Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review – worth the upgrade?

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

This is our review of Virgin Atlantic’s new Retreat Suite, the extended Upper Class suites on the new Airbus A330neo fleet.

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

Is it worth the £200 supplement?

How I booked Virgin Atlantic's new Retreat Suite

My article on how to book the Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite is here. You cannot book it alongside your flight – it only becomes available 14 days before departure – so you need to understand the booking process if you want to be certain of securing it.

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 inch 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.

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.

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review Max Burgess

What’s it like in The Retreat Suite?

This is NOT a review of an Upper Class flight on a Virgin Atlantic A330neo. Rhys wrote one of those here and you should take a look at that if you want to know what the standard Upper Class seats are like or what we thought of the Upper Class food and The Loft social area.

This article is purely about the Retreat Suite seat and what you get for your extra £200.

I actually paid £400, because I took both of the Retreat Suite seats. My young son decided that he was going to join me, leaving my wife and daughter in Row 2 behind us.

We spent the entire flight with the divider between the two seats down. It means I can’t answer one key question – would the suite be a bit claustrophobic if you had the divider up and the door closed?

The Retreat Suites are not identical

If you are considering booking the Retreat Suite, there is one key thing you should take away from this review. The two Retreat Suite seats are not the same.

Whilst rarely discussed, it is clear from the two photographs at the top and from my photograph below, taken from the other direction:

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suitre review

The seat on the right in the picture above (and to the left in the top two pictures) is 1D, which is where I sat. The other seat is 1G.

The first difference is the seat divider. Look at the black line which bisects the two white areas above.

In 1D, the storage area separates you from the divider. In this seat, your body is some distance from it. Arguably this gives you a better sense of space.

In 1G your body is directly next to the divider with only a couple of inches of space between you and it. If the divider is up then I could imagine it getting in your way. However, you are further away from the door than 1D.

This picture was taken by Rhys on a later trip and shows the divider partially closed:

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

The second difference is floor space.

Here, 1G is the winner. This is what 1G gets:

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

…. whilst this is what 1D gets:

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

Even though the two Retreat Suites are the same size, the carpeted floor area is bigger in 1G.

Why? Because of the third difference, storage.

1D gets two large at-seat storage areas:

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Retreat Suite review

…. whilst 1G only gets one.

If two of you are travelling and the divider will be down, I think 1G is the better seat. You simply don’t need the additional storage space that comes with 1D, especially as the A330neo has overhead bins above all seats, not just the window rows.

If you are travelling alone, it’s a trade off. Do you take 1D (more storage, less available floor space, further from the divider) or 1G (less storage, more available floor space, sat very close to the divider)?

Other Retreat Suite features

Seat length and the ottoman:

The Retreat Suite is a long seat – the bed is 6’7′, which is a good five inches longer than I am.

Because I was on a day flight to the US, I can’t comment on what the seat is like for sleeping. I would imagine it is great. The seat is long enough for even the tallest person, and your feet are totally free – no cubby holes here.

It is, genuinely, as good as many First Class seats in terms of personal space.

I had an issue with the ottoman. Whilst this is probably personal taste, I like to put my feet up during a flight. Even at 6’2′, my feet couldn’t reach the ottoman as you can see:

Virgin Atlantic retreat suite review

I found this more annoying that I anticipated, but I admit it is a personal thing.

Dining:

This is how the Retreat Suite looks when set up for dining:

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

Whilst we didn’t do it, there is plenty of space for buddy dining using the ottoman seat, although your dining companion would be leaning back against the IFE screen. Rhys managed to do it on his recent trip and says it is once of biggest benefits of the suites.

You can just about see the one and only service perk you get for being in the Retreat Suite – gold coloured Wilbur and Orville salt and pepper pots!

IFE:

It’s a whoppper, you can’t argue with that. A 27 inch screen beats many First Class cabins and is almost 10 inches bigger than the standard Upper Class screens. You shouldn’t read too much into the dimensions, of course, because you are sat a lot further away from the screen.

Whilst the IFE is a touchscreen, it isn’t easy to use in the Retreat Suite because of how far away from it you are. Using the handheld controller isn’t too complex of course.

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

Other features:

Other A330neo Upper Class features copy across from the other seats in the cabin.

You’ve got headphone storage in the little cupboard next to your head plus the impressive wireless charging pad for your phone and the usual IFE controls. All Upper Class seats on the A330neo have bluetooth connectivity if you want to bring your own headphones.

Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite review

There is an issue with crew training

Whilst this is an issue which will clearly solve itself with time, there are issues over crew training and the Retreat Suite. There isn’t any, basically.

My crew had not worked in Upper Class on an A330neo before. Rhys flew the Retreat Suite two days after me and his crew hadn’t worked it before either. Another friend of ours flew it a week before me and his crew were also newbies. In all cases we had issues.

For me, this meant any questions about what was where were met with a ‘don’t know’. When my meal arrived, neither myself nor the crew member had a clue how to get the tray table out. It wasn’t a great look.

The other problem, related to crew training, is that food often arrives at different times. Because each aisle is served by a separate crew member, there is little co-ordination over when your meals are delivered. The person sat in 1G may get theirs before 1D – or vice versa. If you are buddy dining, this is obviously annoying.

Conclusion – is the Virgin Atlantic Retreat Suite worth it?

Fundamentally, yes.

Let’s break it down a bit:

This is, to all intents and purposes, a First Class seat slotted into a Business Class cabin. If you were planning to pay for, or even redeem for, First Class on British Airways, this is as good in most aspects and clearly far cheaper. You just need to ensure you jump in exactly 14 days before departure to secure them.

If you’re travelling with someone else, it’s well worth it, particularly for buddy dining with up to four people. Get the divider down and you have a huge amount of space between you. Whilst I didn’t try this, closing the suite doors and dropping the divider should feel private whilst not being claustrophobic.

Travelling solo? Less clear. I might be tempted to take a standard window Upper Class seat (remember the Retreat Suites are in the centre, without windows) and pocket the £200 saving. That said, for an overnight flight I might decide it’s good value for the extra sleeping space.

Love windows? You won’t get a window with the Retreat Suite.

Redemption or cash ticket? Obviously if you’re flying on Virgin Points then the £200 is an extra 20% on top of the taxes and charges you’ve already paid. It’s worth it but it is a noticeable extra chunk of cash. At the top end, if you’re paying £10,000 for a short notice fully flexible cash ticket in Upper Class then the £200 extra each-way is a rounding error.

My bottom line is that, if you get a chance to give it a go, then you should – especially if you’ve never experienced a First Class seat.

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.


How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards

How to earn Virgin Points from UK credit cards (May 2024)

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 18,000 Virgin Points and the free card has a bonus of 3,000 Virgin Points):

Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard

18,000 bonus points and 1.5 points for every £1 you spend Read our full review

Virgin Atlantic Reward Mastercard

3,000 bonus points, no fee and 1 point for every £1 you spend 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 40,000 Membership Rewards points, which convert into 40,000 Virgin Points.

The Platinum Card from American Express

40,000 bonus points and a huge range of valuable 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 an annual £200 Amex Travel credit 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 (33)

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

  • Fraser says:

    I flew to Miami on the 330neo in December but only in a standard UC seat, and got the gold Wilbur and Orvillle. 😃 So maybe they are unique to the aircraft, rather than the Retreat Suite.

    Flying solo I doubt I would book it, in part because it would deny a couple the chance to do so.

    Buddy dining is one of the things I liked on the old (as Rob puts it, but I disagree, “worst” UC seat). Flying out for Christmas with my mother as a treat, I know she really appreciated the buddy dining rather than being left to her own devices while I was glued to the TV!

    • Dan says:

      I got the gold salt and pepper when I flew A350 soon after that aircraft was deployed, maybe it’s a new aircraft thing

  • LordLucan says:

    Looks and reads like a “poor man’s” Oman Air Business Class

  • PH says:

    Surprised they didn’t do any soft product differentiation as Condor has with their ‘business +’ seat. Even if just for launch PR, to be quietly dropped at a later date…

  • Rob H not Rob says:

    What routes does it operate on so far? The neo that is

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

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.