Caroline Marshall continues the series in which a Campaign reporter
checks out a product or service against the promise of its marketing.
This month, with her corporate hat on, she sees what Virgin Upper Class
has to offer.
THE BUYER - Caroline Marshall
As a regular visitor to the comfortless world of the economy class
flight, I’d always wanted to give Virgin’s business class a try. Not
just anyone’s, but Virgin’s. So although I didn’t personally shop for
the two Virgin Upper Class return flights to Los Angeles (at pounds
4,500-odd a throw, it’s just as well they were on the company), I was
looking forward to the experience.
This was because years of spending on persuasive ads seemed to suggest
that Virgin Upper Class (the carrier’s business class seats) offered
more fringe benefits than its more crusty transatlantic competitors:
oodles of frequent flier points, free chauffeuring to and from the
airport, improved leg-room, wider seats, on-board lounges, personal TV
sets and on-board beauty treatments.
Well, the flights were indeed dripping with frills: limo transfers
(although I still had to check myself in), beauty treatments (I opted
for manicures, both ways), OK food (served on real china and glass, is
the kindest thing I can say), and sleepsuits (but does anyone actually
wear them?). Who cares about those victims of gastronomic murder,
squeezed to crunching point for 11 hours in corset-like seats in economy
class? Let them pray for slim neighbours!
And so to my quibble. One of the big inducements to fly Virgin Upper
Class has to be the frequent flier points accrued. First-time fliers get
enough free miles for a trip to the US or Caribbean; second-time fliers
get enough to take someone along too. But it turns out that my tickets
had been purchased on a Continental Airlines booking system, rendering
all the points I thought I had accrued on the Virgin Freeway scheme
So I was travelling on a Virgin flight but couldn’t build on my
relationship with the brand. So much for customer loyalty.
THE SELLER Alison Copus
Alison Copus is the general manager, marketing, of Virgin Atlantic, and
has been with the airline for five years.
Here, she responds to Caroline Marshall’s comments
At Virgin we always take feedback very seriously. That’s how we measure
our success. Being parochial, I was delighted that our advertising seems
to be working. From the service perspective, I cannot deny there are
more frills for Upper Class passengers than for economy passengers. As
with almost every other purchase, you get what you pay for.
The crucial point here is that whatever class our passengers choose to
fly, they will get more for their money. Upper Class may cost the same
as other airlines’ Business Class, but Virgin’s service compares with
First Class on other airlines.
Passengers get first-class legroom and many little touches like
manicures, massage, a bar and even sleepsuits (which most people seem to
We are also the only transatlantic airline to offer Economy passengers a
choice. Everyone gets their own TV screen, with a choice of up to 45
channels of entertainment. For Economy passengers who want more legroom,
a wider seat, dedicated check-in and a separate cabin, we offer Premium
I’m sorry you were disappointed not to get Virgin Freeway miles. The way
to solve this problem is to book your Virgin flight through us. But we
believe that real loyalty is driven by the customer’s experience and so
I am really glad that you enjoyed the ’free chauffeuring to and from the
airport, improved legroom, wider seats, on-board lounges, personal TV
sets and on-board beauty treatments’.
Next time, make sure to allow enough time to visit our airport lounge
where we can pamper you even more. The lounges are a real touch of
Virgin magic and you could enjoy a haircut, a facial, or maybe even
practise your golf putting before the flight.