Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seat Review - Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy

After my BA Premium Economy experience I said that it was appropriate that Premium Economy was linked to the worded economy because the product is s step up from economy but is not a half way point of the Business class Product. Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy is a good looking product from a far but there are too many niggling problems and annoyances that take off the good looking shine and drive

the BOOT to rate Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy as 2.5 stars out of 6 or "Bad Seat". I don’t think Premium Economy is worth the extra money. Here is the detailed review (Details and scoring system for airline seat reviews)

Getting on Board

Score 0.5

Premium Economy does not get me lounge access in Sydney. Which would be a loss for the regular traveller but my top status on QFF gives me access to the Qantas Business Class Lounge even when not on a oneworld carrier. That said, the Air NZ lounge used by VS in Sydney is a handicap, not a bonus for VS, when compared to the great Hong Kong clubhouse and the outstanding Heathrow Clubhouse. The location of VS Premium Economy seats on the plane is an early bonus. It is just to the right of the door facilitating speedy on and off boarding. Drinks are offered but I boarded too late to get one.

The Seat

Score 0

The seat looks really good. Wide, cushioned and draped in purple hues of leather. But there are also some uncomfortable niggles. The legroom in front was blocked by something. Forced by feet into uncomfortable angles unless I sat bolt upright. The headphone plug is at my thigh height and when plugged in jabs the headphone plug connector into my thigh. Constantly jabbed and annoyed me unless I shifted into an odd position. Final niggles was the seat pocket. It is large and loose but is at my knee height. Means putting anything in it blocked by knees – pushing me into the headphone plug. As a result I had to keep everything on the floor – further cramping my leg room.

The Service

Score 0.5

The staff were very polite and pleasant. They were attentive when called upon but not to be found regularly moving up and down the aisle pro-actively looking to help out.

The Food

Score 0

I have to remind myself that I am in premium economy and not Business Class – so that I judge the food appropriately. And that I started the trip with an incredible melted French cheese fondue like experience in the Qantas Business Class lounge. This does not give VS a fair starting point of comparison. The food disappointed. I had a beef stew which required all of the salt and pepper I could find to compensate for the lack of flavour. . The salad was bitter and the desert rubbery. The fresh roles were hot and fluffy but the wine was cask like in acidity. The snack at the end was insufficient and I left the plane hungry for more in terms of quantity and quality..

The Entertainment

Score 0.5

A great selection of movies and TV shows. It is very entertaining to find British TV shows available – a change from the more common US and Asian ones that I am used to on other airlines. But again the niggles hurt the rating. The minor niggle is that it takes too long to start. It makes not sense that VS continues to wait until cruising altitude before turning the system on. Even then it forces the watcher to sit through a welcome video. The video is bizarre as it take 4 or 5 minutes of linear content that cannot be skipped to tell you how exciting it is that the entertainment system is full interactive and on demand. But the major niggle is the screen. It is a fair size for the seat it is too reflective in light. During meal services it was almost mirror like – impossible to watch. I saw more of my face watching Iron Man 2 than Robert Downey Jr. It dark scenes the picture was effectively black.

The BOOT factor

Score 1.0

Business Class is sold as being about the seat. Another fear in moving from Business Class to Premium Economy is the luggage allowances. Key to getting off the plane and on your way home/to the hotel as fast as possible is the ability to take all of your luggage on board. Technically VS Premium economy comes with a one piece limit on board. The check-in staff let me take on three pieces weighing 20kg. I am grateful for that.

Final Score

2.5 – Bad Seat

Details and scoring system for airline seat reviews

thanks to maynard on flickr for the photo


Jennie said...

Hello...I have just chanced upon your report for VA premium class. My travel agent offered me a great fare for travel in May 11 BNE/LHR/BNE which is now confirmed and paid for. Having checked reviews re this airline I now find myself very concerned about what I might expect re seating,FA's and food. I will not be able to use their airport lounge. Have you any further advice?
Thank you...

Tim Hughes said...

@Jennie - I have some general tips about surviving economy class that can
you can find here
. One of the comments on that had a great point about the mental approach. Approach VS premium economy expecting a bad economy seat and you will be surprised at how good it is. If you approach it thinking about business class then you will be disappointed.