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Newark International (EWR) - London, Heathrow (LHR)
August 12th, 2002
VS002 -- G-VAST -- 56G
As usual I was incredibly early at the airport, and had to actually stand in line for about a half hour before the check-in desk opened. My mom and I were the first to check-in, and the process was really smooth. I was interested to see how the check-in procedure differed when using an E-Ticket, because we had never used the E-Ticket before. My mom had ordered a special meal which was already in the system. One thing I found a little odd was that we had requested a window seat when we booked the tickets on Virgin's website, and on the reciept it said that I was down for a window seat. However we weren't given a window seat, which I found odd, because after all, we were the first two people checked in. Oh well. We made out way to the gate after passing some pretty tight security. I hadn't flown out of EWR since September 11th, and I definetly can say that security is much tighter than it used to be. They even made us put our bottled water (in a clear bottle) through the x-ray machine. Don't know what they thought they would find in it, but I was glad to see they were inspecting everything so closely. We found a seat right next to gate 54, and I glanced out the window to see if the aircraft was there, at that time it wasn't but it would arrive shortly. I went up to the desk to see if there was a possibility of a window seat, and the guy said he'd look into it. He called me up a little later and said that he had looked but the flight was full, and there was only one empty seat in the entirety of economy. I thanked him for trying and went back to my seat. As the plane taxied into gate 54, I caught the reg, G-VAST. Shortly after that, one of the Gate Agents got out a poster holder and put a large piece of paper with the Virgin logo on it, with lots of text. I walked up to the board to see that all kinds of flight information was written on it. The aircraft reg, name, flight number, flight length in time and miles, and some other information. I'd never seen them put out a notice like this before, but I liked it. About an hour and a half or so later an announcement was made that preboarding for the flight would begin shortly. A little while later our row was called, so we got in line and boarded the aircraft.
One of the first things I noticed when I boarded the aircraft was that the amenity kit was smaller... once I sat down and began talking to people around us, I found that Virgin distributes the larger amenity kits on flights out of the UK only, and a smaller version on flights to the UK. I was unaware of this. The smaller amenity kit contained the usual toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, blindfold, pen, lip balm, charity change envelope, and a film processing coupon. After sitting watching the usual lava lamp type animation on the screen in front of me, the pilot came on welcoming everyone and restating the information on the notice in the terminal, including the quick flight time of 5 hours 59 minutes. Next came the in-flight supervisor with the usual speech, and the safety video. Takeoff was smooth, and we soon reached our cruising altitude. The flight attendents distributed the headsets, which I really liked, the kind that clips over the back of your ear as to not mess up your hair. If only they'd let me keep a set instead of collecting them again at the end of the flight. The news show began, then the in-flight entertainment was fired up... the oddessy system.
Dinner was great, I had the chicken which was very good, salad was nice and fresh, the cheesecake was very nice too. My mom had grilled salmon which she said was good. After looking through the duty free book debating buying a VS747 model, I put it away and decided to try and get some sleep, without buying a model. A few hours later came breakfast which was some fruit salad and a muffin. The fruit was very fresh and the muffin was Blueberry.
Shortly after breakfast was collected, the pilot came on and told us we'd be landing in about an hour, so we should get everything set because he would be switching on the seatbelt sign for the decent in a few minutes. I took that oppurtunity to visit the bathroom and take a little walk around. The decent was really smooth for the most part, a couple slightly choppy patches when going through the clouds. Next came probably the softest landing I've ever experienced. A quick taxi to the gate, with the usual don't unfasten your seatbelt until we reach the gate and switch off the seatbelt sign... but as soon as we turned off the runway people were standing up to get their stuff... I really don't understand it, they're not going to get off any sooner. As we walked off the plane I handed the charity envelope to the flight attendent, and we made our way to immigration.
All in all, the flight was excellent, there was a little rough turbalance during cruise, but the pilot had told us before takeoff that we would encounter that due to the strong tail wind that was going to get us there go quick.
This trip report written for VSFan.org
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London, Heathrow (LHR) - Newark International (EWR)
August 30th, 2002
VS001 -- G-VBIG -- 58C
We arrived at the airport about 4 hours before departure and proceeded right to check-in. The line was quite long, but Virgin had it under control, with lots of desks open. We stood in line, and one of the girls about half way down called us. We checked in and decided to get an isle seat again as opposed to a window since it was more convenient if we wanted to get up. We finished checking in after my mom had mentioned to the girl how dissapointed she was that she didn't win the story contest for Virgin's 18th Birthday. The girl just smiled and said, "Oh yes, but the fun is participating, isn't it". My mom then went on to say that she would be having more fun in Premium Economy... the girl must have thought that she was digging at an upgrade... but she didn't give us one... oh well! We made our way upstairs and had a burger at Burger King. Then we proceded to the shops. While standing in a book store we heard an announcement that Virgin would like to appologize to the passengers delayed at check-in because there had just been a computer failure. We were glad that we were at the airport so early because we only missed the computer crash by about 20 minutes. About 10 minutes later another airline announced that it's computers had gone down.
We walked through a lot of shops, I think we must have been in just about every shop in T3. We kept on looking at the monitors to find out what gate the flight was at, and it just said Please Wait. the flight was set to depart at 4:00, and the boarding passes said in big letters that the gate closes 30 minutes before departure. It was coming up on 3:00 and the gate still wasn't there. We made our way to a seat in front of a monitor so that we'd know as soon as the gate was up where to go, since the sign next to the monitor estimated a pretty accurate walking time of 20 minutes to the gate. about 3:15 the gate was posted, and we made the 20 minute walk (run) in about 10 minutes. Passport checks were made outside the gate room, then boarding passes and passports were checked again with some random security searches which we weren't pulled for. Then we made our way to the jetway.
While waiting in line on the jetway we saw a magazine rack with a big sign that said "With Complements of Virgin Atlantic". So we took a magazine, and boarded. The first thing I noticed on this plane was the new styling. The bar looked a lot different, and the seats had very different styling. When I made it to the economy cabin and looked at a seat I was suprised to find a really large tv. My guess is that they were somewhere around 8 inches wide... very nice. The seats have a silvery/grey molded top instead of having the tv in the cushion part, the armrests were more rounded and styled, the trays fold down then unfold in half, then slide towards you, the part next to the cushion you sit on below the armrest that most people stand on to reach the bins had a little galvonized steel plate which looked really cool, and the seats had a molded type of headrest with little flaps that angle out towards your head. The seats were quite confortable. The amenity is the standard larger one that contains the usual toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, blindfold, lip balm, cologne wipe, pen, tissues, socks, mints, pad of paper, and charity envelope. In the armrest was a little black controller which got me really excited. Could it be v|port? Could it? Yes! It is!
The next thing I reached for was the info magazine to read about v|port. Suprisingly, it didn't say much other than the major features... you had to wait till the system was started up to see what movies, music, ect. there was to choose from.
Next came the announcement from the pilot saying we'd depart on time, we were just waiting for a few bags to be added to the cargo hold, and the flight would be 7 hours and 7 minutes. Shortly after that we began to taxi. The supervisor did her usual speech, the safety video was shown, and we took off. Next an announcement was made that a new regulation had been passed that all passengers have to remain seated with seatbelts fastened until we reach cruising altitude. The flight attendents began to hand out headsets, the nice ones again that clip to your ears, and no, they didn't let me keep a set. The news was shown, followed by a movie on how to use the v|port system, then the system was started up. Due to the high demand the system recieves when its first started and everyone wants to use it, its quite slow, but it speeds up after a few minutes. The screen next to me was reset at one point during the flight, and when the boot screen appeared it had the Linux penguin and a lot of unix boot code, so my guess is that the v|port system runs off of a Linux server. I began browsing all of the features and I was very impressed. Features like seat to seat text messaging, multiplayer games with other passengers, the CD Jukebox, and the onboard intranet.
For our flight there was 44 movies to choose from, 52 CD's in the CD Jukebox, 12 TV channels, and 15 games. I was dissapointed that there weren't more games, but the games that were there were fine. I watched Ocean's Eleven (which I've seen twice but like the movie), I watched part of The Sweetest Thing, then I watched Panic Room which was very good, I recommend it to anyone who hasn't seen it, and I watched the beginning part of the Fast and the Furious because I'd seen it before and knew I wouldn't have time to watch a whole movie. In between movies I explored the system more to see what it could do. The sky map which is now called i:map is a lot better. It even shows you which parts of the world are experiencing night time. I personally loved the v|port system. I think it helps the flight to go faster because you don't have to sit there staring at a black screen waiting for the next loop to start so you can watch something else, and the ability to just pause the movie while you go to the bathroom was great.
For dinner in-flight I had Chicken Tika which was wonderful, Salad, fresh as usual, crackers with cheese, and a piece of layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Evening Tea prior to landing for me was a Chicken Caesar Salad sandwich with a piece of frosted carrot cake.
About an hour prior to landing the system was shut down, then the cabin was prepared for landing, the crew were asked to take their seats which I found wierd, they were asked to take their seats about 40 minutes before landing, which seemed really early to me because it was a really smooth decent and approach. The actual physical landing was a little rough, but it wasn't too bad. From the runway to gate 54 at EWR is a short trip which took less than 5 minutes. The engines were shut down, and we disembarked, not before handing the charity envelope to the flight attendent at the door.
The flight overall was excellent, the v|port system made a big difference, and I would recommend that it makes it's way into the entire fleet... its wonderful.