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As you might expect with an iconic founder like Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic is built a bit differently from other airlines. One of the airline's values is to become the "most loved travel company who delivers amazing things."
Virgin Atlantic economy is a perfectly fine way to cross the Atlantic, and the airline's snazzy "Upper Class" business class product is considered one of the best ways to fly to London. But what about the middle ground between the two: Virgin Atlantic premium economy?
Here’s what you need to know about Virgin Atlantic premium economy so you can decide whether it's worth booking for your next international flight.
One of the primary reasons to book premium economy instead of economy is to get a larger seat with more legroom. In this regard, Virgin Atlantic premium economy mostly delivers.
All Virgin Atlantic premium economy seats measure 38 inches of pitch. That's 7 more inches of legroom than what's installed in most long-haul economy seats — including Virgin Atlantic's. And it's 4 more inches of legroom than what you'll find in Virgin Atlantic's extra-legroom Economy Delight seats.
Virgin Atlantic boasts that its premium economy seats are up to 21 inches wide. However, your experience will vary between aircraft types. The airline's premium economy seats measure 21 inches wide on its Airbus A330-300 aircraft. But seats shrink to nearly economy sizes on the airline's Airbus A350 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
All Virgin Atlantic premium economy seats feature universal power and USB outlets, as well as an in-flight entertainment touch screen. Screen sizes vary by aircraft — but this time the pattern is reversed from what you can expect with seats. You'll find the largest, 13.3-inch screens on Airbus A350 aircraft, but only 10.5-inch screens on Airbus A330-300 aircraft.
Virgin Atlantic premium economy seats recline between 7 and 8 inches. Plus, seats offer adjustable headrests and footrests to help you get comfortable while you nap. However, Virgin Atlantic doesn’t offer leg rests in premium economy.
It's worth noting just how big Virgin Atlantic premium economy cabins are. Most airlines install no more than a couple dozen seats in their premium economy cabins. In comparison, Virgin Atlantic premium economy cabins are massive:
Airbus A350: 56 premium economy seats — seven rows with eight seats per row.
Airbus A330: 48 premium economy seats — six full rows with seven seats per row, plus two partial rows.
Boeing 787-9: 35 premium economy seats — five rows with seven seats per row.
This larger capacity has its pluses and minuses. More seats may mean more availability, but they may reduce the feeling of "exclusivity" in the fare class. Plus, massive cabins can have slower service and longer lines for the bathrooms.
» Learn more: What’s the value of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points?
When it comes to onboard food and drink, Virgin Atlantic clearly aims to impress. And that starts while still on the ground. Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers are served a choice of water, orange juice or bubbly as a pre-departure drink.
Once in the air, Virgin Atlantic premium economy flyers enjoy a meal with an appetizer, dessert and choice between three main dishes — including one vegetarian option. Meals are elegantly served on real dishes with metal cutlery. And you can tidy up using the linen napkin.
Before landing, Virgin Atlantic serves premium economy passengers a second meal. It can vary from a classic English tea to a "destination-inspired" light meal.
Sleep through a meal? Virgin Atlantic has you covered. Premium economy passengers can choose from a selection of packaged sweet and savory snacks at the cabin's Wander Wall.
» Learn more: 5 best uses of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points
Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers get more than just extra legroom and better food. Other aspects of the "soft" product are also improved, such as priority service in the airport, an amenity kit and better headphones.
Perks start at your departure airport. Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers get a dedicated Premium check-in and bag drop line. Then, passengers board in Group 2 (out of 9).
Virgin Atlantic checked baggage allowance
Virgin Atlantic Premium flyers can check two bags up to 23 kilograms (50 pounds) each for free. And these checked bags will hopefully arrive quickly thanks to priority baggage delivery.
In comparison, Virgin Economy Light fares don't get a checked bag allowance. Even the extra-legroom Economy Delight fares get only one free checked bag. If you're planning to check two bags, factor the cost into your decision between economy and premium economy. Your first checked bag will run you $75 out of pocket, while the second is $100.
Virgin Atlantic premium economy amenity kit
On most flights, Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers get a "goodie bag" amenity kit. This kit contains the essentials: an eye mask, brush, pen, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Virgin Atlantic advertises that these amenity kits are only for overnight flights. However, premium economy passengers have reported receiving them on daytime flights across the Atlantic.
Other aspects of Virgin Atlantic premium economy
Seat selection: Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers can choose their seat free of charge up to 331 days before departure.
Headphones: Virgin Atlantic advertises that premium economy passengers get "premium" headphones. However, passengers report that these aren't noise-canceling.
In-flight entertainment: Virgin Atlantic boasts over 300 hours of movies and TV shows in premium economy.
No lounge access or priority security: While Virgin Atlantic premium economy passengers get airport perks like priority check-in and priority boarding, they don't get priority security or lounge access.
Virgin Atlantic premium economy offers an elevated way to fly across the Atlantic — and potentially onward to one of the airline's dozens of overseas destinations. Premium economy seats feature lots of extra legroom, a deeper recline, larger in-flight entertainment screens and a footrest.
Plus, you'll get perks like priority check-in, priority boarding and two checked bags. On board, Virgin Atlantic offers high-quality food and drink options, starting with a glass of bubbly before departure and continuing with meals served on real dishes with metal cutlery.
Still, Virgin Atlantic premium economy doesn't check all the boxes. You won't get priority security or lounge access in the airport. Virgin Atlantic premium economy seats might be a tight fit width-wise on some aircraft. And the large premium economy cabins may lead to slow service.
(Top photo courtesy of Virgin Atlantic)
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