virgin atlantic upper class review 2023
Virgin Atlantic Business Class
A great flight you will recommend to friends
Airport Experience
Cabin & Seat
Amenities & Facilities

Review of Virgin Atlantic Business Class review by Varun Sharma
Updated 1. Apr 2024

Virgin Atlantic is viewed as fun, cheeky, and even sexy. Virgin's snazzy corporate colour of candy apple red, the razzmatazz attached to anything it does - whether it be iconic television advertisements and frequent publicity stunts - has created a positive glow for the company. It certainly has an effective image-making machine, underpinned by publicity magnet and maverick entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson at the helm.

For many years Virgin was an underdog in the aviation world: older aircraft; less extensive route network as it had cherry-picked the most lucrative routes rivals claimed; and generally, it offered less of the bells and whistles business travellers had come to expect. However, it made up for those shortfalls with bucketloads of sheer chutzpah, appealing to a younger funkier demographic - the hipsters from the entertainment, music, and modelling worlds.

The airline may have grown up, but thankfully it has also stayed the course – coming up to four decades in the business from those early days as a plucky little upstart carrier in 1984. It is now an established three-class airline – with Upper Class as its flagship product - and has a great reputation.

Virgin Atlantic grew its network by teaming up with Delta Air Lines in 2012. The airline innovated where it could with bars on the upper deck of the now decommissioned 747s (The Bubble), massages in the air, fabulously decadent spas in the Clubhouse departure lounges and employing informal & friendly staff. The airline propelled itself into the international airline arena, highlighting that size does not matter. They overcame the initial network deficiency by differentiating services – and thankfully, much of the rebellious spirit has remained.

Today, the airline flies to 35 locations across five continents, with new and exotic routes to Maldives and Turks & Caicos Islands, respectively, recently added to this list. 


Airport experience


The Upper Class experience begins at the exclusive Upper Class Wing at Terminal 3 for passengers departing from the Virgin Atlantic home base at London Heathrow. Acting almost as a private terminal for passengers flying Business Class on Virgin Atlantic and its partner Delta Air Lines, passengers are greeted by porters as if checking in at a luxury hotel. Passengers arriving by car can be dropped off directly at the Upper Class Wing, where passenger names are registered in advance to facilitate a smooth start to the Virgin experience. A bright, open atrium hosts dedicated check-in facilities, with priority lifts that whisk you to the dedicated Virgin fast-track security channel. Then it is just a short walk to the airline's Clubhouse.

Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouses are something to behold. Uber stylish, they break the mould of standard airport lounges as they are designed more like a members' club. They offer table service throughout, a deli bar, an amazing range of food and drink, a pool table, a roof terrace and a wellness retreat for passengers to relax and recharge. There is even a Peloton bike to hop on. Fancy mixologists, front the bar, and all-day dining includes light bites to large plates. The airline's signature cocktail is Virgin Redhead Prosecco, a blend of berry liqueurs, Bombay Sapphire gin and raspberries.

There are five Clubhouses worldwide: London Heathrow, New York JFK, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Johannesburg. There are also shared lounges across the UK (including Manchester, Belfast and Edinburgh), the US (mostly with Delta, including Boston, Los Angeles and Miami), the Caribbean (including Antigua, Barbados and the Bahamas), Asia (including Shanghai, Delhi and Maldives), the Middle East (including Dubai and Tel Aviv) and Africa in Lagos and Cape Town. 

Upper Class passengers arriving into Heathrow can also enjoy pampering at the Virgin Revivals lounge, which is kitted out with 18 shower rooms, a valet cleaning service, a bar, and lounge area and somewhere to make free telephone calls, access emails and Wi-Fi.

When flying Virgin Atlantic, look at the side of the aircraft when boarding. The airline gives each plane a name, often with a "hidden" link between the plane registration and the name, such as Miss Moneypenny (G-VSPY). Just like ships are traditionally named after women, most Virgin Atlantic aircraft carry female names, such as Red Velvet (G-VLUX) or the very first Virgin Atlantic aircraft, Maiden Voyager (G-VIRG). The only aircraft given a male name was Spirit of Sir Freddie (G-VMIA), in recognition of the support and advice given by the late airline entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker to Sir Richard Branson. Another exception was made when a 747 was temporarily named Austin Powered (G-VTOP) after the 90s movie character Austin Powers (played by Mike Myers).

Cabin & Seat


Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabins are certainly distinct, in particular, if boarding when it is dark outside as the mood lighting comes into play. Passengers enter the cabin to find it bathed in colours including red, pink, orange, purple and blue. This sets the tone for an out-of-the-ordinary flight with an airline that has become an expert in making its brand come alive. White seat shells serve as a canvas for the mood lighting to play with, contrasting with the claret-coloured leather seats – completed with burnt orange detailing, pink hues, and gold accents. Think nightclub meets spaceship!

While Upper class is available across the entire network on all aircraft types, not all Upper Class seats are created equal. Virgin Atlantic offers four distinctly different types of seats in Upper Class depending on the aircraft type. Thankfully, all transform into fully flat beds, provide direct aisle access to every passenger, good room to work and in-seat power to charge devices throughout the flight. Many passengers will, however, find the lack of storage space frustrating, as there is almost nowhere to store small personal items other than the literature pocket. On a positive note, Virgin Atlantic is good at providing individual air nozzles, a useful feature that gives each passenger some control of their "personal" temperature.

The new Airbus A350-1000 fleet has a total of 44 seats that have been arranged in a rather unique 1-2-1 layout. Centre seats are in a herringbone configuration, facing away from each other towards the aisle. While not ideal when travelling with a companion, they offer good privacy for solo travellers assigned seats in the centre section. A retractable divider between the centre seats adds further privacy. In contrast, seats along the sides of the cabin are arranged in a reverse herringbone configuration, with seats facing the windows. The armrest can be lowered on the aisle side of each seat to create a wider sleeping surface. The seats offer a 44-inch pitch (1.1 metres) which reclines to an 82-inch (2 metres) fully flat bed at the press of a button.

Interestingly, while several airlines have introduced closing doors on their latest Business Class seats and started calling them "suites", Virgin decided not to do this on the A350, citing customer research indicating that passengers prefer more crew interaction. Sliding privacy screens extend from the side of the seat shell to provide some added privacy.

The Airbus A350 used to boast the best Upper Class seating. However, that mantle has been taken by the exclusive Retreat Suites located at the front row middle two seats of the latest Airbus A330-900neos – of which Virgin has 16 on order and continue to arrive up to 2026. The A330neo cabin is another derivative of the Upper Class cabin. It features customised interiors with 30 new Vantage XL Upper Class suites in a 1-2-1 forward-facing configuration with sliding privacy doors and increased storage and space, and the introduction of the 'Retreat Suite' described by Virgin as "the most spacious suite in Virgin Atlantic's history.” These two unique suites connect at the front centre of the Upper Class cabin and feature seats that extend to a 6-foot-7-inch (200 centimetres) fully flat bed and an ottoman that doubles as an extra seat. They are large enough for four passengers to socialise and dine in the intimacy of their own booth and come with wireless charging and Bluetooth connectivity.

The seats on the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A330-300 aircraft are still clad in leather, but the design is very different. The Upper Class cabins on these aircraft offer a 1-1-1 herringbone configuration where the seat flips over into a fully flat bed and feature an ottoman which doubles up as a footrest or for companions to 'dual-dine' or enjoy a drink with each other. These seats are on the narrow side and offer limited privacy and views as every passenger faces the aisle, away from the windows. Given the 1-1-1 setup, seats along the left side of the cabin have an aisle all to themselves, making them the go-to for passengers preferring less foot traffic in the aisle.

Virgin Atlantic retains a few A330-200s that feature a staggered forward-facing 1-2-1 configuration. Staying true to its brand, Virgin named the seats on these planes Love Suites, Solo Corner Suites and Solo Freedom Suites. Passengers searching for privacy will prefer the Solo Corner Suites, where the seat is next to the window. All aisle seats are named Solo Freedom Suites due to the easy aisle access. The Love Suites are the centre seats in every second row that are placed very close together, more commonly referred to as honeymoon seats – how very Virgin!

The flight search on includes images, videos and seat maps for most airlines and aircraft. Search results also include details such as seat pitch, width and recline. This way, you can see the seat and cabin configuration of the flight in which you are interested before making your choice.



Food service is an integral part of the Business Class offering and a wonderfully time-consuming distraction on a long-haul flight. Menus are still printed, and it is all à la carte dining for Upper Class passengers. The cuisine is designed around the destination and departure time. Passengers choose from a four-course menu and eat from a table laid with starched white linen tablecloths and served on designer plates and cutlery.

A famous element of the Virgin Atlantic dining experience is the highly collectable silver or black Wilbur and Orville salt and pepper shakers, shaped like mini planes. Introduced 20 years ago, thousands are "borrowed" every year - even while cabin crew keep a close eye on them. Special editions of Wilbur and Orville in red have previously appeared over the Christmas period, where the airline has made an exception and encouraged passengers to take them home.

The seasonal main course typically has a meat, fish, and vegetarian option. There is usually a choice of two desserts, including a tempting Pimm's summer pudding, plus a cheese & port plate for those without a sweet tooth. Virgin Atlantic plates the main dishes onboard, a nice touch that really elevates the presentation.

The food service extends to a self-service snack bar to raid between meals, usually full of fresh fruit, sweets, and savoury snacks. There is also an express menu option for passengers wishing to get off to sleep and an Extra Bites menu available on longer flights, and this includes a Mile High Tea on day flights created by French master pâtissier and celebrity chef Eric Lanlard.

Choose between scones with clotted cream and jam, a raspberry-glazed éclair, a salted caramel vanilla tart and a cherry macaron. A mini roll filled with herb cream cheese with pickled cucumber and pea shoots or a beetroot wrap filled with falafel, red pepper houmous, grated carrot and chilli mayo satisfied those with a savoury craving. If afternoon tea is not to your liking, then a choice of Ploughman's or aloo tikki are alternative extra bites.

On night flights, passengers can wake up to hot and cold breakfast options, including pastries, Bircher muesli, fresh fruit, or a Full English. Breakfast can be ordered by filling in a breakfast order form, much like ordering room service breakfast in a Virgin hotel.

The little ones are not forgotten. Those passengers aged 2-12 have their own menu, which can be pre-ordered in My Booking or by telephone up to 24 hours before your flight.

Virgin Atlantic is now offering passengers in Upper Class the opportunity to select meals in advance from a selection of eleven dishes – including pre-order exclusives such as a delicious Lobster and Crab Tortellini when flying from London Heathrow – guaranteeing passengers receive their first choice while reducing food waste in the process. The menu can be browsed from 7 days to 24 hours in advance of the flight. Sample dishes include, Toragashi marinated halloumi poke bowl with sushi rice, and Baked North Atlantic cod. Special meals such as diabetic, lacto-ovo vegetarian, kosher, vegan, halal, low lactose, and gluten-friendly meals can be pre-ordered. Passengers not wanting to eat an inflight meal are also encouraged to notify the airline in advance to avoid unnecessary interruptions and help reduce food waste.



A flute of Champagne or English sparkling wine is served pre-departure, and pre-dinner drinks are offered, with good wines with the meal selected by London wine merchants Jeroboams. For the pre-dinner drink, do not be surprised if Virgin serves popcorn in lieu of the standard nuts offered by most airlines.

Virgin does things differently and mainly offers Ayala Champagne - which hails from the heart of the Champagne region - which is a drier style of bubbles, suiting the palette 40,000 feet up. It has provenance, having been established in 1860 and granted the Royal Warrant in 1908 after the coronation of King Edward VII. If Ayala is not available, the airline does still stock Champagne – including the delicious Canard-Duchêne and Champagne Chanoine Frères Réserve Privée Brut NV.

Alternatively, passengers can opt for English sparkling wine - Hambledon Classic Cuvée - which is grown in the oldest commercial vineyard in the UK - from the three grape varieties most commonly used in the production of Champagne. Initially a trial run in 2019, passenger approval has made it a permanent feature of the drinks menu.

Also, look out for a refreshing Italian Prosecco N.V. Dea Del Mare and limited-time offerings such as the renowned Whispering Angel Côtes de Provence rosé or refreshing Teapigs peach iced tea for non-alcoholic treats. In celebration of the King's Coronation, Upper Class passengers received mini bottles of Lanson Black Label Champagne and a special Mile High Tea service.

Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Sapling Spirits to introduce enviromentally-friendly vodka bottles on 38 Virgin Atlantic routes. Sapling Spirits, known for its climate-positive approach, has introduced an innovative 5cl aluminium bottle for its “Climate Positive” vodka - distilled in London and made entirely from British ingredients. The partnership underscores Sapling's dedication to environmental causes,. The brand's Raspberry & Hibiscus Vodka - crafted from aesthetically imperfect, yet perfectly tasty, 'wonky raspberries' - is already a hit in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class. It is a key ingredient in its Raspberry Fizz cocktail.

Virgin Atlantic offers a good selection of spirits and liqueurs, soft drinks and hot drinks, including a wide range of trendy teas from Teapigs.

The flight search on includes information on which Champagne is served in Business Class and First Class on many airlines. We do our best to keep track of any changes but feel free to let us know if we missed something.



Until recently, the male crew wore burgundy uniforms, and their female colleagues wore the famous, stand-out red uniforms. As part of its "Be Yourself" agenda, Virgin Atlantic has changed its gender identity policy which will allow - among other things - pilots, cabin crew and ground staff to have the option of wearing a burgundy or red uniform, along with an option to include pronouns on workers' name badges. The late British fashion guru Vivien Westwood designed the new gender-neutral uniforms.

The cabin crew are always warm & friendly and keen to interact with passengers if given the opportunity. Cabin crews are proactive, and one could be forgiven for thinking that the airline recruits primarily based on a bubbly personality - before everything else.

At the start of most flights, cabin crew will stop by the seat of each Upper Class passenger to introduce themselves by name and explain the features of the seat - a delightful way to start the journey. The focus on personalised service continues throughout the flight, with cabin crew making an effort to address passengers by name.

Many flights operated by Virgin Atlantic are relatively short transatlantic flights, where overnight eastbound flights can be stressful if the service is slow. Virgin has perfected the soft product with effective yet extensive meal services that allow for maximum rest. Crews also do a good job of prioritising turndown service for passengers opting to skip the onboard meal service in favour of going straight to sleep.



Music greets passengers as they step into the Upper Class cabin. 1000+ hours of films, television and entertainment content are part of the airline's IFE system, known as Vera, the content for which has been curated by the airline. Vera is easy to navigate, and an in-flight magazine in the seat pocket details what to watch. Aside from the usual blockbusters, there is a good selection of movies, television, and audio suitable for children, plus a few surprising inclusions such as up-and-coming bands and quirky short films. Noise-cancelling headphones are a standard issue but, sadly, of limited quality.

On the A350-1000 fleet, a tail camera serves as a nice extra feature, giving passengers a bird's-eye view of the aircraft.

All Virgin Atlantic aircraft offer connectivity, with Wi-Fi available on every flight, but Wi-Fi providers vary by aircraft type. Passengers can access to purchase packages for messaging, video and voice calls, web browsing, email, social surfing and streaming (only on the A330-900 and B787-9).

All seats have USB sockets, and many also feature AC sockets suitable for UK, US and EU plugs.  

The flight search on includes information on inflight entertainment and   Wi-Fi.

Amenities & Facilities


Virgin's Goody Bag is sustainable, made from responsibly-sourced, FSC-certified recyclable Kraft paper and filled with sustainable goodies. These include REN Clean Skincare products, a full-size toothbrush, an eyeshade, socks, earplugs in paper packaging, toothpaste, and a Kraft paper pen.

An impressive amenity in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is that passengers on night flights receive pyjamas, even on short transatlantic night flights. The airline offers good bedding, a quality duvet, and a large pillow.

For parents flying with infants, bassinets are available on request.

A signature feature of all Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabins is that they feature a dedicated social space. On the A350-1000 and A330neo, it is the expansive The Loft with room for eight passengers providing a 32-inch touchscreen monitor and eight Bluetooth audio jacks to let passengers view content together. The social space on the Airbus A330s and the Boeing B787s is The Bar. Either way, it is somewhere to go and stretch your legs, meet colleagues, drink with friends, or eat dinner. The latest social space to be announced by Virgin Atlantic is The Booth, a smaller and more intimate space for two passengers to socialise on selected new A350-1000s that will feature a smaller Upper Class cabin than their fleet-mates.

Strangely, Virgin Atlantic decided not to add any dividing curtains between the social areas and the rest of the Upper Class cabins. While the rationale was reportedly that this would create a more social atmosphere, we nevertheless recommend avoiding seats near the bar area since there is potential for loud conversation from other passengers.

Short & Medium Haul

Virgin Atlantic is currently exclusively a long-haul airline. Within the USA, passengers can take advantage of Virgin’s partner airline Delta. It also enjoys a codeshare with a few other carriers that offer short/medium haul in their regions including Air France, KLM, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand.

In early 2021 Virgin signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Vertical Aerospace to pioneer sustainable and zero emissions for short haul air travel in the UK.


As with all the major players, Virgin is moving towards a goal of net zero by 2050, principally by developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). The airline was the first to fly using sustainable fuel in 2008 and has since launched a partnership with sustainable fuel tech company LanzaTech in 2012. It subsequently flew the first-ever commercial flight using its waste-based sustainable aviation fuel in 2018, with a commitment to using 10% SAF in 2030.

Virgin has invested some US$17 billion into more efficient twin-engine aircraft, which are, on average, 30% more fuel efficient than the four-engine aircraft they replaced. This investment and improving operations have led to a 20% reduction in total aircraft emissions (between 2007-2019). In 2020, Virgin became a signatory of Sustainable Aviation's commitment to Net Zero and a founding member of the UK's Jet Zero Council.

In 2003, the airline established The Virgin Atlantic Foundation, a UK-registered charity that raised over £9 million through the Change for Children onboard appeal. Virgin is also an international partner of Save The Children and twice-annually diverts funds from the Change for Children appeal to their Children's Emergency Fund.

Virgin Atlantic is committed to creating a motivated, resilient and vibrant workplace where employees are valued, listened to and supported, irrespective of their background, gender, race, beliefs, physical ability or whom they choose to love. The airline has long been a champion of LGBT+ rights, participating in many Pride events in the UK and promoting LGBT+ friendly holidays.

In 2019, Virgin announced that its historic flying lady emblem, seen at the front of each Virgin Atlantic aircraft, would be retired in favour of a diverse collection of "Flying Icons," pledging to increase diversity and inclusion across its business. The airline also updated policies related to style and grooming to promote equality. It no longer requires female cabin crew to wear makeup during flights and has introduced a gender-neutral uniform.

Virgin Atlantic has teamed up with Sapling Spirits to introduce enviromentally-friendly vodka bottles. Sapling Spirits, known for its climate-positive approach, has introduced an innovative 5cl aluminium bottle for its “Climate Positive” vodka - distilled in London and made entirely from British ingredients. This new collaboration - an ambitious move toward environmental stewardship - is also set to see the planting of over 20,000 trees across the globe in 2024, underscoring a commitment to eco-friendly initiatives.

The flight search on includes information on CO2 emissions for each flight. Our quality algorithms also give a higher score to flights operated by the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft.

What We Love

  • The uber cool Clubhouses which are more akin to a cool hotel rather than an airport lounge. The chilled-out atmosphere usually helps dissipate the frantic experience of getting to the airport.
  • 40,000 feet up in the air Virgin Atlantic has created social spaces, be it The Bar on the A330 and 787s or The Loft or The Booth on the A350and  A330neo aircraft. It’s somewhere to leave the privacy of the pod and forget that you’re actually flying in a metal tube.
  • The look and feel of Virgin – professional but user-friendly – slick and stylish. searches hundreds of travel sites at once to help you find the best premium travel offers for both flights and the finest hotels.

Yes. Virgin doesn't have a named First or Business Class product. Instead, it has a combination of the two, which is named Upper Class.
Yes. Virgin Atlantic offers four distinctly different seats in Upper Class depending on the aircraft type. All transform into fully flat beds with direct aisle access. Bed lengths range from 6 feet to 6 feet 7 inches (183 - 201 centimetres), depending on the aircraft.
Passengers arriving by car can be dropped off directly at The Upper Class Wing (Heathrow T3) with dedicated check-in and fast-track security. Customers access the superb Virgin Clubhouse Lounge (also available in New York-JFK, Johannesburg, San Francisco and Washington DC) or shared lounges worldwide. Upper Class passengers receive priority boarding and a generous baggage allowance. Onboard, passengers get spacious and comfortable fully lie-flat beds with soft bedding, pyjamas and designer amenity kits. Passengers receive a warm and friendly service and a restaurant-style seasonal four-course à la carte meal service complemented by an excellent drinks menu. Entertainment comes courtesy of more than 1000 hours of content from the Airline's Vera IFE system with noise-cancelling headphones and Wi-Fi availability for streaming. A particular perk on select aircraft is the social areas to relax at a bar and meet fellow passengers – 'The Loft' on the A350s and A330neos, 'The Booth' on select A350s, 'The Bar' on the A330s and B787 Dreamliners.
Yes. Upper Class (Business Class) customers have access to Virgin Atlantic's fabulous Clubhouses, which are among the best Business Class lounges in the world. The Clubhouse at London Heathrow is designed like an exclusive member's club with uber-stylish features. It includes à la carte and buffet dining, a deli bar, an impressive cocktail bar, a relaxation area, workstations, an outdoor terrace, a Peloton workout area and a pool table.
Virgin Atlantic offers Upper Class (Business Class) long-haul flights on Airbus A350-1000s, Airbus A330-300s, Airbus A330neos, and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. Each aircraft provides something slightly different to the rest. The A350s offer 44 or 16 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 layout, depending on the aircraft configuration. The Boeing 787-9 has 31 Business Class seats in a 1-1-1 configuration, as does the Airbus A330-300. In comparison, the A330neo provides 32 Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, including two stunning Retreat Suites at the front of the cabin.
Upper Class (Business Class) passengers receive a checked luggage allowance of two 32-kilogram bags with an additional two pieces of hand luggage not exceeding 16 kilogrammes.
About the author
Varun Sharma
With over 25 years of experience in luxury travel journalism, Varun is responsible for all the content you see on He works closely with all the hotel and airline brands that appear on the website. BBC-trained, Varun has appeared in print, on radio, television, and now online media - having worked for outlets including the BBC, Telegraph (UK), MSNBC, Travel Channel and Cond...
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