When the individual elements that make up Upper Class from Virgin Atlantic gel together as one, its a truly memorable experience.
From OLCI, and Twilight Check In, the simply delightful/personal service in the London Gatwick Clubhouse from the Waitresses, the girls in the V Touch Salon for whom nothing was too much trouble, to a friendly Flight Service Manager who took time out talking to everyone in Upper Class, and a Cabin Services Supervisor who took the time, and trouble to chat at length to me at Bar, my faith in choosing Virgin Atlantic for Transatlantic travel has been restored after a fairly dour experience last November. (See previous travel report).
Its just a shame that Virgin Atlantic cant control the so called Fastrack Security that was slower than the M25 on a good day, and the ability of passengers to complain loudly in public when theyve been sent to the back of the line for not filling in the correct Immigration & Customs Paperwork !
And so another vacation starts ! This trip was somewhat complicated, and difficult to plan due to an inflexible holiday dictate at work, coupled with the fact I wanted to spend a short time in Orlando to visit some favourite shops, then on to Boston to see a friend before flying back to the UK in the 6 days holiday I had to take or lose !
The solution was to drive to London Heathrow last Wednesday afternoon, leave the car in the NCP, and then catch the National Express Coach to London Gatwick for an overnight stay at the Premier Travel Inn located a short walk from the North Terminal before flying to Orlando, then to Boston with jetBlue, and finally back to London from Logan International Airport. This was also by far the cheapest option by nearly 1000 pounds using a Miles Plus Money Option, Upper Class out Economy back. Factoring in jetBlue at a measly $49 the cost of flights was just under 800 pounds.
Id already done OLCI at home to reserve my seat, 7A, but also took advantage of the Twilight Check In, to get rid of the bags, and ensure that I made a beeline for the Clubhouse in the morning without anything getting in the way ! Didnt bargain for a long wait at Fastrack Secuirty !
Interesting the Check In Staff whilst wearing the Virgin uniform now have Swissport logos on their name badges.
Its also interesting to note that security is very visible these days with Armed Officers, and Sniffer Dogs patrolling the South Terminal. I got the impression that they were there as a visible presence rather than looking for anyone in particular.
Thursday morning dawned, and a little after 7am I was at the Virgin Clubhouse. No sooner than Id sat down, and I was being offered a Menu, and asked what Id like to drink. This was to continue throughout my stay. The girls in the V Touch Salon took care of me with a Sensational Shave, and sorted out my hair, whilst the Shoe Shine Man took care of my shoes.
I left the Clubhouse prior to VS 27 being called as I wanted a quick look inside the Duty Free Shop on my way to the gate. As previously reported Gates 31 to 38 are in the process of being updated. The result of this is that theres now 2 entrances to each jetway ensuring Priority Boarding to the left, and Economy to the right. Virgin also have a huge pull up magnetic display board to highlight this. Problem is that they only seem to have one which was brought across after the departure of the Las Vegas flight ! It doesnt however stop people crowding around the entrance to the gate, who refuse to move when asked ! Some things in life never change if you read the other TRs on this site !
Having got pulled for Secondary Screening, I was soon taking my seat on Barbarella, and being offered Champaign. There was time for 2 of these prior to departure which occurred in a snowstorm, and involved engine power being held on for some 20 seconds prior to the brakes being released for the take off role to the East over the M23.
Once in the air, it was a left turn of 270 degrees that saw the aircraft head towards Southampton, and then out across the Atlantic making land again over Canada before dropping down the East Coast of America via Boston, New York, etc .. some 250 miles off the coast.
The service levels on the flight were good. Soon after take off the FSM came round to meet everyone, and hand out the Amenity Kits, she also returned to serve the Wine with Lunch, and at other times through the flight. This was backed up by a Cabin Services Supervisor plus 2 other staff who ensured that nobody wanted for anything. They all took time out talking to passengers
The menu has also changed since my last flight which gave me the chance to enjoy the following 3 courses, Stilton & Leek Soup, Lamb, and Ice Cream with fresh fruit all of which was washed down with a delightful White Wine !
Afternoon Tea consisted of 2 sandwiches, and a choice of cakes. There was also Ice Cream available between the 2 meals along with snacks, and drinks on the Bar.
The entertainment also seems to have improved with a more varied selection. I took time out to watch the latest Wallace & Gromet movie plus A 40 Year old Virgin A very funny movie. There was still time left to catch up on Only Fools & Horses, and Little Britain.
Arrival into Orlando was the usual Crossing the coast at Cape Canaveral before heading inland over Sanford, and then the left turn to line up for a landing at Orlando International Airport to the South then a taxi across the active parallel runways to the gate.
This was a quick crossing Eight hours thirty eight minutes, the price of which was frequent bouts of turbulence, leaving me with the feeling that Id rather be sat upright in turbulence rather than flat on my back !
With little or no wait at Immigration, and Customs I was out of the Airport in under 30 minutes. It would have been quicker except for the double Bag Claim that we all know, and love at O.I.A. !
So all in all a good experience thats gone along way towards restoring my faith in the Virgin product.
Monday it’s jetBlue to Boston !