Is Virgin Atlantic premium economy worth it on the A330-900neo?
One of the world’s first airlines to introduce premium economy as a class of service some 30 years ago, Virgin Atlantic offers its “Premium” cabin and seats between economy and Upper Class (business class) on all its aircraft. The mix of Airbus A330s and A350s and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners currently operates between the airline’s main base at London's Heathrow Airport (LHR) and 34 destinations across five continents, including 12 destinations in the United States.
After flying Virgin’s best-ever business-class seat, named the Retreat Suite, from London to Tampa International Airport (TPA), for the return journey I flew in premium economy on Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A330-900neo to see if it was worth the price.
Here’s what the experience was like.
How to book premium economy on Virgin Atlantic
Round-trip cash fares in Virgin Atlantic premium economy are usually twice the cost of regular economy. Upper Class (Virgin Atlantic’s business class) is usually around three times the price of premium economy.
As a relatively new route launched late in 2022, award availability was plentiful between Tampa and London in all three cabins. It made sense to use Virgin points to book a one-way flight for 22,500 Virgin points plus $426 in taxes and fees, as the cash prices for one-ways can often be more than the cost of a round-trip ticket to London.
Here are the ranges of airfare and award redemptions in all three cabins on this route over the next year.
|Round-trip prices||Economy||Premium economy||Business class|
|Virgin points + taxes/fees||25,000 (standard)/45,000 (peak) + $493.||45,000 (standard)/65,000 (peak) + $768.||95,000 (standard)/115,000 (peak) + $1,622.|
Virgin points are easy to earn and redeem. With the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®, you can earn 30,000 bonus Virgin points after spending $1,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
The information for the Virgin Atlantic Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
You can also transfer American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Rewards points and Capital One miles to Virgin Atlantic's Flying Club program at a 1:1 ratio.
Checking in to premium economy on Virgin Atlantic
A premium economy ticket on Virgin Atlantic (whether booked with cash, Virgin points or partner miles like Delta SkyMiles or Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles) includes free seat selection and two checked bags of 50 pounds in weight each.
Passengers can also use a dedicated priority check-in line along with Flying Club Silver, SkyTeam Elite and Economy Delight passengers. However, there were no lines for any cabin at Tampa Airport two hours before my flight, and a friendly agent quickly assisted me.
Premium economy passengers did not receive priority security or lounge access on my flight. A dedicated priority boarding lane was set up for groups 1-4, with premium economy passengers invited to board in Group 2.
How comfortable was premium economy on Virgin Atlantic?
|Seat pitch||31-34 inches.||38 inches.||79 inches.|
|Seat recline||5 inches.||7 inches.||Fully flat.|
|Seat width||17.9 inches.||18.5 inches.||22 inches.|
|Screen size||13.3 inches.||13.3 inches.||17.3 inches.|
Located directly behind the Upper Class cabin’s social space, which is called The Loft and is located inside the aircraft's second set of doors, the Premium cabin on Virgin’s A330-900neo contains 46 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration, with seven rows along each side of the aircraft and six running down the middle.
While the additional 4 to 7 inches of legroom compared with regular economy seats is noticeably more spacious, the premium economy seats are less than an inch wider than them and still feel narrow.
The seatback could be manually reclined up to 5 inches, and the legrest popped out, each with the touch of a button in the center armrest.
Rather than a footrest folding out from the bottom of the legrest, there was a footrest that folded down from the seat in front. This was slightly more comfortable than an economy seat, which doesn’t have a legrest or footrest, but I was still sitting upright, even in the maximum reclined position.
There was a universal charging point for each seat in the back of the seat in front, and a USB port under the inflight entertainment screen.
Although shared between two seats, I loved the simplicity and modern tech solution of the wireless cellphone charging surface on the center armrest, which required neither plugs nor the need to remove phone cases or PopSockets.
A bi-fold tray table slid out of the aisle armrest. It rested on the center console, making it stable for eating a meal or using a laptop.
Amenities in Virgin Atlantic premium economy
Awaiting me on my seat were a thin pillow and blanket and lightweight over-ear headphones.
While slightly larger and better quality than the same amenities in economy, they were a long way from the plush and high-end goodies Upper Class passengers enjoyed.
The basic amenity kit contained a bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste, eyemask, pen and earplugs in a crumpled recycled pouch.
The large and crisp 13.3-inch inflight entertainment screen with Virgin’s Vera system was loaded with hundreds of movies, TV shows and music options, including “Don’t Worry Darling,” “Elvis” and “A Man Called Otto.” The screens in premium economy are the same size as those in regular economy, so the upsell doesn’t get you much in that respect. Passengers could link their personal wireless headphones to the system via Bluetooth connectivity for superior sound quality versus the airline-provided set.
The premium economy cabin shared four lavatories behind it with the regular economy cabin, and they were kept clean throughout the flight. However, I noticed premium economy passengers regularly sneaked into the line-free lavatories in the Upper Class cabin without the crew seeming to mind. Interestingly, despite this being such a new plane, neither the faucet nor toilet flush were no-touch, which seems to be a big oversight in this era.
How was the food in Virgin Atlantic premium economy?
During boarding, flight attendants offered a choice of prosecco, orange juice or water, served in real glassware, to premium economy passengers.
Shortly after takeoff, flight attendants returned to hand out printed menus and drinks service began. One white and one red wine were offered, with a 187-milliliter bottle of Moet and Chandon Champagne available for those wishing to pay $15 extra. The packet of pretzel thins served with the drinks was a tasty touch, but being handed Nice wine in a can (as if I were at a music festival) did not feel premium. It would have felt more upscale if it had been poured from a full-size bottle at my seat.
Dinner was served an hour after takeoff, starting with a Caprese salad appetizer with bread and butter and then a choice of three entrees and one dessert:
- Herb-roasted chicken breast.
- Roasted cod in panko citrus crust.
- Breadcrumbed courgette vegetarian balls.
- Blueberry swirl cheesecake for dessert.
The meal was served on a single tray with the individual covers still attached to the plates, which did not make an attractive first impression.
Once I removed the covers and foil, there was a nicely presented meal on real china, with metal cutlery, a cloth napkin, cute airplane salt and pepper shakers and glassware.
The Caprese salad tasted fresh and light. I enjoyed the chicken breast entree, with a red wine sauce to stop the meat from drying out, and the lighter balance of broccolini, pumpkin and barley risotto to accompany it. Dinner was concluded about two hours after departure so passengers could rest.
Snacks, including potato chips, chocolate bars and soft drinks, were available between meal services in the back of the economy cabin, though sleep was a bigger priority for most passengers.
Ninety minutes before landing, flight attendants began serving breakfast. Passengers were given fresh fruit and Chobani yogurt with their choice of juice, tea or coffee. The entree options were a choice between:
- A ham, cheese and chive omelet.
- Warmed waffle with berry compote.
I enjoyed the tartness of the compote, which cut through the sweetness of the waffle.
The cabin crew assigned to the premium economy cabin was upbeat, courteous and efficient throughout the meal services and the rest of the flight to ensure passengers could maximize rest.
Was Virgin Atlantic premium economy worth it?
If you cannot sleep sitting up on an overnight flight from the United States to London, it is unlikely you will enjoy a good night's sleep in Virgin’s Premium seats. Although they were slightly wider and have more legroom and recline than regular economy seats, it made little difference when I landed in London — I still felt exhausted, disheveled and disoriented. It reminded me how valuable a lie-flat bed in business class is for overnight flights.
There are some nice perks to flying Virgin Atlantic Premium, like a dedicated set of crew members, nicely presented food and a predeparture drink. However, Virgin’s decision to install seven seats across in Premium (just one fewer than the fairly roomy eight across in economy on the A330-900neo) meant the seats did not feel much more spacious or comfortable than regular economy seats.
Redeeming only 10,000 additional Virgin points each way versus economy, however, feels worthwhile. But in terms of paid fares, which tend to be double for premium economy versus economy on Virgin Atlantic, it did not feel worth the upcharge. It certainly wasn’t twice as good as Virgin’s already enjoyable economy service.