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Which wins out of Virgin Upper Class or British Airways Club Class?

Whoop whoop! After two years of Covid travel restrictions and several amendments to our first Virgin Upper Class Reward flights, in June we finally flew Virgin Upper Class to Seattle. I was seriously excited! As a Virgin virgin, I was keen to establish whether the experience would surpass our BA experiences. This is how we think Virgin Upper Class compares to British Airways Club and First class.

British Airways First Class cabin
British Airways First Class cabin

Check in

Check in for Virgin Upper Class is quite simply exceptional. You can drive directly into the dedicated check in area where staff hustle from the building to unload your luggage and whisk it away. This truly feels like a VIP experience.

British Airways, by contrast, offers a dedicated check in desk in the main terminal unless you happen to be flying First Class in which case it is the very plush First Class check in area. However, even then, you cannot drive up to the door!! I loved Virgin Upper Class check in.

Winner: Virgin Atlantic

Airport lounge

Where the British Airways Club business class lounges are functional, the Virgin Clubhouse is unadulterated fun. From the wall hugging, colourful bar to the peloton suite and the egg-shaped hanging seats for you to clamber into, it oozes frivolity and chic. Unlike me evidently…

Each table has a QR code from which you can access menus to order food and drink. There is also a more formal restaurant area with table service. The range of food options is more upmarket than the buffet style food found in the BA lounges (unless you fly British Airways First Class in which case the Concorde lounge rocks!).

Yummy poached eggs in the Virgin Clubhouse
Yummy poached eggs in the Virgin Clubhouse at Heathrow

It pays to wander around the lounge as there are several distinct zones and each has very with different vibes. Those in need of relaxation should head to the flat bed chill area or the little relaxation pods. For business travellers, there are functional workspaces and for the hedonists, the cocktail bar awaits!

Winner: Virgin Atlantic

Cabin

As with the lounge, the Virgin Upper Class cabin feels fun with funky lighting and a social bar area. Perhaps too social! One guest on our flight got a little carried away resulting in several complaints (not from me!)

Virgin wins on the cabin as a whole as the bar area introduces a fun, social element to the flight. You can get into the holiday groove almost as soon as those wheels leave the ground!

Virgin Upper Class cabin
Virgin Upper Class cabin

Winner: Virgin Atlantic

Seat

I personally think the seat in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is a huge let down. In British Airways Club and First class cabins there is a small cupboard to stow items you want to keep close by. There are also pockets where you can store smaller items such as glasses.

In Virgin Upper class, the storage is almost non-existent with just a tiny shelf which will not keep items safe in the event of turbulence.

Furthermore, only an engineering graduate can recline the seat with no assistance!! Most guests need to call staff to transition the seat. Be under no illusions, the staff are exceptional but what a pain! Neither Jason or I were able to figure out that seat and we were far from the only ones.

The final thing I really dislike about the seat is the seat alignment. The seats all point into the centre of the cabin as you can see above. This means it is virtually impossible to admire the scenery as you take off or land. It also means that if you want to view passing scenery en route you must clamber onto your seat or go walkabout. If you happen to be on the side of the cabin which faces towards the guests in the middle you also have little privacy as there are no privacy screens.

One positive however of the Virgin seat is that every seat has direct access to the aisle without having to step over another passenger. This is a real bugbear for some people flying British Airways. Those in the middle or by the window often have to clamber over the feet of another guest.

What can I say? I hate the seat!!

Winner: British Airways

Entertainment

There is very little difference between the two offerings. Although they work slightly differently, even on a longer flight, both airlines offer enough to keep even the most fastidious entertained.

The cost of WIFI is much the same for the two airlines but where Virgin wins is with the addition of the bar. If you like to socialise on a flight, this is the perfect place to chat to other guests and pass the time. Virgin are perhaps slightly more liberal with their alcohol and so this also helps but remember not to go too far. After all, you are in a metal tube, 30,000 feet above the ground and if you become a really annoying sod, people can’t just walk away from you!!

Winner: Virgin Atlantic (marginally)

Food

British Airways Club Class food is always fantastic. First Class food is a slight notch above but the food in both cabins is always well presented and tasty. There are also several options in both cabins.

British Airways First Class Salmon starter
British Airways First Class Salmon starter

I found the food in Virgin Upper Class somewhat mediocre. The choices were limited and not particularly inspiring so on this basis, British Airways wins.

Winner: British Airways

Functionality

For functionality, British Airways is an out and out winner. Virgin seem to sacrifice functionality for fun which is not a laudable decision but the lack of storage, the virtually entirely hidden charging points and the seat turned me cold.

Winner: British Airways

Service

I find the service in Club Class inconsistent at best. Some staff clearly revel in socialising with passengers, whilst others are like stern junior school dinner ladies. First Class is definitely more akin to the service in Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with a much more personalised approach.

However Virgin Upper Class wins this category because the service from start to finish is exceptional. Staff are quick to respond to requests, discrete when needed and hugely friendly. It is evident that they all really enjoy what they do and it seems to embody the very ethos of Virgin.

Where British Airways might be the more sensible older sibling, Virgin Atlantic offers a more fun and frivolous experience which the staff truly live and breathe.

Winner: Virgin Atlantic

Summary

To condense all of this into one table, here is a direct comparison of each aspect rated out of 5 stars.

Virgin Upper Class British Airways Club British Airways First
Check in ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Airport lounge ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Cabin ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Seat ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Entertainment ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Food ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Functionality ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Service ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Total Stars 30 28 38

In summary therefore, Virgin Upper Class beats British Airways Club marginally. However it falls short of British Airways First class which sadly is becoming a rarity. I am almost a little surprised as I felt so strongly about the seat I was almost allowing it to cloud my judgement on everything else.

So there you have it, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class wins!!

How to fly Upper Class, Club or First

Note, Jason and I never pay cash for our Upper Class/Business class flights. Instead, we use reward points to book our flights. There is no denying that taxes and fees are expensive so this will not cost less than booking an economy seat on a flight search engine such as Kiwi.

temple in Kyoto Japan
How about Club Class flights to Kyoto?

However, we take the view that we are happy to pay £1,000 to £1,500 for two Upper Class flights as that is still a huge saving on buying those flights outright. We have saved absolute fortunes on some of our flights using this approach. Just check out these posts to find out more.

How to save £3,500 on First Class Airlines To Beijing

How to save almost £6,000 on business class flights to Japan

Manchester to Vancouver

How to earn more rewards

I have a ton of blog posts on this site dedicated to helping you earn more airmiles. Here are just a few, but if you want to keep it simple, sign up for an American Express British Airways Premium Plus card, Virgin Atlantic Mastercard or American Express Gold card. Note, the AMEX cards only allow new clients to earn the sign up bonus if they have not held any other AMEX card in the last 24 months so read the small print before you commit to avoid disappointment.

Virgin Airlines staff and credit card
Source: Virgin Atlantic

If you then hit the minimum spend in the offer period, you can bag as many as 22,000 airmiles (again read the terms because the offers change throughout the year). However be sure to use the links above as you will earn a slightly enhanced bonus for the AMEX cards. Then sign up to my newsletter for regular features on how to earn more miles. You will receive an introductory series of emails packed with tips to boost your balance. Start the research now and then you will have a goal to work towards.

Final thoughts

What do you think? I’m sure my wonderful readers have plenty of tales to tell of their Virgin Upper Class or British Airways Club and First Class experiences. Don’t be shy! Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

Who knows? The next time I am enjoying a wine at the Virgin Upper Class bar, we might bump into one another.

This post may contain affiliate links which pay me a small commission should you click on them and make a purchase. These help towards the cost of running the site, and the occasional glass of wine, but you are under no obligation to use them.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of Frommilestosmiles. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 90 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money-saving travel tips

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