This is our review of the new Virgin Atlantic ‘Economy Delight’ seat.
Rob writes: We were recently invited on a Virgin Atlantic press trip to New York. As neither Anika nor myself could make it, the job went to Jamie. Some of you will have met him as he was the photographer at our last two Christmas parties and he has also done hotel reviews for us. He travels extensively with his day job as a leading aquarium consultant and underwater photographer, working for clients around Europe and the Middle East.
Back in March Virgin Atlantic introduced their three new Economy products – Economy Light, Economy Classic and Economy Delight.
Economy Delight is the new premium element of Virgin Atlantic’s Economy class (not to be confused with Premium Economy which is something totally different) and comes with:
- extra legroom (34″ pitch)
- free seat selection at any time
- priority check-in
- priority boarding
- 1.5 Flying Club miles per mile flown
- the ability to upgrade to Upper Class or Premium with Flying Club miles
To promote Economy Delight Head For Points had been invited along on a press trip from London to New York. Virgin Atlantic was also using this trip to showcase some new forthcoming innovations including a new afternoon tea service designed by master pâtissier Eric Lanlard.
Clearly this was not your ‘normal’ Economy Delight flight, although the comments on the seat and food are obviously valid. On the upside, it is a more interesting story than a review of a ‘standard’ economy trip.
At London Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic uses Heathrow Terminal 3. They currently operate six daily flights to New York, dropping to five during the winter months.
I arrived for my 1.30pm flight around 11am, as we were all meeting in the Clubhouse at 11.30am. There were plenty of check in desks open and no more than a couple of customers queuing throughout.
Travelling Economy Delight comes with priority check in and I was impressed to see a dedicated desk. You can also use the Premium desk at airports where there is no dedicated one for Economy Delight. I had already checked in online but needed to get my boarding card printed so headed straight over as the desk was free.
The lady serving me was warm, friendly and efficient. Passing through security was also straightforward and the whole process from arriving at the terminal took no more than ten minutes. From security is was a less than five minute walk to the Clubhouse.
To be clear, Economy Delight seats do not come with Clubhouse access (that would be quite something). However as this was a press trip, I was given access so I could meet the team from Virgin Atlantic along with the other invited guests.
I will cover my Clubhouse experience including the new coffee machines, ice cream and afternoon tea in another article, which will be useful for anyone contemplating an Upper Class booking.
One of the perks of Economy Delight is priority boarding. Whilst I’ve never been one to rush onto the plane, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would value this.
As it happened, I stayed in the Clubhouse until we were whisked away as a group to board the plane at the very last minute. This was very smooth, mainly because everyone else had already boarded!
In fact, it was so quick that I hardly noticed the new ‘Virgin scent’ that is being introduced upon boarding the aircraft – although I do also have a terrible sense of smell.
Designed in partnership with leading British candle maker Rachel Vosper, the scent is called ‘Air’ and is intended to evoke well-being and inspire future travel. It will also be introduced across check in and at the gate.
On the plane
Virgin Atlantic has up to 36 Economy Delight seats per flight, positioned in rows of two or three along each side of the economy cabin.
On our A330 plane we had rows of two seats separated by a middle row of four classic/light seats. The A340 has two rows of four Economy Delight seats which may suit families better. This has been achieved by removing several rows of standard economy seating.
You have to give Virgin credit for this. At a time when other airlines are attempting to squeeze additional narrower seats onto their planes, the fact that Virgin is actively removing seats to create more space is rather refreshing.
The Economy Delight seat had a pitch of 34 inches. This compares with up to 31 inches for Classic and Light and 38 inches for the Premium seat.
I was sat in 53C on the outbound and 52C on the inbound.
It was obvious which seats were Economy Delight. Instead of the red colour of the other economy offerings they were a light brown colour. The seats also had labelled headrest and pillow covers. Unfortunately they did not come with upgraded headphones or an amenity bag.
I wasn’t expecting anything remarkable in terms of space when I first saw the seat. After all, how significant can an extra three inches of legroom be compared to the other economy seats?
Once seated however, I was in for a surprise. It did feel spacious and comfortable. Don’t get me wrong, this was not Premium or Upper Class standard but as an economy seat it made me feel very happy. I’m 5’9” tall and had plenty of room to stretch my legs so I would hope those amongst you taller than me would also feel some benefit. It certainly put me in a good, relaxed frame of mind to enjoy the upcoming flight.
The IFE consists of a 9 inch touch screen with an excellent multi genre choice of one hundred films, including recent Oscar winners, classics and independent productions. There is little chance of not finding something to enjoy. There is also a good selection of TV programmes, music and games to keep you occupied.
All Virgin Atlantic economy seats now provide a personal USB charger and I found this very useful.
On board wifi
Virgin Atlantic is the first European airline to offer high speed internet on all their routes, although to be fair they do have a smaller network than most carriers.
On our A330 aircraft, the charges were as follows:
Wifi Light – £4.99 for an hour of browsing
Wifi Max – £14.99 for unlimited use for the entire flight
Messaging pass – £2.99 for messaging only throughout the flight, no video or photos
On board internet is not something I would normally purchase and I find it quite nice to escape the online world for a few hours. I have also always assumed it would be frustratingly slow so why bother with it. However, on this occasion I had been given a code for free internet access throughout the flight so logged in to check it out.
Connecting was straightforward, I opened up Whatsapp and eagerly started messaging friends and family (mum, I’m in the air!). I started sending photos too and judging by the speed they arrived, I would say the data transfer rate was almost as fast as 4G. This was so much better than I expected. I also surfed a variety of websites and found the connectivity to be absolutely fine.
After the flight I heard that another member of our group had used Whatsapp to make a voice call and this also worked well. For those that cannot do without their social media or who need to work on board, its good to know that a quality wifi service is available.
On board upgrades
The flight was not particularly busy with many economy seats including Delight empty. Be warned however if you find yourself on a quiet flight and decide to move seats. Changing from a Classic / Light seat to a Delight one will cause you to be asked to pay the difference or get moved back to a seat in the class originally booked. The cabin crew were well aware of passengers that had moved and there was also a PA announcement explaining the do’s and don’t’s of seat moving. I fully support this policy and thought it only fair.
I did notice at least one person move to a Delight seat and pay an unknown amount for the privilege. One important thing to point out if you ever find yourself in this position – you will not receive the 150% Flying Club base miles as you would for an advanced booking. You would also have missed out on priority check-in and boarding and the free suitcase allowance.
I’ve taken several flights recently with both European and Asian airlines. On all occasions service was mixed – some crew were excellent, others were average and some clearly needed to get another job.
The same cannot be said for the cabin crew on this flight, especially the return leg. From the moment I entered the plane I felt very welcome. Virgin Atlantic appears to understand the value of investing in its staff and it really does show. They seemed genuinely pleased to see me and exuded real pride in their work. They were efficient yet relaxed, attentive and always seemed to appear at the right time, offering a drink, snack or ice lolly (Twister anyone?). This was usually accompanied by a bit of amusing banter. All in all it made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the flight.
Save the planet!
One small thing that impressed me was mentioned during an early in-flight announcement.
We were encouraged to reduce our plastic waste by reusing our drinks cup where possible. Perhaps many airlines are introducing similar initiatives but this was the first time I had experienced such encouragement. I know its a small gesture in the overall scheme of environmental things (flying is not particularly green…) but it is still to be applauded.
It hadn’t occurred to me until I spoke to one of the crew that none of the disposable waste on any flight gets recycled when flying between different countries. Due to the differing regulations around the world, waste is always incinerated to reduce the risk of disease transfer or impinging on local laws. Reduced plastic consumption means reduced incineration and reduced demand / production. Every little helps, to borrow a phrase from another well known brand…
Food and drink
Unlike Norwegian’s lowest fares, Virgin Atlantic still provides complimentary food and drink irrespective of the ticket you are travelling on.
For economy passengers this means a soft or alcoholic drink of choice and snack such as mini pretzels after take off.
It is followed by a three course meal with three main courses to choose from. These were Quorn cottage pie (apparently very popular), mushroom and chicken bake or spicy Korean pork.
I chose the pork dish. It came with a couscous salad, crackers and cheese and a Gü chocolate pudding. It also came with a small bottle of water which annoyed me considering the earlier effort to use less plastic! I’d have been happy for them to refill my saved cup with water instead.
There was one small downside of the increased legroom on the dining experience. I found that the fold down table supporting your tray was now a little bit too far away, even when fully extended. This meant stretching forward to eat which felt a little uncomfortable. First world problem I know. Overall though dinner was enjoyable and the Gü pudding added a little bit of something extra special.
Half way through the flight the flight attendants were handing out ice lollies.
About an hour and half before landing we were served the brand new economy version of afternoon tea designed by Eric Lanlard.
It comprised of two mozzarella and pesto rolls and a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream which was all very tasty. It came with a glass of prosecco although it wasn’t clear if this is normal or just something that was being done because Eric was on the flight. Tea or coffee is also available. I asked for the prosecco to which the cabin crew stewardess yelled out a fist pump style ‘yes!’ which I enjoyed. I’d barely had a couple of sips before she was back to top my glass up.
Eric also passed through the cabin handing out his macarons, although I don’t think that will be a standard part of the service either!
Overall I was impressed with the Economy Delight seat and the flight experience in general. I was comfortable and felt very well looked after which meant the journey time passed quickly.
Even factoring in that we were receiving extra special attention, I always got the impression staff were being genuine in their considerate and warm approach.
It is worth noting that I stayed in New York for a few days and did not return with the main group. This meant that my return flight was not part of the press trip and the crew treated me as a normal passenger. The experience was the same high quality.
With the competition from other airlines developing significantly in recent years, it was only a matter of time before Virgin Atlantic introduced changes to their economy product. From a consumer perspective, I think the choice of three economy products is positive with options to suit your particular budget or travel style. Which one you choose really depends on your situation.
It is worth mentioning that the additional Virgin Flying Club miles that you earn from flying Economy Delight means that the upgrade from Economy Light can be virtually free. Rob ran through the numbers in this article. If you collect Flying Club miles then there is little logic in not paying the extra for Economy Delight because of the extra miles you earn back.
For further information, Anika has also written about the new economy offerings and their implications for miles earnings here.
How to earn Virgin Atlantic miles from UK credit cards
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Virgin Flying Club miles from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Virgin Flying Club miles. That page is regularly updated with the latest special offers and will still be accurate even if you are reading this article months after publication.
(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.)