Virgin Atlantic are an airline I’ve been wanting to try for a while. Their lack of affiliation to any major alliance and absence of short haul connections at Heathrow means they’re often not the first choice of a frequent traveller, despite serving many of Heathrow’s primary markets in the USA.
Thanks to a promotional fare I was able to score a return flight from Malta to Los Angeles via London, with Air Malta and Virgin Atlantic for £1,300 in business class and Upper Class.
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Date: 7 April 2019
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 G-VYUM
From: London (LHR)
To: Los Angeles (LAX)
Flight Time: 10:05
Check in and security
I was excited to get the full Virgin Atlantic experience at Heathrow, so rather than use the transfers channel I travelled between Terminal 4 and Terminal 3 at Heathrow using the free Heathrow Express. Virgin Atlantic and Delta share a check in area at Terminal 3, and Virgin has a dedicated check in for Upper Class passengers.
After checking in, I was directed to the elevator next to the check in desks which took me upstairs to Virgin Atlantic’s private security screening area.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse
I was really looking forward to visiting Virgin’s Clubhouse at Heathrow. I’ve heard brilliant things about it so headed straight upstairs to the lounge.
On arriving, I was given a tour of the lounge by the very friendly hostess. My first stop was to the spa to book a couple of treatments. The spa operates on a first come, first serve basis so I would recommend booking your treatments as soon as you arrive in the lounge.
Upper Class passengers get one complimentary treatment from the list of complimentary treatments. You can also pay for additional treatments. I opted for a complimentary head massage, and purchased a 30 minute Hot Stone Back Massage for £35.
In addition to the massage treatments, there is a salon and a range of facial treatments available. There’s also complimentary showers and steam baths, which are very refreshing ahead of a flight.
The lounge is incredibly spacious and offers a full table service throughout, as well as a fully stocked bar.
Upstairs is a bright and airy loft area with a pool table and TV.
I ordered these sliders from the menu which were delicious.
My five hours in the lounge passed quickly and it was soon time to head down to Gate 21 for my flight to Los Angeles.
Our aircraft today was Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner G-VYUM, named ‘Ruby Murray’. This aircraft was delivered new to Virgin Atlantic in 2015 making her four years old when I flew her.
I was welcomed onboard by my host Danny, who I would get to know fairly well on this flight.
I turned left into the Upper Class cabin and got my first glimpse of my home for the next 10 hours.
The cabin was adorned in Virgin’s trademark purple mood lighting, and featured a bar area at the back.
The seat configuration in Upper Class is a herringbone configuration, in 1-1-1 layout. This means that the seats face away from the window, which I was slightly worried about. However I found that when the seat was reclined after takeoff it actually wasn’t too bad and I didnt have to crane my neck too far.
The seats on the left hand side of the cabin are fantastically private, as the middle aisle backs onto you so you are just looking at the wall to the rear of the seats.
Danny came around offering pre departure champagne.
After what seemed like no time at all, we pushed back from Terminal 3 and made our way to runway 9R at Heathrow.
We lifted off on a murky day over London and got a glimpse of the British Airways Concorde resting at the eastern end of the airfield.
Soon after takeoff, Danny came around to take our dinner orders and drinks orders. He recommended a lovely Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which I really enjoyed.
The skies cleared up as we headed west, and we got a view of the Irish coastline as we crossed the Irish Sea.
A lot of people dislike the Dreamliner tinted windows, but I actually rather like them. I love the fact that even at full dark setting you can still see out, and prefer this to a flight attendant leaning across and pulling the shade down as you sleep.
The seat controls on the Virgin 787 are rather basic and just allow you to recline the seat. To put it into the fully flat position requires a flight attendant, and requires you to leave your seat.
As we crossed into the Atlantic the dinner service commenced.
For starter today I chose the salmon plate.
Shortly after was the main course, for which I chose chicken and leek Pie, with cheesy mashed potato and mushy peas. This doesn’t look fantastic on the picture but I have to say it was absolutely delicious. The pastry was fluffy and crisp, and the mash was absolutely divine.
For dessert I chose bread and butter pudding.
At the rear of the cabin is a bar area where you can help yourself to a variety of drinks and snacks. There’s also a comprehensive at seat snack menu including gourmet burgers and salads.
There’s a selection of magazines to read too.
The amenity kit is the Herschel brand and contains a nice selection of cosmetics, a pair of socks and eye mask, and a Virgin Atlantic pen.
After dinner, I asked Danny to make up my bed. Some passengers made their beds themselves, however Danny put the duvet and sheets on too. It’s a shame that you have to leave your seat to do this and can’t just recline into a flat position. I can’t wait to see Virgin’s new Upper Class seat on the upcoming A350 fleet that has a better configuration.
There is wifi available onboard however I couldn’t get any further than the home screen. The ‘live’ inflight entertainment was also not working, and the crew confirmed it was an issue with the antenna.
Vera is Virgin Atlantic’s inflight entertainment system, and includes a good selection of movies, TV and music.
I can never get enough of the wingflex on the 787.
As we made our way down across the USA, the landscape changed below us and we got some great views of the Rocky Mountains and the plains of Utah, Nevada and Arizona.
The skies got busier as we headed to the west of the USA. My favourite moment was this close encounter with a FedEx Boeing 777 heading from Memphis to Oakland, 1,000ft below us.
We finally crossed the mountains near to Los Angeles and made an approach and landing into Los Angeles International.
We arrived into Terminal 2 at LAX around 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Immigration at T2 was an absolute breeze compared to the usual chaos at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) and using the ePassport gates I was on the kerbside outside the terminal within 10 minutes of stepping off the aircraft.
I was sad to be leaving the crew on this flight – they were nothing short of excellent for the entire flight. Danny kept coming past asking if I wanted more drink or food for the entire flight. Nothing was too much trouble for them, and at one point Danny visited the flight deck to try and find out what the contrail was that we were following. The captain radioed ahead to the aircraft in front to find out it was a Norwegian Dreamliner heading for Oakland, California who was 47 miles ahead. Now that’s service!