My first experience with one of the Virgin airlines was when I flew on Virgin Atlantic to London two years ago en route to South Africa. I was fortunate in that I flew in Business Class, what Virgin Atlantic calls Upper Class. I wrote about it in this post, and along with the Clubhouse airport lounge, I felt (and still do) that these luxury products are amongst the best in the world. Well I just had another opportunity to fly with Virgin Atlantic, but this time in Premium Economy and I’m eager to share my feelings.
More and more airlines are introducing this hybrid luxury class, somewhere in between standard economy and the more lofty business class sections. They’re meant to offer some additional comforts at a price more attainable by average fliers. So what defines the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy experience? Well, it includes quite a few extras that you won’t find in the back of the plane:
- Complimentary drinks before and during the flight.
- A choice of three meals, including a vegetarian option, served on real china with accompanying stainless steel cutlery.
- After dinner liqueurs to finish the meal off nicely.
- Over 300 hours of the hottest on demand entertainment options available on a seatback TV – including 30+ movies, TV shows, video games, music and more.
- Complimentary newspaper.
- Cushy, comfortable leather seats have an increased seat width of 21 inches. An extra seven inches of legroom means passengers can stretch out and relax.
- Covered in sumptuous purple leather, the seat has up to 38 inches of seat pitch and a recline of 16 degrees, which means passengers can relax in their own quiet space.
- The seat boasts advanced ergonomics with lumbar support, an adjustable headrest with wings and a dual position footrest.
- In-seat laptop power so you can work worry-free available on Heathrow routes.
- Over 300 hours of the hottest on demand entertainment options available on a seatback.
- A devoted Premium Economy cabin crew to look after passengers’ every need.
- Dedicated check in, priority boarding and disembarkation.
- A complimentary amenity kit with all the passenger essentials including a toothbrush and toothpaste, eyeshades, a stylish pen, socks and earplugs.
The amenity kit mentioned was an issue for me, I’ll explain more in a moment.
The actual experience
All of this looks great on paper, but it’s the real experience that means something. Boarding the plane I passed by the standard Austin Powers bar that welcomes all guests, full of champagne and juices; the perfect introduction to what ultimately is a fun and quirky airline. Sitting in premium economy one of those drinks is offered to all passengers, meant to be enjoyed in big, oversized leather chairs. Pitch numbers and legroom stats can be confusing, but the experience of having much needed extra space on a 8 hour flight is a precious perk. The lady next to me smiled and said, “Well this is a nice treat.” It was indeed.
What I like about premium economy sections are some of the perks one normally only enjoys in business class. Silly little things like hot towels before a meal mean a lot to me. As promised, the food is also enhanced in premium economy and soon after takeoff we were given a menu with the options for the flight. The food was good, not too fancy with little quirky moments that I love, like fruit popsicles as a snack.
The one thing that surprised me was the lack of an amenity kit. Other premium economy flights I’ve flown, including on sister airline Virgin Australia, provide amenity kits including socks, lotions and toiletries, a nice perk on along flight. That was lacking on my Virgin Atlantic flight, a strange oversight given that they list it as a perk. I was on a day flight, but that shouldn’t matter. It should always be given out no matter the time of day.
Amenity kits notwithstanding, the flight experience was a pleasant one. I had plenty of movies to watch, space in which to enjoy them and service that was kind, fast and friendly. It’s these little things that make any flight more bearable and Virgin Atlantic goes beyond that to make it a fun experience, a rarity in a travel age that seems to be taking more and more away rather than heaping benefits upon passengers.
Have you flown with Virgin Atlantic? What did you think?