Going to the Maldives is undoubtedly a dream vacation but one that is made exponentially better when flying Upper Class with Virgin Atlantic. Because who wants to let jetlag undermine the perfection of paradise? Jenny Southan reports

This year, Virgin Atlantic is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Four decades ago, a £99 ticket from London to New York Newark on a second-hand B747 marked the beginnings of Virgin Atlantic.

About 21 million glasses of champagne have since been poured in the sky by the airline’s cabin crew, and Virgin Atlantic is now marking 40 years of industry “firsts”, including the first-ever seat back TVs and the invention of premium economy.

It was also the first airline to scrap make-up requirements for cabin crew, allow visible tattoos and let staff decide which version of the airline’s Vivienne Westwood uniforms best represents their gender.

In terms of route networks, the US and Caribbean remain a core focus for Virgin Atlantic but it’s expanding into new territories too. From 2025, the airline will offer over a million seats to India for the first time, a 350 per cent capacity growth since 2019.

Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic Holidays has set “ambitious targets” to achieve its vision of becoming the “most loved travel company” with its “premium holiday” proposition. It aims to reclaim its number one spot in Florida, focusing on Orlando, Tampa and Miami by partnering with Disney and Universal, and introducing multi-centre holidays.

It’s set on becoming the preferred choice for customers travelling to premium sun destinations such as the Caribbean, Dubai and the Maldives. Last winter, Virgin Atlantic began flying started operating a thrice-weekly service to the Maldives from London Heathrow until March 29, 2024.

In fact it was so succesful it will be returning on a daily basis for the 2024/2025 winter season from October 27, 2024. (Just remember to fill in your online “Imuga” traveller declaration for the Maldives within 96 hours of departure.)

This is what you can expect when flying Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from London Heathrow to the Maldives…


I arrived at the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in London Heathrow Terminal 3 at about 1530, allowing almost three hours before my departure to do some work and enjoy the ambiance. I ordered some BBQ cauliflower “wings” and a G&T to a table in the restaurant (where everything is free), but the sit-up bar was busy serving glasses of champagne and cocktails too.

Fitness freaks can fit in a workout in the small gym facing the aicraft stands, where there is a row of Peloton bikes. The lounge is certainly one of the best of any airline, with bright, stylish interior design, loads of inviting seating areas, plentiful food (served à la carte, which is much more appetising), and showers. This certainly adds value to the flight experience and puts you in the holiday mood quicker than a sandwich in departures from WHSmith.


I noticed that boarding began at about 1730 so left the lounge and set off for the gate, roughly ten minutes away. One of the perks of flying Upper Class (or business class on any airline) is that you are given priority boarding.  As usual on Virgin Atlantic, the crew were extremely jovial and welcoming (they were happy to be flying to the Maldives too as they get a couple of days to enjoy the destination before flying back) and I was directed to my seat (2G) in the centre of the plane near the front.

After I had gotten myself comfortable, a member of crew offered me a choice of orange juice, water or Champagne (Chanoine Frères Réserve Privée Brut) and some canapés (the skewers of zesty, spicy mozzarella and pineapple with delicious). This was a welcome touch as snacks aren’t normally served with pre-take-off drinks.

On the ottoman (or “buddy seat”) that every Upper Class pod has, there was a small pack containing Ren lip balm, day cream and hand cream, plus a toothbrush and paste, ear plugs, socks and an eye mask. During night flights such as this, passengers also get pyjamas in a range of sizes (a simple pair of black stretchy trousers and a T shirt). Virgin Atlantic uses coloured mood lighting to good effect – setting the tone to red and purple in the evening, and orangey hues when it’s time to wake.


The London Heathrow-Maldives route is served by a B787-9 Dreamliner fitted with 31 Upper  Class seats arranged in the nose of the plane. On this B787, all seats are angled in a “herring-bone” formation – “A” seats offer the most privacy as they are facing the backs of the “G” seats. Seats “G” and “K” are angled towards each other. These are not the airline’s newest Upper Class product but I am still a fan. The only downside is that I find it quite hard to sit upright amd type on my laptop at the table as the seat is so deep.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class B787It was a busy flight so I didn’t manage to get a window seat on the outbound leg but I did on the way back – in this case I chose 11A (pictured below), which near the bar in the last row of Upper Class so felt very private as no other passengers were facing toward me.

All Upper Class seats can be converted into fully flat beds that come with quilts to lie on, pillows and covers. I found this bed to be really comfortable and a little more spacious than the newer and more private Upper Class Suites on the new A350. There is a universal socket for charging devices, a sturdy table that slides out and a pop-out entertainment screen.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class bed B787
Virgin Atlantic B787 Upper Class cabin


My flight had a nighttime departure of 1820, which provided an extremely compelling reason to fly Upper Class because it means you can get a proper sleep on a fully flat bed before landing and enjoying the first day of your vacation. (What a waste to sleep all afternoon in your hotel room!)

Even on a ten- to 11-hour day flight (like the return) it’s incredibly welcome to have the extra space, the option to nap, have a drink at the bar and – most importantly – end your trip on a high.

Take off was a little delayed (we departed at 1915) but no one seemed to mind too much as we were having such as good time in Upper Class – the holiday had definitely already started in my mind. After watching a movie with dinner, and popping to the bar for a nightcap and to stretch my legs, I settled down to sleep and got a good six or seven hours before waking up for breakfast.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class B787


Those wanting an early night can select a “speedy supper” – in this case, spiced apple and parsnip soup with a Gouda cheese and chilli jam toastie, which sounded good. Those wanting a “midnight” snack can help themselves to crisps, chocolate and other nibbles from the bar.

For dinner, I requested the starter of carrot tartare (a bit like smoked salmon) with whipped ricotta, pickled carrots, pea shoots and sourdough crisp (top marks for this dish); followed by spinach and ricotta tortellini in a sage butter sauce, baby courgettes, artichoke and parsley crumb; and the British cheese plate (Rutland Red, blue Stilton, Cotswold Brie) with a glass of port, for the novelty. Because it was quite dimly lit, I have also shared photos of the food on the return flight – it was incredibly fresh and tasty. You certainly won’t go hungry on a Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight, and meals are always presented on a white tablecloth with metal cutlery and the airline’s trademark plane-shaped salt and pepper shakers that say “stolen from Virgin Atlantic” underneath.

I am vegetarian but for those who are not there was also Serrano ham with roasted squash, herb roasted chicken breast and roasted trout fillet. Desserts were: millionaire’s delice with Chantilly cream or cranberry and orange bread and butter pudding.

Wines included a Hambledon English sparkling, a white Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and a red Villa Borghetti Valpolicella Classico from Italy.

I liked that the airline stocked Three Spirit non-alcoholic spirits for cocktails – the caffeinated “Livener” is particularly moreish. Virgin Atlantic crew can also mix a signature “Ruby Slipper “with sparkling wine and Fever-Tree’s rhubarb and raspberry tonic water. Alternatively there’s Brew Dog Lost Lager and Hazy Jane, Brooklyn Pilsner, alcohol-free Lucky Saint beer and Teapigs teas.

Breakfast orders are taken early on in the flight so crew can prepare the meals in advance for passengers when they wake up (I chose the yoghurt and granola, fresh fruit, and “bubble and squeak” potato cake with a free-range poached egg, chive hollondaise and cherry tomatoes). There was also pain au chocolate, cereal, a full English, baguette French toast with caramelised bananas, and a warm bacon roll. Breakfast is served about 90 minutes before landing, with tea and coffee served in proper mugs.Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lunch Virgin Atlantic Upper Class lunch


Although some people prefer not to be able to get online when flying, I always delight in being able to get a good wifi connection in the air. Virgin Atlantic charges £2.49 for instant messaging for the whole flight; £12.99 for “Basic Surf” (sufficient for social media but probably not video uploads); £29.99 for Premium Surf (good for VoIP calls and music streaming); and £34.99 for three hours of high-speed streaming. The Vera in-flight entertainment system had a decent selection of movies and TV shows.
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class B787


We landed in Malé International airport on time at 0940 and promptly disembarked. There wasn’t long to wait at immigration and we were soon able to check-in for our connecting flight to Sun Siyam Iru Fushi about 50 minutes’ away. Passengers need to take a transfer shuttle bus to the sea plane terminal a short distance away. There is a dedicated lounge with snacks and cold drinks, and a terrace facing the ocean where the seaplanes take off.


A truly enjoyable flight that set the tone for the rest of the trip. Returning home in Upper Class also took the edge of the disappointment of leaving the Maldives. It was one last treat before descending back to reality in the UK. The crew were great, the food delicious and the bed comfortable. I also caught up on my emails during the daytime flight so felt on top before starting work again.


Book seven nights in the Maldives with Virgin Atlantic Holidays, including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Heathrow to Velana International airport, with twin-centre accommodation at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi and Siyam World Maldives from £3,027 per person.

Spend four nights bed and breakfast at Sun Siyam Iru Fushi staying in a Deluxe Beach Villa, before enjoying three nights all-inclusive at Siyam World Maldives in a Water Villa fit with a pool and slide.

Price is per person based on two adults travelling, including seaplane transfers, applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure of December 10 2024. Virgin Atlantic Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected.