Minor updates to a solid, stylish business class experience
On my latest trip to London I decided to try and get on the 787-9 of both major British carriers — the British Airways 787-9 in first class, and then a nice revisit to Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic’s 787-9. Not necessarily a fair comparison between the two airlines given that I flew in two different cabins, but that wasn’t necessarily my goal. Instead, I wanted to take my first two 787-9 flights on new products, and the award availability for my dates gave me the perfect chance to try these two airlines in one trip. Virgin Atlantic was one of my earliest business class experiences back in the day, and I’ve always been a fan of the Virgin brands for their ‘fun’ but professional approach to the air travel experience, which can often be boring and/or stuffy. While Virgin chose not to introduce a new seat on the 787 — I was really hoping for something equally as innovative as the introduction of their original Upper Class — they did make some good updates, as you’ll see in the gallery below.
- I find these seats are good for sleeping, even if they’re a little lacking in the “recline and relax” and privacy departments
- 1-1-1 configuration, so everyone has unrestricted aisle access
- updated IFE with a new touchscreen controller
- turndown service (I’m a total sucker for details like turndown service and PJs)
- the seat design means limited reclining options (it flips over to create the bed instead of just reclining all the way through)
- passengers in seats G and K are basically staring at their neighbors across the aisle, could be good or bad depending
- the aisle on the right side of the plane gets a lot more foot traffic
This particular seat, originally designed by Contour Aerospace (acquired by Zodiac in 2013), is a Virgin Atlantic original. You’ll also find this seat on some Delta and older Air Canada interiors, but unlike those seats — which recline all the way into bed mode — the Virgin seatback flips down to form a bed. This generally means a more comfortable sleeping surface, but it also means that the seat can only recline so far. Maybe I’m weird, but I like to turn my seat into a deep recliner to watch movies. I also like to look out the window on departure and arrival, and that’s barely possible with a herringbone cabin layout. For those reasons, I’m not in love with the seat…but it’s still a huge upgrade over Virgin economy and premium economy, though I’ve heard that premium economy on Virgin Atlantic is great. Fun fact: this seat design was the subject of a lengthy lawsuit, which you can read about on Wikipedia here.
The good thing is that this seat design makes it feel quite private in bed mode, and I’ve never gotten anything but good sleep when flying on Virgin Atlantic. Check out the photo below for what the seat looks like in bed mode — you can see you’re really tucked in there.
I think the soft product is where Virgin Atlantic really shines. The food and drink get the job done — not that they’re needed after a lengthy visit to the Clubhouse — and my service experiences in Upper Class have always been friendly, upbeat, and professional. As with any airline, YMMV, but I always feel refreshed after a Virgin Atlantic/America/Australia flight.
Which seat and why
I would say go with any A seat towards the front of the cabin. There are missing windows in row 7 on each side, but that really doesn’t matter because you’re forced to face into the aisle and can’t look out the window without requiring a visit to the chiropractor once you land, anyway. The last row on either side of the aircraft is pretty close to the bar, so I’d recommend skipping those if possible. At first glance, 1A and 1K might seem like bad choices given their proximity to the forward galley, but they’re offset enough from the galley that I wouldn’t hesitate to sit in either, though rows 2-5 would remain my first choice.
G seats mean both staring at your neighbor and a lack of privacy; anyone walking through the aisle can freely read the powerpoint deck you’re working on, even if you’ve got a privacy filter. Couples, though, might appreciate sitting in opposing G/K seats for raising a toast to luxury every now and then; sitting in front of/behind each other doesn’t work very well at all.
For more seat reviews from other travelers on Virgin America, check out this plane’s seat map here: Virgin Atlantic 787-9 seat map.
Pictures of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class experience
Per usual, I took a lot of photos on this flight, partly because I hadn’t been in Virgin Atlantic business class in a few years. Click on any photo to enlarge it and then you can just scroll or swipe through the gallery.
I really like the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class travel experience, especially when you can take advantage of the Upper Class Wing at London Heathrow, the Clubhouse lounge, and the car service to the airport. On board the 787-9, pick an A seat towards the front of the cabin and you won’t regret it. Travelers with companions should opt for opposing G and K seats, but everyone should avoid the last row altogether.
What are Your Thoughts on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class?
If you’ve flown Virgin Atlantic on the 787-9, let us know in the comments below! Or better yet, write a review of your seat on the Virgin Atlantic 878-9 seating chart…