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Review: we try the new Upper Class seat on Virgin Atlantic’s new A330neo

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This is our review of the new Upper Class suite on Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900neo aircraft.

Virgin Atlantic’s first A330neo, called ‘Billie Holiday’, arrived last week and is now in commercial service, operating all flights to Tampa and a couple of weekly trips to Boston.

I was on a special celebration flight. 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 Tampa.

Introducing Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo ….

Virgin Atlantic is currently in the midst of a big fleet renewal program. Whilst it already operates a fleet of A330 aircraft, it will gradually phase these out in favour of 16 newer A330neo. By 2027, the entire Virgin Atlantic fleet will comprise latest-generation aircraft, including the A350 and Boeing 787.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

The A330neo is an updated version of the Airbus A330. The ‘neo’ stands for ‘new engine option’ – Airbus has teamed up with Rolls Royce to offer a brand new and more energy efficient jet engines based on the A350’s that need less fuel to fly the same distance.

Other improvements include new carbon fibre winglets and aerodynamic improvements that, in total, mean the A330neo is around 14% more fuel efficient than the original A330. It can also fly marginally further.

Inside the cabin the differences are less stark. The A330neo still uses the same aluminium tube from the A330, and no changes have been made to the size of the windows or the cabin pressurisation. This remains at 8,000ft vs the A350’s and 787’s 6,000ft, which has an impact on how your body reacts to the flight and how tired and fresh you feel afterwards.

That said, Airbus has redesigned its cabin fittings, including with larger overhead bins. Virgin Atlantic is also fitting a brand new business class seat, which is why Virgin flew me to Tampa!

First impressions of Virgin Atlantic’s A330-900

At most airports you will board the aircraft through door 2, which opens onto an updated and tweaked version of ‘The Loft’ social space that Virgin Atlantic first unveiled on the A350.

This has taken the place of Virgin’s traditional bar space, which you can still find on its older A330s and Boeing 787s. The 747, which had the bar in the Upper Class cabin, was retired in 2020 – you can read my farewell report of that aircraft here.

Virgin Atlantic A330neo Loft

A lot of people are still on the fence about Virgin Atlantic replacing the bar with the Loft, but I have to admit I like it. On many flights the bar is not properly staffed and so it turns into additional galley space for the crew. In my opinion the Loft is a better use of space and offers a more comfortable and friendly environment to sit in.

Virgin Atlantic has made a few changes to the Loft since the A350 which I think improves it. This includes a fridge and freezer, which are stocked throughout the flight with ice creams, soft drinks and cans of beer, cocktails and wine that you can help yourself to. It brings an element of the bar back but also means you are not constantly asking the crew for drinks, which means they are free to deal with the main cabin.

Other changes include the addition of fold-down armrests with flat surfaces for drinks and a slightly higher seating level, which means you are not constantly craning your neck if talking to someone else who is standing. It feels a lot more natural now to sit and chat with other passengers or crew.

Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo

Turn left from the Loft and you’ll find Virgin’s new Upper Class, which in this case accommodates 30 passengers in one cabin. There are just eight rows, so it still feels exclusive.

Virgin Atlantic A330neo retreat suite

The big attraction is Virgin Atlantic’s brand new Upper Class suites and the exclusive Retreat Suites (pictured above), which it calls its “most spacious yet”. Virgin Atlantic now has three distinct business class seats flying:

Unlike the first two, the new Upper Class suite on the A330neo is a staggered, rather than herringbone seat. That means all the seats are forward-facing, rather than angled, with alternating rows. You can see what I mean here:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

That means that there are multiple different versions of the seat, all with slightly different variations from each other. It is particularly noticeable in the window seats, where odd rows are ‘aisle side’ whilst even rows have you sat closer to the window.

The change also means that Virgin Atlantic is able to fit removable panels to ‘aisle side’ window seats. This helps it accommodate passengers with accessibility requirements or who need to be lifted into their seat, so that is a positive.

Other good news includes the fact that Virgin Atlantic has opted to keep all the overhead storage bins which means there is plenty of room. Many airlines these days have chosen to remove the two rows of bins down the centre of the aircraft, which creates a more open environment but can lead to a fight for locker space.

I was also pleased to see that all seats have individual air vents. I often find myself over-heating when sleeping on flights and find the additional airflow a life saver.

The new-new Upper Class Suite

I was sat in 3K, which meant I was an aisle side window seat:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

As we saw at the unveiling event, first impressions are that this seat is very Virgin Atlantic, with classic chocolate brown leather seats, woven fabrics, textured plastic panelling and gold accents. It looks very classy – even better with the sunrise shining through the windows!

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Every Upper Class suite on the A330neo gets two windows each, which is a nice touch too.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

The seat itself is very comfortable. I was a little worried that the seat would feel narrow because the A330neo is a narrow aircraft, but to be honest I think it felt wider than Virgin’s Boeing 787 seat.

Storage has been improved from the A350 Upper Class suite. Next to your headrest is a small storage cupboard, similar to the one that British Airways has in its Club Suite:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Inside you’ll find a mirror as well as your headphones. Small touches like the little label under the mirror which reads “Well, don’t you look lovely?” add a little Virgin touch:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Underneath this is a raised area with wireless charging for mobile phones. This is tucked out of the way and means you don’t have to faff around with a spiders-web of cables in your seat, albeit that wireless charging is not as fast as a cabled connection.

I did find I had to shuffle my phone around to find the charging ‘spot’ but once I did it charged fine. A little ledge means that your phone won’t slide out during turbulence or take-off and landing.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Beside this you also have a plethora of charging options, including two USB-A ports and a 60W USB-C port which should keep a laptop going. There’s also a universal mains socket for charging laptops and other, bigger gadgets.

The safety card, Vera inflight magazine and other literature are tucked away neatly in a little slot to the side and you also get extended seat controls here:

Virgin Atlantic A330neo seat controls

Straddling (almost) the entire length of the seat you’ll also find a large console table. I mostly used this for drinks, my amenity kit etc but you could also plonk a 15” laptop on it no problem.

Underneath this is a little more storage, in the form of a little cubby hole. This is accessible in bed mode as well so quite useful for tucking away anything you might want during the night but don’t want rolling around on the surface above.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

The tray table is also tucked away inside the console table. This has a clever mechanism that pops out from the side and offers a little cocktail table, or you can unfold it and have the full tray table out. A clever little crescent has been cut out as well so that it can fit closer to your body.

The mechanism feels sturdy and is also adjustable. My only criticism is that it does not push back far enough for you to get out of your seat during a meal service – there simply isn’t enough space. Parents may find this an issue if they need to get up to help their children whilst eating.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

You can also flip up the armrest on your right to find a small remote to control the screen, plus another mirror:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

In front of you’ll find a big 17.3″ 4K in-flight entertainment screen. This looks great and feels bigger than it is because it is actually quite close. It is fixed in place which means you have gate-to-gate entertainment, one of the biggest features I thought was missing from the A350 Upper Class Suite. It’s good to see it here. The software, which Virgin calls Vera, is very responsive and modern.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

For the first time, I was also able to connect my own Bluetooth headphones to the IFE which let me avoid a tangle of wires. I expected the pairing process to be an absolute nightmare – Bluetooth so often is – but I was shocked at how easy it was. It took literally 15 seconds. What a game changer!

The plane is also equipped with Viasat wifi and this was equally impressive. At one point, I was told 130 devices were connected but I was still able to browse fairly normally. I even ended up writing most of this review directly into the HfP system rather than into a Word document hosted locally.

On one side you’ll also find a discreet pop-out coat hook, another nice touch. I didn’t have a coat with me but a lot of the other passengers did and this worked a treat.

Is it a comfortable bed?

After getting up at 4:30am to catch the flight I had the perfect opportunity to test out the Upper Class suite in bed mode and try and get a couple of hours sleep. I’m pleased to report I found it very comfortable.

As on other aircraft Virgin Atlantic provides a sleep kit in the overhead lockers which includes a mattress pad and quilted duvet (a pillow is already at your seat). I always appreciate when airlines provide mattress pads as it adds just a little extra comfort and makes it feel a lot more hygienic. I was able to fit these myself no problem:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Unlike the A350 Suite, this Upper Class seat also comes with a full width door. I like to use this when I’m trying to sleep so that I’m not accidentally bumped by other passengers or cabin crew:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

Like other modern business class seats, Virgin’s A330neo seat features the dreaded ‘foot coffin’. Sitting down I thought this looked tight, but in reality there is plenty of room, even accounting for my 10.5 size feet. Here I am, under the covers, with my feet well into the cubby hole. I probably have 15cm or so of space above:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

This is partly achieved by a seat that lowers when it goes into bed mode, which means you regain some of the space lost that would otherwise be lost. An ingenious solution – for an A330, there is plenty of leg room.

Sleeping is comfortable, even for odd side-sleepers like me. I always pull my knees up and end up knocking the sides but it was less of an issue in this seat and in the end I managed to get a couple of hours sleep. I will see how it fares on a night flight on my return.

Food and drink on Virgin Atlantic

Whilst not a focus for this review, I do want to quickly whizz through the meal service on this flight. Bear in mind that this was not a ‘normal’ flight and more of a party flight – I was out of my seat for most of it!

Of course the cabin crew came round with the usual pre-departure drinks (orange juice, a Virgin mocktail or champagne) as well as after takeoff.

We were served lunch a couple of hours into the flight, although in reality I imagine this would normally be done much sooner as the scheduled Tampa flights depart just after lunch time. This media flight had been moved forward to 8am.

There were two options for every course, and I went for the chicken parfait starter:

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

I think this is the first time I’ve ever had pate on a flight and it was nice to get something slightly different than a cold smoked salmon starter that is all too common (if delicious) these days!

For my main course I opted for the miso and sesame crusted salmon which was equally good, full of umami flavours. The alternative was a chicken pie which I thought was a bit too heavy for me.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

For dessert the choice was between a chocolate gateau and brioche bread pudding. Undecided, I asked the crew to surprise me and they brought the bread pudding which was warm and delicious, if not the most photogenic.

Review: Upper Class business seat on Virgin Atlantic A330neo aircraft

A cheese board and port is also available, if you are still peckish. There was no official second meal service; instead, Virgin Atlantic offered a number of ‘dine on demand’ options including cream tea, a fish finger sandwich, chicken caeser club sandwich and a chickpeak and vegetable samosa. I wasn’t particularly hungry so I didn’t try these.

What are the best seats on Virgin Atlantic’s A330neo?

As you have probably realised by now, not all Upper Class seats on Virgin’s A330neos are equal. You can actually choose from a number of different variations.

I think there are some definite ‘top picks’. The most obvious is the new business-plus Retreat Suites, the front two middle seats. These offer additional leg room, storage space and a bigger inflight entertainment screen. These can currently be booked for an additional £200 from two weeks before departure.

If you don’t want to splash the cash, your next best options are definitely seats 1A and 1K. These are adjacent to the Retreat Suites and offer some of the benefits – including improved legroom and a larger ‘foot coffin’ for when you sleep as there is nobody sitting in front of you cutting into your space.

Other than that, I would always pick even-numbered windows seats which are closer to the window and therefore offer a bit more privacy than odd-numbered seats. The only downside is that anyone on the larger side will have to squeeze through the side console table and the seat in front to access it, so it is not for everyone.

Conclusion

I have to admit, I am impressed. Whilst the new Upper Class cabin wasn’t a complete surprise – I saw it unveiled in Shoreditch over the summer – seeing it installed inside an aircraft cabin made it real.

Kudos to the Virgin Atlantic product design team, who I think have delivered the best Upper Class seat now flying. Whilst some people dismissed it as a Virginified version of Delta One, which has been flying for five years now, it is a genuinely good seat and Virgin has managed to put its own stamp on it. It is comfortable and stylish, and it improves on some of the missing features from its other seats.

My only hope now is that Virgin Atlantic commits to retrofitting the seat onto the Boeing 787 fleet and finally retire the old, cramped and outdated Upper Class seat on that aircraft. It would be even better if they can squeeze it onto the A350, although I admit that’s unlikely given how recent that product is.

Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.


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Comments (93)

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

  • Wenby says:

    Recently flown on a leisure configuration A350 which was less than 1 year old where parts of the upper class ‘suite’ were falling off already.

    • Rob says:

      I’m typing this on a leisure config A350 and its spotless. The standard config one I flew on Wednesday was also in good shape except for the seat control buttons which were showing signs of wear.

  • GM says:

    Great review. Particularly like all the shots of the storage and the ranking of seats to choose in Upper, with pros and cons. Like that little cubby – Aer Lingus actually did seat storage surprisingly well, while Virgin hasn’t tended to.
    Sadly they’ve changed my flight in March from neo to boring old A330 so don’t know when I’ll get to check it out for real.

  • A Smith says:

    Gate to gate ife is available on A350 actually screens do not have to be stowed for take and landing

  • James says:

    Thanks for this review Ryhs. I had a good trip in Upper Class on the old A330 about 3/4 years ago and I had been toying with putting a few VS flights into the mix but this piece has helpfully killed off any ideas along those lines.

    I really find all the novelty / faux hip stuff on VS to be irritating and naff. The onboard colour scheme is one issue, the cheesy message on the mirror another and that nonsense can of water a third as a couple of examples. The bar concept I used to like but the new ‘Loft’ arrangement has all the charm of a barbers waiting room.

    I’m sorry but that main course looks waterlogged and particularly unappealing (though I concede the parfait looks tempting). I know BA has struggled to serve more then they manage in Club Europe for most of the last 2 years long haul but I hardly think this is putting clear blue water between products. People seem to claim UC is somewhere between Business and First, I’m afraid I’m failing to see it. I believe VS will be using this product to compete with the Club Suite on LHR- JFK- good luck to them…

    • Thegasman says:

      Tbf I think the days of Virgin trying to position UC as a J+ experience are long gone. Back in the early 00’s they had a point as the clubhouse (including spa) onboard bar & massages were genuinely a step above any other American or European carrier.

    • Rob says:

      I did a BA and a Virgin virtually back to back last week.

      Main meal = interchangeable. Difference was the 2nd smaller meal which is far better on Virgin.

      The A350 seat is not as good as Club Suite in my view but the overall cabin feel is better and the Virgin crew are better.

  • Rob H not Rob says:

    The can of water.

    I like it, resealable so I dipped in and out of it at leisure on a recent night flight without fear of knocking a glass over in my sleep. A little thing but certainly a positive.

    Sending hugs to the grammar police.

    • Rhys says:

      Does it make a difference to a bottle of water though? I’d be interested to see if it really is all that much more sustainable.

      • Rob H not Rob says:

        Good point there. It certainly feels nicer than getting a little plastic bottle of evian or similar.

  • Joe says:

    Great review. I had almost given up on my two vs credit card vouchers. Now we’re (2 ad plus a childand lap inf) are off to tampa for feb half term in Upper class with one comp and one upgrade voucher and getting 50% of the points back. Yes the taxes are £1k but a net cost £1200 for uc half term to florida is good enough for me…

  • Arun says:

    Looking at flying to Tampa later next year and shows as the older 330- are they not looking at keeping the newer one on this route?

    • Rhys says:

      Dunno! Possibly because they haven’t finalised their summer schedules yet?

  • Gilly Gold says:

    I have read the article with interest as we flew out on Wednesday.
    A treat and thoroughly enjoyable in UC with good crew. I agree with the comment regarding some window seats being window seats and some being window aisle seats.
    Good comms from flight deck as our departure was delayed by an hour and a half (we made up some of the time) and we had to wait after landing to be towed to a dock so that the airbridge system could be set up for future flights.

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