Tried & Tested

Virgin Atlantic B787-9 Upper Class

27 Nov 2014 by GrahamSmith

BACKGROUND

Virgin Atlantic has ordered 16 B787-9s, the first of which was delivered on October 13.

The inaugural flight, reviewed here, was from London Gatwick to Atlanta, but the aircraft is now operating six times weekly on the Heathrow-Boston route. Further Dreamliners will be deployed on Heathrow services to Washington DC and New York Newark and JFK over the coming months.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Gatwick’s South Terminal at 1145 for my 1400 flight and proceeded to Virgin’s check-in area in Zone A to collect my boarding pass.

Premium security was reasonably quick and I was airside at 1200. Upper Class passengers can use the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

BOARDING

The flight was called at 1315. Passengers in business class were given priority. Once in my seat (6A), I was offered a glass of English Meonhill sparkling wine.

THE SEAT

Virgin’s Dreamliner is configured for 264 passengers, with 31 fully-flat business seats, 35 in premium economy and 198 in economy.

Upper Class, configured 1-1-1, occupies rows one to 11 (up to nine in the central set of seats) and is arranged in a herringbone formation, with every seat having direct aisle access.

The cabin looks contemporary and stylish, with mood lighting and electro-chromatic windows that turn dark blue at the touch of a button. The overhead bins were spacious.

Seats on the Dreamliner combine features from both the older and newer versions of Virgin’s existing Upper Class, with alterations to the layout, improved technology and minor aesthetic tweaks. The moulded shell surround is more like the earlier incarnation, with no see-through panelling.

The cutting-edge Panasonic Avionics in-flight entertainment (IFE) system comprises an 11-inch touchscreen monitor and a remote control that can also be used to watch films on – there is a selection of 60 movies and a seat chat function. A universal plug socket, USB port and noise-cancelling headphones are also provided. Wifi for the duration of the flight costs £15.

The newly designed bar has four fixed stools and a perch along the bulkhead beneath a 24-inch touchscreen monitor.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

I would avoid being too close to the bar (rows nine, ten and 11) or the galley (1A and K). The others are all great, but window seats A feel the most private.

THE FLIGHT

Take-off was at 1430 and hot towels were handed out once airborne. We were also given a sleep suit and basic amenity kit.

At 1500, drinks orders were taken and menus distributed. I chose the blue cheese and pear salad to start, followed by vegetarian paneer curry, both of which were delicious.

The menu also included dishes by TV chef Lorraine Pascale, who has created options for all cabins – in Upper Class, these included Thai beef salad with cashews and chilli dressing, and salmon fillet with lentils, chorizo and fresh asparagus.

Among the wines were A Fistful of Schist Chenin Blanc, 2013, South Africa, and Mayu Gran Reserva Carmenere, 2012, Chile. Snacks and afternoon tea were served later on.

ARRIVAL

We landed at 1800 local time and disembarked via an airbridge. Immigration and customs queues were long.

VERDICT

A superb addition to the Virgin Atlantic fleet. While no great innovations have been made to the Upper Class seat, I don’t think this is a negative.

I am pretty sure the mood lighting and increased humidity made me feel more relaxed and less dehydrated.

The bar was a highlight, and I was also impressed by the quality of the IFE, the food and the service.


FACT FILE

  • AIRCRAFT TYPE B787-9
  • CONFIGURATION 1-1-1
  • SEAT WIDTH 34.5in/87.6cm
  • BED LENGTH 80in/203.2cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • CONTACT virgin-atlantic.com

Jenny Southan
 
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