Tried & Tested

Flight review: Virgin Atlantic B787-9 economy class

28 Jun 2017 by Michelle Harbi

BACKGROUND

Virgin Atlantic first introduced its B787-9 in 2014. The carrier operates up to five daily frequencies between London Heathrow and New York JFK, with the Dreamliner being used on selected flights.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 at 0645 for my 0905 departure on flight VS3, proceeding to Zone A. There were 12 economy class bag-drop desks open along with security check-in desks and self-service kiosks shared between Virgin and partner Delta Air Lines.

BOARDING

I went to Gate 22 at about 0815 – it was a five- to ten-minute walk from departures – and joined the queue for economy boarding, which took a while to clear. At the entry to the airbridge I was given a bottle of water.

THE SEAT

The 198 economy class seats on Virgin’s B787 are split across two cabins configured 3-3-3 (A-B-C, D-F-G, H-J-K). The front cabin (rows 45 to 52) sits behind premium economy, separated by a bulkhead and curtains, with the second, larger cabin (rows 53 to 68) divided from the front one by washrooms (see seatplan).

I was in the back cabin in seat 55C, which I had pre-selected the day before (you can choose your seat for free within 24 hours of departure; Flying Club members have longer depending on tier status). The Dreamliner’s larger windows, higher ceiling and deeper, curved overhead bins helped to create an airy feel, although the aisles seemed fairly narrow.

 

Virgin Atlantic B787-9 economy class cabin

The fabric-upholstered Recaro seat has a width of 18.9 inches, a six-inch recline and 31 inches of pitch (fine for me, at five-foot-three, although it looked tight for tall passengers). It was comfortable and had an adjustable leather headrest, a nine-inch IFE touchscreen, a table that folded in half, and a magazine pouch, which I couldn’t fit much into. There was also a coat hook, a USB port and in-seat power.

The entertainment system, called Vera, had a very good selection of about 80 movies along with plentiful TV, music and gaming options and a seat chat function. The aircraft was wifi enabled, with 40MB of data costing £4.99 or 150MB for £14.99. A blanket, pillow and headphones (not noise-cancelling) were provided.

WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE?

The front rows in each cabin (bulkhead row 45 and exit row 53) have the most legroom. Of these, row 45 is better as 53 is by the washrooms so you may be disturbed by people queuing. However, you cannot pre-select seats in row 45, or seats 53D-F-G as these are allocated to those travelling with children or with mobility issues. You can pre-select seats 53A-B-C and 53H-J-K for £50 each way (free for Flying Club gold members). Seats 47A-B-C and H-J-K are also extra-legroom seats offering three more inches of pitch (£40 each way).

The rear seats in the front cabin (51A-B-C and H-J-K; 52D-F-G) are also near the washrooms, while those at the back of the second cabin (67D-F-G and 68D-F-G) are closest to the galley.

THE FLIGHT

We pushed back late, at 0945, as a passenger had taken ill straight after boarding and had to be removed from the aircraft, along with her baggage – the captain kept us informed about the wait. We took off at 1005 and drinks and pretzels were served after about half an hour.

There were three options for lunch – chicken and sun-dried tomato penne, pulled pork and beans, and paneer and spinach curry. I was tied between the pasta and pork but in the end the decision was taken out of my hands, as they had run out of pork by the time they got to me, service having started from the back of the aircraft.

The pasta was very good for economy class – moist and flavoursome – while my companion had the curry and said it was one of the best dishes he’d been served in economy. It came with a salad, crackers and Boursin cheese, a Gu praline chocolate ganache, and a choice of drink, including mini bottles of Fachada Malbec and Charles Méras Chardonnay/Viognier. That was followed by tea or coffee and, later on, mini Fab ice lollies.

Virgin Atlantic economy class meal

One and a half hours before landing, afternoon tea was served, comprising a cheese and tomato chutney sandwich, Tyrrells crisps and a chocolate caramel biscuit.

ARRIVAL

We landed into JFK Terminal 4 behind schedule at 1210. Immigration and customs took about an hour and a half to clear, by which time our bags had been unloaded from the carousel and were waiting for us.

VERDICT

A good-quality, comfortable long-haul service with an impressive food and drink offering for economy class, and the extra benefits of flying on the Dreamliner.

PRICE

Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to New York in July ranged between £603 and £1,880 depending on flexibility.

DEPARTURE TIME 0905

JOURNEY TIME 7hrs 45mins

AIRCRAFT TYPE B787-9

CONFIGURATION 3-3-3

SEAT WIDTH 18.9 inches

SEAT PITCH 31 inches

SEAT RECLINE 6 inches

CONTACT virginatlantic.com

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