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

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
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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


Virgin Atlantic Flight 206
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Origin: London Heathrow (LHR) Gate: 16 Dep: 21:55 (22:20)
Destination: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 27 Arr: 17:05 (17:10)
Duration: 12 h 10 min (11 h 50 min)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Seat: 24K (Premium Economy Class)

Soon I found myself back in Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy cabin. I’ve reviewed the cabin extensively on my flights from London to Hong Kong last year and from Hong Kong to London on the outbound this year, so I won’t do so again.

First impressions – it was my first time seeing Virgin Atlantic’s cabins in the absence of mood lighting, and I was surprised to see how much more sterile the cabin seemed. Virgin Atlantic relies heavily on their mood lighting to add spice to their cabins, to the point where in its absence the cabins almost lack personality.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

That doesn’t stop the seats from being incredibly comfortable, however. The only window seat left when I booked was 24K, which I assigned myself for the flight.

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

Even without mood lighting, the cabin looks sleek from the back – and despite only being slightly younger than our outbound aircraft, this plane was left in much better condition.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

Unfortunately I drew the short straw in terms of where to sit, as the sunset on the left side of the plane was stunning. Mohini was seated on the left side of the plane, so she took a couple of stunning photos for me.

Sunset London Heathrow Airport

Legroom was decent, with an adjustable footrest for extra comfort.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Legroom

Amenities included a pillow, a basic amenity kit, and headphones. The pillow was plush, and I love the amenity kit pouches – however, it’s worth noting that there were no amenity kits at my seat or at the two seats behind me. My seatmate was kind enough to give me his amenity kit, and they were subsequently given economy class amenity kits, which seems rather sad to me (I believe the two amenity kits carry the same items, but the premium economy Herschel amenity kit is obviously much nicer).

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pillow

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Amenity Kit

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Headphones

Asides from the amenity kit fiasco, we were offered pre-departure drinks, between water, champagne and orange juice. I chose an orange juice.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Orange Juice

Before takeoff, the pilot came over the radio, explaining our flight path over the Netherlands, into Scandinavia, Russia, Inner Mongolia, China and eventually Hong Kong. He then announced a ten-minute hold delay.

I stared out the window, though the beautiful sunset was on the other side, so there was nothing to see on this end.

London Heathrow Airport Traffic

I had originally wanted to sit at the bulkhead to see how the footrest cushions worked, but I got a peek of them from my seat. They seemed rather comfortable, if not slightly bulky. I don’t know how heavy they were, however – if they were really light, they’d be more of a nuisance than anything else.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Bulkhead Footrest

Soon the mood lighting flickered on, and I was back to the premium economy cabin I knew – what a difference!

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Cabin

I was able to spot some interesting traffic, including a stunning Air Canada 787.

Air Canada Boeing 787-9 London Heathrow Airport

We taxied over to the runway, and were first in line at 10:35 PM, where we had nice views over London as we began our climbout.

Takeoff London Heathrow Airport

At this point I was tired, and was drifting off. I decided to pull out the tray table for dinner (I wasn’t planning to do any work on this flight, as I was dead tired). I appreciate that Virgin Atlantic’s tray tables are sturdy as ever.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Table

I spotted a menu from the seat pocket in front, which read as follows:

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Menu

Around 25 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants came around with the pre-meal service beverage carts, where I simply selected a glass of iced water.

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

25 minutes after that we were provided with a hot towel – despite being flimsy, I find that a nice touch on Virgin Atlantic flights.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Hot Towel

Around 15 minutes later we were provided with our meal, which was served on one tray.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal

The appetiser was described as a summer salad, consisting of lettuce, cucumber, strawberries and mint leaves. While I appreciate that Virgin Atlantic tries to spruce up their salads, the salad was bland and boring.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Appetiser – Summer Salad

For the main meal I decided to choose the gnocchi, as I wasn’t really up for any more food (I’d had a filling meal at the Clubhouse by now). While the gnocchi itself was fine (a bit on the chewy side, but that’s okay), the sauce itself was so unbearably strong that I only managed a few bites.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Main Course – Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi

The dessert was a chocolate brownie. While it wasn’t served with cream as the menu detailed, I have no complaints otherwise.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Meal Dessert – Chocolate Brownie

In addition to what was served, we were also given a snack – sourdough crispbread. Unfortunately I lost the packet after I went to sleep, so I never actually tasted it.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Snack

Overall, the meal itself was nothing special – the main meal was sub-par, and the salad and dessert were on par with what I’d expect in premium economy. The service was also fine – while they were much less polished than on the two prior flights I’ve had in Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy, they were friendly and seemed happy to be there, which I appreciate.

Prior to sleeping I used the lavatory, which was standard for a 787. Again, it’s worth noting that the two business class lavatories adjacent to these are also open to premium economy, and they’re marginally bigger and feature better amenities.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Lavatory

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Lavatory

I went back to my seat, and slept for a solid eight hours. I was dead tired by that point, though the seat’s great padding and adequate width definitely factored into the uninterrupted sleep I had.

I woke up in time for breakfast 90 minutes before landing, which was also served on a tray.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast

First we were offered fresh fruit, which was great as far as fresh fruit goes – the fruit tasted fresh, though there’s not that much more I can say about it.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast Fresh Fruit

The main meal itself was fine. I picked the chicken and mushroom congee, which I enjoyed, though in fairness I was hungry at that point. The congee was a touch on the salty side, though I’d rather have a slightly salty congee than an overly bland one.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast Chicken and Mushroom Congee

We were also given a bottle of orange juice to go, as well as packaged yoghurt.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Breakfast Orange Juice

After breakfast I decided to buy myself WiFi with the remaining money I had on my cash card. As a refresher, this is the cost of WiFi on Virgin Atlantic’s 787s:

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

Of course I prefer WiFi charged by time or full-flight WiFi for a fixed price due to my extensive WiFi usage, though the 150 MB package lasted me the entire flight, so I’m not complaining (I still managed to burn around 120-130 MB for 45 minutes of nonstop usage, so don’t expect it to last you too long).

Around 45 minutes before landing the captain explained that weather in Hong Kong would be hot but slightly cloudy, and that we’d be beginning our descent in 20 minutes. In the meantime, we were passed out candy, which I remember having on my London to Hong Kong flight in premium economy last year, but not on the outbound.

Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Pre-Landing Sweets

We were treated to great views during our descent into Hong Kong, including a clear view of the runway of another airport (which I couldn’t identify, as WiFi had cut off by this point).

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Our plane flew over the area where I normally planespot, where I spotted a Cathay Dragon A330 about to take off, as well as an Ethiopian 787 lined up.

Descent Into Hong Kong Airport

Landing Hong Kong Airport

We touched down into Hong Kong Airport at around 5 PM, where we had a slow taxi to gate 27, which is quite a haul from the runway.

Landing Hong Kong Airport

Landing Hong Kong Airport

While it doesn’t hurt to be parked at a gate a minute and a half from the runway, our 10-minute taxi gave me great views of surrounding traffic. I spotted both the South African and Lufthansa A340s, which are the last A340s flying into Hong Kong on a regular basis.

South African Airbus A340-600 Hong Kong Airport

Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 Hong Kong Airport

I also spotted a Cathay Pacific A350 at what I believe was a remote stand – ouch!

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport

We ended up parking next to a Dragonair A330.

Dragonair Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

I bid farewell to the crew, and was on my way quickly, but not before spotting an EVA Air A321 in its beautiful gudetama livery. I believe that this plane just looks cool from the outside, and isn’t actually themed like the Hello Kitty aircraft that the airline owns.

EVA Air Special Livery Airbus A321 Hong Kong Airport

Bottom Line

I found this flight to be slightly less polished in terms of the soft product, from the service (including the amenity kit fiasco) to the subpar food. However, with a great seat and functional WiFi, Virgin Atlantic continues to be one of my favourite ways to travel between Hong Kong and London in premium economy. There are rumours that Virgin Atlantic might pull out of Hong Kong, which I’m hoping doesn’t happen when I start frequenting the route in the future.

At the moment I’m still seeking out opportunities to try out their biggest competition – Cathay Pacific and British Airways’ premium economy products.

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