Flight Date – July 2022
Virgin’s new fleet of Airbus A350-1000 planes is now in the air and serving many of virgins’ top destinations, such as New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and the Caribean. It took us a bit f time to get aboard one of the new aircraft, mainly as the Pandemic largely grounded the Airline industry for two years. But finally, we got the chance to get into the air and try-out Virgin’s New Premium experience aboard its new High Tech Aircraft.
Virgin’s New Premium Service has taken over from the old Premium Economy, there is not a lot of difference in the product, in fact, the biggest change is the removal of the word Economy from the name. But with the new aircraft and the huge impact, the Covid Pandemic has had on the industry we felt it best to provide a full review of the service
Premium Service on other Aircraft
Virgin now operates a streamlined fleet of only 3 aircraft types (soon to be 4). Issues with the 787 Rolls Royce engines had meant that the airline was operating some leased A330-200 aircraft that we pretty awful and offered a substandard experience. However these have all now been withdrawn from service and you are guaranteed at least a 787 Dreamliner, an A330-300, or the new A350-1000. From September the again A330-300 will start to be replaced by the A330-Neo another high-tech ultra-modern aircraft that we can’t wait to get aboard!
For most people, the actual aircraft is not that important. They all fly around the same speed, have compatible cabins, and unless you actually check your booking carefully you may never know which plane you were actually on. But for Aviation Geeks like me, this is incredibly important!
However, there are subtle differences in how the different services are provided on different Airplanes and slight differences in the Cabins, seats, and Tech. So we have provided different reviews for other Premium Experiences from Virgin:
You may also want to compare the Economy experiences as well to see if paying less is the better option for you and your family.
Virgin Atlantic Economy Delight Review – Cut Down Premium (2022)
Is Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Worth The Upgrade?
We know this is the simple question everyone wants us to answer and we would love to give a simple yes or no, but it’s just not that simple. It is a very subjective question and even then it’s not as simple as being worth it for some and not for others as the Cost changes with every flight too. So if it’s a bargain at £150 per person, is it still good value at £300, £500, £750+
To answer the question we are going to take a full look at what you actually get for your money, What that is like in reality on a real flight, and what sort of value you really get so you can decide if the upgrade cost you are seeing is “worth it”
If you do want a really simple answer, we can look at the regret factor. We have never regretted booking premium, and when this question is asked on various question boards, forums, and groups we never hear people exclaiming how they regretted it and they wish they saved the money. There is always an overwhelming sense of YES it is worth it. And on the whole, we agree. BUT there is that variance of what IT actually is.
Again we explore this below in depth but in the hope of providing a quick answer, we think the cut-off is around £200 Per Person, Per Flight. Below that is good value, above and it’s getting into the “Better spent elsewhere” territory
Overall we LOVE the product and not flying premium is a bit of a drag. But Economy is survivable and when you are looking at £1200 per couple (£2800 for a family of 4) extra to sit in a bigger seat and get a nicer meal, it’s quite a stretch and that money could instead be spent on a phenomenal experience or two during your trip!
In A Nutshell
We never usually start with the Negative, we are just positive people, and focusing on the positives always feels right to us. But in this instance, the negatives are so few and far between highlighting that is really a positive!
So there is the obvious, the cost. No one wants to pay more, but if the service didn’t CST more everyone would do it right. So yes you need to pay for the upgrade, and that is always a downside.
Secondly, and really this is all we can come up with, once you experience the Premium Service, going back to Economy is a real drag. It really is such an improved experience it makes you wonder how you ever managed in cattle class before!
So really this is a theoretical drawback, but so many Premium customers are repeat customers who just can’t face sitting in the back anymore. If you have never been rich, it’s easier being poor, as they say! And remember with variable pricing, next time you could come to book premium, the price might be twice what you paid this time, and once you are hooked!
What is included in the Premium Price:
- Premium Check-in
- Seat Selection Included
- 2x23kg Baggage – Yes, you read that right 2 bags EACH
- Priority Boarding
- Welcome Drink
- Much Larger leather Chair in 2-4-2 config
- Premium Cabin
- Premium Cabin Crew
- Upgraded Meal with Real Plates and Cutlery
- Upgraded Wine Offering
- Wander Wall – Help yourself to Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks in-flight (advertised but unavailable on A350!)
- Priority Disembarking – Get to immigration and Luggage Carousels first!
- Extra Airmiles and Tier Points
The booking process for Virgin is really simple and once you have selected the dates and destinations the prices for every class are displayed clearly so you can choose your class with ease and compare pricing.
Whichever class you choose first the next screen still gives you all available options for the return flight also. So if the premium was too expensive for the outbound flight it might be more reasonable to book it just for the return leg? Or Vice Versa.
You can also book with points and this can be a great way to use up points if you have a big balance. Using your point to upgrade a flight from Economy to Premium is one of the best ways to use up points, but you will have to call the Virgin Call Centre for this as there is no option online, which is a shame as wait times are really long currently!
Premium Baggage Allowance
“It’s worth it just for the luggage Allowance!”
For some reason, we hear this all the time, and it’s just not true!
Yes, an extra bag each is a great perk, and can really alleviate some of those packing headaches BUT getting an extra bag alone does not make Premium worth £150-500 per flight! Why? Because if all you need is an extra bag, then you could just pay for one separately and for a lot less than a Premium Upgrade! How much less? Virgin Charge £65 for a second bag!
So while we love the fact you can pack a whole load more with an extra Bag*, it’s not worth it for that reason alone. However, there are a whole raft of reasons why it’s still worth it and the Extra bag is just PART of the whole package. Let’s look at this now.
*Honestly, due to the nature of our trips we rarely actually make use of the extra allowance, we usually have a few connecting flights involved as well as crazy road trips involved and w need to pack light for a host of reasons, so the extra bag only really works if you are doing a single destination.
Airport and Check-in
The first perk we get to use is the premium check-in. During this period in history, airports are coming in for a lot of flack and we hear every day of more and more travel Chaos so we were hopeful we were going to get good use of this perk. Arriving at Virgin’s Terminal 3 Check-in desk, we say there was just one couple in the Premium Check-in Queue, which was very nice indeed. However, there were only two people in the Economy Queue and they actually got to an agent before us.
However, we were checked in and on our way to security 5-10 mins after arriving at the airport, so really can’t complain. It is worth noting that this has not been our experience on other flights and the queues at check-in have been quite long, meaning the Premium queue would be quite an advantage. But in this case, we think we go lucky.
Unfortunately, Premium does not offer any shortcut on the Security line and this was pretty long. Still not as terrifying as some media outlets have been reporting. 40mins after entering the Airport we were headed for the lounge.
Note – On our return leg we were allowed to use the Priority queue at JFK but this is not stipulated and we are not sure if the staff at JFK got this wrong. The first member of staff was very confident we needed the Priority lane, but the next one who was checking tickets seemed a little less sure and just waved us through as it seemed like she couldn’t be bothered to argue. This got us through security in under 15mins, but again, things were pretty quiet and the regular line looked well under 30mins
The next perk we got to use would be Priority boarding. Again due to our plans we do not really get good use out of this. And overall do not really see an advantage. This isn’t a budget airline with passengers entering a Bun-fight for seats and overhead storage. Why exactly does anyone want to get into the seat they will be occupying for the next 6-12 hours earlier than they need too? Especially if you were enjoying free food and drink in a lounge, like we were. We had checked into the No1 Lounge for breakfast and pre-flight tipple and were in no hurry to board a plane even if we were to get preferential treatment.
When we did arrive at the gate there was still a large queue and being able to walk straight past this was pretty satisfying.
The next perk arrives shortly after boarding as the Cabin Crew brings around the Welcome Drink. It’s a small touch, but a nice glass of Bubble (juice and water are alternatives) just helps you settle in and gives that VIP feeling. In Economy, you are just left to fend for yourselves for quite a while until the first service begins.
Cabin and Seat
The Premium Cabin and Seat are where the value really starts being felt. The cabin has only 56 seats and is closed off from the rest of the plane giving you a far more exclusive feel. The Seats are configured in a 2-4-2 configuration meaning you are not likely to have a random seat-mate like the 3-3-3 economy configurations make likely.
The Seats are large and really comfy. The adjustable headrests on the A350 make travel pillows largely redundant and you really can sink in and relax in these seats. We are not tall people, but there were acres of extra leg space with over 7 inches, or 22% extra legroom over the economy seats. The seats are only 1 inch wider, but that ignores the extra wide arm rests that give a really nice and wide seat separation. you are in no way on top of each other like in economy, a really good advantage for solo travelers who don’t want to be within touching distance of an unknown seat-mate.
The Screens are the largest we have seen outside of Upper/Business Class and offered a fantastic viewing experience. Even with the full sun pouring through the window, you could still see the screen and the resolution is getting about as good as you want. We used to consider watching films on a plane to be a really poor viewing experience and would often have to re-watch films as we didn’t properly enjoy them on a flight. But with a screen this large and high-res it’s just as good as watching at home, only then you have to get your own drinks!
Connectivity wise there are a lot of power options. There is a USB Jack under the screen, next to the regular headphone JAck for the Audio, so Mobile charging is a Breeze. Below this, there are two multi-socket plugs that take any plug form, EU, US, or UK 3-pin. There really is no excuse for letting any battery run flat!
Wifi is available from £2.99 for the minimum package but we are happy logging off for a while and enjoying our time away from the internet.
Overall the Cabin alone is the primary reason we book Premium. The little touches help, but the exclusivity, extra space, and super comfy set are what really make it worthwhile.
Virgin’s IFE took a dip during covid and on our first flight back we found there to be very little to watch. This has picked back up now and we left the flight with several films we wanted to see but didn’t have time. The back catalog has also picked right back up and there are hours of content for all tastes.
There is no real difference between the Economy and Premium IFE system though, apart from added connectivity.
Virgin’s service is always outstanding and really Premium is no better or worse than Economy, the difference is really that there are a similar number of cabin crew to look after a much smaller number of passengers so you get a lot faster and more personal service. With such a small number of guests covering each service takes only a few minutes and any time you need to call a crew member they will respond practically instantly.
We love the feel of having your own attentive crew and find in economy you really are lost in a crowd of faces and can wait quite a while for the trolleys and cabin crew to get to you.
Food and Drink
The food and drink service is also another level above the regular economy option. Food comes on a plate and has real cutlery, not plastic knives and forks. Drinks are served in proper glassware and you even get cute little salt and pepper shakers. Overall it’s just a more refined and elegant option.
Food, on the whole, is also much improved. For the main meal, you get a starter, a choice of main course served with a bread roll and nice individual pudding. Accompanied by your choice of Wine.
We were served an Arabian Mezze for the starter that was really tasty and refreshing, the main was a choice of Salmon, Chicken Lasagne, or a Pannerr and Swee potato curry as the Veggie Option. I opted for Lasagne and Kate had the Salmon.
I really enjoyed the lasagne which has plenty of flavor and was not the regular mush you get for aircraft food usually. The Salmon was a good size but came with an alarming number of peas and very few potatoes.
Dessert was a Mango and Passionfruit Delice, which is kind of a soft moist sponge topped with mousse. Nice but really small and gone on a mouthful or two. The meal was served with a choice of wine, although this was provided in cans, not our first choice but seems to be the preferred choice of Virgin at the minute.
As the flight drew to a close Afternoon, or Mile-High Tea was served. This was again served on real plates with real cutlery and was a huge upgrade from the economy teas served. The sone was soft and warm and served with real clotted cream and Jam. The sandwiches were proper finger sandwiches, finished off with some excellent petit-fours.
Drinks were a little sparse, to be honest. We got the Welcome Bubbly, our first drinks service, wine with lunch, then tea and coffee (where you can choose alcohol if you ask). Finally, we got a choice of tea or coffee with the mile high-tea, but we would have been able to get Alcohol then too.
We probably would have liked an extra drinks service, but it was a fairly short flight and we could have always asked for another drink had we really needed one.
The Wander Wall is advertised on the A350 but it really isn’t a feature of this aircraft. There is a selection of cold drinks and snacks out in the gallery in a bowl to help yourself to but this is not quite the same as the wall of snacks on the 787 Dreamliner. The Crew did pass through the Cabin offering these too and we got an ice lolly at one point as well.
Apart from the slight lack of drinks, we were really happy with the service. There was always something going on and we almost constantly had something to eat or drink for most parts of the flight.
After Dinner Liqueur – Pre Covid we were always served an After Dinner drink, an Irish Cream Liqueur or Cognac. But this seems to have been a Covid casualty and was no longer offered
With our comfy chairs and exclusive cabin, the flight whizzed by and before we knew it we were coming into JFK. After a great landing and a long staggered taxi, we arrived at the gate.
Here the final perk is utilized. The Premium Cabin is second to disembark right after Upper class. This gets you a jump on immigration and premium staged bags are some of the first to hit the conveyor. We were through immigration, with luggage picked up and out hunting for an Uber in under 45 mins, and were off towards the Hotel in record time, actually arriving well before our check-in time!
On the return leg of this flight, we were actually booked onto the 787-Dreamliner, but the service very much reflected this. The 787 Cabin is even smaller and it has the Wander wall.
However, being an overnight flight the service is different. It starts off pretty much the same but after the Tea and Coffee service, the Cabin crew dims the lights and leaves you alone. They are still around and you can call them with the seat button, or head up to the galley and grab drinks and snacks, plus they usually make stealthy passes of the cabin with juice. The overall aim is to be as quiet and hands-off as possible to let you sleep.
A350 Head Rests – the new adjustable headrests on the A350 are pretty magical. They are height adjustable but also wrap around and can be positioned to be really supportive. When fitted to the large comfy Premium seats, they offer one of the best sleeps we have had on a plane outside of upper/business class! We are not big recliners as we are very conscious of the people behind us and how much of their precious space we are robbing. But during the sleep portion of a flight it’s fairly acceptable, and with the seat reclined it was possible to get some pretty good sleep.
Unfortunately, we had super strong tailwinds and were making record time across the Atlantic. After drinks, the main meal, and watching a film, we were only left with a slim two-hour window before the lights came back on!
The Big difference in service is when the lights come back on and the sun starts rising above the clouds. instead of afternoon tea, breakfast is served. For us, this is a case of still feeling pretty grim after a couple of hours of uncomfy disturbed sleep and not really wanting any food. But we also feel it wise to force some down to help kickstart the metabolism and get us going for the grueling passage through Heathrow!
As such it helps that the food is palatable and we have struggled with some offerings in the past. The breakfast on this flight was excellent, however. There was a choice of Bacon Roll or Waffle and Syrup. We both had the bacon roll but the Waffle looked pretty good if you could stomach such sweetness.
The bacon was unfortunate American style streaky, as we had hoped for a return to English Back Bacon, but it was warm and light and went down well enough. There was also a serving of Coconut Rice with fresh fruit and this really hit the spot. It was light but cooling and really helped bring us around. Naturally, this was all washed down with not one, but two real mugs of tea!
Being Premium gets us first off the plane again, however, this is of little value at the minute at Heathrow as several planes had just landed in front of us and there were queues, for queues for queues, for the queue for immigration. Snaking right out of the immigration hall and down several corridors leading up to it!
It really is Chaos at Heathrow (And most other UK airports) at the minute and it really makes us ashamed to be British, and just waiting for our next chance to get back on a plane out of here!
So is Virgins Premium Service Worth it – Costs
So that is what you can expect in real terms when flying Premium. It is a far nice experience where you feel like you are treated like a valued customer and not just faceless cattle. The seats and cabin are far more present and the food is a good few notches above the tasteless ready meals plonked in front of you in economy.
But at the end of the day, the flight is just one part of the trip, and the big calculation is what could you use the money for elsewhere in the trip, and is largely down to how much you value that vs the style, comfort and sophistication of the Flight upgrade.
It is also largely down to the price of “IT”
How much Virgin charges for the upgrade is hugely variable. It all depends on a number of factors such as the length of the flight, the cost of Economy, The number of available seats left, time of the year, forecasted sales, offers and promotions, and a whole load more. It’s impossible to predict.
£150 and below per flight – At this price, it is a bargain. We would pay this price all day on any flight as the level of service and comfort you get is worth this cost any day. It rarely gets this low, and even rarer to see it lower, but if you do snap it up, it won’t be around forever.
£200 per flight – around the £200 price point it’s a bit more of a dilemma. This is £800 for a couple, return, and that’s a lot of money for other things. For short flights, we are reaching our limit, but for longer haul, this is still GREAT value.
£250 per Flight – is starting to get to the upper end of what we would pay, even for longer haul. £1000 for a couple will get you a lot of great meals and things to do at the other end and it starts to make less ad less sense to spend it just avoiding a bit of cramping.
£300 and up per flight – Above £300 per flight is where we start calling it expensive. It is regularly in this price bracket and well above, we have seen £800+ per flight quite often when demand is really high. Overall while it is still tempting, we can just normally think of better ways to utilize that sort of money.
Exceptions to this can be when you are flying for a special occasion and really want the trip to be memorable, or when you have to fly on specific dates and prices are already high, the extra bump to Premium can make the pill easier to swallow!
It is also unlikely to be the same price for both legs of your journey. And it is definitely worth considering booking just one leg in Premium. If one leg is at the upper end but the other is nice and cheap, you still get all the benefits on the one leg you upgrade. This is great for getting the trip off to a flying start or if you want a more relaxing return home.
Remember – if you only upgrade on one leg, you will only get the upgraded second bag on that leg, so you will need to purchase a second bag for £65 for the other leg, or just take one bag each.
Finally, if you are not sure, then you can always book regular economy and upgrade to premium later on. Prices can change but they are likely to go both up and down, and nearer the time may appear for a bargain price if the cabin is undersold.
Virgin’s premium really is a great product but it is not always a cheap one. when the price is right this is a fantastic opinion and we always take it. For that really special trip, it’s worth the splurge and for regular flyers, it really helps take the sting out of flying, especially when the price is right.
We never regret upgrading, and as we said rarely ever hear of anyone doing the same. While it’s not upper class, or business, it’s still a heck of a fancy way to fly! We already have our next Virgin flight booked and it’s in premium!
Have Your Say
Have you recently taken a flight in Virgin’s upper class on the A350? let us know your thoughts and opinions on the service. How was the food? were drinks free flowing? did the priority boarding and check-in help? How did you fins the seat and cabin? Anything you have to add just ire away in the comments.
And any questions as to what to expect on your upcoming Premium Flight just fire away in the comments