Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy vs Upper Class

I typically use my miles to upgrade to business for international flights and wasn’t really looking forward to an economy plus trip. Well, I was surprised! This is my review of the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy vs Upper Class products.

Premium Economy was a much, much better product and experience than I had ever imagined. Out of 56 seats, only about 25 were occupied, so there were tons of open rows. I had a whole row to myself. It turns out that having a whole row really isn’t that beneficial because the arm rests are fixed so you really can’t stretch across the seats like you could in an empty economy row (assuming the arm rests moved.) It was nice to have an open seat next to me because I used the storage space and tray table it was also 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 – but they 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 found the Upper Class seats to be a little more claustrophobic feeling with the two walls directly beside the seat.  The configuration of the Upper Class is odd and probably wouldn’t be great for couples traveling together who want to sit next to each other (although this is true of many airlines first-class configurations.)

There are in-seat entertainment systems and USB ports in the seat backs. The power wasn’t strong enough to charge my iPad using a USB, but the iPhone worked nicely and I was able to listen to my own music without draining the battery on my phone.

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. 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. I’ve had better meals on US Airways Envoy Class and worse food on Air China Business class for example. Throughout the flight, the crew refilled drinks and was very attentive in premium economy. 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 but not in economy plus. I didn’t miss the PJs at all. 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 on my first flight. Not sure if they just skipped it or if it’s really only done in economy plus.

Virgin Atlantic Love Hearts

So why would people pay for Upper Class? Yes, there’s a lie flat bed – however, mine didn’t work on my first Virgin Atlantic trip (the tray table didn’t work either on that trip. And Virgin did compensate me with 20,000 miles- the cost of a round-trip upgrade from New York.) Other than the lie flat bed, I have no idea why you’d spend the extra money – or miles – for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. And this coming from someone who doesn’t really like to fly premium economy.

What do you think?

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