a close up of an airplane wing

Flying isn’t what it used to be, but that’s not all bad. Once cramped economy cabins are now socially distanced – at least on some airlines – and planes, and the airports that lead you to them, are cleaner than ever before.

But I’ll be honest, when Virgin Atlantic, like all other airlines operating out of London Heathrow Terminal 3, were forced to move house to new facilities, my heart filled with dread. The Virgin Clubhouse, Upper Class Wing and other staples of Virgin’s finest offerings would be gone, however temporary the move might be, while Heathrow condenses operations.

Virgin Atlantic In Heathrow T2

Strolling through Heathrow Terminal 2, however, I could see that the present wasn’t actually so bad, and in fact for most customers it might be a step up. Think: higher ceilings, more restaurants and more space in T2, compared to T3. And space is a “big” thing right now.

But what matters in journeys right now is cleanliness, reliability and trust, and that’s what I was here to take in first hand. Is Virgin Atlantic really cleaning planes to the highest spec? Are meals actually sealed? Are people actually flying?

people in an airport

Virgin Atlantic now occupies the first check in area you find, when you walk into T2. If you close your eyes, you’d probably hit the counters, but don’t. All staff are wearing masks, and disinfecting gels are everywhere. Yes, despite what you may have read, Virgin Atlantic is still flying, and will be for a long time.

people sitting in chairs in a large building

Terminal 2 is a step up from T3 from a general passenger perspective, with a more modern space, a wide variety of food including Yo Sushi, London’s Pride Pub, Heston’s The Perfectionist Cafe, Leon and more, all of which I’m pleased to report are now open, most with seating.

people sitting at tables in a room with a large window

Virgin Atlantic Lounge Access In T2

For Upper Class passengers and Gold card holders, Virgin has worked out a deal with Lufthansa, where passengers are welcome in their lounge. From an expected date of September, the lounge will switch over to Plaza Premium. It’s not the Clubhouse, but realistically, no other business class lounge compared.

a hand sanitizer dispenser in a store

Heathrow isn’t flawless in covid-19 times, but it’s very good. Passenger numbers are way up recently, and the airport had too many empty hand sanitizing stations, and too few proactive staff helping keep people moving, or apart.

Is It Weird Flying Right Now?

I couldn’t help but speak to cabin crew before a flight, hoping to get a bit of insight into how weird it all must be for them. Apparently, not nearly as much as one might think.

a row of seats in an airplane

Most Virgin Atlantic crew were furloughed during the height of the pandemic, but the airline created online learning, webinars, videos and highlighted manual sections to illustrate new cleaning measures, service practices and protocols to deal with covid-19.

Basically, the crew said they felt like they’d already been doing it, by the time they did it.

Part of that is a serious new toilet cleaning regime, to ensure surfaces are cleaned regularly during long haul flight. It may take a bit of glamour out of the job, but it’s a key manoeuvre the airline is deploying to bring hygiene standards beyond current industry leaders.

a row of seats in an airplane

Virgin Atlantic was one of the earliest in the game to come out fighting against covid-19, with the introduction of health & safety kits. Few airlines had launched any, and those that did, didn’t go nearly as far. Virgin offers three medical grade face coverings, wipes and gel to all passengers.

Here’s the marketing shot…

a group of medical face masks and a pack of wipes

And the product in the wild…

a silver bag with a message on it

After stepping on board, I came to think it’s as much for peace of mind as anything else. Virgin Atlantic was among the more rigorous in cabin cleaning standards pre-pandemic, but Anthony Bryant, Virgin Atlantic’s Manager of Cabin Appearance and Cleaning gave me the grand tour of intensive measures.

Cleaning crews could do the job in roughly 50-55 minutes before, but new measures, including wiping down additional high touch surfaces, like overhead bins, add an extra 10 minutes.

a white pillow on a seat

Electrostatic sprays and environmentally approved cleaning products are used on all surfaces. Even the screens in each cabin looked like someone had terry clothed their Ray-ban’s. Pillows with the words “we all need a little bit of space” are in place to keep social distancing, across all cabins.

Passengers can change seating assignments, but not to any seat where a pillow is placed. Flights, such as this A350 bound for New York aren’t quite full right now, and that has people worried about Virgin Atlantic’s future. One thing few realize, is that covid-19 brought Virgin a new customer, first name: car, last name: go.

a plane engine on the ground

Will Virgin Atlantic Make It?

It was incorrectly reported that Virgin Atlantic declared Bankruptcy last week, when in reality the airline completed a formality to unlock its £1.2 billion funding. No airline is out of the woods, but Virgin Atlantic has an ace up its sleeve, which few passengers comprehend.

It’s hard to get anyone talking too much about specifics, but apparently many flights are already making money before a passenger steps on board, due to the heavy loads down below. Basically, Virgin Atlantic is an airline built on customers, but right now it’s running a lucrative cargo business.

I’m no longer nearly as worried about these half empty flights, knowing that the planes are making money on the segments from the bottom half, and passenger numbers are just a bonus during these times.

For people in economy, who now have socially distanced seating setups and whole rows to themselves, they’re probably not too worried either.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. They have time and resources to invite bloggers round, but won’t refund my money. They certainly have their priorities sorted!

    1. I fly with Virgin Atlantic regularly on my own dime, earning Gold status with the airline for many years now. I too waited 100 days for a refund, but got mine. No doubt you will too…

      1. So you also get priority refund as a blogger. Us second class citizens still waiting for a refund. Something seriously wrong

        1. Not at all. I requested a refund, waited circa 100-120 days, followed up, and my refund was processed. Most people are finding similar results, particularly if they enquire.

    2. Me too but I booked thru my bank travel service which is 3rd party. Their emails are ignored by Virgin, the bank called Virgin this month, told bank that not responding to emails for 120 days. Virgin canceled my return flight in May To the States without notice.

    3. The problem with them not funding money was the credit card companies holding onto the cash you paid and not passing it on to Virgin. They do this because they think a company may go bankrupt, so they would have to refund you even if they had paid Virgin. The problem for Virgin is they don’t get the money which hastens the prospect of them going out of business. The £1.2 billion deal to keep the airline flying included an agreement with the credit card companies to hand over the money to Virgin, (in excess of £140m) which they will do after the formalities have been settled on August 25th.

  2. It’s not acceptable to wait over 100 days for a refund, as I did. They are bandits and I’m not sure why you keep giving them publicity. Happy flying on your gold status Gilbert!

    1. If they were alone, I’d say you’re not entirely wrong. But they always honoured their obligation to pay, just delayed doing it. Many other airlines, including a direct competitor purposely screwed people out of refunds, and denied legitimate requests. So yes, best practice fast refund. But delayed refund versus no refund… they did better than you think.

      1. Spot on Gilbert, and I will say it as well, British Airways, they should not be allowed to be our national carrier any longer.

    2. I’ll say it as Gib can’t… BA who are still holding a multi billion pound reserve and unlike VS have received public funds beyond furlough (over £300milion in corporate finance via HMG Treasury) have acted far worse than VS, who were for a period in genuine financial trouble.

  3. What a ridiculous review when myself and many many many many others are waiting for literally thousands of pounds back from Virgin….. glad you had a good time though (thumbs up)….You’re probably 1 of the very few that will fly with Virgin when it’s loyal customers will boycott the airline from now on…… I do hope, before I get my money that Is, that Virgin crumble into dust and evaporate in the sky.

  4. So you buy a ticket using a credit card. The credit card does not give the money to Virgin. Virgin cannot opetate the flight due to extreme circumstances outside their control. You want back the money you paid but Virgin hasn’t received. I can understand you want your money back but some of the comments I’ve seen condemning Virgin now seem very unfair.

  5. I believe some of the comments on this subject are very vitriolic and unnecessary. You have been given the explanation as to why you have not been refunded so take it out on Visa, Mastercard or AE.
    I had the same problem with IGLU Cruise agents and that was how it was explained to me concerning the delay in refunds.
    Some years ago a company called Globespan went out of business simple because they were not being paid by their creditors.
    So before we all start sounding of and feeling “offended” get hold of the true facts first.

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