I always fly with Virgin Atlantic on my trips to the U.S but until this year I'd never managed to get a seat on the upper deck and the first few times I flew with them I didn't even know it existed. It used to be dedicated to premium economy passengers but after the fleet was refurbished they added some economy seating up there and on our recent trip to Orlando we managed to snag some upper deck seats. There are only 33 economy seats up there so if you want one you have to grab it quick. Virgin Atlantic have recently changed the way you pre book seats and have started charging
£30 for a standard seat and £50 for extra leg room or exit row. These prices are for one way so the cost soon mounts up for a family. You can just wait until check in to be allocated a seat for free but it's unlikely you would get one on the upper deck without pre booking. You can book your seats by going to 'manage my booking' on the Virgin Atlantic website. The rest of the upper deck cabin is for premium economy passengers.
We chose to pay the £25 each just for our outbound flights. We were able to do this about two months before our flight but we did take the last seats available up there. The stairs to the upper deck are a little narrow and steep so if you have mobility issues this may not be a good idea for you.
The first thing I noticed when we got to our seats is how much quieter it was even while everyone was putting their bags away and getting settled. I have heard some people say they felt like it was too small and claustrophobic but I didn't find that at all. The curtain in the following picture separates the Economy seating from the Premium Economy although I didn't notice that the curtain was pulled across at any point during the flight. Perhaps they only use it on overnight flights. This picture was taken from row 78
One of the first things I noticed was the storage area beside the window seats. I was able to fit my bag and a few others things in there and it was great to be able to get things I needed throughout the flight without having to get up and rummage around in the overhead locker. You can also use it to stand things on top if you want to fold your tray table away which was great
The upper deck still has overhead lockers to put luggage in although they seemed a little smaller than the ones on the lower deck. There are also closets towards the back of the cabin to put larger items in
I also felt like I had more legroom in this seat than I did on the flight back when we were on the lower deck. Leg room does vary throughout the plane depending which seat you have as there is often equipment underneath the seats but I had plenty of room
The in-flight entertainment was excellent and you can go through all the movies and TV shows and save the ones you're interested in to make yourself a playlist for the flight. These are touch screens and I recommend using your finger nail if it isn't responding very well. Poking it really hard and jabbing at it won't be appreciated by the person sitting in front who will be able to feel your over enthusiastic screen pressing!
This is the view looking back from row 78. The toilet is at the front of the cabin in the premium economy section
It was definitely quieter being on the upper deck and we did find the service better with there being less people up there. We were given plenty of drinks and with less people to look after the cabin crew were always available if we needed anything. Another advantage is that you get to disembark ahead of most of the economy passengers on the lower deck meaning you can get to immigration quicker and hopefully avoid the long lines that can form very quickly. I did notice that they started letting the lower deck passengers off at the same time as us so although you get out a little quicker they don't hold the lower deck passengers while they wait for the upper deck to disembark. They didn't on this particular flight anyway.
I really enjoyed my flight in the 'bubble' and would definitely consider paying the booking fee to pre book a seat up there again. If you have a larger party then it's worth thinking twice as pretty much all the seats on a Virgin Atlantic flight are comfortable enough and the money could be spent elsewhere on your vacation but it did have a slightly more exclusive feel without having to pay to upgrade to premium Economy or upper class.
Check out my video review of the upper deck on you tube here - https://youtu.be/yioPlDJbrlk
I also have a video on flying premium economy on the upper deck here - https://youtu.be/Z-iRFgWqpIA
Have you flown in the 'bubble' before? Let me know your thoughts or experiences in the comments below.