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Review: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A330 fleet

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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 …..


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (November 2021)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.

You can choose from two official Virgin Atlantic credit cards (apply here, one has a bonus of 15,000 points):

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Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

The UK’s most generous free Visa or Mastercard at 0.75 points / £1 Read our full review

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

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You can also earn Virgin Points from various American Express cards – and these have sign-up bonuses too.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold is FREE for a year and comes with 20,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 20,000 Virgin Points:

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American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express comes with 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points:

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Points

(Want to earn more Virgin Points?  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.)

Comments (113)

  • Alan says:

    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!

  • 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. ;-)))

  • Alastair Majury says:

    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.

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