Trip Report – Virgin Atlantic Upper Class w/ DL SkyMiles Newark (EWR) – London Heathrow (LHR)

This is part two of a fourteen part trip report from my travels to the UK, Malta, and Mallorca. This trip reports includes my first ever Upper Class Virgin Atlantic flight. I had flown Virgin Atlantic previously to London (my first international trip outside of North America) back in 2003 when they were running a buy-one-get-one free promotion for economy seats in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

When I saw the chance to book a Virgin Upper Class ticket with SkyMiles, I jumped on it, even if it meant having to leave very early morning from Newark. One benefit of a 745am flight from EWR, total travel time from the east side of Manhattan was only 21 minutes! I then headed directly to the Virgin Clubhouse.

VA BP

Now, unfortunately the early morning Newark flight is operated with an A340, not the A330s which have the new Upper Class Suites and operate on select JFK, Boston, and Washington flights.

Overall, I liked the A340 flight, but it wasn’t amazing. I found the seating configuration to be somewhat uncomfortable and a little strange. Your seat seems to be more diagonal than other airlines with a similar configuration. The seat faces far out into the aisle, with minimal personal space…

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You can see in the picture above and below, I felt like I was literally on top of this fellow passenger…though I guess it was better than having a row with two seats and being right next to someone when traveling alone.

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The seat itself was comfortable, though it felt cramped. There was only one small pocket to place my Nook and other belongings that I wanted out with me. Additionally, you can’t get to them when the seat is in the lie-flat position or when the tray table is open.

The seat turns into a fully flat bed and that was nice! The flight attendants were happy to set up your bed for you and made several rounds asking if you were ready for some sleep. The duvet and pillows are stored behind the seat for ease. No PJs…

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On the early morning flight, the bar located at the back of Upper Class was stocked but was not in use. The flight attendants seemed to utilize it to prep for meal service and there were snacks stored their throughout the flight.

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A few other surprises:

No standard power outlets in business, instead you have to ask for a special DC adapter and are warned to watch out for overheating. Luckily I asked early as there were only 10 adapters for all of Upper Class.

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A pretty sad amenity kit, I’d say all the legacy US carriers provide nicer ones:

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The leather seats were in need of a cleaning and had pen marks and other stains all over several of them…

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Let’s talk about the positives now.

The IFE (Vera) is not the newest Virgin-Atlantic system found on the A330s, but the selection was pretty extensive and it worked perfectly. Even better, you are allowed to begin watching prior to take-off and all the way until you arrive at the gate (as long as you are only using the provided headphones). The headphones are the same as the Delta ones, large enough to block out most noise, but not true noise canceling.

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OK, some of the good things…

Service was excellent – friendly, efficient, and timely (flight attendants could be found circling the cabin at all times).

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All wines were brought around the cabin every few minutes during meal service (including breakfast)…

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Food was tasty and nicely presented, though the morning flight is limited to a small breakfast followed later by dinner. Watch out, the “special breakfast deli option” is simply a granola bar! When I ordered it, the flight attendant sheepishly told me to order something in addition as the deli special that day was only a blueberry granola bar.

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Decent magazine selection for those not into movies or their own entertainment:

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Key benefit – Fast Track access at Heathrow. Our line was not quick by any means given that it was a Sunday evening (45 minutes), but the regular line looked even longer.

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Great views of London upon landing…

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Overall the flight was nice and Upper Class service was excellent and a great SkyMiles redemption. However, I’ll continue searching (probably fruitlessly) for A330-300 Upper Class Suite availability using some more of my SkyMiles. That said, my favorite flight to Europe this summer is still my Austrian Airlines new business experience from June.

Have you redeemed your SkyMiles on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class yet? What did you think?

Interested in using your miles for a flight but can’t find availability? Consider using Juicy Miles for award booking assistance!

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Comments

  1. Did the SFO-LHR on the 747 (upper cabin).

    Food & wine: probably Business Elite is better. Had dinner and breakfast.
    Seat: on a par with BE lie-flat. Perhaps I like BE a little better.
    Bar is cool, but they were out of single-malt
    Amenity kit: same content, but DL has a far better bag
    PJ is comfy enough. I was happy to take it with me for future use.
    IFE: beats standard DL’s, but I saw the new IFE on the 737-900 and that looks better.

    Clubhouse: OMG! I that was only SFO. I can only imagine what the LHR one could be. Puts present skyclubs to shame and it is far better than the old BE Lounges.

  2. I’m a little late to the party. I personally LOVE the A340 compared to the A330. The A330 suite is SO cramped and is very narrow in comparison to the one you travelled on. They reverted back to the old suite for their new 787s. Although I agree the amenity kit is a bit lame, pretty similar to the economy one.

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