Yes, there, I said it. I can’t believe I said it. How is it possible that an airlines premium economy product is better than it’s business class product? Well, let me tell you .
I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class about 10 days ago (paid upgrade!) and had a horrible experience. In fact, it’s still a nightmare because after 11 days I still haven’t heard back from Virgin Atlantic customer service. But I digress. (PS – want to win a Virgin Atlantic Amenity Kit and Sleep Set? Keep reading to find out how to enter.)
Yesterday, after my bad experience in Upper Class two weeks ago, I decided not to upgrade and just fly premium economy. Well, I was surprised! It was a much, much better product and experience than Upper Class, in my opinion. Out of 56 seats, only 17 were occupied – and many by couples – so there were tons of open rows. I moved to the last row of the economy plus cabin so I could have a whole row to myself. While it turns out that having a whole row really isn’t that beneficial (having 1 open seat next to you is nice) because the arm rests are fixed so you really can’t stretch out, it was nice to have some peace and quite for the 7.5 hour flight.
The Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy seats are comfortable – same material and structure as Upper Class – they just don’t lie flat. They do have a very good recline though and there is a foot rest for each seat making it even easier to stretch your legs. (I don’t mean stretch out, I mean stretch – as in exercise or keeping the blood flowing on a long flight.) There are in-seat entertainment systems and USB ports – however, the crew will keep a watch to make sure you’re not using the USB as a charging station (they say it’s to prevent overheating and fires. That sounds like a valid reason.) So long as you’re using the device you’ve plugged in, you’re good to go. The power wasn’t strong enough to charge my iPad, but the iPhone worked nicely and I was able to listen to my own music without draining the battery on my phone. (It’s amazing what a little thing that is – getting to your destination and still having a charge on your phone! Little things…)
The food was also about the same as Upper Class. The only differences were that in Upper Class there were three choices of entrees (one of the items was the same in both classes) vs two choices in premium economy and in premium economy the meal came all at once vs in courses in Upper Class. In both cases the food was average in the spectrum of airplane food – not inedible but nothing to dedicate an entire blog post to.
Throughout the flight the crew refilled drinks and was very attentive in premium economy. Something that lacked in Upper Class on my first trip – and from my vantage point seemed to lack on this flight as the majority of the crew spent the flight sitting the rows next to me – seems like a skeleton crew was working after the primary dinner service was finished. The two economy plus attendants were always up and down the rows.
One difference of note is that in Upper Class you’re given PJs while you’re not in economy plus. In both classes you get an amenity kit. They are filled with the exact same contents but the bag is slightly different yet equally underwhelming.
Towards the end of the flight the crew came around with little candies for each passenger – that didn’t happen in Upper Class.
So why would people pay for Upper Class? Yes, there’s a lie flat bed – however, mine didn’t work on my last trip (the tray table didn’t work either on that trip.) Other than that, I have no idea why you’d spend the extra money – or miles – for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.
Of all the premium economy products I’ve flown, I do credit Virgin Atlantic with offering the best I’ve seen yet. Want to win a Virgin Atlantic Amenity Kit and Sleep Set (PJs)? Just leave a comment here about your Virgin Atlantic experience OR your favorite premium economy product and you’ll be entered to win. Enter before 11:59pm PT Monday, May 20th. Void where prohibited by law. Open to US Residents age 18 or older only.