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Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2002 6:50 pm

MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Wed Oct 23, 2002 11:32 pm

Date: 11oct 2002
Airline: Virgin Atlantic
Airplane: B747-443 G-VROM (Barbarella)
Flight: #6, MIA – LGW, seat 32A, departed 17:45 from gate A16

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Photo © Graham Hitchen
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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”.

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I really enjoyed Virgin Atlantic. They were safe, nice and delivered a fine product. Well done Virgin!

Never be afraid of what you like. (Miles Davis)
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 3:00 am

Excellent report!

I travelled with VS from JFK to LHR on an A340 and the service was excellent. The flight time is always short when you're flying west on the Atlantic. My fastest was on Delta, from JFK to MAN. Only 6 hours.
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Joined: Sat Dec 02, 2000 9:40 am

RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 4:32 am

Great trip report.
Everytime I read a VS trip report it makes me want to fly VS more and more.
Fly the Flag!!!!
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:00 am

Great report! I've flown back and forth to London a number of times from New York, and always prefer to go Virgin.

BTW- best time I did it in was 5 hours, 20 minutes... unfortunately that meant a return time a week later of over 9 hours.
SkyTeam: The alliance for third rate airlines finally getting their act together!
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:35 am

Good report.

I love what you say about MIA.Having been there numerous times I can still see prople lined up at the AA and JM check in counters with all sorts of 'EXCESS' BAGGAGE.You have so see it to believe it.



RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:56 am

Great to read your report. Again, looks like Virgin have performed well again.

I agree with your comment regarding their cabin crew...I very much like to see pretty girls in uniforms, especially Virgin ones  Big grin (oh god, what will they think of me...)
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 4:07 pm

Lovely Virgin! I think that they have to be the only airline to allow the FAs to crack jokes like these over the PA... But this also reflects the relaxing environment the employees work with under the charge of Branson. How I wish i was working there.

Great report, by the way.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 4:29 pm

No Ryan, Southwest does that as well. Great trip report! I want to fly Virgin someday, it should be easy  Big thumbs up

9V-SVA | B772ER
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 5:03 pm

i enjoyed and read your trip report like the duration of your flight: FAST.
virgin seems to be a very interessting , nice airline.
looking forward for your return trip.
They loved to fly and it showed..
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Thu Oct 24, 2002 6:44 pm

Nice report !

How is the safety demo done "manually" in a 747 ? I've never seen one, always video presentations in these big planes. I mean, you are not able to see all exits in the cabin from your seat , how is the "pointing of exits" done ? Only the nearest ones ? Something like "look for the nearest exit, it could be located right behind you" ? (I like this sentence very much, SAS and its partner carriers always include it in their safety announcements)

What about the meals ? You said fish was OK but I've seen pictures in www.airlinemeals.net and they looked quite bad - they looked like a light snack, something an airline like SAS would serve in an 1 hour flight, not an intercontinental one.

Many other airlines allow their FAs to "crack jokes" over the PA , (well perhaps the airline does not "allow" it but their people do it the same  Big grin ) the most famous is Southwerst in the USA. Personally I don't know what's the fuss with this, they are quite old and silly jokes told over and over : "there are many ways to finish a relationship but only 4 to exit this plane" , "if you smoke you will be asked to leave the plane" , and so on. The remark about the ground staff was funny, though . (of course, it is just my opinion)
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Fri Oct 25, 2002 9:21 am

Ir's nice to hear we are doing something right  Smile . Good report.


A manual demo has to be able to be performed on every a/c type. It is a legal requirement that this is possible incase the IFE is not working. At VS a manual demo is usually performed on the 1st of each month, but can be done anytime the IFS feels like requesting the crew to do it, or more usually there is a problem with the tape or something.
The crew generally point the direction of the exits as best they can in such a large a/c, and most airlines if not all will tell you that your nearest exit could be behind you.

"She Rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose comes up to 20 degrees, she's airborne - She flies, Concorde Flies"
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Fri Oct 25, 2002 5:40 pm

Thanks for all the comments!


The demo went exactly the way Leezyjet described. The purser was on the PA and all the F/A's were in the ailes. I would like to add that after the demo when we were taxiing to the runway, the purser reminded us over the PA that it was now the right time to double check the safety card and to be sure were the nearest exit was.

About the meals: I think that airline meals in Y are more or less the same with each carrier. Quantity was normal but quality was absolutely above average. The best thing I could find on airlinemeals.net which resembled my meal looked like this:
Never be afraid of what you like. (Miles Davis)
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Fri Oct 25, 2002 6:55 pm

Apart from the tray, glass and coffee mug, everything else looks as if they are disposable, true? Is it more cost effective to use disposable serviceware as opposed to non-disposable ones?

Looking at the pics in airlinemeals.net, it seems that more than 90% of airlines nowadays use disposable alluminium main course dishes in Y class.

SQ and a few other airlines still use porcelain and plastic dishes on all their flights in Y class. Are they really cheaper to maintain (if we take into consideration all the washing, breakages and replacement etc?).
There's always a better way to fly...
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Fri Oct 25, 2002 8:44 pm

Capt Picard:

What will they think of you? Dunno, but I think you're a bit pervy right now....
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RE: MIA-LGW On Virgin Atlantic (long)

Sat Oct 26, 2002 11:36 am

Hi Taichen

Changing the subject slightly, the airline I fly for has video safety demo's for all a/c types we operate except for the DC10 fleet - we used to have a safety video on the DC10, but seats 10AB/JK have a restricted view of the movie projector screens and following a number of pax comments the safety video was removed and we now have to perform a manual demo on all DC10 flights (much to our disgust!). The No1 (Purser) crew member will usually make the demo PA and six cabin crew perform the demo, a pair at doors 1,2 & 3. On all other aircraft types with safety videos, we are expected to do a manual demo (I suppose for practice) atleast once a month, but as on most a/c there are invariably IFE screens not working we perform manual demos quite often. On our A330 fleet there is also a pre-recorded demo PA which saves the No1 the hassle of doing the PA (it also has pre-recorded announcements for decompression, emergency landing and ditching - you just have to be very careful which numbered announcement you select!)

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