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A Guide To Virgin Atlantic’s 787 Premium Class

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Virgin Atlantic has an exclusively longhaul network, and they have more 787s than any other aircraft in their fleet. The airline is known for their excellent branding game – people want to fly them because they’re a “cool”, “hip” brand, despite not having the best onboard product (though their business class lounge at Heathrow is hands down my favourite in the world). I’ve had the chance to fly them quite a few times in premium economy on the 787, which they’ve recently begun marketing as “Premium” class, since they wanted the product to be considered a separate league from economy.

two chairs in a planeVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 premium economy hard product isn’t industry leading, there are many special touches to the product that allows the experience to differ from other premium economy experiences. This guide to Virgin Atlantic’s 787 premium economy will explain some of these touches, as well as what you should expect from Virgin Atlantic premium economy in general.

Should you want to see more comprehensive reviews of individual flights that I’ve taken on Virgin Atlantic, here are the reviews of all flights I’ve taken on them in premium economy:

a row of seats with screens on the sideVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 Premium Economy Seat

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 features 35 premium economy seats arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration. Each seat features 38″ of pitch, which is sufficient, though not amazing, for premium economy. The seats are leather, and quite well-padded.

a seat on an airplaneVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Legroom

As you’d expect, the seat reclines. The recline is decent at 8″, which warrants a pretty good sleep. If the seat in front is reclined, getting out of your seat isn’t particularly easy, partially because of how well-padded the seat is – the thick padding eats into the available room between you and the seat in front. However, when you’re not waltzing over your seatmate to get to the bathroom, the seat itself has ample space, and I’ve never felt cramped in a Virgin Atlantic premium economy seat.

two chairs in a planeVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy

The seat also has an ergonomic footrest, which becomes handy when trying to sleep, as it’s adjustable in a couple of angles. I don’t prefer this to a legrest – at the end of the day I prefer having a platform to rest my calves in a premium economy seat. This is something that other airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific offer, though at the end of the day Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy setup isn’t bad for sleeping.

a close-up of a stepVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Footrest

The seat has a sturdy work table and two USB ports, as well as a 110V power port at each seat, so it’s all set for working.

Which Seats Are Top Picks?

On Virgin Atlantic’s 787 I prefer the back row (row 25), due to the fact that it’s furthest away from the lavatories and you’re not reclining into anyone (so you can keep your seat reclined during mealtimes). However, the first row has the benefit of a little extra legroom, and a dedicated legrest cushion (since there’s no footrest). Personally, I prefer window seats to aisle seats due to the fact that you can lean on the window and sleep, despite the fact that climbing across your neighbour in the aisle isn’t easy by any means.

a purple object on a shelfVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Bulkhead Legrest Cushion

What Food Should You Order?

First of all, Virgin Atlantic offers a small menu on all of their flights in premium economy. While probably standard in premium economy, they also offer menus in economy, which is a nice touch.

a hand holding a paperVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Menu

However, much of the meal service is coherent with what you’d get in economy. Looking back, it seems like I’ve unintentionally ordered the Western dish on all four of my Virgin Atlantic flights. In 2016 I was impressed by both my dishes on my Virgin Atlantic flights, whereas in 2017 I was slightly underwhelmed. It looks like Virgin Atlantic is used to dicing up everything on the menu they call “braised”, so I’d avoid anything with that description. However, their vegetarian dishes aren’t too bad (despite being rather sloppily presented). Here are a few things that I’d avoid when ordering food in Virgin Atlantic premium economy:

  • Anything “braised”
  • Anything with a non-tomato or cream-based sauce (for example, a “mushroom sauce” with pasta will be way too salty)

The moral is that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t shine in the food department. If you have the chance (continue reading), I’d advise against saving your appetite for onboard.

a bowl of food on a tableVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Meal Main Course – Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi

Their breakfast is pretty good in comparison, since I’ve had both good Western and Chinese options (oh, a side note – I love their mugs). Do keep in mind that this is just my personal experience on Virgin Atlantic, so if you get rubbery eggs or watery congee, let me know.

a plate of food and a cup of coffeeVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Breakfast

However, the food and beverage department is also where one of Virgin Atlantic’s highlights come in – while Upper Class features a bar, Premium class features a Wander Wall, featuring unlimited packaged snacks and a few canned drinks. It’s a creative space, in my opinion, and certainly one I’ve taken advantage of on past flights.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Wonder Wall

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 Premium Economy Amenities

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 features Herschel amenity kits, featuring all the basics, such as socks, eyeshades, and a toothbrush. This is alright for premium economy, though probably the most impressive thing in the amenity kit department is that the Virgin Atlantic offers amenity kits in economy class, featuring the same selection of items.

a table with a purple object on itVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Amenity Kit Contents

Both the pillow and the blanket have a cutout for your head, which I find odd, though the good news is that both are very comfortable. While the blanket’s large and adequate for premium economy, the pillow beats many pillows I’ve had in business class. Virgin Atlantic sure gets all the basics right in premium economy.

a pillow on a seatVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Pillow

a purple towel on a bedVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Blanket

Furthermore, those who get hot easily on flights will be happy to hear that Virgin Atlantic’s 787s feature individual air nozzles. Unfortunately, the provided headphones are economy-style.

a pair of headphones on a white surfaceVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Headphones

This is all pretty nice for a premium economy product. The amenity kit is standard (though I love the Herschel bag), the headphones are standard, and the pillow and blanket are above average.

Also, Virgin Atlantic offers 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 offers WiFi on their entire fleet, and since they only recently installed WiFi on their A330s and A340s, those aircraft actually have a superior WiFi system that charges by time instead of by usage. That’s much more practical for working, in my opinion. However, this new WiFi system doesn’t extend to their 787s, though usage-capped WiFi is better than nothing.

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 Premium Economy Service

I’ve constantly had very good experiences with Virgin Atlantic’s 787 premium economy. I’ve found that flight attendants have consistently been willing to be there, and they’ve been happy to help whenever I needed to take photos. For example, when I tried to take a picture of the Wander Wall on a previous flight, a flight attendant came over and said “it looks very messy…let me clean it up a bit for you first”. In another case, when my tray table was dysfunctional, a flight attendant offered to let me sit in the Upper Class bar for dinner if it “wasn’t busy”. I’ve found this genuineness to be consistent across all my Virgin Atlantic flights in premium economy, and I’d love to hear if you’ve experienced otherwise.

a group of newspapers on a shelfVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Newspapers

Furthermore, there are many premium touches to Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy service, such as nice mugs for hot beverages, pre-departure beverages, mints before landing, etc..

a cup of coffee with a wooden spoonVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Premium Economy Mug

Sneaky Touches To Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy

Four lavatories are present between the Virgin Atlantic premium economy and Upper Class cabins. In theory the forward two are meant for Upper Class passengers, though the rule is never reinforced. The Upper Class bathrooms are substantially bigger and feature a platform for sitting down, so if you’re looking to brush, I’d suggest using one of these bathrooms if they aren’t occupied, especially in the middle of a redeye flight.

a seat in a toiletVirgin Atlantic Boeing 787 Upper Class Bathroom

Furthermore, while I haven’t taken advantage of this, I’ve seen premium economy passengers successfully take drinks back from the Upper Class inflight bar.

Which Lounges Can You Use?

Lounge access for premium economy? That would be too good to be true (unless you’re flying Japan Airlines premium economy). Virgin Atlantic offers exclusive pay-in access to the Clubhouse for premium economy passengers for £60 (~HK$620), which isn’t cheap, though is reasonable given that the Clubhouse is one of the best business class lounges in the world (and hands down the best lounge at Heathrow), featuring an outdoor terrace, a bar, a spa, a-la-carte dining, etc.. To know more about the lounge, you can check out my full review here.

a room with chairs and tablesVirgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow

£60 gets you three hours of access to the lounge, though if you’re traveling with someone flying in Upper Class you can be guested into this lounge for free (obviously the guesting perk isn’t limited to Virgin Atlantic premium economy flyers). Personally I think you should only visit the lounge if you have 2-3 hours before boarding time, since £60 isn’t a small amount of money. However, if you have the time and the money, you’ll have a blast.

It’s worth noting that if the Clubhouse is at full capacity, the lounge agents have the right to repudiate your access prior to your payment, so don’t count on being able to use the lounge.

I believe the same pay-in access applies to Virgin Atlantic’s U.S. Clubhouses, which I’ve heard good things about.

Bottom Line

Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy stays true to their brand, which is something that I really like. It’s meant to be a fun product, and the seats are comfortable. There’s WiFi onboard, as well as the Wander Wall, which is a really cool concept for premium economy. Furthermore, rates for Virgin Atlantic premium economy are often quite reasonable as well.

Possibly the most fun thing about Virgin Atlantic premium economy is that you’re granted access to the Clubhouse for a fee, especially if you’re traveling alone (since the £60 fee is charged per person). £60 isn’t cheap for an airline lounge, though it’s more than worth it to experience one of the world’s best airline lounges, in my opinion.

By following some of the tips above, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your next flight in Virgin Atlantic premium economy.

For other comprehensive product guides from the Young Travelers of Hong Kong team, feel free to check out our guides of:

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