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 …..

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  1. Jonathan says:

    Same thing has happened to me. It informs me of a change on manage my booking.

    My original flight from New York lands at 0630 so I go into work but now I’m likanding around 0800.

    My original flight is still operating so they’ve shifted me for their convenience only. It’s a reward flight.

    Do you know if there’s anything I can do? I read that vs only class it as a material change if it’s moved more than 24 hours and providing they’ve given sufficient warning they don’t have to give compensation

  2. Ah, the great Virgin flight f**k up to the last year….

    I’m guessing you don’t get compensation because they told you well in advance. Burden of proof is probably on you, and proving a negative is hard…

    But you very likely did not get informed. Most people didn’t. Because this happened to, well, everyone flying VS in the last six months. Might not be everyone, but a stock take of v-flyer boards went along the lines “check your flights, the new IT system is crap” and loads of people coming back with changes.

    Could have been worse. I was never informed what they did with my flight. They changed the 13:00ish Boston flight to a 17:00ish one. So when they did this, they cancelled my flight, and STUCK ME ON A FLIGHT THE PREVIOUS DAY. I spotted this due to V-Flyer and phoned them up and got booked on a flight 3 hours later on the same day. However, I was never told.

    It’s been moved around, aircraft changed, lost booked seats, about five times since. The original thing involved retimings, but I think they just lost all the booking details at some point and rebooked in some crazy fashion. VS had an ALMIGHT IT f**kup in the last year…

    • It turns out, because it turns out I had some cached data, that I could find out that I had already been moved on the Monday before the Friday flight. Whether I was moved weeks before that I don’t know, but it wasn’t a last minute change.

  3. Lumma says:

    Just out of interest, did you not have this flight on the my flights app and if you did, did that not inform you of the change?

  4. Do Virigin flights not appear on the My Flights app – just checked and my upcoming Virgin flights do not show.

  5. totaltool says:

    O/T but Virgin related. Hit target spend on White Amex/Visa Cards several weeks ago and working towards spend target on Black Amex/Visa cards. No FC points posted yet. Do they often take a while to post? More used to avios which seem to be posted pretty quickly.

    • Genghis says:

      Post monthly on statement date

      • totaltool says:

        thanks Genghis, went through the spend for the White Card really quickly so haven’t even had a statement yet! Due in next couple of days.

  6. On A330 refits – VS are well behind schedule so flights that were previously thought to be 1-1-1 end up being 1-2-1 at short notice. You need to keep checking back in MMB, especially in the last couple of weeks before your flight. I flew LGW-BGI recently and had 1-2-1 on the way out and 1-1-1 on the way back, so had the chance to try both. Agree 1-2-1 was perhaps an attempt at Cruz-style squeezing the lemon a bit too hard, but 1-1-1 is totally acceptable on the A330. These being my first VS flights after a long time of just flying BA reminded me how much better the VS hard (in 1-1-1) and soft product is. Just wish they had a better set of destinations.

    VS have been mucking around with their schedules recently a lot, as the comments attest. OH got less than 48 hours e-mail notice of being rebooked off a direct SFO-LHR onto an indirect flight leaving 6 hours earlier (!). This was on a pure revenue UC ticket, so no redemption shenanigans. This seriously disrupted her plans, as she was only there for 3 days for a business trip. The VS compensation offers were somewhat inconsistent:
    1. take the reroute offered (in UC), and a free Y reward return / or 50k miles / or 600 EUR in satisfaction of EU261.
    2. rebook for another date in Y, and a free Y reward return / or 50k miles / or 600 EUR in satisfaction of EU261.
    3. rebook for another date in UC/PE, no other compo
    4. cancel, refund of unused flight, and and a free Y reward return / or 50k miles / or 600 EUR in satisfaction of EU261.
    (The Y tickets would be free of tax and surcharges)

    In the end after negotiation, VS worked to get her a different indirect reroute in UC that left only 3 hours earlier, plus the compensation in #1. A little annoying but there was a refreshing lack of “computer says no” from the VS folks in Crawley… (probably because the computer was down, due to IT issues 😉

  7. I flew MAN BOS last week and BOS MAN yesterday, on the same plane both ways. The seat was tired. Leather was cracked. The TV screen didn’t stow properly. I couldn’t wheel my little cabin sized suitcase down the aisle without it bumping into everything.

    I chatted to the crew about the fact that it was 1-1-1 config on my reservation right up until around 24hrs before the flight when it changed to 1-2-1, both legs. They said that they hadn’t seen the new A330 either. They said 3 planes had been refitted, more were due to go to get refitted but was delayed because summer season has got busier and they needed all the planes in action.

    So who knows when this will get done. *shrug*

  8. Billy says:

    Have flown on the A330 a few times and feel it’s reputation is undeserved, with one caveat.

    The little shelf for the Champagne (other drinks are available) is in a much better position: as is the reading light.

    I found the seat much comfier than A340 I’d travelled on previously; and have just arrived at Heathrow an hour ago from in UC on a 787 and found that seat not quite so comfy.

    I’m six feet tall, large and don’t sleep on planes which may impact my experience.

    All the above said; seeing the person opposite you sit with their bare feet on the ottoman is something I can’t bare. So for that reason will be glad to have an aisle where you don’t see that.

  9. ThinkSquare says:

    There’s definitely a recurring theme here. I recently flew MAN-SFO-MAN. I knew the outward was 1-2-1, which was OK for a day flight, but the return was advertised as 1-1-1. I get on the plane to discover 1-2-1. As it happens I had a great sleep thanks to the magic of melatonin

  10. Clive says:

    It seems the less important issue (dislike of seat design about which they’ve already admitted defeat and are replacing) is distracting people from the bigger point about reward flight tickets being bumped to flights people might not have chosen… It would be interesting to keep tabs on how common this is.

    • Polly says:

      Similar thoughts spring to mind where our good friend BA might bump or downgrade a 241 reward pax in favour of a last minute wealthy cash paying J pax!

  11. Rob,
    I tried the 787 layout. Thought that was pretty cramped for my 6ft3 frame. Can’t say I can give it the full assessment because I had too much to drink and didn’t test the sleep mode properly but the seat felt a lot more claustrophobic than CW. Tbh, I find it hard to chose between the two and they stand as mediocre products at best. UC staff were much more friendly. The CW lounge food was average but very nice space at LHR, actually preferred the BA buffet catering.
    Classic Virgin.

    • I have reviewed the 787 on here. Agree with the claustraphobic comment – it just didn’t ‘work’ for me. I didn’t like staring at the cabin dividing wall either. It was still a darn site better than the A330 version though.

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