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Who has the best premium economy seat and product – Virgin Atlantic or British Airways?

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Virgin Atlantic sent me a press release last week to promote winning the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Award for ‘Best European Premium Economy Product 2018’.

For this and two other reasons, I thought it was worth taking a quick look at how Premium Economy compares between British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

We will be publishing the results of our ‘which Premium Economy cabin would you prefer to fly’ competition in a few days, so I thought it would be good to see how hard facts match up with your perceptions.

It is also relevant because one of the features of the new Virgin Atlantic credit cards is the option to take a voucher for a free Premium (Virgin’s new name for Premium Economy) upgrade when you hit the spending target.  The voucher can upgrade 2 x one-way flights for a couple or a return flight for one person.

But is Virgin Premium any good?

Let’s face it.  Premium Economy is not a half-way house between Economy and a Business Class bed.  It is simply a higher quality Economy product.

This comparison between BA and Virgin is only for guidance, especially as the exact specification will vary by aircraft type.  In general, though, the Virgin Atlantic Premium product seems to have more going for it.  Neither product offers features such as lounge access but there are touches which set Virgin apart.

Here is a comparison of some key areas.  This is primarily taken from the Premium page of the Virgin Atlantic website and the World Traveller Plus page of the British Airways website.

Free seat selection at time of booking:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  Yes
  • British Airways:  No (for non-Silver and Gold customers)

Seat width:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  21 inches
  • British Airways:  18.5 inches

Seat pitch (gap between consecutive seats backs):

  • Virgin Atlantic:  38 inches
  • British Airways:  38 inches

Dedicated check-in desk:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  Yes
  • British Airways:  No

Priority boarding:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  Yes
  • British Airways:  Yes at Heathrow via the new group system, No otherwise

Lounge access:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  No
  • British Airways:  No

Priority baggage handling:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  Yes
  • British Airways:  No

TV screen size:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  10.6 inch
  • British Airways:  10.6 inch

Food and drink:

  • Virgin Atlantic: All meals served on china with metal cutlery, all meals upgraded vs Economy
  • British Airways:  One meal (dinner or breakfast) served on china with metal cutlery, mains are from the Club World menu

Power socket at seat:

Luggage allowance:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  2 x 23kg
  • British Airways:  2 x 23kg

Dedicated cabin crew:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  Yes
  • British Airways:  No

Frequent flyer miles earned on non-refundable PE ticket:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  100% of miles flown
  • British Airways:  100% of miles flown

Frequent flyer miles earned on flexible PE ticket:

  • Virgin Atlantic:  200% of miles flown
  • British Airways:  150% of miles flown

What is interesting is that, with the possible exception of the main course of your meal, Virgin Atlantic has a superior or equal Premium Economy product in all areas.  The most obvious difference is the extra seat width but there are many other small benefits, such as Priority Check-In, which add up.  Using your annual Virgin Atlantic credit card voucher for a Premium upgrade is not necessarily a bad result.

You can learn more about Premium on Virgin Atlantic here and World Traveller Plus on the British Airways website here.


HFP Virgin Atlantic Rewards credit card

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (July 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):

Virgin Rewards credit card

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

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and the most generous non-Amex for day to day spending Read our full review

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:

Nectar American Express

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & two airport lounge passes Read our full review

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 (122)

  • Definitas says:

    OT, I am unable to see all my current bookings in the BAEC home page (I can see the first 3 out of 7). I phoned BA who said it is an Apple browser (Safari) problem. I downloaded Chrome and get the same result (clicking on the view all my bookings link takes me to an unavailable page error message). Logging in to wife’s account produces the same problem. Is anyone else having issues?

    • Roberto says:

      Yes , its been an issue for three weeks or so..

      WORKAROUND FROM FT :-

      One shortcut to your other bookings without using the ‘Find My Booking’ tab on the home page, is to click ‘Manage My Booking” for the first booking on your list and then click ‘My Other Bookings’ next to the Booking Reference at the top left hand side of the page. Not ideal, but it will save a little time.

  • Faithy says:

    OT. With changes to Avios, Is there any point having Iberia points?

    • Roberto says:

      Booking with Iberia?

      They have many lower cost avios fare such as MAD to MIA plus their business seats is very good. Arguably better than BA and for less money ( positing flights excepted ) makes the red headed step child a very good option up against a clunky old 777 with a screen the size of your mobile phone.

      Oh and their wine list is excellent.

      • Cate ⛱️ says:

        ….and they have printed menus. To some of us these little things still count ????

  • RTS says:

    I actually prefer BA over VS. I find the recline on VS is pants.

  • @andrewseftel says:

    I think that the 787/A380 WTP product is decent enough, especially for a day flight, and I’m happy to pay a premium of about £10/flight-hour over economy. This is often achievable if you can get a dual-inventory fare, or on a return leg. Being able to upgrade is a big plus as well. I’d still pick Virgin all things being equal, but it’ll come down to whose flying what routes, and I think I’d also push a Silver or higher with no status on VS towards BA when you throw in fast track and lounge access.

  • Sam says:

    I am probably in the minority where I actually prefer PE to CW on BA. Aside from similar food, I have a very strong dislike of the CW hard product. I just find the seat too awkward. Even if they were the same price, I’d sooner sit in PE than CW when travelling with someone.

  • Dave says:

    VA PE also has a pantry.

    • Rob says:

      But on BA most WTP passengers take stuff from the Club World ‘Raid the Larder’!

      • Tilly says:

        Really? I’ve never dared venture to the other side of the CW curtain. Thought it was forbidden.

      • JamesB says:

        No not the pax, it is the mixed fleet cabin crew

  • Phil says:

    Does anyone else find the BA website to be incredibly slow? It feels like it has too much animation and even on my powerful work PC it is slow!

    • Lady London says:

      I keep getting redirected to British Airways’s %&£ppy beta site and unwanted localised links whenever I access the BA site now. The beta site keeps hanging, takes ages to load unwanted things and is generally pants. I have no idea why British Airways is loading their screens with so much unwanted stuff.

  • lev441 says:

    Big fan of the virgin PE – i’d happily use it on daytime flights, overnight i admit it’s not as comfortable as the upperclass bed.

    The ‘wonderwall’ on the dreamliner & a330 was a fun touch also – much better selection of things than BA’s Club kitchen in CW. Does BA have a wonderwall equivalent?

    • Chris L says:

      Out of interest, is there an equivalent to Club Kitchen for BA F passengers?

      • Rob says:

        No.

      • Andrew says:

        Depending on the crew in F they will either ask what you want and fetch it for you from the Club Kitchen, or politely suggest your stretch your own legs.

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