I Was Still a Virgin
Till I Took Upper Class
On Virgin Atlantic Airways

By Tim and Nina Boxer

T’S been said that it’s one of life’s contradictions that travel broadens you, but so does sitting at home on the sofa.

With that in mind, we took off for London.

You don’t know what luxury in the sky is till you’ve flown with one of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgins. I’m talking Upper Class (the airlines’ business section) on a 747-400 superjet from New York to London. It was such a thrill that after a week of delightful touring, Nina and I did it again, back to New York.

After flying economy all our lives, we finally made it into Upper Class. We’re not virgins anymore, thanks to Virgin Atlantic.

This first class experience (at business class fare) started in the unique Clubhouse lounge at JFK. I went crazy scooping up every British newspaper and magazine to peruse while waiting for my flight. There were so many interesting publications that I carried them all onboard to continue my reading.

The minute we sat down at a table in the lounge, an amiable waitress wanted to take my order for a snack. I chose carefully from the menu and then buried my nose in the London papers.

Other travelers were more ambitious. They were pecking away at computers in workstations equipped with such office paraphernalia as complimentary stationery, envelopes, pens. This area is equipped with free telephones, fax and photocopier.

For the more leisure minded, there is a music room, video room, ski simulator and a bar to chill. I made myself comfortable in an antique leather armchair with my mass of reading material.

Upon arrival at Heathrow, you’ll find that the Clubhouse has facilities to freshen up before you go off to your first business meeting of the day. There are 18 shower rooms with all the requisite bath and beauty necessities.

On departure from Heathrow, you may avail yourself of the grooming salon for complimentary beauty treatments for men and women. I opted to keep my nose between the pages of those British newspapers, deciding to wait for a stress-busting treatment during the flight home.

At the beginning of our journey from New York, Nina and I sat a couple of rows in front of the round bar. Yes, there’s a bar for us Upper Class crust with seven soft leather fixed stools. There was always people raising a drink or two, enjoying the refreshments, and socializing with the bartender.

As I’m not much of a drinker, on our return flight Nina and I got seats on the upper deck with its fewer rows and more spacious area.

We strapped ourselves in those roomy sleeper-seats. What a joy! I’ve always sat in economy where the seats are so narrow that turning the other cheek isn’t a virtue, it’s a necessity.

A very attractive flight attendant immediately materialized and proffered pre-takeoff champagne. Ice cream came with the movies.

The attendant gave us a menu with a large variety of choices. There was no time limit – we could order at any time through the duration of the flight. We started our culinary experience in the sky with ice cream. Later I chose several delicious items throughout the trip, just to keep awake and keep reading.

It was so different on the economy flights I was used to. Once I was asked, “Would you like dinner?” and I said, “What are the choices?” and she said, “Yes or no.”

The perky Virgin attendant reappeared with offers of a blanket and sleep suit. I didn’t feel like getting into pajamas before an audience of a dozen fellow high fliers, so I just tucked it away for later -- at home.

As we were soaring over the Atlantic, Virgin beauty consultant Emma Hughes offered a choice of treatments, ranging from face and scalp massage to back and shoulders massage to manicure.

Nina didn’t stir from her snooze zone. She was quite comfortable as she snuggled under a fleece blanket and full-size pillow in the reclining sleeper space.

After all, she has me to give her massages.

I followed the inflight beauty therapist down the stairs, past the standup bar, into a dedicated area closed off by a curtain. She was all apologies as she explained that security regulations forbids nail clippers on board the aircraft, so she can only file my nails.

The massages have become a popular attraction for harried business travelers. There are more than 200 inflight beauty therapists plus 18 beauty therapists and 9 hairdressers based at Virgin Clubhouses.

Ms Hughes said she’s been with the airline for five years. Last year she worked at the Virgin Touch Spa at La Residencia, Richard Branson’s privately owned hotel in Majorca.

“I had Catherine Zeta-Jones as a client,” Ms Hughes said. “Michael Douglas has a home on the island.”

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