of my ear.
There is no remote control. It’s touchscreen or link it via bluetooth to your phone. I didn’t even try to link my phone.
There are two different power ports. USB and multi-national
Pajamas and Amenity Kit
Sleep Suits and amenity kits are provided on the overnight flights, but they had some extras and I used one for this flight as well.
Virgin introduced a new sleep suit when the plane debuted in 2019 are very light and quite nice. The amenity kit has all the usuals, but is now sustainable meaning it’s filled with items that are biodegradeable.
If you’re used to flying Virgin, you’ll know that the old beds needed to be converted while you were out of them. The back would fold down, a pad was placed over the suit, and you couldn’t slide from seat to bed mode in one swift move. This is what it looked like on the A330
These new seats have fixed that problem, and you can be in it from seat to bed and every position in between. A thin mattress pad, sheet, comforter and pillow are provided.
Food and Service.
Every single crew member that I interacted with made the experience just that…an experience.
The food was good but wasn’t quite as good as my first time on the A350
Compare that to the offering in 2019
As I mentioned earlier the lounge was closed for Covid; however, it’s a bit of an awkward space and nothing like the old bar setup that used to be a very Virgin thing. They did set out snacks shortly after dinner was served
I had a great time flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A350, and I think they definitely compete on a different level. The service is great, you get pajamas, the food is tasty, but the seat…is a bit of a let down.
The most important aspect of business class is the seat so you can sleep well and head to work. I don’t know about you, but I don’t rest easy thinking that my stuff could be easily gotten into. Yes, this is a concern in business, first, wherever you sit.
Personally, if I had to pay the high fees and was given the option of flying British Airways Club Suites or Virgin’s A350, I think I’d go with Club Suites. You can read my full review, but the service is equally great, the food and soft product of bedding is commensurate, and they come with doors and MOST importantly, ample storage. You can see it
The A350-1000 is an incredible aircraft, and if you watched the review, you can still hear some ambient engine noise, but compared to most other planes in the sky…it’s little to nothing. Man, those babies are incredible machines.
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