Review: Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Class (LHR-HKG)

Virgin Atlantic 207 787-9 Economy Class Hong Kong to London Heathrow
Swissport Lounge London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic 206 787-9 Premium Economy Class London Heathrow to Hong Kong
Plaza Premium Lounge Hong Kong
United Club Hong Kong
Swiss 139 777-300ER Business Class Hong Kong to Zurich
Swiss Arrivals Lounge Zurich
Glacier Express 902 Zermatt to Andermatt
Hotel Victoria Jungfraujoch
Touring the Hotel Schynige Platte
Hotel Baur au Lac Zurich
Swiss Senator Lounge Terminal A
Swiss Panorama Business Class Lounge Terminal E
Swiss 138 777-300ER Business Class Zurich to Hong Kong

I’ve re-reviewed this route in the meantime on a more recent flight, which you can check out here.

Virgin Atlantic Flight 206
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Origin: London Heathrow (LHR) Gate: 17 Dep: 22:25 (22:20)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 25 Arr: 17:30 (17:00)
Duration: 12 h 5 min (11 h 40 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Reg: G-VWHO
Seat: 25K (Premium Economy Class)

Upon boarding the aircraft, I was welcomed by the friendly economy purser and pointed to my seat on the right side of the aircraft.

DSCF9220Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

Virgin Atlantic features 35 recliner seats in premium economy, in a 2-3-2 configuration, so they’re amply wide and perfectly fine for the flight.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 23.25.07
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seatmap

I made my way through the rows of seats, which actually look really sleek. While I made it public last time that I don’t like their economy seat colours (the red doesn’t age well and makes it look old), their premium economy cabin is really well designed, in my opinion.

DSCF9221Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

DSCF9222Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

I have a preference of sitting towards the back of the cabin when I’m alone in economy or premium economy due to better cabin pictures, though I’m wary that seats at the very back don’t always recline. This didn’t seem like the case based on pictures (it wasn’t), so I picked seat 25K, a window seat on the right side of the plane.

DSCF9224Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seats 25H and 25K

DSCF9225Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seat 25K

The economy cabin was empty apart from the unaccompanied minors (as was last time), so I took a peek back there – hell, the 3-3-3 configuration is tight, and while I had someone with me last time which made it acceptable, I sure was lucky I didn’t have to do this alone.

DSCF9223Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Economy Class

While it looks a little clunky in the renderings, Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy cabin is very attractive. It’s modern, lit and the seatbacks reflect the constant mood lighting in the cabin.

DSCF9227Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

Legroom is the industry standard for premium economy, 38″. It’s more than sufficient and was definitely enough for the flight. It wasn’t business class, but overall I found the seat more than enough for premium economy.

DSCF9228Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Legroom

One complaint I have with the seat is the lack of a legrest, even in the front row. Instead, there’s just a footrest, but at least it’s not the bike pedal style footrest – it stays down when you want it to, which is good for a footrest (I don’t want to reposition it to my favourite position every time I get up). The platform was also adjustable, so I could sleep comfortably with the footrest, but it still doesn’t beat a proper legrest, in my opinion.

DSCF9286Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Footrest

The seat also featured a USB port and a 110V power port, which is pretty much all I need for premium economy as far as the technology goes.

DSCF9232Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy USB Port

The recline function was located at the right of the seat, and the seat went back at least 8-9 inches, which was more than sufficient for premium economy.

DSCF9239Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Recline Button

I was also in full control of the window this time (this was taken later during the flight). The windows were lit up during boarding, though were largely controlled by the crew – more on that later.

DSCF9337Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Window Button

The seat’s high-definition TV can also be controlled completely by a remote, but somehow I can’t find my pictures of it. You’ll be able to see it in some of my pictures, though, right below the TV itself.

Waiting at my seat was a pillow that was really plush, easily beating quite a few business class pillows I’ve had in the past (aimed at you, Korean Air), and a Herschel amenity kit which featured the basics as well as an eye mask and moisturiser, which was what I’d expect in business class. Virgin Atlantic definitely doesn’t disappoint with their amenity kits.

DSCF9233Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pillow

DSCF9235Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Herschel Amenity Kit

The flight attendant working my aisle soon came around with pre-departure beverages, and I chose orange juice. She asked if I would like orange juice or sparkling wine – I guess I don’t look like a Young Traveler anymore. 😉

DSCF9237Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pre-Departure Beverage

I watched the cabin as it filled up, and soon every seat was taken. The seat next to mine was taken last by a very nice English businessman (more on him later, as well).

DSCF9241Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

By 10:15 it was completely dark outside, but unfortunately the 3G situation at our gate was terrible. My phone had trouble switching between EE and O2, both of which had terrible connections at the spot. Fortunately the situation eased up while taxiing, so I was able to say goodbye to my parents and a few friends. It seemed like we were the only aircraft near the area at the time.

DSCF9242Traffic London Heathrow Airport

Soon they played the safety video, which I absolutely love (Jason, on the other hand…). To prevent pissing him off any further, I’ll leave out the gushing until later.

DSCF9244Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Safety Video

DSCF9245Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Safety Video

DSCF9246Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Safety Video

We pushed back early, where we went past a bit of interesting traffic, including a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER leaving for Hong Kong at the same time.

DSCF9250Traffic London Heathrow

DSCF9255Traffic London Heathrow

When we got to the runway, the windows dimmed to the lowest standard. I’m almost certain this violates aviation safety policies, so I don’t know what the cabin crew were thinking. We did get up safely, though, so I won’t complain just yet.

DSCF9258Takeoff London Heathrow

I went back to Olly Murs’ Never Been Better album from last time. While there are some songs from the album I’ve known since its release, I’d never had the chance to look at the album in full, so it felt good to listen to the entire album on loop.

DSCF9256Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Olly Murs Album

After takeoff I went and had a look at the drinks section between premium economy and business class. There was also a snack selection, though unfortunately by the time I did get a picture, it was already obliterated.

It’s worth noting that whenever I opened the fridge, water came out. Not a big deal, as nothing broke, though it could potentially splash.

DSCF9259Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Galley Drinks

DSCF9279Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Galley Snack Selection

I took one of those lemonades which aren’t that good, but at least quenched my thirst at the time.

DSCF9260Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Lemonade

At this point I tried to pull out the tray table to work, but it didn’t. I informed the Hong Kong based flight attendant about it, and she said I should just hold the tray while eating. WTF?

I wasn’t going to accept that unless as a last resort, so I went and consulted the purser when she passed by, who was much more concerned. I asked for an empty economy seat, to which she gave me a seat number, 48F (which, when I checked, was taken, as well as a middle seat). She also suggested that if Upper Class wasn’t busy, I could take a seat at the bar. I still couldn’t work, but whatever.

The menu read as follows:

DSCF9261Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Menu

Before the meal service I headed to the lavatory. The premium economy lavatory was taken, and I asked if the other lavatory was also for premium economy, to which the Northeast Asian purser said “go ahead!”.

It turned out to be for Upper Class, which featured a few more amenities, including great Noble Isle hand soap. Oops.

DSCF9263Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Lavatory

DSCF9264Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Lavatory

DSCF9265Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Lavatory Amenities

A hot towel and snacks were soon passed out at my seat.

DSCF9266Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Snacks

DSCF9267Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Hot Towel

After this I felt something wet on my shoulder, and realised I had spilled my seatmate’s gin and tonic. Crap! He was really nice and courteous about it, but I still told him I was very sorry and helped clean up his seat, as well as switch his wet pillow with mine. One of the flight attendants soon came over, apologised (?!) and gave me a couple of economy pillows to make up for it. Well, I guess it is a design fault, but given that not everyone’s spilling their seatmates’ drinks, it’s probably my problem.

After that I was escorted to the bar at the back of Upper Class, seated across from a nice father of two in Upper Class who I had a conversation with about school life and everything.

DSCF9269Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bar

There were views of Upper Class, which is definitely better but probably not worth the obscene prices they can charge.

DSCF9268Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Cabin

Dinner was served on one tray, though featured more upscale plating than economy. I picked the roast chicken and tagliatelle, which featured surprisingly tender strips of chicken and well seasoned tagliatelle that was cooked just right. The salad and mango mousse were both great as well, so Virgin gets full marks for their economy main meals.

DSCF9270Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal – Roast Chicken and Tagliatelle

The service before and during the meal was great. I loved how the purser proactively offered to let me sit at the bar, and apart from that, service seemed attentive and definitely was friendly.

After the meal, I went back to my seat and tried to connect to the WiFi. It didn’t work, unfortunately.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 15.18.26Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy WiFi

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 15.14.03Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy WiFi

So I went and brushed in the lavatory, then went to sleep. I was really exhausted after only a little bit of sleep the night before, and saying farewell to so many people that I wouldn’t be seeing for probably forever was mentally exhausting.

DSCF9272Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy View before Sleeping

But I slept for an amount of time I won’t be able to beat for long – nine hours. And it was real sleep, not just airplane sleep. By the time I woke up, it was light, and we were only a couple hours out.

DSCF9274Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin Waking Up

DSCF9275Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Position Waking Up

I went to the bathroom right after waking up – only to be told by a flight attendant (much more nicely, this time) that the seatbelt sign was on. Geez, how many times am I going to have to catch myself doing that!?

I asked my seatmate if I missed breakfast, but fortunately, he said I didn’t. Not only that, but it happened right after the seatbelt sign was turned off, so I asked for permission to head to the bar.

DSCF9277Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast

I chose the congee for breakfast, wanting to know what the Asian options were like. While the presentation was subpar, the congee was very good.

DSCF9278Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast – Chicken and Shiitake Mushroom Congee

While I had my own congee, one of the business class flight attendants came by and offered a granola cup, telling me that it was good. I’m assuming she knew I was a premium economy passenger, due to the amount of times the flight attendants had to ask, so I took it. It was good.

DSCF9280Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Granola Cup

So yeah, I do think I was treated better than the other premium economy passengers on this flight. But I didn’t get to actually work during the flight, so I guess that was just compensation. The service was much better than the outbound, and as premium economy and economy class are served by the same crew, I knew we struck lucky this time.

After breakfast I checked out the entertainment selection, which is really extensive, both in the movie and music department.

DSCF9290Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment Selection

DSCF9291Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment Selection

DSCF9292Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment Selection

In theory you can look at your phone’s photos on the TV as well, but for some reason it didn’t work on either flight.

DSCF9293Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy USB Fail

I stuck to the airshow, when I realised we only had less than an hour to go to Hong Kong. A little bit of extra comfort (which cost me less than HK$2,000 more in this case) goes so far.

DSCF9288Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Airshow

It was also completely light outside now.

DSCF9285Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy View out of Window

About 25 minutes before landing the captain got on the PA, saying that we’d land on schedule. Pre-landing checks were then made, and the cabin crew passed out candies, which were a nice touch.

DSCF9294Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Love Hearts Candies

I had a look at the airshow, and kept it on until landing.

DSCF9305Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Airshow

DSCF9306Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Airshow

DSCF9307Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Airshow

I also had a look outside the window, where it was a pretty good day, though the clouds were still pretty thick.

DSCF9304Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

DSCF9309Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

DSCF9315Views upon Descent Hong Kong Airport

We touched down a little early in Hong Kong, and made the rather long taxi to gate 25. There was some interesting traffic along the way…

DSCF9319Traffic Hong Kong Airport

…like the Cathay Pacific A350 that I flew a couple of weeks prior

DSCF9321Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

…a few more Cathay Pacific heavies…

DSCF9323Traffic Hong Kong Airport

…and the Midfield Terminal, which I still really want to fly out of.

DSCF9325Midfield Terminal Hong Kong Airport

I also saw the exact A321 that I flew back from Myanmar to Hong Kong.

DSCF9327Dragonair Airbus A321 Hong Kong Airport

And a Fiji Airways A330 that I hope to fly to Nadi in the future parked at the Midfield Terminal.

DSCF9329Fiji Airways Airbus A330-200 Hong Kong Airport

Furthermore I also saw a South African Airways A340, which I’m intrigued in, despite it not really looking aspirational from what I’ve heard.

DSCF9336South African Airways Airbus A340-600 Hong Kong Airport

I was the last in premium economy off the plane, and admired the 787 in daylight for the first time. Man, the plane is gorgeous, even if it’s not the most comfortable in the sky.

DSCF9339Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Hong Kong Airport

Then it was back home for a layover lasting four days, before leaving again for Switzerland. Man, I’m so grateful that my parents didn’t put me in economy for all these flights.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy is a great way to go between London and Hong Kong, and for the price I got was a steal. I would definitely wait till later to book and choose two flights in premium economy for HK$15,000 over economy, though unfortunately that couldn’t be the case this time, as I needed a guaranteed ticket as soon as possible.

I do kind of like Virgin Atlantic – it is hit or miss like I learned, but overall it is rather quirky, young and fun. I can’t wait to get on more of them in the future.


  1. Hi, Im 16 and flying the same route, (and sitting in the same seat actually) on Monday alone on virgins 787. As a solo flyer, does virgin require any extra documentation in regard to parental consent or reason for travel? also, will i require such documentation at Hk boarder control?


    1. @ Patrick – You won’t need documentation since you’re 15 or over – I’m 15 so you’re good. You won’t need any documentation (besides your passport, of course) to exit the UK or enter Hong Kong.


    2. Why is a 16 year old flying premium economy? After studying and working my ass off for the past 17 years, I’ve only now attained a senior position in which my company will pay for anything above economy! When I was 16, my parents wouldn’t, in their wildest dreams, have forked out for me to get anywhere near an airplane, let alone fly premium economy like this spoiled brat. Heck, I was expected to just walk – in the rain and in the snow!


      1. @ John – Each family runs differently, and this is one of the blogs that helps people make the right choices. If parents would like to fork out a little extra cash for their children to fly in premium cabins, it isn’t a choice that should be attacked by a family that isn’t willing to do otherwise. The key is to be appreciative, especially if you don’t pay for your own ticket.


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