TRIED & TESTED
Virgin Atlantic B787-9 economy and premium economy; Rwandair A330-300 business class; the Whitby, New York; Intercontinental Barclay New York
BACKGROUND Virgin Atlantic flies up to five times a day between Heathrow and New York JFK, using the B787-9 Dreamliner on selected flights.
CHECK-IN I arrived at London Heathrow T3 at 0645 for my 0905 departure on flight VS3, proceeding to Zone A. There were 12 economy bag-drop desks open along with numerous self-service check-in kiosks.
BOARDING I went to Gate 22 at about 0815 and joined the economy queue, which took a while to clear. At the airbridge I was given a bottle of water.
THE SEAT The 198 economy class seats are split across two cabins configured 3-3-3 (A-B-C, D-F-G, H-J-K). The front cabin (rows 45 to 52) sits behind premium economy, separated by a bulkhead and curtains, with the second, larger cabin (53 to 68) divided from the front one by washrooms.
I had pre-selected seat 55C (you can choose for free within 24 hours of departure; Flying Club members have longer depending on tier). The Dreamliner’s larger windows, higher ceiling and deeper overhead bins helped to create an airy feel, although the aisles seemed fairly narrow.
The fabric-upholstered Recaro seat is 18.9 inches wide with a six-inch recline and 31 inches of pitch (fine for me, at five-foot-three, although it looked tight for tall passengers). It was comfortable and had an adjustable headrest, a nine-inch touchscreen, a table that folded in half, and a magazine pouch, which I couldn’t fit much into. There was a coat hook, a USB port and in-seat power. The IFE system, called Vera, had a great selection of about 80 movies along with plentiful TV, music, games and a seat-chat function. Wifi cost £4.99 for 40MB of data or £14.99 for 150MB. A blanket, pillow and headphones (not noise-cancelling) were provided.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The front rows in each cabin (bulkhead row 45 and exit row 53) have the most legroom; 45 is better as 53 is by the washrooms so you may be disturbed by people queuing. However, you cannot pre-select row 45 or seats 53D-F-G as these are allocated to those with children or mobility issues. You can pre-select 53A-B-C and 53H-J-K for £50 each way (free for Flying Club gold members), while 47A-B-C and H-J-K offer three more inches of pitch (£40 each way).
THE FLIGHT We pushed back late, at 0945, as a passenger was ill and had to leave the aircraft, and took off at 1005. Drinks and pretzels were served after about half an hour. There were three lunch options – chicken and sun-dried tomato penne, pulled pork and beans, and paneer curry. They had run out of pork by the time they got to me, so I had the pasta, which was moist and flavoursome; my companion said the curry was one of the best dishes he’d had in economy class. It came with a salad, crackers and Boursin cheese, a Gu chocolate ganache, and a choice of drink, including mini bottles of Fachada Malbec and Charles Méras Chardonnay/ Viognier. That was followed by tea or coffee and, later on, mini Fab ice lollies. Shortly before landing, afternoon tea was served (a cheese and tomato chutney sandwich, Tyrrells crisps and a biscuit).
ARRIVAL We landed late at 1210. Immigration and customs took an hour and 20 minutes. Michelle Harbi
The fabricupholstered Recaro seat has 31 inches of pitch and was comfortable with an adjustable headrest