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:
and my Herefordshire Short Rib main:
and Chocolate Hazelnut Tart:
followed by a selection of British cheeses.
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:
… and here is the lighter PR photo!
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:
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 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.)