February 22, 2024

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class, New York JFK-Heathrow

THE FLIGHT

With Virgin Atlantic’s 40th anniversary coming up in 2024, I flew on the aptly-named ‘Ruby Slipper’, an A350-1000 aircraft.  It was the final flight of the day out of JFK, due to leave at 23:00, and although we took off over an hour late, we made up some time and arrived at Heathrow just a bit behind schedule the following morning.

THE CHECK-IN

The private Upper Class check-in area, which is shared with Delta Air Lines’ Delta One passengers, was completely empty so we checked in immediately and went directly to the fast-track security. There are two Delta SkyClubs at JFK – both shared with Virgin customers. On the advice of the Virgin team, we chose the one closest to our boarding gate in Concourse B. It’s a vast space, separated into sections for working, socialising or dining. There’s also an outside space where DJs play some nights of the week. The lounge was busy at first but emptied out quickly after a few flights departed. I enjoyed a light dinner of antipasto, hummus and freshly-prepared salads, along with a couple of margaritas from The Bar, which were delivered to our table. 

THE BOARDING

Due to a bad storm, the flight was delayed and there was a short queue for boarding, but once the gate opened we were first through and greeted with warm smiles from the flight crew. I stopped briefly to admire the communal area behind the Upper Class cabin where the crew showed me the choice of in-flight snacks available, including olives, pop corn, shortbread biscuits and Savoursmiths crisps.

THE SEAT

On this aircraft, Virgin has 44 Upper Class cabins in a 1-2-1 configuration. My seat, 3A, was a window seat. The design is genius, with lots of storage options, an 18.5-inch touchscreen, charging points and complimentary noise reducing headphones. It was so comfortable I dozed off briefly before we even took off.

THE SERVICE

Once in my seat I was offered a flute of Champagne and asked what I would like to be served after take-off. There was a ‘Speedy Supper’ option of potato and watercress cream soup with a smoked cheese fondue toastie, or a more extensive selection of starters, mains and desserts, including poached shrimp cocktail, a Florentine ravioli and warmed pineapple, chocolate and coconut bread pudding.

Virgin Atlantic has partnered with London wine merchants Jeroboams to offer an impressive selection of fine wines and Champagne. There was also premium beers, softs, spirits and signature cocktails, including the exclusive ‘Ruby Slipper’ – Hambledon Classic Cuvee with Fever Tree Light Rhubard and Raspberry Tonic Water.

I had already eaten (and drunk margaritas!) in the lounge, so I opted for maximum sleep time. A member of the crew helped me pick my size for the cosy, cotton PJs. My ‘goodie bag’ amenity kit contained sustainable treats including a pen, socks, REN lip balm, a bamboo toothbrush/paste, day cream and Atlantic kelp and magnesium energising hand cream. The bag itself is made from responsibly-sourced, recyclable kraft paper. I was impressed to see Virgin has also ditched plastic in favour of water in cans.

As I wanted to get as much sleep as possible on this seven-hour flight, the crew set my bed up before take-off so I could quickly recline into a 6ft 7″ long fully-flat bed and snuggle down for the night.

In the morning there’s an option of an express breakfast of warm bacon roll or chocolate pastry. Instead I choose to ‘build my own’ breakfast, combining an American breakfast of buttermilk pancakes and maple syrup with fresh mango wedges with sea salt and mint, along with a coconut yogurt with passionfruit coulis and granola. It was all absolutely delicious.

Upper Class passengers can also stop off at The Revivals lounge at Heathrow, open from 5am to 12.30pm daily, for breakfast, showers, luggage storage and even to get their clothes pressed so everything is ready for a business meeting. Sadly, due to the storm, we arrived just a few minutes too late to take advantage.

THE VERDICT

This is a rock star experience from the moment you arrive at check-in to the minute you land, making you feel like the most important passenger on board. Upper Class delivers everything you’d expect from the brand. It’s a stunning product, from the clever cabin and seat design to the cool pink hued lighting, and the food is excellent too. Best of all, Virgin Atlantic is about its people, and the ground and in-flight crew remain the most friendly and genuine I’ve come across in the skies. 

THE DETAILS

Upper Class return flights start from £1,989, available for selected departures and are subject to change. 

virginatlantic.com

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