Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Airplane: B747-443 G-VROM (Barbarella)
Flight: #6, MIA – LGW, seat 32A, departed 17:45 from gate A16
Photo © Graham Hitchen
Photo © Graham Hitchen
This flight was part of a trip to La Paz, Bolivia for my work and my first flight with Virgin Atlantic. It is my first trip report and it is rather long but I hope you will enjoy reading it!
I arrived in Miami with AA922 from LPB. That flight was on time which meant that I had 2.5 hours to do some shopping and walking at my favorite airport Miami. I just love this airport. I can watch the AA international check in counters for hours when the flights to South-America depart. The things people want to check in are unbelievable (fridges, tv’s, chairs). Then watch them panic and get angry when their luggage is refused…
But today this was not going to happen because of US-immigration, customs and agriculture control. When I arrived at the immigration site the room was loaded with hundreds of people. The queues were just huge. After an hour or so an officer was calling people over 60, kids under 12 and parents with kids to go to another room. Finally it was my turn. The immigration officer was polite. She asked my birth date and stamped my passport. I took maybe 15 seconds! I then had to run to customs because my flight would leave in 25 minutes! I had been over 2 hours in immigration.
Luckily my luggage was in transit because the luggage room looked like a war zone with suitcases shot down all over the room. So many people were stuck in immigration that luggage was piling up. I only had hand luggage, a small backpack which contained some personal stuff and a laptop.
Customs waved me through but I was stopped by another officer who waived me to agriculture control. Loooong queue again. Finally my little backpack got x-rayed again and I was free to go. Only 12 minutes left to catch my plane. At that point I was certain I was going to miss my flight and started to sweat.
Next I had to find the Virgin Atlantic check in desk because I did not have a boarding card yet. The first counter I found was the Upper Class check in. I asked if I would still be able to catch the flight. The lady took one look at my face and asked if I was Upper Class (which I could have answered with some witty remarks, but didn’t), she then told me that Virgin Atlantic check in for Y-class was just around the corner. There were two people at the counter, a lady from Virgin and a female security officer. I showed my ticket and she said ‘oh dear, I have to phone if they will still let you on board’. She disappeared and in the mean time the security officer asked me the usual questions. The Virgin lady returned and she said ‘it’s ok but you will have to hurry’. I got seat 32A and the lady told me I had a row for my own because it was an empty flight today. She also told me to go to the gate via the B-concourse and then turn right sharply. She wished me a pleasant flight. She was nice!
I ran to the security point and had to unpack my laptop before it was scanned. Got my little backpack x-rayed again. I turned right sharply and ran all the way to A16. The doors of the jet way were already closing and it was obvious that I was the last passenger to enter the plane. The FA checked my boarding card and told me I could relax now, I was not going to miss the plane.
I entered the plane. The first thing I noted was the music. No elevator music but some kind of hip hop. And a brightly colored cabin. Some rows had different seat colors. I liked that. The cabin, the passengers and the flight attendants looked clean, fresh and ready to go. I already knew that I was going to enjoy this flight. And above all that I had 3 seats, 3 pillows, 3 blankets and 3 ptv’s.
Anyone know where Virgin gets his flight attendants? They are all so pretty. The fa’s handed out an amenity kit and a pair of white(!) headphones. The amenity kit contained the following items: An attractive plastic etui with in it: green eyeshades marked ‘sweet dreams’, baby blue earplugs marked ‘pardon?’, a yellow toothbrush marked ‘clean’, a green/white ballpoint marked ‘Virgin Atlantic’, aromatic balm marked ‘Virgin Vie Guardian Angel’, Tooth paste marked ‘fresh’ and a pink envelope marked ‘small change, big difference’. All looked very attractive.
The purser (the only male member of the crew I could spot) made lots of jokes over the intercom: “This is a non-smoking flight, if we catch you smoking during this flight you will have to step outside”.
Outside in Miami it was raining but the sun was shining in this plane.
After a comprehensive safety instruction, not shown on the ptv’s but done by the fa’s we departed about on time. The purser announced not to change seats before we are airborne because of weight distribution. Take off was smooth and I had a great view over the left wing. I could clearly see the wings bend when they started to generate lift. Although I had a seat very close to the engines, noise was ok.
The captain came on the intercom and said that our flight time was only 7 hours and 25 minutes which is extremely short. But he also said that weather in Gatwick was bad and that they expected heavy fog which could lead to us circling over a holding point for some time.
About an hour into the flight (free) drinks were served. After that, dinner was served. There were 3 choices: stirred fried vegetables, fish and beef. I choose fish. The fish was fresh, really good and served with a smile. I also had some white wine which was not bad. (btw I think that wine in Y-class is best with Varig. They not only serve good wine but they serve it in beer glasses filled to the top).
After dinner I turned on the PTV. The plane (Barbarella) had the NOVA entertainment system installed. Which means Radio, Video but no games. This Nova system had the (non-detachable) remote control embedded in the side of my right armrest. The remote control is well designed and it is almost impossible that you or your neighbor will accidentally press one of the buttons. The program was repeated every two hours or so. I watched K19 a movie about a submarine. The white headphones were ok. Because they are of the type which clips to your ear, you can also sleep with them still clipped on.
After the movie I reclined my three seats and tried to put the armrests up so I could sleep using the three seats as a single bed. Well, that didn’t work because the armrests would only go up about half way. With the armrests up, the space underneath the armrests is just enough to sit under it with your back against the window but not enough to lie down under it with you upper body.
I did caught some sleep and found out that the Virgin eyeshades are better (softer and thicker) than the BA ones. We were served breakfast and soon after that the purser announced that we were approaching London and that he would switch off the entertainment system. He also said that the we lost 6 minutes during the flight but that the captain is still a nice guy.
The flight attendants collected the head phones.
The landing that followed was one of the best I ‘ve ever survived. I never saw the ground once. There was dense fog and the view out of the window was one of white fog streaming aerodynamically over the wings with enormous speed. Pretty awesome. Touchdown was suddenly but smooth and when we finally arrived at the gate the purser made one more joke: “If you need assistance in Gatwick…just outside the gate is Virgin Atlantic personnel. They are dressed like us but are just not as good looking”.
Photo © Gary Watt
I really enjoyed Virgin Atlantic. They were safe, nice and delivered a fine product. Well done Virgin!