I've flown to London a lot, most of the time it's to transit onward to other destinations and maybe once a year to just visit the wonderful country. I choose to fly to London because of one of the best airlines that I've found to make the journey. Virgin Atlantic has such a classy laid back atmosphere, and I can't say that I've ever a bad experience with them.
Usually I happen to find myself on their inferior 787s, with their weird and dated seats they are getting quite tired. However I think they're newer seats might prove to keep them on top.
My trip to London this time was apart of a larger trip with some of my family members to the United Kingdom. We had some organized activities planned and pre-booked so my options were limited on my departure and arrival times. Usually I like to find my plane tickets first so I can maximize deals and optimal days but that wasn't possible this time around.
However I ended up getting a pretty good deal on one of the longest flights that Virgin Atlantic operate from the United States on the Airbus A350. I managed to find a decent redemption of 67,500 miles for Upper Class through Virgin Atlantic and I took advantage of transferring in American Express points which also had a transfer promo of 30% bonus.
For the time being Virgin Atlantic departs from the Tom Bradley International Terminal, they used to depart from Terminal 2&3 which is the Delta terminal. However, during the Terminal 2&3 remodel the airline has had to relocate. Objectively I believe that the check-in hall for the Tom Bradley International Terminal is the worst at the airport. Pre-security the hall is dimly lit, it is always jam packed with people, and it's tight to move around.
I wasn't traveling with any checked baggage, so I opted to check-in online and I skipped the international terminal entirely. Passing through security in the much nicer Delta terminal I took the brand new connector to the international terminal via a short walk. I could have stopped and used the big and beautiful Delta Sky Club since Virgin Atlantic is a SkyTeam member, however I opted to use the "official" Virgin Atlantic lounge at LAX, which is the Star Alliance lounge.
I find it kind of interesting that the official lounge for Virgin Atlantic, a Sky Team member, is a competing airline alliance lounge. I do have to say that the lounge is quite nice, while I was there I found it pretty crowded. During my time it looked like we were sharing the lounge between Lufthansa passengers and Virgin Atlantic passengers.
There was a decent cold bar with finger foods, sweets, and small sandwiches. Self service soft drinks, and a bar was nearby to keep your fill as well. Seating was plentiful with both indoor seating and an outdoor terrace that overlooks part of the ramp operations and gives you a partial view of the northern runways.
Overall it was a very standard lounge, I would have liked to see more hot food options and the lounge was fairly crowded so seats were at a premium.
Boarding was slow to start, I don't believe it's the fault of the airline, rather the airport which has electronic gates. LAX has facial recognition gates that are supposed to help speed up the boarding process by automating a lot of the gate agents functions. However on this day two of the electronic gates were down and we were set to board with half the throughput.
I was not very impressed by the boarding process, while the gate agent did a great job making announcements and trying to organize the boarding area it fell on deaf ears. When the gate agent called for Upper Class boarding it felt like half of the airplane flooded towards the boarding area and everyone was trying to elbow and knee their way to be the first to get on.
This was very disappointing, and the helpers at the electronic gates weren't very good at policing the boarding process and only letting the correct boarding group onboard. Everyone was crowding around the gates and was only adding to the mass disorganization at these gates.
Compared to the 787, these seats are a massive improvement. I managed to get seat 1K which is the bulkhead at the very front of the Upper Class cabin. Both 1A and 1K are by far the roomiest seats on the airplane having extra leg room due to the bulkhead and just a bit more space and privacy overall.
The armrest area had a lot of storage, there was a two tiered cubby hole to throw small things like your charger or your phone while the arm rest area had enough room to put even your laptop comfortably. Moving down there was a large footwell, due to the bulkhead.
The seat folds flat and for my 6'1" body I was able to fully stretch out without touching the top or bottom. The extra space in the foot area was a huge plus for me, because I'm a side sleeper I had more than enough room to roll over and sleep comfortably.
the linens were soft and included a thick blanket, seat pad, and a larger pillow that was thick and soft. It was nice enough even for someone to sleep on their side and have a good amount of head support.
One minor criticism I had with the seats was the seat adjustment buttons, they fully worked and I didn't end up having an issue with them but I was never confident where I was supposed to press on the bottoms, they seemed like they were rocker switches but you didn't get enough feedback when pressing them to totally be sure.
The service was simply outstanding. One reason I keep booking with Virgin Atlantic is the people, they always have a big smile on their face and always willing to engage in conversation with you. The attendant who was servicing my side of the cabin was amazing, she was very easy to talk to and was incredibly knowledgeable.
During dinner service I asked her for a few suggestions on the wine to pair with my meal and not only did she have something prepared but she had excellent reasoning why I might like the white wine with my pork over a heavier red. And even with the multiple selections she picked the perfect one for me.
Within 30 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants were in the aisles and already getting dinner service worked up, I had a nice table cloth, some perfectly salty crisps (chips for my American friends), and a drink in no time.
For dinner I had a shrimp starter, and for my main I picked the glazed pork chop, it was flavorful and it paired well with the potatoes and broccoli. For dessert I had to go with the bread pudding, it was served perfectly warm and the cream soaked into the pudding was absolutely perfect. Both my main and the dessert was at the suggest of my flight attendant and I think she picked perfectly.
After a good 5 hours of rest I woke up as we were coasting in over Ireland and breakfast was being served. I picked the English breakfast that had beans, grilled tomato, eggs, bacon, potatoes, and sausage. One of the things I feel that most airlines get wrong is the eggs, they are usually too runny or dried out. However these were perfect and very fluffy.
I can't say enough good things about the cabin crew, they were all extremely friendly and engaged perfectly with their passengers.
There is quite the large selection of movies and TV shows on the IFE, I was happy to see they had both pretty recent shows and movies as well as some classics you can always count on.
The screens in Upper Class are large and responsive, however there was an initial issue with mine after takeoff. The screen never entered into IFE mode and was stuck not allowing me to interact. The flight attendant was quick to troubleshoot and ended up resetting my section of the aircraft, after about a 3 minute reboot everything was up and working perfectly.
However, during the reboot I noticed that the seat controls are connected to the IFE system, so while the IFE system was rebooting I was unable to recline my seat or adjust it in anyway. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to connect the seat controls to the IFE system but I'm sure whoever did design it had some good intentions. Just have to hope that if they do have to reset the IFE you're not stuck in a bad position in your seat.
Once everything was cleared it up I was quickly watching some TV shows while enjoying my dinner. I do like how you can connect your phone to the IFE system and control the screen with your phone instead of the remote or touching the screen. I could find this handy especially if you were laying flat and watching some content.
If anything I have to give my top marks to the staff, I didn't once find an unhappy face. The pilots kept us well informed, the flight attendants were very engaging, the gate agent even had a good attitude while dealing with a plane load of people. The service is a key factor for me and time and time again Virgin Atlantic shows me how good their service is. I also think this seat is the best in the fleet, I do tent to voice their 787s for their inferior seat but if you can find either their A350 or A330 aircraft, you're sure to have a much better time. The airline is also very punctual, I've never had a major delay on any of my flights, and even if I did they communicated well about any updates.
I may sound like a fanboy, but I think that they deserve every bit of praise. Virgin Atlantic is small, and I think they have the perfect niche to providing good service and a decent route network to get you in and out of London wherever you want to go.