We like to think of ourselves as pretty humble travelers. We adore travel but try not to live the “influencer lifestyle”. We travel in a way we think most people can emulate. That is largely the point of our blog, hitting the road, trying things out and making mistakes so you don’t have to, showing you the best of what is out there, and trying to help save a little money on the way. Attainable rather than aspirational. But once in a while, we push the boat out a little. So when we got the chance to try-out Virgin’s Upper-Class service on its A350 Aircraft, we jumped at the chance and rejoiced a little, maybe a lot!
Naturally, we took the opportunity to bring you a detailed and honest review of what you can expect if you get the chance to check in to Virgin’s Upper-Class Deck. Our Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class Review We take a look at Virgin’s Upper-Class Wing at Heathrow, its amazing Clubhouse, and all the bells and whistles aboard virgin’s modern fleet of A350 Aircraft. It’s one incredible experience and we show you exactly what you can expect!
Is Virgin’s Upper-Class Service Worth it?
This is the most asked question about Virgin’s UpperCass product and obviously, it’s not a simple answer. It’s kind of the whole point of the Article. We are going to show you exactly what you get and then you can decide if this is worth whatever additional cost the upper-class upgrade is going to set you back.
It’s probably worth stating at this point though, that NO, it’s not worth it. You are on the same plane as those in Economy, and you are going to the same place at the same time. You get a lot of extras, perks, and upgraded service with Upper-Class but they are never going to mount up to cover the cost. It is not good value, it is not MEANT to be, this is a Luxury product, and it is designed to be indulgent.
There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s always nice to treat yourself if you have the financial means, but it’s worth noting this is a financial Splurge, not a wise investment.
It is also a highly variable cost, making the question of “is Upper-Class Worth it” highly dependent on what “IT” is. We have seen upgrade costs vary from £250-300 right up to £10k! For this, you get the exact same service and perks so it really is hard to address the question of worth. The best we can really do is show you exactly what you get when you get that coveted upgrade, highlight all the perks, and explain the product to you fully. Then you can judge if the upgrade cost you are facing is worth the splurge to YOU.
What Exactly is UpperClass?
Virgin Markets it’s UpperClass to sit somewhere between Business Class and First Class. It wants to offer a more luxurious experience than Business Class, but not quite push things as far as First Class. However, really, The UpperClass product is pretty much identical to most carriers’ Business Class offerings.
Really we can’t think of anything Vigin’s UpperClass offers that most Business class products do not offer too. Apart from the pretty Awesome Airport experience at Heathrow, it is essentially Business class, just marketed to be a bit less stuffy and serious.
This of course is no bad thing, Business Class is Awesome, and Viring prices its Upper-Class pretty much in line with what you would expect from a Business class product. It really is just a marketing Term for their Business Class product.
We really like the booking experience on the Virgin Atlantic Website. The options are always clearly displayed and you can mix and match your classes you can just select Upper Class for one leg of the journey which can save you a fortune, especially if one leg is particularly expensive.
However this particular flight we actually booked to fly in Premium. However, we made use of Virgin Atlantics Bidding System where you can bid on unsold Upperclass Seats and bag a nice upgrade for a much lower cost.
We used to do this ALL the time pre-pandemic but have found even this to be prohibitively expensive since the return to travel. However, for this flight, the bids offered were really low so we took a gamble and ended up being bumped up both ways, which leads us to the next question.
How Much Does Virgin Atlantics Upper-Class Cost?
Unfortunately, this question is essentially like asking, how long is a piece of string? Welcome to the strange and murky world of flight pricing. We really consider ourselves experts in this area but quite frankly we have no idea how Airline Algorithms come up with their pricing.
Upper-Class Virgin Atlantic flights can come in at anywhere from £1000 Return to £10,000+ and often there is no clear way to understand how these are calculated. It is a fine dance between seats sold, expected demand, and time until the flight. It is all very secretive and done in order to maximize profit on every flight. But it means you can never really know just how much an UpperClass fare is going to be.
For our recent flight used in this review, we used the Bidding system to secure our upgrades. The original flight was £911 return in Premium from London Heathrow to LAX. For the outbound flight, we offered £500 for the upgrade (The minimum bid was £450), and for the Return flight, we offered £430 (the Minimum was £400). Both these were accepted and we got out Upper-Class seats for £1,841 Return per Person.
This is still a HUGE cost but we probably slightly overpaid for Premium as Post-Pandemic Fares are still pretty high, but it’s far lower than it would have CST had we booked Upper-Class directly from the beginning.
- 2 pieces 16kg max hand luggage
- 2 x 32kg checked bag*
- Priority baggage delivery
Yep, you read that right, 2 x 32kg of luggage! That is a lot of luggage. In reality, we couldn’t imagine taking that much luggage with us, even our cases would probably buckle under that weight. But what it really means is can stop worrying about some arbitrary weight restriction. We have all been there, sweating in the queue for check-in in case your case tops the 23kg limit! At Heathrow, they didn’t even weigh our bags!
Your bags will also come out first upon arrival.
- Fully flat beds
- Extra large leather seat
- Select Upper-Class seat anytime
We will talk about the seat later on in the experience section, as this varies by aircraft. But what you definitely get is a personal pod-style seat with a fully lay-flat bed to help you get some proper shut-eye.
- Upper-Class check-in
- Fast-track security (Where Available)
- Priority boarding
- Exclusive access to Clubhouse (Where Available)
These vary by airport, but you will always get a dedicated check-in, be the first ones and off the plane, have access to any fast-track security when it’s available (LAX for instance has no such offering) and most Terminals Viring fly from will have a dedicated Upper-Class lounge you can access.
Airport Experience London Heathrow – Virgin Upper-Class Wing
Virgin has heavily moved its service back to operating out of London Heathrow. There are Skeleton flights operating out of Edinburgh and Belfast with some service from Manchester, but most of Virgin’s flights now depart from Heathrow. And with Virgins Upper Class you get one of the best Airport experiences out there.
Terminal 3 at Heathrow is not quite a dedicated terminal for the airline, but it’s not that far off really! And for Upper-Class Customers you actually get your own dedicated entrance. Access to the Upper-Class Wing is via a security gate where you will be quizzed about your upcoming flight via intercom, so make sure you have your details handy. You then arrive via a dedicated concourse.
The Concierge decent on you and escort your luggage inside where you are checked in at an exclusive Upper-Class desk. The experience is like arriving at a 5 Star hotel where everything is taken care of for you.
You are then treated to the very special perk of your own Dedicated Security line! We hate Airport security, it’s cramped, crowded, and stressful. Having orders barked at you by an overzealous Security official, never knowing if you are doing it right, and worrying over accidentally leaving some liquid in your bag and getting demeaned at the bag search. It’s just horrid.
With Upper-Class you get your own dedicated lane. Not a fast track, a totally dedicated lane. Just you, bags of time, and more sympathetic officers to guide you through the process. It’s is pretty wonderful!
From here it’s off to the Clubhouse.
Car Service – It is worth noting this entrance is only available to customers arriving by car service. This used to be included with the Upper-Class ticket, but the advent of Uber has rendered this obsolete, and Virgin has removed this service. We just used UberExec to whisk us to the Terminal (remember to specify the Upper-Class Wing). If arriving via other means (public transport etc..) you can still use the Upper-Class Wing, you just have to get an elevator up to is from the main entrance.
Airport Experience – Los Angeles
Heathrow is pretty special. But most Airports are not as dedicated as Heathrow Terminal 3 is to Virgin. At LAX we got a pretty basic experience. The dedicated Upper-Class check-in is just next to the regular desks as per usual, but there was essentially no queue, but then there wasn’t much in Economy either. And from there, there was no extra Security Queue we just had to muck in with the masses.
It’s pretty basic, but actually par for the course, the Heathrow experience really is something else!
Heathrow – Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is Virgin’s flagship Lounge and is exclusively for Virgin’s Upper-Class Customers, (along with Gold Members of the Flying Club and Delta One Customers) and is a really incredible and unique space. There are large open dining areas, comfy nooks, a Games area featuring a pool table, and an outdoor deck with views over the runways, there is even a Peleton Room where you can get in a workout before your flight. Tempting, but we just got stuck into the food and drink!
It is a really large lounge that has several sections and different areas all with a different Vibe and style. There is a Huge bar that offers free-flowing Champagne, excellent crafted cocktails, and a large range of wines, spirits, and Beers. You also have a Self Service food area that offers pastries, Charcuterie, and Deli-style food items.
On top of this is an AlaCarte Menu offering a range of great snacks from breakfast items such as Eggs Benedicts, Porridge, and Bacon Sandwiches. The Lunch and Dinner Menu offers items such as Chicken Burgers, Chicken Wings, Veggie Gyozos, and even a Salmon Poke Bowl. It is a really good dining offering that rivals any lounge we have had the luxury of visiting.
You can check our full review of the Clubhouse here
Other Virgin Clubhouses
- San Francisco
- New York
- Washington DC
If you are not flying from one of the Above Airports, Virgin will still offer some kind of lounge experience for you. We can’t have upper-class passengers slumming it with the Hoi Polloi, now can we? They have a range of Partner lounges you can access just by showing your Boarding Pass. To check which lounge you can access check the Virgin Site here.
Los Angeles – Star Alliance Lounge
The Clubhouse at LAX recently closed permanently so on the return flight, we got access to the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX. This is really nice lounge with a large outdoor deck area with warming fire pits and views over the flight operations. Food is pretty basic compared to Virgin’s clubhouses but we had an excellent Bar Tender who made some excellent cocktails during our stay.
Overall, Lounges in the States are not up to the Standard you find on our side of the pond, and the Star Alliance Lounge is about as good as they come. Expect the same level at most other US Airports that lack a Clubhouse.
From the Clubhouse you will have access to flight information and announcements so eventually you are going to have to put the Champagne down and head to the gate. Upper Class gets priority boarding so expect to just walk up to the gate and straight onto the plane. Where you will be able to pick up right where you left off in the clubhouse with a glass of Champagne while the rest of the passengers’ board.
Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class Cabin A350
There is something really special about taking that left turn once you board a plane. Trust us we have taken the right turn plenty of times, and will again, but when you take the left turn into Upper Class, it’s a very, very nice feeling.
The Cabin on the A350 is pretty large for an Upper-Class Cabin. There are 44 forward-facing seats, that sit 30° angle from the center line. Each seat is segregated into its own little POD. There are two toilets at the front and a Communal Lounge called The Loft at the rear.
The A350 uses mood lighting which douses the Cabin in various light shades depending on the time of day. We feel this can be a bit intrusive and when in full purple mode seems to sap all other color from the world.
The Various Pods are designed so that when seated you can’t see another person from where you are sitting unless you have a middle seat, where you can converse with the passenger next to you if you want to, or you can close the central shutter to get privacy in case they are a stranger and you wish to keep it that way. Really we suggest the window seats for solo travelers and the Central seats for couples and families.
Inside your pod, you have a large HD screen that swings out to face you when viewing. There is a small side table with a shelf and storage space. There is a retractable armrest on the other side and a fold-down table that extend right in front of you and offers a little storage behind.
It’s a really neat and pleasant place to be and has a lot of privacy. However, the star of the show is the Fully Lie-Flat bed. The Seat is fully adjustable and constructed from deep cushions and leather. The controls are all electric and allow you to recline back into whatever position is most comfortable for you with a large leather footrest just in front. Even on an 11-hour flight, there was no hint of discomfort.
Keep going with the controls and the whole seat reclines to the point it is no longer a seat but a fully flat bed. The Seat comes with an attachable bed cover and Duvet (along with Pyjamas on night flights) and allows for some real, proper, deep sleep. When the lights go down, we have to say there can be a real issue with snoring as the passengers fall into really deep slumbers.
The difference between this and even the relative comfort of Premium is night and day.
Lounge Area – The Loft
On top of the Passenger area, there is also the Communal Space, called the Loft. This is a small area of the cabin with some separate seating that can be used by any of the Upper-Class passengers at any time during the flight (assuming the Seatbelt Sign is off). It makes a real change to get up and actually go somewhere for a change of scene and maybe a drink. Especially in Upper-Class where the seclusion of your pod can get a bit lonely. If you are traveling with a group and are separated you can all meet up and grab a ding in the Loft Area.
It’s a really nice addition and something you need to check out on your flight. It is right next to the Mid Galley and you will often find the crew in this area happy for a chat if you are traveling alone.
The biggest let-down of the upper-class Cabin were the Toilets. Most upper/Business class cabin toilets are a touch above the basic Aeroplane facilities. However, these were basically the same as the main cabin loos. It doesn’t take a lot to spruce the facilities up a little. Some wooden trim. Maybe a Faux tiled splashback. Just something to let you know you are at the front of the plane.
We suppose it’s not a big thing but we just expected more!
Other Upper-Class Cabins
The Layouts on the other Aircraft all differ slightly. The 787 Dreamliner has 3 rows of individual pods that are a little smaller and there are no adjoining options, it does however have its own Upper-Class bar, which operates fairly similarly to the loft area. The A330-300 offers a similar experience to the 787.
The Brand-New A330 Neo, which is just coming into operation, has a really different layout again. And looks like it’s going to offer some really unique flight experiences and we are looking forward to trying that one out soon.
Essentially whatever Plane you are on, expect lots of privacy, maybe too much for couples, a fully lie-flat bed, and some of the best service in the skies, which moves us on nicely…
In-Flight-Entertainment – Vera
Vera is Virgin’s in-flight entertainment system and has been a little drab of late but is picking right back up now as we move away from the pandemic. There are now hundreds of Movies, TV-Shows and Music channels to choose from. The back catalog has nicely expanded and there are all the latest films available, of course, this is a bit dependent on what is being released in the cinema the months before, and why there was a bit of an issue during the pandemic as so few films were released.
We got a great bunch of really modern films that we didn’t get around to seeing at the cinema.
The Screens in the Upper-Class pods are really good. They are 18.5 inches, which does not sound a lot but the position of the screen means they are more than big enough. The touch screen is sure responsive and we had zero issues with reflections. Upper-Class comes with its own headphones that are much better than the basic offerings in Economy, but we still ensure we pack our own. The sound was really loud and boomy through our headphones and with the music channels on you could really block out any sound while you took a snooze.
There is an option of using your Mobile to control the screen, but on the whole, this was more trouble than it was worth with a fast responsive touch screen inches from your nose.
Wifi – For those wanting to get some work done then there are a variety of Wifi opinions on board, all are paid services with no Free Wifi, something that could be included in Upper-Class. The higher packages have a good amount of data, but the cheapest are good for little more than letting the world know you are in Upper-Class, something best done while you are still on the ground.
Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class Service and Experience
We love the Virgin Atlantic service, and in Upper-Class you are usually given the cream of the Virgin Flight Crew Crop. The overall service tends to be a little less formal than some business-class products with the crew providing a more friendly and personable service. This suits us perfectly as we are not really ones for stuffy formality.
The service you receive will alter slightly depending on what time you are flying. On the last flight we did we had a day flight and a night flight to give you a good idea of what to expect.
You will be given priority boarding and will be first on the plane, or if you rock up t the gate a bit late, you can bypass any queue with the priority lane. Once aboard you will be seated and given a little time to settle in and get used to your Pod. There is little storage room in the Pod and most loose items are required t go in the overhead, but fear not there is LOADS of room.
While you await the other passengers boarding, you will receive a welcome drink. This will be a choice of either Champagne, Juice, or sometimes a welcome cocktail. This is served in a real glass, like all drinks and meals you get proper tableware.
If the crew has time they will take your dinner order before take-off and your choice of in-cruise drink. If the Taxi time is quick they may need to do this in the air.
The Drinks menu offers a good selection of fine wines, craft beers, and Top Shelf spirits and mixers. There is also a Cocktail menu but we found these pretty basic. Mixology is clearly not one of the many strings to the Cabin Crew’s Bow.
Your main meal is served Al-A-Carte and is a 3 or 4-course menu served separately, not all on one tray as in Economy/Premium. There is a choice of 2 or 3 items for each course and always a Veggie option with more specific dietary requirements being pre-bookable.
We both had the Chicken Liver Pate, as the beetroot Salad option just wasn’t doing it. The serving was really hearty and the Pate had great flavor. We felt the Chicken and mushroom Pie option for the main was a little rustic for Upper-Class, but it was a really good pie. Light pastry and loads of good filling. The Salmon was really good with a really tangy Miso Glaze, but it was a pretty light option, the absolute opposite of the Pie.
Dessert was a choice between a deconstructed Blackforest Gautue that was really good and a so-so bread and butter pudding.
The food is not the finest meal we have eaten, but remember we are on a plane here, and compared to the slop served up in the back we might as well have been at a Michelin-star restaurant! There was even time for a little presentation and the food items were all cooled properly, most airline food is cooked to oblivion, dried up and mushy. This was all properly cooked and presented, no mean feat in an aircraft galley!
We also liked the contrast between fancy and hearty. We feel most people could have enjoyed something off this menu whereas if you go too fancy, it can alienate fussy eaters.
There was a slight confusion over the Cheeseboard. The menu suggests this is in addition to the dessert, but in reality, you need to order it instead. Although we were told if we wanted one as well we would probably be ok, however, we were too full.
After lunch, which was accompanied by two glasses of wine, the Crew leaves you to it for a while. If you did not partake in Lunch, you were welcome to order from the snack menu, but we just indulged in the IFE and let lunch digest for a while.
It is worth noting that, unlike Economy, there are no drinks services in Upper-Class. Instead, drinks are served on demand. Simply hit the call button or head to the galley and the crew will happily sort you out with whatever you desire. This is not like the lower classes where drinks are rationed, so don’t miss out by waiting to be asked.
With a couple of hours to go the crew came around to ask if there was anything else we needed. This is where the snack menu comes in and you can order from a selection of small snacks. You can also order Virgin’s famous Mile-High-Tea.
Portions of these are really small, the fish-finger sandwich little more than a bite, but they are very tasty and you can order multiple items. These items can be ordered at any time but it was nice of the crew to give us all a nudge to see if we wanted anything.
The flight really whizzes by in Upper, a short snooze was in order after a lot of day-drinking, and then before you know it the descent is upon you. On the ground, you are the first to disembark the plane and will be the first to immigration. This of course does not mean much if 3 planes have just landed in front of you and the immigration hall is packed like it was for us, but at least the entirety of the plane you were on is behind you.
There is no help or fast track through this part of the journey for Upper-Class customers. You are now on your own and at the whim of the Airport.
Coming back the service was similar but has a few differences due to the Time of day.
We were served Dinner instead of lunch but apart from the menu items, it was essentially the same. We had a fantastic Smoked Salmon Starter, A hearty Pork Sholder dish for me, and Kate had the three cheese Ravioli. Neither of us could resist the Chocolate Lava Cake.
Again the wine flowed for dinner and then the lights dimmed and we headed to the land of nod.
There is very little service during the night as most people are wanting to make the most of the Lie-Flat beds and get some shut-eye. On occasion, the crew will wander through for anyone awake with some jugs of water, and there is some drinks and snacks out in “the Loft” if you are up stretching your legs.
The cabin for this period is dark and quiet and sleep comes nice and easy. Especially when in your Virgin provided Sleep Suit and fully converted Lie Flat Bed. This is the number one reason to fly Upper-Class on night flights. We have spent countless nights in Economy suffering from a fitful, restless sleep that leaves us more tired than if we had just stayed awake! Not so in Upper-Class.
Here you can get some proper sleep and in most cases will actually need to be woken up by the Cabin Crew in order to have breakfast. However, it’s worth noting that nights on these flights are short and regardless of the lie-flat bed and improved sleep, you are still going to feel grotty at the other end. It’s not the same as a full night in a proper bed.
Essentially it helps, but it is not a complete solution to the Red-Eye sleep problem. We still would not recommend long drives or arduous activities immediately after the flight.
Around an hour and a half before landing the Cabin Crew will wake you for breakfast. You can use the Do No Disturb sign or just let your assigned crew member know that you do not wish to be woken if this is your preference, if you wake up anyway and want some food they are always willing to help.
Breakfast is again an a la carte menu of several different breakfast items. We were pretty groggy so just went with the bacon roll and some refreshing yogurt. Everything is small-portion which is useful as being presented with a large meal at this point in the flight would be very off-putting.
The roll was once, but really eating wasn’t high up on our agendas, but the yogurt was nice and soothing. As we were flying as a couple it was a bit disappointing how much of a difference there was between the breakfast meal timings. Kate had finished hers and was getting ready for landing while I had not even had an order taken. It was over an hour after the wake-up before I even got asked if I would like breakfast. That’s a long time to be sat, groggy, half asleep with the smells of bacon wafting through the air. It didn’t feel very Upper-Class!
Overall the breakfast would be very good, but after a long overnight flight, even with fancy lid-flat beds, breakfast is just pretty unappealing. That’s our body’s fault though not Virgins.
Again, you are first off the plane and this gives you a jump on immigration, but that is the only assistance you will get in getting through the airport.
So is flying Upper-Class with Virgin Atlantic Worth it?
As we said at the beginning, no. It is 100% an unnecessary luxury. But then you could argue most travel is a luxury rather than a necessity. However, while a flight is needed if you want to get from A-B you do not need to do it in such unadulterated luxury.
However, this may sound like s being negative about flying Upper-Class, and really this is not the case. While it’s not worth it as such it’s an incredible experience that everyone should experience once in their lives. If money is no object, then flying Upper is a No-Brainer, but we find our readers are more at the frugal end of travel and Upper-Class is a BIG outlay.
This money, upwards of £1000 per person, could easily be used elsewhere on your trip possibly more effectively! We honestly don’t think it’s a great use of the money simply to make your flight more comfortable, or if you are clocking up the individual items in order to make up the value. You can get 70% of the inflight benefits in Premium and while the Lounge access is wonderful, there are other, cheaper ways, to get into a lounge!
It really is not a good financial decision, but it is such an experience. We never regret it, the whole process from start to finish just transforms the act of travel. An 11-hour flight transforms from a torturous slog to a mind-blowing memorable experience that you will actually look forward to. You head to the airport with a spring in your step, rather than the trepidation of the ordeal coming up.
We even find ourselves looking forward to the return trip, sometimes wishing away precious vacation time in eagerness to enter that First-Class Bubble and start living like the VIPs we all deserve to be. In this context, it is SO worth it. It’s an outlay you can compartmentalize and pretend you never really spent £2k on a plane ticket and instead muddle it up with the rest of the trip.
If you have never experienced an Upper-Class flight (or business), it really is like nothing else. We have had VIP treatment in lots of places but nowhere do you feel more important and more special than in that front cabin as you soar across the Atlantic Ocean.
Compared to other Business Class and Upper-Class products we feel the Virgin Experience stacks up very well, especially if you are flying from Heathrow. The Upper-Class Wing and Clubhouse make the journey very special indeed. And while the food is a little rustic onboard compared to other carriers it really fits Virgin’s brand very well and feels right for the UK Flag Carrier.
Is Virgin Atlantic Upper-Class Worth it, NO…Should you do it anyway, Absolutely!
Lifes Short, Fly Upper-Class!