Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Is Better Than Upper Class

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 .

VS Plane Small

Copyright: Virgin Atlantic 2012

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.

35 Comments on "Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy Is Better Than Upper Class"

  1. It’s disengrnious to say they are almost the same. If the flight is full, you are going to have a much more pleasant time in Upper Class. Comparing a non-working seat/tray table in UC with an empty premiem economy section is not a fair comparison. Also there’s Lounge access in the great Clubhouse that makes the whole experience that much better.

  2. Premium Economy has came a long way. Have you had the opportunity to sample Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy? I have been intrigued by it for sometime. Yes, there are differences between Premium Economy and Upper Class, but from a cost/benefit/value perspective, it is a hard up sell for those hard earned dollars. Best wishes for safe travels.

  3. @Michael – it’s not disingenuous (which is what I assume you meant) because it’s my opinion. The comparison is between the cost to upgrade to Upper Class and what you get vs the cost of premium economy and what you get. Lounge access in my opinion doesn’t make a flight experience that much better – you’re only in a lounge for a short time.

  4. Brandon B | May 18, 2013 at 1:41 pm |

    I’m excited to try out Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy space seats coming up LAX-LHR #NoLagtoLondon! I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂

  5. Sharon Jones | May 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm |

    I’ve never had the Virgin Atlantic experience or experienced a premium economy product. But I do read your blog. Will that work?

  6. I like the stand up bar

  7. VeryGoodPoints | May 18, 2013 at 3:28 pm |

    @Sharon Jones, That will work

  8. Only flew UA E+, so that’s the best for me 🙂

  9. I have never flown outside of regular coach, but my goal some day is to have the points to make it happen. That’s why I read your blog. Here’s to future travel option for my wife and me!

  10. I have to agree with Michael that comparing a working seat to a broken one is hardly a fair comparison. Your specific experience on the individual flights may suggest that on those specific days the one was better than the other; that’s different than one being better than the other overall.

    Upper Class has much more personal space – especially when the plane is full – as well as better ground service amenities, more food choices (as you note) and other benefits over Premium Economy. That’s not to say that I’d pay for the upgrade out of my own pocket necessarily, but saying that the option with less space and fewer options is better seems quite silly.

  11. so if a lie flat bed, more recline, more food choices, more amenties, more drink options, etc. aren’t what you’re looking for, economy plus is just as good as business…sounds reasonabble to me.

  12. I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy product. All I have to compare to is Delta’s Economy Comfort. Virgin Atlantic looks 100 times better. Wonder if Delta elite benifits will carry over in Virgin Atlantic partnership to allow for free or discounted upgrades to Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy?

  13. Miles, Points, and Mai Tais | May 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm |

    After a very underwhelming experience in BusinessFirst coming home from Hong Kong, I’d almost say the same thing about United

  14. Virgin for sure !!

  15. I have never flown VX premium economy but I have always been very happy with AAs new MCE seats – especially in the bulkhead. Does that count?

  16. @MPMT – I agree with you, United is one of those airlines where I like to fly United First or not waste the money/miles.

  17. @Jamie – I am not sure how the Delta/VS partnership will work, but I can say that there was no benefit from the US Air/VS relationship (which terminates June 15 this year.)

  18. Haven’t flown Virgin Atlantic in Premium Econ or Upper Class, but the bar is quite enticing… Did fly in economy on an A340 a few years ago — completely underwhelming, antiquated plane and IFE – nice looking flight attendants though!

  19. I flew Upper Class and I found the flat beds quite weird…felt compressed and just way too tight. The walk up bar was definitely not what I envisioned it to be. Service and food were good but nowhere near Asian airline standards. And damnit, I still need to watch the last hour of Django Unchained movie, I messed up starting it too late!

  20. Y+ on Air France is pretty nice: fixed shell seats, excellent food (for a plane, mind you), champagne to start the meal, nice amenity kits. Not as much legroom as one might like, and the service is curt by comparison to some other airlines, but all in all a very pleasant ride for a relatively small premium.

  21. I have never flown Virgin Premium Economy and the only upgraded economy I have flown was Delta’s Economy Comfort which was not impressive. The seat guide looked like a bulkhead but it turned out to be the next row after first class with a curtain separating. The reclining first class passengers were practically in our seats. There was some extra legroom.

  22. Have only done Virgin Atlantic economy Lomgreach ago when they were the first do cups of ice-cream as a snack. Sounds like for east coast to Europe premium economy would be just fine…..

  23. CX PE.

  24. ANA

  25. Only got to first class by accident but my kids were very impressed. Thanks for your blog!

  26. Michael H.(oldfox) | May 19, 2013 at 3:13 pm |

    I’m a retired teacher, so I have never had a Virgin Atlantic or any premium economy flight, but the blog is very helpful because I’m thinking about applying for the VA credit card. Thanks for the great blog.

  27. I flew Virgin from Los Angeles to India. I LOVED it. The best part was the lounge in Heathrow. Cooked to order food and cocktails. And the hot tub OMG I had the hot tub all to myself as no one else had a bathing suit in their carryone in December. I was in a hot tub in Heathrow! Then I got a manicure and champagne. I wanted a longer layover.

  28. I’ve never flown Virgin Atlantic, but think the Virgin America premium economy is pretty awesome! Virgin tends to make a great product for all their companies, so I’d imagine Virgin Atlantic is just as great.

  29. Flew Turkish air premium economy and it was awesome! Like what business class is for everyone else one. I was so pleasantly surprised. Lax to Istanbul non stop, but the best plane experience since my first class virgin Atlantic lax to Barcelona Spain trip. I am intrigued by the good reviews and want to give their premium a chance.

  30. Flew Virgin Atlantic economy in the back in December and swore I would never do it again. On the return I checked in at first opportunity and was able to snag seats upstairs, which, while the same small amount of space, gave us a bit more quiet am considering PE now, and your review made me decide it would be worth it . Thanks.

  31. Kathleen Ehrhart | February 28, 2014 at 11:52 am |

    My husband and I are flying VA for the first time on 7/1/14. Booked into Economy. Praying for an upgrade as I have a fear of flying! Will do my best!

  32. @Kathleen – not sure how getting an upgrade is going to calm your fear of flying…but I hope you get an upgrade for more comfort. Good luck!

  33. Once I was shaking so bad with anxiety about flying that I feared even getting on the plane. The airline moved me into first class which for some reason was comforting and lessened my fear. I don’t know why, but it helped and I was able to sleep through a lot of the flight!

  34. Probably a bit late for any comp but i have only just seen this. Have only flown virgin and for last few yrs only flown PE. Last trip PE had been upgraded to all leather seats from Gatwick to Orlando seats were down stairs this time rather than in the bubble. Upstairs is a lot more calmer – maybe because you cant hear all the little ones downstairs screaming in economy.
    Decided to treat hubby to UC back from Washington to heathrow this year for his 50th birthday. Booked it due to having the bed so we get some sort of sleep on the way home. You can never sleep when you can only put your seat back so far, and whether in economy or PE there is always someone in front of you that has to put seat so far back you cant move 🙁 Idiot in front of me decided to put his seat back whilst i was still eating and almost worse my food 🙁 – would have been nice if he has the decency to pre warn me.
    It was rather and expensive treat so will wait and see when we return home from washington later in the year if it was worth the extra cost. LC

  35. I flew premium economy from LHR to LAX in May 2013, I had an amazing experience but was especially shocked (and intriged to sample upper class) as the cabin crew announced over the tanoy that everyone should return to their seats and fasten their seat belts during turbulence and could upper class ‘please refrain from using the hot tub’! Couldn’t believe it and I wanted to run upstairs to have a look!

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