Tried & Tested

Business Traveler (USA) - - BUSINESS TRAVELER -

The Lon­don Edi­tion Vir­gin At­lantic NewYork JFK – Lon­don LHR 787-900 Pre­mium Econ­omy

CHECK-IN Vir­gin puts the sexy back in fly­ing, and they don’t re­serve that just for the Up­per Class cabin. The new Dream­liner show­cases it well on flights from Bos­ton, NewYork JFK, Ne­wark, and Wash­ing­ton Dulles. Boe­ing’s 787 uses new tech­nolo­gies such as light­weight car­bon fiber, which dras­ti­cally re­duces the air­craft’s weight, elec­tronic rather than hy­draulic brakes and ma­te­ri­als that are re­cy­clable at the end of the air­craft’s life.Vir­gin At­lantic has put their sig­na­ture touches on all cab­ins of the flight (such as a full bot­tle of wa­ter for ev­ery­one on board no mat­ter their seat num­ber).

Busi­ness Trav­eler sam­pled the Dream­liner Pre­mium Econ­omy ex­pe­ri­ence on the in­au­gu­ral JFK to Heathrow flight aboard“Dream Jean­nie.” The check-in ex­pe­ri­ence for pas­sen­gers was dec­o­rated with the ap­pro­pri­ate re­galia for the in­au­gu­ral Dream­liner flight for the air­port, but like many trav­el­ers con­nect­ing to Vir­gin from part­ner Delta flights, I wasn’t re­quired to re-clear se­cu­rity once at JFK. The 35 Pre­mium Econ­omy pas­sen­gers get to use ex­pe­dited check-in and se­cu­rity lanes, and while Pre­mium Econ­omy doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally in­clude the lounge, you can pay ex­tra for ac­cess. The pri­or­ity line for fast board­ing is a nice perk – you get to sam­ple some cham­pagne while oth­ers board.

THE SEAT The ad­di­tional leg room (38 inch pitch com­pared to 31 inches in econ­omy), larger screen and up­graded ameni­ties are worth it for most busi­ness trav­el­ers. Seat­ing is ar­ranged 2-3-2 and comes with good­ies like an amenity kit, power out­lets and USB ports, en­trées sim­i­lar to those in busi­ness class served on china, and the fastest de­plan­ing of any Vir­gin At­lantic air­craft given the cabin’s for­ward-most po­si­tion. The larger win­dows for all pas­sen­gers make the space seem brighter and more open. For those in aisle seats, this also makes look­ing out the win­dow eas­ier; and with dim­mer switches in­stead of win­dow shades, the views are never-end­ing with­out dis­turb­ing oth­ers. Opt for the bulk­head row 21, which has an ex­cep­tional amount of leg room.

THE FLIGHT Take off was smooth and quiet; the 787900 has a noise foot­print 60 per­cent smaller than other air­craft of sim­i­lar size. An aper­i­tif ser­vice im­me­di­ately dif­fer­en­ti­ates the ex­pe­ri­ence from econ­omy, but the friendly cabin staff qui­etly pulls closed a cur­tain be­tween econ­omy and pre­mium econ­omy sig­nal­ing the be­gin­ning of a unique in­flight ex­pe­ri­ence. Pre­mium Econ­omy pas­sen­gers can use the lava­to­ries be­tween Up­per Class and Pre­mium Econ­omy and also sam­ple snacks and drinks through­out the flight from the Won­der Wall – ev­ery­thing from fresh fruit and veggies to potato chips and cakes. A small fridge keeps things fresh. The hot meal soon ar­rived with three choices: the Bri­tish braised beef de­serves praise for be­ing so ten­der and tasty at such a high altitude. Dur­ing the meal, most pas­sen­gers were glued to the 11-inch Pana­sonic widescreen en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem loaded with full se­ries of tele­vi­sion pro­grams (50 hours’worth) and 60 cur­rent movies. Other op­tions in­cluded lis­ten­ing to over 200 mu­sic al­bums, play­ing video games, chat­ting with other pas­sen­gers via the touch screen, or book­mark­ing movies to watch later in flight. Fol­low­ing the main meal, cor­dials were passed around be­fore lights were dimmed for some shut-eye on this brief six hour flight.

AR­RIVAL The hot break­fast be­fore touch­down was a nice touch com­pared to the cold of­fer­ing from many com­peti­tors. On­board WiFi in all cab­ins makes the flight time speed by.

VER­DICT The pre­mium econ­omy prod­uct is dis­tinc­tive and dif­fer­ent enough to lure leisure fliers look­ing for a touch of luxury and price-con­scious busi­ness trav­el­ers who can­not ex­pense Up­per Class. Ku­dos to both the Dream­liner and the sig­na­ture Vir­gin At­lantic ex­pe­ri­ence. BT

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