Virgin Atlantic Upper Class outbound via Manchester – Part 2

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Finding Level 1 Delta business class awards to Europe (Sweden) – Part 1
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class outbound via Manchester – Part 2
The Escape Lounge Manchester T3 – Part 3
KLM Euro business class to Amsterdam & Gothenburg – Part 4
The smallest lounge EVER – the Ford business class lounge in Gothenburg GOT- Part 5
The Club Carlson Park Inn by Radisson Stockholm – Part 6
Hertz Presidents Circle GOLD club rental in Sweden – Part 7
KLM Euro business class to Amsterdam & Manchester – Part 8
The KLM Crown Lounge Amsterdam #25 – Part 9
ASPIRE lounge #26 Amsterdam AMS Priority Pass lounge review – Part 10
SPG Sheraton Amsterdam Airport Hotel Schiphol suite review- Part 11
The Escape Lounge Manchester T2 for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class guests review- Part 12
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Manchester to Atlanta – Part 13
Final thoughts, costs and Virgin vs. DeltaONE to Europe – Part 14

Virgin Atlantic boarding pass Delta poitns blog 1

To say I was looking forward to this ride is putting it mildly. As an #AVgeek this was way up there on my “to do list” of products to fly. Did it live up to the hype? In some ways yes and in other ways really not so much.

Virgin Atlantic check-in at Atlanta ATL airport pre-security 2

Despite the fact that Delta now owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, there is very little seemliness in the travel experience. When I went to check-in online only my South Bend to Atlanta boarding pass printed. I called and was told I had to check-in at the airport, either as you see above at the Virgin Atlantic check-in airport side or,

Virgin Atlantic check-in post security Atlanta ATL near gate F6 Delta Points blog 3

Near gate F6 secure side. Oh, and I could only do so 4 hours before my flight as the desk would not be open before that. Frustrating? You bet. Another oddity is that Delta will allow a legal 30 minute connection arriving in Atlanta and departing on Virgin but there is very little chance of you making that without a boarding pass in hand. We, as you saw from the first post, had plenty of time as it was the only way to secure 125,000 Delta point round trip LEVEL 1 business class award tickets.

Virgin Atlantic A330 Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog 4

I was really wanting to fly a Virgin 747 but the A330 is what awaited us. I was still stoked and excited to try the Virgin Upper Class experience.

F6 Atlanta gate Virgin Atlantic Delta Points blog

Boarding went rather smoothly as despite the smallish boarding area, that mostly poured into the concourse, they did call for Upper Class before the rest of the boarding zones.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats A330 Atlanta to Manchester England Delta Points blog (1)

Virgin, much like Delta, offers individual aisle access for all Upper Class seats. It is in a 1-2-1 herringbone configuration.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats A330 Atlanta to Manchester England Delta Points blog (2)

Much like the Delta 777 seats, if you are flying with someone, sitting across from each other is better if you want to look over and chat as the seat next to you in the middle is not companion friendly.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats A330 Atlanta to Manchester England Delta Points blog (3)

I choose the middle seat. One thing I noticed right away is there is NO overhead space / storage for the middle seats. None.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats A330 Atlanta to Manchester England Delta Points blog (4)

My wife had the “window” side and I say that in quotes because window access is just about blocked.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats A330 Atlanta to Manchester England Delta Points blog (5)

For those who like to stare out the window at the great views below, this seat configuration is not for you unless you like yoga in-flight.

bar onboard virgin atlantic atlanta to manchester delta points blog

Before I go on, some first impressions. I liked the trendy look. A bar onboard? Sure why not and how uber kool. The FAs were all really kind, warm, smiling, welcoming, funny and just fabulous. My amenity kit was waiting with menus and drinks were quickly offered as well as a kind offer to show off the seat features etc. I was really impressed. But, as you may have been told by others, service and food are very good on Virgin, the hard product is not the greatest. You will see I agree completely with this assessment. But more on that in a bit.

Virgin Atlantic IFE A330 Upper Class (1)

The IFE is good as far as a TON of choices. They fire it up right away so you can enjoy it from gate to gate with the normal 50 interruptions for safety demos and sales pitches and flight info. For all the advances in technology it is often better to have your own IFE to avoid all this I have found and my Samsung Galaxy 8.4 Pro does this very very well.

Virgin Atlantic IFE A330 Upper Class (2)

Once above 10,000 feet you can undock the screen and swing it out. Seems like a good idea but we had issues (both Lisa & I). My arm and screen were really dirty. Just nasty sticky. Lisa’s “arm” was so loose that she had to fold her menu into a wedge to keep the screen from hitting her in the face.

Virgin Atlantic seat contols and side IFE controls A330 Upper Class Delta Points blog

And it did not end there. The screen really is in the way of the tray table. The on-screen controls are a bit buggy but there is a controller at your seat. This is good and you do NOT have to take it out to use it (also good as mine was also just dirty and nasty on the sides).

The seat controls are rather simple because these seats do not, with a push of a button, become beds. The FAs have to come flip the seat forward, and with some effort, make it a bed with a very thin duvet. This really is a strange design and it gets worse.

I have to say this is just about the worst full flat seat I have ever been on. It is narrow. It is short. The aisle between seats is so tiny your feet will get bumped by everyone who passes by, waking you up. One of the list of many failings of this bed seat is that when your neighbor lifts and drops back their tray table it is VERY loud and very near your head. Be ready to be awakened by a “CHUURCHUUNNK” if you have decided to sleep through breakfast (as I attempted to do). I used to think the Delta 777 DeltaONE seats was the worst full flat seat – it is a gem compared to this one for a night flight.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class amenity kit A330 Delta Points blog

Now on to the amenity kit. Are you under wehlemed by the photo? Good, you should be. Most of us like to reuse the amenity kits themselves for laptop cords or power adapters or whatever. This thing is cheap and worthless for that function. This inside stuff is just about equally chincy. All the stuff did the job but they all just felt cheap and “lower class”.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class menus A330 Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (1)

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class menus A330 Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (2)

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class menus A330 Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (3)

Time for dining choices. The menu was straight forward and what I did not get a photo of was the very extensive breakfast choices sheet. For a night flight I tend to skip breakfast anyway and just grab a bite in the club when I arrive. But for dinner I went with crab and mango salad. Then the beef followed by the cheese cake.

Virgin Atlantic Dining Upper Class Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (1)

First a bowl of crisps. An interesting appetizer.

Virgin Atlantic Dining Upper Class Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (2)

The crab and mango was just pleasant. Funny comparing this to the cold shrimp Delta normally provides. Both I like and would have again.

Virgin Atlantic Dining Upper Class Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (3)

The beef was good as well as the potatoes. The baby spinach was aptly named as it was mush and only good for baby food. Bread was a little stale as is often the case on airlines I have found. It is hard to do bread well on a jet. One thing you just gotta love are the little airplane salt and pepper shakers. They are plastic and they don’t mind if you “pinch” them (it even says pinched from Virgin on the bottom of the feet). A tip, if you do keep them, pull off the fronts and dump out the extra salt and pepper you did not use as they hold a TON!

Virgin Atlantic Dining Upper Class Atlanta to Manchester Delta Points blog (4)

Dessert was good but not amazing. Overall I would say a pleasant meal and for the most part lived up to my expectations. Every bit as good as DeltaONE meals and I truly think Delta does food right both domestic and internationally. Well done here Virgin.

Virgin Atlantic USB power ports Upper Class A330 Delta Points blog

As mentioned already about the seats, I slept but not great. I expect, as you will see in the review of my return trip, that these seats are better for daytime flights not nighttime flights. USB power is close at hand but standard power is center under your seat. If you have your laptop plugged in you will have to keep in UNDER your bed as you sleep. I really dislike have to get out of my seat to get to power. Delta seats tend to do a much better job at this.

More tips. You can, as the menu says, have dinner at the bar with your +1. The seats at the bar are not very comfortable. The bar area is small. I would not do this. It is fine for a drink and chat with an FA but that is about it. I know some love the idea of spending the flight at the bar, not for me. Next, you have no air vents in the middle section. Please use one of the vents on the window side pointed towards you as it should NOT hit the window flyer. My flight was hot and I wish I had known this tip.

Overall the flight was fine and just what I was told it would be. Great soft product and “MEH” at best hard product. I think calling it MEH is being kind. This is, for now, one of the only ways to get LEVEL 1 business class awards to Europe and I can see why – it sure is not worth more than 125,000 SkyMiles round trip.

Would I fly it again? Yes, but stick with daytime flights but more on that in the review of the return trip. Next up the Escape Lounge Manchester T3 – René

PS – Don’t forget
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  1. Were you in the old Upper Class, or the new one? I know that they’ve been rolling it out, but it’s not complete yet. If you got the new one, yikes!

  2. Ugh the A330. Not a fan of that VA product at all. You’re right it’s a daytime flight at best. The 747 is much more sleep friendly and much more spacious. Ill I on the 747 one week from today then taking the 330 back to ATL daytime.

    My experience has always been better with Virgin Atlantic if I’m on their ticket not a DL award flight. Check in much easier using their app and counter better in MIA. Leaving via LHR is almost worth the tax gouge (not really but that lounge is out of this world). My trip in a week is on Level 1 DL award so I’ll see if it’s different or not.
    The bar is s novelty but quite fun. I know I should not drink heavy on flights but my last trip I cleaned out their vodka stock drinking with a Brit and an Irishman. We were at the bar for hours overnight and the FAs eventually told us “you’re drunk go to bed”. Paid for it next day. No drinking this time.

  3. @Rene @William That is indeed the new upperclass. Looks much swankier than the last gen but still not very functional 🙁

  4. The VA A330s have the “new” upper class product. Sounds like the old may actually be better, at least more spacious, which I’m flying to LHR (then FCO) in September on VA’s A340.

  5. I’ve flown this exact same route twice in the last month.

    I largely concur. Here’s what I will add:

    1) Bar ends up being more of a staging area for flight attendants coming down the aisle with drinks and food. It ends up getting very noisy back there. Almost worse than galley. I say that because the galley has curtains to block out the lights and noise.

    2) Lavatories are bad for business-class. All small. The ones in front are almost not accessible because the crew takeover that area and close the curtains. The lavatories at the back of upper-class get used by premium economy passengers, too.

    3) Delta has much more entertainment on its in-flight systems. Plus, there’s wireless internet.

    4) The Virgin seats are horribly designed and engineered. No real armrest. Can’t see windows. Fully exposed to aisle. I personally don’t want to see other the crotch or butt of other passengers nor smell their feet. Poorly located power ports.

    5) You get a different amenity kit (same products) on the way home.

    6) Pillows don’t come in a sealed package. They also just toss them behind the seat in a seldom cleaned area. When the flight attendant made my bed, he actually put my duvet and pillow on the aisle floor! Icky!

    Of course, the soft product with Virgin is way better than Delta. That marketing from Sir Richard is incredible. If you’re flying in and out of Heathrow then it’s probably fine because you get a hell of an experience. But in and out of Manchester, it’s disappointing. A very poor experience, overall, in my opinion.

  6. But hey this is great for Delta because the aspirational and point travelers are filling Virgin planes meaning Delta can get more money from its corporate clients flying Delta-one on airfares of $5,000 or $10,000 on premium routes.

  7. One more thing. You can check-in through the Virgin Atlantic website 24 hours before your flight, print your boarding pass, text message your boarding pass and so forth all with your Delta confirmation number. What you can’t, however, do — on the return from England — is check-in for a connecting flight on Delta until you get to the airport in the US.

  8. I lied. One additional thing. Delta can’t access the Virgin luggage tracking system if your bag is lost, so they can’t tell you where it is, etc. Though EU regulations are nice for compensation.

  9. Rene, Are the Delta AIRBUS A330-300 herringbone seats different than Virgin? Judging from the seat chart, it looks like Delta middle seats are angled toward each other. My wife and I are flying ATL-FCO a week from today and we have two middle seats. Are these seats more companion friendly than being across the aisle?

  10. @JohnHace – The Delta A330-300 herringbone is not the same as the 777 but I have NOT yet been on it. Most say those are very nice and like them.

  11. Can you book an award ticket in premium econ on VS? If so what is the number of miles needed?

    For those who fly economy, the VS 787-9 has great seats. I flew LHR-JFK this month on it. I had the aisle bulkhead seat just behind premium economy. All of the bulkhead seats have extra legroom. With the aisle seat you can extend your feet past the bulkhead into premium economy without blocking the aisle for FAs and carts. Seating is 3-3-3, and all seats in my row were filled. Still this was probably the most comfortable economy seat I can remember! The curved headrest provides perfect support for head and neck. And delta DMs, at least, get to enjoy the Virgin Clubhouse before the flight even when flying economy.

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