A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Photo: Colin Cook
On a recent trip to Europe, my girlfriend and I had the opportunity to fly in two different premium cabins to compare different products. The first story covered the British Airways First Class experience on a 747-400 from Seattle to London. This second part reviews the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product on a 787-9 from London back to Seattle.
The flight in BA First Class set an extremely high bar for any future flight to exceed. Simply put, it was the best flight I’ve ever experienced, both from a hard and soft product perspective. I was interested in comparing the premium cabin experiences on aircraft that are generations apart in technology. While the 747 will always be the Queen of the Skies and helped to open many international travel routes, the 787 is very much the future of air travel.
On the night prior to our flight, we discovered that Virgin Atlantic offers Upper Class passengers a premium car service from central London to Heathrow. Unfortunately, we were evidently not eligible for this perk, as we were traveling on an award ticket. We also discovered that when you are arriving by a car service (we took an Uber), there is a special airport entrance, the Upper Class Wing, for which you can register. Once I requested the Uber on the morning of our flight, I had our hotel call Virgin Atlantic to register the car’s license plate, which allowed us access to the private check-in area for Upper Class passengers. Now that’s classy.
Our United 787-9 being made ready for the inaugural long-haul LAX-SIN flight
Superlatives abounded on this, the inaugural non-stop flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. It’s billed as the third-longest direct flight in the world and the longest to originate from the United States.
There was even a ribbon-cutting ceremony – the presence of a trade delegation highlighted the fact that economic ties are strong between Singapore and the U.S.
The flight takes 17 hours, five minutes to cover the 8,772 miles between Los Angeles and Singapore. Favorable headwinds shaved an hour off our flight time, but, still. It’s an awfully long time to be in the air.
AF 787-9 Dreamliner – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
As far as airline journalism gigs go, I hoped that this would be a beauty. And it did not disappoint. I missed an opportunity to visit the Air France (AF) CDG hub experience in November 2015 due to a lost passport. However, AF gave me a second, even juicier, bite of the cerise with an invitation to try its business class product on board the airline’s recently arrived Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. We would fly out from London Heathrow (LHR) to Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) on 23 March 2017. You’d perhaps be forgiven for raising an eyebrow seeing a long-haul bird deployed for a painfully short 45-minute hop over La Manche.
It’s nice when the plane tells you the article’s title – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Roughly five years ago, ANA took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. More than that, it was the first 787 to enter commercial service.
Twenty million passengers, three hundred thousand flying hours, and one hundred twenty five thousand flights later, they are now at fifty. That calls for a party.
ANA’s newest 787-9 is also their 50th – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
ANA, took this event as an opportunity to reflect on their involvement with the 787 program.
Clearly, they love it. Though the initial order was for fifty, they now have a further 33 coming after this one. Compared to the 767, this aircraft saves them 98 million U.S. Dollars a year in fuel and 20% in maintenance. These figures are why ANA has been able to use the 787 to open markets that did not seem previously possible. Soon, they will fly to Phnom Penh Cambodia; but the big news is Mexico City.