This is a review of a return service from Cape Town to London in early February. As mentioned in the outbound review, Virgin Atlantic resumed the route in November 2022.
The daily service is currently operated by the B787-9 Dreamliner aircraft, configured with 31 seats in Upper Class, 35 in premium economy and 198 in economy. The service runs until March 25 and has already been confirmed to return next winter from October 29, 2023.
See a review of the outbound service here:
As I have provided details of the seat in the review above, this will be a shorter review describing the differences for the daytime service.
The flight (VS479) departs Cape Town at 1020 and arrives in London at 2015. The timings will differ slightly for next year’s schedule, departing Cape Town at 1035 and arriving in London at 2030.
British Airways is the only other airline to offer nonstop London-Cape Town flights. Virgin also operates a daily year-round service from Heathrow to Johannesburg.
We arrived as a group at Cape Town International at 0910 for the departure. There were no queues at check-in and we speedily checked in our clinking luggage – a result of the trip’s final day in the vineyards of Franschhoek.
Staff at the check-in desk were upbeat and friendly. As we were flying in Upper Class, we also had access to a priority security queue which was very quick. Despite arriving close to the take-off time, we still had ten minutes to spend in the terminal before the flight boarded.
We didn’t have time to use the lounge at the airport but Upper Class customers can use the Bidvest lounge, located just beyond passport control. The lounge is open daily from 0500-2300 and there is a maximum stay of three hours. According to Virgin’s website, amenities include refreshments, wifi and showers.
Boarding at 0945 was done by group number so Upper Class boarded first. While the flight was not at full capacity, the Upper Class cabin only had one empty seat.
Staff were welcoming and passengers were offered a cocktail, orange juice or water. I opted for a rehydrating water while other passengers requested Bloody Marys. The flight took off on time at 1020, and the whole process was very smooth.
The Upper Class cabin is located at the front of the aircraft, to the left as you board the plane. There are 31 Zodiac UC3 seats arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration (A-G-K) in a herringbone layout. For more details on the seat, see the outbound review.
For this flight, I had picked 7A as I wanted a bit more privacy so I could catch up on work. Aisle A was ideal for this service, though I was disappointed that I could not catch the last views of Cape Town as we soared into the sky as there are no windows in row 7.
Aside from this, there were not many differences with the seat compared to the outbound service. I am still of the opinion that seats midway down the cabin are the best, as they are quieter and close enough to facilities such as the bar and the toilets.
As the outbound flight was at the end of January, the IFE had been updated in February with new films including Amsterdam, Wakanda Forever, Ticket to Paradise, and The Menu.
Dinner was served soon after we took off, which I enjoyed over Everything Everywhere All At Once. I worked for the rest of the journey, though wifi was not working on this flight, and had a lie down to catch up on some sleep. The lights were dimmed after the dinner service, allowing people to get some rest.
Once again I was impressed with the cabin crew, who were just as friendly, humourous and hard-working as the outbound service, particularly the cabin manager Edwina.
Food and drink
Passengers were offered a drink and a pot of crisps after take-off, with lunch orders taken at 1120. The menu was different to the outbound service and included the option of two starters, three main courses and two desserts as well as a cheese course with Port.
My order was taken, and the table was set with a tablecloth, a plate with butter and the Virgin salt and pepper shakers. Passengers could choose from a selection of warm rolls, and the service began at 1150.
Chicken breast with a red pepper salsa, coriander asparagus spears and aubergine moutabel (a baba ganoush-style dip)
Pea and feta mousseline, pickled carrot ribbons, chives, cherry tomatoes and roasted red onion
Chermoula-basted chicken breast with honey-roasted pumpkin, green beans and yellow rice
Kingklip fish with white sweet potato mash, jalapeno gremolata, sautéed spinach, roasted pattypan squash and saffron tomato sauce
Mushroom tortellini with herb and tomato sauce, bocconcini mozzarella and pesto
Milk tart with cherry compote
Warm malva pudding with caramelised pecans and toffee sauce
The food was great, with a beautifully presented vegetarian starter, generous fish main and very sweet but ever-moreish malva pudding (a South African sponge cake).
Passengers could also order from a small plates menu up until 40 minutes before landing, with options including a South African cold cuts platter, lamb burger on ciabatta, crustless feta and spinach chilled quiche, and cream tea.
There are also an array of snacks (both sweet and savoury) in the galley throughout the flight, and the staff are on-hand to provide further beverages.
Passengers in Upper Class can recline the seat for take-off and landing, allowing for a very comfortable arrival in London. The flight landed 20 minutes early at 1940 and we disembarked quickly. There was a long queue at passport control, but thankfully we could use the e-gates so speeded through.
Unfortunately we had to wait for our luggage for a while, despite it having a priority sticker as we were in Upper Class. I had a slight worry that red wine spillages in our luggage might have delayed the process, but thankfully the cases (and our bottles) arrived intact at 2030.
This was another smooth flight with Virgin Atlantic, with the spacious and comfortable Upper Class cabin allowing me to catch up on work, get some rest and enjoy some good food over a movie before returning to reality.
11 hours 20 minutes
Lead-in return fares for an Upper Class London-Cape Town flight start from £3,885