Note: review scores above are based against the best possible experiences in Premium Economy versus all other airlines.
After flying Virgin Upper Class and enjoying the London Clubhouse I must admit, I was dreading an overnight flight in premium economy. It’s always a privilege to have any extra room, but after a bed, it’s not always easy to readjust. As I always do, I boarded as late as possible so as not to spend one extra minute on a plane than I have to, and I was instantly impressed with Virgin Premium Economy in ways I didn’t expect.
This review is a bit deeper than just this one flight though. I sampled Virgin Atlantic Premium on a day flight, night flight and another night flight, and here’s what you need to know to make the most of your Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy experience at the airport, and on board.
Premium Economy enjoys its own dedicated check in area, which can be huge if you’re in a rush. For this particular flight there was quite a queue for economy, but premium check in took no more than 10 minutes from queueing to boarding pass. If you don’t have bags, being able to use the Virgin Atlantic mobile app to download a boarding pass is even better.
Be sure to use these facilities whenever you can, and if you happen to hold Delta Gold or above, or Virgin Gold, you can also use Upper Class check in for even faster service.
Many premium economy passengers enjoy the priority boarding and getting on early, but that’s not quite my advice. With such a small cabin and a curtain ahead and behind, there’s almost always overhead bin space available, even when you board last. I waited until final passengers were on board and then made my way, and was still able to store a full sized carry on roller bag directly above my seat.
Premium economy features pretty much the same seat on all Virgin Atlantic aircraft, with the exception of the Airbus A330-200. The -200 offers a newer generation seat used by Singapore Air, while Virgin has its own comfy seat on the rest of its planes like the 787, A330 and A340.
Hot tip: the first row of Virgin premium Economy isn’t often the best row. The last row in the cabin doesn’t recline into anyone, which allows you to recline immediately after take off without disturbing any meal flow. It’s the best kept secret in premium economy if you’re looking for rest. Everyone else must play nice, but not you, last row geniuses. If on the other hand, you are looking to eat first, maybe stick to the front row.
I settled into my seat and was pleased to find a friendly looking amenity kit with useful accessories like an eye mask. My first impression of the seat Virgin Atlantic A330 Premium Economy was that it was clean, well padded, comfortable on the back and featured a fast, sharp touch screen. If you want the best in flight entertainment, try to avoid Virgin A340 aircraft, which are a bit older and sluggish.
If I had to be really picky, I’d say that I do always wonder who designs airline seats, and thinks it’s a good idea to put the headphone jack along the area where legs will move around, but that’s a problem on every airline. Without too much hassle I was able to plug in and unwind, only knocking my audio feed out of socket once or twice.
I’m 6’3’’, a fact I mention only to state that legroom is awesome here. In recline mode I could fully stretch out, sneaking my feet under the seat in front of me without issue. Lumbar support was very good and after requesting an additional pillow for my lower back, I’d say it was really comfortable, especially for the money.
One thing I’d love to see: better pillows and bigger, more duvet style blankets.
I’m a big fan of premium economy this year, as airlines attempt to sway passengers from economy with good prices. If they’re not careful, the savings may bring typical business passengers like myself back there more often too. This was a good experience.
In flight entertainment could definitely improve. If you’re anything like me, box sets, Hollywood classics and wide variety, like the Great British Bake Off are what people love to tuck into on flights and there just wasn’t really anything along those lines. I settled on Guy Ritchie cult hit “Snatch” the follow up to Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels which passed the time before zzzz’s.
I have it on good word that this is something Virgin is actively working on and can’t wait to see where they go with their in flight. People want to be entertained. Who knows? Maybe Netflix on demand?
I’m the wrong person to ask about airplane food. I avoid it at all costs, especially on short overnight flights but having sampled Donal Skeehan’s new dishes, I think this is a huge improvement. Look for a “D” next to the dish to signify the new, slightly healthier menu options.
If drinks are what you’re more interested in, I find Virgin Premium Economy to be great fun in that regard. The sparkling wine before take off is nice, and on this occasion I was offered a top up. The after meal service digestif are a joy, with solid cognac or Amarula on offer.
Premium economy is the new economy, and for a day flight particularly, this is more than enough. I managed around 4 hours of quality sleep on each of my overnight flights and arrived without feeling like I’d been kicked in the ass on a rather long day flight. When the price is right, which these days it often is, it can definitely be worth the added experience and little conveniences.
Check out Premium Economy deals with Virgin Atlantic here.