Some more thoughts on the new Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class Suite business class service

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If you have not yet done so, it is worth reading my review of the new Upper Class seat Virgin Atlantic is fitting on its new A350-1000 aircraft before reading on.  This is based on the press launch flight to New York last week.  I go into some detail about the seat itself and how it compares to the new British Airways Club Suite.

What I didn’t write about in that review was the service or soft product – mainly because, on the outbound flight, we were served items that are not normally available on Virgin Atlantic flights.

….. or so I thought.  It turned out that in addition to all the journalists, Virgin employees and frequent flyers on our flight there was also a representative from Gate Gourmet, Virgin’s in-flight caterers.

He was there to see how the food was enjoyed, and revealed that some of the dishes were being trialled and tweaked for commercial service.

The food service was, it has to be said, impressive. Although it took 4 hours for cabin crew to get meals on tables (I’m not sure if this was down to passengers blocking the aisles, or lack of familiarity with a special menu, or just plain poor planning, or a combination of all these things) the food, when it arrived, was exceptional.

I had the citrus seared prawns:

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class review

and my Herefordshire Short Rib main:

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class review

and Chocolate Hazelnut Tart:

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class review

followed by a selection of British cheeses.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class review

The prawn starter, in particular, blew me out of the water. It was really tasty and I hope it becomes part of the regular menu, if it is not already.

The bedding is impressive

My return flight, also on an A350, was overnight and I was able to try out the bedding. This includes a fitted sheet and mattress topper, which fits snugly around the seat. This makes the bedding look really neat and stops it from migrating during the flight. Here is a photo I took, although it is very dark:

Virgin Upper Class A350 bed

… and here is the lighter PR photo!

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper Class review

Virgin Atlantic is also trialling different mattress toppers with a small hole at shoulder height for your shoulder belt. This would enable Upper Class Suites to be made up ready for bed mode before take-off, enabling an even more seamless sleeping experience which is all too necessary on the short flights from the US East Coast.

Premium Economy and Economy

Having said all that, the biggest and most noticeable upgrades might be happening at the back of the plane to Economy and Premium.  I had a peek:

Virgin Atlantic A350 economy

The new Premium and Economy seats feature a range of improvements that will make a big difference to passengers, including amazingly large new seat-back screens (11.5″ in economy) and connectivity options.  Virgin has done a great job making these cabins look as classy as Upper Class, utilising beautiful textiles and textures that make them look really premium.

More improvements are coming

If you read my Upper Class overview yesterday, you will know that the seat is experiencing what can only be called teething trouble, with Virgin modifying and improving the product as we speak.

This will include a new tray table, and two other refinements to the seat itself (including a neater seat-back fitting) as well as a new table-cloth/place mat, improved control of the in-seat mood lighting and of course the new fitted mattress topper.

Having spoken to various Virgin Atlantic representatives on the trip, including the VP of Customer Experience, the sense I get is that Virgin is pursuing an innovate-fast approach to its customer experience across the board.

Whilst these issues are annoying for early passengers (and, frankly, some should have been spotted in testing) the fact that Virgin is rapidly rethinking aspects of the in-flight experience and rolling them out to all aircraft is not something you would normally see an airline doing.

These improvements are fairly remarkable for a notoriously slow-moving industry. Rob is hoping to try out the new Upper Class seat himself later this year, by which time many of these changes should have been implemented.

Virgin A350 upper class review

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  1. From the pictures it doesn’t look ideal when travelling as a couple, is this the case? Whereas the club suite looks better than first thought?

    • It’s great for couples in the middle block, because your heads are by the centre (ie close together) so you can talk. Club Suite is a bit worse because the partition between the seats is smaller.

      • Having flown both, Club suite wins hands down for couples for me.

        In Club Suite you face towards each other, you can talk to each other without leaning forwards or turning at a strange angle.

        Virgin, yes you are closer but you have to lean forwards and twist to an uncomfortable degree (like the twist to look out of the window on the ‘old’ VS seat).

  2. Slightly O/T. I have had the paid for version of the Virgin Atlantic credit card for almost a year. My renewal of the £160 fee is due in a couple of weeks and I wanted to downgrade to the free card. When I called VA to ask for a downgrade I was told I have to pay off my current balance in full and cancel the card, then reapply for the free version. Is this actual Virgin policy or was the customer service person incorrect?

    • Shoestring says:

      correct info

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yep no downgrade. Have to cancel and wait 6 months to get the free (that’s what they say anyway some have reapplied earlier and had it approved but some have not)

      • Incorrect. I phoned last week and spoke to two separate customer service reps. Policy has changed (they double checked). Can now pay off outstanding balance, apply for free card then phone to cancel premium card and they will escalate / submit appeal for your free card application which will be approved subject to credit checks, etc etc 👍🏻

        Appeal can take up to 40 days

      • For clarification, they said this was a recent change and are aware it keeps changing a lot as even the staff are struggling to keep up with it!

  3. Oops we gave an honest poor review yesterday. Let’s think of something positive…

  4. The prawns blew you out of the water? Strange mix of metaphors…!

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