Virgin Atlantic’s first B787-9 entered the fleet in 2014. The carrier flies up to five times a day between London Heathrow and New York JFK, using the Dreamliner on selected flights.
I arrived at JFK Terminal 4 at 1630 for my flight VS46 departing at 1900. Virgin’s check-in zone is located at row 3. There were two desks for premium economy customers and check-in was quick. Security took about 20 minutes to clear.
At 1820 I headed for Gate A5. A queue had already formed in the priority lane, which premium economy passengers could use. Boarding started about five minutes later and I was in my seat by 1835.
I was welcomed with a glass of prosecco or juice and offered a newspaper. A bottle of water and an amenity kit containing socks, an eye mask, earplugs, a pen, and toothbrush and paste were waiting at the seat, along with a blanket, pillow and headphones (the same non-noise-cancelling ones provided in economy).
Virgin’s B787 has 35 premium economy seats set across five rows (21-25), configured 2-3-2 (A-C, D-F-G, H-K). In front of the cabin are washrooms, a galley and the “Wander Wall”, which was stocked with some snacks for premium economy passengers to help themselves to later in the flight. A bulkhead and curtains separate the cabin from economy class at the rear (see seatplan). I was in the back row in aisle seat 25C.
The leather seat was comfortable and spacious, with noticeably more room than in economy (for a review of Virgin’s B787 economy class click here). It was 21 inches wide (compared with 18.9 inches in economy) with a pitch of 38 inches (31 in economy) and an eight-inch recline (six inches in economy).
It had an adjustable headrest, a pull-down footrest, and wider armrests than in economy. The middle armrest, which I shared with my neighbour, had a built-in space for a drink. The tray table came out of this armrest. The magazine rack was roomier than in economy, and the seatback IFE touchscreen was two inches larger, at 11 inches. A USB port and a handset with a screen were below this, the latter allowing you to watch the flight map at the same time as the entertainment.
The Vera IFE system had an excellent range of about 80 films, plenty of TV, music and gaming options, and a seat-chat function, which I tried out later in the flight – it was very easy to use. Wifi cost £4.99 for 40MB of data or £14.99 for 150MB. There was also in-seat power.
WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE?
It is free to pre-select your seat in premium economy from the time of booking. The front row (21) has more legroom, being behind the bulkhead, although you cannot pre-select a seat here as they are allocated to those travelling with children or with mobility issues. It is also closest to the washrooms and galley.
The back row (25) is nearest the bassinets in the front row of economy, although I wasn’t disturbed at all on this night flight. Otherwise, choose window or aisle depending on your preference, and avoid middle seats F.
We pushed back a few minutes behind schedule at 1905. There was a long taxi because of a queue of aircraft and we took off at 1940. A menu for dinner was brought around, and juice or water was offered half an hour into the flight, followed by refresher towels.
The meal was served at 2020. On the menu was a mixed salad with balsamic vinaigrette to start, and a choice of beef daube (tender beef in a rich sauce with egg noodles, tenderstem broccoli and carrots), chicken achiote (grilled Mexican-spice chicken with tomato rice) or vegetable moussaka (nice, if nothing special). A coconut and macadamia tart (tasty), a roll and butter, and cheese and cream crackers were also provided, all served together on a tray with proper cutlery, china, glasses and mini salt and pepper shakers.
Mini bottles of Fachada Malbec or Charles Méras Chardonnay/Viognier (the same as in economy and selected by London’s Berry Bros and Rudd) were on offer along with various spirits and Heineken or Tiger beer. Mini bottles of champagne could be purchased (£14 for one, £24 for two). Cognac, tea, coffee and hot chocolate were offered to finish, along with bottled water for the flight. Staff were lovely and eager to help.
The meal was cleared quickly to allow people to settle down to sleep. I reclined my seat, watched a film and rested, appreciating the extra room and comfort of the premium economy seat in comparison with my outbound flight in economy. The flight passed quickly and before long it was an hour and a half before landing, and time for breakfast. Fresh fruit, yoghurt, granola and a hot apple Danish were served with tea or coffee.
We landed at Heathrow T3 ahead of schedule at 0650, and were bussed to the terminal. Immigration was busy but well organised, my bag was quickly on the carousel and I was airside at 0730.
An excellent transatlantic service. The food and drink offering was decent but it’s the extra space and comfort provided by premium economy that really makes it worth investing in, especially on a night flight.
Internet rates for a return premium economy class flight from London to New York in July ranged between £1,161 and £2,555 depending on flexibility.
DEPARTURE TIME 1900
JOURNEY TIME 7hrs 20mins
AIRCRAFT TYPE B787-9
SEAT WIDTH 21 inches
SEAT PITCH 38 inches
SEAT RECLINE 8 inches