A Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 parked at the gate for boarding.

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class aboard A350-1000 is breath of fresh air

Cartoon of passengers, flight attendant and pilots onboard an aircraftA handful of airlines operate morning departures from the US Northeast to London Heathrow. It is on one of these morning departures that your author got the chance to fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class for the very first time.

Since this was an early morning departure I arrived at New York JFK’s T4 only shortly before boarding. Security, especially with Clear and TSA PreCheck, was super smooth.

This morning’s flight was operated by an Airbus A350-1000, the stretch variant of the aircraft. This particular airframe, registered as G-VDOT, actually operated as a testbed for Airbus from 2017 until delivery to Virgin in September 2020, a neat trivia fact for any #AvGeek.

Virgin operates its A350-1000 in two configurations. This version features 335 seats, including 44 seats in Upper Class and 56 in Premium Economy, making it quite a premium-heavy widebody.

Assigned to seat 8D in the center section, I was pleased to see overhead bins and air vents above the seats. Neither are guaranteed in the center section of new aircraft, so I was happy to see Virgin opt for them.

A photo of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A350-1000 cabin. The overhead bins and air vents in the center section are in view

The overall cabin design is quite unique and breaks free from the typical bland designs many airlines select these days. The glossy white finish on many surfaces has held up well so far, but only time will tell if this remains true long-term.

While Virgin calls this seat a “suite” because it has a door, the seat is plenty private without the door, so I didn’t bother extending it.

The Upper Class suite onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000, with a focus on the brown seat surrounded by polished thermoplastics with pink LED lights casting an interesting glow

With five different buttons controlling seat movement — of which three perform different movements depending on if they’re pressed up or down — I never quite got the hang of the mechanics of the seat to get into a perfectly comfy position.

I did like the fact that the seat features IFE media controls for common functions like play and pause, as well as volume control.

A close up image of the seat controls for the Upper Class suite on the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000

The IFE screen, tucked into the side of the forward seat and deployed with the press of a button, was large and high resolution. The custom interface and movie descriptions really fit the Virgin brand well, and I had no problem finding something to watch.

Large IFE screen showing a selection of content onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000

Unfortunately, the system was not unlocked until after takeoff so I could not enjoy the tail camera until we were nearly above the clouds. An option to control the system with my phone led to a 404 error message.

Tail camera view on the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 IFE

Inflight Wi-Fi, operating on the Inmarsat Global Xpress satellite network, was also available shortly after takeoff, with a $3.95 messaging plan, an $8.95 hourly plan, and a $26.95 full-flight plan on offer. Unfortunately, video streaming services were expressly prohibited in the signup flow, which was disappointing given the price points.

The connection was able to support email, messaging, and browsing, but it never felt very zippy. Several tweets with images failed to send after long stall periods when uploading.

A screen grab of the Wi-Fi pricing tiers onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350

Breakfast is a tricky meal for airlines to pull off well, but the full English breakfast was hearty and tasty, served with a cinnamon roll that was a bit too hard on the outside and a side of fresh fruit.

The aircraft is equipped with an espresso machine but it was not operational. The regular coffee, however, was probably the best I’ve had on a flight. I loved that the coffee was served in a proper mug with custom artwork.

with eggs, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, beans, fruit and cinnamon roll served in Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class suite.

A pre-arrival meal was served 90 minutes before landing.

A light meal of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese in Upper Class onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000Virgin’s A350-1000 features a social space called The Loft behind the Upper Class cabin. It’s a nice space to get up and stretch, and it did indeed see some use towards the end of the flight.

Virgin Atlantic loft space with fruit and snacks on offer

The space features a few couch-like seats and tables with snacks and drinks available to enjoy.

The Loft in Upper Class onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000, featuring a large screen piping the tail cam content to viewersThe centerpiece is a large TV that was tuned to the tail cam, but can be changed to show other limited content like artwork or calming videos.


Virgin added Bluetooth capability to the screen so groups can listen to the same content, but none of the available content really featured much audio.

This would be a great amenity if Virgin offered live television on the screen (especially during big sporting events), but as it stands today I can’t see anybody using this feature.

Overall, I was very impressed with how Virgin manages to balance design and branding. Its unique touch was ever-present, including on the bottom of the salt and pepper shaker where “nicked from Virgin Atlantic” was stamped, but it never felt like it went too far.

In a time when so many airlines deploy the same basic seat with oftentimes bland colors and design choices, Virgin Atlantic remains a breath of fresh air — figuratively and indeed literally, given that air vents are provided.

Salt and pepper shakers in Upper Class onboard the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000

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All images credited to the author, Jason Rabinowitz