a seats in a plane with two monitors

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.

a glass entrance to a building

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.

a seat on an airplane

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.

a seats in a plane with two monitors
a seat on a plane

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.

a tv on a plane
Even at 6’3”, my knees weren’t even close to the seat in front.

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.

a man sitting in an airplane
Big A350 windows for the win.

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.

a person's legs in a seat with a tv in the back

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.

a screen shot of a computer

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.

a hand holding a paper with text

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.

Cabin Crew

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.

an airplane wing and wing of an airplane

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.

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. How bad is it when the seat in front of you fully reclines? Are you able to eat or use laptop when this happens?

  2. Totally agree with all points here. I did the same journey to AUS on the 380 and back from LAX on the new plane. Seats are 2ay better than the old PE seats which I found v uncomfortable on the old plane.
    As for service the virgin team are miles ahead. Their recruitment must be top notch. As an old gold card holder I used to love the smaller JFK lounge. They had amazing staff there who treated me like an old friend.

  3. I flew LHR to JNB in August. Out in UC back PE. The PE offering was far better than BA and the crew were amazing.

    My only minor gripe was the foreign language films. I tend to chose foreign films I can’t easily stream in the UK. I’m a Cantonese speaker (can’t read Chinese), there was one film, the same film I saw flying to Antigua in April 🤦‍♀️. They can so a lot better than this.

    Tip: Not well publicised, if you have the paid version of the Virgin Atlantic Credit Card, you can sign up for free Boingo WiFi to use onboard, unlimited. Note, 787 is on a different system,I think ipass.

  4. Flying from South Africa to the Uk in October 2021 my food tray broken when I told the cabin crew I was told we don’t have the tools onboard to fix this problem economy class on my return in February 2023 I decided to check my seat and food tray and get comfortable food tray fine seat broken as I was told on my way out of Africa we don’t have tools onboard I did not contact cabin crew needless to say when I could not put my seat in an upright position cabin not impressed with me my thinking was they don’t have the tool to fix it 🤷‍♂️ Economy class not very impressed

  5. I think a lot of people don’t realise that Virgin actually shrunk the size of their premium economy seat when they brought out the A350…

    The A330 and 787 both have 21 inch wide seats in premium, by far the best of any product out there. To me, the extra width is a massive bonus and I would always try NOT fly on a Virgin A350 in premium for this reason.

    1. I think any seat width about 18” doesn’t really make much of a factor. Many business class seats are circa 18-19” width. Pitch (legroom), amenity, tech, and other factors are bigger for me. Obviously, everyone has their own needs, but I think people aren’t unaware.

  6. Just returned from Florida. On the 730. It was a pleasant enough flight. We flew out to Las Vegas In premium on the Dreamliner . The Dreamliner gives what feels like a much bigger seat. The 730 seemed narrower. also the table came out of the armrest . Which is fine if your slim. As the table did not slide out very far. For larger customers it may well be a problem. The Dreamliner tables were from the back of the passengers seat in from, and seemed more flexible. As they could be adjusted in and out more easily. The wander wall on the 730 in comparison with the Dreamliner was also poor. Not such a wander wall. More of a wander basket. Both flights were far more comfortable than a standard cattle class seats. Along with a choice of food from the menu. Designated toilet area . Both aircrews were fine, the outward bound flight seemed a happier bunch. Would we fly virgin premium again. The answers yes

  7. What a contrast with their main UK rivals weak PE offering (& that’s before the catering…
    VS should be entitled to compete for more slots at their base hub to provide some real competition!

  8. It’s really simple…
    They’re better than their main “UK” competitor in almost every respect with very comparable fares.

    They have reliable, working IT systems. BA don’t
    They load the advertised menu. BA don’t
    They have functional customer service channels. BA don’t
    They have better on time and lost luggage performance

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