Virgin Atlantic started to add a second daily San Francisco (SFO) service to London on their new 787 after they got delivered. Unfortunately, the decision for the Rolls-Royce engines hasn’t been too lucky, with them coming in for lengthy maintenance much before it was expected. My flight the day before this had been canceled but I would at least get a 787 that was operational on this day.
After my visit to the Clubhouse lounge, boarding was quick and I was one of the first passengers onboard.
Business class would be completely full that day. Since everyone wanted to settle in quickly, this ended up in a rather crazy boarding process for business class. Premium economy seemed full as well, with economy about 75% full.
I hadn’t been too happy with the business class seat on Virgin Atlantic on my last flight back in 2014. I felt it was cramped and just plain uncomfortable. I was hoping this would be remedied with the new generation of seats that the airline has installed on the 787.
The seats still come in the trademark herringbone design, with the 3 seats across the nose. This does not sound much but since herringbone means that the seats lean into the aisle, there isn’t as much space as you’d expect. To make matters worse, the floor isn’t even and you keep stumbling over the edge of the floor constantly. The ottomans are right in the aisle and it feels like you can just step in but you miss the one-inch step up.
My seat was right across from the ‘bar area’ that serves as a social meeting point (though it only has two seats). It is also the area that flight attendants use to prepare drinks, which also made the space in the aisle extra cramped.
The flight attendants were cheery and had none of the famous snidey attitude that (too) many airlines feature. After a quick pre-departure drink, we were pushing back on our way to London, with a flight time under 10 hours.
It took quite some time after takeoff until drinks and appetizers came out. I was already quite sleepy, so I was anxious to see the service before going to sleep. I tried the appetizer and main course and found them to be a bit too complicated but still great food for an airline. I wasn’t hungry, so I just nibbled.
There were 3 red and white wines and a good champagne on offer as well.
The seat itself isn’t horrible in a lounging position. What’s most annoying is that you can never really see the display without turning your head. That’s easy for a few minutes but gets tiring after an hour. The display is somehow always in the wrong position.
The seat is also not really straight (or maybe that was just my impression); I was always trying to get more space by stretching out (which you can do) but felt I had to adjust for the S-shaped design.
I was hoping it would get better once the flight attendant made the bed. I put on the pajamas and after my return from the bathroom, it was ready.
The whole installation will remind you of Singapore Airlines Business Class. Singapore Airlines was a major shareholder in Virgin Atlantic before handing its stake to Delta. The whole seatback flips over as a mattress. I still felt cramped though – more than usual. The duvet was great, however, and it was a great fit to the cabin temperature.
My back hurt after 6 hours of sleep and I wasn’t at my best when we got ready to land at Heathrow. I had only opted for a minimal breakfast since I wasn’t hungry anyways.
Everyone else had seemingly woken up before me and we were all eager to touchdown in London on this early afternoon.
In sum, I loved the service, as well as the high-quality food and drinks that Virgin delivers. I think the seat is horrific, though, especially for a new airline seat, and it needs service attendance just to become a bed. I can’t find a position to get comfortable in one of those seats. If I can, I’ll avoid Virgin – especially on an overnight flight.