28th July 2004
Boeing 747-443 G-VROS ‘English Rose’
Upper Class Seat 9K
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 1115/1230
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 1525/1630
Photo © DAVID JAMES CLELFORD
My mother and I arrived at a very crowded LGW South Terminal at 0930. We were booked in Premium Economy on the VS015 1230 flight but the agent at the start of the PE/UC check-in queue informed us that we had two seats in Upper Class on the 1115 flight, which was delayed by one hour due to a late inbound arrival. The agent put some stickers on our tickets to change the flight number and directed us to a check-in desk. The check-in agent seemed quite confused said “you’ll have UC seats with PE service”. I told her I was informed we’d get full UC so she disappeared around the back of the desks for a minute and came back saying she’d got two seats in ‘real’ UC unblocked for us. If you don’t ask you don’t get!
As far as I am aware upgraded passengers don’t get lounge access, but I already had a pre-paid access voucher to the Virgin Clubhouse so I headed through fast track security and up the escalator to the lounge. The Clubhouse was quite small and mainly consisted of armchairs and tables. There was also a bar, library/smoking area, business centre and salon. I had a bacon sandwich and a couple of glasses of Champagne for breakfast. My overall impression of the lounge was average, but well worth £30 to get out of the packed BAA shopping centre which forms LGW South’s departure lounge. After a relaxing couple of hours I headed down to gate 21 and joined a short queue at the gate. I looked out the gate window to check which aircraft I was boarding – it was G-VROS ‘English Rose’.
At the door of the aircraft I was directed into the nose section. My seat 9K was in the last row of Upper Class just in front of the galley – there were only four rows, starting with row 6 at the front of the aircraft. The seating layout was 2-2 with a magazine rack and bar table area (though not a proper sit-down one as on VS LHR-based aircraft) in between pairs of seats. There were a further two rows UC seats on the other side of the galley which are used as Premium Economy on the MCO route. The seat was comfortable and offered generous legroom.
Photo © Ryan Gaddis - SPOT THIS!
Photo © Ryan Gaddis - SPOT THIS!
Soon after I sat down a member of the crew came asked if she could get me a drink. I had a glass of Champagne which was refilled before pushback. An announcement was made from the flight deck but it was unclear and I couldn’t make any of it out. At 1230 we started pushing back, but before we reached the taxiway we were pulled back to the gate because a member of the crew had to pick up their passport. After a second attempt pushing back we were on our way to runway 08R and the safety video was played on the PTVs which extended from the seat’s armrest. Being seated in the nose section during taxi was interesting because I could clearly hear and feel the movement of the nose wheel. As we approached the threshold of 08R a BA 737 performed a go-around due to a CO 777 still on the runway.
The aircraft lined up and without stopping the engines spooled up we started takeoff roll. The acceleration was impressive – it was the most powerful takeoff I have ever experienced on a 747. Once we had been airborne for a few minutes the crew commenced their duties and came round taking more drink orders. I asked for a Vodka & Tonic. I was given a G&T by mistake but the crew had no problem in changing it for the right drink. Drinks were served with olives and crisps on small dishes. The Flight Service Manager came round with Amenity Kits. They consisted of a small black pouch with a few items such as socks, eyeshades and tissues in. I didn’t think it was particularly great so didn’t bother keeping it, so I can’t describe the exactly what was in it.
I had a look at the menu – it was the “freedom service” though meals are served at set times unless you request otherwise. I ordered Potato and Leek Soup to start and Thai Green Curry for the main course. Meals were served on a tray with a linen cloth. VS have done a good job of actually making plastic cutlery look good! The knives and forks were fairly chunky and the plastic on the handles had a frosted glass effect.
The soup was served with Garlic Bread and was excellent, as was the Curry which came with Basmati Rice and Mushrooms. I had a few glasses of Chilean White Wine with the meal. For dessert I chose Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Fudge Sauce which was very tasty. All in all a very good meal. I felt full up and worn out so I covered myself with the duvet, closed the window blinds and reclined the seat. The recline angle was impressive though not flat. The legrest was far too short didn’t come up high enough to provide adequate support. I managed to sleep for a couple of hours.
I woke up and had a look at the Nova IFE system. The PTV was quite small and scratched. There were 7 film channels available but I wasn’t interested in any of them. There was also skymap and 14 audio channels. No tv channels or games were available. I looked at the skymap and saw we were approaching Newfoundland then listened to some of the audio channels – there was some good music on them and I was impressed by the selection. I don’t like using the call button so I went into the galley and asked for a larger, which was brought to my seat very quickly. There were Quality Street chocolates, fresh fruit and crisps available on the bar table so I helped myself to an apple. The crew came round and served small pots of Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream.
About 90 minutes before landing the afternoon tea service started. I had a cheese sandwich and chicken sandwich then rock cakes, served with coffee. The sandwiches were ok and the cakes were very nice. I followed that with a Bailey’s. Soon the IFE was turned off, the seatbelt sign came on and we started descending into Orlando International. Irritating R ‘n B music was played over the speakers until shortly before landing.
We touched down smoothly at 1630. I got the impression the pax in the rear cabin had been making a fuss about the delay to the flight because during taxi to the gate an irate sounding Flight Service Manager made an announcement without an apology saying there was nothing the crew could have done about the delay and “we are as fed up as you are!”
Overall it was a very good flight with Virgin Atlantic. The upgrade was a nice surprise and I’m sure it had something to do with knowing everyone’s favourite airnet dispatcher.
The quality of the food was excellent and the crew were attentive. Some things gave an unprofessional image, notably having to return to the gate and the announcement at the end of the flight. Things that need improvement are the seat design and IFE system. I gather both of them will be replaced in the coming months.
Thanks for reading the report, I hope it didn’t bore you too much! The return flight report is coming soon. Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have.