Flight test: Virgin Atlantic upper class

Aircraft Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600.

Route Sydney to Hong Kong.

Class Upper class, seat 5K.

Seat configuration 1-2-1 for a total of 45 seats in upper class; 38 premium economy; 225 economy. The herringbone (zig-zag) configuration means all seats face forward and every seat has aisle access. Staring into the middle distance rather than at the back of another's head is a joy.

Seat pitch and width 22-inches-wide seat that flips over to a flat bed, 6 foot 8 inches long and 33 inches across the shoulder.

Luggage allowance Three checked pieces weighing up to 23 kilograms each. Two pieces of hand luggage, with a combined weight of 16 kilograms.

Scheduled flight time Nine hours, 30 minutes.

On-time performance 20 minutes early.

Lounge access Air New Zealand lounge at Sydney Airport, which Upper Class passengers, Members of Flying Club (Virgin Atlantic's frequent flyer program) Gold and Velocity (Virgin Blue's frequent flyer program) Gold members can access.

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Console/entertainment 26-centimetre screen with 300 hours of movies and television. A peaceful flight aside from the snorts of another watching The Hangover.

Comfort From the deep purple leather seats to the chrome reading lights and metallic-finished ceiling, the cabin is space-age and spacious. There's an ottoman (with seatbelt) for a face-to-face experience that doubles as a footrest if privacy preferred. In bed, pillows are plump, quilts substantial. Or sit at the bar, order a drink and graze from the fruit basket.

Service Not a whiff of stuffiness. Flight attendants are well-groomed from tight hairbuns to platinum-painted nails. Relaxed but super-efficient. One stays smiling as she yanks hard and eventually prevails over my jammed table.

Food and beverage Choose anything, any time from the "freedom" menu. Attendants have a folder of photos to assist; semolina gnocchi, beef fillet, goat's cheese panini and creme caramel. Red and white wines from merchants Berry Bros and Rudd (Britain) including Pannier Champagne NV (France). Fairtrade teas and coffees.

Flight frequency Daily. Upper class costs from $4500 return, premium economy $1850, economy $1050.

Photos: Virgin Atlantic upper class

Online www.virgin-atlantic.com/en/au.

Tested by Jane Reddy, who flew courtesy of Virgin Atlantic.

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