On Virgin Atlantic premium economy

Welcome to Mikal’s badly organised travel tips. On the trip to Dublin I
flew Virgin Atlantic premium economy. That’s kind of like anyone else’s
business class, given the classes on Virgin are economy, premium
economy, and upper class. It’s much cheaper than anyone else’s business
class fare to Heathrow though. I thought that premium economy was pretty
good… The seats are old and both of the ones I sat in were subtly
broken, but the seat spacing is excellent, the seat is wider than
normal, and reclines just that little extra.

The extra money was worth it given I got off the plane and walked
straight into a meeting in Dublin, and on the return flight I got a heap
of work done. Premium economy even offers power for laptops, although my
corporate-issue iGo doesn’t work with the new Lenovo x60, and Virgin
didn’t have a tip for the x60 in their collection. That’s a pretty
common compliant with the newer Intel Core2 laptops though — they draw
too much power for older universal power supplies. I got around the
power problem with two “eight hour” batteries for the x60. The quotes
are because I actually get more like four or five hours off these
batteries rather than the claimed eight hours.

(Oh, by the way, the x60 rocks. Small. Light. Insanely fast with it’s
dual processors. I sent some time running a script which did a lot of
processing and IO though, and the machine got too hot to sit on my lap!)

I’ve now flown premium economy on the upper and lower deck of the 747,
and the upper deck is clearly better. On the top deck you get a deck
shared only with premium and upper class (Virgin’s first class), a
reading station with newspapers and magazines, a slightly quieter ride,
and you don’t have people walking past to economy making snob comments.
On the down side, you do end up with a much smaller overhead bin.
Basically no one’s bag fitted in it. There is a big coat locker though,
so it’s not like your bag is far away.

If you have a window seat, then you also get a small vertical locker
next to you, which is a nice place to put your laptop and ipod during
takeoff and landing.

On the lower deck you get all the economy people walking past, and in
fact they seem to wander into the premium section of the plane during
the flight. Often they would just stand there looking at me work, which
was a bit rude. You also share a bathroom with the rest of the economy
cabin, unlike upstairs. That leads to congestion. Worst of all, the
premium section is on either side of the forward galley. That means
constant staff movement next to you, light, and noise. Luckily for me I
was flying while trying to stay awake, I would have found this really
annoying otherwise.

You do get a big overhead bin though.

So, premium economy good, although the seats could do with some basic
maintenance. I’d pick it over standard economy any day.

Other random notes: Virgin staff are nice, there is video on demand in
all seats (which means of the airlines I have flown Qantas, New Zealand
and Virgin have this — unlike United). In fact, Virgin was really good
all round.