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.
Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
Virgin Atlantic has a pretty slick sense of style. The many elements of the airline’s brand – from the unique metallic red of its livery down to its creative cocktail lists and small touches on its printed materials – ooze cool. We definitely picked up on that sense of style when we dropped by the airline’s small but well-provisioned lounge — called the “Clubhouse” — in the international terminal at San Francisco International Airport (SFO). We put the place through its paces and came away very impressed.
Read on for a quick photo tour of the Clubhouse and all that it has to offer, from menu-order dining and creative cocktails to airfield views and even aircraft models. It’s a space that goes way beyond the bare minimum for business class lounges.
Sir Richard Branson inaugurated Virgin Atlantic service to Seattle in his inimitable style
On the heels of Alaska Airlines’ announcement that it will soon do away with the Virgin America brand, after having purchased the airline last year to the tune of $2.6 billion, Virgin Atlantic inaugurated daily service from London to Seattle on March 27.
- Virgin Atlantic’s daily service from London to Seattle will make use of the airline’s fleet of Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Branson had publicly opposed the merger, but as a minority shareholder of Virgin America, there wasn’t much he could do. The new route will allow the Virgin brand to retain a presence in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps help to restore a bit of Branson’s entrepreneurial dignity. The route had been announced last year, not long after news first broke about the sale of Virgin America to Alaska Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A340 called Bubbles – Photo: Lewis Smith | FlickrCC
Recently, I used my Delta Skymiles for a trip to London. However, rather than flying the genteel Southern airline (aka Delta), I used my miles to book an Upper Class ticket with their joint venture partner, Virgin Atlantic (recently named the fifth-best international airline by Travel + Leisure). I was excited to put them to the test!
I had no trouble booking the trip through Delta’s website. I simply logged into my account, searched for DFW to London. 125,000 miles later, I was booked to go to London on an overnight flight across the pond. My husband, who booked separately, also had no problems making his reservation, even though he paid with actual dollars.
- The Upper Class cabin – Photo: John Walton
- Four engines, for long-haul – Photo: John Walton
The morning of our flight arrived and we took a taxi from our apartment in downtown Dallas to DFW International Airport, arriving at terminal E where Delta has its outpost inside the American Airlines fortress hub. We arrived three hours early as recommended for international flights, but being that it was just before 6:00 A.M. on a Saturday morning, it took less than 10 minutes to check our bags, get through security, and get in to the Delta Sky Club, where I drank all the Starbucks coffee anyone could ever want and grazed on bagels, English muffins, and other breakfast foods.