Virgin Atlantic Business Class is available for flights having European destinations, so domestic American destinations will not have the opportunity to experience this next level of Virgin Airlines hospitality. There are both nonstop and one stop flights available, with the lone stop either being JFK or DTW. In either case, there are only a few dollars difference in cost to fly Business Class nonstop or one stop, about $8700 for a round trip from Atlanta to London. However, the time difference is significant, with a one stop trip taking about 3 hours longer.
As for the in-flight experience, Business Class passengers are greeted and seated, finding a basic amenities package waiting for them at their seat. Each aisle has a flight attendant assigned to tend to their needs. Each seat has a small Ottoman, a standard feature on many Business Class flights and on the vast majority of First Class flights. One of the disappointing aspects of the seats was that it is very difficult to see out the windows based on the location and position of the seat, and for people who love the takeoff and landing views this will not make them happy.
For those unfamiliar with the TUMI brand, the company makes high end luggage and amenity bags for the non-economy traveler. Virgin has a TUMI amenity kit that contained the essentials plus an interesting monogrammed pen you can take with you. Because the flight takes the better part of a working day, you will likely want to get a nap in. To this end, they provide a set of pajamas in various sizes. The general experience is that the sizes are at least one size smaller than labeled, so you will likely want to bump up a size to avoid clothing creep. The extra large sizes go quickly, and it is better to have too much than not enough in such matters, so ask for the XL as soon as you can.
There is an IFE screen on the side of the seat, hinged so you can swivel it into position. There is also a pair of non-Bose noise cancelling headphones for your audio pleasure. The IFE viewing experience is on the smallish side compared to other airlines’ Business Class offerings, but nothing that will ruin your in-flight experience. A remote control will be found right next to the IFE screen.
Once in-flight the flight attendants begin making their rounds and taking food orders. You are brought some chips to go with your choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, a sort of pre-meal snack. If this is your first time flying Virgin Business Class it is best to take advantage of the offer since you can’t be sure what size the meal will be. Business Class passengers get the first class treatment with a non-plastic place setting.
Starting the meal will be the expected appetizer choices of soup or salad. Then comes the beef, chicken, fish, and vegan options for the main course. You don’t have to worry about your drink glass running dry, as the attendants are quick to see you bottoming out and promptly give you a refill. The end of the meal is a choice of desserts, from pudding to a fruit selection.
Even though the general seat surroundings may dissatisfy some people, what usually makes up for this shortcoming is the service provided by the flight attendants. Virgin Atlantic Business Class definitely has a top notch level of flight attendants. Not only were they prompt and friendly with their service, they seem like a group of people who truly enjoy serving others. Business Class is often understood to be a very formal setting and experience, but the flight attendants created an atmosphere that was relaxed and fun in the best way – not too formal and not out of control.
Interestingly, there is a small bar available for Business Class passengers. It is worth a try, especially if you are a wine lover because they have a nice selection of wines for you to test. You will also find a fruit and cheese plate available in case you get the munchies. If you want a less healthy choice there are also candies available.
For that in-flight nap, the flight attendant will make up your bed for you. The bed is an extended, flat-lying seat sans a mattress pad. The seat is acceptably comfortable, but a good number of airlines have mattress pads as a standard feature for napping passengers. You will also be offered a blanket in case the cabin is too cool for your comfort.
Overall, the experience was good, with any shortcomings being compensated for by the excellent Virgin Atlantic flight attendants. Whether it is worth the $8700 round trip price tag is something each person needs to decide for themselves, but spending an entire working day in the air in Economy without the Business Class amenities offered should make you think twice if you budget can afford it.