It’s 7am San Fran time. I’m wide awake, giddy with excitement for tomorrow’s marathon and slightly dazed from jet lag. We arrived in sun soaked San Fran yesterday afternoon, after a 12 hour flight from London Heathrow. I was lucky to see ‘how the other half live’, having flown, for the first time, in Upper Class. So, is it worth the hype?
The separate check in has miniscule queues, after which you get whisked upstairs into the Virgin First Class Lounge. A restaurant, viewing area, comfy sofas, low tables and even a cow shed spa, complete with sauna, pool and a variety of paid for and complimentary treatments. An extensive menu ranges from Eggs Royale to Chilled cucumber soup or you can select from the buffet with choice cuts of smoked salmon and fresh pastries. Service is attentive and friendly, the bar is better stocked than Mahikis and no one bats at eyelid when you order coffee, kedgeree and Champagne at 9am. Everything is of course included in your ticket price, so all that remains is to say yes to everything and soak it all up, before receiving a personal call over the tanoy alerting you it;’s 20 mins until take off. Beats TGI Fridays and a mince around WHSmith any day. You can also bring one guest in with you, so if your mates are in the cheap seats, they still get a taste of luxury before take-off.
We flew on Virgin’s Cosmic Girl, a giant double decker airbus, with only 40 seats for Upper passengers. Seats have feet rests and transform into a fully horizontal bed should you wish to sleep at any point. An entertainment system is set on a retractable arm, so no matter how many bottles of bubbly you’ve got stacked up, you can still find a way to get optimum viewing pleasure. Each seat has the feeling of being self-contained, there’s no jostling for the arm rest here. Personal angle poise lamps, retractable tables and a ledge for your book, all included.
The menu changes daily. For our daytime flight there was a choice of three starters (I had the prawn and halibut), mains (I had a beef wellington) and desserts (sticky toffee pudding), light bites and afternoon tea (sandwiches, scones and cupcakes). All food is served at your seat, unless you’d like to sit at the bar. Silver service, fresh hot bread and attentive staff make this the most delicious and comfortable meal I’ve had in flight.
From the comfort of your seat, or at the busy little first class bar you can enjoy unlimited Champagne, red and white wine, spirits, hots drinks, soft drinks. You get the picture, whatever you’d like, it’s yours. But what makes this special, is that Virgin has taken the time to select three choice wines, an aged port and even has a guest spirit on each flight, so there’s the feeling of being treated to decent, well thought out alcohol. A rarity in many bars, let alone on an aeroplane.
Proper pillows and duvets, along with a bed sheet are provided. As is a flight pack with cosy socks and wash kit. The seat is spacious and comfortable, with room to lie flat should you wish.
Business men, children, well dressed ladies and, er, drunk festival runners all take Upper. Just like most other situations in life, all strokes of folks afford the luxury of First Class. Great for people watching and if you’re travelling alone, for meeting interesting types at the bar.
Well wasn’t that a pleasant journey? You’ve eaten, drunk and rested to your hearts content, but now you’ve got to wrestle with immigration. Well yes, you still have to pass through Control, but a separate queue and first dibs to leave the plane means you’re swept through easily.
Flying Upper will revolutionise your flying experience. Even turbulence didn’t worry me, snuggled into my spacious Upper Class cocoon, there was a feeling that nothing could harm me. A few bumps? Just knock back another whiskey, turn up your in-flight cinema and admire the view. And for a marathon runner like me, the extra room for stretching pegs, was the icing on a very delicious cake.