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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review San Francisco to London – VS20 – Boeing 747-400

19th February 2014
Virgin Atlantic Flight 20
Depart : San Francisco (SFO)
Arrive : London Heathrow (LHR)
Departure time : 5:35pm (Actual 5:34pm)
Arrival Time : 11:07am (Actual 11:10am)
Boeing 747-400
Seat : 12A
Flight Time : 9h 35m
Meal Service : Dinner & Breakfast

Complete trip report video

Flight path

Flight path

Today would be my first experience trying out Virgin Atlantic’s upper class product and I was really looking forward to the experience. I have only read and heard good things from other travel writers and trip reporters that Virgin’s upper class experience is second to none.

We had flown on Southwest earlier in the morning from Orange County and had arrived in San Francisco with plenty of time to spare.

Outside the terminal

Outside the terminal

Sign for Virgin

Sign for Virgin

Before I went to the check in area I had a quick look to make sure the flight was scheduled to depart on time and everything was looking good.

Departure board at SFO

Departure board at SFO

We then made our way to the Virgin check in area, we arrived fairly early so it was nice and quiet, but it was also nice to have the dedicated upper class check in line.

Check in area

Check in area

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Upper class check in

Upper class check in

We were greeted by the super friendly check in agent who did all the formalities with us and checked us in. The process was very quick and she then handed us our boarding passes and club lounge invitation. I did ask about an invitation for the arrivals lounge in London and was informed I needed to collect this upon making myself known at the club house.

Boarding pass

Boarding pass

Clubhouse invitation

Clubhouse invitation

I will be doing a full write up on both the clubhouse and the arrivals lounge in London in my future post’s.

After check in we made our way to the clubhouse and had a fantastic meal before being called for boarding.
The clubhouse is located before security at SFO airport, I thought it was a really nice touch when the flight was being called for boarding the clubhouse staff would escort people down to security and let them cut the line for a quicker security process with no hassle at all. I have to say i really loved this and being able to go through security in SFO in less than 5 minutes was great.

We made it to our gate and most of the flight had already boarded apart from a few economy passengers.
When boarding we were greeted by the really friendly cabin crew.

I was escorted to my seat, my jacket was taken and I was offered my choice of pre departure beverage, I opted for some Champagne. And I was also given some crisps to snack on.

Pre departure champagne

Lanson black Label Pre departure Champagne

Crisp's or Chips

Crisp’s or Chips

Before take off I settled into my seat and took a few pictures of my home for the next 10 hours.
I had specifically picked seats 12A and 12K as other frequent flyers I have spoken with think these are the best seats for couples. They are indeed correct, having the two most forward seats in the nose of the 747 gave me the opportunity to freely talk with my wife and not have to shout across to the other side of the cabin. The further back you go the more separation between the seats, this would be a great choice for a single traveler who would like some privacy.

This can be seen on the seat map below from Seat Guru. But make note Virgin have different 747 seat configurations for its aircraft and they can vary.

Seat Map

Seat Map

The seat was extremely comfortable and had some great features.

Seat 12A

Seat 12A

virgin_atlantic_upper_class_san_francisco_to_london8

Nose of 747

Nose of 747

Forward upper class cabin

Forward upper class cabin

Seat settings

Seat settings

Amenity Kit

Amenity Kit

Before take off the flight attendant asked me what size sleep suit I wanted for the flight. I picked a large as I wanted to be comfortable when sleeping and not have super tight clothing on.
I have to admit I was a little disappointed in what was given to me, it was pretty much just a t-shirt and some baggy trousers. Personally I think Virgin could really improve here by offering a better quality product.

The Cheap Sleeper Suit

The Cheap Sleeper Suit

Here are a few snaps of the Safety card and in flight magazines.

Boeing 747 safety card

Boeing 747 safety card

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I relaxed in my seat and drank my Champagne.

Relax

Relax

After I had looked around my seat the captain came on and said we would be pushing back and departing almost on time and that take off would be smooth and the flight to London should also be fairly smooth.

The captain also informed us that today we would be flying most of the way at around 35,000 FT and that the flight time would be around 9 hours and 45 minutes.

About to push back

About to push back

As promised take off was very smooth and the climb out was nice and slow and we got some great views of San Francisco Bay.

The crew made an announcement that the in flight entertainment was having some technical problems and they would need to restart it, this did take them around two hours to fix in the end, but I was not that upset by this.

About an hour after take off the dinner service began and my in flight dining was set up and I was handed a copy of today’s menu.

Ready to dine

Ready to dine

These are the options we had on today’s flight.

Starters

Carrot and Coriander Soup
Topped with Creme Fraiche
Spicy Maryland Crab
Native blue crab
Served with pickled mango salsa
A choice of warm breads

Mains

Parmesan crumbled fillet of beef
With creamy dauphinoise potatoes glazed carrots and a red wine sauce
Gressingham Duck
Served with Spicy hoisin sauce, steamed rice and carrots.
Thai Vegetable Curry (V)
Served with steamed jasmine rice

Pudding

Warm apple tarte tatin
Served with cream
Honey Cheesecake
With Graham cracker dust
Cheese & Port Selection
Camembert, Welsh Cheddar, Blue Stilton

For my started I opted the try the carrot and coriander soup.

Soup

Soup

Warm bread

Warm bread

Famous Virgin Salt & Pepper shakers

Famous Virgin Salt & Pepper shakers

The soup was great and I was really impressed, for my main course I opted for the Fillet of beef.
Before my steak arrived I given my choice of three red wines and I picked the 2011 Shiraz.

Fillet of beer

Fillet of beef

To my surprise the steak was cooked really well. It was not tough or over cooked, it was still fairly pink in the middle which was fantastic.

I passed on desert and opted for the cheese selection.

Cheese & Grapes

Cheese & Grapes

The attention by the crew during dinner service was fantastic and it was just like being at a great restaurant on the ground. I don’t think I have ever been called “Sir” so much in my life and my wine glass never went below half empty. We really enjoyed being looked after and it made the flight so much more enjoyable.
Dinner service was quick and completed in around 1 hour and 20 minutes and then just after Dinner the IFE started working.

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After dinner most people converted their beds for sleeping and went to bed.
I had wanted to take a look around the aircraft and take some photo’s and pay a visit to the on board bar.

First I had a drink and met some great people at the bar and talked with the crew for around an hour.
I’ve seen in other reviews that people say the bar is not really worth it and is more of a glorified self-service area which the crew use for extra space.
My experience of the bar was very different.
A bar tender was there the entire time making conversation and chatting with us, they made the drinks for us. The area was kept really clean and there was no clutter, cocktails were available and people seemed to be having a nice time relaxing away from their seat.

Virgin's Bar

Virgin’s Bar

After a few drinks I checked out the upper deck.

Stairs to the bubble

Stairs to the bubble

Economy & Upper Class

Economy & Upper Class

I found it very strange that on the upper deck economy was sat directly behind upper class. I had originally been assigned seat 1A on the upper deck, but after finding out economy was behind us I changed my seat to 12A downstairs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not some snob who hates people, but i just find it very odd that Virgin would do this.

A fair amount of people in upper class have paid upwards in the thousands for their tickets, yet people sat directly behind them could have paid less that 400 USD. It really takes away the atmosphere of the luxury flying experience in my eyes.

I’m not sure on how Virgin unload the upper deck of the 747 on arrival also. Do the Economy passengers have to wait for the ten people in upper class to leave before they can depart ?

It just seemed like a weird setup.

After a tour of the aircraft I went back to my seat to take a look out of the window. Everyone else in the Upper class cabin was asleep. I was not sure if I was just tired at first, but after a few more looks I realized i was seeing the Northern lights in their full glory. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. After watching alone for about 5 minutes I woke my wife to tell her what I could see and she came over to have a look. I then noticed that people in the cabin had overheard what i had said and also started looking. It seemed people could not see if from their seats, but only from mine. I hate to deprive people of such a beautiful thing, so one by one around six or seven people took turns sitting in my seat and looking out of the window at it. It was a bit of a bizarre experience but I’m glad others got to see it.

I did try to take some pictures, but they all came out blurred.

After the excitement I asked the cabin crew if they could turn my bed down for me and I went to clean my teeth in the bathroom.

Bath Room Products

Cowshed Products

Bathroom

Bathroom

I returned to my seat and was surprised how quickly the crew had made my bed. I was now ready for a quick sleep with around 5 hours of the flight remaining.

Bed Ready

Bed Ready

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Map just before i went to sleep

Map just before i went to sleep

I went to sleep just as we flew over Newfoundland and managed to get a few hours of sleep before I was awoken for breakfast.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Breakfast service began about one hour and thirty minutes before we landed into London. I had pre ordered my breakfast earlier at dinner time and had gone for the traditional English breakfast.

When breakfast began

When breakfast began

Breakfast was scrambled egg with bacon and mushrooms, I was not that impressed with the breakfast, but being hungry I did eat most of it.

Breakfast

Breakfast

1 hour before landing

1 hour before landing

After breakfast we began our decent into London and the weather forecast was cloudy and rainy.
The decent was fairly smooth and we passed through the grey and landed very smoothly into London.

Over England

Over England

It has been over two years since I have been back in England and it was great to see the new British Airways A380 upon landing.

British Airways Airbus A380

British Airways Airbus A380

We really enjoyed our experience on Virgin Atlantic and the crew were fantastic and made the journey very enjoyable. Often cabin crew can make or break an airline, but the Virgin staff on today’s flight did a fantastic job.

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4 Comments on “Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Review San Francisco to London – VS20 – Boeing 747-400”

  1. Joe June 21, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Hey, I really enjoyed your review.
    I came across it while trying to figure out which are the best upper class seats for me and my girlfriend on our up-coming Virgin Atlantic flight (747-400). Like yourself, I thought that the front section 12A/12K would be perfect, and I’ve also read other people say similar. However, I’ve also heard people say it’s a bit cramped, and the seats 1-2 rows back are better? What are your thoughts on this?

    Many thanks!

    Joe

    • whenitraveltheworld June 21, 2014 at 5:10 pm #

      Hey Joe,

      We really enjoyed seats 12A/12K, There was still plenty of space between the two seats and you could talk to each other across the cabin without having to shout as they curve in.

      Also the nice thing about the seats is you can look out the front of the plane as the windows curve around in front of you.

      I also picked them as i wanted to be in the very front of the nose for the experience.

      The people sat behind us commented on how they had 12A/12K on their outbound flight and really enjoyed them.

      • Joe June 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

        Awesome! Thanks.
        Did you have storage for your baggage? I read on a website that you don’t get overhead lockers?

        Thanks again.

        Joe.

      • whenitraveltheworld June 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

        You are right in the fact you have no overhead lockers. But there was so much space in the overhead lockers in the rest of the cabin.

        We stored our bags above seats 14A & K with no problems at all.

        Glad the report was helpful to you.
        Have a great flight.

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