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?
Food & Drinks
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.
Look forward to your review of BA’s idea of premium economy on an un refurbed airframe or if you’re feeling really brave the clunkers they use to West Africa / Malaysia!
Virgin are simply amongst the best (alongside Lufty) for PE what’s more their planes rarely if ever have exceptions and they maintain IFE / seating so that you can rely on it working…
PE deals link at the end doesn’t take you anywhere, buddy. Great review though…at 6’4’’ these things matter!
Could we have some pictures of Food/Drink without Stock photos or promotional images from the airlines website? Apart from that, good review.
The PE link at the end takes you nowhere.A dead end. Most annoying.
My first post here…. apologies for its length but i wanted to get my comments out to the world!
I just flew PREMIUM ECONOMY flight 154 2 Oct 2019 from JFK to LHR. 8.30pm OVERNIGHT flight.
this was a 350 and i was looking forward to another good flight in premium on virgin (despite hicuups on other fllights, virgin was still high on my favorites got ptrmium).
this time i was disappointed.
Horrible seats, Uncomfortable, narrow (apparently ,only 17 inches?) and Food disgraceful…
FOOD: i too am not a huge fan of airline food, but i have eaten well before on virgin so i did not buy anything at the airport… BIG MISTAKE!!!
WAS IT A JOKE: the food came on a tray… with china…. and a knife and fork! great… so whats on the menu??
NO CHOICES AT ALL: “would you like a sandwich?”
YES… a sandwich (small, approx 4 inches across: engiish style not USA style: i mean barely filled):
half of it on brown bread with cheese and half on white bread with egg…
Accompanied by what you would have got anyway if you had not accepted the sandwich:…… 2 pieces of cheese and 5 grapes (yes… More cheese!)
and that’s it…. NOTHING ELSE.
When I asked, the Stewardess told me economy passengers got a box (no tray) … with the same sandwich!!!…
And stewardess had the audacity to say ah but you got served on China with real knife and fork!!! (knife and fork for WHAT????)
the “treat snack box” was hidden away behind fastened curtains, not publicised, so people who are new to premium dont know it is available… and NOT accessible.
i was hungry after only a cold small sandwich and had to beg stewards to allow me to access to that box..
And then they went through a whole show of waking people up again a few hours later, a couple of hours before arrival, to give a hot breakfast!!! People want to sleep… Not be woken up to a Mediocre cheese (yes again cheese) omelette (yes… Eggs again) (or full english breakfast with egg!)
AMENITY KIT is a joke:
Virgin have removed the socks without publicising this: I was barefoot in sandals and a very condescending stewardess offers Me a blanket to wrap my feet in and asked if she should wrap my feet for me! As if the blanket is going to stay in place. That’s not the point: the point is i am used to an amenity kit with socks… And then virgin don’tven e tell me in advance I won’t get it so i could bring my own!!
i felt stewardess treated me as if i was making a fuss over nothing but i was barefoot in sandals and the cabin did actually become very cold…
i had asked for socks and the answer was NO, not anymore in premium economy… but she would wrap my feet for me…
on the outbound flight a few weeks before i was told “we are only giving amenity kit on the night flight” (but the stewards did find socks and mask for me)….
well…MY RETURN FLIGHT WAS A NIGHT FLIGHT… BUT I STILL GOT NO SOCKS )
the amenity kit is flimsy, feels like paper, with NOTHING SUBSTANTIAL IN IT… the mask IS nice quality… but socks is preferred to a pen or a toothbrush!… but actually all the above is the LEAST virgin can give in premium economy which costs substantially more than economy.
FOR WHAT? a bit more incline, a few more inches, and dreadful food and amenity kit….
SO… to the SEATS:
The new airbus 350 has the worst premium economy I have experienced in a long time.The seats are barely wider than old economy.There is a SHARED middle armrest: ONE OF THE PLUS POINTS of premium economy was always to have a wide armrest enough for separate armrest space for each person.
There is a TINY space on the single armrest for glasses for drinks: awful.
There is a TINY space to store things,… but nothing really fits in there and you have to bother your seat companion to move their arm so you can lift your tiny storage cover!
The bulkhead has a footrest that barely raises.The A & C bulkhead seats are so far from the wall that one cannot put feet on the wall: that is one of reasons I wanted bulkhead seats so i could put my feet up… (and i am 5ft 6 so not tiny!)
on other planes VIRGIN gives bulkhead pax a WEDGE to rest their feet on… which is brilliant: on other virgin premium flights I had turned the wedge on its shorter length which meant my feet were nearly at right angles: really comfortable..
I did suggest VIRGIN move those bulkhead seats a few inches closer to wall and people can rest feet on wall… AND other rows get an inch more room each!… especially as the footrest is only a few inches high, and they no longer a wedge ….. AND BRING BACK THE WEDGE!
I was told that actually it is not legal for people to put their feet on the walls.. it is against health and safety. Really????
i sat next to a lady who had mobility issues: she too was upset there was no wedge offered as foot support for the bulkhead seats: she had gotten one on her outbound flight too and was expecting that on this flight too.
she was short and her feet did not stretch to be able to rest on the wall… and she was worried her feet would swell. The little extending footrest was equally useless for her too!
The rows behind the front row bulkhead do have more legroom than economy, but not really a lot.
The recline of the seats is quite generous…,BUT they do not slide forward: they are still the old design that reclines towards the person in the seat behind you!… and with the generous pitch can be annoying for the person behind: BADLY THOUGHT-T DESIGN
the attitude of the stewards was either indifference, or embarrasment: they said the FOOD is NEW (or lack of…) , and the PLANE is new, and the AMENITY KIT is new (or lack of…) and they would pass on comments..
WHEN SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT WITH some OTHER AIRLINES they try and make it right…
i just flew UNITED new york to vancouver roundtrip (business) and they immediately did ON THE SPOT compensation for issues i had on that flight: monetary vouchers, and miles…. with possibility to take this further: they proactively show they care about the passengers,
the VIRGIN staff in the air were condescending possibly from embarrasment?
the customer service on the phone were indifferent, even when i said i did not get what i had expected, and that the website has publicity of the nice food and china, and comfortable seats…. and even says:
“During the flight, sit back and relax with a spacious 38 inches of seat pitch and on London Heathrow flights enjoy a wider purple leather seat, equivalent to some other airlines’ business class. “…….. REALLY????
thanks for reading!!! it has been cathartic … and I do hope virgin will do something to make premium better on the 350s
i am probably flying to cuba soon ECONOMY DELIGHT as premium econ was 3 times the price of economy!
10 hour flight… well at least i wont have too high expectations, and i hope it will be delightful!
i work in the travel industry and have only recently started flying virgin: i have experienced american and BA, the latter of which have some very tired aircrafts and seating… and the former having converted their main cabin extra small cabin of 4 rows into premium economy, taking away another perk for us frequent flyers or for people who could pay more to get better eceonomy seating and more legroom and a small quiet private cabin /
VIRGIN economy delight is i guess like main cabin extra but with some additional seat pitch/recline as well as legroom… but no separate cabin.
VA’s old PE seats (747,787) are 21″ wide.
I travelled to san Francisco from Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic, worst thing I ever did, no power on board, no inflight entertainment and when I complained, the staff said “we have more important things to worry about”, shockingly bad rude staff, one member of staff swore because she was fed up, she did later apologise and said she was fed up
I flew premium economy with Virgin from Hong Kong to Heathrow in May and had the best experience. From dropping the luggage at the down town check in(amazed this isn’t a thing everywhere else!), to the staff on board, the ife, the food, I really couldn’t fault it!! I ate, watched half a movie, and then slept.. And slept and slept and slept… All the way back to Heathrow. Had breakfast and then we landed. Perfect!!! Sounds like the lady who had a different experience should pay for a business class seat rather than premium economy…..
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