Business class cabins are an excellent way to experience luxury travel without committing to a first-class ticket. Airlines have invested significantly in improving their business class offerings, resulting in a truly transformed passenger experience.
When it comes to options, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic present some of the best cabin experiences out there. American’s Flagship Business cabins deliver unbeatable comfort and spacious seats for long haul and domestic travelers. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class takes the convenience of business class to the next level with exclusive perks only found in first class cabins.
If you’re ready to explore further, check out this American Airlines Flagship Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class comprehensive comparison.
- Quick Glance: American Airlines Flagship Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- The Details: American Airlines Flagship Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- American Airlines Flagship Business Class
- Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
- Best For: Which Airline Class Should You Book?
- Wrapping Up
Quick Glance: American Airlines Flagship Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
|American Airlines Flagship Business Class||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class|
|Ground Experience||When flying on American Airlines’ Flagship Business, you’ll enjoy the convenience of dedicated lines for check-in and boarding. There’s complimentary access to the luxurious Flagship Lounge and when traveling overseas with no Flagship Lounges available, Admirals Club lounges are open for use.||Upper Class guests get exclusive access to Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses in cities globally. There’s priority boarding and check-in, and they can bring 2 free checked luggage, 2 carry-on items, and 1 personal item. Priority baggage pickup is also a perk.|
|Seat||On the 777-300ER, there are 52 AA Flagship business class seats in a 1-2-1 setting. The seats all get aisle access, are 21.5 inches wide, and have a pitch of 45 inches. On the 777-200, there are 37 business seats with a pitch of 60-62 inches and a width of 21 inches. Finally, the 787-9 carries 30 seats while the 787-8 has 20, and both feature a seat pitch of 60-62 inches.||You can find Upper Class seats on four planes, each one different in configuration from the other. For instance, the A350 sports forward 20-inch wide seats in a 1-2-1 design. The A330NEO has a width of 22 inches, but the last two seats on the last row are special and dubbed as Retreat Suites. In contrast, the 787 planes have a 1-1-1 herringbone pattern and feature a 22-inch width. Both the A330-300 and the 787 carry similar seats and these two also have a social section called The Bar, where guests can chat and socialize.|
|Amenities||Guests receive sleek and slim Shinola-branded amenity kits on Flagship Business. These are only available on long-haul destinations and contain earplugs, socks, a pen, an eye mask, hand lotion, and a dental kit. For sleeping, Casper pillows and a duvet are on each seat.||Get a sustainable goodie bag onboard the Upper Class. Each of these pouches contains a dental kit, REN CLEAN skincare, an eye mask, a Kraft paper pen, a dental kit, and socks. Those on overnight flights get cotton pajamas, a pillow, and a duvet.|
|Food and Beverage||Flying on AA means you can pre-order meals up to a month before your flight. On the plane, they hand out printed menus. Meal service starts an hour or so after takeoff while the second meal service is around 90 minutes before landing.||Get an astounding meal experience onboard the Upper Class. Dished in white linens, real cutlery, and stylish plates, meals start with an aperitif, followed by a gourmet multi-course meal. Everythingp pairs with a selection of wines and drinks. Breakfast is given an hour or two before landing.|
|Entertainment||To keep you entertained, each business seat has an 18-inch monitor for guests to use. These have movies, popular TV shows, concerts, music, and more. Domestic routes, however, are moving towards streaming content with AA focusing on guests using the American Airlines app on their devices for entertainment. To complement the IFE, high-quality Bang & Olufsen are lent to each guest on the flight.||IFEs on Virgin Atlantic Upper Class vary from plane to plane. An 11.1-inch monitor is on the older 787 while the newer A350 has 18-inch screens. Standing on the middle ground is the A330neo which carries a 17.1-inch monitor. Vera, Virgin’s in-flight entertainment system, contains hundreds of movies, shows, documentaries, and music – enough to keep you entertained.|
|Lavatories||Lavatories per cabin vary according to the type of plane. However, these are always kept clean.||There are 2 lavatories at the back part of the 787 Upper Class cabin. On the A350 they’re found at the front while the A330–300 only carries one lavatory for Upper Class guests.|
|Bed||Reclined flat, the seats measure 81 inches. The side armrest provides width and the pillows and duvet provide a restful sleep.||All Upper Class seats lie flat and turn into a bed for a cozy night’s rest. The 787 and the A330-300 both showcase a 78-inch length when flat while the A350 offers 82 inches. The A330-200 features a 71.3-inch length, to accommodate someone 6 feet tall.|
|Service||Service can be inconsistent on Flagship Business flights. It’s still far better compared to Economy and Premium Economy cabins though.||Fun and cheerful are two words that best describe the service on Virgin Atlantic. Attendants are friendly and willingly interact with passengers, creating a relaxing experience.|
|Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi plans go as low as $10 for one device. If you’re looking to connect throughout the flight, it’ll set you back $35. However, for frequent travelers, a monthly plan is a great option. It starts at $59.95.||Those flying Upper Class can get free Wi-Fi for 20 minutes, enough to check emails or do quick socials. However, for longer connections, there’s a £5.99 ($7.20) plan for an hour’s connection. You can also connect throughout the flight for £18.99 ($22.99).|
The Details: American Airlines Flagship Business Class vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
American Airlines Flagship Business Class
A huge bonus when flying aboard American Airlines Flagship Business is getting access to the Flagship Lounge. Comparable to upscale international lounges, Flagship Lounges are devised to give international flying guests a chance to unwind and relax before their flight. AA’s Flagship First Lounge is even counted as among the best airport lounges in the world.
Limited in location, you’ll only find them in the following airports:
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
- John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York (JFK) – Chelsea Lounge and Greenwich Lounge
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
- Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) (Possible Future Location – TBA)
Access to Flagship Business Lounges is open to any American Airlines Flagship First or Flagship Business guest on a transcontinental or international route.
Those flying on a Oneworld airline also acquire access and can bring 1 guest with them if they’re flying on the same airline toward an international destination. Passengers on a transcontinental route are not allowed to bring any guest with them into the lounge.
Aside from ticketed Flagship passengers, those holding AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, and Platinum Members flying on an international route can also enter. This is also true for Oneworld Emerald as well as Sapphire members including ConciergeKey status members.
If you’re curious to access the lounge but unwilling to fly on Flagship Business or Flagship First, you can pay for entry. American Airlines has begun selling ticket access for about $150 or an equivalent of 15,000 AAdvantage miles.
Inside the Flagship Lounge, guests can expect chef-curated meals, immense seating options, and personalized service courtesy of the staff. There’s also an impeccable wine spread, a dedicated cocktail bar, napping areas, and shower suites.
Once boarding commences guests on Flagship Business get devoted check-in lines and boarding. They get 2 free checked baggage weighing up to 32 kg. or 70 lbs. maximum for each bag. Oneworld Emerald status holders or AA Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro status holders can also check in a third bag.
If a Flagship Lounge isn’t available at the airport, you can use Admirals Club lounges. These are less extravagant compared to Flagship Lounges but still, make a great stop before you board your flight.
American Airlines Flagship Business is counted as one of the best domestic and international business cabins today. Seats in this beautiful cabin can differ in dimension and style depending on the type of aircraft you’re taking.
Safran Cirrus seats are on the Boeing 777-300ER which showcases direct aisle access in its 1-2-1 arrangement. On the 787-9 and 777-200, you’ll find Rockwell Collins Super Diamond Seats. These seats are a lot comfier compared to the Safran seats and furnish a 60-61-inch pitch with a 21-inch width.
All seats lie flat giving guests a good amount of storage. Charging ports are within reach including a power outlet and USB. At the front are a dedicated tray table for dining and work and an entertainment screen.
Extra perks also include an amenity kit, a blanket, and a pillow. Individual seats also get a personal air nozzle, usually absent in most airline seats.
In the future, the cabins are set to change as AA just announced they’ll be introducing the ultra-premium Flagship Suites. These will be available on all of American Airlines’ long-haul fleets.
Like all premium cabins, American Airlines treats guests to a special amenity kit on long haul destinations. They give out handmade pouches from Shinola that contain a pen, a dental kit, earplugs, an eye mask, socks, hand lotion, and D.S. & Durga lip balm.
During overseas flights, guests also have premium Casper pillows and a duvet on the seat. There are certain routes where AA also hands out pajamas or slippers.
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Food and Beverage
American Airlines maintains a solid meal service program aboard its Flagship Business cabin. Meals can be ordered up to 24 hours before the flight date via the American Airlines app or website. Just click on “Reserve a Meal” and choose from the options available.
If you have special requests, for instance, you require a vegan or Kosher dish, you can also put in a note here.
For in-flight meal service, it starts shortly after takeoff, with the attendants handing out printed menus. Those who pre-ordered will often get a confirmation page of their requested meals so they can reconfirm if everything is correct.
Meals are given out in trays and carts, making the service quite efficient, especially for a big cabin like Flagship Business. Guests can start with appetizers with a small bread basket, followed by the main entree and then dessert. There are also premium spirits, wines, and other beverages served on Flagship Business.
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Being one of AA’s most premium cabins, it’s no surprise the airline also delivers when it comes to its entertainment system. A convenient 18-inch touchscreen monitor is found on each seat. Buf for easy access, there’s a handheld remote on the armrest in case you don’t want to keep reaching over for volume controls or changing the show.
The IFE has hundreds of favored TV shows, movies, documentaries, podcasts, and music. Live channels and streaming content like Apple TV, Skillshare, or the Rosetta Stone are also accessible.
To make the IFE even more appealing, American Airlines is one of the few that provides Bang & Olufsen headphones for their guests. These headphones are the crème de la crème when it comes to sound quality and is fantastic to use.
One thing to note, however, is that AA collects these headphones an hour before landing. Apparently, these are measures to prevent guests from taking the headphones home with them.
In-flight Wi-Fi is only available for purchase. It’s offered at a reasonable amount of $10 as a starter but you can opt to purchase a full flight pass for $35. Monthly subscriptions provide frequent flyers more flexibility especially when they need to get work done while in the air. These monthly plans start at $49.05 for connecting with one device and $59.95 for two devices.
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Passengers can use anywhere between 2-3 lavatories inside the Flagship Business cabin. The numbers vary on the type of aircraft. However, don’t expect anything extravagant as these lavatories are often kept simple yet clean. Sometimes they will come with high-end toiletries but other times they won’t.
Get ready to sleep on a comfortable bed. You get a 76 to 82-inch long bed paired with cozy Casper blankets and pillows to give you a restful sleep.
Staff and Guest Services
Service onboard Flagship Business can be either good or bad. The crew can sometimes be attentive and proactive but on occasion, they can also be mechanical and uncaring.
Who Is It For?
Even though the service can be inconsistent, for the most part, flying in AA’s Flagship Business cabin is a fabulous experience. As a passenger, you get access to the fantastic Flagship Lounge plus enjoy all the perks of an inviting seat, a gourmet meal, and top-quality amenities onboard.
American Airlines Flagship Business Class Gallery
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class
Marketed as a cross between business class and first class, Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class cabin gives guests the best of both worlds. It’s believed to be the airline’s most premium cabin on long haul flights so guests can expect to be fully pampered while in the air.
This amazing service starts on the ground, specifically at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse. Upper Class passengers acquire complimentary access to one of the best lounges in Europe, including all its wonderful perks.
If you’re flying from Heathrow Airport (LHR), you’ll find the Clubhouse at Terminal 3. After entering security, you can just follow the signage to “Lounge H,” go up a level and you should find the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
As you enter The Clubhouse at Heathrow, the first thing that greets you is the famed 46-foot-long bar. Surrounding it are seats and sofas so you can cozy up, grab a drink, work, or dine on delicious food. To the left of the bar are seats and tables reminiscent of a restaurant. You can order from a menu and enjoy an à la carte experience while here.
Although the spa and hair salon is gone, the space has been repurposed into a chill, seating area, and small exercise space. You’ll also find a pool table, a small library, and an outdoor rooftop “garden.” Other things to expect include shower suites and an expansive buffet and drinks option.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses are found worldwide including major cities like San Francisco, New York, Johannesburg, and Washington D.C.
Another plus for Upper Class passengers is you receive priority boarding and check-in. You won’t need to compete with other passengers to get on the plane. In certain airports, including Heathrow, there’s a dedicated security line as well.
For check-in, passengers in Upper Class can check in 2 free luggage up to 32 kg. each or about 70 lbs. per bag. On the plane, they can also take 2 carry-ons up to 15 kg. or 35 lbs. as well as 1 personal item.
Upper Class seats are available on different aircraft and each seat will be slightly distinct. You’ll find the best seats onboard the A330neo or the A350. If this is your first time in Upper Class, it’s recommended you secure routes with these planes to get the best experience.
Majority of the seats are crafted in a 1-2-1 format along with a width of 22 inches. The best part about the Upper Class cabin on these planes is you can enjoy the social area called The Loft. It’s a little nook composed of couches and a fridge with premade negronis ready for slurping.
What’s more, near Row 1 are dedicated seats called Retreat Suites which are larger and can be transformed into a social area that can accommodate up to four passengers.
Between the A330neo and the A350, the latter is slightly more luxurious. This has forward-facing seats arranged in a 1-2-1 structure. For the middle seats, there’s a retractable screen to keep privacy or to lower them when traveling with a friend or family.
Another thing is the seats here are made to fit someone taller measuring 20 inches in width and 82 inches in length which can fit someone up to 6 feet and 7 inches.
In contrast, the oldest Upper Class seats are installed on the Boeing 787. While they are still comfortable, they have their limitations due to their age. Virgin Atlantic is working to retrofit these older cabins but at the moment they are still around.
With non-motorized seats, these can only move to bed mode or upright mode. They’re arranged in a 1-1-1 structure and oddly all face away from the windows. It has a seat pitch of 78 inches and a width of 33 inches, wider than the seats in other planes.
On the 787, there’s also a social area called The Bar where people can gather, drink, and chat. You’ll also find this social space inside the A330-200.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class passengers get a “goodie bag” when flying in the cabin. These contain standard items like a dental kit, an eye mask, earplugs, REN Clean skincare items, and a paper pen.
For sleeping, a thick pillow and duvet are provided and overnight guests get cotton pajamas too! You can use the provided headphones or use your own using Bluetooth.
Food and Beverage
Enjoy à la carte meals when you fly on Upper Class. Their meal service starts with pre-flight champagne alongside delicious rosemary-flavored chips. At this time, the menu is provided so you can choose what you want to eat.
Virgin Atlantic allows guests to take their pick from 2 types of starters, 3 main entrees, and 2 types of dessert. In addition, there’s a carefully curated wine list courtesy of top London wine merchant, Jeroboams.
Every meal is served over white tablecloths and stylish, signature cutlery and dishes. A sampling of warm rolls is brought out too. Breakfast stats about 90 minutes before landing where you can choose between a Full English Breakfast or just go for a simple pastry and coffee.
Vera is Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight entertainment system. It’s loaded with hundreds of carefully chosen Hollywood movies, TV shows, music, concerts, and more. You can even find channels and shows for children to keep kiddos entertained.
Like the seats, the monitor sizes can vary depending on the plane type. Carrying the biggest screens is the A350, which is 18.5 inches and comes with 2 USB ports. A smaller 17.1-inch screen is fitted on the A330neo while the 787 has the smallest monitor at 11.1 inches. Waiting for you on the seat are headphones and a handheld remote to use with the IFE.
Unlike different airlines, Virgin Atlantic hasn’t completely done away with giving business class guests free Wi-Fi access. They’re one of the few who offer free Wi-Fi for 20 minutes. It’s enough to do a quick email check or update on social media. However, if you want a longer Wi-Fi connection for work, paid plans are available.
A one-hour connection starts at £5.99 ($7 to $8). But for a full flight connection without any data cap, you can buy £18.99 ($23).
Upper Class on the 787 has 2 lavatories while those aboard the A330-200 only have one. The more lavish A350 also has 2 lavatories for business guests found at the front portion of the cabin.
To help you sleep better, the seats in Upper Class fully recline and transform into a bed. The 787 and the A330-300 have flat beds measuring 78 inches. However, the A330-200 is smaller at 71.3 inches and the A350 measures 82 inches long.
Comfortable pillows and blankets are on each seat too.
Staff and Guest Services
Expect nothing less than friendly and cheerful service when flying on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class. The crew is professional and attentive, ensuring your experience will be a happy one.
Who Is It For?
Experience one of the most premium cabins when you fly in Upper Class. The newer versions found on the A350 and the A330neo are a real joy to fly in. They provide spacious seats, excellent privacy, wonderful amenities, and a superb dining experience. With access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, the experience is elevated further even while on the ground.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Gallery
Best For: Which Airline Class Should You Book?
|Winner||What Makes It Great|
|Best for Food||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class has a multi-course à la carte meal service that elevates the food experience in the air.|
|Best for Seats||American Airlines Flagship Business||American Airlines has more updated seats compared to Upper Class with the older 787 Upper Class seats being unusual and uncomfortable.|
|Best for Ground Experience||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses provide an extra bit of fun, comfort, and style to the ground experience.|
|Best For Comfort||Tie||The seats on both airlines are equally comfortable and inviting.|
|Best for Families||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Virgin Atlantic’s social areas like The Loft and The Bar, take socializing for families and groups to a whole new level.|
|Best for Couples||Tie||Both AA and Virgin Atlantic provide middle seats with adjustable dividers so you can always sit next to your partner.|
|Best for Service||Virgin Atlantic Upper Class||Upper Class guests receive consistent, friendly, and professional service each time.|
|Most Exclusive||Tie||Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class is the more exclusive of the two because it combines business class with the extravagance of first class.|
Make your business class flight a memorable one with American Airlines Flagship Business or Virgin Atlantic Upper Class.
Both airlines have created a cabin that advances the experience of flying in business class to create complete comfort and style. American Airlines presents generous seats and exceptional ground experience with their Flagship lounges. The soft service could use more consistency, but overall, it’s still going to be a great flight.
Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to fusing fun and pleasure in one cabin makes the Upper Class a success. Upper Class offers outstanding seats (particularly in the newer A350 and A330neo planes), provides impeccable meals, and friendly attendants – everything you could ask for in a restful flight.
One thing’s for sure, whichever cabin you go with, you’re bound to have a unique experience with either of these business class cabins.