Virgin Atlantic offers a solid onboard product. Their flight attendants are fun, food was excellent and there is something that makes the airline fun. They are funky and cool, and make British Airways look like the stuffy big brother, while they are the fun younger sister.
The Good: Great food, fun flight attendants and PJs in business class. Virgin Atlantic is one of the best options to cross the Atlantic with Delta SkyMiles (when you can find a reasonably priced mileage ticket).
The Bad: No wifi, and the onboard cell phone service did not work. Also, the bed isn’t too comfortable and is fairly narrow.
The Noteworthy: They have an actual bar on an A330. Usually, you will see this on A380s. It was never crowded and the bartender was very helpful.
For more airline reviews, see this link.
I did not book this itinerary with miles, mainly because the prices for mileage tickets were exorbitant. When I looked for the flight about 5 weeks out, they were about 120,000 miles for the one-way flight. I needed to leave that Friday, as I was constrained by events on both ends, so I decided to buy “out of pocket”. I used American Express Membership Rewards points for the (reasonably priced) $1,800 ticket. Since I was leaving San Juan, PR and prices to London on SkyTeam were quite low (between $1,700-2,000, one way), I took the splurge. I was able to get 50% of the points back, and accrue Delta SkyMiles for the flight. That means the flight cost me 90,000 total points, 30,000 less than if I had bought using Delta Miles.
ATL Lounge and Boarding:
I had spent the previous few hours at the Delta Terminal F SkyClub. It is one of the nicest airport lounges I had seen at the time. The outdoor patio is a wonderful addition that I wish more lounges throughout the world would embrace. About 30 minutes before the scheduled boarding time, I went to the gate. While there, I was called by the gate agent to make sure I had an onward connection (since my ticket was one way). I showed them my British Airways connection to Brussels, and they handed me a new boarding pass on Virgin Atlantic card stock. About 10 minutes later, they began queueing up for boarding.
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Cabin Class: Upper Class (Business Class)
Route: Atlanta to London (LHR)
On Time: No, delayed about 45 mins.
I was one of the first to board the plane. As soon as I boarded I was able to see the coolest aspect of any Virgin Atlantic aircraft: their onboard bar. I have to say that it is amazing that the airline has one on such a small aircraft. After I was done wow-ing over the bar, the purser pointed me to my seat, and I asked her if I could see the rest of the cabin. Economy seemed more comfortable than on most Delta airplanes. They were padded and had adjustable headrests at every seats. The seats also came with a small amenity kit, which I did not get to open, but certainly more than what Delta and US carriers offer in economy.
The airline’s premium economy seats were some of the most comfortable looking ones I have ever seen. They were well padded and had large IFE screens. They reminded me of larger, more comfortable seats than the ones British Airways has on their A380s.
Once I was done looking at the rest of the cabin, I came back to my seat. They are the same ones that Air New Zealand has on their aircraft. The seats are in a herringbone configuration, and have a small ottoman. I found the seats to be very exposed, and it was nearly impossible to see out of the window. I would not recommend flying this seats if you are an avid AVGeek, since you can’t see much during takeoff and landing.
Amenities and IFE
On my seat there was a TUMI amenity kit waiting for me, as well as a menu and a breakfast card. The amenity kit was fairly basic, but I liked that they had a monogrammed pen. Besides the amenity kit, the FAs came by offering people PJs. I asked for a large, and it was quite small. I am usually a medium-large on clothes, so I would recommend tall people to get the XL size. They don’t stock many of them, so I would ask early.
Next to my seat there was a pair of noise cancelling headphones. They were good, but not as nice as Bose headphones give out by other carriers. While I was taking photos of the amenities, the flight attendant that would be taking care of my aisle came by to introduce herself, and offered me a glass of OJ, water or champagne. I picked some orange juice because I am not a big fan of champagne, but it was Gardet Brut Premier Cru, for those who keep track.
The IFE screen was hinged to the side of the seat, as was the remote control. You could program the remote control to display the moving map and the main screen to watch movies. Resolution was good, but the size was leaning on the smaller side.
Delay and Take-off
About 10 minutes before our scheduled departure, the captain came on the PA to introduce himself and the FO. They were both from the UK, one was Welsh and the other English. He then announced that the flight would be delayed about 10 more minutes while they finished fueling up.
As soon as they were done filling up the aircraft, we pushed back. It had started to rain, but by the time we were waiting for the ground crew to give us the clear to taxi, it was pouring. I mean, it was one of the most intense rains I have ever seen. You couldn’t see the terminal because of the heavy rain. When lightning began to fall, they closed the tarmac, taxiways and runways. This gave us a solid 45 minutes of playing with the IFE. After about 20 minutes of waiting, the FAs came by with water or juice for all the passengers. Most airlines wouldn’t do this, as I have been on flights held for about an hour and nothing is given to even first class passengers. When the rain subsided a bit, they reopened the runway and we rushed to the runway. As soon as we lined up for take-off, the rain subsided to a drizzle, and we were off to London.
Dining and Service:
Where Virgin Atlantic shines is its food and service. I didn’t feel like drinking alcohol, but they had a drinks menu on the main menu.
As soon as the cabin crew was given the green light to being service, they headed to the cabin to take menu orders. They also came by and offered chips (crisps for my non-American readers) as a pre-meal snack.
They set the table, and it was a beautiful place setting. My favorite were there salt and pepper shakers. The two airplane siblings were so cute, and I seriously pondered taking them, but felt bad and resisted the temptation. After reading that ~everyone~ takes them, I regretted not adding them to my collection of memorabilia.
There were two appetizer options: soup or crab salad, alongside a small side salad. I ordered the soup. At this point I was so hungry, that I forgot to take a photo of the soup. It was good, not the best tomato or lentil soup I have ever had, but good enough to what you would expect by non-ME3 carrier standards.
For dinner, I ordered the Seared beef fillet. It was medium well, just how I like my beef. I normally don’t mind over cooked beef, but I understand that some readers like less cooked beef. If you want the beef redder, you can ask the FAs and they will do their best to have it made to your liking.
Here is where Virgin stands out. Their crews are so happy, cheerful, and proud of the service they offer. It is a stark contrast to the cold, robotic and sometimes rude crews I have found on BA Club World. My drinks were refilled often, food was presented with a smile, and every now and again, a joke would be told between crews and passengers.
After my main meal, I ordered the lemon pudding for dessert. It. Was. Amazing. Arguably one of the best lemon-flavored cakes I have had ever. After I was done, one of the crew asked me if I wanted a drink from the bar. They literally meant “do you want to go to the bar, and I will prepare a drink for you?” kind of thing. So I did.
The bar is small, but it’s hella swanky. When there, I was offered the fruit and cheese plate, which i only nibbled because I was already full. They also gave me wines to try. It reminded me of the Polaris wine tasting tray. Sadly, I did not like any of them (I normally don’t like wine).
Once I took the picture in the bar, which I have to say, is an awesome experience, I asked for my bed to be made. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t offer actual mattress pads, but they do offer turndown service and good bedding. The cabin was warm, however, so I didn’t use much of the blankets.
When I woke up, I went back to the bar to see if they had snacks. They had fruit and some crisps and candy. About 45 minutes later, they began prepping for breakfast.
Breakfast was honestly better than what I have had on BA First. They had fresh made espresso, good black tea, and a breakfast plate that was huge. I was so full after the meal, that I didn’t eat again until my late lunch in London, which was almost 9 hours later.
The food was good quality, and the sausage was flavorful. Soon we were ready to land. The crew came by with comment cards, and the purser asked each of us how our flight was.
We landed about 45 minutes after our scheduled landing time, because of the delay at Atlanta. We made it to the gate quickly after, though, and in a matter of 30 minutes after deplaning I was waiting on my ride to the hotel.
As of right now, Virgin Atlantic beat British Airways in every field. I don’t know how much this will change with the upcoming Club World improvements, but I will try those out soon and let you all know. I would fly Virgin Atlantic again in a heartbeat, I can’t find something more cool than a bar at 35,000 feet. Some people have argued they are necessary, but I find it adds a huge cool factor to VS flights.
Here is a list of all my flight reviews: The Millennial Traveler Flight Reviews
Here is a list of all my lounge reviews: The Millennial Traveler Lounge Reviews
If you want to stay up to date with the latest airline news follow me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn!
Also follow Travel Update and Boarding Area on Twitter!