Events Leading Up to the Flight:
To illustrate the value of a Premium Economy flight on Virgin, I need to explain the events that led to my being on this particular flight . . .
I initially made this reservation in July, and scheduled it to be a JFK-LHR roundtrip, leaving on Sept. 19 and returning on December 15. However, soon after buying the ticket, the chance to fly on the Air France Concorde from JFK- to CDG and on to LHR arose (see an earlier trip report). As such, I changed the ticket to a departure from JFK on December 30 (flight VS 004, which leaves at 19:30) and a return on June 10 (flight VS 003, which leaves at 14:00). I then booked a one-way ticket on Icelandair for my flight to JFK in December (see an earlier trip report).
While at home for the holidays, I decided to push up my departure so that I would be back in London and rested in time for New Years, so I changed the outbound leg to the VS 026 (the day flight) on December 30. I was all set for this, when I learned of an impending snow storm that seemed likely to be at its worst on that Saturday morning. So, I changed the flight once again to the VS 026 on Friday, December 29.
All together, I changed this reservation 3 times and it was incredibly easy and cost-free.
Friday, December 29, 2000.
Flight VS 026
Departed JFK @ 8:25 AM
Arrived LHR @ 7:43 PM
A/C: Boeing 747-200 (G-VZZZ)
I got to the airport a little after six. At this time, JFK was very quiet with no traffic on the Van Wyck. I made it from my house in Norhtenr Westchester County to JFK in under an hour! The check-in counters were open, and some passengers were checking-in. I went to the Premium Economy line and was immediately called to check-in. Unfortunately, PE was not oversold, so there were no surprise upgrades to Upper Class. Oh well. I was assigned to seat 25A.
Terminal One was empty and ours was the only aircraft. I spent the two hours looking out the windows and watching CNN Airport Network. Boarding began a few minutes after 7:30 AM and I opted to board about halfway through the process. I was pleased to see that although the aircraft had not been painted in the new scheme, it di have the new interior. My seat was roomy, but no overly so. It had a foot rest which came out of my seat and when reclined, the seat bottom lifted up (kind of like the cradle design of BA's old Club World seats).
I was offered a mimosa. The cabin was arranged in a 2-4-2 layout, which was obvisously better than the normal ecomony 3-4-3 layout, but was not as intimate as the 2-2 layout on the upper deck of Virgin's 747-400s or the 2-3-2 layout on the A340s.
We were off from the gate exactly on time and quickly reached the treshold on Runway 4L (no long wait to takeoff as with evening departures from JFK). Our takeoff roll was rather short and we were soon crusing along the southern coas of Long Island. It was a perfect day for flying with no clouds and unlimited visibility. Instead of tracking up along the New England and Canadian coast, we headed strait out over the Altantic (after passing Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard).
The meal service was tailored to this flight and started with a "breakfast service," which included a choice of a turkey sandwhich or mushrooms on foccacia with a blueberry muffin. After eating, I settled down to watch some TV. There were 21 video channels (plus the moivng map display). I watched two episodes of West Wing and five episodes of Fraiser.
Since this was a 747 Classic, I flet that I should go and see the cockpitt, which I did. No sooner did I get there, we hit turbulence and I had to go back to my seat. After the tuyrbulence ended, the flight attendent invited me back up. It turns out that twice a week, Virgin routes flight 026 through to Delhi, and, as such, use a 747-200 on the route (as opposed to the usual A340). This flight crew had arrived in New Yrok five days earlier and, as such, were flying with there immediate families (as they were in NY for Christmas).
I returned to my seat in time for the meal service. It started with a green salad and then there was a choice between beff stir-fry, roast duck or eggplant parm. I had the duck which was excellent. The meal also came with a roll, cheese and crackers and key lime pie. It was probably the best economy meal I've eaten.
Just as the meal finished, it began to get dark. We passed just south of Ireland and then overflew Lands End on into LHR. There was no holding and we landed twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Total flying time was 5 hours and 58 minutes (this was my first time breaking the six hour barrier on this route)! As with JFK, Terminal 3 was empty and I was through immigration in three minutes. The bags came-out quickly (with Premium Economy following Upper Class) and I was at the Heathrow Express station within 30 minutes of landing.
The day flight was great. I was completely non-jet lagged and was tired enough from getting up before 4:00 AM that I wnet to sleep soon after getting home. The next day, I was up at nine with no problems. The big problem with the flight is that you loose an entire day (which I gather must make it unpopluar with business people), but for my needs, it was perfect.