When I started blogging, I had one very clear pillar for what success might be. If I wanted people to take me seriously, I had to prove that every thing I was claiming could come true with points and travel savvy, could actually come true.
Proving that the very best cabins in the world could be unlocked with points became an obsession. It still is, sometimes. But the real world doesn’t often have the flexibility needed to enjoy those opportunities every time you fly, and you know what, it ain’t half bad.
On a recent work trip to New York, I needed a one way ticket home to London, and Virgin Premium Economy on the A350 offered the best value, just moderately priced above economy. I was reminded of how phenomenal this cabin is, with one caveat which I’ll get to.
Check In & Airport Experience
Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy customers enjoy a dedicated “Premium” check in lane and are able to check two bags.
When prices are competitive with economy, that alone can make the cabin worth the “upgrade” for anyone with lots of baggage. The physical kind, of course. Emotional baggage is best left at your departure point. That’s what travel is for, right?
I’ve been a Virgin Flying Club Gold member for quite a few years now, so I was able to use the Upper Class check-in desk, but both lines were empty. I could’ve just as easily used premium and finished in the same time.
As someone who enjoys spending as little time in airports as possible, I was happy to whisk through, enjoy a quick dash through security and hop on board.
Note: some photos from this review are from a previous flight, where it was easier to snap the cabin. I believe in personal privacy, and on this night flight I was among the last to board, so I did not take cabin shots which included anyone.
Virgin Premium: On Board And Seat
If you hate feeling groggy after a flight, you’ll absolutely love the Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350. Or, the Virgin 787 Dreamliner, for that matter.
Both aircraft offer improved cabin specs, with a more natural humidity, pressurization and noise reduction compared to older aircraft on the route, like a Boeing 767 or 777.
It’s so quiet that you really can hear a lot. Like, a lot. It’s great, unless you’re farting! No judgement! Virgin has one of the younger fleets in the skies nowadays, and if you fly frequently you can truly feel the difference. That’s not unique to any one airline, but new planes really are stellar.
Aside from better air quality, the cabin lighting is fun and jazzy and the higher ceilings give an added sense of space on this Airbus A350.
The Virgin A350 Premium Economy Seat
Virgin’s Premium cabin on the A350 offers 2x4x2 seating. I’m a major fan of securing a window seat in the two seat, side configurations. Families, or groups of colleagues may prefer the middle four.
The window seat allows me to doze off without anyone stepping over and the h-u-g-e A350 windows can make for fun viewing, particularly during the dusk departure we were able to enjoy leaving New York Kennedy — gorgeous.
Even for a premium economy snob — which I am — these seats are excellent.
Oversized entertainment screens at 13.3” rival many found in business class, seat storage is plentiful and nice foot rests help to sit back and relax. The seat width, at an impressive 18.5 inches wide is as good as it gets as a global premium economy benchmark.
If you are at all like me, and live for electronic devices packed with shows, it’s nice to know that Virgin Atlantic has both AC and USB power at every premium seat. Ports are easy to reach, which helps me remember not to leave anything behind.
The first row and the last row of premium make up the dreamboat seats. The first row is located next to Upper Class, and also just behind Door L2, which is the primary door used to deplane the aircraft. If you’re looking to beat the rush at immigration, this is a prize choice.
The last row of premium economy is a great option for sleepers, since you can recline without having to ask or worry if the person behind you might be eating. There is no one behind you. Cheers to that.
Room For Improvement: Entertainment Selection
It seems like it’s getting better — so fingers crossed? — but the movie and television selection on board is good, but not great.
I was able to quickly find something I’d happily nod off to, but US airlines including Virgin partner Delta tend to offer wider selections. There’s something magical about tucking into great entertainment on board, and I’m all for any activity to boost this.
Fortunately, it sounds like Virgin’s new A330neo aircraft will….
Virgin Premium Food, Drinks & Service
Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy offers a more a la carte service than economy, and that starts with pre-departure bubbles and drink service.
I passed on the sparkles so that I could manage a flight without climbing over a seat mate, but many people were happily reveling.
As to the food, I’m the worst person to ask. I really try not to eat on planes and always aim to eat a healthy meal on destination time before departing for the airport. Plus, we all have different tastes, so even if I like something, you might hate it.
I took a picture of the menu for you, so that you can see what’s being offered anyway. In my essential food advice for eating on planes, curries and rice are always nice.
I consistently find Virgin Atlantic crews to be among the friendliest in the business. Perhaps the personal freedoms Virgin (rightly) affords employees plays a role there.
This crew was no different, at least as much as I could tell from my 20 minutes of interaction with them. I just don’t get people who stay awake on JFK-LHR redeye flights. Taking off at 7PM in New York, it’s already midnight UK time, so i’m desperate to conk out ASAP — and did exactly that on this flight.
Observing the crew interactions with other passengers, including a couple with a young toddler, gave a really fun, attentive and caring feel. I think everyone felt valued and welcomed. That’s a lot better than most airlines these days.
Virgin A350 Premium Economy Review: Stellar Value And Comfort
Booking Virgin’s premium economy on the cabin is a “can’t go wrong” feeling.
If you fly in the seat, it’s a benchmark premium experience, up there with Singapore Air and other leaders. If you happen to find space in Upper Class and want to use Virgin Points, booking premium is a strategic way to upgrade to the top cabin.
After flying during the health crisis to mostly empty cabins, it was a joy to see that Upper Class was entirely full, and I had zero chance of an upgrade. Well, not a joy for my hopes of a flat bed, but a joy to see the world traveling again.
My consistent feeling with premium economy is that it’s priced well and is a great “gap bridger” between economy and business class. I can easily find comfort in Premium for an overnight. For a day flight, it’s a total no brainer.