11th August 2004
Boeing 747-443 G-VROM ‘Barbarella’
Premium Economy Seat 74A
Departure Time (Scheduled/Actual): 2025/2025
Arrival Time (Scheduled/Actual): 0930/0915
Photo © Andy Martin - AirTeamImages
Photo © Graham Hitchen
The report for the first leg of the trip can be found here.
We arrived at Orlando International Airport just before 1900 which was somewhat later than planned! After having our passports checked we went through to the Premium Economy check-in desk where the agent assigned me seat 74A and my Mother seat 74C – a window and aisle on the upper deck. He commented “I think it’s time for a new passport”. Any of you who have seen my passport picture will understand why.
I headed through security and onto the shuttle train to the gate. The airport was bright, spacious and clean which made a nice change from the packed BAA shopping centres I’m all too familiar with. I took a seat by the gate. A group of gate agents arrived and one of them announced “Virgin Atlantic is paging passenger Ronald…. McDonald!” and collapsed into a fit of laughter, along with the other agents and all the passengers in the gate area. I assumed she was having a joke played on her until a couple of minutes later she said “Seriously, we need Ronald McDonald travelling on flight 16 to Gatwick to come to the desk”. Poor bloke!
Looking out the large windows at the gate I saw the aircraft for this evening’s flight – G-VROM “Barbarella”. “Air-born December 2001” was painted on the nose. This was rather interesting considering I had flown on the very same aircraft in August 2001!
Photo © Ben Pritchard
Boarding for Upper Class and Premium Economy passengers started at 1940. I headed down the jetty and on to the aircraft. I made my way upstairs and soon after I sat down an attractive member of the crew came round with a tray offering water, orange juice and Bucks Fizz.
She smiled and appeared a with a glass of Champagne a moment later. Much better.
I settled down with my drink and made myself comfortable. The likes of Franz Ferdinand, Muse and The Killers were being played over the speakers – at last some decent boarding music on VS! The Premium Economy cabin took up all the upper deck. The seats were in 2-2 configuration with a 38” pitch and legrests. The additional space makes a flight significantly more comfortable, particularly on an overnighter.
Photo © Ryan Gaddis - SPOT THIS!
We pushed back dead on time. Takeoff was at a leisurely pace and uneventful. As we started the slow climb to 33,000ft I got some magnificent views of a thunderstorm belting down on Florida. I was glad I’d made my escape a couple of days before the hurricane was going to hit!
Soon a Sky News bulletin was played on the PTVs and the drink service started. I had a Vodka and lemonade, served with a bag of pretzels. Once the news was over the Nova IFE system was activated. There were 8 films, 14 audio channels and a skymap available. As you would expect, I put it onto the skymap to keep track of our progress.
The meal service started with those famous words “beef or chicken?” There was a vegetarian option available too. I went for the chicken which turned out to be very nice. It was a chicken breast in creamy sauce with rice, peas and mushrooms. It came with a pasta salad, cheese and crackers and a chocolate fudge cake – naughty but nice! Wine was served with dinner (I went for the Chardonnay) and the crew came around with refills three times during the meal which was unexpected but welcome. After dinner I grabbed a can of Heineken and listened to some music on the IFE system for around half an hour before dozing off to sleep.
My Mum woke me up which irritated me because I felt like I’d been asleep for just half an hour. To my surprise we were approaching the west coast of Ireland and breakfast was being served! I had managed to get a decent amount of sleep. Trays were handed out with fruit salad, a pot of orange juice and a muffin. I had a coffee to go with it. It felt like I’d only just finished dinner so I passed on the muffin and got another coffee and orange juice.
Not too long after breakfast the IFE was switched off, seatbacks were moved to upright and the seatbelt sign came on. The same quality tunes that had been playing during boarding came through the speakers again. No “babycakes” or similar Chav rubbish on this flight!
During approach to Gatwick’s runway 26L Franz Ferdinand’s “Matinee” was being played which made me feel like I was in one of MYT332’s videos! We flew over the M23 motorway, the London to Brighton railway mainline and a load of car parks before gently touching down. “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to a very wet London Gatwick Airport”. Same old England!
It was announced that due to lack of space at South Terminal we were being allocated a remote stand and disembarkation would be by stairs, with buses to the terminal. We ended up parking near the control tower next to a Travel City Direct 747-200. Coming down the stairs from the aircraft and seeing it close up from the ground really made me appreciate what an enormous yet fantastic aircraft the 747-400 is.
The aircraft was parked further north on the airfield than Gatwick’s north terminal, so the bus ride to the south terminal took a good 15 minutes. I did manage to get a good view of the new high bridge from the north terminal to the new gates though. After getting off the bus and spending 45 minutes in the disorganised BAA hell which is Gatwick South Arrivals on a busy summer morning, I was on the train home.
The flight was a great end to my summer holiday and Virgin Atlantic were very good as usual. Thanks for reading, feel free to post any questions or comments.