AirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4521 posts, RR: 53 Posted (10 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 15559 times:
Disclaimer: this account of Premium Economy aboard the A340-300 does not necesarily reflect the PE experience on the 747 or A340-600
Alright, here goes. After crossing the Atlantic from LAX to LHR and vicky versa on British Airways between 1x and 4x a year since about 1991, it was finally time to try another airline...especially since BA was more expensive this year.
So there were a couple of choices. Since we were going to travel in Premium Economy, it could only have been BA or VS (excluding UA) so since BA was out, it was going to be Virgin.
I had heard good things about virgin and had finished reading Branson's autobiography within recent memory and had become akin to all the illegitimate business practices that BA and Lord King had been pulling on virgin in the early 1990s and figured it was worth a shot.
However by the time I got to booking VS7 and VS8 were booked, so I had to forfeit the opportunity to fly VS 747s and reserved on the A340 instead.
Paid about *cant find the US dollar sign on this swiss keyboard* 1450 including taxes with Virgin for flights 23 and 24.
I had never flown on an A340 before, so I wasn't entirely disappointed as I figured I could at least participate in the A340 discussions on the website.
Got to LAX around 6:30 pm for the 8:40 flight. Went into the dedicated premium economy check in desk at terminal 2 and checked in.
I asked the lady at the check in desk which exact aircraft was flying the route. She said "Airbus" and I said "I know...which one exactly?" Eventually she gave me the information I wanted to know but did not want to hear...I would be travelling on Airbus A340-311 G-VBUS, Virgin Atlantic's oldest 340 delivered in November 1993 and equipped with the archaic Arcadia entertainment system.
Oh well. At least I got my window seat.
As I was sitting in the departure lounge, good old Uniform Sierra arrived.
Another more memorable arrival was that of the Virgin Atlantic cabin crew. All i can say is: yummy...branson sure knows how to pick them.
As I was peering out the window, I saw BA 268 service to LHR go past. The aircraft was G-BNLI and it looked absolutely marvellous taxiing out to the runway and taking off. The 747 is truly the queen of the skies. I turned my head and looked at G-VBUS and truly felt as though I was missing out.
Got on board and sat down. The cabin was quite tattered, but the seat was quite wide. However, I was shocked to find no leg rest and that the screen was miniscule!!!!!!
Crummy screen...familiar with the old nokia 8000 series?
The legrest did in fact exist, but it wasnt integrated into the seat. BA had this feature in economy on their 767s 10 years ago. Virgin's folded down from the seat in front...bloody uncomfortable.
Here is the seat:
A very attractive young lady came around with a glass of champagne, which was a nice touch.
Unfortunately however the feel of the cabin was not doing it for me. The seats were worn, the red or blue fabric was haphazardly placed and overall it did not impress.
We taxied to the runway. I imagine that the engines spooled up, but didnt hear much of an acceleration. We took off slowly over the pacific ocean. I noticed that we were lower than I remember ever having been on a BA 744, AA 777, AA M80 or anything else. Slow climb was definitly the name of the game.
Eventually we got to cruising altitude and I noticed how quiet the engines were, which is a good thing. I reached in the seat pocket in front of me...but there was no in flight magazine, which I found extremely odd. Why hasn't Sir Richard thought of this?
Beverage service came along and my scotch was simply poured into the glass instead of giving me the bottle. I have a habit of drinking it on the rocks and filling the glass up with ginger ale instead of water, fortunately I did receive a small can of ginger ale.
The snacks were simply given out in a plastic bag. BA provides small dishes for the almonds. I didnt particularly care for the worcestershire sauce flavoured pretzel either.
They didnt come around again before the meal. I was hoping for a glass of wine but had to ask for it separately. BA does come around twice and they also give you a menu so you know what to expect.
Another annoying thing is that they didn't give any socks in the little pack of things they provide.
The F/A simply said "do you want chicken beef or pasta?". I chose the beef and it was quite good...no complaints there.
Then I decided to go to bed and found that the seat did not recline in a smooth fashion; rather the possible reclined positions were quantized. At full recline however the seat was quite comfortable and I slept a good 7 hours.
Before breakfast I had a go at some of the Arcadia games. There were a few to choose from and I ended up with Mario. It took 4 minutes to load!!!
Breakfast was an egg and cheese muffin with some lousy fruit and a cup of coffee.
Prior to landing we circled around heathrow for a good 20 minutes and then came in to land. Spent another 20 minutes on the ground.
All in all, not a bad trip but I did expect more from Virgin after having heard so much about them. If I ever travel Virgin again (other than the return trip) I would like to try Upper Class. For my Premium Economy traveling, my choice is British Airways.
Unless of course the 747 and A340-600 PE experiences are significantly better.
Here is a summary of BA Premier Economy versus Virgin Premium Economy on the A340:
Quality of interior
Existence of in flight magazine
More flying club miles vs exec club miles
Virgin F/As preferable to wake up to
Premium Economy more 'separate' than WT+
I reckon the physical space to be about the same on both carriers.
I would be very interested to hear in what ways Virgin's Premium Economy product is better on the 747 and A340-600.
In the meantime, I also formulated my initial impression of the A340-300. Although I did notice and do understand why some people call it underpowered and complain about the slow climb etc, I would not hesitate to fly on it again. Very quiet on board and the 2-4-2 layout in eco and 2-3-2 in premium economy is a plus. i would prefer to fly a 747 or 767, but between the A340 and 777 I would choose the A340...unless I was in a hurry.
That's all for now! Look forward to comments and hearing about 747 and A346 PE.
Leezyjet From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2001, 4043 posts, RR: 53
Reply 3, posted (10 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 14898 times:
"but there was no in flight magazine, which I found extremely odd. Why hasn't Sir Richard thought of this?"
There used to be one, but it got taken off in the round of cost cuttings and hasn't been deemed necessary to put it back, as most people either bring their own reading material or use the IFE anyway.
"Beverage service came along and my scotch was simply poured into the glass instead of giving me the bottle"
Again, cost cutting and also theft reduction. It is harder to steal a big bottle than to stuff the minatures in your pockets/bags like some of the crew/cleaners/caterers were doing.
The new Premium seats on some of the LHR 744's and all the A346's are nicer looking than the old ones, although the new ones are a little firmer, but they do have inflatable bases and lumber supports. they also have the leg rest built into the seat. Also the new seats are V:Port equipped too. However, even though you only had Arcadia, it is still better than what some airlines offer.
It is unfortunate that you got the oldest A343, but the 744's and A346's are much better, so are the Odyssey A343's although the seat is still the same.
Good report otherwise, obviously not everyone will like VS.
"She Rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose comes up to 20 degrees, she's airborne - She flies, Concorde Flies"
VSLover From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 1900 posts, RR: 21
Reply 5, posted (10 years 10 months 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 14771 times:
nice report, and pics!
i have been on g-vbus before also, and those fold-down leg "rests" are truly horrific! as is the IFE.
i absolutely loathe the PE cabin on the a343 and only fly PE on a 744, as the PE cabin is located on the upper deck, with some seats on the main deck--though i never sit down there. the space afforded to you on the upper deck is great! the extra space at the window seats is wonderful, and the overall experience is better up there. i still havent tried the a346 PE, as my only experience on the 346 has been in upper class.
also, they only give you socks on all outbound LHR flights. rather annoying i think.
haha, i just looked at how TINY that screen was. how sad!
Mcmahonsmr From United States of America, joined Dec 2000, 318 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 years 10 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 14448 times:
While I can't say that I've flown LAX-LHR, I have flown on a VS 340. I flew G-VHOL back in January 01. I wasn't impressed either. I had the Odyssey system, I think, and still wasn't impressed. If I had the choice again, depending on class of service, I'd go AA (Y) and BA (J or F).
I didn't like the haphazard placement of the seat colors either. One seat was orange, one was red, one was purple. And, if you're in the way in the back like I was on a deeply discounted ticket for $120 one way from JFK-LHR the seat pitch isn't great either. I'm being way too picky here but the cloth with VA on it is too retro for me. It seemed to create a chaotic atmosphere. I don't think this is limited to the 343 though as I suspect it is the case on the 744 as well. I have heard the ambience on board the 346 is markedly different, in what respect I don't know.
What I did like was the FAs. I liked the food. I liked the little Virgin glass. I liked the amenity kit. And what I really liked was the purple carpeting. For some reason I found it attractively stylish.
I think I have a report of the flight floating around on here in the archives if you're interested. I paid very little for the flight so I shouldn't complain. If I were to pay that much on a LCC (if any existed) for a transatlantic I wouldn't have gotten any of what I got - just the seat and if lucky a checked bag or two.
Lets just conclude that VS wouldn't be my top choice. I'd rather fly AA economy than pay extra for Premium.
A340600 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2003, 4107 posts, RR: 51
Reply 8, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 22 hours ago) and read 13324 times:
Shame you got G-VBUS! Here at LGW, our 744s are equipped with Arcadia too but this will soon change, in my opinion you would have had a better time on the LGW 744's as well as LHR 744's even more. This is because you are upstairs and it is lovely and private. As for the A346's, they're great, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE PTV'S, THEY'RE HUGE! And that's in econ.
BA380 From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 1466 posts, RR: 8
Reply 9, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 21 hours ago) and read 13302 times:
It does seem the the Virgin hype is often not matched in reality. Based on your experience, I would certainly say that BA WTPlus is s better service. Bigger screens, smarter cabin, more reliable service.
Bmi From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2002, 321 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 14 hours ago) and read 13086 times:
ive done LAX-LHR with a VS747 and a BA747 and VS were alot nicer. I went to Oz with BA in WTP last year and was ok with the product I recieved, cant wait for VS to get on the kangaroo route though. You did get a rare deal getting g-vbus though certainly not good to compare that to BA - I can see why you was dissapointed there, those ptv's are the smallest ive ever seen lol
Newyork355 From France, joined Jul 2004, 148 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (10 years 9 months 3 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 12921 times:
It all looks really nice, the seats look great. But I don't understand one thing. I flew Virgin's PE on a 742, and everything looked the same, but the seats had foot and leg rests. I find it odd that a 343, a newer aircraft, would lack such luxuries. Thanks for all of the wonderful pictures. Virgin is truly one of the best airlines around, from their great service, to their cool image.
AeroFan From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 1532 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (10 years 9 months 2 weeks 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 11939 times:
Mcmahonsmr " While I can't say that I've flown LAX-LHR, I have flown on a VS 340. I flew G-VHOL back in January 01. I wasn't impressed either. I had the Odyssey system, I think, and still wasn't impressed. If I had the choice again, depending on class of service, I'd go AA (Y) and BA (J or F)."
you would fly AA's Y? well ehhh - all I can say is that we all experience things differently. You do realize of course that PE is not J. Having flowing VS' and BA's J for several years now. My experience has been that VS wins hands down. I have flown AA's J to the Caribbean and domestic (JFKLAX) You would have to pay me to fly them again in that cabin.
Oh BTW BA380 - I think you have the wrong airline. BA's reputation is the one that is over rated.
VS045 From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 192 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (10 years 7 months 1 week 2 days 11 hours ago) and read 10819 times:
Much better PE on the A340-600s and 747s, especially on the upper deck of the 747s. It feels really exclusive and spacious. The seats have intergrated leg-rests and much bigger screens. They also have a solid back, which makes them look a lot more modern. I'm sure you had great service as always.
Fbgdavidson From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2004, 3732 posts, RR: 27
Reply 16, posted (10 years 7 months 1 week 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 10624 times:
Nice report and I always like to see pictures in trip reports so thumbs up
The VS PE seats look like something out of the ark...or at best the 1970s and as for the IFE screen, I thought BA was bad!
Just a quick point regarding your Virgin advantages:
More flying club miles vs exec club miles I am not sure if you are aware but you get 125% mileage even on cheapo tickets in BA WT+. If you are elite you get tier bonus on top (25% for Silver and 50% for Gold) Premium Economy more 'separate' than WT+ hmmm well I am not sure how VS do it but on BA WT+ is always separated by a bulkhead, galley or toilet from WT or CW.
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
AirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4521 posts, RR: 53
Reply 17, posted (10 years 7 months 1 week 2 days 4 hours ago) and read 10448 times:
fbg, thanks for your comments.
what i meant about "Premium Economy more 'separate' than WT+" was that Virgin gives a dedicated check in line for PE passengers, priority boarding, baggage tags etc which BA doesn't do as they have 4 classes instead of 3 i guess.
but on board i prefer the BA layout, as the 747s and 777s have lavatories for the WT+ cabins whereas the VS 343s and 346s do not...you must use the Economy ones.