Tried & Tested
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