Airlines Reviews

2nd Best: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A350-1000 London to Atlanta

a row of seats with people sitting on them

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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A350-1000

If you’re looking for the absolute a great experience on the quintessentially cool, Virgin Atlantic, you’ll want to fly Upper Class 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 2nd best plane ( the A330neo is their best ) and features very good iteration of the Upper Class seat and service, and London Heathrow Terminal 3 is where you get the flagship Virgin ground experience replete with private check in:

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 ( Old A330s + 787s, A351s, and A330neos, ). The A350-1000 Upper Class features one of the latest iterations and is a massive step up from what you’ll find on many of their 787s and A330s.

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.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 747
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 747

You can see a full YouTube video of my first time flying the A350-1000 from JFK to LHR below

Flight Details:

I booked this flight very last minute, within two days of departure and it’s my 4th or 5th time flying the A350. I was fortunate enough to fly it this year as well as the A330neo twice, once in the bulkhead window and again in the Retreat Suites with my wife. This is a solid second place product for Virgin and is miles ahead of it’s older Upper Class.

  • When: Feb 2023
  • Where: LHR to ATL
  • Flight: VS 103
    • Depart: 09:25am
    • Arrive: 13:50pm
  • Flight Time: 9h45min
  • Booked: 33,200 Virgin miles + $600+ taxes and fees

a black rectangular sign with white text

How I booked:

I made use of the Amex 30% transfer bonus to Virgin Atlantic that ran at the end of 2022 and transferred over 100k Amex points to populate 130k Virgin Atlantic miles. I just happened to get lucky and book this when Virgin was having a 30% off sale between the US and UK. While the surcharges, as you can see below, are ridiculous, I was able to land my Upper Class ticket for just 33,200 Virgin Miles, or roughly 25,500 Amex points. That is a downright steal and a half.

a black screen with white text

How I earned the miles to book Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

Currently American Express is a transfer partner of Amex, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, and Citi. In fact, Bilt Rewards had a 75% to 150% transfer bonus for the month of August.

Check In – Private Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Terminal

Prior to entering Terminal 2/3 you’ll see a sign that says Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. This is a private drive, and if you’re in an Uber, you’ll need to direct them through it. Once the gates open, you’ll be whisked to the private check-in area.

You’ll be met at your car, helped with your bags, and then escorted inside to a swift process.

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. I’ve flown many times, and only once have I seen this backed up, and even then, it went very quickly.

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, showers, pool table, outdoor space, and transports you back to the 1960s. It’s effortlessly cool and serves fantastic Laurent Perrier champagne.

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Boarding with the dreaded SSSS:

We departed out of LHR Terminal 3, gate 19. You’ll get your docs checked again prior to the holding area for all passengers. Luckily, this time I didn’t get the the dreaded SSSS on my boarding pass. The past few times, out of London, I’ve been hit with it. 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 takes a few extra 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.

a stuffed animal in a chair

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.

an airplane with rows of seats

Seat: Zodiac Cirrus NG

In the past I’ve flown with my wife and sat in the middle seats.  Shown below are 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.

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.

My Seat

This is a reverse 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.

a seat and a table in a plane

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?

a seat in a plane

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.

a door of a vehicle

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 I’ve never been able to successfully link my phone to the IFE. I’ve flown this plane now over 5 times and it just doesn’t work. Otherwise, the seating controls are pretty self explanatory and the seat goes into a fully flat bed.

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. Everything is sustainable, meaning the amenity kit is biodegradeable, the pajamas are made from recycled materials, and I have to say, they were pretty comfy.

The Bed:

If you’re used to flying the old 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

a computer on a bed

These newer 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.

a bed in a plane

Food and Service.

Every single crew member that I interacted with made the experience just that…an experience. No one cared if I was filming, taking pictures, and really wanted me to enjoy the experience. The food was top notch as well.

 

The Lounge

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

a bowl of fruit on a table in a room with a television

Overall:

I had a great time flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A350, and it’s definitely Virgin’s second best upper class. The service is great, you get pajamas, the food is tasty, but the seat…is a bit of a let down.

If you’re looking for their best product, it’s on the A330neo and features a suite with doors and even a special, exclusive area called the Retreat Suites.

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.

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.

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 here:

a tv and a monitor in a seat

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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