Flight Review: Virgin Atlantic Upper Class – London to Johannesburg

A picture of a Virgin Atlantic plane in flight
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Imagine for a moment that your journey is just as exciting as the destination itself – that’s just how good Virgin Upper Class can be.

There’s the sparky service by clued-in cabin crew, the comfortable seat, delicious menu and champagne and super solid entertainment.

Plus, if you’re flying this year, the chance you’re in an updated cabin that’s getting rave reviews.

I’ve flown the older seating arrangement but want to point out why this kind of flight makes a long journey worthwhile.

VIRGIN ATLANTIC VS601

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

London Heathrow to Johannesburg (LHR-JNB)

Seat: 7A (Upper Class)

Duration: 11h

The Gate Experience

The experience at the gate was, to be honest, pretty straightforward. I’d enjoyed the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse facilities, even if the Clubhouse Staff were a little matter-of-fact. By contrast, the gate agents were all in top form!

A picture showing the gates at Heathrow Airport

It is a bit of a trek to Gate 22 from the Clubhouse, but give it plenty of time.

The Lighting

I have to mention the lighting in this Virgin Atlantic Flight Review. Both in the lounge and on board, everything is a hue of purple. I’m sure there is a sensible purpose to it in terms of sleeping or balancing your life, but I’m not a fan of purple and it made taking and editing photographs of the interior a nightmare. The purple glow seems to be fringed with green – so food will look weird later in the post 💚

The Seat

Before getting this flight, I did a LOT of research into seats. I’ve flown Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic very occasionally, and I didn’t like the centre section facing right section layout (see picture below).

Patrick's ticket for Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic

Far better is the single aisle and I managed to get Seat 7A, allowing better privacy. The seat itself is a little tighter than I’d like, but does have supportive lumbar support and lots of cubbies for storing water and snacks.

An Upper Class seat on board a Virgin Atlantic plane

You can see what I mean about facing others in the picture below.

The Virgin Atlantic Upper Class cabin.

Virgin Atlantic Flight Review: Amenity Kit

I do love an amenity kit and Virgin Atlantic provided one by backpack maker, Herschel.

The free amenity kit in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

On a previous Upper Class flight to Boston, the amenity kit was a bit more generous. This time, the accessories bag was small, although it had the same items (eye mask, tooth kit, ear plugs, etc).  I’m afraid I accidentally left it behind!

A set of Virgin Atlantic pyjamas

A standard size of pyjamas is provided. I have to be honest, these are generally not well made and not what I would choose. The Virgin offering was no different.

Patrick shown in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic

I managed to keep a Snap to my niece in my Flight album, in which I shared with her what amenities were included.

Flight Report: Food Service

The service properly kicked off about 90 minutes into the flight, but there was always a glass of champagne and water to keep passengers refreshed.

A glass of champagne on board Virgin Atlantic

Virgin provides a detailed menu of options for both food and drinks. Click on any image below to read all the details.

I thought the food was pretty good for a business service, in terms of quality and range. The salt and pepper are VERY cute.

The famous silver salt and pepper shaker of Virgin Atlantic

I went with the tomato and basil soup which was light and seasoned just enough.

Virgin Atlantic's tomato and basil soup

The roast chicken was just enough before wanting to get to sleep (not sure what ‘traditional Irish celeriac colcannon’ is, though! Not one I was raised with, but I appreciated the nod. (The lighting is causing some sort of weird coloration in the image below).

The roast chicken main course on Virgin Atlantic

 Least said about the salted caramel chocolate hot pudding the better 🙂  Clearly I didn’t eat it. *Cough.

A warm chocolate pudding served in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic

I am very full and very happy!!

Patrick shown in the Upper Class cabin on board Virgin Atlantic

Flight Report: Bathroom Facilities

The bathrooms on this flight were really good! They were at least double the size of standard business class toilets – meaning there was plenty of room to get changed into your Virgin pyjamas!

A fold out seat helpful for getting changed in the Upper Class bathroom on Virgin Atlantic

Hand wash and hand cream are provided by Noble Isle, which is rapidly carving out a nicely-smelling niche in the market. I tried this at Ellenborough Park in Gloucestershire and really like it.

A hand wash is shown made by Nobel Isle called Rhubarb Rhubarb!

Sleep on Virgin Atlantic

While I changed in the bathroom, the Upper Class Team prepared the seat as a lie-flat bed. I decided to watch a movie before getting some shut-eye.

The large enterntainment screen in Upper Class

The excellent service continued with one small glass of Port!

A glass of red wine and a glass of water

Before long it was time to settle back and try to get some sleep.

The view of dawn over South Africa from Virgin Atlantic

I reckon I got about 6 hours sleep on an overall 10.5 hour flight, which I can’t complain about.  I did use a second blow-up pillow that I had brought with me and I think that made all the difference.  As my next 12 flights on this round the world trip were to be in economy, I’d hoped my trusty pillow will help me get a little rest on the road!

Flight Report: Breakfast Service

Virgin Atlantic’s service at breakfast was very good, but somebody had sat on the croissants before serving them! Service was fast and targeted people who had just woken up (rather than waking everyone at the same time with a service trolley). It is a MUCH better product than BA.  Some clients chose not to be woken for breakfast and slept right through.

A rather flat croissant served with TipTree jam on Virgin Atlantic

The breakfast ‘main course’ was a British-style breakfast. It was absolutely fine.

A cooked breakfast served in Upper Class

Before long, the Dreamliner started to approach OR Tambo International in Johannesburg (JNB). A massive adventure to a country I have never been to before.

Johannesburg pictured during landing at OR Tambo International airport on board a Virgin Atlantic plane

The overnight flight does get in early morning, which is great for people who need to get to work. However, for checking into a hotel, it’s way too early for all but the most generous-feeling hotel managers. On arrival, I decided to use the (now defunct) ‘Ses’fikile Lounge at JNB.

Overall, a great service from Virgin Atlantic that made a very long flight feel much easier than I’d expected.

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A pinterest pin showing the interior cabin of a virgin atlantic plane
A pinterest pin showing a Virgin Atlantic plane and the salt and pepper shaker
The seat on board a Virgin Atlantic plane

[Header image: Riik@mctr, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons]


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I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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