Out of all of the questions I’m asked about most frequently, questions about specific airlines and classes of service always rank at the top. It’s also what most people read on my web site, well and above anything to do with destinations, food or any other form of transportation. Luckily, I love flying and I especially love experimenting with different classes of service, from Economy to First Class in order to share what the real-life experience of flying with particular airlines is actually like. Not all airlines are made the same and through my reviews I’ve shared some amazing experiences and some lackluster ones. Thankfully though today I want to share an extremely positive experience I recently had when I flew in the Premium Economy cabin on a Virgin Atlantic flight.
What is Premium Economy?
More and more longhaul airlines are offering this additional class of service as yet another option to passengers who want to enjoy a little bit more comfort during their flying experience. It’s not Economy and it’s not Business Class, but what truly excellent airlines do is to make sure that Premium Economy cabins are different enough so as to provide real benefit, without encroaching on the benefits of Business or First Class. It’s a fine line but almost always paying a little bit more for this class of service is absolutely worth the investment as was confirmed for me when I flew from London back home to Washington, DC.
Why Choose Premium Economy?
Before your first experience in Premium Economy you were probably like me and wondered whether or not the extra money was worth the investment. I use the word investment purposefully, because that’s really what it is. It’s an investment in your comfort and time and if either of these is important to you, then selecting Premium Economy on many (but not all) carriers is absolutely worthwhile. In the context of Virgin Atlantic specifically, it means you get several perks not available to those in Economy including:
- A dedicated cabin and crew
- Dedicated airport check-in and priority boarding
- Big purple leather seats that are amongst the biggest of any Premium Economy product. The seat is 21 inches wide with a 38-inch seat pitch with footrest and headrest. Inseat power is also available for laptops.
- Complimentary champagne when you board and special after-dinner drinks.
- Meals offer three choices served on china and linen. Breakfast or a snack is also offered before landing.
- If you’re traveling overnight then you’ll also receive an amenity kit with eyeshades, toothbrush/paste and so on.
These are just some of the perks offered on Virgin Atlantic and you’re probably thinking that this sounds a lot like Business Class, which is sort of the goal. Business Class naturally offers more, but the entire point of Premium Economy is to be just that – premium – and Virgin Atlantic excels at this.
Like many other travelers, I tend to get worried before boarding a plane about overhead space. I always want to make sure I get on early enough to secure that prized spot of aeronautical real estate over my seat, and being amongst the first to board with the Premium Economy cabin immediately set my mind at ease. Arriving to my seat I was welcomed by bottled water already in the chair with premium blankets and pillows ready for my weary head. Almost immediately I was welcomed onboard and offered a choice of OJ or champagne and instantly I was at peace. It was great and a far cry from some other Premium Economy cabin experiences I’ve had where there didn’t seem to be any distinctions at all.
It may sound silly, but if you’re a frequent traveler then you’ll understand that in today’s modern age of travel, it’s nice to feel special sometimes. With fees, long lines and overbooked planes a smile and a perk or two are things few of us see anymore. It was that civility, that pleasant atmosphere that I loved the most about flying Premium Economy with Virgin Atlantic and it luckily extended throughout the flight.
Food is important to many travelers, and I was happy to see a printed menu offered to me as soon as we left the terminal – something some Business Class sections I’ve been in haven’t even provided. And sure enough, there were multiple options for every taste, even vegetarian, and even more rare they all sounded good. Just like in many Business Class sections I’ve flown, Premium Economy passengers also had a pantry of snacks available to them throughout the course of the flight in case any of us got peckish and before landing afternoon tea was served, ensuring none of us would arrive hungry. I for one never think airline food is good, regardless of the claims made, but I was overall content with the food presented onboard Virgin Atlantic and while I didn’t partake, my fellow passengers certainly got a lot of enjoyment from the airline’s wine selection.
What is the most important aspect of any flight, and why so many of us choose to upgrade, is of course comfort in flight. I’m 6’2” and even exit row seats in Economy are uncomfortable so for me the seat itself is crucial on any flight longer than a few hours. In my experience that is where some other Premium Economy products on other airlines have faltered, but true to form that big purple seat onboard my Virgin Atlantic flight was as comfy as promised. Earlier in this post I mentioned seat width and pitch, but for many folks these numbers don’t mean a lot out of context. Width is easy enough to understand and here it means that you have more room to relax without rubbing elbows with the guy next to you. Pitch is the distance between the same points between chairs, and determines whether or not my knees will be crushed. In a slightly inaccurate, but easier to understand term it’s legroom essentially. The pitch in Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy is more than generous and it’s that number that determined my happiness (or not) on the 8-hour flight.
Other little perks included inseat laptop power, which is great for folks like me who like to work on flights, as well as Virgin’s inflight entertainment system that offers hundreds of hours of entertainment options. More importantly, the system was easy to use which oddly enough is also not common on all airlines.
The Premium Economy experience on Virgin Atlantic was great, as you can probably surmise from the tone of this post so far. I also do think though that it’s a fantastic option for many people who want some of the perks of Business Class without the Business Class price tag. Unlike some other airlines, Virgin Atlantic does a fantastic job at making their premium guests feel premium and with their Austin Powers-esque, tongue in cheek sense of humor added in, the entire experience is as pleasant as you could hope for on a Trans-Atlantic flight. So if you’re waffling between whether or not to upgrade to that premium cabin, I say go for it and see what you think. What I do know is that your overall flying experience will be much more positive and relaxing than it would otherwise be, allowing you to arrive looking and feeling more human than most of us are used to after a long flight.
Have you flown Premium Economy with Virgin Atlantic? What did you think?