Get ready to pit two of the most stylish and forward-thinking airlines today – Air France and Virgin Atlantic. Aside from sporting a blazing red signature shade, these two also deliver superb products on the air.
Air France may drop jaws with their La Premiere experience but their business class cabin is also receiving raves for its outstanding meal service and chic chairs – creating a balance between their soft product and hard product.
On the other hand, Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is another lavish cabin from one of the most prestigious yet unconventional airlines around. In it, guests can relish beautifully-designed seats, superior ground service, and flawless food service.
Get to know these cabins better and find out which one edges the competition in this Air France Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class comparison.
- Quick Glance: Air France Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- The Details: Air France Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- Air France Business Class
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- Best For: Which Airline Class Should You Book?
- Wrapping Up
Quick Glance: Air France Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
|Air France Business Class||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class|
|Ground Experience||Flying from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) gives guests access to Air France’s newest lounge at Terminal 2E. Enjoy extensive amenities, great food, and convenient showers. Air France business passengers and premium SkyTeam Alliance guests can access this for free. Passengers can check in two pieces of luggage weighing up to 70 pounds (32 kg) each for free. There’s priority boarding and check-in!||As a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class guest, you are given access to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses. They’re found in London, New York, San Francisco, South Africa, and Washington, D.C. Guests get priority check-in, and boarding, and have free 2 checked baggage weighing up to 70.5 pounds or less. You can also bring two carry-on items up to 35 pounds combined and one personal item. There’s also priority baggage delivery.|
|Seat||Air France has updated seats on 12 of their B777-300 and several of their A350 planes. These seats have private sliding doors, a reverse herringbone layout, and convenient aisle access. It’s in a 1-2-1 layout with a 21–inch width and up to 78 inches in pitch. Expect these seats to lie flat and have great legroom, a large IFE, and extra amenities.||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class is installed in four aircraft and each one has a different style. On the A330neo, the seats are in a 1-2-1 layout with a 22-inch width. It has two Retreat Suites in the last row. The A350 has forward-facing seats in a 1-2-1 pattern with a 20-inch width. Middle seats have retractable privacy screens for couples. Both the 787 and the A330–300 have similar seat styles. The 787 has the oldest seats and these are in a 1-1-1 herringbone layout and only recline to a single position. These have a 22-inch width. The latter two also have social areas called The Bar, the 787 has one located in the middle of Row 11 while the A330-300 is located at the back of the cabin, making it less distracting for guests.|
|Amenities||Air France provides a chic zippered pouch to every business class guest. It contains an eye mask, socks, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and Clarins-branded skin products. On the seat is a pillow, blanket, a hanger, and sometimes, slippers.||Virgin Atlantic offers a sustainable “goodie bag” to guests flying in the Upper Class. It contains REN Clean Skincare items, a dental kit, socks, an eye mask, ear plugs, and a Kraft paper pen. Those flying overnight (whether short or long haul) will also get cotton pajamas. Large pillows and duvets are also provided when it’s time to sleep.|
|Food and Beverage||Meal service is wonderful aboard the Air France business cabin. Festivities start with pre-flight drinks, often champagne or juice with warm nuts. An hour after takeoff, a multi-course meal begins, created by world-class chefs. A second meal or breakfast is served about 90 minutes before landing. In between, you can ask for a cappuccino, bread, or light snacks.||Impeccable! The meal service on Upper Class is designed to delight guests. Everything is served in stylish linens, real cutlery, and plates. Pre-flight drinks like champagne or sparkling wine are offered soon after boarding. It’s followed by an apéritif and then a multi-course meal service. Pick choices for starters, mains, and desserts. It’s finished with a cheese plate with wine chosen in partnership with premium wine merchant Jeroboams. A second meal service, or breakfast, is offered before landing. It has hot and cold dishes. There’s also a snack bar and a menu for “Extra Bites” in case you still want to eat something.|
|Entertainment||There’s an 18.5-inch IFE screen for the older seats. Newer cabins include a 17.3-inch 4K IFE monitor. Both come with hundreds of movie and TV show choices including a heaping number of French titles. Avid readers can download the Air France app and peruse magazines and newspapers for free. In select planes, there’s even a live airshow in 4K.||Virgin Atlantic’s IFE screens differ depending on the plane. The older 787 has an 11.1-inch monitor with a USB and outlet. For the A350, guests enjoy an 18.5-inch monitor with 2 USB ports and an outlet. Finally, on the A330neo, there’s a 17.1-inch monitor with Bluetooth audio capacity. Vera is Virgin Atlantic’s IFE system and it comes with hundreds of curated movies, shows, music, and more.|
|Lavatories||Business class passengers get one or two lavatories to use, depending on the aircraft. Aboard the 777- 200, for instance, there’s only one lavatory to use. However, this is bigger compared to standard lavatories in premium economy.||The lavatory numbers also vary with two at the back of the 787, two at the front of the A350 as well as the A330-200, and one on the A330-300.|
|Bed||The seats in business class lie flat and measure 78 inches in pitch with a 21-inch width. Guests get a pillow and blanket too.||On the 787 and A330-300, the bed lies flat up to 78 inches (6 feet 6 inches); the A330-200 has a 71.3-inch pitch (6 feet); aboard the A350 the bed pitch is 82 inches (6 feet 7 inches).|
|Service||Air France attendants are prompt and professional. Compared to other airlines, they might seem impersonal, but they are wonderful with guests.||Like the airline, the crew and attendants are warm and personable. They’re always willing to interact with passengers while providing proactive service with a smile.|
|Wi-Fi||Air France now has Wi-Fi in nearly all of their fleet. If you want to connect, it’s free to use Messenger or WhatsApp. But, if you want to browse or stream you can opt for either of these packages: The Surf Pass for 8 Euros ($8) or The Stream Pass for 30 Euros ($32).||Wi-Fi is available for Upper Class guests. It’s free for 20 minutes with adverts but if you want one without, you can pay 5.99 Pounds ($7.20) for an hour’s access or 18.99 Pounds ($22.89) for the entire flight.|
The Details: Air France Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Air France Business Class
Air France just updated its airport lounge at their hub in Paris so you can expect something new and different. Open daily from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., this new lounge is found at Terminal 2E. It’s bigger and can be accessed by premium business guests including SkyTeam members. A paid entry option is available too for 60 Euros or $70 per guest.
Inside the lounge, there are hot and cold buffet areas as well as drink stations displaying top-shelf alcohol and fabulous coffee. Glass ceilings curve gently to create a modern aesthetic. It also allows apron views and sunshine to filter through the lounge.
Other amenities to expect are shower areas with complete accessories including plush towels and Dyson hairdryers. A free 20-minute Clarins-spa treatment is available if you’re quick to book an appointment. Finally, there’s also a nap area so you can get some shut-eye.
Once boarding starts, as a premium guest, you receive priority check-in and dedicated lines for boarding. Guests also receive two free checked baggage of up to 32 kilos or 70 pounds. Fast-track immigration and customs access is also available when flying from Paris.
Ever since sliding doors became a thing in business cabins, Air France has followed suit by updating their cabin with fresh seats that come with full-height doors to provide utmost privacy. These appear in 12 of their Boeing 777 and a few of their A350 planes.
These newer seats are in a reverse herringbone style with a 1-2-1 layout. Older planes will still carry the old 2-3-2 arrangement, usually routes flying around the Caribbean.
All the seats in business class lie flat with a pitch of 76 to 78 inches and come with plenty of legroom. A robust IFE with hundreds of pre-loaded movies and shows provides entertainment while key storage areas make it easy to stow away your small items. There’s also a reading lamp and a personal vent – a rarity in most planes these days. The seat width is 21 inches.
Once you board the Air France business class cabin, on the seat you’ll find a pillow, a blanket, and a few goodies. Air France provides fluffy pillows with thick blankets to help you sleep comfortably. They also give guests a hanger to hang their coats or blazer as well as a bottle of water.
Air France’s amenity kit is also provided beforehand. Designed with a chevron pattern and in two colorways, each kit is made from 96% recycled material. It has the usual items like socks, an eye mask, a dental kit, as well as Clarins branded skincare products.
Nearby are noise-canceling headphones that can be used together with the IFE. The newer seats have BlueTooth capabilities so you can use your headphones if you prefer.
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Food and Beverage
One thing that sets apart Air France is its impeccable food service. Prepared by Michelin-starred chefs, each meal is designed to delight and satiate the palate.
Everything starts with pre-flight drinks, usually served together with warm nuts. The menu is handed out at this time as well. Forty minutes to an hour after takeoff, the meal service begins. Everything is dished on a beautiful tray atop a white tablecloth with real cutlery and tableware.
On the tray are starters, often a salad and fresh bread. Guests can choose from a selection of mains involving some meat, poultry, seafood, or pasta. There’s a cheese plate and dessert as well. Everything can be paired with a fantastic choice of wines or drinks. You can also ask for coffee or a cappuccino – Air France makes an excellent cup!
Breakfast or the second meal service begins an hour or so before landing. You get an incredible pick of pastries, omelets, and fruits.
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If you love French films, you’ll be happy with Air France’s IFE. Older seats come with an 18.5-inch touchscreen monitor. However, on the newer seats, you’ll get a slightly smaller screen at 17.3 inches. This one is capable of 4K screening though.
Both of these contain pre-loaded films and TV shows including an assortment of podcasts and music. On certain planes, there’s also an airshow.
The IFE can be controlled by a handheld remote on the side. Air France-branded headphones are on the seat. However, if you want to use your headphones, the newer seats have an IFE with Bluetooth capabilities.
Free Wi-Fi is available on Air France business class if you only need to use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Like most airlines, the company has opted to supply this free basic service. But for a better connection, whether for work or pleasure, there are two other data options available.
For surfing or checking emails, Air France offers The Surf Pass for 8 Euros or approximately $8. If you want to stream videos or need them for work, you can opt for The Stream Pass starting at 30 Euros or $32 per hour.
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For business class guests, Air France has one or two dedicated lavatories for the cabin. The number would depend on the type of airplane. These are simple spaces that are kept clean and functional for all guests. You may find additional luxury toiletries inside as well.
Sleep in comfort aboard the business cabin. All seats lie fully flat with a pitch of 76 to 78 inches and a width of 21 inches. There’s a pillow and blanket too. If you manage to get seats on the newer Boeing 777s or any of the updated A350s, you get the benefit of private sliding doors for privacy.
Staff and Guest Services
Service aboard the Air France business class is for anybody who wants impeccable service and a fantastic product. The attendants are professional, ensuring you are treated and cared for as soon as you sit down. The service is one of the best in the air, albeit it’s a little more impersonal compared to other airlines.
Who Is It For?
Experience one of the best business class seats in the air when you fly with Air France. If you want to experience a premium cabin with amazing seats and excellent meal service, while ensuring you get your money’s worth, this is no doubt a great choice.
Air France Business Class Gallery
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
While Virgin Atlantic has several branded airport lounges across the globe, flying out of their hub from London’s Heathrow is extra special.
For one, Upper Class guests have a dedicated wing for check-in and boarding. This means there’s no competition with other passengers flying in different cabins. Guests also get a security line which makes heading inside the terminal faster.
Upper Class passengers can check in two free luggage weighing up to 70.5 pounds to 32 kilos each as well as bring two hand carry bags up to 35 pounds or 15 kg combined including 1 personal item. However, keep in mind the TSA will only allow you to bring 1 hand carry and 1 personal item – just something to keep in mind.
Another perk of flying out of Heathrow is the free access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Area H. This huge space, measuring 26,000 square feet, is divided into multiple areas with an abundance of seating, gorgeous lighting, food and drinks, and a host of power sockets.
There are 3 deli-style buffets including fresh fruits, salmon, cheeses, pastries, and more. If you want to dine restaurant-style, just scan the QR code on the tables and you can order drinks and meals from there. You can grab a coffee, breakfast items, and more!
Other than food and drinks, there are small amenities to enjoy. There are a few exercise bikes for a quick workout, an Instagram-ready spot for taking photos, a sleeping area, and an outdoor patio.
Although not as lavish as their hub in London, you can also find Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in key cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Johannesburg, and San Francisco.
Depending on the type of aircraft you’re flying in, you might get a different experience when flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. If you want to experience the newest (and arguably the best seats in Upper Class) then check to see if you’ll be flying on board the A330neo or the A350.
The seats here are arranged in a 1-2-1 layout with a 22-inch width. You’ll also notice there’s a new social gathering section called The Loft which includes two couches and a fridge filled with pre-mixed negroni cocktails. In Row 1, there are two extra large seats dubbed as “Retreat Suites” which are extra spacious. The dividers between these seats can also be lowered to create a social space to accommodate up to four passengers.
The A350 is the most luxurious Upper Class cabin. All the seats are practically Upper Class Suites, meaning they’re all forward facing and arranged in a 1-2-1 pattern. Each one has a retractable screen for privacy, making the middle section perfect when traveling with a partner. The seats measure 20 inches wide with a pitch of 82 inches – enough for someone up to 6 feet and 7 inches.
The oldest Upper Class cabin are those on the 787. The seats here aren’t motorized and can only be moved into bed mode or upright seat mode. Also, if you want to transform it into a bed, you would need the help of an attendant. Seats are arranged in a 1-1-1 layout, facing away from the windows. There’s lesser privacy here even if the seats are wider at 33 inches and a pitch of 78 inches. There’s also a social area in this cabin called The Bar, in Row 11, which is two ottomans where people can gather for drinks or conversation.
The A330-200 also has the same arrangement as the 787. The only real difference is that The Bar is right behind the cabin so it’s not as distracting to the other passengers.
All seats fully recline and come with a monitor. Some seats have more storage than others including window access.
On the seat waiting for guests is a soft pillow and thick duvet for when they’re ready to tuck into bed. During overnight flights, guests also receive cozy cotton pajamas.
Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to a greener flying experience shines through in its amenity kit. It includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, an eye mask, ear plugs encased in a kraft pouch, REN Clean products, and even a Kraft paper pen.
Headphones are provided too. But on certain aircraft, you can use your headphones by connecting via Bluetooth.
Food and Beverage
Aboard the Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, à la carte dining is a highlight. Everything starts with pre-flight champagne or sparkling wine along with some addictive rosemary-flavored chips. The menu is also handed out at this time.
Guests can choose from 2 starters, 3 mains, and 2 desserts. There’s a cheese plate and a splendid selection of wines curated by wine merchant Jeroboams.
After orders are taken, the table is set with a crisp white cloth and plate along with signature salt and pepper shakers. There’s a sampling of warm rolls provided and the rest of the dishes are brought out one by one.
Breakfast service is provided at least 90 minutes before landing, with an option for a full English breakfast if you fancy.
If you get hungry in between, you can order from the Extra Bites menu or you can also enjoy wrapped munchies and beverages in the galley.
For the drinks, you get a host of options from sparking wine, champagne, cocktails, coffee, and even signature craft beers.
Virgin Atlantic’s IFE system, Vera, contains hundreds of movies, TV shows, music, and more. It’s one of the best IFE systems around, with prominent titles almost anyone can appreciate. They even have dedicated channels for children to give parents peace of mind.
The monitors on Upper Class differ depending on the aircraft you’re taking. On the newer A350, you get an 18.5-inch screen with 2 USB ports and a single outlet for charging your device. Meanwhile, the A330neo, it’s slightly smaller at 17.1 inches but it comes with Bluetooth capacity so you can use your headphones if you like.
For the older 787 aircraft, the monitors are drastically small at 11.1 inches. But, there’s a USB port and outlet with a host of movies and shows like all the other planes.
Headphones are provided and an IFE remote or controller is easily accessible.
You get 20 minutes of free Wi-Fi when you fly on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. The free version will mean watching adverts though. However, you can purchase Wi-Fi plans starting at 5.99 pounds or approximately $7-$8 for an hour’s connection.
If you want Wi-Fi throughout the flight, you can purchase access for the duration for only 18.99 pounds or $22-$23, which is reasonable for data with no caps.
Depending on the type of aircraft you’re taking, the number of lavatories will differ. Aboard the 787, Upper Class can access 2 lavatories at the back of the cabin. However, take the A350 and you’ll get 2 lavatories found at the front area of the cabin. On the A330–200, there’s only a single lavatory.
All seats in the Upper Class cabin lie flat so guests can sleep in bliss. The only caveat is that certain planes will feature a different seat length. For instance, the A330-300 and the 787 both have a bed that lies flat up to 78 inches and can accommodate someone up to 6 feet and 6 inches tall.
On the A330-200, the seat pitch is small at 71.3 inches or at least 6 feet only. Finally, on the A350, the seat pitch in bed mode is 82 inches or about 6 feet and 7 inches.
Staff and Guest Services
Virgin Atlantic is known for its friendly service. Their entire brand is built on a personable, charming, and “fun” environment for guests. In the Upper Class cabin, the attendants are fantastic at catering to every passenger’s question and whim.
Who Is It For?
There are dedicated Virgin Atlantic fans who take every chance they get to fly the airline. And it’s no surprise why, after all, Virgin Atlantic has one of the most premium business/first class cabins in the air today. It’s perfect if you want to be pampered – starting from the ground and up in the air.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Gallery
Best For: Which Airline Class Should You Book?
|Winner||What Makes It Great|
|Best for Food||Tie||Both airlines have fantastic meal service! Air France serves Michelin-chef-designed meals while Virgin Atlantic has delicious selections that rival in taste and presentation.|
|Best for Seats||Air France Business Class||Although the newer Upper Class seats are great, Air France seats are more consistent in comfort and style.|
|Best for Ground Experience||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Hands down the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse is one of the best lounges around. From fantastic food, a la carte dining, unique amenities, and great design – it’s all there!|
|Best For Comfort||Tie||Both cabins offer fantastic comfort.|
|Best for Families||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||The “fun” factor aboard the Virgin Atlantic makes it nicer for families. It also has social areas like The Loft and The Bar where you can gather and enjoy time together even up in the air.|
|Best for Couples||Air France Business Class||Air France business class in a 1-2-1 layout has middle seats that make it easy for couples to sit together and enjoy time together.|
|Best for Service||Tie||Both airlines give you fantastic service. Air France attendants are a little bit more formal while Virgin Atlantic has more bubbly and personable attendants.|
|Most Exclusive||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class is slightly more exclusive because it’s a cross between business class and first class.|
Fly only the best cabins by choosing between Air France business class or Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.
Air France business class delivers a fantastic cabin designed for travelers who want absolute ease during their flight. It presents superior seats with spacious legroom, storage, and a large IFE. The food service and the drinks are curated by the best chefs in the world while the added perk of amenity kits and lounge access help with the overall experience of luxe travel.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin is a beautiful mix of business class comfort and first class luxury. While the older seats require improvement, the newer seats on the A350 and the A330neo truly epitomize what this cabin has to offer. From direct aisle access, a comfy lie-flat bed, and a wonderful multi-course meal service by some of the friendliest attendants around – the experience is enough to make you want to come back for more.
Whichever airline you opt to take, you can be sure that a wonderful flight is waiting for you.