Airline Review: Virgin Atlantic
With low cost carriers taking the glamour out of long haul flying, one airline claims it puts the sex back into flying. Will lastminute lovely Louise get turned on by Virgin Atlantic? Or will it leave her cold?
Virgin Atlantic promotes itself as the foxy mistress of the sky. From the cabin crews’ red patent heels, to the overtly sexual TV commercials and Richard Branson’s perpetually enticing twinkle in his crisp blue eyes, the brand screams sex and glamour.
I’m sceptical. For me there’s nothing sexy about flying, especially long haul. I’ve been on one too many Ryanair flights to not pack my sleeping pills. So, as a jaded traveller I board the A340 Virgin Atlantic flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. But today’s a bit different; today I’m going Upper Class.
We arrive three hours before departure and breeze through check-in. Despite flying Upper Class there are only a couple of people waiting in the economy queue. I am quietly impressed.
On-board I am introduced to our cabin crew and offered a welcome glass of bubbles. It’s Lanson Black Label Champagne served in an iconic coupe glass – how very Hollywood.
The crew are really friendly, relaxed and engage in gentle banter. Not too formal but still really polite and very helpful describing the features and flight service. A lot of our crew are hot, male and Scottish which is a nice added bonus (I do love a good accent).
Upper Class seating is in the herringbone style layout . On face value it doesn’t have the wow factor of many other airlines’ First Class seating configuration. It doesn’t have the plush fabrics but the 22 inch wide seat, fully extendable bed (the length is over six feet) and crisp white doona is super comfortable.
Now here comes the shocker, with a spacious cabin and my private seating/sleeping area, I don’t actually feel like I’m flying. Now THAT is good. It‘s like I’ve checked into a mini hotel for nine hours. No rubbing shoulders with your neighbour and no need to wait to pop to the bathroom. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a sociable experience – each suite comes with a leg-rest that doubles as a seat allowing your friend to pop by for a chat and a glass of vino. Dammit, Upper Class is going to ruin me forever.
There’s a bar onboard. Enough said right? Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to have a free standing bar for Upper Class passengers. Admittedly, there’s something a bit cool about drinking Grey Goose vodka around a bar at 22,000 feet, chatting to your neighbour about the best drinking holes in Melbourne. On my afternoon/evening flight into Hong Kong, the bar has an air that some mischief could be had – ooh I like it.
Virgin Atlantic’s on demand entertainment system is extensive: loads of newly released films plus TV shows and games. It’s not a touch screen system like other big airline carriers but it’s very good – and the screen pivots so that you can lie down and watch a movie nestled in bed.
I settle down for dinner with George Clooney. He stares across the white linen table at me. The high sides of the seating makes it all feel very intimate – oh George.
Dinner starts with cream of mushroom soup and a warmed seeded role – it tastes natural and earthy – good start. For my main I opt for the Australian grilled steak with new potatoes and green beans. It’s classic, done simply and the beans have that fresh crunch.
But they have certainly saved the best for last – sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce (ah-mazing) and then a selection of cheeses and port delivered on a trolley. I eat a lot. Don’t judge me. George didn’t.
Later in the service I enjoy afternoon tea – crust-less sandwiches, bite-sized cupcakes with thick icing and scrumptious scones. I am most impressed with the proper teacups and saucers.
It’s the little things
Upper Class has some very cool features that must be mentioned:
• Mood Lighting: As evening darkness descends, a sexy purple accent light glows giving the cabin an air of boutique nightclub meets contemporary hotel. And the little diamond bling feature on the central wall adds a tasteful touch of glamour.
• Bathroom products: I am a sucker for nice bath products so I was expecting some Molton Brown or similar premium type toiletries. It was therefore with surprise to see ’Dirty Cow’ handwash and ‘Cow Pat’ moisturiser. Funny.
• The Clubhouses: In Virgin Atlantic’s main hubs they have premium lounges aptly named ‘clubhouses’. I get to visit the HK Clubhouse. It’s unashamedly cool, decked out with modern fittings and features. Game of Wii and a bowl of freshly prepared mushroom fettuccine before the flight – sure, why not.
• Skip through Immigration: Upper Class passengers are given a complimentary express pass on entry to Sydney and Heathrow. I smugly pass the queues snaking back towards duty free – naughty, naughty but oh so good.
• Limo Transfers: If you book your upper class seat in advance you can get a complimentary limo transfer service into the city. Tres swish.
I don’t want you to think I’m purely judging the airline on it’s premium offering. I have flown economy with Virgin Atlantic twice previously from London to JFK and London to LAX. Both times the service has been excellent, the entertainment extensive and the seat pitch of 31” is on par with other non-low cost carriers. I still think the NYC-style hot dog that I was served from JFK to London was the best airplane food I’ve ever had on a flight (no joke).
Would I travel Virgin Atlantic again? Most definitely, no sleeping pills required. Based on style and service they’re at the top of the list. And would I pay the extra few grand for Upper Class? Do you know what, I would. Although, note to self, finding Prince Charming has moved to the top of the ‘To Do’ list.
Virgin Atlantic has put the glamour back into flying. They’ve mastered a uniquely classy, modern yet relaxed style. And yes it is sexy. I was most definitely turned on by Upper Class. Now to get on with that search for Prince Charming.
• Virgin Atlantic flies daily from Sydney to Hong Kong and London. Joining forces with affiliate airline Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic has daily connections from Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Gold Coast.
• The airline boasts one of the shortest turnaround times to Europe with a 22 hour flight. If your destination is London I would strongly recommend stopping over in one of the world’s coolest metropolis’ Hong Kong – a definite extra bonus of flying Virgin Atlantic.
• And finally if you’re a shopper you’ll love Virgin Atlantic – for economy passengers you get one bag at 23kg, in Premium Economy two bags at 23kg and In Upper Class three bags at up to 32kg. Happy shopping indeed.