Flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class was an interesting experience for me. On the one hand, there are some glaring flaws to the hard product but at the same time there are some very solid aspects to the soft product. I left my flight somewhat conflicted about the Virgin Atlantic experience but you can see what it was like and be your own judge.
Here’s my full Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 787 review.
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Booking Upper Class with Delta SkyMiles
I used 85,000 Delta SkyMiles to book each one-way Virgin Atlantic ticket and paid only $5.60 in fees.
Right before I booked these, Delta was doing Delta things and devalued partner awards to the UK without notice so I had to come up with 30,000 total extra miles. 85,000 miles for a one-way to Europe is pretty ridiculous, but Delta miles are very easy to rack up and because the fees are so low, I don’t think this is a horrible redemption.
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LAX
Our flight VS 24 was delayed for a couple of hours after snowy weather in London caused many delays and cancellations.
So we had the privilege of spending extra time in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at LAX. We had a fantastic time in the lounge thanks to the staff and after a (long) line-up of great cocktails, we were ready to board our flight to LHR.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 787
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have a true first class but only an “Upper Class” which is essentially business class.
The Upper Class on the 787 consists of 31 flat bed seats that are arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration. The seats in Aisle A (port side of the plane) have their own aisle while aisles G and K share an aisle. This means seats in aisle A have more privacy and also less traffic to contend with so those are typically more highly desired seats.
Something else to note is that there are no lavatories in the front of the plane and there is a bar in the back of the Upper Class cabin. You can guess which end of the cabin stays less busy and more quiet.
I knew from photos that the Upper Class cabin might be cramped but I thought if I see it in person, it might not look so bad. Not the case. I immediately thought “this doesn’t look like a lot of fun” when I saw how close the seats were to each other. I could tell that this was going to be one of the most cramped business class flights I’d experienced.
Although the seats looked cramped, I did like the look of the cabin’s sleek interior with ambient mood lighting, wall decor, etc.
The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seat
The seat itself is 22 inches wide which is one inch shorter than Virgin Australia’s business class but on par with other business class seats I’ve flown on like Qatar’s A350. I actually thought the seat itself was pretty comfortable but due to the cramped feeling of the cabin/seat, it made the “riding experience” less comfy.
These Upper Class seats suffer from a number of shortcomings that I’ll try to explain with the aid of photos. Most of these relate to a lack of storage space but there are also some privacy and functionality issues.
No window views
The Dreamliner comes with large windows perfect for taking in the views but in the herringbone configuration they go to waste. You have to twist your neck around and contort your body just to look out the window. This gets uncomfortable very fast.
Having windows behind you also means that your space doesn’t feel as “open” (at least not to me). For people like me who love their window views and like to get photos, this is not an ideal configuration whatsoever.
Very poor storage space
I love business and first class seats that come with ample counter and/or storage space so I can store my valuables like my camera, passport, phone, etc. and easily retrieve them when needed. On this seat there’s no true counter space and virtually no reasonably accessible storage space, either.
There’s a small storage compartment built into the armrest but it’s very small.
There is also a small storage space behind the seat (where you’ll find a water bottle) but it’s hardly convenient to reach around to that spot and you’re not supposed to block the vents so that doesn’t leave you much room to store anything.
There is some storage space under the ottoman but there’s not a lot of space there and it’s very inconvenient to reach in there once you get comfortable. It’s also essentially unreachable when the tray or bed is out.
Then there’s a cocktail tray that’s honestly pretty far back and requires you to contort your body to reach it without risking a spill of your beverage. And it’s only a cocktail tray, so it doesn’t do you much good for most electronics or anything you want to store securely in a closed compartment.
If you’re feeling extra bold you can opt to use the small “shelf” created when the TV monitor is flipped out but that’s hardly ideal and almost begging to spill something.
The lack of counter/storage space (or just open space in general) made the seat feel more confining than it was at 22 inches of width. It also made it frustrating at times when trying to get comfortable with my belongings.
If you don’t usually require any storage space outside of a slot to put your passport/boarding pass this won’t bother you as much, but I think it’s something that has probably driven a lot of passengers crazy.
Privacy is lacking too since you’re just so close to your neighbor and looking toward other passengers (though it’d be much worse on the other aisles).
Brad was in front of me and the guy behind me went to bed straight away so it wasn’t a major issue to me but I much prefer reverse herringbone configurations where the seats are more spaced out and you’re not opened up to the entire cabin.
With your feet straight out, you also just feel exposed not to mention in close proximity to other feet. If someone had bad foot odor, you’d be at the mercy of the cabin’s ventilation.
The TV felt quite small, especially since we had just flown on Virgin Australia’s business class with 18″ screens. You can swing the TV closer to you but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still looking at what feels like an economy class monitor.
Pulling out the screen also causes issue since it could easily knock over whatever items are on your tray and can make it difficult to maneuver your knees when lying down or even sitting depending on how tall you are.
I did like that the headphone jack and USB port plug right into the monitor as that’s easy enough to spot and use but it comes with the minus of having to contend with cables hanging from your monitor unlike other seats where you can often just set them off to the side or keep them contained in a storage compartment.
This issue with the cords can get worse when utilizing the power outlet which sits somewhat hidden next to the literature rack. The in-flight controller is also right next to the power outlet, so it can get tricky with so many cords and cables in such a tight space.
Despite those issues, I did feel that the selection of movies and TV shows were great so at least you have plenty of options to choose from.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class amenity kit
Virgin Atlantic provides a nice amenity kit by Rituals with lip balm, eye mask, toothbrush/tooth paste, moisturizers, and a Virgin Atlantic pen.They also provide you with pajamas, which I thought were very comfortable. Just like Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic does not provide you with any slippers.
The headphones provided were also high quality.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 787 Dining
The dining experience helps make up for the lackluster comfort to a degree.
I liked the dining tray table display, including the little salt and pepper shakers.
I started dinner off with some crisps and fresh bread.
Then came out the parsnip and bramley apple soup. I chose with purely because it sounded interesting and was very happy with my selection. It was a unique combination of flavors but I thought that they complimented each other pretty well. I was very pleased.
Then came the main dish which was chicken breast linguine with chervil sauce. This was an amazing dish that was honestly a highlight of the flight. I rarely finish dishes on planes but I think I cleaned this one up (except for the veggies).
Then came dessert. I wasn’t crazy about the dessert options. Sticky toffee bread pudding or lemon pistachio cake just didn’t sound appealing but on the recommendation of the staff, I tried the sticky toffee bread pudding.
As someone who doesn’t care for toffee, this was still a very sweet and satisfying dessert. The fact that I don’t like toffee but still enjoyed it says a lot about the dish.
For breakfast I went with scrambled eggs, bacon, and pain au chocolat. For scrambled eggs on a plane, I thought these were pretty good but wasn’t crazy about the “bacon.” The pain au chocolat was nice and fresh as was the OJ.
Overall, the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class dining experience exceeded expectations and helped me feel just a little bit better about the confining business class seat I was riding in.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class menu
Here is the full Virgin Atlantic Upper Class 787 menu.
One area where Virgin Atlantic Upper Class did shine was the service department.
The staff was very attentive, friendly/funny, and thoughtful. For example, two people at the bar were being pretty loud and since I sat two rows from the bar, a flight attendant came by and told me that if those people were bothering me to just tell her and she’d take care of it. I thought that was pretty thoughtful.
At other times we just struck up good conversations — it was a great crew overall.
Although the seat feels way too cramped when sitting, I actually enjoyed the seat when the bed was prepared.
These seats are like Singapore Airlines in that the seat folds down to prepare the bed. For those who like to ease into their bed by reclining down into the lie-flat position, this presents an inconvenience. The crew was great about helping passengers with the bedding though so it’s only a short, temporary inconvenience.
They provide you with a mattress pad which isn’t very thick but does help with comfort.
With the seat folded down and the bed made, it felt much more spacious in the seat. I sleep on my stomach and actually got very comfortable in the bed and probably could have fallen asleep if I had really tried. In fact, I’d argue this was one of the most comfortable beds I’ve rested on in the sky.
However, if you’re a true side sleeper and like/need to sleep with your knees bent then this could be a struggle because you’ll likely end up hitting the sides of your seat.
The Virgin Atlantic 787 bar
Virgin Atlantic flights are equipped with bars that help keep the flight over the pond fun and interesting. But even their bars have some shortcomings.
For one, unlike other bars like Virgin Australia there’s no partition between the cabin and the bar. This allows the light and noise to travel to the cabin from the bar which I think could definitely cause some issues for some people.
As I mentioned, the flight attendant did check up on me regarding the noise so it seems the crew is trained to deal with those issues when they arise.
The bar on the 787 is quite small. Also, without the dividing partition, the bar kind of feels like it’s “just there.” With that said, I still think the bar is beautiful, especially when the proper mood lighting comes on.
There’s a large TV with the world map view on at all times and usually some snacks on the bar that you can freely take.
We spent some time hanging out at the bar and chatting it up with the crew and a couple of passengers and it was a good time but it was one of the least “ideal” bar experiences I’ve had on a flight due to the cabin layout.
Final word on the Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class
The soft product on this flight was on point. The dining was great, the service left me with no complaints, and even the little things like the amenities and pajamas were solid.
But the hard product on the Virgin Atlantic 787 is just not for me. The cabin and the seat feel too cramped and I found myself in need of more storage space throughout the flight.
The bar helped ease the pain of the cramped quarters to a degree but even it had its own shortcomings. I wouldn’t be miserable flying the Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class again but it would probably be one of my last choices.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.