I booked this flight as Dublin – London – Los Angeles – London – Dublin as it was much less expensive to fly out of Dublin. The Dublin flights were BA Club Europe. That meant we had to find my own way to and from Dublin – I used BA Avios to book those flights. I’ll write a separate review of the BA flights.
Outbound 5,454 miles 11 hours 30 minutes:
We didn’t need to check in as boarding passes has already been issued in Dublin. Cases were already interlined through to Los Angeles. For those checking in at T3, there is a private security channel.
We used the Virgin Clubhouse in Terminal 3. The clubhouse was busier than I remember, probably because Delta Business and Platinum card holders now have access. Nonetheless, the service was still good, with plenty of staff to bring food and drinks. There was still the shoe shine, massage and hair salon available, although we didn’t use any of those facilities. The pool table was busy.
The Virgin burger is so much better than the BA burger. Champagne was readily available. BA Business lounges don’t offer champagne – only the First lounge. And we should remember that Virgin Upper Class is actually priced as Business Class and not First.
Boarding was quick and we found our seats 9A and 10A – chosen because they don’t face other seats in the same way as D and K seats and because they are far enough away from the bar so not to be disturbed. There was plenty of locker space and also a wardrobe nearby. Pre-flight champagne and orange juice was plentiful.
The Virgin Airbus A340-600 Upper Class seats are in a ‘herringbone’ configuration (see my pic of the cabin below). If you are seated in rows A or K, then your back is to the window. Row A seats face a divider wall. Rows D and K face each other. You can view the seat configuration on seat guru.
I’ve seen complaints that people travelling together aren’t able to see and converse with each other. That isn’t true, I could easily talk to my Son in the next seat. There’s also the opportunity for couples to dine together, with one sitting on the ottoman (see pic below) that becomes a leg rest or part of the flat bed. The dining table is quite large and so dining that way wouldn’t be an issue. There is also the bar, with four bar stools, where you could meet and sit for a few drinks and snacks.
The In-flight Entertainment (IFE) system is built into the left-side of the seat. The good size monitor swings out and is nicely positioned. The monitor isn’t a touchscreen, you need to use the wired handheld control that pops out from the seat. I kept finding myself trying to operate the screen as a touchscreen and the handheld control felt really clunky. I’m surprised that airlines even bother with a built-in IFE, as technology moves too fast and even a new system will be out of date long before the seat is end of life. In fact, on our American airlines flight from Paris to Miami back in March 2014, we were provided with a Samsung Galaxy tab loaded with movies and games – so maybe this will filter through to all airlines.
I’ve included a scan of the food menu below which you’ll need to click on to enlarge – I hope it isn’t too difficult to read as the text is quite light and doesn’t scan well. What I can say is that the food was really good and much better than I’ve had on BA Club World – although I haven’t actually flown Club World this year so maybe it improved. What was also nice was the ability to order hot snacks, including a burger, any time during the flight, including while seated at the bar – but I didn’t try any of those.
The staff were really helpful and friendly. They really made a difference to our flight.
The Upper Class seat doesn’t convert to a flat bed while you sit in the seat. You need to get up, clear any obstacles, like the drinks trays, IFE monitor and table, then press the button. The seat then flips over and becomes a flat bed, incorporating the ottoman seat/footrest. You are also provided with a mattress cover that exactly fits the bed, a pillow and a duvet cover. On the return flight, we were actively offered ‘sleeper suits’ (more on these later) – I would guess you could ask for one of these on a daytime flight. The cabin crew are more than happy to make up the bed for you and also return it back to a seat.
You may think that you would prefer a regular seat that just reclines to flat. But, in my experience, these seats still have slopes and dips and aren’t as good. The best thing for me is the mattress cover, as you are then laying on a clean bed, not some seat that several thousand others have sat in for 10 hours at a time.
Prior to landing, we were offered a delicious English afternoon tea, with scones, jam and cream.
Inbound: 5,454 miles 10 hours 35 minutes
We checked in for our flight and asked if one case could not be ‘interlined’ all the way through to Dublin. The reason for this was because we didn’t need the contents of that case in Dublin and with more than three hours to spare at London Heathrow would have the opportunity to hand this over to some friends who were meeting us at the airport. The check-in desk refused and even made a phone call to someone who also refused. This is worth noting for those who book a cheap flight out of Dublin (or another European city) and don’t intend to take the last leg of the flight – your case will most likely end up at your final destination.
There didn’t appear to be any fast-track security at Los Angeles Airport, but there wasn’t any line and we were soon in the new Virgin Clubhouse.
The LA Clubhouse is much smaller than the London version. There aren’t the extra facilities such as hairdressers, massage and shoe shine. The staff were friendly and we were able to order table service food. One item on the menu was ‘pot stickers’ which we realised were Chinese Jiaozi (which probably means pot sticker) and what I would call Dim Sum. Don’t miss these just because you don’t know what they are.
Boarding was quick and we were again booked into seats 9A and 10A. Food and service were all as good as on the outbound flight, although there were some differences:
- We were given a breakfast menu pre-order form, where we could select breakfast check items for the next morning.
- We were offered ‘sleeper suits’.
- The snack menu wasn’t available.
The sleeper suits consist of a thin long-sleeved top and something like jogging bottoms. I changed into these in the toilets and the flight attendant hung my shirt in the wardrobe. If I were to improve this, I’d like Virgin to provide a changing room; this would free up the toilets for their intended use and would also mean the floor was cleaner when changing with socks on.
I managed to sleep for several hours which really made a difference. The flight attendant converted my bed back to a seat while I was changing out of my sleeper suit.
Breakfast was excellent and a nice end to what was a great experience flying Virgin. I’d definitely choose to fly this product again if the price was right.