Review of Virgin Atlantic flight Islamabad London in Premium Eco

Airline Virgin Atlantic
Flight VS379
Class Premium Eco
Seat 22A
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 08:25
Take-off 07 Oct 22, 11:55
Arrival at 07 Oct 22, 16:20
VS   #4 out of 78 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 47 reviews
bldavid
By GOLD 1243
Published on 12th October 2022

Not many people think of Pakistan as a tourist destination. It’s a pity. The monuments of Lahore, the salt mine, the bazar of Peshawar or the mountains of the Karakoram Highway are all top class attractions. The country is cheap, I felt perfectly safe, the infrastructure is reasonably developed, the food is good, the hotels are comfortable and the people are very friendly. Some photos I took:

Lahore Fort:


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In the bazar in Lahore:


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Khewra Salt Mine, also known as the Himalayan Salt Mine (although not located in the Himalayas):


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Grapefruit and Pomegranate stall in the Peshawar bazar:


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I stayed at the Serena Hotel Islamabad. This hotel is not only the best in Pakistan but it’s also on par with other top hotels in the world yet the room rates are very reasonable. It’s a member of the Leading Hotels of the World.


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A very comfortable airport transfer by private car was included in my hotel rate. The airport is about 45 kms from downtown Islamabad and it took 40 minutes via the expressway to get there. The exterior of the airport:


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A soldier checked the passengers’ tickets and passports at the entrance of the terminal building. There were a few people in front of me and it took five to ten minutes to enter.

The next step was luggage control – just a few seconds.

Next came customs – I was waved through.

Priority check-in was available at a separate desk for premium economy passengers.


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There were a few people in front of me with a lot of luggage. Some VIP guests were checked in by a soldier/policeman/helper. The check-in didn’t take more than ten minutes for me.

Passport control took another five to ten minutes.

The whole process of getting from landside to airside was altogether hassle-free and didn’t take more than a half an hour.

Let’s have a look at the departing flights. There are not many flights although most of them are by wide-body aircraft even for relatively short distances. Note the flight to Kabul by Kam Air (not a widebody): I didn’t know Kabul Airport had reopened after the chaotic scenes of 2021.


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The terminal is modern, spacious, clean and was not crowded.


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There were remarkably few shops. I had a good cappuccino.


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I choose Virgin Atlantic to fly from Islamabad to London because it was the only direct flight that day, it flew at a very convenient time (not a night or early morning departure) and premium economy was only about 10% more expensive than economy (business class would have been three times more expensive).

The cabin crew arrived exactly one hour before departure.


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The boarding area.


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A Saudia B777 on the apron.


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Boarding was done by multiple agents. Passports and boarding passes were checked at least three times.

Wheelchair passengers were the first to board, followed by families with young children. The next group was premium passengers – premium economy and business class together.

Our plane today was a B787-900, registration number G-VBEL, built In 2018.


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I received a warm welcome as I entered the plane. I had a quick look to the left at the Upper Class (business class) cabin – it looked beautiful. I turned right to the premium economy cabin which also looked very nice, although the strong purple color was a bit surprising.


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The premium economy cabin has a 2+3+2 configuration in five rows with a total of 35 seats. The cabin was almost completely full but I was lucky and the seat next to mine remained empty.

Seats 21AC:


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Seats 22DFG:


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Seats 22AC:


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Legroom at seat 22A:


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A pillow, a blanket, a headphone and a menu with “hello you” written on it were waiting on the seat.


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The headphones were better than the ones offered in economy but not as good as the ones in business – fair enough.

Legroom, seat width and overall seat comfort were all very good. The cabin was in very good condition. The materials used to cover the seats seemed to be of premium quality.

A welcome drink was offered. I chose apple juice.


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Push-back was at 11.56 for a scheduled departure time of 11.55. We took off at 12.06 from runway 28L.

The view of the terminal building during taxi:


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Skymap is well designed and has several viewing options.


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“The number of passengers onboard is 216” – I think I’ve never heard this type of announcement.

Let’s have a look at the menu:


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Packed pretzels and drinks were offered about 25 minutes after take-off. I ordered some coke and white wine. I’ve never seen wine in a can. The wine tasted really bad; not because of the can but because it was some really cheap wine that any decent Parisian sans-abri (homeless) would refuse to drink.


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Some Sea Salt Crisps and other snacks were offered from a basket only 15 minutes later.


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We overflew Afghanistan with some beautiful views over the mountains from our flight altitude of 34,000 feet. Do you know which ATC is used when flying over Afghanistan? Pakistani, Afghan, Tajik or something else? I don’t know.


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The most beautiful views came when we reached Tajikistan.


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Lunch was served at 13.00, approximately one hour after take-off. I had chicken. The presentation of the meal was up to the standards of premium economy class with proper glasses, porcelain plates and metal utensils but the meal itself was neither good or bad; it was just so-so as it often happens in premium economy.


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Carrot and harissa salad with roasted chickpeas, pomegranate and couscous. It sounds good but it wasn’t.


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Breaded chicken filled with garlic butter, creamy mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetable. Fancy name for this meal but it was not good.


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Double chocolate cake.


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Tea (and coffee) was served after the meal in a home style cup – it’s so much better than a plastic or paper cup.


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Snacks and drinks were available from the galley throughout the flight.


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The cabin crew was very friendly, smiling and had a very positive attitude.

In-flight entertainment offers 123 movies, 65 TV shows and 567 music albums. The choice is varied and most people should be able to find something they like.


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I watched two movies and listened to The Clash:


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A vegetable samosa was served as a snack a bit after halfway. The presentation was not very nice and the samosa was too spicy for me.


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View of Lake Balaton in Hungary:


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The third meal service started 1 hour and 55 minutes before landing. I choose the mushroom, thyme, mascarpone parcel. The presentation was such that the cabin crew apologized about it. The food was like the main meal five hours earlier: not good, not bad.


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We reached the coast of England about 40 minutes before landing.


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Some nice views over London:


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We landed at Heathrow at 16.10 and reached our gate at 16.15 for a scheduled arrival time of 17.20, more than one hour ahead of schedule.


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Verdict

Virgin Atlantic

8.5/10
Cabin10.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi10.0
Meal/catering4.0

Islamabad - ISB

8.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness10.0

London - LHR

8.5/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

The food was not good but everything else was perfect about this flight: a departure airport that was not crowded; a beautiful premium economy cabin in very good condition; a comfortable seat with more than enough legroom; friendly cabin crew and a flight that left on time and landed one hour ahead of schedule. Moreover the price I had paid for this flight was exceptionally good value.

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10 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 613294 by
    B777300ERANA 11 Comments

    Thank you for the trip report!

    It is an great thing seeing Virgin flying to Pakistan and etc, providing great connectivity to
    I also feel sad about the food images that the local Islamabad airport provided. They definitely could do an better job for an international carrier.

  • Comment 613360 by
    NGO85 GOLD 1871 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this FR!

    I’ve never seen wine in a can.

    LOL, everything was looking good in this report until this great gem, “NICE.”

    Fancy name for this meal

    Looks like something from a middle school cafeteria: chicken patty and mashed
    potatoes.

    A vegetable samosa was served as a snack a bit after halfway.

    Two meals served in oil soaked bags. Even UA catering wouldn’t sink that low…

    A good hard and soft product let down by some really poor catering. It must be an issue at ISB since other VA reports haven’t been as scathing on the catering.

    Thanks again!

  • Comment 613446 by
    757Fan 616 Comments

    Thanks for sharing. Good report - and I enjoyed seeing all your photos. Looks like a great trip. Sorry about the underwhelming meal on VA in Premium Y.

  • Comment 613463 by
    Riton75 559 Comments

    Thanks for this report

    it was some really cheap wine that any decent Parisian sans-abri (homeless) would refuse to drink.

    You don't know the wine brand "La Villageoise" (the villager)!!! Cheap and very famous for its bad taste... Well known by the homeless

  • Comment 613742 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6051 Comments

    Hey David, very good to see a VS Premium Economy report as it's been a while since I've seen one! I've only flown VS W a few times, but have fond memories and remember it being a very solid product, better than most other carriers' Premium Economy offerings.

    Not many people think of Pakistan as a tourist destination.

    It's true. Pakistan's natural beauty has been a well-kept secret for a long time, but it's finally creating some buzz lately and I'm definitely seeing more and more travel-related Pakistand content with beautiful mountains and lush green valleys. I think Pakistan may become a hot Alpine destination in the next few years.

    Too bad about the catering! It definitely looks like the quality has degraded since I flew VS Premium Economy. I imagine they still haven't gotten back to pre-pandemic standards, but serving a meal in a paper bag is bad, even by Economy standards. I don't know why so many carriers can't do two proper meal services in Premium Economy...more often than not the 2nd/pre-arrival meal is the same as Economy. I know galley space has something to do with it, but some airlines are able to make it work. AA, oddly, have always done two upgraded meals in Premium Economy since it was introduced 4-5 years ago. It's sad when it can be said that AA make more effort on catering than VS! Never thought I'd say that--I'm sure all will go back to the normal order of things once VS go back to pre-pandemic standards.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 613762 by
      bldavid GOLD AUTHOR 257 Comments

      Hi KévinDC and thank you for your comment. Premium economy is usually a great product for extra comfort but catering is often disappointing. I wish W passengers had the opportunity to pre-order higher quality meals for an additional fee.

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