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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class LHR-IAD

Virgin Atlantic Upper Class LHR-IAD

Old Aug 30, 11, 5:53 pm
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Virgin Atlantic Upper Class LHR-IAD

Virgin Atlantic
VS021 LHR-IAD
A340-600
Upper Class

Background:

I joined FT at the beginning of this year and recently realised that I donít think Iíve seen a Virgin Atlantic trip report. Of course there may have been many and Iíve just missed them but I thought Iíd write one of my own just in case. This is my first TR so hopefully I can impart some VS knowledge and occasionally entertainment.

As a bit of background, VS is an airline on which Iíve flown the best part of a million miles although I know thatís nothing for many FTers. This trip actually had its final destination in South Carolina and flying via IAD gave a good connection time (or not as it turned out) for a UA flight down to SAV. If the NY flights werenít all scheduled to depart so late this year I may have gone for JFK and then transferred across to EWR for a CO flight.

Departure:

I arrived at Terminal 3 on the Heathrow Express a little later than intended so I checked-in downstairs in the main VS area and then went through security. UC passengers can use Virginís private security channel accessed by a lift next to the check-in desks which takes you up to a ďmagic doorĒ. This opens automatically after scanning a qualifying boarding pass and takes you into Virginís UC Wing. This is almost always a breeze to use and bypasses the regular security channels where even Fast Track can be slow at busy times.

With not much time to spare I grabbed that morningís Economist and headed straight to the gate where I was one of the last few passengers to board. The crew were at the door to check BPs and directed me to the opposite side of the aircraft and, of course, to the left.

I suppose Iím pretty routine when it comes to flying: K side of the aircraft, Economist in the magazine pocket, BP in the compartment under the armrest. In a herringbone configuration I much prefer the contours of the seat on the right side of the aircraft. Generally I prefer the forward part of the cabin on night flights as itís further away from the bar but on a day-flight Iím not particularly fussed so I was nearer the back on this flight. This usually means you can disembark more quickly since door 2 is used most often. After settling in, the crew came round to offer a choice of orange juice, still water or champagne and I opted for the former.

After about ten minutes the captain announced that there would be a delay of 45 minutes to allow something to be fixed and during this time the APU would not be working. Unfortunately this meant that there was no air-conditioning and the cabin became very hot. To try and make things more comfortable the crew brought around a tray of extra bottles of water and then cold towels before doing a drinks service. Even though it was only a relatively short time the FSM switched on the IFE. The delay was handled quite well as updates were given every ten minutes or so and the crew used the opportunity to take orders for lunch.

After 50 minutes we pushed back and taxied out to runway 27R where we were about tenth in the queue. Eventually we turned on to the runway and the A346ís Rolls-Royce engines eased us into the sky with their trademark whine.

Flight:

About fifteen minutes after take-off the crew brought around drinks and a choice of pseudo-canapes: olives or crisps. They then delivered the table linen and the basic tray with butter, salt and pepper shakers, side plate for bread, water glass and a wine glass. The choice of warm bread followed and I think I went for garlic. The meals are served in courses and the crew bring new cutlery with each one.

As a starter I had a feta cheese and tomato tart which was a bit of a let down. It wasnít bad but I had been expecting and looking forward to something a bit lighter with crisper pastry and, having formed this image in my mind, felt a bit disappointed by this starter. Iím sure it would have been fine if I hadnít had any expectations.

The main course, however, more than made up for this disappointment. I had ordered the beetroot tortellini but, not being the worldís biggest fan of beetroot, was merely hoping it would be vaguely average. Despite this it was actually pretty good and Iíd certainly have it again.

For desert there was a rather difficult choice of either bread and butter pudding with peaches and cream or lemon tiramisu. I went for the bread and butter pudding and that was also great although the peach segments had their skin on which made them a bit difficult to cut with a spoon. All in all it was a fairly satisfying meal.

After lunch was finished I converted my seat into a bed and laid out the mattress topper and duvet. Slightly annoyingly the crew had removed the pillows from the empty seats so I had to make do with one. I guess I should have grabbed an extra one earlier. In my opinion the Upper Class Suite is at its best when itís in bed mode regardless of whether itís a day-flight or night-flight. Even if Iím not planning to sleep I prefer to convert it into a bed and then either relax and watch movies or just sit and look out the window. Since the bed goes almost right up to the cabin lining itís very easy to sit facing the window and get a really good view out which is what I tend to do. This is probably my favourite thing about the seat. But itís definitely better with two pillows.

A couple of hours after the lunch service had finished the crew brought around the mid-flight ice cream. There was a choice of either Haagen-Dazs vanilla or some kind of earl grey tea flavour. Unsurprisingly there werenít many vanilla options left on the tray by the time they got to me. I then went for a wander up to the bar and grabbed some Lily OíBrienís chocolate. Thereís also a fruit basket and a selection of crisps but you can ask the crew if you want something more substantial.

The UC cabin on an A346 has three washrooms: two at the back either side of the bar and one at the front. The fact that I tended to use the one at the front was of course only coincidentally related to the presence of a rather attractive young lady opposite it. Unfortunately she was accompanied by her much-bigger-than-me-and-probably-a-rugby-player partner. But she made eye contact first.

About an hour or so before landing it was time for afternoon tea. This consisted of a selection of sandwiches and scones. I had a fruit scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream which was delicious although Iíd imagine itís difficult to get cream tea wrong (even for an airline). I tend to have the second meal service while still in bed mode but crumbly food generally makes this a more complicate affair. Still, itís difficult to beat scones and a view from 37,000 feet.

We had a nice descent over the NE USA. As is apparently normal for my flights into IAD it was fairly bumpy. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to whether itís like this when Iím not flying. Landings were being made towards the north which meant we had a lovely slow flypast parallel to the airport before a 180 degree turn to slot in to the queue.

Arrival:

Arriving at gate A32 I was fourth or fifth to disembark but even the best laid plans can be destroyed by IADís Disembarkation-Priority-Randomisers aka the mobile lounges. I followed the rule of staying near the door but this always feels a bit awkward to me as other passengers have to file past. In any case, being a little late, we had arrived behind a LH flight from MUC so it took about 30 or 40 minutes to clear immigration. This is by no means bad by US standards but itís still frustrating, particularly the lack of a fast track. Our bags were among the first few on the belt so we could get through customs quickly. Unfortunately the delays at LHR and immigration meant that we were ten minutes late to check-in for our connecting flight and had to wait five hours for the next one in UAís 10pm bank of departures. Thinking back I should have used this time to write up a TR but, given the time difference, and having got up early I doubt I would have managed coherent sentences.

Conclusion:

Other than the consequences of the delay, this was overall a good flight. The cabin crew were excellent. The FA serving my section of the cabin was fantastic: gracious, friendly and attentive. Crew are probably where VS traditionally falls down for me but Iíve noticed a definite uptick in the standard of service this year. I donít know whether thatís just the luck of the draw or whether there has been extra training. Either way, it seems to be improving and I hope it continues because this really would complete the package for Virgin's J product.

As I said this is my first TR so I hope it was ok.

Thanks for reading.
BA304 is offline  
Old Aug 30, 11, 6:06 pm
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Great reading! Pictures would have been nice!
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Old Aug 30, 11, 7:31 pm
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Thanks for the thorough report. I flew UC over xmas lhr-lax. Indeed security clearing at T3 for UC flyers is great

I was very dissapointed in the food however. Olives and crisps aren't my first choice. I'd rather have warm nuts served in a ramkin. The mains were all unedible. The snack before landing were "tea sandwiches" and again, were unedible.

I thought the IFE was a dinosaur but then again I was on a 343. Does the 346 have better IFE? Are the seats the same on the 343 vs 346?
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Old Aug 31, 11, 6:45 am
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Originally Posted by enviroian View Post
Thanks for the thorough report. I flew UC over xmas lhr-lax. Indeed security clearing at T3 for UC flyers is great

I was very dissapointed in the food however. Olives and crisps aren't my first choice. I'd rather have warm nuts served in a ramkin. The mains were all unedible. The snack before landing were "tea sandwiches" and again, were unedible.

I thought the IFE was a dinosaur but then again I was on a 343. Does the 346 have better IFE? Are the seats the same on the 343 vs 346?
Food in UC has never been a strong point for VS (well, in recent years) but the choice of olives & crisps versus nuts is just personal taste surely? Perhaps also a more European slant versus the U.S. penchant for warmed nuts. As for the "tea sandwiches", well, finger sandwhiches as part of afternoon tea are a tradition in England of course. The quality of these is another matter although I have always found them fine on VS as are the warm scones. Lovely English fayre.

IFE on A340-600 is AVOD. The seats on both a/c are near enough identical.

Last edited by NoY; Aug 31, 11 at 11:10 am
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Old Sep 2, 11, 1:23 pm
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Great report. Doesn't matter about the pics

I have flown them from Mel to HKG and found the plane old and dirty though.
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Old Sep 3, 11, 7:44 am
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Originally Posted by Jinxy View Post
Great report. Doesn't matter about the pics

I have flown them from Mel to HKG and found the plane old and dirty though.
What is the relevance of that here, given that VS do not fly between MEL & HKG
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Old Sep 3, 11, 10:56 am
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Noy. No need to be rude.
Indeed virgin Atlantic fly from Sydney to hong kong however my trip commenced in Melbourne.
I was merely making a comment on what I thought of the plane.
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Old Sep 4, 11, 12:07 am
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Originally Posted by Jinxy View Post
Noy. No need to be rude.
Indeed virgin Atlantic fly from Sydney to hong kong however my trip commenced in Melbourne.
I was merely making a comment on what I thought of the plane.
If you worded your comment accurately to begin with, this conversation would never have taken place No rudeness here. Let's move along.....
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Old Sep 4, 11, 2:37 pm
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Interesting read.
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Old Sep 5, 11, 10:32 pm
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Thanks. Pics of the attractive lady would have been nice
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Old Sep 6, 11, 10:24 am
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A quick run down from my trip on the same iten.

It's on my blog.

http://www.awardsbooker.com/travel-n...ntic-busi.html

I came away with pretty much the same impression as the OP. I even had the beet dish for lunch.
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Old Sep 11, 11, 5:03 am
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Originally Posted by joorinainen View Post
Great reading! Pictures would have been nice!
Thanks. I only decided to write the TR after the flight so I hadn't taken any pictures but you're right that photos would have been better.

Originally Posted by enviroian
I thought the IFE was a dinosaur but then again I was on a 343. Does the 346 have better IFE? Are the seats the same on the 343 vs 346?
All but one of the A343s have IFE that was installed in the mid-90s so it is rather old but the A346s have AVOD and the A333s have an even newer AVOD system.

Originally Posted by NoY
As for the "tea sandwiches", well, finger sandwhiches as part of afternoon tea are a tradition in England of course. The quality of these is another matter although I have always found them fine on VS as are the warm scones. Lovely English fayre.
Agreed - the afternoon tea service is probably designed more for its English tradition rather than providing a substantial second service. I still like it though and find it perfectly adequate.

Originally Posted by Jinxy
Great report. Doesn't matter about the pics
Thank-you.

Originally Posted by PK777
Interesting read.
Thanks PK777.

Originally Posted by chanp
Thanks. Pics of the attractive lady would have been nice
I'll try harder next time.

Originally Posted by ckc123
It's on my blog.

http://www.awardsbooker.com/travel-n...ntic-busi.html

I came away with pretty much the same impression as the OP. I even had the beet dish for lunch.
Thanks for that link - I like your description of the suites as a "your own little womb".

Looks like I just missed you on the IAD-LHR leg.
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Old Oct 9, 11, 1:04 am
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I enjoyed the read


it sounds like it was an interesting trip.
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Old Nov 16, 11, 5:09 pm
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Originally Posted by ckc123 View Post
It's on my blog.

http://www.awardsbooker.com/travel-n...ntic-busi.html

I came away with pretty much the same impression as the OP. I even had the beet dish for lunch.
I thought you meant pictures and the young lady was SWMBO
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Old Nov 17, 11, 1:48 pm
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great tr sans pics - your writing does the trick
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