Final thoughts, costs and Virgin vs. DeltaONE to Europe

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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 tail in mimosa

What a trip. This was one that I “worked” to not flush my hard earned $kyRubles down the drain. Sure, some of the layover times were long, but I did them somewhat on purpose as I had things I wanted to do along the way like have BBQ lunch with a friend in Atlanta and a LONG layover was allowed since international SkyMiles awards do allow up to 24 hour connections.

This trip was my first time flying Virgin Atlantic and I was very pleased with the service, the meals and the selection of inflight entertainment. The Upper Class “hard product” really is just bad. I would only pick this seat again if there was no other choice and I just had to for a LEVEL 1 SkyMiles award. Yeah, it is that bad on reflection and after having now flown it one more time since this review.

Equally frustrating was the fact that Virgin, who has a big presence in Manchester, does not have a dedicated Upper Class lounge. The 3rd party lounges really are fine if you need them for free as a Priority Pass member (free with non-Delta AMEX Platinum cards btw) but either of the two lounges I went to were NOT “Upper Class” worthy. They really need to either allow folks into their “Virgin Vacations” lounge (and provide free drinks) or open another lounge. Speaking of frustrations, Virgin offers car service by request for Upper Class passengers but NOT for those on awards. Loyalty rewarded? Really not so much.

Once again I am impressed with KLM. KLM is a unique airline. They provide so much Delta could never ever provide on short flights. Their FAs are really good and attentive. The hard product, however, on short hops is just a tiny coach seat. I can’t understand why they don’t put in some real business class seats. Then again, I don’t understand why Delta does not put in a “real” comfort plus seat that is more than a coach seat with extra space. I have not had the chance to fly KLM’s new full-flat seats (because they never seem to release space to SkyMiles members) but all the reviews look good. I may have to send some points to KLM one day and try it that way.

I am also more and more frustrated with the changes to the Club Carlson credit card because I really have changed my attitude toward Club Carlson hotels, that is, I now like them very much. I do like the free GOLD status the Club Carlson card gives me and if I were going to stay more with their brand I would keep the card just for this perk alone. There is still value there but much less than there once was.

SPG continues to impress me. Each time I think about giving up on SPG Platinum status for the following year I have a great and just about perfect stay, including a sweet suite upgrade, and I then realize I should try to qualify again for another year (I need just two more stays this year and I am good for 2016). Since I will always HOLD a non-Delta AMEX Platinum card I am at least set with GOLD SPG status. I really value SPG points and not just for stays. Even with all of this said I just don’t know about 2017. Heck, I don’t even know if flying on Delta will be my main focus next year so hotels really are way down on the “what do I do” list. 🙂

What about cost? For 125,000 SkyMiles each round trip there was value to me. I would have loved to have had the chance to stop over for more than 24 hours along the way and it just continues to burn me that Delta has ended “real” stopovers on awards, that is, taking a few days to enjoy some city along the route. It is not like I am flying anything different than I did so why intentionally penalize me for my Delta loyalty. Heck, Alaska air allows one stopover on a one-way and two on a round trip. Yes, this does make me think about where to focus my earnings next year. One of the biggest reasons I will fly Delta less and less is the end of stopovers on awards. This really is a crushing blow to me.

Now the biggest takeaway from this. Virgin vs DeltaONE. It really is a simple choice. Delta’s international business class seats are FAR superior to Virgin’s on the A330. The food is comparable and the service is comparable. IFE on both are also similar but the Delta screens and setup are better. Power access is MUCH simpler on Delta. So it boils down to the hard product and the DeltaONE seat wins hands down. No way would I EVER pay real money for this Upper Class seat. Having said that, if I were to pay for a Comfort Plus type seat, then Virgin’s Premium Economy is a domestic 1st class Delta seat at a price slightly more than coach. That is something we all should remember. – Rene

 

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7 comments

  1. Good points. I agree about Virgin’s hard product not living up to the high expectations set by the brand’s marketing and soft products. Also, the lack of facilities and “extras” in Manchester, as well as several other Virgin destinations outside Heathrow, is disappointing. I’m sure some Virgin loyalists say the same about Chicago and Detroit — two destinations where Virgin is flying now, having taken over routes from Delta. I’ve seen the 747 fly a few routes to Europe of late for Delta. That is the best business-class seat in the Delta fleet. The only way I’d take the Virgin seat over Delta’s seat is if (1) I was stuck in economy on Delta or it was Delta business-class on a seasonal route to say Stockholm or Oslo on a narrow 2 x 2 757.

  2. Rene,
    I am shocked to hear about your opinion on Virgin’s hard product. I worked for them in sales for 7 years and went through 3 changes in Upper Class and ended with the one you flew on. There is a newer version, the one that flies out of JFK but still similar to the one you flew on. And AirNZ basically has the same product and I worked for them for 7 years with no complaints from my best corporate customers. Having just flown back and forth to Hong Kong from Seattle on Delta One, I can tell you that I would rate both products the same if not VS’s just a bit better. Why? because you don’t sleep on the same surface as you sit on. You get a mattress pad, which makes your sleeping surface clean from any other passenger before you and your shoulder room increases to 33 in wide from 22 in. the rest of the way down to where it tapers at the ottoman/foot. As far a storage etc, I like Delta One’s side shelf and the bit of area between the window wall and the seat compartment you can place things in. One area that VS has over other seats is that you can recline for take off and landing where you cannot on DL 1. The same with AirNZ. You can recline and that is huge for me. I suppose when you have worked for airlines with this seat, and having actually sold customers on them, you get to know them pretty intimately. The closest DL 1 seat to their is the herringbone on the 777 to Australia that angles out to the aisle instead of the window and I like that less than the one facing the window. I guess to each his own, but I thought I would give you my two cents.

  3. @Scott – Ask anyone who has have been on the Virgin Upper Class product and they will ALL tell you it is MEH at best! It really is so bad. The fact that you have to get an FA to “make it” into a bed is bad. The mattress pad is total joke. If you want a mattress try Lufthansa 1st – that is a worth putting down. The CLUNK from the tray table of your seatmate next to you head is a horrid way to wake up. Your feet are CONSTANTLY hit by those who walk by. It is so tight it is like a coffin. Again, I would NEVER pay my own money for this seat and would avoid it at all cost over ANY of the DeltaONE seats. Sorry!

  4. I Agee with Rene, I recently flew back from London to Los Angeles. The lounge at LHR was simply GREAT! I was very exciteded to continue on the flight back to lax after such a great experience.
    Well it was TERRIBLE!
    The seats were claustrophobic, chipped paint, small low quality video. only 3 positions for the seats! Service was poor. I had to get up and refill my own drinks. I was offered one bottle of water once on a 11 hour flight!

    I could go on! I used my sky miles for this, and id like a refund! I would NOT reccomend Virgin upper class!

  5. The former U.S. Airways A330 is the best business class seats to Europe. Now rebranded under AA you get Bose headphones and better food. AA kept the espresso machine. The cabin is small and has a feel of a first class cabin instead of business class,

  6. @ Scott: I can see your point about it folding over and the mattress pad. That’s a valid point. I carry-on a small duvet, so it isn’t as big of an advantage for me. For me, I didn’t find it comfortable facing toward the aisle and being totally exposed. I also didn’t like seeing other people’s crotches and butts.

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