Last night, I had both the pain and pleasure of witnessing perhaps the largest sense of superiority and entitlement I’ve ever seen spread its wings, during my Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight from New York to London.

Shortly after boarding, the first words I heard were disgusting, appalling and that someone should be fired. I assumed a seat hadn’t been cleaned from an incident, or that two customers were quarreling.

It turned out, the person was just referring to their business class seat.

My main travel routes are London-New York, and London-Los Angeles, and this has allowed me to witness a disproportionate amount of special behavior on planes, from celebrities to titans of industry and the unique characters who venture back and forth across the pond, but this was a behavior I’ve never really seen, even from the biggest names in the world.


A Lunatic And A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787

Fleet consistency is a really important thing for airlines. Customers get used to certain features and expectations with cabins and when something isn’t quite up to scratch, it can take an adjustment.

How you adjust, however, is up to you.

For a certain wannabe princess, that process did not go well last night.

I’d argue that Virgin Atlantic has the best business class flying product between New York and London with their A330-900neo, but their Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliner” fleet with the old style “coffin” version of ‘Upper Class’ really is sub-par in 2023.

It was “ok” for a long time, but in this ultra-competitive time when many airlines have leveled up their seat privacy, space, tech and comfort, this experience leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it’s a bed in the sky and I’ve ended up on it twice in three weeks, slept in the seat perfectly well and set my expectations accordingly.

Apparently, 8G did not.

How to describe 8G… mid 20’s, female, many designer logos across both clothes and hand bags and someone who I noticed in the lounge long before boarding the plane, from how they constantly flagged down staff with seemingly endless neediness.

This is someone who for their sake, I sincerely hope comes from multi-generational wealth, because it’s the only way I foresee them surviving in this world with the way they act. For the sake of the world, well I hope… other things.

If I were an employer I’d be mortified. But… I also sincerely doubt anyone would ever hire this person in the first place, given their complete inability to communicate and get anyone on side while flexing a grandiose sense of self. I can’t even imagine what an interview would be like!

a bar with stools in a room

“I Want This Person Fired”

It’s well known Virgin’s 787 business class cabin has a “best” row. The “A” row of seats has a greater level of privacy than those in G and K. None are that private, but it feels better. If you know, you know. Any seat guru or other review spells that out.

The G and K rows face each other at an angle across the aisle and you’re kinda toe-to-toe with strangers and are generally closer for the stares. It’s hard to figure out where to train your eyes in this cabin.

Anyway, as I made my way onboard and down the aisle toward 7G, the only seat available by the time I booked, someone was taking up the aisle and headed for the crew member nearest me.

I’m not a court stenographer, but the conversation went something like this….

8G: This is disgusting, you just can’t do this, I’m appalled. You should be ashamed about this!

Cabin Crew: About what, m’am?

8G: I cannot and will not look across the aisle at someone. I refuse. It’s revolting, it’s grotesque, it’s awful and I won’t sit here. Whoever designed this “new” seat needs to be fired.

Cabin Crew: I’m sorry to hear that, m’am.

8G: Why are you laughing? This isn’t funny, someone needs to get fired and I’m not sitting in this seat.

Cabin Crew: No one is laughing m’am, would you like to offload yourself? I’m afraid all seats are already accounted for on the flight tonight and all are onboard.

Sometimes text can look innocent enough, but tone really tells the tale of an intense interaction. The tone and concentration of the anger was just immense from the word go. There was bite, chop and almost growl to these initial comments of disgust and wrongdoing.

My immediate thought was that 8G would be offloaded without choice based on how rude and antagonizing they were to the crew member, and how accusatory they were while being insistent that they address this problem with the utmost focus.

Quite frankly, from my encounters on domestic airlines like American, she would’ve been offloaded immediately for speaking to a crew member like that, or handed off to the pilot for a very stern bit of guidance about the behavior expected if she’d like to join on the trip.

This Virgin Atlantic team (which ran a really great service btw) tried to take a higher road and make lemonade. A couple of additional members of staff tried to calm and diffuse the situation and the flight service manager asked 8G to sit down for a bit while they worked on a solution.

Impressively, they did so while listening to the following tirade and not bursting out laughing, which anyone who has flown Virgin Atlantic a bit may find funny.

8G: these new seats are atrocious, I’ve been flying you guys for many years and I just can’t believe you have these as your new seats. This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen.

Cabin Crew: we have a variety of seats m’am, and these are actually a much older generation of seat. Seat maps are available online.

8G: I’m not sure that’s right. I would know and this is just so bad.

a man and woman sitting at a table in an airplane
me in Virgin’s “new” (wink) business class in 2017…

Immediately, 8G turns to anyone in earshot who makes the mistake of making faint eye contact, who is then insistently asked to agree about how “awful” things are. To my eye, many of these people looked like first time in business folks, and they were loving it. They alluded as much after 8G moved.

The Crew Accommodated 8G…

I’ve heard from quite a few flight service managers this morning who said they would’ve left 8G behind, but this crew really did their best and seemed willing to sacrifice their own sanity to make sure we pushed back on time without issue.

I hate seeing bad behavior rewarded, but it seems like the crew were eventually able to convince someone in the A row to accept some Virgin Points to swap seats and off we went.

Even after despicably whining their way to a new seat and view, the over-the-top diva didn’t stop there.

8G started bothering just about everyone in the A row complaining about how they booked with Delta and couldn’t select seats and how the designer should be fired and they can’t believe someone could be so dumb.

That seat selection thing is not accurate by the way, you can select seats on Virgin with a Delta booking, you just need to switch websites.

In my mind, I really couldn’t help but laugh about the idea of someone getting fired in 2023 for these “new seats” — when in fact this design initially launched in 2003. These are the last iteration of a 20 year old flying product which are gradually being phased out of service.

I can’t wait for that to happen either, but I’m not snapping at crew, fellow passengers and outright refusing to sit in my seat. I knew what to expect, I prepared accordingly and I immediately turned over for a nights rest, only enduring about 10 minutes of eye contact across the aisle as we climbed out of JFK. First world problems.

Kudos to the cabin crew for going above and beyond, particularly when even after moving 8G, she wanted to ensure that the record was documented to reflect that this is not acceptable and someone should be fired. Know when to quit, kid!

I certainly wouldn’t have been as accommodating and would actually love to remix this with a Phoenix based American Airlines crew to see the final product. Spoiler alert: i don’t think it looks pretty.

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...

Join the Conversation


  1. I had a terrible experience LHR to SEA last week on this product where a female passenger got completely intoxicated at the bar. Encouraged by two uncouth blokes using the F and C word throughout. She then proceeded to have some kind of mental breakdown. 🙄

  2. I’m wondering if I was offered to give up my “A” row seat, what my points threshold would be. At least 100k. They had a special person on their hands with pressure for on-time push-back so I think I could’ve gotten away with 200k.

    1. Sounds reasonable! For 10K or so? No way. I’d pay that much in a heartbeat just to make sure she was bundled off. One of the reasons I pay my hard earned cash for business is to increase the likelihood of some peace and quiet. I mean, the worst thing about Ryanair tends to be other passengers for me 😉

    2. A change of seat would be not be worth 100k….if the FA’s couldn’t get anyone to move she would have just been given the chance to offload herself. You would’ve been compensated, but come on …100k in miles? Someone else who needs a grip on reality!

  3. I used to work for a airline and we used a simply ploy with unruly customer. We quietly spoke to them out of ear shot of any customer and politely told them that we were sorry and there was nothing we could do in this instance. However if they continued then we would have them removed from the plane forthwith and would not be allowed to fly..
    It’s surprising how many people shut up. You dont have to be rude, just firm.

  4. I just don’t understand this sense of entitlement? But with her designer logos plastered everywhere she sounds pretty trashy and without real class. I do have high expectations when I’m paying what is for me a lot of money for a flight, but I think they’re also reasonably realistic. I do my research, so book my seats accordingly. Aircraft swaps and seat changes happen, but you have to just roll with it. My IFE didn’t work at all for my last VS JFK-LHR trip which wasn’t ideal, but not a catastrophe. I submitted feedback after and got some points, but when they called me it was mostly to thank me for the rest of it which was positive. I’d received some great service in the lounge and on board, so told them. It’s a much more rewarding state of being!

    And not huge fan of the 787 seat but find the bed mode very comfortable and have had v good sleeps on it. I’m lucky to be small, so it’s just a very cocooned seat for me. Still hope they upgrade significantly (Q suites spoiled me) but that’s First World problems +++

  5. It was almost 6 years from my first business class flight until I flew Virgin Atlantic’s herringbone seats (my first herringbone seats ever), thanks to checking seatmaps. I chose the 787-9 on the return leg of an award ticket ’cause I was curious about the experience, and even in “A” row I’m uh… not curious anymore!

    Still, once onboard the flight one needs to be polite and enjoy the flight as much as possible!

  6. She sounds like a Brat, although maybe she has delt with Virgin customer service before and that also added to get frustration 🤣

  7. I guess money doesn’t buy class. I’ve travelled in those seats and wasn’t too fussed about facing someone, any flat bed is infinitely better than being squashed in economy. Also, way better than 80’s business class which was just a bigger, wider leather seat.

    1. Flew Virgin Atlantic Business Class, the section behind First Class, from LHR to Atlanta in October. Flight attendant Service, quality of food and positive attitude by the flight staff far exceeded the professionalism received when seated up in the First Class section with Delta. Let the VA Persur know this just prior to landing. Submitted same comments on line.

  8. The thing with these Virgin herringbones is, they’re designed for another era. If anybody remembers premium seats in the 70s, it was basically one big social gathering. You were almost always sat directly next to a stranger, and the layout left plenty of space to get up and mingle, especially in first class. The 747 even had a lounge upstairs.

    That’s what these Virgin seats are designed to facilitate. Everyone facing inwards, towards each other. Turn your head and you can easily converse with anyone, or find a space on someone’s ottoman to talk.

    The ultimate expression of this was the Virgin 747 with Upper Class only in the nose. Book that entire small cabin for you and your mates and you were guaranteed a merry old flight. There was even a bar catering to those few seats alone.

    Now everyone is obsessed with privacy, office cubicle-like suites, woe betide you actually see, let alone acknowledge, a fellow passenger.

    All part of the ongoing devolution of society.

  9. The sad reality is this uncouth person has essentially been rewarded for her bad behaviour. She will absolutely do the same again next time something isn’t to her liking because this experience would have reinforced that if you yell and scream and behave like a brat you will eventually get what you want.

    Not only that, but those sat around her that probably would have also preferred an ‘A’ seat over a G or K seat would have seen that throwing a tantrum gets results.

    The crew should have reacted by being empathetic and professional but explained that the flight is full and it is not acceptable to ask a customer already assigned an A seat to swap with her. Do you want to get off or stay in 8G? End of.

    As an ex CSD with BA I used to see it time and time again. Someone in Economy fuming at nothing being suitable on the menu for them and the crew running to First Class finding an alternative. NO.

    One of my near to last flights just before taking voluntary redundancy (COVID) was a SIN-LHR flight on the A380. Now we all know BA has a pretty crap club product on these aircraft. But as a passenger, if I am handing over £xx I would absolutely do a bit of research before booking with a particular airline.

    An obnoxious ‘gentleman’ boarded and not only began to get vocal with the crew about the ‘sh*t seat’ and how Singapore Airlines was so much better but he also tried to get other customers involved. When a crew member came to tell me what was going on I googled when the next SQ flight to LHR was, went to him, told him the door was still open if we wanted to get off and there in an SQ flight in two hours time. He piped down quick smart.

  10. Virgin crew staffs are the most cultures and very polite human being l have come across since l have been flying. And that’s my main reason of sticking to the airline. No Virgin no flying😄.

  11. I travel first class with VA from Manchester to JFK
    Because I want comfort and great service I don’t fly often due to budget restraints. I work with the public, but I would not as a fellow passenger tolerate such behaviour without getting involved. Cabin crew are there to keep us safe as their primary role, not to pamper to fools with more attitude than money. She certainly would not like my intervention!!

    1. *Business class…Virgin Australia (VA) don’t fly MAN-JFK, but assuming you mean VS (Virgin Atlantic), they don’t offer First Class (neither do VA, though)…

  12. I will kick her ass if I sat next to her.She is not the only one who can afford business travel.

  13. I just don’t understand what Virgins strategy is for their 787s.

    They sell passengers their best A350/A330neo suites on their most premium routes like JFK, and then regularly swap them out to their worst Upper Class seats on the 787s. I’ve heard this happen to numerous people lately.

    Did they not think passengers would notice?

    They need to either refit the 787s with a 2023 Upper seat (would the neo seat fit?) If they plan to continue to use these planes on high profile routes, or else dump all the 787s on Caribbean leisure routes and ensure they never end up on JFK, LAX etc.

  14. I’d love to see her reaction to a notorious QR equipment swap, after booking QSuite…I and countless others have endured this, not in one million years would I dream of taking it out on the crew.

    I do hate those herringbone seats, I mostly endured them on CX and thankfully that’s now impossible, but I aim to continue to avoid NZ like the plague until they replace them (although again, if I did end up in one, wouldn’t even mention it to the crew!).

    Ironically (tangent time), I was last booked on to one the week Auckland had major floods in January this year – I was due to fly DOH-AKL then on to MEL a few days later. I ended up rebooking DXB-MEL direct in EK F and claiming on travel insurance, which was a nice swerve…I claimed the cash element of a reward ticket on EK, which was around the same as the non-refundable J fare AKL-MEL, making it clear I was making no claim for the QF points used to book it, just wanting to be no worse off cash wise, which the insurer accepted was reasonable (at 24 hours notice, sadly F was all that was available, what a shame).

  15. I just got off a Virgin flight from LHR to JFK Friday. Every part of the trip was flawless. No wait to check in, the London Clubhouse is still one of the best ever, and boarding was insanely easy, much easier than flying business with BA. I can’t praise Virgin enough for the service, and more importantly, for their staff. Anyone lucky enough in this troubled time to be able to flying business class or above should get on their knees and pray to whatever god hey believe in, or make up a god if you’re an athiest. The only downside for me is the Virgin upper class has made it impossible for me to ever fly economy again.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *