A320-Addict From Belgium, joined Apr 2001, 250 posts, RR: 7 Posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 8 hours ago) and read 3677 times:
I think some of you were already impatient to read this one, so sit back.... relax and enjoy this trip (report)!!
Date: 30th juin
Equipment: A320-200 OO-SFS
We arrived about 1.5hr early at the airport for our flight to LAX. The check-in counters at Brussels were quite bussy that day, obviously it was the beginning of the summer-holiday season in Belgium, but it never gave me the impression as being really crowded. Check in of VG 005 was done by (ex-)Sabena personnel, quick, effective, and as always.... with a smile. By that time Mr Van Gaever arrived and welcomed us in his own special way, quite amusing actually.... There was no difference in check in between business class pax and economy class pax (Emily-Michael class??), but this didn't bother at all, because as I said before the check-in was very efficient. (And I have to add as well that the VG-counters were rather empty compared to the other ones.)
We went through security checks, did a little shopping and walked to our gate.
Boarding only started at the time we were supposed to start the engines, 12h40L, so it was already quite obvious that we were not going to leave on time. Boarding went fast,...., only 17 paying pax on board, you can immagine that it went fast, a total of about 40 pax on board. We went to our seats, 6A and B. A welcome drink was offered (champagne, juice, wine...), by the really friendly cabin crew. The business seats were still the same as the former Sabena seats, very spacious, electrically operated.... and of course a large PVT. At about 13h15 the purser anounced that the delay was due to maintenance that had been performed to the plane, and the fact that the plane wasn't fueled when we started boarding. At about 13h30 we were ready to go, as the purser anounced again, for a flight time of 11hours and 40 minutes!!
Take-off on 25R at Brussels was smooth, Tolen departure, heading north. As VG-airlines has still no ETOPS certification, we had to take a more northerly routing, which explains of course the flight time. Just prior take-off the Captain made an announcement (only in English, and he didn't mention his name, or even his function, so for other pax it was rather difficult to guess who was speaking.)
About 20min after take-off we were offerd an other drink (aperitief) before the meal service started. (Various choice of Champagne, wines, spirits etc etc). VG-airlines states it wants to be innovative in air-travel, one of their so called innovations, is that every passenger can order whenever he wants his meal. To me, as a passenger, this sounds rather good, but I think this might become impossible in the future when they have more pax, but as I mentioned already before, that was not going to be the problem that day. We were quite hungry so we started right away.
First course was a choice of cold lobster or Foie Gras... both looked very good I must say, I went for the lobster, which was good! (fresh, .... excellent actually). For the main dish we had the choice between Turkey and veal. I tried the Turkey, which was again very good, served on an individual small plate, together with a salad on the side. A choice of excellent wines was offerd (various reds and whites). After this came a cheese platter, followed by different cakes (chocolate, fruit, creme brulee etc etc), accompanied with coffee, and again a choice of chocolates!! The cabin crew was extremely friendly, helpfull, and really caring.
The inflight entertainment system was a bit of a disappointment. No movies... only some 'special' documentaries were going to be shown. The special documentaries (actually they are old Belgavox Journals, funny for about 5 minutes I think, but after that, it gets quite boring), were preceeded by an announcment by Mr Van Gaever himself on the PVT's. It looked more like a 70's style dictator adressing the people of his country instead of a CEO welcoming his clients. (but actually I had good fun watching it, certainly with the Italian and the German, which did not go as smooth as the Ducth announcement). I wasn't too fond of the radio-channels either, there were about 5 of them, one classical, one with country music, one with 'typical' Flemish music.... ( was rather dissappointing, except if you really like Willem Vermandere... Lisa Del Bo etc etc, but that's not my style).
So if we wanted some entertainment, we were going to have to entertain ourselfs ( 11h40 is loooooooooooooooooooong), so we started a discussion, semi-interview with Mr Van Gaever. The discussion lasted over 2hrs long, most of the time Mr Van Gaever talking himself,...., I didn't want to argue too much because our views on aviation are sometimes quite different, but still it was a nice conversation.
Rest of the flight went smooth, just a little bit of turbulence overhead the Hudson bay, after which the purser made an announcement to fasten our seatbelts.
About 1.5hr prior landing, an other small meal was served, the options were Chicken or tuna (both cold).
We touched down on LAX rwy 25l about 35minutes late than the sheduled arrival time. A very smooth landing by Captain Lamoulin!!! LAX, what an airport, while we waited for our gate to be available (an oher 15 min), we saw several exotic birds on take off!! (Thai 747, Korean 747, Swiss MD11 etc etc).
In general this flight was overal excellent!! I think VG-airlines doesn't have to position itself as being a NEW experience, or innovative, they have to promote themselves as having a superb product, that, I am pretty sure, can not be compared to any other American carrier crossing the Atlantic between the USA and Brussels. They should work of course on the inflight entertainment, certainly when Freddy himself is not on board .
A biggggg thumbs up to the entire crew that made this flight an unforgettable experience for me, thx to captain Lamoulin for letting me take pictures from the flight-deck!!
Sabena 690 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 1, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 3597 times:
I think some of you were already impatient to read this one, so sit back.... relax and enjoy this trip (report)!!
Be sure of that . I knew that you was going to come back today, so I followed your inbound flight via the internet
Date: 30th juin
Equipment: A320-200 OO-SFS
Yeah, I know, you love A320's, you fly A320's, but I don't think that you flew with an A320 to LA , maybe in your dreams
Check in of VG 005 was done by (ex-)Sabena personnel, quick, effective, and as always.... with a smile.
I am glad to read this. I heard that the spirit in the VG-team is very good. Although the check-in is not done by VG Airlines-staff (or am I wrong?), it is already a nice welcome if friendly check-in agents handle your luggage.
Now comes the part of the catering on board of the aircraft. I am quite amazed about what you got as food!
And, where are the persons which were bashing the food aboard the VG Airlines flights???
Were you able to see the food served in Economy-class? What did they get as meal?
VG-airlines states it wants to be innovative in air-travel, one of their so called innovations, is that every passenger can order whenever he wants his meal.
Aha, I never heard that before. Interesting!
The special documentaries were preceeded by an announcment by Mr Van Gaever himself on the PVT's. It looked more like a 70's style dictator adressing the people of his country instead of a CEO welcoming his clients. (but actually I had good fun watching it, certainly with the Italian and the German, which did not go as smooth as the Ducth announcement).
Bwahaha!! Nice comparision
one radiostation with 'typical' Flemish music.... ( was rather dissappointing, except if you really like Willem Vermandere... Lisa Del Bo etc etc, but that's not my style).
Hehe, not my style too. I think I would prefer Radio Donna But better this than nothing.
The discussion lasted over 2hrs long, most of the time Mr Van Gaever talking himself,...., I didn't want to argue too much because our views on aviation are sometimes quite different, but still it was a nice conversation.
Did he say something about the future and financial situation of VG Airlines?
They should work of course on the inflight entertainment, certainly when Freddy himself is not on board .
Hahaha!! Again very funny
This is a great trip report A320-Addict, one of the best around here!!
Got 5 stars from me!!
I guess that the return flight was an even great experience as the outbound flight?
A320-Addict From Belgium, joined Apr 2001, 250 posts, RR: 7 Reply 3, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 5 days 3 hours ago) and read 3552 times:
Hello guys!! Here I am with the trip report of the return flight....
Date: 2nd July
Equipment: A330-200 OO-SFS And of course it was an A330 and not an A320 as I wrote in the first report (Mega-maxima culpa... still suffering from the jet-lag)
It was a lovely sunny afternoon when we arrived at LAX-into for our return flight to Brussels. Still it amazes me how many exotic birds you get to see on his airport!! I forgot to mention on the inbound flight that the QANTAS 707 (John Travolta's plane) was parked on one of the cargo areas to the N-W, too bad it was too far to take any good pictures. An Air-France 777 taxied next to an outbound China Airlines 747-400, when we arrived at the Delta Terminal.
Check-in at LAX is performed by Delta for VG. I was pleasantly surprised that VG signs were already everywhere.... so no confusion possible at which terminal we had to check in for our flight. We arrived about 1.5hrs prior scheduled departure. One word about the check in: IT WAS A COMPLETE MESS!! We stood inline behind a 2 or 3 rather 'large' Armenian families, but the Delta check-in crew made a real mess of it.... they were unfriendly and unhelpfully for everybody!! There was no separate check in for business or economy, and this time it did annoy me, because it took us approx 45min to check in!! The Delta guy that checked me in didn't even aske me the mandatory questions like: "Did you pack your bags yourself....etc etc?" I consider this a MAJOR failure of Delta's check-in because recently LAX was already ranked among the worst airports regarding safety in general!
Best of all: VG's station manager for LAX and New-York stood there and looked at it, he couldn't care less to help solving all the problems with the check in.
After this we went to our gate and passed a first check point that only allows people to proceed, who are in possession of a boarding pass. After this you pass the second and main security check point. I was really surprised again when I saw that the police intercepting a family that slipped through the first check point without boarding pass. (they were unaware... and had no wrong intentions I think) This again ANGERS me soo much!!! A second major SAFETY FAILURE of this airport!! Certainly after 9-11 this is unacceptable.
We arrived at the gate almost at when the boarding had just begun 16h20 local with a scheduled departure of 16h40. Business class pax were called first.
This is something I really don't understand. At VG they speak of Emily and Michael class, but nobody actually seems to know which one is which... even on board they say in this class you have to pay for alcoholic drinks, and in the other not... (My advice: cancel Emily and Michael, and use business and economy in stead, much more clear)
Push back was right on time....
An annoucement was made by the captain during taxi... this time he said he was the Captain, but still he did not mention his own name (same as the purser).... I personally always tell the people who I am (first time) when I use the PA. (but that is personnel)
To make this report a bit shorter.... the inflight meals were again superb, with the same smile from the cabin crew!! We had lunch, and breakfast was served about 1.5hrs before landing.
Just a word about the cabin crews' new uniforms. It looks smart, certainly the black uniforms for the female cabin crew is nice!! (Still they could have added something like a scarf or so.... just a little touch of class is missing)
What I still missed whas an amenity kit, certainly on such a long flight this would be most welcome!!
The inflight entertainment was a lot better than the inbound flight. This time we had movies onboard!! But still there was a hand written letter of the purser which movie we could watch on which channel... this didn't look too professional, but still it was a lot better than the without!
We reached the Brussels area after approx 10hours and 20 minutes of flight time. We could clearly see on the inflight movie that we were holding for some 10min above Antwerp, but still no announcement was made by the captain, ... , as well no details about the weather @ Brussels nor when we would be landing was communicated.
We landed on Bru Rwy 20 in rather windy conditions, but still a good and smooth touchdown was made by F.O. Deman.
I would like to thank once again the entire crew for the GREAT flight.
I was skeptical about VG, certainly about their inflight catering, but they proved to be good!! I they continue like that and erase the 'beauty' and 'start-up' errors, maybe we might speak in the future of VG as: Very good-airlines?!
A320-Addict From Belgium, joined Apr 2001, 250 posts, RR: 7 Reply 6, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 3425 times:
Nope... there was no fuel stop!!
The A330-200 is a capable of flying BRU-LAX non-stop, even when non ETOPS-certified.
He Sabena690, the catering in Economy class seemed to have changed. I had a good chat with the purser and explained that they changed from sandwiches to hot meals in economy. (I think they were really obliged to do so because of complaints of pax)!! Also they don't use the 'You eat whenever you want...' - philosophy either!!
A320-Addict From Belgium, joined Apr 2001, 250 posts, RR: 7 Reply 8, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 3384 times:
On the retrun flight there was a total of 57 pax, of whow 35 were going on to Yervan.
On the questions about the profitability of his project Mr VAn Gaever was rather silent, after several questions about this he commented that he wants to be profitable after ONLY 6 MONTHS, to me that seems quite fast and difficult... certainly because at that time it is going to be winter (low)-season. During that period it will be even more difficult to fill the planes to the states.
SAS23 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 9, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 3315 times:
A320-Addict, you said: VG-airlines states it wants to be innovative in air-travel, one of their so called innovations, is that every passenger can order whenever he wants his meal.
Actually, that's rather old hat - airlines such as BA, SQ, VS etc have been doing that in their premium product for many years now.
And as for FvG's claims of being profitable after only 6 months - well, the guy is talking out of his hat. All of his previous ventures had to be rescued from bankruptcy - including DAT and VLM. Obviously, he hasn't learnt his lessons!
Personally, I don't think they will be around this time next year.
AirDD From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 375 posts, RR: 1 Reply 11, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 3314 times:
This seems to be a nice topic to add my trip report
I was on the first flight LAX-BRU on June 30.
I booked my tickets a week earlier, I had called the VG air call center in LA and got a round-trip for only $ 500; extremely cheap, UA quoted me $ 7,000 for a coach ticket to BRU ! Buying ticket was easy I had to buy in euros and it was an e-ticket. VG was going to send me an confirmation email but I didn't get it till I called them again 3 days prior to departure. I spoke to the same guy on the phone and his was very friendly and advised me to go to the Delta terminal at LAX and emailed me the receipt.
I got to the airport pretty late on Sunday, I expected to be the only pax checking in but wrong I found a temporary sign with VG airlines and with the words Yerevan-Armenia and a long long line with Armenians with huge bags.
I looked a bit further to see if there was a check-in for BRU only but no luck.
The check in done by Delta was extremely slow,I took more than a hour for me to check in. I am an FF doing over 100 flights a year and I have elite check-in status with UA, DL & AA, so I haven't lined up for a check in in years ...
I seem to be the only pax with an e-ticket, my check-in agent had to get 2 supervisors to help her check me in. No security questions were asked, which is bizarre since it is a federal law to ask these questions.
Once I made it late to the gate, I saw that the plane from Brussels was late. But it made it to the gate 10 minutes later, the livery is very nice in the Southern Californian sun, the plane was called "City of New York"; I took a few pix of the plane docking to the gate.
We boarded about 1/2 hour late and VG himself boarded surrounded by Armenian Airlines executives.
I was in coach and got a middle row to myself in the plane.
I've forgotten the name of the pilot but he was quite talkative explaining that this was a historical flight linking CA with Armenia. There were 128 paying pax on board, most of them on their way to Yerevan. Armenian Airlines pays for 100 seats for about $103,000 per round trip, Armenian needs a load of 65% to breakeven. Tickets cost about $ 1,400 to Yerevan.
Food was above average for airplane food, but no alcoholic drinks for free.
Flight attendants were very friendly, they told me that there were all ex-SN and hoped VG would be successful. No movies though but a hilarious "government announcement" by VG in 6 languages excusing himself for the lack of movies. The plane still had many SN reminders inside and cups and napkins still show the SN logo.
The flight was pretty uneventful, except for one Armenian decided to start singing in the plane, very funny. Also a few pax were caught smoking in the lavatories.
Flight was exactly 10 hours, so we made it on time in BRU.
Once in BRU, there was some confusion about Armenian pax getting off the plane or not to stretch their legs, VG asked his people in BRU but it was not allowed.
Only I got off in BRU and my passport was checked my police as soon as I got outside of the jetway, then I made it to the border control. The whole concourse was totally empty, no one was at the border control except me.
I hadn't been to BRU since January 2001.
My experience was very positive, especially the price.
But VG still has a long way to go, it is still impossible to buy tickets in the USA using the GDS reservation systems and movies need to be added.
Their approach is slightly different than Citybird, citybird was low cost only and tickets were not available in the reservation systems.
Next week I return to LA with VG and the sunny weather (what is wrong with the weather in Belgium ??? )
A320-Addict From Belgium, joined Apr 2001, 250 posts, RR: 7 Reply 14, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 3298 times:
I think SAS23's comments were actually quite on it's place....
I share almost the same opinion..... he left VLM, DAT when they were on the edge of bankruptcy.
Even with the contract with the Armenian government, it will be difficult to stay around I think. (certainly because he is losing STILL a massive amount of money on the BOS and JFK flights).
Although I must admit that the business class was VERY GOOD experience, it reminded me sow much of ex-sabena business class. (napkins, plates, same plane, same flight-attendants....) I think people only now realize what a good business class Sabena had .... but sadly enough it's too late.
On the return flight they even used ex-sabena blankets... etc etc
Thx for all the comments.... most welcomed!!
I hope to post a trip report in the coming month of one of the flights to Yerevan!
(If anyone wants pictures from the first flight... just mail me)
Pressclub From Belgium, joined Nov 2001, 773 posts, RR: 5 Reply 15, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 3216 times:
Nice trip reports guys.
I made the same trip earlier this week together with Mr VG, difficult to add extra info. I agree with the reports they are a correct view of what the company is doing during the flight. AirDD: so you took pictures when i was arriving... The delay was caused by the heavy traffic in LAX (no gate available when we arrived) and delayed boarding in brussels (refuelling, cargo loading)
For your info: for the moment no ammenity kit in C or Y Class, that will come soon. Also no company inflight magazines, only a duty free magazine. But some papers and weekly magazines were available in C class.
Flying Belgian From Belgium, joined Jun 2001, 2360 posts, RR: 10 Reply 17, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 3156 times:
Well many thanks to A320-Addict and AirDD for their contribution with those very complete and comprehensive reports.
They enabled me to have a good idea of what the VG product is...
I would be quite frustrated to get such a business class product for a C-class fare if you compare to what BA, LH, KLM, AF offer for the same price (even cheaper in negociated air fare) and on the same route + the fact they fly much longer. No ammenity kit, no movies, no real music, I would need a lot of cognac and champagne to swallow it...!!!! They shoud have removed the PTV's of SN (they are huge actually) that way less pax would have been disapointed.
This shows simply that despite the crew friendliness the VGAIR product is still far behind its competitors.
BTW AIRDD next time you want a cheap fare California-BRU let me know because you can find negociated fares on almost all carriers for 400 Euros return ticket on many regular Belgian Travel agencies !!! 500 us $ is an average ticket price... It's just that the search engines of many airlines can't quote negociated and promos tickets.
Fly-K From Germany, joined May 2000, 3120 posts, RR: 53 Reply 18, posted (10 years 10 months 3 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 3097 times:
But what keeps me wondering:
- paying for alcoholic drinks on a scheduled carrier?
- only five audio channels? and a poor choice of movies? in business class?
- no amenity kits in business class?
- and certainly the pax loads are alarming...
This seems to be even below Sabena's standards...
Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been...