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Friday 23 June 2023

Flying Virgin A330-900NEO Across The Transatlantic In Economy Class

 Welcome to my exciting trip on Virgin Atlantic's newest plane! 

G-VJAZ being prepared for my flight to Atlanta


Thanks to the codeshare system, I was able to select Virgin Atlantic's flight VS103/DL5999 when I did my booking changes. Originally I was supposed to fly from London Heathrow to JFK New York (DL2) and then transfer to another flight to Sao Paulo (GRU) (DL227). However, later on, I wanted to stay a day longer in London and I decided to change the date, and since I have to pay for the change of date, I might as well change the flights since it's included in the fees. Checking the options of flights, I got to choose not just the 767-400ER, also both Delta and Virgin Atlantic A330-900NEO (Both flights to ATL). Between both airlines, I rather fly with Virgin and besides Delta's flight with the A339 makes it more challenging for me as the connecting time is about 2 hours transit in ATL so I didn't want to take a risk there. So from flying on the Boeing 767-400ER (twice) on LHR-JFK-GRU, I chose the Virgin Atlantic option for the A330-900NEO to ATL (Atlanta) and then continue on flying the A330-300 (Delta) to Sao Paulo (GRU). In the end I was happy with the changes, even though US$100 was deducted from my credit card. Was it worth it? Definitely. In addition, my last experience at JFK airport wasn't good as the immigration officer made me go for a 2nd interview despite answering all his questions. I was told that the officers at ATL are nicer, so let's give it a try! 


Making the changes on Delta's Airlines mobile app was easy and this was my 2nd change. The 1st change happened to be my inbound flight when was one of the flight's timing was changed from a 6 hours layover at ATL to 1 hour 45 minutes layover which means it would be rush. This is the connecting flight from ATL to JFK. The airline gave me a complimentary change because this is due to their issue, provided the airfare for the replacement flights is either the same or lower. If the airfare of the chosen replacement flight is lower, I would get ecredit which I can used it within a year. I found the perfect itinerary and that was to fly to JFK (from GRU) and change for a flight to BOS where I can meet a friend as I had a 8 hours layover. From there, I would fly to London! In addition, I would gain a new aircraft type and airline, the Republic Airways's ERJ-175. So with the decision made, I hope no more further changes would take place. However, I would miss out on flying the Boeing 757 but it's ok, there is always next time.

When you booked a codeshare flight, you can view your itinerary on the operating carrier and select your seat. As I did my booking with Delta, I was still able to select my seat with the Delta app but it was better to use Virgin's as the selection of the better seats (require payment depending on your status or the class of  booking) was only available on Virgin's app. 

Notice something strange? The aircraft listed (below) is wrong. Virgin Alantic's app showed the correct one. How do you know that the aircraft type listed is not an A330-300? The last row of VS's A330-300 is row 64. 

After making the changes, this was the total cost of my ticket. (below)

A few days before my flight, seat 51H and K were available and I quickly selected the window seat. (Photo: Aerolopa)

A brief history of Virgin Atlantic

This airline was formerly known as British Atlantic Airways, found in 1984 with this name lasting for a short while. Virgin Atlantic Airways was selected as the name of the airline and 39 years later, the airline is flying over 30 destinations, with a fleet of 41 (for now) and growing. The airline has also just joined the Skyteam alliance, thanks to the partnership with Delta Airlines. The U.S airline holds a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic and both airlines if you notice have similar interface on their mobile app and you can find select each other flights on some routes. You must be wondering who holds the remaining 51% share? That would be the Virgin group. 

Currently the airline is operating a fleet of Airbus A330-300 (to be replaced by A330-900NEO), Airbus A330-900NEO, Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. What is unique about the fleet is that each aircraft is named, chosen by the airline's management. What I like about the airline is the positive vibes I get, each time I board the aircraft. I will go into details on the later part of the trip report. 

Virgin Alantic used to operate the Boeing 747 and have retired them in 2015.

This is the old classic livery of the airline's 747-200, photographed by Fabio Galbiati 

This is my photo of the Virgin's Atlantic Boeing 747-400. I was lucky to capture the Lady Penelope livery departing. 

On the day of departure 

I took the district line train to Baron's Court where I changed for the Piccadilly line train to London Heathrow Terminal 2/3 station. 

This is the old but trustworthy train on the Picadilly line. 

Virgin Atlantic is located at Terminal 3 of LHR airport. I received the boarding pass by the automated machine without issue. The difference between now and a year ago is the Covid test is no longer required to enter U.S or stop-over for a connecting international flight so it is more convenient now. The ESTA approval visa (For certain countries only) and the fully vaccination certificate are still required though. 

I got my boarding passes for both LHR-ATL and ATL-GRU so when I reached ATL, I just had to go through immigration and head for the international connection leading to the airside after that. 

Inside me, I was really looking forward to this flight. A new aircraft type for me, the Airbus A330NEO (A330-900). Checking my flight that morning, it was still scheduled to be operated by this aircraft. 

G-VJAZ gets the honour to be my first A330NEO ride. 

Some information about the Airbus A330-900NEO aircraft 

The Airbus A330NEO (New Engine Option) was launched in July 2014 to compete with the Boeing 787. This is needed to prevent the Airbus A330CEO (Current Engine Option) operators to replace their planes with the Boeing 787. What is special about this aircraft? It is powered exclusively by the Roll Royce Trent 7000 engines which offers a 14% better fuel economy seat than the A330CEO version. The design of this plane is based on the original A330 model and enhancements were made to help attract the airlines who are looking for this size of aircraft for fleet renewal or expansion. The Airbus A330-800 (A330-200 replacement) has a range of about 15,100 km and the -900 (A330-300 replacement) has a range of about 13,330 km received its EASA type certificate on September 2018. The A330-800 has few orders, mainly because the operating cost of the aircraft is similar to the -900.

The A330NEO has a larger engine in the Roll Royce 7000, together with the sharklets and an improvement in the wings, allowing it to fly further than the A330-300.

As a passenger point of view, after flying it. The interior of the cabin (depending on the airline) is similar to the A330CEO but one obvious detail about flying this plane is that the noise level is lower and for Virgin's configuration compared to the A330-300, offers a very competitive Economy Class product. The seats are very comfortable and I manage to get past this almost 9 hour flight (without leaving the seat) without issues. 

This is the A330-900 (Photo: Arjun Sarup) 

This is the A330-800 (Photo: Flanker Gao)


Personally I find terminal 3 slightly overcrowded. Good for businesses over there, but not so good for us, travellers. Anyway, passing through security check was a breeze and as U.K has done away with passport check for departure, I reached the airside after 20 minutes, so that's efficent considering there are a good number of flights departing at that time. 

It's great to see things have returned back to normal though. 

Instead of sitting around, I decided to walk around and check out the aircraft at the gates. What I like about this terminal is you are able to photograph aircraft at the parked gates. 

There are some cafes along the way. 

This is where my flight would be departing from. I had a minor scare. My flight was originally located at another gate and I spotted the airline's A330-300 parked there. Fortunately, an announcement of my flight regarding a gate change was made and I spotted G-VJAZ resting. Phew!

It's easy to recognise the A330-900NEO by the raccoon mask around the cockpit. 

Checking the other flights, G-VDOT (A350-1000) was operating on VS3 flight to New York and G-VWOD (B787-9) was operating on VS7 flight to Los Angeles. 

Soon it was time to board! 

Welcome on board the newest kid on the block! 

My ride: G-VJAZ (Photo: Yang Qize)

Airbus A330-941 (1 years old) 
Delivered on October 2022
Configuration: C32 W46 Y184
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce 7000-72 
2018th A330 built 
Built in Toulouse 

Flight route: LHR-ATL 

Miles: 4,210 

Flight time (On average): 9 hours 30 mins 

Date of departure: 25 May 2023
Airline: Virgin Atlantic 
Flight: VS103 
Aircraft type: Airbus A330-900NEO 
Registration: G-VJAZ (Billie Holiday W)
Route: LHR-ATL
Terminal: 3 
Seat: 51K 
Load: 100% in Y Class 
Flight duration: 8 hours 54 minutes
Actual flight time: 8 hours 55 minutes
Departure gate: 16
Arrival gate: F2 
Schedule departure: 1050
Boarding: 0953 
Push back: 1101 
Take off: 1124 
Schedule arrival: 1530
Touch down: 1518
Reach the gate: 1526
Departure runway: 9R
Arrival runway: 8L

Unfortunately, I didn't get to take photos of the business class product. You can check out the review from One Mile At A Time over here

Entering the aircraft, you get to see the Loft which is used by the Upper Class passengers to relax and mingle with other passengers. 

A glimpse of the Upper Class cabin 

Premium Class 

The seats come from Collins Aerospace MiQ platform. Each seat is 18.5" inch wide and has a legroom space of 38' inch, and it comes with footrest which enhance the passenger's comfort. The In-Flight Entertainment system is the same and also comes with the items that the Economy Class passengers would get. (Check out the Economy class part of my trip report)

Seating at this row 22 allows you to have a good view of the wing and engine. 

Avoid row 23 if you prefer the full view of the window. (below) 

The bulkhead row 

Looks quite premium right? As I am a Delta Airlines ticket holder, I wasn't given the option to upgrade to Premium class, but it doesn't matter, I enjoyed myself in the Economy Class. 

Economy Class 

The airline chose the popular Recaro CL3710 Economy Class seat to provide greater comfort for the 184 passengers in this class. In this section, there are 28 Economy Delight and the rest are Economy Classic seats. The Delight option offers 34’ inch legroom space while the Classic option offers 31’ inch. 

This was my seat (51K). Even though the seat is closed to the lavatory, I wasn't disturbed by the noise as I had my headset on me. What I like about this row is I was able to recline and stretched a little, not affecting anyone at all. 

The cabin ambiance in this aircraft is definitely better than the A330CEO. 

This is what each person will get on each seat.A blanket, a pillow and a headset. The headset will be collected back by the cabin crew during the preparation for arrival. 

Notice the seats near the window do not align with the middle row seats at the last row. 

Without the mood light, the cabin looks blend. 

Each passenger gets a reading light and an air vent. 

Legroom space is comfortable for me. 

The headrest is comfortable (below) 

Look at how huge the size of the screen! Amazing. 

My on-board experience  

I was greeted by the cheerful crew as I entered the aircraft. The cabin played some nice classic songs as I made my way to my seat. I was amazed with the interior especially the Economy Class seats. The mood lighting has certainly play a big role in making it more cosy and comfortable for the passengers. I am definitely a big fan of it! The Captain made the announcement about our flight progress and later the cabin crew added on to what he had said. An announcement was also made about photography, it was allowed unless being told otherwise and do not take photos of the crew or passengers whenever is possible. That makes sense right?  I guess there has been a lot of content creators (bloggers or vbloggers) taking photos or videos on board the flights, that's why that was mentioned. The main reason why I don't do vblogging is the invasion of privacy for other passengers and crew. 

Anyway, our flight was delayed due to heavy traffic at that time but I didn't mind at all spending more time on this lovely aircraft. We took off soon enough and I was impressed how quiet it is. It is definitely quieter than the 787. Later on during the flight, my seat mate asked me whether it was my first time flying! I explained to her that I was doing a blog on this flight as it was a brand new plane and all that, so I was taking more photos then I normally do. Thankfully she understood and for the rest of the flight, I did whatever I have to do without being questioned. 

For the meal service, I observed I noticed there was more food items to it compared to my flight last year, that's an improvement. What I really like about this flight is the cabin crew coming around frequently to offer us snacks and drinks. One particular crew was exceptionally excellent as she came about doing her checks and smile a lot with some passengers, having some laughs, making the passengers feel at home.

Even though we departed late, we arrived 4 minutes early at the gate. So overall, this has to be one of my best flights in my years of flying! The 9 hour flight went past very quickly as I managed to catch about 4 movies, enjoyed the snacks and meals and of course watch the world pass by across the transatlantic. I can't ask for more, really. 

The Economy Class Lavatory 

What's provided for each Economy Class passenger? 

A pillow 

A blanket 

The quality of the headset was average but at least it blocked out the cabin noise. 

The safety card of the aircraft 

Disposal Bag 

A guide to help you connect to the Wi-Fi. 

In-flight magazine 

There are 2 sockets in each row. 

In-Flight Entertainment System 

This is the Safran Passenger Innovations' Rave 13.3" touchscreen, one of the latest in the market. The system allows you to pair your own bluetooth headphone to the system and also use your mobile phone as a remote control. I find the interface to be fast and easy to use. 

The safety video featuring the twins cabin crew! 

That looks like a 787-9! 

Thank you for the wonderful flight! 

The In-flight entertainment consists of a good variety of movies, music and tv shows. There is no live tv available on this system though. 

For the A330NEO fleet, the aircraft are equipped with Viasat In-Flight Connectivity service and you get a complimentary 20 minutes of WiFi as long as you watch an advertisment on the home page of the server. 

It was easy to access the webpage. 

I tried to connect again after the 20 minutes, but there was no 2nd advertisment video for me to watch. You got to pay for the pass to enjoy the wifi for another hour or the remaining of the flight. 

I checked the speed of the Wi-Fi, it wasn't too bad. 

The selection of movies. I managed to catch up on some movies I missed out in the cinemas. 

The information of our flight given was adequate. 

You can use the bluetooth to pair up your phone with the system to control it. 

The GPS map 

The system allows you to feature the Picture in Picture option so that you can keep track of your flight and enjoy your movie at the same time. 

The in-flight meals (lunch and light snack)

I had a choice between pasta and chicken. I chose the latter. Food quality wise, I will give it 3/5. It's not the best but still better than my meal I had with this airline last year. 

Last year, I received a meal box which contains main course, bread and pudding so this is an improvement. (below) 

Plastic cultery was provided 

After finishing the meal, another round of beverages was served, I chose black coffee. 

About 80 minutes of the flight left, we were served a snack meal which consists of a sandwich and a scone and we get a drink of our choice, I choose water. 

We were given a packet of sweets at the end of the service. 

We were given a packet of fruit lolly mid-way through the flight. 

Window shot photos (Take off at LHR to arrival at ATL) 

The smaller winglets is Airbus' latest version which helps to further reduce fuel bern and CO2 emissions.

This Delta Airbus A330-900NEO was heading to ATL at a later timing (I could have chosen this flight but that would result in a shorter layover at ATL for my connecting flight). 

Once the engines were started, off we went! 

I have to do a transatlantic flight with British Airways to compare. 

At this point, we were rolling down the runway. 

We lifted off powerfully for the transatlantic crossing.

The weather was fine for most parts, with only some light bumps towards the end of the flight (descending). 

At this point, we started our descend towards Atlanta. 

This would be my 2nd time arriving at this airport. 

The weather was nice at Atalanta.

Once we slowed down, we have a quick taxi to our assigned gate. 

Here we are, the 9 hours flight came to an end. It didn't feel that long. 

After arrival 

Thanks for the ride! G-VJAZ 

At this point, I was hoping the immigration officer would be nicer than my previous encounter (JFK). 

Fortunately for me, the officer was nice and I received my chop after a couple of routine questions. Welcome to Atlanta! 

My flight summary 

My rating: 

Airline's website/mobile app (Delta and Virgin Atlantic) 4/5 
Airport staff at LHR airport: 3.5/5 
In-Flight Service: 4/5 
In-Flight Experience: 4.5/5 
Cleanliness of the cabin: 5/5 
In-Flight Entertainment System: 5/5 
In-Flight Meal: 3/5 
Punctuality: 5/5 
Seat comfort: 5/5 
Cabin interior: 5/5 
Overall rating: 44/50
Percentage: 88% 
Verdict: Fantastic 


Another good flight with Virgin Atlantic and luckily I had been keeping track of the flights and took the chance to change otherwise I could still be searching for my first A330neo ride. I am glad that the meal service has improved, with more items added to it. Quality wise, it is ok. In-flight service was fabulous and the seat comfort was great! There wasn't at any point I had body ache for this 9 hours sector so that tells you something. I prefer this Y class seats than the A350 that I flew last year.

 Both A330-900 and A350-1000 are great aircraft to fly on and not forgetting the A330-300 which features the older products but I can't add this in to compare as I flew on a different class (Premium). This flight was supposed to be the only Virgin Atlantic flight for my trip, however things changed later and I managed to score another A330-900 ride with the same airline on the BOS-LHR route, stay tuned for that trip report. I will explain why then. 

Hope you enjoy this trip report! 

For my Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 trip report in 2022, click here.
For my next trip report of my connecting flight to Sao Paulo, click here
For my Virgin Atlantic A330-900NEO BOS-LHR trip report, click here


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