One look at the upper-class section of a Virgin Atlantic flight and it is easy to understand why the carrier has made it to the Forbes list of best airlines in the business-class category. Apart from the vibrant colour of the cabin, the first thing that grabs your attention is the diagonal placement of the seats and the way they are separated from each other so passengers can have privacy at all times.
Andrew Fyfe, Virgin’s regional manager, Middle East and Indian Ocean, explained why the seats have their distinctive placement. “The configuration means passengers have their own personal space with no ‘step over’ by other travellers. Everyone has access to the aisle,” he said.
Apart from the placement of the seats, upper-class also provides passengers with a leather armchair to relax in, with a footstool and its own storage space to go with it. And when it is time to sleep, the seat flips over into a separate bed with a mattress. At 79.5 inches it is the longest bed in the business class category of any airline.
Fyfe said: “It provides passengers with customised luxury furniture for sitting on and a mattress for sleeping on so they do not have to compromise on the comfort of either. Passengers can recline the seat even for take-off and landing.”
And if the stress and tension of packing and preparing for a journey leave you so tired that you wish someone would give you a massage, then this is the airline for you. An inflight beauty therapist offers neck and scalp massage, zone therapy massage or hot hand treatment on all flights to and from Heathrow.
A special secluded and quiet area in the upper-class cabin called the “snooze zone” is available on all evening flights departing from an airport that has a Clubhouse. So those passengers who can’t wait to get on the flight and catch up with their sleep can enjoy an evening meal before they board the flight and then head straight for the snooze zone.
Here no one will disturb them and as all the other travellers around them will also be the ones who opted for the snooze zone, they can sleep undisturbed by the noise of other passengers eating or talking or listening to music.
Fyfe added: “After takeoff they are offered a drink, then the lights are dimmed so they can enjoy the maximum amount of sleeping time in their Upper-Class Suite.”
But if you are one of those people who can’t sleep aboard a plane and dread long-haul flights, then you can take advantage of the state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system.
A majority of Virgin Atlantic Airways aircraft have the V-port system that offers 300 hours of video on demand, where passengers can watch or listen to what they want and can start, pause or rewind their chosen movie, TV show or CD. Alternatively, there is a choice between 14 to 20 video channels plus nine to 14 audio channels and 10 to 15 games.
And if watching movies or playing video games is not your idea of fun, then you can join other passengers at the private bar – an area separated from the cabin. Food cravings will be met with The Freedom menu, offering a wide selection of light bites, main meals and snacks, which can be ordered at any time during the flight.
But never mind the on-board services, what about the check-in facilities? Do they match the attention to detail that passengers find on the aircraft?
Fyfe said: “The new Upper-Class Wing recently launched at London Heathrow enables business passengers to speed through the terminal quicker than ever before, moving from limo to lounge in under 10 minutes.
“For the first time, passengers can now benefit from a dedicated security channel, for use exclusively by Virgin Atlantic customers. After passing through this unique fast-track, they will emerge in the heart of the terminal building and only a short walk from the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
“Upper Class passengers and Flying Club Gold members making their own way to the airport can check-in at the Upper Class Check-In, in Zone A of the main terminal, before taking a priority lift straight to the dedicated security channel.
“Drive-Thru Check In is also available at London Heathrow, London Gatwick and Johannesburg airport.”
Flying takes on whole new level of luxury in the new setting and will certainly make it difficult to every fly economy class again.