Review: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A330 fleet

This is my review of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A330 aircraft.

Coming back from New York 10 days ago, I was legged over – twice – by Virgin Atlantic.  I wasn’t amused.

I was booked on VS4, the 6.30pm departure from JFK to Heathrow.  When I went to check in, I saw a note on screen saying, in effect, ‘as we emailed you to say, your flight time has changed, we hope this is OK’.

Saying that ‘my flight time has changed’ was being a little disingenous.

Virgin had taken me off VS4 – which was still operating – and moved me to VS138, departing 90 minutes later at 8pm.

And, of course, I hadn’t had an email letting me know.

VS4 was totally full in Upper Class with no tickets for sale.  I have no idea why Virgin moved me, but I imagine it was because they felt they had a better chance of reselling a seat on VS4 rather than VS138.

The VS138 was an A330, you see, and Virgin’s A330 Upper Class is a dog.

Virgin A330 interior 2

This is because it has the Upper Class layout above.  This has an exceptionally bad reputation and I had purposely avoided booking myself onto it.

This is not just my opinion.  The A330 Upper Class layout is such a dog that Virgin Atlantic has just started ripping out the cabins – just five years after they were installed – and replacing them with a less dense layout.  Business Traveller covers the story here.

What is currently 1 – 2 – 1 will become a similar 1 – 1 – 1 layout akin to what is on the new Boeing 787 aircraft.

Take a look at the photo below:

Virgin A330 leg room

I am 6′ 2′.  My feet are against the moulded rest at the bottom of the bed.  You will see that my knees are lifted into the air because it is impossible to get my legs straight.

There are two other things which that photograph does not make clear:

The aisle is exceptionally narrow – every person or trolley that comes down the aisle is likely to knock your feet

The seat is exceptionally narrow – I have a 38″ chest which is pretty slim, but even I found that there was virtually no space around me when I lay flat

Even this very slim woman seems a little squeezed in the official PR pictures:

Virgin A330 aisle 2

The end result is that I had, by a very considerable margin, the most uncomfortable overnight business class flight I’ve taken in a long time.

The good news is that the process of ripping out these seats is now underway.  The new cabins look like this:

New Virgin A330 layout

By this time next year, there should be no reason to avoid the A330 Virgin Upper Class fleet.  For now, I recommend giving it a miss – but then, I tried to give it a miss and Virgin Atlantic chose to move me anyway …..

PS.  Here’s an interesting comparator.  The last time I was in the Virgin New York Clubhouse was when I was flying Singapore Airlines (review here).  Whilst I was in the lounge, I was paged to return to the desk.  Singapore Airlines was on the phone.  They wanted to move my seat back by 1 row so a couple could sit in adjacent seats.  They would only do this, however, if I gave my permission (which I did).  This time, Virgin moved my entire reservation to a different flight and didn’t even bother to tell me …..

(Want to earn more Virgin Flying Club miles?  Click here to see our recent articles on Virgin Atlantic and Flying Club and click here for our home page with the latest news on earning and spending other airline and hotel points.)

LAST CALL: Virgin credit card bonus at 10,000 (White) and 25,000 (Black) miles
Bits: two good Avios / Tesco toy deals, Opodo discounts, HFP Dubai competition winner
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.

Comments

  1. VS did exactly the same, on exactly the same flight from JFK a few months back, but moved to the last flight of the day. Unfortunately not the first time it has happened, and nor I fear, will be the last.

    They then had the brass neck to offer a move back to the original flight – for a fare difference and change fee, or to stay on the flight that had been moved to, for free. That was as VS Gold too!

    No notification, just noticed by chance when checking the booking. Their customer service is atrocious.

  2. Booked JFK-LHR in UC in a few months’ time on the A340-600 (A346). Should I stick with this flight or switch to the earlier 787?

    • A340 is a wider plane, I think, so you don’t get the problem. That said, the 787 is the latest product. But as Virgin is switching aircraft around anyway, you might be paying the change fee for nothing ….

    • Stick with A340, unless really eager to try the ’87.

      Only major difference is that the toilets are about twice as large on 787, which makes changing into pjs on night flights easier 🙂

      On 340, cabin is larger and feels more spacious, and the bar is better I think – generally more fun if on a day flight.

      ‘Dream Suite’ was only ever fitted on 330. According to a VS FSM friend of mine it was originally designed for a larger aircraft (A380?) but ended up on the 330 – hence the diabolically narrow aisles!

  3. Raised this issue of non-refitted aircraft with VS CS and a week later received a polite and personalised reply where they had clearly read the positive and negative issues I raised. An nice gesture of goodwill also given, which was appreciated. Definitely better performance than BA CS recently!

  4. Scott Cruickshank says:

    Different stroke for different folks I guess. I personally love the look of the A330 UC cabin and bar. The A340 is good but a bit dated I feel. I think they should have kept the new seat but just with the 1-1-1 layout. I am pretty sure it’ snow wider. The seat is much cooler design, it yes a little tight in the aisle. No trollies actully pass the aisle in Upper, everything is hand delivered to your seat. But yes, you do get the odd Pax bashing past. I’m 5.11 and just fit the seat with legs fully extended straight perfectly. A little known fact is that the centre rows of seats are shorter. Always book the windows as you get an extra “triangle” of head room lying down. ;-)))

  5. Thanks for sharing and Singapore Vs Virgin experience shows we still have a long way to go before treating customers how they should be treated.