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Thursday 16 June 2022

Flying My First Trans-Atlantic flight with Virgin Atlantic

 Welcome to my first trip report with Virgin Atlantic! 

Photo by Aaron Hilsz-Lothian (Sam Chui's webpage)


When I was making the decision on which airline that would help me complete my first ever transatlantic flight, I had some factors to consider. Flight timing, aircraft types and preferably airlines I haven't flown before. Virgin Atlantic was immediately in my mind as I always wanted to fly with her. Furthermore, I had the chance to fly on the airline's new A350-1000 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. I decided to book early as the airfare with this airline at that time was considered cheap. As my last few days in the U.S were packed, I decided to pamper myself by upgrading the booking class on the return leg to Premium class. My original plan was to fly on the airline's A350-1000 and Boeing 787-9. 

Fast forward to 2022. The airline changed both inbound and outbound aircraft types to A330-300. I was natually disappointed but I managed to change one of their flights back to A350-1000. The other flight unfortunately I couldn't change as at that time the price difference between then and before was massive. It was about $300 difference and I can't justify it. Fortunately, I didn't make the change as the flight I wanted to book on, was changed from A350-1000 to the A330-300. At least there were no more further changes, I can look forward to my flights. As for the Boeing 787-9, I would have to try again next time. Perhaps LHR to SFO/LAX? We should see. 

About Virgin Atlantic 

The airline's mobile app 

Original booking 

Originally my flight to New York was on VS153, later on it was cancelled and I was placed on an A330-300 flight which I changed it for a fee to the VS9 A350 flight. 

Browsing through the mobile app was easy, it was straightforward and user-friendly.

Once everything was set, I made the booking. I paid more for the premium class, but it was worth it. 

The airline encourages you to book the classic instead, which I think its better especially if you are flying in a group.

Sadly, my 787 flight was changed to A330-300 as later on I found out that the 787 operated on other routes. 

My updated flights

Both flights end up fully packed and that's how popular it was during 2022's summer time. 

Before departure 

At that time, passengers flying to the U.S are required to take the Covid test. I have actually booked the test at a test centre in Heathrow Airport, however it didn't work out as the date I booked was more than 24 hours before departure. I booked on that date because the result I get would be be within the timeframe, however, it was my mistake as I need to do the test within the 24 hours window. Thanks to my sister, I did a home test instead, supervised by a specialist and the video call took only 5 minutes and this set up below took around 15 minutes. The best part of doing this is - cheaper price and it took not long (less than an hour for me) to obtain the result. As for now, U.S has finally removed this requirement and that is great news for all. However there are other countries still require to take the Covid test before flying off, I would recommend this company (Project Screen) if you are based in the U.K. 

Once I received the result, I had to settle the vaccination record. However, the Flyready refuses to acknowledge my record, therefore I have to join a long queue at the airport just to get it settled. At that time, I was a bit worried but fortunately, checking in at the airport was a quick process as I didn't take long to do so as I had no check-in baggage. 

I could check in with the mobile app the day before, just that for the rest of the documents, I need to show them to the agent. 

Terminal 3 of London Heathrow 

I was very exciting to be flying on this airline! 

I checked with the staff where to head to as there are a number of entrances to the security check and I was told to head over to the escalator near row G. 

Check in was a breeze for me as I had no check-in baggage. The staff checked my vaccination status, passport, ESTA visa and the covid test and once he was satisfied with it, I was given my boarding pass and I made my way to the air side. 

These are the airlines that are currently flying out of Terminal 3.

When I received the boarding pass, I was over the moon. Completing the paperwork to fly to the U.S has certainly gotten me worried as if I fail to make this flight, my U.S domestic flights would be affected. 

I did a check on which aircraft I would be flying on and G-VEVE, at that time, was the 2nd newest A350-1000 in the fleet. 

The queue to pass through security was horrendous! I took me about an hour to get into the air side. It was a good thing that I went early. 

Terminal 3 Airside 

Once I was there, I had about an hour to kill so i decided to explore a bit before departure. 

That's how heavy the traffic was at that point of time and mind you this was just one terminal. 

This is what will greet you at the entrance of the air side. You will pass by the shops first hoping you do some business with them before departure. 

Gate 19 was where my plane would be departing from. 

Until next time, Virgin's Boeing 787-9! Hope to fly on you soon. 

My ride: G-VEVE 

Better photo of this beauty (Photo by Gareth Harvey)

About this aircraft 

Virgin's A350-1000 (Leased from ALC)
Name of aircraft: Fearless Lady
Delivered in December 2021
Configuration: C16 W56 Y325
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce Trent XWB-97
492nd A350 
Built in Toulouse 

My flight route: LHR-JFK 

Miles: 3,451 

Date of departure: 31st May 2022
Airline: Virgin Atlantic 
Route: London Heathrow - New York (JFK)
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-1000
Registration: G-VEVE 
Departure terminal: 3 
Departure gate: 19
Seat: 75A (Economy)
Scheduled departure: 1440
Boarding: 1356
Pushed back: 1453
Take off: 1529 
Duration: 6 hours 40 mins
Scheduled arrival: 1730
Actual arrival: 1711
Load in Y class: 100% full 
Total number of passengers on board: 335
Departure runway: 27L (LHR)
Arrival runway: 31R (JFK)

It's time to board!

Sorry, I don't have photos of the Upper Class and Premium cabin, so you can refer to these websites for more information of the following products. 

Upper Class



The aircraft is configured in a 3-3-3 comfortable Economy Class cabin. There are 2 types of Economy Class, Economy Classic/Light (same type of seats) and Economy Delight (Seats with better legroom space - 34' inch via 31' inch). My seat was the standard, could have paid 78 pounds for the upgrade, but I decided to save the cash.

The presentation of the seat looks nice.

The bulkhead row offers more legroom space and that of course, you have to pay more for it. 

This was my seat below. The alignment of the window to the seat is not ideale but the positive thing about this seat is I was able to rest my head against the wall. 

The mood lighting certain enhances the atmosphere on board this aircraft.

Overall, I was satisfied with the airline's product. 

More photos of Virgin Atlantic's product 

Blanket was provided.

Legroom space was adequate. If you want more legroom space, go for the Economy Delight. 

Charging slot is available 

The typical A350 overhead compartment 

The tray is wide enough but the seat back needs a drink holder. 

The quality of the headphone provided is not bad. 

Airline's magazins for the month 

The A350-1000 safety card 

IFE Entertainment System 

The system has a great variety of shows and movies and the best part of it is the tail camera video. 

You can also use your phone as a remote control to change the channels or adjust the volume. 

The global map interaction was not bad. 

Clear view of the aircraft's movement. 

IFE system on the mobile phone 

Whilc watching the movies on the IFE TV screen, I used my phone to keep a watch out on the location of my aircraft. 

It was certainly an enjoyable flight! 

Did I pay to use the Wi-fi? Nope, I was entertained with the movies offered by the airline.

Information of the aircraft's details along the route

In-flight meals

Light snack (A choice of a drink and a packet of Pretzel)

Lunch (Omelette) - not much of a choice here. To be honest, I was still hungry after the meal. 

It's weird to have wine served in a can 

Snack box (Before arrival)  

Sandwich and a piece of cake

Later on, the cabin crew came back and gave us each a muffin. 

I had a cup of Apple Juice to wash down the food.

In-flight experience 

I was greeted by a group of enthusiatic crew and the flight crew were superb in terms of infromation on the routes and weather along the way. Some nice catchy songs were also played before and after the flight, so that makes the whole atmosphere on board quite a lively one. The different colour tones of the red cabin gives me the warm feeling as I adapted into the cabin enviroment quickly. However, we were not able to use the IFE system until after take-off, that was a bit of a disappointment for some. Our departure was delayed as we spent quite a bit of time at the threshold waiting for the clearance to take off. 

Once airborne, we were greeted with a spectacular view of London before making our way across the channel. This day was to be a historic one for me as it was not only my first time flying with Virgin Atlantic, it was also my first trans-atlantic flight! How excited it was as our plane flew over the ocean. The ride was smooth for most parts with a few bumps as we flew past Halifax area. 

The in-flight service on this 7 hours flight was great, the crew were lively and the ones serving my aisle were friendly. I have to note how quiet the A350 aircraft is especially during take-off, very impressed with the performance of the plane too. The downside of this flight is the underwhelming meals, I guess the airline was still being cautious during this period as they served the meals by the meal box. At least we had a hot meal for lunch. The meals was on the average side while for the IFE system, the bonus of having the tail camera view, definitely give points for the entertainment. I used it before take-off and landing, it was a joy to have such views especially for plane enthusiasts like myself. 

After landing, I chat with a couple of crew who also enjoy flying and I asked them about which aircraft they prefer to work on, they told me their preference was working on the Airbus A350, more space for them to work on but the 787 is not a bad plane to work on.

Window shot photos 

We took about 10 minutes to taxi to the threshold, there were other traffic as well and it seems that each aircraft that were on the runway for departure took a while before they can depart. I wonder why! 

The legendary Concorde! 

Take off was powerful as the aircraft lifted off quickly towards the other side of the world. 

Not really an ideal day to fly as we encountered some bumps while climbing. 

Heavy rain at some parts of London 

Once we were out of London, the air was smoother. 

At this point, we were reaching the end of the land, starting our trans-atlantic route. 

After 6 hours later, we started our descend.

Arriving at New York in another 15-20 minutes. 

On approach to runway 31R, arriving early at 1711. 

Touched down smoothly and we took about 10 minutes to reach our gate. 

Parking at one of the gates in terminal 4. 

Summary of my flight 

It's great to be in New York! However, I had to wait for 2 hours at the immigration and attend a 2nd interview before being allowed into the country. Not fun! That's for sure.

My rating 

Airline's website/Mobile app: 4/5

Airport staff at LHR: 4/5

In-Flight Service: 4/5

In-Flight Experience: 4/5

Cleanliness of the cabin: 5/5

In-Flight Entertainment System: 4/5

In-Flight Meals: 3/5

Punctuality: 5/5

Seat comfort: 4/5 

Cabin interior: 4/5 

Overall rating: 41/50

Percentage: 82% 

Verdict: Great 


This is certainly one of the more memorable flights in my years of travelling. The excitement of flying the A350-1000 with a new airline to my list, also flying to a city that I always want to travel to, just makes everything that an aviation enthusiast or traveller can wish for. The biggest obstacle is the pre-flight tests such as the COVID test and to get through the immigration at the borders of United States. Despite my explanation to the officer at New York, I was made to do a 2nd interview, kind of a downer for me, knowing that if I had not pass it, I could have return to London on the same day. Fortunately, things went my way and I got to complete my flying adventure, well not quite. What do I mean? Find out more on my next blog post. 

Back to the topic, Virgin Atlantic's A350-1000 Y class product gets my vote, with a good set of crew which makes the flight went past faster, that's a good thing right? Nowadays, we are spoilt for choices of airlines and we tend to choose the best airfares suiting our itinerary. Trans-altantic routes are very lucrutive and competitve and passengers will vote with their wallets. 

I hope this airline can work on to bring back the standard meals for the Economy Class on the trans-atlantic routes. I will do a conclusive post on this airline on my return flight, so stay tuned for it! 

Hope you enjoyed this trip report! 

For my previous trip report (Swiss A220-300 ZRH-LHR), click here

For my next trip report (Delta Airlines Boeing 767-400ER JFK-LAX), click here

For my Virgin Atlantic A330-300 Premium Class Trip report, click here

Thanks for reading!


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