Review: Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Hong Kong to London

Introduction: Spending The Night With A Virgin
Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Hong Kong to London
Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge London Heathrow
Conrad London St. James Grand Deluxe Room
Virgin Atlantic 787 Economy Class London to Hong Kong


My dad and I got to the airport at 10:30 PM for our 11:55 PM flight. We’d checked in online and weren’t carrying any hand luggage, though we were sure to quickly drop by the check-in counter, where there was no line, so we could get our lounge passes. While Virgin Atlantic used to operate their own Clubhouse at Hong Kong Airport, that made way for the AmEx Centurion Lounge, and Virgin Atlantic now uses the Plaza Premium West lounge (I tried to get into the East lounge so I could re-review it, though I was redirected).

While the Plaza Premium West lounge has a nice airline-invitation-only area, it was 10:45 PM, so I just decided to get some work done in the gate area. I decided to line up at around 11:10 PM and a few other people followed suit, and boarding began with Upper Class passengers at 11:15 PM. Since airlines almost never begin boarding punctually, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to board at the scheduled boarding time of 11:15 PM.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Hong Kong Airport

I made my way down the jetbridge with my backpack and my carry-on, more than ready for the Upper Class experience.

To see my video review of the flight (I had a few audio issues as I forgot my mic), click here:

Virgin Atlantic 207
Friday, June 22, 2018
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 27 Dep: 23:55 (00:05)
Destination: London Heathrow (LHR) Gate: 17 Arr: 05:30 (05:10)
Duration: 12 h 35 min (12 h 5 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 4A (Business/Upper Class)

I boarded through door L2 and turned left into the Upper Class cabin. I told the flight attendant I was seated in 4A, and she replied “yup, you’re with me”.

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 features 31 Upper Class suites, all between doors L1 and L2, configured in a 1-1-1 herringbone configuration.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Cabin

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Cabin

While the cabin is dense and I’m not a fan of herringbone seats, there’s no denying that the Upper Class cabin is quite sexy-looking, at least on the 787.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Cabin

Each seat is encapsulated by a wall on each side, acting as a privacy shield between seats, and also housing all of the seat’s many features.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seats

While in theory it’s hard to talk to your travel companion, the seat walls are actually level with the top of the seat. That’s both good news and bad news; the good news is that it’s easy to talk to your travel companion if you’re seated in front of one another, though the bad news is that you have a clear view of everyone in front of you, whether you know them or not. Unless you’re under 5′, this isn’t the perfect seat for solo travelers.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seats

Since the cabin is arranged in a 1-1-1 configuration, the seats in the middle all face the right. As a result, the seats on the left are more private, as they have the aisle to themselves.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Left Side Seats

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Left Side Seats

The middle seats and right window seats don’t have the same kind of privacy, as they face each other. So not only can you see everyone in front of you, you’ll get to see the people opposite you as well – not exactly the most private of business class experiences!

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Right Side Seats

I came in knowing this, so decided to select seats for my dad and myself on the left side of the aircraft. I assigned us seats 3A and 4A. Normally I prefer sitting near the back of the cabin, since nobody can see me, and I can see the cabin service flow. However, Virgin Atlantic’s 787s feature an inflight bar behind the Upper Class cabin, so I avoided selecting a seat near the bar in case it got busy.

The good news is that each seat is leather-clad, and very well padded. The airline uses the same leather padding for their premium economy seats, as well as their economy class headrests. Initially the seat didn’t feel overly confined, though after sitting and sleeping in between the walls for 10+ hours I was ready to loosen up at the bar.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seat 4A

There were extensive seat controls by the right side of my seat, under the quasi-armrest – this included the recline and lumbar support controls, as well as a button that allowed the tray table to pop out (this just unlatched the tray table to the wall, after which you still had to pull the tray table out).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seat Controls

Since the seatback folds down to create a bed, you have to get out of it in order to turn it into bed mode, so there was an additional set of handy seat controls that allowed the job to be done; a button converting the seat into bed mode, and a button doing exactly the opposite.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seat Controls

The ottoman was located in front of the seat, and was within my legs’ reach when reclined. Presumably it doubles as a buddy seat, since there’s an additional seatbelt. However, while I appreciate the option, I can’t imagine sharing a table in this configuration would be spacious at all.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Ottoman

One of the upsides to this seat is that you’re allowed to have your seat reclined during taxi, takeoff and landing, as long as it isn’t in bed mode. The downside is that the recline is only marginally more than that of your average premium economy seat. So while it’s nice to be able to have a separate sleeping surface, I do wish that there were more positions available for lounging, as you either have a seat or a bed in this configuration, nothing in between – no lazy-Z positions, etc..

It’s also worth noting that the seat doesn’t have a footrest, so if your legs don’t reach the ottoman, you’re out of luck.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Seat Reclined

However, as you’d expect from a business class seat, there’s ample legroom. Also, as aforementioned, since I’d selected a seat on the left side, at least I had a view of a wall, as opposed to a bunch of other passengers sat on the other side of the aisle (which would be the case if you’re seated in a middle seat or a right window seat).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Legroom

The TV swung out from the left side of my seat, and was amply sized (though I didn’t end up using it much, since I was having enough fun without it).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class TV

Underneath the tray table was the headphone plug, as well as a USB port. I’d prefer for these ports to be placed somewhere that wouldn’t be moved around all the time (since it’s hard to stow and unstow the TV when something’s plugged in at times).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Power Ports

The tray table popped out of the side table, and was very large, which I enjoyed. There’s definitely enough table space to share a meal with a loved one across the table, even if leg space will be limited.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Tray Table

A 110V power port was located in a pocket to the left of the seat that served as extra storage, and also housed the safety card and headphones.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Power Ports

However, apart from the aforementioned pocket, the only storage available at the entire seat was a little storage platform also located to the left of the seat, near the window. While this was very handy for my glasses, my phone, or a drink, it was nowhere near enough storage that I would’ve appreciated for a business class seat on a longhaul flight.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Storage Platform

Above the storage platform was a reading light, which could be activated by pushing on one of the indented circles. There were actually two of these lights – the other one was on the other side of the seat, but was only reachable in bed mode (presumably for some bedtime reading).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Reading Light

While the electrochromic windows on the 787 are nothing new, it was nice to have the option to dim the window through the IFE, which you (obviously) can’t do in economy. A couple of the seats were missing windows, however, so I’m not sure how those seats fared with this function.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Window Dimmer on IFE

Located on the storage platform when I first got to my seat was a bottle of water from One.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Water

Additionally I found the amenity kit on the ottoman, as well as the menu for the night. The amenity kit was from Herschel – same as premium economy, though there’s a leather finish to these amenity kits that aren’t present on the ones given to premium economy passengers.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Amenity Kit

The amenity kit was stocked with all the basics, including a dental kit, socks, eyeshades, as well as a variety of creams from Rituals.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Amenity Kit Contents

This isn’t a big deal, but while I was in economy on the inbound, my dad was actually offered a slightly different kit, which I personally far prefer (it has more compartments, and looks sleeker in general). So you might get a nicer kit on some flights than on others (depending on your preference), though Herschel’s amenity kits are quite high quality, and at least I wasn’t pulling my amenities out of a neck warmer like I was on a certain airline that will go unnamed.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Amenity Kit

The headphones were located in the pocket to the left of the seat. I quite liked the simplicity of the packaging.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Headphones

The headphones themselves were quite sturdy and noise-cancelling, and the sound quality wasn’t bad, though it’s worth noting that my father was handed a dysfunctional pair (I used my own Bose headphones, so lent him my pair).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Headphones

Boarding was quite efficient, and the cabin filled up quite quickly. The boarding music was quite retro club-style (I believe it was “Lie To Me”), which fit with the general vibe of the cabin. In front of me was my father, and behind me was a couple that had spent a week from Hong Kong after flying in on Virgin Australia (unsurprisingly, they liked that seat better).

The male flight attendant (primarily serving the other aisle) came over and offered me champagne. I reminded him that I was underaged, and he looked genuinely surprised, thanking me for being honest. He then offered me some juice, and I took him up on the offer. I wasn’t offered a choice of juice, though he came back with an iced glass of delicious grapefruit juice, so I wasn’t complaining.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pre-Departure Beverage

The female flight attendant serving my aisle then came around asking if I would like pajamas. I asked for a set, and she came back with small-sized pajamas.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pajamas

The pajamas were long-sleeved, all black, and made of a rather soft quality, and they were quite comfortable.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pajamas

In the meantime, she also asked me if I’d be wining and dining, or if I’d like my bed to be made right after takeoff. I told her that I’d be dining on the flight. Soon the inflight manager of the Upper Class cabin, Alastair, got on the PA. I’ve come across some hilarious flight attendants in the past, but Alastair was a class act.

He announced that two passengers “had gone astray”, and we were waiting on them to close the doors and depart. Soon that turned into “sorry, we’ve had to unload their bags as it’s unlikely that we’ll find them in the terminal unfortunately. Looks like two passengers will be regretting their duty free shopping.” Hah.

After the cabin door closed, captain David Payne came on the PA to give us details including our flying time of 11 hours and 43 minutes. Alastair then got back on the PA, and said “the ground crew have done a fantastic job and their work is done for the night, it’s our turn to please you”. He then followed that with “my mother taught me as a little Scottish boy that prior to spending the night with someone, I should introduce myself. Given that I’m spending the night with all 246 of you tonight, I may as well do just that.” Class.

He then introduced himself as the “lucky chap who gets to work with all these delightful ladies and gents”, and said that in order for us to win their undivided attention through the night, we’d have to pay full attention to the safety video for the next five minutes, even joking that there would be a competition to win a bottle of free Upper Class Champagne with questions based on the safety video (thankfully, that never happened – this isn’t Cebu Pacific). Seems like a good deal – especially when Virgin Atlantic’s safety video is my favourite by far.

Virgin Atlantic Safety Video

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Safety Video

We pushed back while the safety video was being played at around 12:05 AM (hello, Hong Kong Airlines A330!).

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Hong Kong Airport

Alastair then came back on the PA and notified us that there were some announcements “and lousy jokes” that he had to get out of the way so we could maximise our rest after takeoff. He said that for the time being he’d dim the cabin lights to a “somewhat romantic setting”.

We were first in line for takeoff (overtaking a Swiss 777), and departed from runway 25L at 12:20 AM.

Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

Alastair got back on the PA one final time during our ascent and told us to inform the crew if there were any faults in our seat, even if we weren’t bothered by it, since the plane would be continuing to New York. He ended the announcement with “even though we may all be virgins, you never know what we may say yes to”.

In the meantime I visited the inflight bar, which was well-stocked with champagne and wine. The thing with Virgin Atlantic’s inflight bar is that there’s no bartender, so it’s just a space to socialise. The window seats in row 11 pretty much have a direct view of the bar, so I’d avoid those seats at all costs. I quite enjoyed having the bar as space to work, sit down, and have a drink (you can also choose to dine here, especially if you’re traveling with a loved one – someone had beaten us to it on this flight, though).

I found this space as more of a “hangout space” than a legitimate bar. Adhering to Virgin Atlantic’s marketing schemes, I feel like this place would be best suited as a “lounge” than a bar, since there’s no bartender, though that’s just me.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Bar

In the meantime I also had the chance to visit the lavatory. There were four lavatories at the back of the cabin, though two were shared with premium economy (that’s four lavatories shared between 66 seats). It’s clear that the forward two were meant for Upper Class passengers, as they were bigger and featured a small pull-down seat for “longer” stays (useful for changing into the provided pajamas, or brushing teeth).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Lavatory

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Lavatory

The meal service began around 25 minutes after takeoff. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any of the pictures under decent lighting at all (I tried to use the reading light and the overhead light, and my camera acted as a shadow in both cases), so I’ve typed it up:

Let’s eat

Starters

Mozzarella and tomato salad
A simple salad with wonderfully fresh flavours of tomato and mozzarella finished with a tasty Italian dressing

Butternut soup
Creamy butternut gently spiced, topped with chopped Italian parsley

Chinese dim sum
Meaning to touch the heart. Bean curd roll, shrimp dumpling and crab shao mai served with traditional Guilin chili sauce

Warm breads
Served with your choice of warm Artisan breads:
Hard German roll
Sour dough roll
Oats whole wheat roll

Mains

Roasted Atlantic cod
A light and healthy dish. Cod fillet topped with a creamy tomato sauce served with grilled new potato. French beans, pumpkin and pepper julienne

Aloo palak and aubergine masala (v)
A delicious vegetarian pairingof potato and spinach aloo with a spicy aubergine masala. Served with biryani rice topped with red chilli and a pitta bread

Szechuan Chili chicken and tofu
Diced chicken and tofu in a rich, spicy Szechuan sauce. Accompanied by steamed rice, choy sum and carrot flowers

Wonton noodles
Tender noodle nest in a chicken broth with traditional wontons. Topped with yellow chives

Pudding

Warm apple and blackberry tart
Chrisp short pastry filled with molten blackberry and apple, topped with a crunchy crumble finished with creamy vanilla sauce

Chocolate banana cake
Banana sponge dome topped with a chocolate sauce served with raspberry compote in a chocolate rain drop cup

Cheese and Port

Today’s choices are served with assorted crackers and grapes. And of course no cheese plate would be complete without a glass of port.

  • Cheddar
  • Somerset Brie
  • Shropshire Blue 

At the bar

Pop by for savoury nibbles and sweet treats like Fairfield farm crisps and Green & Black’s chocolate, plus a selection of fresh seasonal fruit.

I’ll also share the beverage list available, though won’t type up the descriptions of the wines, as they’re quite long-winded (those who’d like the descriptions can email me for the menu pictures):

Champagne

  • Canard-Duchêne

White Wines

  • Classic – Sancerre, Alban Roblin, Loire, France 2017
  • Familiar – De Martino Reserva Chardonnay, Limari Valley, Chile 2017
  • Discovery – Pulenta Pinot Gris, Mendoza, Argentina 2016/17

Red Wines

  • Classic – Dog Point Pinot Noir, Malborough, New Zealand 2013/15
  • Familiar – Frankland Estate Shiraz, Frankland, Western Australia 2015
  • Discovery – Rigoleto, Colle Massari, Monte Cucco, Italy 2015

Cocktails

  • Classic Daiquiri
    The classic cocktail made with Bacardi Carta Blanca to create that classic taste we all know
  • Tennessee Iced Tea
    Made with Gentleman Jack straight out of Tennessee, this is one deep south cocktail you can’t help but get sweet on
  • Appletini
    A great crowd pleaser from the day it was invented in LA. Blended with Grey Goose Vodka with a refreshing taste to get you going
  • Ginger Spritz
    A perfect mix of Gin, ginger ale and a citrus mix to tempt the taste buds. This cocktail gives and light and refreshing taste of summer
  • St Clements
    This non-alcoholic blend is a tenuous contender. Packed with a citrus punch of Persian limes from Mexico and a dash of orange juice
  • Smoov Chapman (only available on VS652 from Lagos to London, but I’ll share it anyway)
    A refreshing non-alcoholic fruity carbonated soft drink with a consistent authentic ‘Chapman’ taste

Bar list
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Gentleman Jack Whiskey ‘Bourbon style’
Glen Deveron Single Malt Whisky
Dewar’s 12 year old Special Reserve Blended Whisky
Grey Goose Vodka
Bacardi Carta Blanca
Cognac
Quinta Do Noval LBV Port
Amarula Cream Liqueur
Heineken and Tiger beers

Soft drinks
Orange, apple, cranberry and tomato juices
Ginger ale
Coke and Diet Coke
Lemonade
Regular and naturally light tonic water
Still and sparkling mineral water

Hot drinks

Coffee
Black coffee, Americano* or Espresso*, with or without milk
Highland coffee, with Glen Deveron Scotch whisky
South African coffee, with Amarula cream
Brandy coffee, with Otard cognac
*Available on selected aircraft

Birchall teas
We are proud to offer an award-winning ethical tea range from Birchall, a British tea company with a rich heritage

Birchall’s Black and Green selection

  • Great Rift Breakfast Blend Best enjoyed with a dash of milk.
    The perfect way to kick start your day.
  • Great Rift Decaf Best enjoyed with a dash of milk.
    A decaffeinated black tea bursting with flavour.
  • Virunga Earl Grey Best enjoyed with a slice of lemon.
    Single origin black tea scented with a traditional Bergamot oil.
  • Mao Feng Green Best enjoyed without milk.
    Pure green tea sourced from China, known to detoxify and restore natural balance.

Birchall’s Herbal and Floral selection (Caffeine free)

  • Organic Redbush Enjoy with or without milk.
    A classic red rooibos tea, soothing and naturally sweet.
  • Peppermint Best enjoyed without milk.
    Made from only the finest pure peppermint leaves, traditionally known to aid digestion.
  • Camomile Best enjoyed without milk.
    The perfect wind down. Subtle, delicate and mellow.
  • Lemongrass & Ginger Best enjoyed without milk.
    Uplifting blend of lemongrass, ginger, liquorice root and orange peel.
  • Red Berry & Flower Best enjoyed without milk.
    A refreshing and fruity infusion of strawberries, elderberries and hibiscus.

30 minutes after takeoff the female flight attendant came by to take drink offers. I ordered a St Clements, which was the one non-alcoholic cocktail selection available. The drink came with some chips in a bowl.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pre-Meal Service Snack

The St Clements tasted so much like lemonade that any advertised trace of lime or orange was pretty much nonexistent, but I appreciated that there was a mocktail on offer, which many airlines seem to miss the mark on. There was another mocktail listed on the menu only available on the VS652 flight from Lagos to London (Smoov Chapman), though that seems to be a Nigerian bottled soft drink, so I doubt it belonged on the list anyway.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pre-Meal Service Beverage

After that the female crewmember came around with meal orders. I asked if I could have a soup and an appetiser (since the soup is listed as an appetiser on the menu), and she said she’d check to see if there was enough. There was.

It took around 15 minutes after that for my table to be set (meal orders were taken at around 1:15 AM Hong Kong time, and the table was set at 1:30 AM), and I quite liked the way it was set up. I was also offered bread out of a basket, and selected a sourdough roll, which was warm and tasty.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Table Setup

These airplane salt and pepper shakers have to be the cutest little things I’ve seen in a while.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Salt and Pepper Shakers

A couple minutes after that my appetiser arrived, which was a tomato and mozzarella salad. It’s worth noting that these are bocconcini, not mozzarella (bocconcini are basically bite-sized mozzarella, and are much easier to find at your local supermarket) – I’d seen pictures from other bloggers of this exact same dish (according to the menu), which featured long strips of sliced mozzarella and larger tomatoes, as opposed to cherry tomatoes and bocconcini.

While I was let down by the presentation due to my high expectations from the photos I’d seen of the exact same dish, it was delicious (I particularly loved the dressing), so I’m not complaining!

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Meal Appetiser – Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Soon the soup arrived. The soup itself was delicious – smooth and silky. However, I regretted mixing all the parsley in the soup, as the parsley completely overstepped the beautiful, nuanced flavour of the butternut squash. Still, a good dish (though scoop out the parsley if you come across a similar dish, as this is another Upper Class classic).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Meal Appetiser – Butternut Soup

I was one of the last people to be served my main meal, and waited around 10 minutes after my starter was cleared (for the record, that’s pretty good, even on an overnight flight). My cod dish came with some French beans, pumpkin, and potatoes. It’s a shame the cod was overcooked, because it was well-seasoned, and everything else on the plate was deliciously well-executed, which isn’t something I’d normally expect on a plane.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Meal Main Course – Roasted Atlantic Cod

My dad had the wonton noodles, which he didn’t like quite as much (though personally I wouldn’t have gone for the Asian option on a British airline).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Meal Main Course – Wonton Noodles

My dessert was served, once again, 10 minutes after my main course was cleared. Alastair came by to ask for my dessert, but since I’d already placed my order beforehand, the female flight attendant came over and confirmed to both of us that I’d ordered the apple and blackberry tart. He came back with it within a minute.

While the main course was good, the dessert was SUBLIME. A sweet, slightly tart apple and blackberry filling encased in a buttery, flaky crust, doused in warm, sticky crème anglaise, with the mellow flavour of vanilla creeping up on my palate after each bite – I’m salivating thinking about it even as I write this review. Amazing, amazing, amazing. (That said, crème anglaise seems to be somewhat of an Upper Class dessert staple – not that I’d complain about having this exact dessert on every flight!)

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Meal Dessert – Apple and Blackberry Tart

More than anything I was impressed by how well thought out the plating was. The salad was served on a medium-sized plate, the main course was well-arranged on a larger plate, etc..

If I had one suggestion, the crème anglaise could actually be served in a jug separate from the tart, so the tart could stand in its full, flaky glory before being doused in the decadent sauce (the passenger would then proceed to pour the warm crème anglaise onto the tart, devour it, and then proceed to ask for a second, or a fifth). Then again, I understand that more plating equipment results in higher costs – it’d just be a quick finishing touch for one of the best-tasting desserts I’ve had, be it on the ground or in the air.

The flight attendants were on top of their game, and they were very friendly and polished. Everything was laid directly on the table, as opposed to being served from a trolley, which I appreciated. That said, they weren’t the most attentive of the bunch. My appetiser took a while to be cleared, trash on my tray wasn’t collected, etc.. However, I’m a bit more forgiving of that when there’s a 31-person cabin to tend to. They were already very charming and personable, which I far value over small things such as clearing trash off a tray table without being asked.

My dessert was cleared almost immediately after I finished it, and the female flight attendant asked if I wanted my bed made. Of course – an Upper Class experience wouldn’t be complete without it!

She also took my breakfast card at this time. Virgin Atlantic offers a breakfast card so passengers can pre-order breakfast. While I find that a good (and presumably quite efficient) concept, normally I don’t end up craving the same things before and after bed. That said, I also saw the flight attendants taking orders from some passengers right before breakfast, so I’m guessing it’s just an option that you have, rather than something you’re required to fill out.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Breakfast Card

While the female flight attendant was setting up my bed, I paid another visit to the bar, where there was now champagne, a selection of fruit, as well as some fruit juice on offer (the juice isn’t fresh, however – it’s straight out of a Fontana carton).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Bar

My bed was soon ready, which required flipping the top of the seat down and setting up the bedding, including a mattress pad. One thing I was impressed by was the bedding. The pillow on offer was large, squashy, and not overly soft like your average airline pillow (even the best business class products can’t get this right sometimes). The mattress pad provided a smooth sleeping surface, and I really appreciated the duvet as well.

However, it’s worth noting that the actual sleeping surface is quite hard. It’s not hard like some firmer mattresses, but rather it felt like I was sleeping on the floor, with a thin mattress pad to provide some padding.

This is such a missed opportunity, in my opinion. Virgin Atlantic provides some of the best bedding I’ve ever had in a business class seat, including a mattress pad, which I’ve never had before (and they’ve offered it for quite a long time, whereas most airlines have only recently upped their bedding game), and they even provide a separate sleeping surface that requires flipping the seat over…and that sleeping surface feels like sleeping on asphalt. To provide some context, Virgin Atlantic uses the same material for the actual sleeping surface as they do for their economy class seats.

The bed padding wasn’t terrible, by any means. It was on par with many other business class seats I’ve flown where I could recline my seat into a bed with the touch of a button. But this configuration requires flipping the seat over to make a bed, sacrificing the lazy-Z position as well as many other reclining positions that those other seats have. Objectively it’s still amazing to be able to have a “legitimate” bed in the air (it goes without saying that this is far beyond the comforts of any economy seat) – it was just such a missed opportunity for me.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Bed

Also (and less frustratingly, as this point is more of a function of the awkward configuration than a missed opportunity), the bed wasn’t one of the most spacious beds I’ve had out there. While I could roll around and spread out (and it was long enough for my 5’9″ frame), I couldn’t bend my knees as easily as I’d be able to in a reverse herringbone seat.

A final point about the bed was that the lack of storage space compared to other seat configurations quickly became apparent, as I had to snuggle up to my headphones, my water bottle, my camera, and my GoPro, whereas I had to place my computer back in the overhead bin. This is the first seat in business class that I’ve slept in where I didn’t have enough space to place a computer.

Still, nothing excites me more than being able to lie flat, under the covers, while soaring 37,000 feet in the air, and I was having the time of my life.

Yours Truly in Virgin Atlantic’s Boeing 787 Upper Class Bed

I slept for a solid six hours, mostly aided by the great bedding, and the fact that the cabin was cold. However, even if it wasn’t, Virgin Atlantic provides air nozzles at all seats across all three cabins, which is a treat, especially since herringbone seats can sometimes get stuffy sometimes due to the cabin walls obstructing the airflow (this wasn’t the case here).

Alastair noticed that I was awake and asked if I’d like anything to drink. I asked if they had a snack menu, which I know that some Virgin Atlantic flights offer. He said that they only had “chips and crap like that” (in a humorous, endearing way), so I decided to go for a tea.

I didn’t have my menu with me, so asked what teas he had on offer. He listed off a bunch of teas from the menu, including a peppermint tea, which I ordered. It hit the spot.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Peppermint Tea

One disappointment about the flight was that the WiFi wasn’t working – it simply wouldn’t load the login page, even on my phone (which has never failed to load even the sketchiest login pages). I was in Upper Class, so I was having enough fun. However, someone in a middle seat in economy may have wanted to connect with the outside world to burn some time, which they wouldn’t have been able to do.

When it works, Virgin Atlantic charges WiFi by usage, offering two different WiFi plans on the 787:

  • 40 MB for 4.99 GBP/5.99 USD
  • 150 MB for 14.99 GBP/19.99 USD

Virgin Atlantic uses T-Mobile as their inflight WiFi provider, though they’ve recently switched to Gogo 2Ku, so their A330s, A340s, and 747s feature WiFi charged by time, as opposed to by usage, which I far prefer (if you wanted me to, I could burn 150 MB in 15 minutes). The 787s don’t have that, though, so the WiFi system still charges by usage…when it works, of course, which wasn’t the case on this flight.

I always use my phone when inflight WiFi is charged by usage (just because of the sheer number of Internet-using apps and extensions that my computer has which are open 24/7, to the point that closing them for the purpose of WiFi would reduce my productivity as opposed to catalysing it), so I’d pre-loaded up work on my computer that I could work on during the flight.

Alastair came over to ask if I wanted my bed to be converted back into a seat. I declined for now, as I wanted the chance to dive back into bed if I felt tired. For the time being I felt productive so decided to work at the bar – it’s a treat to have some open space just to work, especially in herringbone seats when you’re otherwise confined to a couple of walls. That said, after around half an hour of productive work we hit some chop, so I went back to bed and worked from there (working from bed 37,000 feet above ground – can we just stop for a while and appreciate that mere prospect?).

Yours truly, working in pajamas at the Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class Bar

I believe the attendants might’ve remade my bed when I went back to my seat, as it certainly didn’t look the same as when I left it. That said, I’m not quite sure, since the sheets were still somewhat crinkly. Granted I was away from my seat for half an hour, though that’s impressive for business class.

Around an hour after I woke up (30 minutes after I returned to my seat after visiting the bar), Alastair asked if I wanted breakfast. He asked if I wanted my bed to be made back into a seat, though offered for me to have breakfast in bed. I initially obliged (breakfast in bed on a plane sounded cool), though decided against it when I realised the tray table didn’t deploy when the seat was in bed mode. Alastair would’ve served my breakfast on a tray, which I could put on my lap. That was a nice offer, but I’m a clumsy person, so wasn’t about to leave any egg stains on the bed.

While Alastair was converting my bed back into my seat he asked if I slept well. I was honest with him, and said that I expected the bed would be softer. He admitted that his hip sometimes went to sleep whenever sitting in the seat, though took that as an opportunity to market a new seat that was coming, which he’d “heard good things about from his fellow colleagues” (in other news, word’s spread that it’ll have a door – watch out, QSuites!).

Once again, I didn’t manage to capture the menu under good lighting, so here’s what they had on offer:

Wakey, wakey

A selection of breakfast cereals
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Kellogg’s Bran Flakes, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, porridge and muesli

Croissant
with butter and fruit preserves

Raspberry muffin

Seasonal Fruit and Greek yoghurt

Traditional full English
Scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage, tomato, baked beans, brown bread and an English toasted muffin

Braised mixed mushroom
served with jade melon in an oyster sauce with egg noodles and pak choy

Bacon butty

I’d filled in my breakfast card before dinner, and I still don’t know what I was thinking at the time ordering myself so many carbs (in retrospect, I probably didn’t know what a “butty” was, and thought it sounded cool). Alastair came with all my breakfast items on a tray, laid some sort of a circular mat on my table, and placed all of my breakfast items directly on the mat.

While I’d prefer a non-English breakfast item (such as some waffles or pancakes, or even an eggs benedict), this is Virgin Atlantic, and at least they executed all of the items I ordered very well, which isn’t what I can say about most airlines. The bacon butty was delicious and buttery, the English muffin was crisp though slightly dense, the eggs were well-executed and not rubbery, and the muffin was delicious as well. I’ve had bad things to say about Virgin Atlantic’s food in the past, though the same certainly isn’t true when flying Upper Class. The coffee breakfast came with was good as well.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Breakfast

My breakfast was cleared around an hour and a half before landing, though most people woke up later, so they were served breakfast after they awoke. The female flight attendant and Alastair were serving our aisle for breakfast, and they were spectacular (my dad initially decided against breakfast, though at the end went for scrambled eggs – Alastair initially thought they were out, but upon hearing my dad’s desire for eggs, he managed to muster a half-portion out, presumably from the sides of the container it was heated in).

In the meantime someone from premium economy was diabetic, though for some reason was refusing to eat. Alastair came to my father’s seat and gave him a detailed explanation of the passenger’s inability/refusal to eat, though at the end an endocrinologist from economy turned himself in, and he was able to offer more advice. I was going to work at the bar at the time, though the flight attendants were congregating and handling the situation there – I observed for a bit, and was impressed by how calmly and professionally the issue was being dealt with. It’s still insane that so many people are scared of flying when flight crew are trained to solve so many potential problems that could arise, so meticulously.

I didn’t hear back from the incident, though the flight attendants calmed down and started dispersing back into their cabins, so I’d like to think that everything turned out okay. The female flight attendant came by offering sweets from Love Hearts, which is a nice touch also offered when flying in premium economy. She also offered landing cards, as well as Fast Track cards for immigration.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Pre-Landing Mints

At this point many people had to turn their beds back into seats as we were about to land. When I went to the lavatory to change back into my formal clothes, I had the chance to chat with Alastair. He was such a nice guy, and was particularly excited to hear that I was reviewing the flight all along.

Captain David Payne came back onto the PA and announced that we’d be having a straight-in landing into Heathrow, and we were expected to get there at around 4:50 AM. Straight-in and Heathrow are two words I’d never expect to hear together, so it was great to be able to be on the ground quickly, as much as flying in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class was a pleasure.

The (only?) good thing about Virgin Atlantic’s seat is that you can recline it into any position you want during takeoff and landing, as long as it’s not in bed mode. I’m surprised more airlines don’t offer this in business class, when everyone has direct aisle access and it’s probably not an obstruction to have your seat in partial recline (other airlines such as Qantas have caught on, and allow their seats to be reclined to a certain degree upon takeoff and landing).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Cabin During Landing

We were treated to an amazing sunrise upon our landing into Heathrow, if not as amazing as the sunrise that I had on the same route last year.

Landing London Heathrow Airport

Landing London Heathrow Airport

Landing London Heathrow Airport

Landing London Heathrow Airport

We touched down into Heathrow at 5 AM, and made our way to gate 17, which was located in Heathrow’s Terminal 3.

Landing London Heathrow Airport

Landing London Heathrow Airport

Once we landed Alastair went back on the PA to ask us to make sure we checked our seats for our personal belongings, “or they’d be up for sale on eBay later this afternoon”. In the meantime the stunning cabin lights lit up.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Cabin During Landing

At 5:10 AM we arrived at our gate, and we deplaned shortly after. While we weren’t the first off, everyone getting off before us seemed to be EU residents, so we were the first people in the Fast Track lane, and through by 5:20 AM. We didn’t have bags to be cleared, so we went straight to the Revivals lounge, which I’ll be reviewing in the next installment.

Bottom Line: Virgin Atlantic 787 Upper Class

Business class is all about the seat, and this is where Virgin Atlantic lags behind. Herringbone seats aren’t great to start with, and they’re not especially private – I was happy to get a seat on the left side, where I wasn’t staring at people across the aisle. I was most disappointed by the hard sleeping surface. If I’m not going to get substantially more comfort in bed mode, I’d rather have a seat that reclines into a bed, rather than a seat that you have to get out of. This is especially since the flight attendant has to do extra work to convert your seat into a bed – it’s so labour-intensive, so I wish there was a higher gain in comfort, if anything. That said, I’m happy to hear that Virgin Atlantic has plans to replace the seat (they’ve already done so on their A330-200s, though that’s only because they acquired those planes from Airberlin).

I was also disappointed that the WiFi wasn’t working on this flight, and I’m not happy in general that WiFi is charged by usage as opposed to by time, at least on the 787.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised by every other aspect of the experience. The food was great, especially the dessert, and I liked that it was laid directly on top of the tray table, as opposed to a trolley service. I also thought the soft product in general was very well thought out – I appreciated the high-quality pajamas, the great bedding, and the amenity kit. I also very much appreciated the inflight bar, even though quite a few airlines have upped their game in recent years (and the bar is more of a lounge, as it doesn’t feature a bartender like on Emirates or Qatar Airways’ A380s – I’m keen to try those out someday).

On top of that, service on this flight was simply a treat. Alastair, in particular, is such an asset to the team. He’s friendly, hilarious, genuine, and I hope I get to fly on one of his flights again. The other female flight attendant serving my aisle was spectacular as well. I was impressed that they still managed to be somewhat attentive when serving a 31-seat business class cabin as a team of four people. While I got very attentive service on Qatar Airways, they serve a 22-seat business class cabin on the 787 with a five-person team.

Overall, Virgin Atlantic offers a decent product in Upper Class. While I thought the soft product was way above the market average (far ahead of Cathay Pacific, and I imagine it’s far ahead of British Airways), they’re currently let down by an outdated hard product, especially for the price they charge. That said, while I wouldn’t go out of my way to choose Virgin Atlantic over other business class products, they’re a great way to fly between Hong Kong and London.

Have you flown Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class before? How was your flight?

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