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How I booked Virgin Atlantic’s new Retreat Suite

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A fortuitous swap of an A330-300 to a brand new A330neo for an upcoming family trip to Boston – swapping Virgin Atlantic’s worst Upper Class suite for its best – has given me an opportunity to try out the new ‘Retreat Suite’ on your behalf (!).

This is how you book it.

(EDIT: Here is my full review of flying the Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite.)

How I booked Virgin Atlantic's new Retreat Suite

What is The Retreat Suite?

The Retreat Suite is a brand new concept from Virgin Atlantic and comprises two enlarged Upper Class suites in the centre of row 1.

Virgin Atlantic says it is its “most spacious suite yet” with a 6’7″ (2m) fully flat bed, an expansive 27″ touch screen with Bluetooth connectivity and wireless charging.

Virgin Atlantic has made the most of the extra legroom afforded in the bulkhead row. It opened up the seat footwell – no foot cubby holes here – with the leg rest also acting as an ottoman for buddy dining.

The Retreat Suites also benefit from a huge amount of storage space, with lids from the side consoles popping open to reveal deep storage areas.

Interestingly, The Retreat Suite is only available in the centre pair so you won’t be able to sit next to a window if you want the additional space. The window seats in row 1 feature the standard Upper Class seat.

The booking rules for The Retreat Suite are:

  • it is available for booking from 14 days before departure
  • it costs £200 per seat, one way
  • the seats can be booked individually or as a pair
  • if not booked, the seats will be offered to the highest ranking members of Virgin Flying Club at check in
Virgin Atlantic A330neo

How do you book The Retreat Suite?

The Retreat Suite is meant to be available for booking from 14 days before departure.

Based on my experience, it opened up at 14 days before departure based on the departure time of the flight. It wasn’t available in the morning but when I checked again in the afternoon – an hour later than the departure time – it was there.

This may be a coincidence, because a reader told me recently that he could not book it until some hours after departure time, 14 days prior.

This is what you see if the Retreat Suites (1D and 1G) are not yet bookable:

booking Virgin Atlantic's Retreat Suite

The message you see is “This seat isn’t available for selection, but might become occupied by the time your flight departs.”

This is not, let’s be honest, the most exciting marketing message Virgin Atlantic could have come up with. I suggest something like ‘Book our exclusive Retreat Suite from 14 days before departure for £200″.

When The Retreat Suite becomes bookable, the seat map changes to this:

booking Virgin Atlantic's Retreat Suite

You can then move yourself into 1D and 1G. The fee of £200 per seat shows to the side. (Upper Class seats are usually free to select, so there are no complex issues about refunding anything you have already paid.)

So I did, and clicked ‘Pay’.

And I got this:

booking Virgin Atlantic's Retreat Suite

I spent a long time trying to work around this, and eventually I found the solution. What I was trying to do was move myself and my son into The Retreat Suite and move my wife and daughter into the row behind which we were vacating.

This proved to be too complex for the Virgin Atlantic IT system.

What I ended up doing was:

  • move myself and my son into The Retreat Suite, leaving my wife and daughter where they were – this worked OK
  • do a second transaction afterwards, moving my wife and daughter into the second row, into the seats my son and I had freed up

All was then well.

Keep an eye out for a review of The Retreat Suite in a few weeks. Coming home on the A330-300 is going to be tough after this ….

PS. The day after I booked, I received this email from Virgin Atlantic. If you want to ensure you get The Retreat Suite I suggest booking it as near to the 14 day mark as possible, because once the emails go out to other passengers your chances will drop.

How to book Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (December 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 bonus points 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.

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive 30,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 30,000 Avios) with American Express Preferred Rewards Gold. You receive 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in three months and a further 5,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

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

SPECIAL OFFER: Until 9th January 2024, you will receive a huge 100,000 Membership Rewards points (convertible to 100,000 Avios) with The Platinum Card. You receive 75,000 points if you spend £10,000 in six months and a further 25,000 points if you hold the card for 15 months. You can apply here.

The Platinum Card from American Express

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

American Express Business Platinum

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American Express Business Gold

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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 (29)

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

  • Rob H not Rob says:

    What routes does the A330 Neo currently serve?

    Any rollout info?

    • Jonathan says:

      I know MIA is one of them

    • AL says:

      They’re scheduled to run on TPA, JFK, BOS, MIA, TLV, and ATL. TLV only has an A339 on 1/4, after which it reverts back to a 789. TPA, MIA and ATL get one a day. JFK gets anything from 4 to 12 per week, with the rest of services on A351s.

      A339 only flies to/from LHR.

      • Rob says:

        A330-300 still on JFK – I’m on one. Shocking but true.

        • AL says:

          Oh, yes. Especially on the MANs, which I try to avoid. For MAN, as much as anything else.

  • Andrew says:

    Why didn’t you just move your wife and daughter straight in to the Retreat Suite?

    • JimK says:

      Good question. While there may be some innocent reason, such as it was his and his son’s turn for the better seats, it could seem like a lack of chivalry to the ladies.

      • Rob says:

        Because they couldn’t care less, and can’t write flight reviews either. My 11 year old, on the other hand, is turning into a mini Rhys 🙂

        • mrs_fussy says:

          Love it

        • Nick says:

          Does that mean your son will be writing the review? We’ll enjoy that… but be careful, he might then demand the same payrise as Rhys 😄

        • AJA says:

          I think it would have been interesting for you to write a review on the retreat suite and at the same time for your son to write a comparison with the standard seat.

        • Bagoly says:

          But would the Virgin staff care how the four of you arranged yourselves?
          It’s not as though the ladies were going to complain about swapping to an inferior seat!

          • Rob says:

            My son still has kids meals so, to avoid constant confusion, we try to keep him in his assigned seat.

    • Brian P says:


      • David says:

        Mothers’ day (it’s for all of them, not just mine).

        • Richie says:

          but he only has one mother and it’s her day.

        • Bagoly says:

          The honouring of biological mothers is apparently post 1913.

          Mothering Sunday is the older tradition, with a rather different meaning.
          And from a strict Puritan view, decidedly suspect, being an indication of the accretive nature of unreformed Christianity which under the guise of honouring Mary, took on the pagan worship of Mother Earth !

  • SammyJ says:

    I’m not sure if your other seats were the problem. We booked these seats to Tampa in late November, soon after the launch, and I got similar error messages for days – it finally let me do it 2 days before departure. I initially thought it was because our seats had been booked using CC upgrade vouchers but that wasn’t the problem, in the end we put it down to Virgin’s IT being just as pitiful as BA’s. We were initially trying to buy them as our initial seat choice (we only booked the flight 10 days before departure), so chose
    other seats when that didn’t work and then tried to move them – no luck for several days. We were travelling as a couple so no other seat allocation interfering with it.

    The suite itself was a massive improvement on the regular seats and was more comparable in size and comfort to BA First. The experience wasn’t great beyond that though, possibly as many of the crew were on that aircraft type for the first time, but no pre-flight drinks and they ran out of our food selection (we were in Row 1!!). My IFE didn’t work at all on the return journey (regular Upper) and nobody knew how to reset it.

    The window seats in Row 1 looked much more spacious than the other Upper seats – perhaps just an illusion as Rob says here they’re standard fit, but you could be sneaky and book half the retreat suite and the matching window to benefit from the buddy dining and extra space (for one at least) for half the cost, or a return instead of one-way for your £400!

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I know you were in row 1 but elites usually get asked first. If you were both gold and in row 1 then ofcourse that’s bad.

      • AL says:

        LHR-LAX, Gold in 1K last year. They’d run out of my preferred choice. 15,000 points by way of apology – definitely didn’t complain!

  • dougzz99 says:

    Not flown Virgin on the newer seat, only the old flip-over. Did they fix the table issue for fatter people, and is the seat narrow in the shoulder as suggested by a few reviews I’ve seen.

  • TJ says:

    My wife and I managed to blag the Retreat Suites on a recent return trip to Tampa. On the outbound the seats were not available for booking due to an issue with the partition not working correctly (it could not be raised). I asked the crew if we could sit there anyway which they happily agreed too.

    On the inbound, the problem had been fixed and the seats were still available at check-in but unsurprisingly they refused to upgrade me for free. When we got on board, the cabin was pretty empty and the seats still available…again I had a quiet chat with the steward who was happy to upgrade us (we have silver status only so assume there were no gold card holders on the flight). A great outcome for us.

    Would I pay for it next time? Possibly as it’s way superior to any other Virgin hard product.

  • TheFamousJames says:

    I tried the Retreat Suite twice, BOS-LHR round trip. Have to say I was underwhelmed. Will be interested to read about Rhys’ experience. Outbound trip, I got to my seat to find it piled high with crew equipment bags and no-one around to move them. Then it turns out none of the crew had been trained on the seat and didn’t know how it worked. Couldn’t raise the ottoman/stool so that meant no chance of two dining together. Then it turns out that dinner service starts in row 1 in the right aisle and ends at row 1 in the left aisle. So while I was sitting with my starter, the crew served the entire cabin before my wife saw any food. Apparently this is because they only have “one dinner trolley now.” Crew quote. The seat mechanism is also a challenge. The leg rest never fully raises so it doesn’t actually provide support under your lower leg. And since the ottoman remained in the lower bed position, it was just out if reach as somewhere to put my feet, and I’m 6’1”. Other annoyances: the bluetooth headphone feature for the IFE is always out of audio sync. Tried it across the retreat suite and regular seats, same issue. I accept it could be my Bose QC35 ‘phones – didn’t have anything else with me to try. Be interested to hear if this is a common or unique issue. My final gripe: there was absolutely no sense of the Retreat being anything special from an experience point of view. The crew treated it and the passenger in it as they would anyone else in the cabin. I think VA is missing an opportunity to do something to elevate the experience beyond just more room and a bigger screen. I’m glad I tried it, but not in a hurry to do it again.

    • David says:

      Yes, def likely to be your Bose QC35s; common problem. The 45s sync perfectly.

  • James says:

    Top tier frequent flyers, which Virgin call “Wings members”, similar to BAs Gold Guest List, can booke the retreat suites 30 days before departure.

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