Tried & Tested

Virgin Atlantic B787-9 Upper Class

29 Feb 2016 by Valerian Ho
Virgin Atlantic's A330 Upper Class Cabin

BACKGROUND

In July last year the airline replaced its A340-600 with a fresh new Dreamliner on the London–Hong Kong route.

CHECK-IN

Upper Class passengers in J, D, C and I classes are able to pre-book a complimentary chauffeur service – I was whisked from central London to the Upper Class Wing of Heathrow T3 (reserved solely for Virgin Upper Class passengers) in an hour.  The Drive-Thru check-in service (also available for Z and G classes, although this requires one’s own chauffeur arrangements or use of Flying Club Miles to book the chauffeur service, respectively) requires Advanced Passenger Information (APIS) when booking, and provides a seamless service whereby a member of staff greets you with a luggage tag and boarding pass. I was then directed straight to the fast-track private security channel, with no immigration check necessary.

THE LOUNGE

The Clubhouse is located in Zone H, five minutes’ walk from the private security channel. It’s a huge space incorporating a large common area called “The Lodge”, a cocktail bar, spa, sauna and more. I took advantage of the spacious individual shower rooms, then went to the bar and ordered the signature “Red Carpet” cocktail, which was pleasant and not too strong. The dining area was very busy and I struggled to find a free table; my coke and Clubhouse burger also took 30 minutes to arrive.

BOARDING

The boarding announcement for VS206 was made at 2130, and I proceeded to Gate 18. It proved to be quite a distance away, and I didn’t reach the gate until 2155. However, there were only a few people in the Upper Class line so I didn’t have to wait.

THE SEAT

My seat was 9A, a window location near the bar at the back of the Upper Class cabin. There was plenty of room for storage under the footrest, while a side pocket was suitable for small personal items. A small pop-out box on the armrest also proved a useful space to store my glasses when I went to bed. The table was a good size for laptop use, and this pops out automatically.

The touchscreen in-flight entertainment provides over 300 hours of films, TV shows and games, (a touchscreen remote is located on the divider), and there’s a USB port underneath the screen. The blanket and bed mat are tied and placed behind the seat, and the amenity kit is well stocked with eyeshades, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, pen, face-cleansing tissue and a mint.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

I would steer clear of seats 11A and 11K, which face the bar and might be noisy. The benefit of window seats is lessened because they are all angled towards the aisle – meaning you have to crane your neck to enjoy the view.

THE FLIGHT

Due to “technical difficulties” the flight did not take off until midnight, but thanks to welcome drinks that included orange juice and champagne, as well as dimmed lights, this was not as annoying as it might have been. Once airborne, drinks were served with crisps. Onboard wifi was available during the flight for £14.99 (US$22). It was fast and smooth and I browsed the internet without any trouble until the service was suspended over China.

For dinner my leek and potato soup starter was tasty but a little salty. Main course options were free-range roast chicken, pork or fish cake. The flavour of the chicken was good, but there wasn’t enough sauce, making it a bit dry. My warm brioche and butter pudding did not suffer from the same problem, however – it was excellent.

Soon after dinner the cabin lights were turned off, and a member of the cabin crew made my bed in just two minutes. I have very long legs, but I could still stretch out fully and found the bed very comfortable. I slept really well for around six hours.

I’d submitted a breakfast card to the cabin crew when I boarded, and enjoyed a traditional full English breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato and hash browns. It was hearty fare and very filling.

ARRIVAL

The pilot announced our descent at 1705, and the flight touched down in Hong Kong at 1740 – only ten minutes behind schedule even though we had left London 90 minutes late. At that time of day there were big queues, even for the Hong Kong resident e-channel fast lane. Non-residents should be prepared for a long wait to be processed.

VERDICT

An excellent service from the limousine and check-in to the Clubhouse facilities and whole flight experience. You won’t have any trouble getting a good night’s sleep and arriving well refreshed.

 

FACT FILE

  • DEPARTURE TIME 2230
  • JOURNEY TIME 12 hours
  • AIRCRAFT TYPE B787-9
  • CONFIGURATION 1-1-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 88cm/34.5in
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • BED LENGTH 203cm/80in
  • PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek return in Upper Class (J, D, C, I) in mid-April start from £7,869 (US$11,446), including taxes and surcharges.
  • CONTACT virgin-atlantic.com
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