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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.

Virgin A350 upper class review

….. 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.

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (January 2023)

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, the Reward+ card has a bonus of 15,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

15,000 points bonus and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

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 Preferred Rewards Gold

Your best beginner’s card – 20,000 points, FREE for a year & four 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 from American Express

30,000 points and unbeatable 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.

American Express Business Platinum

40,000 points sign-up bonus and a £200 Amex Travel credit every year 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 (48)

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

  • the_real_a says:

    I may have missed it on the review, but do you have to “commit” to a bed or seat like the old style UC? i.e. do you have to get up and flip the seat to make it a bed? I really hate this…

  • Catalan says:

    I have to admire Rhys’ and Rob’s dogged defense of the new Virgin UC Suite despite its obvious shortcomings.
    BA are fortunate for not electing this seat as we all know they would have been lambasted by those on here for doing so.

    • Paul says:

      At least they have been honest about the shortcoming unlike another points blog that has essentially been calling the VS seat perfect!

  • Alex W says:

    OT – schoolboy error. Didn’t cancel Virgin credit card and got charged 2nd annual fee. Rang up to cancel and they refused to refund the annual fee (in contrast to Creation IHG). Oops, oh well I will have to absolutely rinse the MS to make as many miles as possible in the next 11 months before cancelling.

    • Jonathan says:

      Unfortunately you can easily trip up on things like that in life, it’s frustrating I know, but you could end up earning a 2-4-1 voucher before you know it, then if you’ve got other credit cards that offer a better return, then you’ve already got nearly the best return from the credit card possible.

      I think I remember Rob mentioning that having a Amex BAPP credit card for yourself, then having your partner getting the same card, just to get the 2-4-1 vouchers, once the vouchers have been earned, then you don’t really need to use the card any longer for the rest of the card year.

      • Alex W says:

        Yeah… I already have one of those useless Virgin vouchers, plus 2 Lloyds vouchers and soon to earn a BA 241 as well. Can’t use any of them now as we are having a 2nd baby. Poor planning!

    • Lady London says:

      I have just had an unwanted German Bahncard renew. I’d forgotten about it as I worked for the client last summer.

      With the amount I paid for that, nobody on here should ever be embarrassed about something they accidentally let renew. And I didn;t even get the version that gives access to Eurostar lounges. Grrrr.

  • CraigyC says:

    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?

    • Rob says:

      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.

      • Paul says:

        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).

  • Joe says:

    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)

      • AndyGWP says:

        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

      • AndyGWP says:

        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!

  • Judy says:

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

    • Rob says:

      I was trying to get a bit more content given that Rhys was away for three days 🙂

  • Crafty says:

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

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

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