A couple of hits and a number of other misses: A assessment of Virgin Atlantic’s Premium on the A350 from New York to London

Flyers have loads of choices to hop throughout the Atlantic, particularly on the busy route between New York and London.

Personally, I’ve lengthy been a fan of Virgin Atlantic, with its cheeky, recent and enjoyable method to flying. I have been impressed each with Virgin Atlantic’s financial system and Higher Class (enterprise class) on its flagship Airbus A350 plane, so I used to be eager to attempt premium financial system, merely dubbed “Premium,” aboard the identical jet.

Virgin Premium was the very first airline expertise I reviewed for TPG roughly three-and-a-half years in the past on a a lot older plane. It was a positive, if unremarkable, flight. This time round, after flying the very luxurious British Airways First to the USA to movie an all-cabin video assessment with the U.Okay. crew, I made a decision on one thing a bit extra … economical for the return journey.

Here is how my Virgin Atlantic Premium expertise rated.


Virgin Atlantic at present flies from New York’s John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport (JFK) to its dwelling at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) 4 occasions day by day, rising to 5 day by day flights from Mar. 27, 2023 after which six flights day by day from Might 1, 2023 for the busy summer time journey interval. Virgin operates a mixture of plane on this vital route, with Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A330 and A350 plane getting used every day. For the latest seats on its latest plane, search for A350-operated flights.

Associated: Watch TPG UK assessment all 3 cabins on Virgin Atlantic’s brand-new Airbus A350

I’m a vocal supporter of jetlag-free daytime flights from New York to London in any cabin, so I instantly targeted on flight VS26. It’s flown by a mixture of plane, however fortuitously on my day of journey, an A350 was scheduled to function the service. The flight leaves New York at 8:15 a.m. day by day, touching down at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 8 p.m. The flight is blocked at six hours and 45 minutes, although it’s typically a lot faster than this, often at the least one hour shorter.

Money fares in Premium on Virgin Atlantic at present begin from $1,160 spherical journey, which is simply over twice the value of Virgin’s financial system fares on the identical dates. I have not discovered my premium financial system experiences prior to now to be twice pretty much as good as financial system however was prepared to offer Virgin an opportunity.

Award availability on this route is often good as there are a number of day by day frequencies. We booked this flight utilizing 27,500 Virgin Factors plus $350.30 in charges, taxes and gas surcharges for a one-way flight in Premium. The charges, taxes and surcharges had been paid with The Platinum Card® from American Categorical, which earns 5 Membership Rewards factors per greenback on purchases made straight with airways (on as much as $500,000 on these purchases per calendar yr), choosing up an extra 1,751 Membership Rewards, value $35 by TPG’s present valuation.

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With the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®, you possibly can earn 30,000 bonus factors (sufficient to e book this flight) after spending $1,000 or extra in purchases throughout the first 90 days of account opening. TPG’s valuations peg the worth of Virgin factors at 1.5 cents every, so this welcome provide is value $450. However, relying on how you employ your factors, you could possibly get much more than $450 in worth from them. The cardboard additionally earns 3 Virgin factors per greenback spent on Virgin Atlantic tickets and duty-free objects bought straight from Virgin Atlantic. This implies you may get a 4.5% return on these purchases primarily based on TPG’s valuations. You can too switch American Categorical Membership Rewards, Chase Final Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Capital One miles at a 1:1 ratio to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Membership program.

With my paid fare, I used to be in a position to choose my seat without cost and selected a window seat within the final row of the cabin, so I might each look out the window, and observe the service movement.

Associated: Sorry, aisle-seat followers: The window seat is one of the best within the air


Floor expertise

Virgin Atlantic departs from Terminal 4 at JFK Airport, together with its companions, Delta and KLM (Air France departs from Terminal 1).


Virgin had devoted check-in lanes for Premium visitors (which Financial system Delight, the most costly financial system class also can use). There was no anticipate check-in and I used to be helped instantly.

One of many many causes I like daytime flights from New York to London is as a result of the airport is often quiet, with few worldwide departures. That is why I virtually gasped after I noticed the large safety queue awaiting me in Terminal 4. The road was so lengthy, I could not even work out the place to affix it, so I requested a close-by safety employees member. She checked out my boarding cross and — in an surprising and nice shock — directed me to the precedence lane, explaining that Virgin Atlantic Premium passengers had been allowed to make use of it.

This was an important perk and made my safety wait time a lot shorter (I am sadly ineligible for TSA PreCheck or Clear with an Australian passport).


Lounge entry shouldn’t be offered for Premium passengers and I’ve no elite standing with Virgin Atlantic or its airline companions, as British Airways Govt Membership is my go-to program. Sadly, no Precedence Go lounges had been open previous to my 8:15 a.m. departure, both.

Associated: Select this, not that: JFK Precedence Go lounge version

As a substitute, I stretched my legs wandering via the trendy and pretty peaceable Terminal 4.

I arrived at my gate an hour earlier than departure. It was properly organized, with separate boarding lanes already in place and loads of seating for passengers.

The dawn offered a beautiful backdrop to the modern Airbus A350 plane with its signature curved wingtips, standing able to take me dwelling to London.


Boarding commenced 40 minutes earlier than departure with Higher Class visitors invited to board in addition to Flying Membership Gold elites, adopted by Premium and Flying Membership Silver members. My flight departed barely late however arrived early, as eastbound transatlantic flights typically do due to sturdy tailwinds.

Cabin and seat

Virgin Atlantic has 56 Premium seats on each layouts of its Airbus A350-1000 plane. They’re specified by a 2-4-2 configuration throughout seven rows. This was a really giant cabin for what is meant to be a extra unique product than common financial system, and it left me feeling like I used to be simply one other quantity at occasions.

Eight locations abreast in every row meant the Premium seats had been simply 18.5 inches broad, just one inch wider than Virgin Atlantic’s financial system seats, and narrower than these on low-cost airline Norse Atlantic, which operates the identical class of service on the identical route. This seat positively felt tight round my hips.


The opposite dimensions of the seat had been extra beneficiant, with 38 inches of legroom and seven inches of recline, each pretty normal for premium financial system. That meant I had no points when the passenger in entrance of me reclined their seat. The recline perform was operated by a single metallic lever on the aspect of the middle console. Sadly, Virgin opted to not set up leg rests on its A350 Premium seats, a shocking oversight and one which made this seat much less ergonomic than these in different airways’ premium financial system cabins.

There was a small footrest that could possibly be lowered so I might relaxation my ft on it. Aside from its tight width, the seat was snug. Nonetheless, my very own private challenge with premium financial system stays: You’re seated upright at some stage in your journey. As somebody who struggles to sleep sitting up, I do not fancy the considered flying this on an in a single day, long-haul journey to, say, South Africa.


The seat hadn’t been cleaned correctly, and I discovered crumbs on the leather-based upholstery, which is a matter I’ve discovered widespread throughout virtually each service I’ve flown this yr.


I actually appreciated the sturdy tray desk that folded out of the outer armrest. Whereas it was small and skinny, it was cleverly designed to relaxation with a rubber edge in opposition to the middle drinks console, which means it remained secure whereas getting used.


There was a literature pocket within the seatback in entrance of me in addition to a skinny open storage shelf beneath the inflight leisure display screen, which was helpful for storing a telephone or small pill. Within the middle armrest and drinks shelf was one other small storage space with a USB charger for small digital gadgets. Aside from that there was no storage across the seat.

I appreciated that every Premium passenger had their very own private common charging level within the middle console close to their ft.


Facilities and inflight leisure

Ready for me on my seat after I boarded was a pillow, blanket and amenity package. I additionally discovered a pair of headphones within the seatback literature pocket.


The pillow was skinny and its cowl was fairly scratchy. The blanket additionally appeared the identical because the one which was offered to financial system passengers, though this wasn’t such a giant deal on a comparatively quick daytime flight.

The headphones weren’t noise-canceling however had been nonetheless a particular step up from the pairs being handed out in financial system. They offered good sound high quality whereas nonetheless feeling snug to put on.


The fundamental amenity package contained an attention grabbing, Virgin-branded pink eye masks, earplugs, a sustainable pen and a toothbrush with a tiny tube of toothpaste. I am all for sustainability with these kits, however I used to be not a fan of the crumpled and battered “goodie bag” pouch the objects had been offered in, as it isn’t one thing I might ever use once more.

Associated: Delta overhauls the onboard expertise, goes all-in on sustainability


Arguably the spotlight of the flight was the terrific inflight leisure by way of the crisp and up-to-date 13.5-inch touchscreen that may be managed by my cell phone as soon as linked by way of Bluetooth. I counted 117 motion pictures and 81 TV reveals to select from, together with “High Gun Maverick,” “Incredible Beasts: The Secrets and techniques of Dumbledore” and “Sing 2.” There was additionally a wonderful interactive flight map accessible.

The display screen tilted barely up and down for simpler viewing by people of various heights, and it additionally had a USB charging level at its base.

Wi-Fi was accessible all through the flight, with pricing from 2.40 kilos ($2.60) for a messaging-only possibility as much as 16.80 kilos ($18) for the full-flight possibility. As soon as linked, I registered speeds of a suitable 11 Mbps obtain however no velocity to add something. Nonetheless, I managed to work productively for many of the journey to London, one other benefit of daytime flights.


Two toilets devoted to the Premium cabin had been situated on the entrance of the seating, simply behind the Higher Class social house. Sadly, they had been fairly cramped and there have been no particular facilities in contrast with financial system toilets. The bathrooms had been stored clear, nevertheless, and with a number of empty seats within the Premium cabin, there was not often a wait to make use of them.


Meals and beverage

Throughout boarding, the crew handed via the Premium cabin with trays of welcome drinks. With the solar barely up, I initially opted for an orange juice, however when the crew talked about Champagne was additionally on provide, it piqued my curiosity. A pet peeve of mine is when the crew describes prosecco or different glowing wine as Champagne. I had assumed solely French airways can be beneficiant sufficient to serve precise Champagne in premium financial system, so I politely requested to make clear if it was precise Champagne, or simply sparking wine.

The crew insisted it was the true deal, so I attempted a small glass and it did certainly style like actual Champagne. There was no bottle or label to be seen, however I assume it was Ayala Champagne, which has been Virgin’s home model for a number of years.

As a common premium financial system traveler, I remarked to the crew that Champagne was not often served in these cabins. A crew member responded with a smile and instructed me, “We do issues otherwise right here at Virgin Atlantic!”


Whereas the welcome drinks had been a pleasing shock, each meal companies weren’t.

Airways appear to insist on having just one full meal on flights between New York and London, with a second meal being a lighter “snack.” With an early morning departure and a night arrival at Heathrow, these two meals had been the one issues I ate all day. On this Virgin Atlantic flight, the primary meal was truly the lighter one and was served an hour after departure.

Menus had been handed out through the boarding course of and I might see there was a selection between a sausage, egg and cheese biscuit or a Belgian waffle with syrup. Each dishes had been listed as being served with a aspect of in a single day oats with mango and coconut.


Sadly, I quickly realized the fallacious objects had been loaded onto the plane and didn’t match the menu description in any respect. I used to be served a tiny, dry bacon roll with no butter, sauce or different condiments, and a small bowl of plain yogurt with some berries and kiwi on high. The meal was small and disappointing. I selected orange juice and low to go along with it — I did at the least recognize the sturdy mug the espresso was served in.


I used to be ravenous by the point the trolleys appeared once more within the cabin for the second meal service, about an hour earlier than touchdown. Thankfully, a full-size meal was accessible and the meals corresponded accurately to the menu.

The appetizer was a tomato, mozzarella and pesto salad and the dessert was a raspberry swirl cheesecake. There have been three selections for an entree — fajita hen, pink Thai curry, or vegetarian shepherd’s pie. I made a decision on the fajita.

The tray handed to me did not look interesting. For starters, it was offered the fallacious means round, with the dessert within the entrance moderately than the appetizer salad. The dish covers had been nonetheless on, and the cutlery was lodged inside two ingesting glasses, which had been laying down on their aspect. I did like the lovable little airplane-shaped salt and pepper shakers.


It will have taken the crew just a few seconds to tidy up the trays earlier than serving them, however as a substitute, passengers needed to do it themselves.

The mozzarella salad was tasty and recent, although the portion was a bit small given how gentle the primary meal was. The entree was the precise reverse, a dense, tacky, sloppy dish overflowing with rice. I completed it solely as a result of I like Mexican meals and was ravenous, however it wasn’t visually interesting and never one thing I might serve a visitor in my dwelling. I didn’t understand till I had completed the meal that there have been two small tortillas folded up within the foil lid to get pleasure from with the meal. One was gentle and fluffy whereas the opposite was overcooked and as onerous as a rock.

Whereas it was my fault for not realizing the place the tortillas had been held, I noticed a number of passengers round me making the identical mistake. It will have been nice if the crew members might have talked about how the meal must be eaten after they served it.


Whereas Emirates gives three several types of bread in its premium financial system, a budget, white, plastic-wrapped dinner roll served on Virgin Atlantic was indicative of the shortage of thought and funding the airline appears to be making in its Premium eating expertise. The cheesecake, which each appeared and tasted nice, was the spotlight of an in any other case mediocre meal.

I selected a Brewdog Misplaced lager with my meal. It was served at room temperature, and I needed to name the crew to ask for a cup of ice to attempt to cool it down.


The crew that labored the Premium cabin on my flight to London was pleasant and well-meaning, however not overly polished. I appreciated their excessive spirits for this early morning departure and so they made me really feel very welcome, however there have been service gaps throughout mealtimes. For instance, whereas the meals for the preliminary meal service did not match the menus the crew had handed out, they solely appeared to find this after passengers had completed consuming it — regardless of it being apparent the second I opened my meal.

In the course of the second meal service, the crew unintentionally served me a particular gluten-free meal that I had not ordered. Thankfully, I spotted this earlier than opening or touching something and I used to be in a position to give the meal again to a crew member so they might serve it to the passenger who truly ordered it.

The beer I had with dinner wasn’t chilly, and establishing the meal trays with a bit care earlier than serving them would have made a giant distinction within the expertise.


Backside line

General, Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A350 is a good plane to fly. All the pieces from nostril to tail feels recent, modern and new.

There was loads to love about this specific flight in Premium from New York to London, too — I particularly loved the big, crisp inflight leisure screens and the quite a few system charging choices. Quick-track safety and Champagne after boarding had been each nice surprises.

The meals, nevertheless, was a comedy of errors, together with the fallacious objects being loaded for the tiny first meal, the messy, upside-down tray for the second meal (with another person’s particular order initially served), the hidden tortillas and the nice and cozy beer. The cheesecake was the one factor I might ever look to order once more from the entire flight.

Taking all that into consideration, Virgin’s Premium is not a nasty product — only one on the identical plane as a really stable common financial system product however costing (at the least) twice the value.

This flight didn’t change my earlier ideas that premium financial system is at present overpriced throughout the business. As I wiggled round sitting upright on that slender seat, only one inch wider than financial system and with no leg relaxation — to not point out these out-of-whack meal companies — I could not assist pondering I would save the money or Virgin Factors and simply select financial system subsequent time.

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