Flight Check: Virgin Atlantic B787 Upper Class

Seattle-London Heathrow


BACKGROUND: Virgin Atlantic flies to nine destinations in the USA and it added a tenth, Seattle (Washington), this year.

CHECK-IN: Check-in desks at Tacoma International Airport are placed right at the building entrance, with clear signage indicating which airlines are where. The driver dropped us off right outside the Virgin check-in desk, which meant that even with two bags, a backpack and a handbag, I didn’t require a trolley for my luggage. I wanted to check my bags all the way through to Johannesburg, and getting this sorted took a bit of time. I headed to security with my hand luggage and was treated to the full US airport experience. The full-body scan threw out a warning and I was thoroughly searched by a security guard before being allowed to gather my belongings and head for the boarding gate at the South Satellite terminal, which is accessed by means of a short train ride.

LOUNGE & BOARDING: Virgin makes use of Delta Airlines’ lounges at the Tacoma airport – one in the main terminal and one at the South Satellite terminal. Unfortunately, after my delay at security, I didn’t really have time to enjoy the Delta SkyClub lounge, but here’s what ’s on offer: plenty of seating on two levels; airside views thanks to a two-storey high window wall; desks and plug points for laptop users; shower rooms; a spa; a buffet; and a bar. Boarding was an orderly affair with passengers called in sectors – passengers requiring assistance, families with small children, Upper Class and premium economy passengers, and then economy passengers.

THE SEAT: Upper Class seats are angled diagonally and give all passengers aisle access. Seats convert to fully flat beds and with a mattress pad, duvet and pillow, make for a great bed in the sky. Once flat, the pods, which allow for a lot of privacy, offer a generous amount of sleeping space. Unlike other airline beds, you don’t have to cram your feet into a covered foot well and the arm rests don’t cut into your space. The TV screen is installed in the front and pops out on a moveable arm to allow for straight-on viewing. The in-flight entertainment system – a touch-screen TV monitor and handheld console – is easy to use and the selection of movies, TV shows, music and games is extensive. The foot rest, that becomes part of the lie-flat bed, allows you to put your feet up even during take-off and landing, a feature I enjoyed. There are a number of storage spaces for things like your shoes and cell phone.

THE FLIGHT: Once I was seated, I was offered a sleep suit and lavender pillow spray for the overnight flight, then champagne and a newspaper. We pushed back on time and drinks and snacks were served shortly after take-off. The dinner service began with bread rolls after which came the most delicious beef fillet I can ever recall tasting, and not just on an aircraft; it was tender, moist and full of flavour and served with risotto, asparagus and a carrot puree. As the flight was full, the bathrooms were busy and I had to queue for my evening ablutions. The bar was also popular and I had to fight my way through a small crowd to reach the bathroom. My seat transformed into a bed with the push of a button and I was soon fast asleep, despite the revelry at the bar. I woke in time for a breakfast of oats, coffee and a croissant.

ARRIVAL: The plane touched down at Heathrow on time and Upper Class passengers were the first to disembark. I was held up at the very strict transit security (thanks to a pot of jam I purchased at Tacoma International without forethought), but was soon on my way to the Virgin Clubhouse to wait out the nine-hour layover.

VERDICT: A solid trans-Atlantic service with a great onboard product, especially in Upper Class. The Rituals products in the amenity kits were a real winner.

Kate Kennedy

W: virginatlantic.com