There are airlines that fly you from one part of the world to another. And then there is Virgin Atlantic. I consider myself one lucky soul to have journeyed from India via London to New York City on Virgin’s Upper Class.
After an exhausting week of tight deadlines, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to 17 hours of being cramped up in a plane. My already messed up sleep schedule was going to undergo a reversal of time zones. And my mind boggled with stories of how cumbersome entering the US as a single girl on a tourist visa with no fixed itinerary can be. Arriving at Delhi airport, I was on the verge of telling myself that I was over being a travel blogger.
Then she said it, the lady in red at the check-in counter, Ma’am, you’ve been upgraded to upper class! Oh you kind folks at Virgin Atlantic, the shooting star sends you a thousand wishes.
Now, I’ve flown business class before. I know full flat beds and gourmet meals and smiling air stewards. What I didn’t know was the difference in Richard Branson’s approach to flying. This wasn’t going to be just another journey.
Pre-take off champagne
What can make you feel more welcome than a glass of champagne even before the plane hits the skies? There I sat, stretching my feet, sipping the bubbly, scrolling through the movie selection, more relaxed than I had felt in days.
A private bar on board!
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a lounge bar, complete with dim soothing lights, bar stools, and fancy bottles, on board the plane, a few seats away from mine! Who cares if it was only late afternoon – you can’t say no to a cocktail at a bar like that when you’re 17,000 feet in the skies.
An a-la-carte menu for meals
As a frequent flyer, you can hardly blame me for hating pre-packaged airline food, served in unappealing foil boxes with plastic cutlery. Imagine my joy when I received an in-flight a la carte menu I could choose from and make my own meal? Though the vegetarian selection had fewer options, my choice of a grilled veggies salad and cottage cheese curry, aesthetically served, was more than gratifying.
Full flat cushioned beds with mattresses and real blankets
After a hearty meal and a fair few drinks, I was ready to rest my heavy eyes. I was figuring out how to make the seat full flat, when an air hostess offered to “make my bed”. I felt the glee of a little kid as she flipped the seat into a cushioned full flat bed, covered it with a fluffy white mattress, laid a pillow, and tucked me into a cosy white blanket. I was no longer sure if I was on a flight or a fancy hotel.
I woke up to the aroma of freshly brewed peppermint tea, cookies, sandwiches and hot street snacks. High tea was being served, and I could feel London calling.
The Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport
I only had a two hour transit at Heathrow Airport in London, and some frequent flyers on Twitter warned me that I would have no time to check out the famous Virgin Clubhouse (upper class lounge) in the mad rush of changing flights. But, the transit security check went by quickly, and there I was, overawed by the sheer grandeur of not just an airport lounge. Creative seating spaces, a poolside lounge, an observation deck, a swanky bar, a library, pool tables, a spa, a beauty salon, a deli serving delicious bakery products, it had it all. Hell, it even had a rooftop bar! For once in my life, I wished I had a longer transit.
The little things
This flight made me feel like something of a celebrity! But truth be told, it was the little things that made a fancy flight experience perfect:
Afternoon flights: Unlike most international airlines with dreadful early morning flights, Virgin Atlantic flies from Delhi at 1 pm in the afternoon. That means you can spend the flight watching movies, eating, drinking and making merry, rather than trying to catch up on sleep.
Movie munchies: When you’re engrossed in a movie, the cabin crew surprises you with little touches like an ice cream!
Privacy and aisle access: Every seat (cabin) on Upper Class has a privacy screen and aisle access, so you don’t have to get along with a nosy co-passenger or feel guilty about constantly disturbing someone to use the restroom. And if you feel lonely, you have the bar area to socialize.
The cabin crew: The most friendly flight attendants I’ve come across in a long time. I guess they have to be nicer to upper class passengers, but there was something genuine in their interaction that I haven’t come across often while flying.
The night I reached New York (and had no trouble entering the country on my tourist visa, thank you very much), I felt rejuvenated, with only mild traces of jet lag. As though I hadn’t just taken a 17 hour flight across the globe, but experienced another world in the skies.
Note: I was hosted by Virgin Atlantic on my flight from New Delhi to New York. Lucky me!
Have you ever flown Virgin Atlantic? Is it on your wish list?
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Welcome to my blog, The Shooting Star. I’ve been called a storyteller, writer, photographer, digital nomad, “sustainability influencer,” social entrepreneur, solo traveller, vegan, sustainable tourism consultant and environmentalist. But in my heart, I’m just a girl who believes that travel – if done right – has the power to change us and the world we live in.
Oh wow! Virgin Atlantic, huh. That’s sounded and looked like sheer bliss. I don’t take too well to journeying but if this is what the journey look like ,’Heck, Yeah!’ Looking forward to New york posts too 🙂 Spill Spill….
I’m with you. After some recent ear troubles, I haven’t looked forward to flying, but this journey rekindled my love for journeying in the skies!
Can hardly disagree – Virgin is EASILY one of the best airlines to fly with! I hear Qatar is extremely rewarding to frequent fliers too, but the kind of hospitality I’ve received with Virgin, even on economy…is really worth appreciating! It truly is a joy – makes it easier to deal with the pain of spending more than 50% of your overall trip expense on one thing 😉
I’m yet to fly Qatar but have heard great things about them too. For now, I agree VA is the best airline I’ve ever flown!
I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me a bit jealous 😉 But It was more inspiring . Enjoyed this post very much.
I enjoyed writing it as much! Hope you’ll be on that flight soon enough 🙂
Haha..I wish.. Anyway thank you for the wishes 😀
Lucky you Indeed. This feels like the height of luxury 🙂
Jet Airways’ business class is pretty cool too and offered all of the above minus the bar. Question, how were your Twitter followers able to warn you about the lounge at Heathrow? Did you have wifi onboard?
My flight didn’t have wifi on board (or you would’ve definitely seen a mention in the post, the wifi addict that I am). I was tweeting about the flight before I left and hence the warnings! Haven’t tried JA business class yet.
I hope that this post is an omen for me because it won’t be long before I’ll be doing the exact same trip on Virgin but in the opposite direction, flying to India from NYC! I’m praying for an upgrade. And, oh, welcome to New York!
That’s awesome! Hope you have an enjoyable flight 🙂 And thanks for the welcome, I’ve been indulging in the city (oh the food) a fair bit.
That is flying like a boss. Fantastic!
You said it!
Super! I don’t think I enjoyed reading any post as much as I did this one! Virgin Atlantic is definitely on my wish-list. 🙂
I equally enjoyed penning it and reliving that luxurious journey. Hope you get to fly VA soon enough!
how did you get an upgrade? any tips? or is it a sheer luck? I am totally envious and can die burning..hehehe..
This was courtesy the VA folks so I could review the trip on my blog (I know, lucky me). Otherwise I suppose it’s a bit of loyalty and a lot of luck!
fantastic! Shivya, I had written to you an email couple of days back. I sent it to you on your gmail by name Tanvi Shah. Can you please help me with a reply?
I only have good things to say about them for my frequent Delhi – London flights. The crew sure is polite and happy to help, always!
I knew it wasn’t just me! Loved how genuinely friendly they were.
wohooo.. What an experience !
Shivya.. after reading this.. first thing popped in my mind.. what were the expenses.. 😛
can understand if you dnt find it apt to answer this quest.. but I will b glad if you do..
So may be Virgin Airlines may be my choice next time 🙂
The flight fares vary with your destination, time of booking, and when you fly. You should be able to get a good deal if you book well in advance and in off peak period. Maybe like VA’s FB page, as well as travel aggregators like Goibibo to stay posted on deals.
My own trip was covered by VA so I could review it for my readers; lucky me!
Wow! This looks like a grand experience 🙂
It sure was; far surpassed all my expectations!
Never thought I’d say this but that Airline Food looks inviting!Nice post.
Haha, me neither. And it tasted better than it looked!
Lucky you! I have heard only good things about Upper Class, particularly the lounges. Will have to splurge on it sometime
Worth splurging if you afford to! I only got a quick glimpse of the lounge at Heathrow; hoping I have a longer stopover on the way back to savour everything it has to offer!
I suppose you make your own luck 🙂
This looks spectacular. Should travel to Europe just to fly Virgin Atlantic I guess!
Haha, Europe with a VA flight would be quite the combination!
Ooh, this sounds so much fun! Virgin is my favourite airline anyway, but you’ve just sold upper class to me! 😉
Mission accomplished! 😀
I am just too excited with good vegetarian meals you had and obviuosly the cocktails. I always face trouble with the vegetarian meal wherever I have been
Hi Shivya,Envious to say the least…but really happy for you! I once showed up for an Emirates flight to London just on time. Since the cattle class had filled up by then they offered me a free upgrade. It was royal but nothing like your experience ! 🙂
Lucky u…I so wish I get the upgrades…btw who was clicking the pictures when u were in the frame
Did you contacted VA about the upgrade? How did they knew that you are travel blogger and gave you an upgrade? I am curious to know how this work?
Thanks for the reply.
Truth be told, I am sitting in office (spent the whole day on your blog) and feeling like having a drink… of course after seeing all the ‘peene ke photos’ dekh ke!!!
what is the purpose of travel that you had achieved and how did you manage it?
Richard’s magic at its best. May you get more such upgrades
How did you get the free upgrade ? I just wana know that. It never happens with me.