Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Review of the new Upper Class Suite as we fly Virgin Atlantic’s A350 (Part 1)

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

This is our review of Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class Suite on the new Airbus A350-1000, which has just started flying between London Heathrow and New York JFK.

I was on a special celebration flight, and media representatives were joined by a variety of Virgin Atlantic competition winners and their plus ones as well as some of Virgin’s most frequent flyers.  Our ticket was free and Virgin Atlantic also provided accommodation and entertainment in New York.

In the end, only 200 of the 335 seats were filled.  Wisely, Virgin realised that all the excitement would mean significant disruption to the crew’s normal ways of working with most of us standing and chatting in the aisles for most of the journey.

We were on the first Virgin Atlantic A350, although the second had just been delivered and was parked next to ours (click on any of the images to enlarge):

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Suite review

First impressions

At most airports you will board the A350-1000 through door two, which opens onto the new ‘Loft’ social space that has taken the place of Virgin’s traditional bar.  Although it acts as a corridor for passengers – Upper Class turns left whilst Premium and economy turn right – it has been stylishly designed with room for five or six people sitting and more standing.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 loft lounge review

I suspect it might actually be more usable than the bar which, at least on the Boeing 787 fleet, appears more like an afterthough than a key part of the offering.  The Loft offers various areas to sit with friends (or strangers!).  If you would like a drink you can pop your head round the galley next door and request one from the cabin crew.

One wall features a large screen loaded with the usual in flight entertainment as well as the option to pair several Bluetooth headphones.

Whether the Bluetooth functionality will get used much is questionable – I can’t imagine groups or families choosing to watch a film together here for example – but it does make a great spot for watching the moving map or tail-cam throughout the flight.  Crucially, the screen is not locked down so you can use it as you would a seat back screen.

The Upper Class cabin

The Upper Class cabin features 44 suites. This business class cabin is slightly smaller than on the British Airways A350, which has 56 Club Suites. It is a good indication of the different markets that BA and Virgin Atlantic serve, with the latter being more leisure-focussed.

The new Upper Class Suite

Virgin Atlantic has chosen the Cirrus NG product from manufacturer Safran for the new Upper Class Suite. These are arranged in a semi-reverse herringbone 1-2-1 arrangement, which is pretty much the standard layout for business class seating these days.

Here is a PR photograph:

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite review A350

…. and here is the real thing:

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 seat review

The seats have been styled in typical Virgin Atlantic fashion with chocolate browns, dark reds, white and gold accents. If anything, it looks even better than it did when they unveiled it at the launch party: the natural light really highlights all the beautiful finishes.

It is a million miles away from the more understated dark greys and blues of the new British Airways Club Suite.  On the whole, Virgin Atlantic is using lighter colours (and a lot of white) whereas the Club Suite cabin is darker. Which one you prefer will depend on your individual preferences although, frankly, both look good.

The seat itself is very comfortable and has near-silent operation. The seat bottom was very well padded and it looks very stylish in the claret-coloured leather.

Above your seat you also have two adjustable air vents as well as two reading lights.


One thing that is immediately noticeable is the lack of storage. Whilst British Airways has increased its business class storage capacity significantly, the new Upper Class Suite has none at all, which is very disappointing.

There are two small open shelves at eye height; unfortunately, these need to be empty during take-off and landing.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 seat storage review

This means that all loose items and bags MUST be stored in the overhead bins, and makes the shelves pretty useless.  Luckily Virgin Atlantic has opted for overhead lockers above the centre seats, which many A350 operators such as Qatar Airways have abandoned for aesthetic reasons. Without them, cabin storage would be impossibly tight.

It’s not entirely clear why there isn’t more storage around the seat. The area under the ottoman, for example, is often used by airlines to store bags but here is fitted with some kind of grill or ventilation system.

The tray table problem ….

The tray table pops out from the seat in front and has a very cool sliding mechanism to spin it in front of you. It is also very large.

The table itself is extremely stable – probably the sturdiest I have ever used on an aircraft – but there is just one problem. If you are pregnant or have anything over a 32″ waist you will struggle to use it.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 tray table review

Because the table slides around to the side you cannot adjust how close or far it is to you. Even I only had an inch or two wiggle room before my body would be butting up against it.

The other issue is entry and egress into your seat when the tray table is down. At the moment, it is virtually impossible to get out without popping the table back up – a clear inconvenience if you need to nip to the toilet during a meal service.

These are issues that Virgin Atlantic has already acknowledged and they are quickly trying to fix it. By late November a bi-fold table should be rolling out across the fleet, including the A350s already delivered, to alleviate this problem.

The privacy partition aka The Half-Door

Yes, the new Upper Class seat has a movable privacy partition. Yes, it can only move about a foot, which doesn’t exactly make for the most private setting.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 door review

Nonetheless it is enough to shield you from the aisle and your neighbour if you so desire. Crucially, it also makes for a more open, sociable cabin with the centre seats ideal for couples or those travelling in pairs.

This is not a bad decision from Virgin Atlantic since they do tend to fly more leisure passengers. The verdict is still out on whether full doors are necessary or desired, although they do make for easy PR.

Virgin’s A350’s have mood lighting

In addition to the usual lighting and the overhead and in-seat reading lights that Virgin offer, the new Upper Class Suite also has some cool LED mood lighting.

It makes for some rather attractive ambient light, although as I discovered on my return flight, it is impossible to turn off. This is an issue Virgin is reportedly working on, although whether they will give passengers the option to set their seat lighting to any colour of the rainbow remains to be seen.

What about the in flight entertainment?

The A350 has Virgin Atlantic’s signature ‘Vera’ in flight entertainment system. In Upper Class this is on a 18.5 inch HD monitor, although most airlines do not load HD content.

The screen pops out from the sidewall at the push of a button, and can be neatly folded away. It is, however, certified for gate-to-gate operations so you are likely to have it out for the entirety of your flight.

Virgin Atlantic new Upper Class A350 seat IFE

So far so good. What does need a little work is the Vera interface, which I found a little confusing. It does not conform to the rules we have come to expect from our smartphones and tablets. There is no ‘home’ button that I could see, for example. If you want to pop out of a film you are watching to order some food quickly it’s a bit of a faff.

Speaking of ordering food, Virgin have enabled touch-screen ordering on this aircraft. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of this feature and belive every airline should roll it out. It lets you order snacks and drinks from your IFE, saving both you and the cabin crew time and giving you a full overview of everything that’s available. I didn’t try it out on this flight but given my experience on other carriers it should work a treat.

The new Upper Class seat does not have a secondary screen on the remote control – in fact, it has no remote control at all. If you would like to control your IFE remotely, it is possible to pair your smartphone or tablet with your seat. The problem is that this relies on wi-fi technology which isn’t exactly reliable at 30,000 feet.  On our press trip many of us were struggling to pair our phones and I eventually gave up.

This is the end of Part 1.  Part 2 of our review of the new Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Suite on the A350 can be found here.  There is a lot more to discuss.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (May 2022)

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 6th June 2022):

Virgin Rewards Plus credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

30,000 points bonus (SPECIAL OFFER) and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Rewards credit card

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

A generous earning rate for a free card at 0.75 points per £1 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:

American Express Amex Gold

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

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

The Platinum Card has doubled its sign-up bonus to 60,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert to 60,000 Virgin Points, if you apply by 1st June 2022.

American Express Platinum card Amex

The Platinum Card from American Express

60,000 points (SPECIAL OFFER) and an unbeatable set of travel benefits – for a fee Read our full review

Small business owners should consider the two American Express Business cards. Points convert at 1:1 into Virgin Points.

Amex Platinum Business American Express

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a long list of travel benefits Read our full review

American Express Business Gold

20,000 points sign-up bonus and free for a year 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 (117)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Andrew says:


    If your Employee Benefits Package is powered by NextJump, they are offering 20% WOW on all UK & European flights, train and bus journeys booked via Omio for the next 4 days.

    (As usual, there’s no WOW on VAT or “taxes”).

    • sloth says:

      not impressed with WOW points atm…they offered 20% additinal points on SIXT bookings, which they have now retracted for no good reason. im chasing them but they just give generic answers…even though the car hire is completed and fully paid…

      • Andrew says:

        I’ve never had any points charged back on NextJump, even when I was earning £1,000s of WOW every month doing a bit of temping for a friend’s firm. (It coincided with an Accor 25% offer and their staff were spending months at a time in one.)

        There’s occasionally stuff that doesn’t track properly but it’s the same for most of them.

        • sloth says:

          that’s interesting to know thanks. the purchase tracked fine and shows in my history and then shows it being retracted but they wont give a reason why, only asking if i returned my purchase blah blah which being car hire and fully completed and paid for, obviously i didnt. have send a pdf of my invoice from sixt so will wait and see

  • Matt says:

    Wildly OT: just had an email from saying they’re introducing a £4 fee for redeeming an award night. The fee is waived if you redeem through their app.

    Time for another one of my periodic reviews of Hilton/Marriott versus I also should get round to using the 4 reward nights I’ve got waiting!

    • memesweeper says:

      That’s going to mess up the return calculations for those of us ‘saving up’ with cheaper nights. 🙁

    • Lady London says:

      So has calculated the value of being able to track you everywhere, and selling your data, and recording all your searches and preferences at £4 per customer?

      I’ll pass.

      • Genghis says:

        I’ll probably still do all of my searching on a computer (bigger screen) then book on the app

        • Lady London says:

          The app will still track you, though, unless you disable it.

          I think that’s why IHG may be giving me ridiculous targets on Accelerate. Recently remembered I installed their app a couple of years ago. It’s been tracking me so unless you know me, you’d figure out I would be constantly booking hotels. Except I don’t need hotels in most of my locations.

          I am certain app will be hoovering up that kind of data on where you go and using it to target you. they will also sell that data , for money, to others. In theory you might not be identified when that data is sold on but factually, huge advances have been make in linking data across different sources to profile someone. That’s why the providers of software that does this, and companies that buy the output of it, all keep very stumm on this because it’s so good.

          • Doug M says:

            I tend to go through the app permissions every few weeks removing location, microphone, camera etc. from lots of apps that have no legitimate reason to need access to these things.

          • Nick says:

            Search ‘O2 motion’. They’re one of the biggest companies that do this kind of thing and they don’t try to hide it at all…

          • Fenny says:

            I have the app on my tablet, but rarely switch on the wifi. I have a phone for comms and use the tablet mostly for offline stuff. If IHG or want to track me, it seems I very rarely leave the house.

      • Andrew says:

        You mean you don’t have a “burner” tablet for this kind of thing?

    • Rhys says:

      Got this as well. We saw it happen in the US (I believe) and were waiting for it to launch here.

      Bookings via the app still free, of course

      • meta says:

        Will it cover Tesco vouchers? As that means less value.

      • Anna says:

        On the subject of – just looking at resorts for next summer and the option to pay later seems to have been removed from all of them. Wonder if this is a reaction to the Thomas Cook failure? I locked in a pay later booking a few weeks ago but was considering cancelling it in the light of the current 12 avios per £1 offer via BA but it will mean having to stump up £2k now as opposed to next July!

        • Rob says:

          I’ve seen this too recently – when I looked at rebooking my current place, in case the price had dropped, the ‘pay on departure’ option had gone.

          • Anna says:

            I would never pay a lot of money months in advance to as it’s far from clear how much protection bookings have and their customer service is erratic. Hopefully this will drive a lot of their business away and they will persuade their properties to reconsider!

  • Matt says:

    OT: Looking for availability on AA using Avios. On BA showing nothing between PHL and LAX however when I look at award flights on AA there is plenty. If I call BA will they be able to book same with Avios – or is it different availability for avios users on AA?

    • Lady London says:

      You are looking for the type of award space that is called “Saver” on AA website. BA can normally book these.

      As a rule of thumb, cross-airline award bookings often can only access the lowest class which is often called “Saver” or something similar.

  • Lyn says:

    O/T – Rob, do you have a link for booking on Iberia, like you do for BA? Thanks.

      • Lyn says:

        Thank you! Noted for next time I’m booking Iberia. And hopefully good for others to be aware of as well.

        Any other magical hidden links, like Qantas or American? And another question I’m not clear about – do flights using your links have to actually originate in the UK to benefit HfP?

        • Rob says:

          We have Qantas but not American.

          Usually works for global sales but policies vary.

          If you click the disclaimer at the top of articles on desktop, it pulls up a list of partners which you can click through.

          Alternatively search for a HFP article mentioning the company and click one of the links in that. Thanks.

          • Lyn says:

            Thanks Rob, now I know where to look. But I can’t actually find a link to Qantas on your affiliate links with the disclaimers. Asking because I’ll probably be booking with Qantas in the next two or three weeks.

          • Rob says:

            Fixed, sorry! Reason it wasn’t there is that we’ve not written about them in so long it wasn’t necessary, but I’ve added it anyway.

  • Doug M says:

    I was recently thinking about how hotels com reward nights is better than hotel specific points. I was very happy when the Amex 1:3 on Hilton rather than the usual 1:2 appeared, but having checked the numbers it still makes no sense for me. I’m sure Marriott, Hilton and IHG sell points on deals so frequently because they know except in very specific circumstances the points are of such minimal value. The hotels com charge for redemptions is trivial but very annoying, I don’t think it changes my attitude to continue using them over direct bookings, but it is just a further erosion of value in the scheme, which is common across all travel schemes.

    • Anna says:

      Have you read the comments above about the option to pay at the hotel being removed from most properties on It’s also impossible to filter the search options to show which properties offer free cancellations and other things such as the number of bedrooms in an apartment or villa. It’s getting to be too much hassle to trawl through pages and pages of resorts and hotels to find something suitable.

  • Gringo says:

    OT – I flew WTP recently, back row of the cabin with an empty seat next to me (26B, I was 26A and this was aisle). My sister in law was 3 rows behind me in economy but flight attendant refused outright for her to move next to me. Seem standard practice?

    • Anna says:

      Yes, and there has been quite a bit of coverage of this issue on FT recently. The rationale is that the passenger hasn’t paid for the seat they want to move to, and if they started allowing pax to move they would then be free to go into CW and F unimpeded 😮

      • Anna says:

        I was travelling in F last month and we were grounded for a couple of hours – I would have been happy for WT pax to stretch their legs a bit in the premium cabins, especially as the load was very light at that point (the aircraft has a stop where most pax offload en route to the final destinationd). However again the cabin crew wouldn’t hear of it.

    • The Original Nick says:

      People with status would be bumped up first I’d say.

    • Genghis says:

      Pay for the cabin you want to travel in.

      • The Original Nick says:


      • AJA says:

        +1 I agree with you. If you want to guarantee you travel in WTP buy a ticket for that cabin.

        If the airline upgrades you that’s a different thing.

    • Chuck says:

      Did you ask if you could move ‘back’ to sit together ?

  • Shoestring says:

    2x £30 discounts on my council tax this morning, my wife & I both had 10% off at Co-Op (ie Paypoint) thru Halifax debit card, max spend £300 each

    goes quite well with my 3x £15 discounts on Post Office prepaid travel cards, & 4x £10, +4x £5 (total £60) Amazon App credits that I got yesterday & today

    • The Original Nick says:

      May have to check mine too then Harry. Thanks.

    • stevenhp1987 says:

      Got a link for the Post Office offer? Cannot see it on their website?

    • Jonathan says:

      It frustrates me that the HSBC ones are so useless. Does anyone know if these offers are blanket or targeted like AmEx? May consider getting a Halifax account if these are fairly easy to get.

      • Shoestring says:

        easy to open a Halifax current a/c

        the offers seem to be based on what/ where you haven’t used your Halifax debit card recently, combined with the retailers etc willing to pay the reward

      • Andrew says:

        Not forgetting that Halifax is a white label brand of BoS (which in turn is owned by LBG).

        So essentially the same offers are available across Halifax, Lloyds & BoS brands (decision still be to taken on MBNA apparently).

        You just have to remember to use your Debit Card regularly to trigger the offers. I generally have about 18-20 offers at any one time on my BoS brand and a smaller number on the Halifax brand as I don’t use it very often.

        It’s a balance. Do you want to earn Amex Points every time you use a card, or do you want to earn nil points, but trigger offers on Debit?

  • Amo says:

    It looks like so many of the windows are covered with various parts of the seat, is there really only a single full window available?

    • Rob says:

      Windows do not line up the seats. Problem with most business class seats these days including Club Suite.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.