Monday, November 11, 2013

Premium Economy Class on Virgin Atlantic Airlines

I recently had the pleasure of flying in Premium Economy class on two Virgin Atlantic 747-400 flights to and from London Gatwick and Orlando.  I chose Virgin Atlantic for this trip primarily because I had not flown on that airline before and with it serving only 10 airports in the United States options for getting onboard are limited.

I also chose as part of this trip to fly in Premium Economy Class because, basically, I am spoiled after all the years of getting upgrades to First Class on Northwest, Continental and US Airways.  The thought of being trapped in Cattle Class for 9 hours was too much to bear. Add to that the very real fact that flights to and from Orlando are invariably packed with screaming kids, each of them on a sugar high and anxious to go see Mickey, I hoped that Premium Economy would provide a little more restful hop over the pond.

My flight to London was Virgin flight 16 and I was seated in the upstairs compartment of the giant plane.  There the seating is configured with 2 very nice, wide, comfortable seats on each side of the aisle.  For my return on Virgin flight 15, I was on an aisle seat in the lower compartment where the seats are configured 2-4-2.  My seat was an aisle in the 4 seat section.  

The service was impeccably British with the flight attendants saying "sorry" every time they turned around.  Not long after taking our seats we were offered a glass of champagne and a stiff shot of brandy followed the completion of each meal. Excellent French wines were served with the meals.  The meals were served on very nice china with real (that would be "proper" in British) knives, forks and spoons.  I had a chicken dish for dinner going over and Thai vegetable curry coming home.

  The 2-4-2 configuration of seats on the lower deck of a Virgin Atlantic 747-400

The outbound flight was delayed an hour because of a wicked storm that was pounding the UK while we were still in Orlando.  Once airborne it was a quick 7 hours and 14 minutes to London Gatwick.  The return left the gate on time but because of extremely strong headwinds the flight took 9 hours 30 minutes.  They were a very long 9 hours and 30 minutes. 

What flight anywhere isn't complete without a delay of some sort?

All in all the decision to go with Premium Economy was a good one.  First Class with its flat-bed seats was about $10,000 round trip.  Cattle class with its screaming kids was $1200 roundtrip.  Premium Economy with its roomy seats and no screaming kids was $1500 roundtrip. 

The only complaint I have about the seating had nothing to do with Virgin Atlantic itself.  On the way over on Flight 16 I was seated next to an officious British woman whose first words to me on taking her seat were "I'm here to sleep. I am not here to talk.  I would appreciate it very much if you would not talk to me on the flight."

Fine with me lady!  

The only problem was that less than a minute after taking her seat she said "Sir, I can't find my seat belt buckle. Would you please help me?"   Then it was "Sir, I can't figure out how to turn off the air flow.  Would  you please help me?"  Then during dinner she said "Don't you find this service wonderful?"  Then she changed the conversation to where I was from in Florida and how she had been here for only 5 days and it pained her to have to go back to England and how lucky I was to live in Florida.  All of this from someone who made it abundantly clear she didn't want me to talk to her. Absorbing the irony I finally said "You know, for someone who wanted to sleep and not talk you certainly do a lot of talking!"  

She snorted and replied "You Yanks are a cheeky bunch aren't you!"  I put my ear plugs in and ignored her for the rest of the flight.

Virgin Atlantic names each of its planes. I flew "Ladybird" from Orlando to London and "English Rose" from Gatwick back home.

I've flown in Premium Economy and in First Class on British Airways and now Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic.  I far and away enjoy the service on Virgin Atlantic and look forward to flying on them again the next time I have to hop over the pond.  British Airways is very properly British with its stiff upper lip and probably with orders to never smile no matter what.  Virgin Atlantic seems to be a more relaxed and cheerful airline.  I will take cheerful over proper any day.


  1. The reason they don't smile... have you ever seen their teeth???

    Sounds like you had a couple of decent flights to and fro.

  2. Better than being a fake barbie doll.