Flight test: Virgin Atlantic premium economy

Route New York (Newark) to London (Heathrow).

Aircraft Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400.

Class Premium economy, seat 33A.

Airport Virgin flies to London from JFK and Newark, with Newark being the infinitely less-stressful proposition. Premium-economy passengers have separate check-in desks, a priority security line and priority boarding.

Scheduled flight time 6hr 50min. We arrive 35 minutes early.

Seat width and pitch Seats are a class-leading 21 inches wide (only an inch narrower than Virgin's Upper Class seats) with a generous 38-inch pitch in a 2-4-2 layout. At present, this new, wider seat is available on all flights into and out of Heathrow and will be rolled out to the rest of the fleet by the end of the year.

Service Cheery and attentive. Two dedicated premium-economy cabin crew in Virgin's trademark lipstick-red uniforms welcome us aboard with a glass of sparkling wine and a selection of newspapers and magazines.

Food and drinks A definite step up from economy. Dinner is a foil-free affair served on china plates with stainless-steel cutlery and linen tablecloths and napkins. Balmoral smoked salmon is followed by a choice of three mains (the braised-beef and leek stew with herb dumplings is excellent), with a strawberry and rhubarb crumble tart for dessert. An after-dinner Baileys is a nice touch. Wine selection is limited to an Italian chardonnay or a French shiraz. Breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon is adequate rather than extraordinary.

Luggage Two checked pieces, each up to 23 kilograms. One piece of hand luggage, up to six kilograms.

In-flight entertainment Interactive video-on-demand system with a 23-centimetre-wide screen and an impressive range of new-release movies, TV shows, games and music. Disappointingly, the headphones aren't noise cancelling.

Comfort Plush purple leather seats feel significantly more spacious than economy. Additional width means the generously proportioned man next to me remains in his own seat and there are 12 centimetres of space between my knees and the seat in front. Recline is good and I sleep for a solid four hours.

Amenities Basic amenity kit with toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask and socks.

Flight frequency Virgin flies five times a day from New York to London. A premium-economy return fare from New York to London costs from $1400, including tax.

Onlinewww.virgin-atlantic.com.

Tested by Rob McFarland, who flew courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

The story Flight test: Virgin Atlantic premium economy first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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