Nimish From India, joined Feb 2005, 3363 posts, RR: 11 Posted (10 years 1 week 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 16748 times:
I need to travel often from Bangalore to London, and I normally prefer *A (since I'm a *Gold member on Air Canada). I was on one of my annual vacations (home in Delhi for Diwali and a bit of sightseeing in Rajasthan) when I was asked if I could visit London for a week in the middle of my holiday. I had kind of expected this all along (and hence was not feeling guilty when applying for 3 weeks off!), so was OK to travel. Given there was only a 2 day notice to buy the tickets (I contacted my travel agent on Monday and wanted to fly on Wednesday), I knew I'd have a tough time. None of my preferred carriers was able to confirm seats (LH via FRA or MUC, OS via VIE etc.), however VS was able to offer confirmed seats an an e-ticket as well (which was important as I was in Delhi and my travel agent was in BLR). I have a "legacy" FFP account with Continental, and I'd read that I can earn miles on CO while flying VS, and so I asked the agent to ticket this route. The ticket was duly emailed to me, and then I was able to retreive the bookings on Virgin's (cool) website, update my contact information, request seats, FFP program, meals and so on. I was also able to check in online on Virgin's website!
Anyway - here's to the actual report - with a couple of pictures embedded. All feedback/comments welcome!
I booked a cab for about 10:15 am to take to the airport - I had to drop my wife at a point along the way. Reached the airport at about 11 am, and found my way to the Virgin atlantic check-in counters (after getting my check-in bags X-Rayed). I asked one of the "assistants" there where the queue for Bag-drop was - since I'd already checked in online. Evidently barely anyone checks in online since she had to ask someone else which was the right queue I go to. It turned out to be one of the business class queues - and one that had no one standing there already! Hence I went to the counter, dropped my bags, picked up my boarding pass and picked up a few immigration forms. Filled up the immigration form, and went to the immigration queue - which was almost empty at this time of the day!! After immigration hung out in the duty free shops - picked up 2 bottles of Single Malt for my cousin in the UK (really strange - to pick up Scotch whisky from India to take to the UK, though it's supposed to be made in the UK!), and then went upstairs to the Welcomegroup lounge. Indian airports have lounges where anyone with a Gold credit card (citibank/diners for example) can use the lounge at no charge. Settled in there for a long time - enjoying my free beer and sandwiches. The lounge itself was empty, with all the TVs tuned into the "Great Indian Comedy Show" and all the staff hanging around watching the show. There was a lday from VS who came around at about 11:45 - telling me to get to the gate as "boarding was about to start". However I hung on for a while, as I knew it's very rare that they start boarding until about 30 minutes before scheduled departure. Sure enough - by the time I got to the gate at 12:10 - boarding had not yet started.
Picture of my boarding passes (stapled to my itinerary, so I can fax the whole thing over to CO who have yet to reflect my earned miles)
My a/c! photo taken through 2 dirty panes of glass!
Another picture of the aircraft
The gate area when boarding announced for Premium pax (Business/PE and Gold)
I finally boarded when boarding was announced for my row, and made my way to the a/c. I was quite excited since I was flying VS for the first time, and had always wanted to experience their product (having heard all the hype). I'd chosen a window seat, and made my way to the seat and settled down waiting for boarding to complete.
Picture of the wing from my seat
Random pictures from my seat
Finally boarding was complete and doors closed and the pilot announced that we're ready to push back. After push back, engines started up and we were on our way to the runway (main runway in Delhi), and were soon on our way.
The drinks trolley came around a little later, and I asked for a large scotch on the rocks. Most of the crew for the back was Indian - the crew up front was predominantly British. I did not know that VS includes those little kits - very useful to get a pair of eyeshades and the ear-plugs.
My Drink/snack & the contents of the free kit. Neither BD/AI/BA provide this in economy on this sector - not sure about 9W, but I doubt it.
The seats were comfortable though slightly cramped, and I was amuzed to look at the size of the screen of the PTV in front.
Here's a picture of the PTV with a reflection of me taking a picture!
There was a average selection of movies (I don't think there was anything very recent or any major blockbusters) and music on board. But no AVOD on this aircraft.
After a little while the lunch trolley came along - with choices of Indian Veg, Indian Non-Veg, or Continental Non-veg. I chose the Indian Non-Veg - and was very glad of my selection. I had one of the tastiest meals on that flight - a combination of a biryani and a mutton Shammi kabab (or at least that's what I think it was.
I don't think they had a full round of drinks service during the meal.
After lunch I decided to walk around a little bit. It turned out that the Business class was almost empty, and since I did not see a steward around, I plonked myself on one of the seats there (my actual seat was over the wing with poor views during the flight). We were probably overflying Afghanistan or Pakistans NE frontier at that time, and the views were spectacular!
I also tried playing around with business class seat, and was amazed to see how you almost slid under the seat in front!
Picture of the business seat almost fully reclined.
I soon decided it was time to head back to my actual seat, so I got up. At that stage a steward spotted me and came over to ask if "everything was alright" . I just mumbled something about wanted to check out their business class seats and thanked him and went back to my cabin.
The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful - with a snack served in the last 1 hour of the flight
It was pretty unimpressive
Soon it was time to land - and the gloomy London weather welcomed. We touched down slightly before time and I was on my way to immigration very shortly after that. I expected the worst, since T3 tends to have the longest lines just after an arriving asia flight. But luckily this flight had almost 80% europeans, and very few Indians on board, and hence there wasn't too much of a queue for immigration.
My bag took a fair while coming, but I'm not surprised given the terrible weather outside and the crowd at LHR T3.
All in all - I was very happy with my flight. It was on time, the aircraft was clean, the food was good, it did have a PTV, and the crew was excellent. I would choose to fly VS again if I had a chance, the only hassle is that I don't have a Gold membership and hence lounge access and upgrades are impossible if I fly VS.
Now for the second part of my report. After a long and reasonably boring week in London, it was time to return to Delhi. I was to have a meeting at Nottingham on the day of leaving, that was proving really stressful (due to it being a 3.5 hour journey each way from London West), and so I was really relieved when the customer cancelled the meeting on Tuesday evening! I then visited a colleague in Kent - that was a really beautiful part of the country.
I'd checked in online the previous evening - 3 minutes after e-checkin opened up . I'd chosen seat 51A - which is normally a regular window seat near the back of the 343, as there was no window seat further up front.
On Wednesday evening I'd booked a mini-cab to pick me up from home at 6:15. We left on time, but it took me 30 minutes to join the M4 (normally takes 5 minutes) due to the peak hour traffic! Managed to reach the airport in about an hour and 10 minutes, well in time for a 9 pm departure.
Since I'd been to T3 2 months ago (checking into SK to ARN), I knew the VS counters were at the extreme left of the terminal. So I ensured that the cabbie dropped me right at the beginning of the T3 departures area. and found my way to the VS counters. The DIY check-in and bag drop counters were the third in the row (just after Business and PE), and there was one person in the queue. One thing I noticed with VS is that they have a person ask you security questions and look at your passport while you're in the queue, and the person then sticks a signed sticker at the back of your passport to indicate that he's done with the interrogation (does save time at the check-in counter).
The lady at the counter was very nice, and though my bag was a few kilos overweight (I'm shutting down my London home office, and hence bringing back all my clothes, suits, shoes, toiletteries etc) she did not seem to care. As I'd checked in online - she was able to print my baggage tag and boarding pass and in a very short time I was on my way to immigration.
T3 security check & immigration took me about 30 minutes to clear - there was a really long security check queue, followed by a 10 minute wait for the passport checks (I think that was newly introduced after the 7/7 London bombing?).
Once past the formalities I was in the shopping hall in T3, and regretted that I was not flying *A since the SK lounge at T3 is about the best I've ever been in. I did go in there to try my luck, but the lady was very sweet in pointing out that VS is not *A and unless I'd flown AC earlier in the day, I was not eligible to use the lounge .
VS300 to DEL was announced at Gate 35 - which was a 20 minute walk from the gates. I then decided to go to the gate and hang out there until boarding. On my way to the gate I passed by all the other lounges rather regretfully! As I approached gate 35 - I was stunned to see the a/c - it had 340-600 loudly printed across the front!! I was thrilled, as I'd never flown on a 346 before, and I'd heard that the AV system was great on this a/c.
Here are some pics of the 346 parked at the gate:
At this stage I remembered that Diners Club card holders generally have lounge access at most major airports. So I called my BIL (still at work) to ask him if he could browse dinersclub.com to see if there was a lounge at London T3. He called me back in a few minutes to tell me that the servisair lounge in T3 is free for Diners Club card holders. It took me all of 2 seconds to decide to trek all the way back to the lounges at the start. The servisair lounge turned out to be somewhere high up, and tucked away behind a couple of counters. When I got there, the receptionist informed me that there's now a charge of £8.50 for Diners members to use the lounge. That was irritating to say the least, but I did not have the time to argue with her. It was also getting late for boarding, so I decided not to use the lounge, but just to walk around and take a look. That I did (it's probably worth using next time - as it had quite a selection of drinks and a bit of food!), and then walked back to my departure gate.
Boarding was chaotic as usual (not really, but it always seems chaotic), and when I finally got to my seat I was thrilled to realized it was a bulkhead seat!!! Unbelievable leg room at that seat.
A picture of me at my seat - after putting on the brightly coloured socks provided in the complimentary kit.
As I sat down, the steward for that door came around and stood in front of his jumpseat. I got chatting with him and found out that he was with VS for the past 8 months or so, but this was only the second or third time that he was flying the 346. Most of the crew for the economy section were Indians - all had been recruited fairly recently. This chap had worked for S2 prior to joining VS. He said they were happy to fly this sector, but regretted the fact that they were designated to fly only the India sectors (while the rest of the VS crew that are based in London get to fly across a variety of sectors). After a bit of chit-chat it turned out that the aircraft was almost entirely full in the back. That probably explained why VS had upgraded the a/c from the normal 343 to a 346. I did not stroll over to the front this time, so I have no idea about the loads up front.
The video screens on the 346 seemed to be about 4 times the size of the screens on the 343 we had earlier. In addition this was all AVOD.
I clicked a couple of pictures of the safety video - it was really hilarious!
Pushback was almost on time (a few minutes late), and after a long taxi and an even longer take-off roll - we were on our way. While taxying - we passed by an interesting EVA air aircraft - loudly painted with the Boeing 777 300 ER label on each side. I've never seen such a large advertisement of the a/c type!
Soon after takeoff there was a bit of confusion in the galleys as the crew did not seem to know where all the necessities were stowed on this a/c. And prior to take off there was quite a bit of confusion about where the extension seat belts were stowed. I also noticed all the Indian stewards at the back ganging up and gossiping about their supervisor (who was probably up front?) and how she yelled at one of them without a reason and so on. Gossip is an essential part of every job I guess
They then annouced the start of the drinks service to be followed by dinner. I was thrilled to hear that chicken tikka masala was the Indian non-veg option - and I'd made up my mind to take that option. Unfortunately for me, it turned out that row 51 got served the last in the entire a/c - and they'd run out of CTM by then. I then went for the Indian veg option - which was not too exciting unfortunately
Picture of my meal on the return. I think I got the tray for a special meal, and the main course of the normal Indian veg meal. Hence there was no sweet dish - only 2 bowls of fruits and a salad instead. At least I saved on a few calories there.
I was glad that VS offered a full bottle of water each way, and dispensed with the tiny 50 ml cup that's often served with the meal on other airlines. Unfortunately the cutlery was all plastic - that did not add to the appeal of the meal. The glasses that VS use are pretty cute though (the standard plastic glasses for water/juice).
I soon crashed out after dinner (the dinner service finished 3 hours after take off - pretty long I thought) - and woke up as we were approaching Delhi. I'd obviously missed the breakfast service, but I was glad that I was not woken up. I guess the fact that I had the eye-mask on and also used the earplugs must have helped let me continue to sleep.
Landing in Delhi was pretty standard, and we were soon at our gate. Immigration at DEL was super-quick - but the bags took ages to arrive. I then took a pre-paid cab, and that was the end of this quick journey!
I was quite impressed with VS and they definitely offer a slightly different product from the rest (BA/LH/AI etc.) on this sector. Their crew in the back were friendly and very service oriented (probably based on them being Indian origin and new to the company). The food choices for the main meal were excellent, and the quantity/presentation was above average. On the whole I would definitely fly with VS again (for example if they ever fly direct BLR-LHR).
British767 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 284 posts, RR: 19
Reply 9, posted (10 years 1 week 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 15183 times:
I was so shocked when I saw your report. I was on VS301 on November 2nd too!! I was in seat 55B. Do you remember seeing a load of backpacks just after the baggage scanner as you went into the terminal? I was sitting there with a dark green long sleeve t-shirt on, and jeans (have black hair). I was in a group of 12. I will scan in my boarding passes and the one picture my friend took of the aircraft from the gate and put them on here soon.
AirxLiban From Lebanon, joined Oct 2003, 4531 posts, RR: 52
Reply 13, posted (10 years 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 14826 times:
Thanks for a great report which didn't involve G-VBUS if you know what I mean!
Quoting Nimish (Thread starter): I also tried playing around with business class seat, and was amazed to see how you almost slid under the seat in front!
Wow - if you were on G-VSUN and that was the last row in the small upper class section behind the number 2 door, I have been in that very seat for about 15 hours when I flew VS 23 LHR-LAX last July!
Quoting Nimish (Thread starter): I was thrilled to hear that chicken tikka masala was the Indian non-veg option - and I'd made up my mind to take that option
That sucks - by the way is it true that they don't serve chicken tikka masala in india, or if they do they don't call it the same thing? Going to New Delhi it seems as though there would be a higher proportion of demand for nonveg meals - so that is really too bad that they ran out!
Quoting Nimish (Thread starter): The video screens on the 346 seemed to be about 4 times the size of the screens on the 343 we had earlier. In addition this was all AVOD.
Yup, the Arcadia PTVs really suck, but hey at least they exist. Odyssey must have been nice though
British767 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 284 posts, RR: 19
Reply 16, posted (10 years 1 week 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 14805 times:
Quoting Nimish (Reply 10): Wow - it would be great to get your account of the trip right in here! Looking at the same journey from 2 totally different perspectives! It's a small world after
I will do that as soon as I have the time (and can be bothered ). Did you think the approach into LHR was fun (bumpy)? I did!! Also, did you use the toilets at the gate in DEL? I did, and a guy practically washed my hands for me and then put his hand out for money, which I guess is normal?
Though it would be great to meet you there, I try and avoid BOM as a transit point - until I'm forced to fly through BOM.
Quoting Soups (Reply 7): thats the EXACT same food i got on Virgin Nigeria
Wow - do they serve an "Indian Non-Veg" meal on VK flights?
Quoting British767 (Reply 9): Do you remember seeing a load of backpacks just after the baggage scanner as you went into the terminal? I was sitting there with a dark green long sleeve t-shirt on, and jeans (have black hair)
Pictures please . That's the best way to get me to jog my memory. I don't remember the dark green t-shirt specifically, but do remember seeing a lot of backpacks in the terminal.
Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 11): It must be nice flying out of DEL and not having to leave in the middle of the night
It was really - felt almost surreal to see the immigration and lounges as empty as they were. Quite a nice experience.
Quoting YTOFAN (Reply 12): As you took a taxi to Heathrow, what would be the approximate cost from areas in North London.
I took the cab from Ealing - in the W5 post code. That costs me about ï¿½18 - ï¿½20 each way (from LHR). I don't know about North London unfortunately.
Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 13): Thanks for a great report which didn't involve G-VBUS if you know what I mean!
I guess I was blessed not to get hold of the old BUS that's talked about so much on these forums! I did make that point on those (heated) discussions on the Civil Av. Forum. However if the interiors of G-VBUS are similar to G-VSUN (I don't know that they are) then I don't know what the fuss is all about. OTOH if G-VBUS is worse than G-VSUN, then I guess I would be pissed about the vastly inconsistent product.
Quoting AirxLiban (Reply 13): is it true that they don't serve chicken tikka masala in india, or if they do they don't call it the same thing
We do have 2 major forms of North-Indian chicken curries that are quite similar. One is the "Butter Chicken" - which has a similar gravy to the Chicken Tikka masala available in the UK (sweetish tomato/cream gravy). The Indian version of CTM has a very spicy gravy - I normally order a CTM over a butter chicken in India since I love the spicy gravy.
Awesome approach - yes - I totally forgot about that. The plane was shaking like it was going through a rumble strip. With the very low cloud cover over LHR, it was also interesting to see most of the landing happen over the clouds, with us breakign cloud cover only at the last minute.
Quoting British767 (Reply 16): did you use the toilets at the gate in DEL? I did, and a guy practically washed my hands for me and then put his hand out for money, which I guess is normal
I did not use the toilets at the gate in DEL - as I'd just come down from the lounge. However I guess I'll never get hastled for money that way - since most Indians tend not to tip (I certainly don't) in Washrooms and the like.
British767 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2005, 284 posts, RR: 19
Reply 19, posted (10 years 1 week 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 14539 times:
Quoting Nimish (Reply 18): Pictures please . That's the best way to get me to jog my memory. I don't remember the dark green t-shirt specifically, but do remember seeing a lot of backpacks in the terminal.
I'll try to hunt one down. I didn't take one but I am sure someone else in the group probably did. Many of the girls in the group I was with were wearing saurerkameezes (I have absolutely no idea how to spell it), and I was waiting for them to shop in the shops next to the terminal entrance. I think I do actually remember you (I got very bored sitting there).