Seat Configuration: Virgin Atlantic has three aisles of lie-flat beds in little odd-shaped pods. Two aisles of seats face the left side of the plane while one side faces right. Our plane featured 16 rows of Upper Class. The seats are in good condition but some of the technology seemed a little dated. See below for more on that.
In-Flight Entertainment: Boy, we can't wait for Virgin's new IFE system from Panasonic early next year. The personal TV pull-outs are in decent shape and the entertainment featured on them was surprisingly up-to-date--Kick Ass and the remake of Death at a Funeral were featured movies, just mere months, weeks after opening in the box office.
Yet everything functions by the hand-held remote. We're so used to tap-tapping on our Virgin America seatbacks that we found ourselves doing the same here. Our Upper Class neighbors no doubt could tell we were a newbie.
Also, we understood there would be no WiFi and we prepared accordingly. But we did not expect to not have power ports. Thus when we landed, our computer was nearly dead and the hotel we were staying in did not have any converters on hand for us. Long story short, we had to wait until our next hotel to be able to power up our laptop.
Food and Drink Service: For breakfast we were given a choice of whatever we wanted from fruits and pastries. We chose a croissant (it was tiny) with fruit and yogurt, along with a cup of coffee. A lunch menu was printed on a Xerox paper (no fancy menus here) and for lunch, we dined on an asparagus soup, a caramelized onion tart and a hot filled carrot bundtlet with walnut pieces. Anytime we wanted a drink we could just pop into the Upper Class bar or request something from the flight attendant.
Amenity Madness: We had a big cushy pillow and a comfortable white duvet blanket. While we didn't sleep on the plane, the blanket kept us nice and warm. So did the Virgin Atlantic-branded socks that came in our Upper Class Snooze Pack. These also come equipped with an eye mask, toothpaste and toothbrush and ear plugs. Not too different from the PE goodies but the bag is reusable as a shoe bag.
Other Perks on the Ground: You get clubhouse access of course, a drive-thru check-in (if you arrive by chauffeured car or limo), express hand baggage check and a priority lane, Fast Track, at customs. Update: At Heathrow for our return flight, we were also given access to Fast Track Security which was a private entrance and lane to airport security. We were patted down thoroughly but definitely moved faster than the regular lines.
But Is It Worth It?: We checked-in at the same time as a man who was insisting to an attendant that he booked an upper class ticket but was instead relegated to premium economy. The check-in attendant repeated over and over that it was not issued as an Upper Class ticket and was not paid for as such.
However, the man remained hopeful, if somewhat persistent, that an Upper Class upgrade would come through. It never did.
We later saw him address a flight attendant in Upper Class during the flight. We have no idea what he said but if he was wondering if he could sit into the empty seat across from us, we would have said, Relax.
That's because flying on a day flight to London from Newark, we would have been just fine in Premium Economy. They serve you plenty of food and even champagne, plus you get to watch whatever you want. Also, you would probably be just fine in regular economy too. The flight is only six hours and 45 minutes.
The Upper Class cabin fare, however, is probably most worth it on the overnight flights, especially if you need to sleep. And on the longer flights from LA and Vegas, Upper Class is without a doubt, clutch, maybe even necessary.
Celeb Sightings: That's not to say we didn't enjoy the upgrade. Aside from the sleep goodies and the food, the service is lovely and you might even spot Richard Branson on your flight. He was on ours! We spied him sitting at the bar but felt uncomfortable approaching him, although we've met him before. (Hiya Richie, remember us from that giant media day in Toronto when you gave interviews for 12 hours straight?)
Bottom Line: We paid about $1,300 for our round-trip ticket from EWR to London. Upper Class is typically $2,000 round-trip *The upgrade probably came courtesy of Virgin Atlantic who knew we were on this flight. That's what we assume. Or maybe it was because we looked pregnant. But we think it's the former.