Do you remember that competition to win the ‘best job in the world’ last year – when Australia‘s Tourist Board was looking to find a caretaker for a palm-fringed white-beached island in Queensland? Anyway, I felt like a contender for that dream employment title when Virgin Atlantic invited me to come and experience Upper Class on a flight to New York for a stay at super-stylish 44th Street hip hotel, the Royalton. ‘Sip Champagne, from a flatbed in the sky, you say? Then spend two nights at one of our favourite hotels – in the name of travel-writing duty?’ It’s a tough job, etc, but I felt I was up to the challenge and I joined fellow intrepid explorers (OK, spoiled sybarites) Amanda (Style Bible), Varun (Inside Luxury Travel), James (We Heart), James (I like boring things) and lovely Maxine (V Travelled) in the taking task of road testing unadulterated five-star treatment in air and on land.
You know it’s the full VA take on VIP treatment when your escape starts with a limo picking you up from home to whisk you to Heathrow. You’re then chaperoned straight to a dedicated arrivals entrance, there are no snaking queues of weary travellers here, just a warm welcome and a cheery check-in pretty much just for you. Then it’s through the usual security X-ray shenanigans, and across to one of the best bits about travelling Upper Class: the Clubhouse lounge. Here, Virgin Atlantic delivers luxury in their signature way making fliers feel special without a whiff of snootiness. The food is fabulous, the drinks flow, and staff radiate enough smiles to rival a Miss World pageant.
After my Full English breakfast (presented most elegantly, naturally) I trotted off for a moisturising facial in the Cowshed spa – the perfect pre-flight hydrating beauty treatment. My 30-minute MD Moisture Burst Facial was a world away from my usual pre-flight time-kill of jostle through Boots to buy some Duty Free face cream.
Fed and pampered, I was now ready to board the aircraft… With the delight of hanging a sharp left as I alighted. A beeline to my personal cubicle, and there I was greeted by a glass of bubbles and a swift tour from a friendly attendant on how to transform my comfy armchair into my very own bed at the touch of a button – fluffy duvet, pillows and cozy pajamas within reach. Of course, a menu of restaurant-standard lunch and in-flight entertainment including the latest film and music releases made my personal bubble of Upper Class feel like a bespoke boutique-hotel bedroom in the sky. And of course Richard Branson’s world-loved airline loves to surprise with some fun added extras that make transit anything but banal, no matter how often you’re on the road. Cooked-just-for-you meals, fine wines, and Artisan du Chocolat treats are only a finger-click away, and delivered with considered touches such as cute propellered jet-shaped silver salt and paper shakers. Rarely does a traveller ask ‘Are we there yet?’ hoping that the answer will be that the journey still has a long way left to go…
Virgin Atlantic flies from London Heathrow to New York five times daily. Fares start from £1,559 in upper class and can be booked either online at www.virginatlantic.com or by calling reservations on 08442 092 770