LHR-JFK VS009 Saturday 26TH OCTOBER 2002
Photo © MIKE MOORES
My mother and I left the house in Portsmouth at midday, and arrived at Purple Parking at about two-ish. The traffic on the M25 was quite bad, and we got a good view of an AC A330, and also an A340-300, a Royal Brunei 767-300 and lots of narrowbodies. Saw a BA 747-400 with the Chelsea Rose tail depart across the M25 just above our heads from right to left. Once we arrived by minibus at terminal three, at about three-ish, we sat in the check in queue for about an hour and a half. The virgin check-in area is just around the corner and they were in the process of checking the passengers for the Cape Town flight, which was scheduled to go at five. We were hungry so I left my mum, in the queue and went upstairs to the non-airside departures to the burger king where I bought two double whoppers with bacon and mushrooms. While up there I saw a AA 777, and the VS old Livery A340-300 which had gone by the time we arrived at the gate so we presumed it was the Cape Town flight. Saw the tail of a Syrian 747SP, and an Air Canada 767-300. An Iberia A321, and an Alitalia A320 taxied past also. We went through into departures, at which point I learned that The Mighty Blues had defeated West Brom at The Bridge two nil, which I was deliriously happy about. We stopped at a Starbucks, and had two tall skinny Latte’s, which we drank, in the smoking area. My mum burned her mouth pretty badly, but I explained that it does warn you on the cup! Our gate came up, and we went along to Gate nine. I had been told when we booked the flight that our aircraft was “Tinker Belle” and then at Check in that “Lady Penelope” was to be our plane. I was a little downbeat about this as I had hoped to get a V-Port equipped aircraft, and one that I had not been on before. Previously, a year or so back I took “Lady Penelope LHR-EWR, and “Ruby Tuesday” EWR-LHR, the airmiles from which I had spent to get a massive discount on this trip. On the walk to the gate, we saw the AA777 push back and start up, and then taxi past us down towards 27Left. We also saw a Malaysian 747-400 up REALLY close, refuelling but not loading yet, presumably for a Kuala Lumpur departure. If you are stood in Terminal Three, with 27L and Terminal four across that runway off to your left, and 9R is off to the your right, with the Terminal one and two behind, with the main H shaped areas of terminal three off in front, then out gate was down to the left. Our aircraft was stood right down at the end of the pier, and before we went round there to see her, I pointed out to my Mum a Korean 747-400F at the cargo centre, and as we watched, a Singapore 747-400F Mega Ark landed and taxied to the same area. A Gulf Air A330 landed, then to my delight an Eva Air Cargo MD11, and then we moved round the corner I saw her. Ladybird. I was delighted. An Odyssey system. Better than the Arcadia on Lady Penelope. Boarding was quick and easy and we were directed to our aisle seats over the wing. The plane was very clean and the staff, as always, lovely. I’ll go into my love of Virgin Atlantic later. We pushed about fifteen minutes late, and made our way off to the threshold of nine right. Takeoff was quick and very powerful off to the west, although we could not see anything, as we had aisle seats. There is something about the feeling of full power being applied on a 747, that really takes my breath away. We got off really quickly, which makes me think we didn’t have too much cargo onboard, and the flight time for JFK was stated to be seven hours sixteen minutes, so the fuel load would have been quite light for a longreach jumbo. We had a few minutes then the IFE system started up, and about twenty minutes in, the drinks service came round. I really love Miller. About twenty minutes later, the meal came round. It was really good. I really enjoyed it. A fresh green salad with garlic croutons and a herb dressing to start, and a choice of Vegetable and Ricotta pasta, Chicken Tikka Massala for main. There was a third choice but I cant remember it. I had the Chicken Tikka Massala (which is the UK’s number one most popular dish according to a recent poll – beating such luminaries as Fish and Chips, Sunday Roast Beef, Fried Chicken, and Hamburgers) I should say right away, this was one of the nicest curries I have had, though a little on the small side. A piece of their famous Chocolate fudge brownie was the dessert. I have read about this particular delight on A-Net a few times, and I should say it is truly wonderous. Had a lovely glass of Chablis with it, and the whole meal was really very nice indeed, and the main reason I prefer to cross the Atlantic with either BA or VS. The food is so much better. After dinner, we settled in and I watched Insomnia, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams. Although atmospheric, the movie was a little slow, and it was not as good as I thought it would be. The I watched Life and something life it, and that was much better than I thought it would be, considering it was a chick flick. The Odyssey system was working ok, but the sound jack in the right armrest was damaged in my seat, and so the sound only came out of one ear, even then with a little jiggling about with it. The amenity kit was the usual, with earplugs, pen, pad of paper, flannel, socks, moisturiser, toothbrush and toothpaste, and all in the semi opaque rucksack type thing, which I always like. The earphones were different this time, and were little clip on the ear ones, that although a little plasticky for my taste (I used my own as always) everyone else seemed impressed.
The flight was very full and I did not see an empty seat anywhere, which was nice to see. The flight crew were incredibly helpful and attentive. I always feel guilty about calling them out with the little button for another Miller or a Vodka and Tonic as is my way, repeatedly during a flight, but the girls on the flight were lovely, and smiled the whole time. By about half way through the flight, I pinged my button for the third time, and the Flight Attendant, a really astonishingly beautiful brunette called Katie, just brought me a Miller straight away. I got on good terms with Katie, and she seemed genuinely friendly and wished me a very happy birthday (it was the day before) with a kiss on the cheek (I was grinning from ear to ear!) and told me that she would have tried to get me an upgrade to business class, but it was full up there, so I would have to make do with an unending supply of Miller, and the great service back in the cheap seats. I couldn’t agree more! I am not sure what it is, but I always seem to get on well with flight attendants (United Airlines provided a couple of notable exceptions in the past!) and this flight was no exception. Certainly the fullest flight I have ever been on, she must have been very busy, but the service was impeccable. I must say at this point, I have very mixed loyalties when it comes to Air Travel. I am a huge Virgin Atlantic fan. I am also a huge British Airways Fan. I have travelled with quite a few of the really good airlines, and although in my experience, Cathay and Singapore have a more complete, and slightly higher quality service, the IFE on Virgin and BA in economy class is better than any airline, and the seat on the new VS economy class product is also the best I have flown on. Admittedly, Cathay and SIA have better food in economy class, the food on BA and VS across the Pond is far superior to any other carrier I have flown on Transatlantic. United, Continental, and American. Good, but no cigar. Plus, Virgin have the most jaw droppingly attractive women as cabin crew I have ever seen. BA are also good, in a respectable British way. In this respect I have only really rated KLM and Air Canada transatlantic. I know it sounds really sexist, but it does make the whole in-flight experience that much more magical (flying will always be magical to me) when you are being given cold Miller by a smiling and very helpful Goddess. Virgin have truly fantastic in flight service, and even if the flight crew were all male, the level of training would still cause me to praise their service very highly. The fact that the women who do this undoubtedly very taxing and demanding job are almost without exception so attractive that it makes you forget what drink you wanted, makes it fantastic. Singapore service was really great, and so are a whole bunch of others, but certainly to my taste, Virgin have the most beautiful cabin crew. Even the guys are beautiful! I love Virgin!
Ok, so the flight was a good one. A really nice chicken mayonnaise roll and a piece of toffee cheesecake with another Miller was served about twenty mins before we arrived. The flight path took us out over the southern route, and we did not stack at New York at all. Very little turbulence, and barely any bumps, even when forecast by the Captain as we approached JFK. Landing was smooth, and easy, and we exited off the runway to the right, and then taxied back up to the terminal. From the aisle I couldn’t see anything. We filed off the aircraft, and Katie wished me a happy birthday again, with a dazzling smile, and then she was gone. My mother and I walked into the harsh light of the jetway, and off down the corridor. To my delight, a Singapore Airlines 747-400 (9V-SMY) was at the Jetway next to us and I got a couple of good shots even though it was dark and through glass. We were one of the last people off the flight, and we both groaned in disgust as we turned the bend. A Huge queue of people was snaked across the floor of the Spartan arrivals immigration hall, and we were at the back. I joined the queue while my mother visited the little girl’s room. As she returned, the first of the Air France CDG 777-200 arrival passengers wandered into the hall. Only three immigration officers were at the many booths, and the queue was moving painfully slow. We watched the SIA 747-400 pushback through the windows, and about a half hour later, an Austrian Airlines arrival’s passengers began to filter into the hall. The queue was easily 1500 people long, and everybody looked tired and pissed off. Then, the nose of a 747 arrived at the windows, and in the orangey light, it looked light blue. I speculated it was a Korean 747-400 arrived from Incheon via Anchorage. I was correct. I felt really sorry for those poor Koreans, arriving in NYC after such a very, very long flight. Who actually gets off the plane in Alaska anyway? I thought they refuel her, then she goes off to the runway again. Well after all that, they arrive at such a long queue to arrive in New York. And they walk right on through. Right past the Brits, the remnants of the Lufthansa flight that arrived before us, the French, and those poor Austrians. They just walked on through and never even went through passport control. Must have been a planeload of American Koreans. We were not happy anyway. After two and three quarter hours of endless queues and flatulent Americans in front of us in the queue, am some really very attractive but incredibly standoffish Dubliner girls behind, we wandered out of the terminal and joyfully lit up. I had been craving and I do mean CRAVING a Lambert and Butler. It was a lovely, lovely ciggie, and no mistake. Last had a smoke out of the car window on the drive to the airport some ten hours previously. When you have an honest to God 20 a day regime going, this is not in any way funny, so it was a wonderful cigarette. We got a cab. It was a big yellow one, and the driver was a huge black guy with a little leather hat, and a deep Jamaican accent. He drove like a Looney. Like someone who really needed to be somewhere about ten minutes ago, and did not care a jot about such little things as fellow drivers, not using a mobile phone while driving, and scaring the fares. We were terrified. He was undertaking cars, and changing lanes without indicating or checking the blind spot, and the big Ford was really being thrown through the gears. Then, whilst on the Queens expressway, the engine died. The driver shouted an expletive ridden message down the phone to his office, and then re-started the car. He explained that the car was a 2002 car, and was nearly new, but that he could not trust it, and that he was very cross with his firm. We crossed through Queens, and Brooklyn, and into the city. It looked lovely all lit up. The driver suddenly got annoyed with a taxi in front that did not pull off the lights fast enough, and leaned on the horn. The driver stopped at the next lights, and our driver, all 220 pounds of attitude of him, jumped out of the cab, and ran up to the driver’s door of the cab in front, and kicked the door repeatedly and hard, whilst screaming expletives loudly and in Jamaican. I could not believe my eyes. The guy had a heated debate, and he threw his arms up and ran towards us in his cab, and pulled a .45 from the glove box. My mother and I were open mouthed. Our driver waved it at the guy in front, who accelerated off through lights, and took a left. To our relief, the guy started laughing, and got back in the cab. We took a right. He dropped us at the Hotel just by the Lincoln centre at the Upper West Side, near Central Park. I tipped him heavily.
Will post return trip soon. Hope you guys enjoyed it.