Last month we were on Virgin Atlantic’s first flight using jet fuel made from recycled pollution. The service was operated by one of the older planes in Virgin’s fleet, the classic 747-400. It’s always a blast to fly with the Queen of the Skies, but on the return journey we were looking forward to flying with her younger sibling the 787-9 Dreamliner.
While onboard, we got to review the newest version of the airline’s premium economy product: Virgin Premium. True to form for Virgin, the cabin experience oozed style, with sleek yet comfortable seats, great inflight entertainment, and food that could’ve been mistaken for what you’d get in business class. Of course there were parts of the experience that reminded us that we weren’t actually flying in Virgin’s “Upper Class.” But all in all, we found Virgin Premium to be a strong product that’s is well worth it when crossing the Atlantic.
Read on for plenty of photos and details from our premium economy flight with Virgin Atlantic.
My British Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in London – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
International first class is something special. It’s something that very few people will ever be able to pay for, but for those putting down the cash, they expect an experience beyond anything else available.
British Airways skipped a first class option on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner deliveries, but with the 787-9, it decided to give their well-liked first product a bit of a refresh. The global first class market is quite competitive. Many airlines have totally given up on it, while others keep trying to offer the biggest, best, and most expensive options. In a world of apartment-like products, showers, bars, and full private suites, I wondered how British Airways now stacks up. The end result is one of the nicest seats that I have ever had the pleasure of flying in.
The British Airways first class product on their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – Photo: British Airways
My experience began at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) with a visit to the Concorde Room. British Airways has multiple lounges at Heathrow, but the Concorde Room is something more exclusive. It is reserved only for passengers flying intercontinental first class on the airline, and affords passengers extra niceties and amenities. One of the most interesting perks is what it calls a Cabana. The Cabanas are little private rooms within the lounge, where passengers can shower, take a nap, or simply watch television. While airports can be super stressful, this was the exact opposite. We were already off to a great first class start!
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZF – Photo: Kris Hull
Air New Zealand on Thursday announced a North American expansion, adding Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport as their fourth U.S. destination. Air New Zealand currently serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, in addition to Vancouver, Canada to the north.
BONUS: Flying Like a Boss in Air New Zealand’s Business Premier Seat
Service to Auckland was long-sought by Houston; Continental Airlines (prior to their merger with United) had announced service in 2010, only to cancel the service in 2012 prior to introduction. That said, the route likely makes good sense for Air New Zealand, given their status as a member of the Star Alliance. United’s giant presence at their Houston hub will allow for significant feed to the Air New Zealand flight, along with smooth connections for inbound travelers to the U.S. east coast and Latin America.
The first Boeing 787-9 for All Nippon Airways (ANA), seen at Boeing Field while conducting tests for Boeing Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter
Several weeks ago, Air New Zealand became the first airline to take delivery of the new Boeing 787-9 — the stretched Dreamliner. With much pomp & circumstance, they took ownership of their “All Blacks” livery aircraft and flew it away back to New Zealand.
Then, just before the end of July, the second 787-9 was delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) (JA830A), and it quietly slipped away into the night off to Japan. At the time, it was unknown who might commence 787-9 flights first.
ANA’s first 787-9 departing Everett on delivery to Japan – Photo: Boeing
Air New Zealand, being the first to take delivery, did not plan to start their 787 on a new route until October when they would begin service from Auckland to Perth. The Kiwis had decided to operate flights back and forth between New Zealand & Australia to get their crew used to the aircraft (as this is their first 787) and although they were operating flights with crew onboard, there were a few with just friends and family. Despite that, it was ANA who would challenge the spot as first to operate the newest 787 model.
ANA was the first airline to take delivery of the 787-8, and they originally put it to work on domestic flights within Japan. The airline is also now the largest operator of the 787, with a total of 30 in service; 29 of those are the smaller 787-8, which is split between a long-haul configuration and a higher density domestic configuration.
The newest arrival to the fleet is set up in a domestic configuration as well, with a whopping 395 seats onboard. Meant to replace high-capacity 767s in Japan, the new aircraft will run back and forth between the Tokyo Haneda hub and other major Japanese cities like Osaka and Fukuoka. But could ANA get a 787-9 into service before Air New Zealand? You bet!