This is my review of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class …. whilst pregnant.
Yes, we’ve done lots of flight reviews on Head for Points – I’ve written quite a few of them myself – but this is a first for us.
I would say I’m an experienced traveller, especially after three years working on HfP. I know my way around airports and get on planes like other people get on trains. I have never worried much about anything other than getting to the airport in time, until Rob asked me if I would travel from the US to Europe at 23 weeks pregnant. The Head for Points Summer Party was here and I wanted to catch up in person with our key marketing contacts.
I knew I couldn’t run around as fast as usual or carry a lot of luggage. I was also worried about having to sit on a plane for hours. Giving the date, however, it was likely to be my last chance to get back to Europe pre-baby.
After doing some research, reading a couple of mummy sites and talking to my husband, I decided to do it. After all it meant I could book in a number of work meetings, see my London friends and tag on a visit to my family in Germany. I knew it was going to be stressful, but I was also excited to finally get back to Europe after almost a year.
And I needed more German mustard …..
The rules on flying whilst pregnant
Airlines have their own individual guidelines about accepting pregnant passengers and you should always check before booking. At 23 weeks, which I was on the outbound (and 25 weeks when I returned), no special information is required.
The British Airways guidelines for flying whilst pregnant are here. For BA you cannot fly after:
- the end of the 36th week if you are pregnant with one baby
- the end of the 32nd week if you are pregnant with more than one baby
BA recommends that you carry a letter or statement from your doctor or midwife confirming whether your pregnancy is single or multiple, your expected due date and that there are no complications with your pregnancy.
With Virgin Atlantic (their guidelines are here), you can fly until your 28th week without needing to inform the airline. Beyond the 28th week, Virgin requires certain information:
- if you’re expecting one baby and want to travel between your 28th and 36th weeks, you require a certificate from your doctor which must be produced on request during the trip
- for multiple births, you need a certificate if you want to travel between your 28th and 32nd weeks
After your 36th week (32nd week for multiple pregnancies), you cannot fly with Virgin Atlantic unless it is for urgent medical or compassionate reasons and the airline has given you pre-approval to travel.
I decided to bring our smallest suitcase which would keep me from bringing too much stuff that I would end up unable to carry – I have travelled with a full 32kg suitcase in the past! I chose a backpack as my carry-on luggage instead of my go-to handbag plus a small purse for my documents.
I don’t live near an airport with direct flights to Europe and therefore had an overnight layover in Boston. This actually made the trip much easier as I didn’t have to worry about missed connections or changing terminals.
Instead I got to relax and sleep at the Hilton Boston Logan Airport before getting on the next flight the next morning. The hotel was in walking distance to Terminal E (about 12 minutes) but there is also the option of taking an airport shuttle bus.
The Clubhouse lounge in Boston
Virgin Atlantic has a Clubhouse lounge at Boston Logan located on level 2 opposite gate 11. Don’t expect this to be anything like the Heathrow Clubhouse lounge – it is far smaller, but nevertheless it’s a pleasant place to spend an hour.
There was a kitchen at the back where you could order hot breakfast or get a selection of cereals and bread with cheese or cold cuts. The lounge personnel were very attentive and happy to bring drinks to my table.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class on the A330-300
I had never flown Virgin Atlantic before and was intrigued to find out if I would like their unique seat arrangement. (If I had flown after 10th September we would have chosen a JFK flight on the new A350, which is a totally different seat to this one.)
Long-term readers will remember that Virgin Atlantic refurbished these aircraft in 2017 after it admitted that the previous 1-1-1-1 layout was far too tight. The current layout is 1-1-1 with 31 seats in total (10 / 11 / 10).
You can find out more about the refurbishment on the Virgin Atlantic site here. Here is a PR picture:
All seats were facing the aisles whilst the windows were always behind you – that is if you had a window.
I was in seat 8A, which funnily enough was Rob’s seat back in 2016, though on a Boeing 787-9 – you can read his review here. In the picture above, the ‘A’ seats are on the right, so I was looking at the wall behind the ‘G’ seats.
Direct aisle access and close proximity to the toilets were definitely a plus on this flight (pregnancy bladder ……).
I found it a little bit tricky to take a full picture of the seat as the aisle itself was fairly slim. The seat and footrest are separate and you cannot slide your seat all the way down to meet the footrest.
As you can see in the picture above the screen is roughly where your shoulder is and in order to watch a movie you need to fold it out. When folded out the screen was roughly on chest height which meant my belly wasn’t in the way.
The IFE screen is 11.1 inches. This sounds small in contrast to screens on other aircraft, but because the screen is very close to your face it doesn’t feel tiny. Unfortunately the movie selection wasn’t the best and I ended up not watching anything. Apologies to readers who were expecting my usual film reviews …
There was a small pop-out shelf next to the IFE screen where I stored and charged my phone. There was also some storage space underneath the foot rest, but that was about it. I kept all my bags in the overhead locker – Virgin Atlantic added central overhead lockers during the 2017 refit, which meant there was easily enough space for everyone.
The table was also inside the divider and I found it tricky to get it out.
The amenity kit had the usual items in it (socks, sleeping mask, creams, toothbrush and paste, ear plugs and a pen) but no Happy Socks. The pouch was by Herschel and should fit some diapers and wet wipes from November – I think I’m going to transform my selection of amenity kits into nappy bags.
The flight was a day flight, but as I was going to arrive in London quite late and had plans to meet up with two friends, I put my seat in bed mode and tried to sleep for a couple of hours. What I found slightly annoying was that in order to get the fully flat bed you had to get up and push a button which flipped the back of the seat over.
I know I am not the first person to complain about this but I still found it a pain. I find the sliding down systems other airlines are using in their Business Class way more appealing – they are easier to operate and you basically get any option between sitting up straight, reclined and fully flat at the push of a button.
With that being said the bed itself was very comfortable. The pillows provided were a great size, the comforter was thick and the mattress was comfortable enough for me to sleep on my side.
Here is a picture of the seat in bed mode taken from the Virgin Atlantic website:
The on-board bar is, to be honest, a bit of an afterthought on the A330-300. Here is a PR picture:
It isn’t anything like the bar you would find on an Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways A380 but that is not an equal comparison given the size of the aircraft. To be fair to Virgin Atlantic, I’m not sure if any other airline has a bar on a Boeing 787 or A330.
The new A350 comes with The Loft, which is more ‘social space’ than bar – you can read about that in our A350 overview here.
The first meal on board was breakfast with a selection of:
- Fresh orange juice
- Freshly pressed green juice
- Maple butter danish
- Blueberry and pomegranate Cooper Street granola cookie bake
- A selection of breakfast cereals
- Fresh fruit salad
- Warmed croissant
- Warmed bacon butty
- Breakfast bagel
You could pick as much as you wanted but as I had had breakfast in the lounge I only had some fruit with yogurt and a croissant – with the one cup of coffee a day that I was allowed to have.
Legs on the footrest as in the picture below was actually not the most comfortable position for eating. The table was a little bit too far from the seat and also a bit too low. That said at least this table won’t interfere with a growing pregnancy belly.
I had decided to order the vegetarian meal online in advance as I was worried that I’d be served raw or smoked fish and half cooked meat – which I usually love but is unfortunately a big no when pregnant.
However, when I saw the food menu I realised that Virgin Atlantic is amazing at catering for vegetarians even without pre-booking it. Both the appetizer and the main course had vegetarian options
The appetizer options were
- Cream of mushroom soup
- Smoked scallops
- Goat’s cheese and orange salad
If I hadn’t been pregnant I would’ve picked the scallops. I would also have loved to try the soup but for some reason I was served the salad (without goats cheese) due to me having pre-ordered the vegetarian meal.
The main course options were
- Braised short rib with roasted tomato sauce , roesti potato and green vegetables
- Sticky Asian pork with soba noodles, edemame beans and pak choy
- Roasted butternut squash with lentils, fennel salad, coriander and warmly spiced siracha yoghurt
- Seared steelhead trout with curried potatoes and Cafe de Paris butter sauce
I had the butternut squash dish which was very tasty.
There were two cake options as desert
- Chocolate brownie pudding
- Lemon and blackberry mascarpone cheesecake
The cheesecake was divine.
My first experience travelling from the US to Europe whilst pregnant was really not that bad. I was, of course, in Upper Class where you can stretch your legs, sit at the bar or walk around – and economy would be a different story.
The whole flight was really no big deal, which is more of a compliment than it sounds – there was nothing about the seat, the table or the IFE screen that got in my way and I was still able to sleep for a while. It doesn’t make for a hugely exciting review but that is good news from the point of view of having a trouble-free flight.
In terms of logisitics, it was definitely a wise choice to split the trip into two parts, with the overnight in Boston.
I should have done the same on my way back. To give you the short version, my return flight was SWISS Business from Dusseldorf to Zurich, then SWISS Business from Zurich to Chicago and finally a Delta regional flight to my hometown.
The SWISS part was actually pretty good (a review will follow) but immigration in Chicago was awful. There was also a bus replacement service to get to the domestic terminals and I had to run from one end of the terminal to the other in order to get to my gate. On top of that I was exhausted as my trip was a total of 18 hours. For comparison, this Boston to Heathrow flight was just six and a half hours.
To be fair, we had booked the return flight using Miles & More miles with only a few days notice after I ended up staying in Europe longer than planned. Compared to some of the other potential routings we considered I did pretty well.
I would have no qualms about travelling again during the second trimester but next time I’d make sure to split my trip into bits with overnight stays at airport hotels.
The alternatives are both unattractive – either long connections to remove the stress but which make your day even longer, or short connections which leave you in a constant state of worry. My message is that, at least in this stage of pregnancy, you shouldn’t be concerned about taking a trip if it is in a premium cabin.
That’s it now. My next flight will be with the little one, all being well. That’s another HfP series to come ….
How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (September 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 30,000 Points until 15th October 2021):
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 30,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 30,000 Virgin Points:
Until 2nd November 2021, there is a special offer on The Platinum Card from American Express.
You will receive a sign-up bonus of 60,000 Amex points which converts into 60,000 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.)