Virgin Economy Delight

Our recent (extended-)family trip to Europe meant booking a group of eight people, including two small kids, for flights from San Francisco to London. Virgin Atlantic has recently split their economy class into three tiers: Light, Classic and Delight. Since eight Premium seats was not an option, we thought we’d try the Economy Delight, and using miles to pay for part of it made it basically the same price as Classic.

Delight vs Classic

The upgrades in Delight over Classic are as follows:

  • More legroom (34″ pitch compared to the regular 31″)
  • Priority check-in (via the Premium line)
  • Priority boarding (at the same time as the Premium seats)

That might not seem like a lot of benefits, but when you’re over 6′ tall and going to be on a 10+ hour flight, even a little extra legroom makes a difference. The priority boarding helps get everything stowed nicely, although traveling with young children normally gets you on the plane earlier anyway, so that’s less of an issue for those traveling with kids (like us).

The Seating

When we booked, our flight was going to be on a 787 Dreamliner. Unfortunately, a large number of the Dreamliners have been taken out of service over the summer due to issues with their Rolls Royce engines. Virgin was one of the airlines affected by the original corrosion issue, and as a result our flight was changed to an Airbus A340-600. Generally, that’s not a big deal, but when I booked our seats initially we had a nice group of seats together. After the plane change, our group was distributed around the cabin more. Indeed, for the return segment they had seated the two youngest towards the rear of the cabin on their own!

Talking to Virgin several weeks before we left (when I first noticed the change – it would have been nice to have been notified rather than find out by chance), it seems that the Delight seats on the Airbus are not grouped as well as they are on the Boeings. Since all the seats were full, there wasn’t much they could do. If you are booking a larger group though, be aware that unlike other tiers, the Delight seats are not all in the same part of the plane.

The seats themselves, apart from being a different colour, are essentially standard economy seating. Comfortable enough, though still narrow. The armrests between seats do lift up, but do not go back as far as the seats do when reclined. In other planes, I have used the end of the raised armrest to support a pillow, but the Virgin ones are pointed at the front, preventing that use too.

When the seat in front reclines, the screen comes very close to your face, and access to the tiny table becomes almost impossible. In one direction, I was unlucky enough to have somebody in front of me who kept their seat reclined all the time, making it hard to eat.

On the subject of the tables, the Virgin economy seats on the Airbus have tables that are split in half from left to right. They can be used folded as a drink table, or unfolded to make a larger surface for eating. Unfortunately, after several years of use, that front section no longer stops level, instead tilting slightly down at the edge nearest the seat, encouraging drinks and other items to land in your lap when the occupant of the seat in front moves.

Is It Worth It?

If you’re tall, the extra legroom will be appreciated, though even at 34″ it is tight, and they are still as narrow as any other economy seating. The priority check-in and boarding are nice for those who do not like queues, or who like/need to get their carry ons stowed above them (again, the taller people appreciate that because we need the space under the seat to stretch our legs into during the flight).

Delightful it is not, but it is less uncomfortable than regular economy has become and it was not a huge increase in price. It was also easy to use miles to offset the extra cost (and using miles for anything else, especially full flights, has become harder and harder in my experience).

Other options worth considering would be to pay for exit row seating – something we cannot do with young children – or even to try to get the bulkhead seats at the front of each cabin section. Both of those options have more legroom than the Delight seating, though they lose the under-seat space.

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