British-Airways ssbhv

IS VIRGIN ATLANTIC ECONOMY BETTER THAN BRITISH AIRWAY?

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  • Post last modified:February 18, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

Take a deep breath, sit back and relax. We’re going to make this scientific. We’ve weighed and measured every inch, reward, meal, and buck you’ll need to spend to have a blissfully smooth experience flying with these fiercely competitive airlines. Will British Airways provide a better experience for your tastes, or is Virgin Atlantic?
You may be surprised when we break it down. If you’re going to hop on a plane for a seemingly endless amount of hours, you want all the perks (and snacks) you can get. Here’s your best bet.

British-Airways ssbhv


PRICING
Most customers buy tickets based on price – and that makes perfect sense. The airlines are consistently on price with most routes such as New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong and have recently offered virtually identical sales.
They each also offer “holidays,” where you can combine flight and hotel into one package, yielding fantastic savings. British Airways offers more destinations, but the offerings are very similar.
SEAT SELECTION
Both airlines now offer “basic economy” fares, which do not include a checked bag or complimentary seat assignment. Virgin calls these fares “light,” while British Airways calls them “basic.” If you book a “light” or “basic” fare, a seating assignment will cost £30 each way and up, depending on the row. Each airline allows elite members to select seats in advance for free. British Airways provides Silver and Gold members to choose seats for free. Bronze BA members may select seats seven days in advance.
Virgin Atlantic Gold members may select seats for free at any time, and Silver members can reserve for free within 14 days of their flight. Red members (anyone) can reserve seats before the general public, 72 hours before the flight, compared to 24 for everyone else.
CHECKED BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offer first bag free on long haul flights except when traveling on a “light” or “basic” fare. No checked bag will be included if you travel on the cheapest ticket. If you need one, it’s usually more affordable to pay for the “standard” economy fare.
Both airlines are tired at 23kg/50lbs of baggage allowance for most flights, but there are subtle differences in pricing. Virgin Atlantic charges £45 for your first extra bag, which must be booked at the airport. The second bag is £65.
British Airways charges £40 online or £45 at the airport, giving a £5 discount if you book online before check-in. British Airways charges £60 for a second bag if you reserve online when travelling on primary economy tickets.
CHECK-IN + BAG DROP
Both airlines offer mobile boarding passes, bag drop kiosks and other tech advancements. The airlines are a virtual dead heat in this regard.
Be sure to allow a minimum of one hour before your flight is due to depart for check in. You’ll want to leave even more time if you’re checking a bag. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways now offer access to TSA PreCheck for eligible members travelling from the USA. British Airways is the first to offer expanded biometric boarding, but since it’s early days and most customers won’t realise a difference.
PLANES
Most passengers don’t pay enough attention to the plane they are flying on. Newer planes can reduce jet lag and offer more natural air, giving the feeling of life back on the ground. Both have plenty of old planes, but both also fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. British Airways has 30 delivered, and Virgin Atlantic has 14, though some planes for both airlines are not in service due to engine issues.
British Airways also offers the Airbus A380, and both airlines are expecting orders of the A350, which is fantastic. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways will receive their first A350-1000 aircraft in mid-2019. On your specific route, if one offers an old plane and the other provides a new one, we’d opt for the better plane.

Virgin Atalantic ssbhv


THE SEAT
Thanks to differing seat colours, there’s a bit more ambience in the Virgin Atlantic economy cabin, but as to the seats – they’re honestly identical in dimension whichever airline you fly. Both airlines have opted for 31” of seat pitch and 17.5” width on all their major aircraft.
The entertainment systems are mostly the same, which leaves things down to movie and television selection. You can compare the current offering for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to make up your mind. British Airways tend to have a more extensive selection, but Virgin gains access to exclusives.
FOOD & DRINKS
We’ll be honest – your best bet is always to eat in the airport beforehand, but we get it – a “free” meal is a free meal. British Airways has squeaked in an extra course, offering a “four-course meal” and a later snack.
Virgin Atlantic offers a “three-course meal” and a later snack. Both have new partnerships, and food quality is up for both airlines. However, the big deal-breaker is Virgin Atlantic’s afternoon tea from Eric Lanlard, served in every cabin, including the economy. This is a great feature that makes the Virgin economy dining experience more exciting.
One interesting side aspect is “premium meals”. British Airways customers can pay £15-£18 for a “premium meal” offering a definitively upgraded food experience. Virgin Atlantic customers cannot. But Virgin customers can pay £14 per (mini bottle) for a champagne toast, complete with flutes, which BA customers cannot. Both offer complimentary standard wine, beer and spirits as well.
WIFI
Virgin Atlantic was an early adaptor of in-flight wifi and offered it aboard all of its aircraft. On the other hand, British Airways has lagged – and is only just beginning to install wifi across its long haul fleet.
Many would argue that British Airways will have newer, faster wifi systems once installed. But for now, Virgin Atlantic is the only of the two which can guarantee an internet connection on long haul flights. Point for Virgin Atlantic.
REWARDS
Both airlines reward economy passengers with roughly 50% of the miles they’ve flown. So for a London to New York round trip, you could expect to come away with 3,457 miles, the one-way distance between cities.
One-way short-haul flights with British Airways and partners worldwide start at 4,500 points, so it’s easier to use a small amount of British Airways points to cash in a free flight than with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles.