Review: Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Economy Hong Kong to London Heathrow

Introduction: 20,000+ Kilometers In Three Days
Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Economy Hong Kong to London Heathrow
How Is It Like Staying At An Imperial College Dormitory?
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow Airport
Virgin Atlantic 787 Premium Economy London Heathrow to Hong Kong
Qatar Airways 787 Business Class Hong Kong to Doha
Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Lounge Doha Airport
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Doha to Munich
Hotel Bayerischer Hof Lindau
Hotel Kempinski Berchtesgaden
Mandarin Oriental Munich
British Airways Galleries Lounge Munich Airport
Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Munich to Doha
Al Maha Lounge Doha Airport
Qatar Airways 787 Business Class Doha to Hong Kong


As I outlined during the introduction post, the roundtrip between Hong Kong and London in premium economy ended up costing a substantial amount, so I was looking to be wowed on this flight. Unfortunately it certainly could’ve started out better, as I had quite the dilemma during customs at the airport that night. I originally wanted to write a feature post about what you could do during a long layover or delay at Hong Kong Airport, which would require touring around the airport for a bit, but I stuck to the gate after that, as I wasn’t in any position to work anymore.

Hong Kong Airport Terminal

It’s worth noting that some of Hong Kong Airport’s gates are now redesigned and have bigger screens – these are only gates 23 and 24, but I’m interested to see if other gates will get this refit in the near future.

Hong Kong Airport Terminal New Signage

The aircraft operating the route was G-VFAN, which was a bit over a year old. I had flown this exact same plane exactly a year prior (to the day), though unlike last time, I didn’t have a middle seat in economy. 😉 I was curious to see how today’s experience would measure up.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Hong Kong Airport

I was very happy to see a separate queue for premium economy, but the arrows were almost tacky, in my opinion (especially the yellow arrow positioned at the economy sign).

Virgin Atlantic Boarding Hong Kong Airport

At around 11:15 boarding was called starting with Upper Class, though premium economy followed within a minute and I was on my way quickly.

Virgin Atlantic Flight 207
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 35 Dep: 23:55 (00:20)
Destination: London Heathrow (LHR) Gate: 15 Arr: 05:30 (05:10)
Duration: 12 h 35 min (11 h 50 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 25K (Premium Economy Class)

Virgin Atlantic’s 787 premium economy product consists of 35 recliner seats laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration. I’ve been in this cabin before, so my details of the seat’s features will be more extensive in my previous review.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

I was the first person in the cabin, so I was able to grab quite a few cabin photos.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seats 24H and 24K

I assigned myself seat 25K, which was the window seat on the right side at the back row. That’s always my seat preference when choosing seats on a flight. I originally wanted to choose seat 25A for variety on the blog, but I wasn’t able to do so, since it was already taken as I booked the flight rather late.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seats 25H and 25K

Being in the last row I had a good view of economy during boarding, arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration. I’ve been in this cabin, and 787 economy seats can be unpleasantly tight, especially on longhaul flights.

Due to the slanted bulkhead, front row seats have more legroom than regular seats in economy. They’re also not “premium seats”, in that you don’t have to pay to select them, so I would aim for these seats if sitting in economy.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Economy Class

While I was the first of the premium economy group to board, families with young children and unaccompanied minors were allowed to board first, so the cabin was already populated by the time I got there.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Economy Class

Going back to premium economy, the seats are very well padded (much more so than Singapore Airlines premium economy, whch also features a leather seat), and have a decent amount of legroom.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seats

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Legroom

I really liked seat 25K, as it was nestled right in the corner of the cabin. This is the exact same seat that I picked on my flight last year from London to Hong Kong.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seat 25K

The recline goes back 8 inches, which was quite generous, despite it not looking like so in the below picture. The seat pan goes forward slightly, so you’re not completely intruding into the space of the person behind you, though I did still feel slightly cramped when the person in front of me reclined their seat.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seat Recline

The seat features an adjustable footrest, which I found handy during the flight. It had a variety of different positions and I found it more comfortable than a traditional “bike pedal” footrest.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Footrest

The handset monitor was located below the TV. Both had incredible quality and the touchscreen function worked really well.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seatback Panel

Last time I was seated in Virgin Atlantic premium economy my tray table didn’t work, though it did this time. Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy tray table folds nicely in half, and is sturdy, so I had no problems using it throughout the flight.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Tray Table

Below the PTV screen was a USB port and a headphone jack. There was a two-pronged headphone jack next to the seat, in case you wanted to use the headphones provided by Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy USB Port

Virgin Atlantic’s brand consistency continues into the words provided at the seat, with the “handset must be stowed” messages all displayed in lowercase. On other airlines this may seem like an afterthought, but the all-lowercase words seemed to fit in really well.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Instructions

The seat was also well-stocked with amenities that would be of good use during the flight.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Seat Amenities

One great addition was a bottle of Evian water, due to how dry airplane cabins tend to be, even on an airliner as modern as the 787.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Evian Water

Headphones were provided at each seat. They were rather low quality – I have Bose headphones, though I couldn’t bring them with me on this trip, so I used my Plantronics headphones instead throughout the flight.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Headphones

An amenity kit was also provided. I loved the Herschel bag that the amenities were provided in, and continue to own the bag after the flight.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Amenity Kit

The contents were rather basic, though, consisting of socks, a dental kit, earplugs, an eye mask and a pen.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Amenity Kit Contents

A very plush pillow was provided. I have mixed feelings about the fact that the pillow doubled as a neck pillow. On one hand the pillow was actually comfortable to sleep with, though on the other hand I doubt the subtraction of the cavity would make a big difference.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pillow

The blanket was no duvet, but I found it substantial. There was also a cavity provided intended for placing your neck, so from the top it almost looked like a bib of sorts.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Blanket

I appreciated that the plane was equipped with air nozzles, which I used throughout the flight. The cabin wasn’t too warm throughout the flight, which helped with sleeping.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Air Nozzles

Positioned to the right were two windows, both of which were electrochromic, as is the case on all 787s. The upside is that you can look out of the window without disturbing other passengers, though the downside is that the crew sometimes has control over your window, so you might miss out on some good pictures. I didn’t have a problem with that for most of the flight, though.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Window Controls

I went to take a picture of the Wonder Wall, which is Virgin Atlantic’s concept for premium economy passengers to grab drinks and snacks throughout the flight. At this point there were newspapers on display. It’s worth noting that when I asked the flight attendant if I could photograph the wall, she said “it looks very messy…let me clean it up a bit for you first”. She frantically moved around the newspapers on display for a while, and said “I guess it still looks messy, but go ahead”. I really appreciated that.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Newspapers

Back at my seat, pre-departure beverages were given, choices consisting of champagne and orange juice. I decided to go for an orange juice (while I’m at the legal drinking age in some countries, neither Hong Kong or the UK are part of those countries).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pre-Departure Beverage

Soon my seatmate settled in. He was a really nice British guy who was fine with all my photo taking throughout the flight. He was great fun and was curious about my flight documentation, so I’m happy things ended up the way they did.

The safety video played. Virgin Atlantic has one of my favourite safety videos, as it fits swimmingly with Virgin Atlantic’s branding without being too tacky.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Safety Video

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Safety Video

During pushback I briefly browsed the extensive entertainment system. Virgin Atlantic has one of my favourite entertainment systems, as the options are extensive and the interface is incredibly easy to use.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System

I also love the inflight map, as there are dozens of views to choose from. Unfortunately Virgin Atlantic doesn’t activate the other views on the ground, so I was stuck with the flight information board, as well as the full flight map.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System Airshow

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Entertainment System Airshow

Taxiing out of Hong Kong is fun at night, but pictures are less fun, even when the lights are dimmed. Our taxi was short, and we made our way to runway 25L behind a Cathay Pacific 777.

Views Upon Taxi Hong Kong Airport

Our takeoff roll was smooth, and we passed the road near HAECO where I normally like to planespot. While that was good news for anyone planespotting that night, it meant that our takeoff views were limited to the dark ocean.

Views Upon Takeoff Hong Kong Airport

The seatbelt sign stayed on for an unusually long time considering how steady the takeoff was. I’m sure the pilots had a plan in mind, though I was appreciating it a little less when I was groggy and needed the bathroom.

After takeoff I walked back to the economy cabin, which I’d tried the year prior. Economy class consisted of seats in a 3-3-3 configuration – while that’s the industry standard on a 787, it also meant that each seat was only 17 inches wide, which is a tight fit.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Economy Class

Back at my seat, I was presented with a menu.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Menu

The meal service started with drinks. My seatmate and I both had water, which was accompanied with sour cream and onion pretzels. I normally avoid packaged food, but I was feeling peckish at this point.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Drinks and Snacks

This was followed by a hot towel, which was more like a steamed antiseptic.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Hot Towel

This was followed by the main meal, consisting of an appetiser salad, the meal I had ordered, and a dessert, as well as bread and cream crackers.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal

I appreciated that they tried to spruce up the appetiser salad with bell peppers and jade beans, but it’s hard to make vegetables exciting when they are left unseasoned and undressed.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Appetiser – Seasonal Mixed Salad with Red and Yellow Capsicum, Jade Beans and Parsley

For the main meal I ordered the chicken. While the flavours were fine, I wasn’t a fan of the way it was diced up, which made the chicken dry and overcooked. I have no complaints about the sides, though.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Main Meal – Braised Chicken in a Creamy White Sauce with Pumpkin and Potato Mash, Green Beans and Onion

The light and refreshing yuzu mousse for dessert was by far the highlight of the meal.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Dessert – Yuzu Orange Mousse Cake

I wasn’t planning to eat the bread provided, for good reason – it was dense as ever, and didn’t taste great either.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Bread

Overall the food was fine, though nothing special. I was impressed with the way the meal service was executed – around 15 minutes after the main meal was served (and around the time I was done with my meal), the flight attendant working my aisle came to clear my tray. That’s in stark contrast to my flight in Singapore Airlines’ premium economy, where I had to wait an hour on a four-hour flight for my tray to be cleared. In addition to that, the crew was also friendly and willing to help, which I really appreciated.

My seatmate was having issues with his two-pronged headphone jack at the side of the seat. He had brought his own headphones, though neither his own headphones nor the airline-provided headphones worked, so it was evident that that headphone jack was broken. I (correctly) guessed that the headphone jack below the PTV still worked, which the flight attendant failed to point out.

As much as I love the window seat at the last row of the cabin, I might want to consider selecting an aisle seat the next time I find myself in premium economy. 38″ of seat pitch isn’t enough for the person in the window seat to clamber over the aisle seat without disturbing the passenger, and I move around the cabin a whole lot, so…

I eventually found a way to swing myself over my seatmate into the aisle, though that only worked while he was sleeping.

As I needed the bathroom anyway, I briefly checked out the Wonder Wall, located in front of the premium economy cabin. The Wonder Wall is, in my opinion, a smart concept, since hungry passengers can just grab whatever they need. This gives them an opportunity to stretch their legs and hang out while minimizing flight attendant work. The purser was working opposite the Wonder Wall when I asked if I could take a picture, and he also offered to clear it up for me so I would get a better picture.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Inflight

The Wonder Wall features apple, cranberry and orange juice. A handful of snacks is also provided, as is soda water, tonic water and ginger ale.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Drinks

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Snacks

That’s not a huge selection, but I acted as my own mixologist when I found myself with nothing to do. Cranberry ginger ale, anyone?

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Drink

I also had a bag of Corkers’ hand cooked chips, which I found nice (I actually took two bags, as I was tired, to the point where I had a used tissue in one hand and a bag of chips in the other, and accidentally threw out the bag of chips).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Corkers Chips

I asked the purser if I could take a picture of the Upper Class bar, as no one was using it. The purser obliged, and told me to refer to him if anyone asked. The bar featured five seats surrounding a small table, as well as champagne, water, and a selection of drinks, as well as alcohol.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bar

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bar

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bar Contents

It wasn’t my first time seeing the bar, as my tray table was broken during my last flight in Virgin Atlantic premium economy, and I was instructed to eat at the bar instead.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bar

I also took the opportunity to snap a quick picture of the Upper Class cabin, which seemed comfortable, though not worth the hefty prices that Virgin Atlantic usually charges for these seats.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Cabin

The Virgin Atlantic 787 premium economy bathroom setup is rather awkward. There are technically two dedicated bathrooms for premium economy, though the two bathrooms adjacent to it are usually also open to premium economy, though they are also Upper Class’ only bathrooms. So essentially Upper Class and premium economy passengers share four bathrooms between them, even though that’s not supposed to be the way it works.

The premium economy bathroom is equipped like any other 787 economy bathroom.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Bathroom

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Bathroom

The Upper Class bathrooms are substantially bigger, especially on the right side. The bathrooms feature a pull-down seat and Noble Isle amenities.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bathroom

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bathroom

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Bathroom

I managed to get seven hours of sleep, even if it wasn’t the best quality. The sun was out while I woke up four hours in, which was weird, since it was 2 AM beneath us. My guess is that we went pretty far north, where the sun stays up for basically 24 hours a day.

Views Inflight Hong Kong to London Heathrow

I slept for another three hours and found myself over Copenhagen with around 80 minutes left before our descent into London.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Position Upon Waking Up

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Position Upon Waking Up

My seatmate woke up around this time as well, though he didn’t seem to have had great sleep on the flight either (though in fairness, he didn’t have a window to lean against).

Around an hour before landing breakfast was served. Unfortunately we only got to choose between a vegetarian egg dish and a non-vegetarian egg dish, contrary to what was stated on the menu. I believe the non-vegetarian egg dish I chose would be the full English breakfast, which consisted of scrambled eggs, baked beans with cherry tomatoes and sausage. The breakfast was served with a croissant and jam, fruit and yoghurt, along with our choice of coffee or tea – I had tea, which I ordered with a little milk.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast

The English breakfast was nice.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast – Traditional English Breakfast with Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Cumberland Sausage, Tomatoes, Baked Beans

However, I love the mugs Virgin Atlantic’s hot beverages are served in – does anyone know where I can get one of these mugs?

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Milk Tea

The Wonder Wall was cleared after breakfast, in preparation for landing.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Wonder Wall Empty

After breakfast I decided to purchase WiFi for the remainder of the flight. Virgin Atlantic has two different WiFi plans on the 787:

  • 40 MB for 4.99 GBP/5.99 USD
  • 150 MB for 14.99 GBP/19.99 USD

It’s worth noting that the GBP and USD prices aren’t close to equal – always use USD when purchasing a 40 MB WiFi package, and always use GBP when purchasing a 150 MB WiFi package on the Virgin Atlantic 787.

I had a little less than 14 GBP left on my cash card, so I was only eligible for the 40 MB WiFi plan. 40 MB is not a lot of WiFi, and I used it up in a very short amount of time on my phone.

This wasn’t bad news, as I could focus on the sunrise that was happening outside my window.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy View From The Wing

I asked a flight attendant if I could take pictures of Upper Class after landing, and she approved.

Around 45 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA explaining that we’d be beginning our descent into London Heathrow. Around 25 minutes before landing the cabin was prepared for arrival, with the seatbelt sign on, all seatbacks up, all windows locked in their brightest setting, etc.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin Before Landing

The views got even better as the sun rose, only made better by the clouds reflecting the orange hue that the sunrise produced. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, as this sunrise was probably the best I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

We landed into London Heathrow at 5 AM, and started making our way to Terminal 3.

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

Sunrise Landing Into London Heathrow

We taxied past a bunch of interesting aircraft, including a British Airways A380, a Qatar Airways A320 (as British Airways wet leased Qatar Airways planes to help them during their strike) and a HiFly A340.

Taxiing London Heathrow

I was most excited to see the HiFly A340 – what a gorgeous aircraft.

Taxiing London Heathrow

We also taxied past a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER operating as one of their three night flights to London (for those interested, the aircraft was operating as CX 251).

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER London Heathrow

We parked at gate 15 at 5:10 AM, which seems to be part of Virgin Atlantic’s own wing at Terminal 3 (all my flights on Virgin Atlantic have departed from one of those gates at Heathrow).

Taxiing London Heathrow

I asked another flight attendant if I could take pictures of Upper Class after landing – I knew that the queue at immigration would build, but I had nothing better to do anyway, as my transfer to Imperial College was at 8:30 AM. She obliged, and I made my way and started snapping photos.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class

Soon after I was in the cabin an Upper Class flight attendant quickly approached me and (rather rudely) asked what I wanted. I said that I was just here for a few photos – I don’t know if the reaction was a laugh, a snarl, or just a startled “?!” sound, but needless to say I was on my way quickly.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Upper Class Cabin

On the way to immigration I had a view of the gorgeous 787 that had taken me all the way to London.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 London Heathrow Airport

I also had a view of one of American’s 787s.

American Airlines Boeing 787-8 London Heathrow Airport

Immigration took a while, though by 5:30 AM I was out at the arrivals area typing up blog posts. While there were other people coming from Hong Kong, they were all on Cathay Pacific, so we met each other there.

Bottom Line

I had a great flight in Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy. The seat itself is solid – it’s not industry leading, but it’s comfortable, ergonomic, well-wired and good for sleeping. The food was only okay on this flight – it certainly wasn’t memorable. The service, however, was one of the reasons that made this flight great. All the flight attendants were cheery, energetic, and willing to help.

What struck me was how closely Virgin Atlantic sticks to their branding. From the mood lighting, to the boarding music, to the safety video, to the Wonder Wall concept, to the little touches on the seat, I felt the feeling that Virgin Atlantic wanted its passengers to experience. That’s one of the reasons I love Virgin Atlantic’s premium product so much, and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.

That said, I also need to try Cathay Pacific and British Airways’ premium economy products between Hong Kong and London.

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