Routing: Boston Logan - London Heathrow
Date: 28 October 2004
Aircraft: Boeing 747-4Q8 G-VBIG "Tinker Belle"
Photo © Paul Langfermann - The Art of Flying Photos
Photo © James Rowson
Working for an airline you get to meet a lot of other people from the other airlines and many will become your friends. So a friend of mine working for Virgin Atlantic asked if I wanted to go to a Halloween party in London. Not being one to turn down a party I said yes. I decided going to a Virgin Atlantic party, it would be appropriate to take Virgin Atlantic rather than my airline. I put in for my pass request and started planning my trip. We decided that with the current USD/GBP exchange rates that the shorter the trip was the cheaper. We opted for a suicidal itinerary of leaving the night before the party, arriving the morning of and departing the following afternoon. Ouch!
I worked my shift at work and then when I got off I went and changed. I was all checked in for the standby list. Apparently the flight was very full. My friend was already cleared though and had a seat in Premium Economy. At around 18:35 they gave me my seat. Being neighbours in the terminal and seeing these people every day the manager didn't feel too great about having to give me 45F, a centre seat in Economy. Oh well. I was happy to be on the flight although I probably could have got out on my airline if I didn't get on Virgin. I went through security and waited at the gate. I decided I'd go on with my friend who had to finish up boarding the flight. When we got on we asked the FSM (Flight Services Manager, or something to that effect) if it would be possible if I could come up to the bar later on and have a drink with my friend as she was actually seated in Upper Class, not Premium Economy as originally planned. She agreed and I went to my seat. I had heard stories about the legroom on Virgin and was a bit nervous. It was only in getting on the plane that I knew how this flight was going to be. At 6'2" my legs were already firmly planted against the seat in front of me. As we waited for departure (scheduled 19:25) the captain announced that there was a mixup with the loading of the bags and that there were some bags loaded onto the plane that weren't supposed to be there. So we had to sit and wait for them to find the bags and remove them before we could close up. We were eventually off at around 20:00. Fortunately we have a very short taxi time. The distance from Gate 8A in Terminal E at BOS to the threshold of Runway 15R is only about 250 metres. We sat on the runway for a few minutes before power was applied and we began rolling down the runway. With not an empty seat to be had we rolled for a bit before launching into the sky.
We reached cruising altitude very quickly and a drink service began. I opted for some wine to try and help relax me as I knew as soon as that person in front of me put his seat back I'd have even less room. A short while later food service began. I opted for some chicken pasta dish. It wasn't that bad. I was also starving so I ate everything I could. It was after the meal service was cleaned up that my friend came back to see if I wanted to come up for that drink. I went up and got to the bar when they said that some UC passengers were going to come down from the upper deck to dine at the bar and that I could come back later. Unfortunately, I never got that drink since I got stuck by the people next to me all dozing off. So I just decided to forget it. After that I started playing around with the IFE. My plane was equipped with V:Port so I watched Mean Girls. After I played around with some of the other features. I tried relaxing and getting some sleep but I just couldn't. The flight droned on and I sat there wish I could sleep but no matter what I did, I just couldn't.
Finally we began descending. We passed into the clouds just as the faint rays of light began appearing. We turned and bumped our way along. Amazingly enough it was at the point I felt myself starting to drift off to sleep. Figures, eh?! We touched down on a very wet 27R. We exited the runway and taxied for a few minutes before parking at the gate. I was so anxious to get out of the plane, but I knew that it would be a while before that happened. I eventually got my bag and got off the plane. I met up with my friend in the terminal and we went off. The people in the UC cabin were kind enough to give both my friend and I (both staff, and I sat in Y as well) Fast Track passes through immigration. It was a nice touch.
Now, I have to say the party was a nice thing. It was done with Singapore Airlines and may have cost only a few thousand pounds, of which some expenses were recouped by a meagre five pound cover. But it's a great idea because for a small price you keep your employees happy and gives people a feeling of pride in their company. I think other companies could take an example from that.
Routing: London Heathrow - Boston Logan
Date: 30 October 2004
Aircraft: Boeing 747-4Q8 G-VFAB "Lady Penelope"
Photo © John Higgins - AirTeamImages
Photo © Ian Woodcock
After a few hours sleep we managed to get up and start getting ready to head BACK to the airport. We had to check out by 11:00 so we left around then and caught the HotelHoppa back to Terminal 3. The check-in queue wasn't very long which was good because we waited only to be told to go to a separate staff/standby desk at the end. When we got there we got right up there having to only wait for one couple ahead of us. When we got there my friend was again cleared for W (Premium Economy) but because I am other airline staff they had to place me in Y. Fair enough, I guess. I opted for a window because I wanted to watch the wings since this trip was my first time on a 747-400 (my left knee would later have revenge that I didn't take an aisle seat by failing to work for 10 days). With our seat assignments we went up and went to the shops. With no money left I didn't feel like shopping so my friend picked up a few things and then we headed off through security to that massive waiting area. At that point I was so tired and hungry I just wanted to get on the plane. But we had to wait for what seemed like an eternity for our gate to be announced. I love major international airports simply because you can watch humanity pass. With flights to Abu Dhabi, Copenhagen, Vancouver, and India there's such a diversity to the place. It's great! With our gate annouced I was not at all surprised that it was one of the most remote gates in Terminal 3. And also, equally unsurprising was the fact that none of the moving sidewalks were functioning. We stopped at a washroom along the way and I remarked a sign saying that that it's an offence to destroy passports as a way to gain access to the UK. You don't see signs like that in the US. We finally got to our gate and sat down. A few minutes later I hear my name being paged. I feel excited that maybe they're calling me to give me a new seat in W or even J (Hey, I can dream!). I get to the desk and and not to upgrade me but to tell me that they're short meals in economy and that I may not get a meal on board but that she would let the FSM know where I was sat so they could arrange something. My stomach turned at the thought of not eating for at least another eight hours. With that boarding began. Not in a rush to get on I waited til about half the boarding was done however they were pretty backed up on the jetway even when I got there. I took my seat and I settled in. For the moment no one was sat next to me however the aisle seat was taken soon enough. Thankfully the centre seat stayed open. Next to our plane was a BA 747 (G-BNLC
Photo © T Silgrim
) to Miami which pushed back just before us. We pushed back early however our time gained evaporated due to the fact that one of LHR's imfamous back-ups was forming and they ordered us to taxi around the entire airport before joining the queue. Heading out to the end of runway 9R I saw the Terminal 5 contruction. My first impression was that it's not that big. Then I realized that was one of the satellites. It was then that the actual terminal appeared. That building is an absolute monstrosity. I can't wait to see it finished. After that we were next.
We turned onto the runway and without so much of a pause power was applied and we took off. I got a nice view of T4 and all the BA planes below. We banked to the right and I eventually got to see LHR pass by again down below as we headed off to the east. We levelled off and the IFE began. Again, the system was V:Port and I was decided to watch "Cold Mountain". I had been told that it was a good movie. Food service began and because they were short meals they couldn't serve me right away. Only after everyone had got their meals did they come back and ask what I'd like. Again I had some pasta dish. Again, it was tasty. And despite being tired I just couldn't sleep. When the guy on the aisle got up I took advantage of that and moved to the aft lavs to stretch my legs. Some point around Newfoundland they started the secondary meal service. Again, I got passed up. However the guy said that he wasn't going to eat his sandwich and gave it to me. Thankfully, as all that was available was the cheese option. Isch! I got a beautiful view of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick (two provinces I highly recommend). We passed over the Bay of Fundy and then over the Gulf of Maine. It was there that we began our descent and also where the clouds began.
The clouds came up quickly to greet us. As we descended lower and lower the clouds got increasingly dark. I didn't except it to be so dark. As a result I had no idea from which direction we were arriving. We came out of the clouds at about 1000 ft ASL. Enough time for me to establish that were arriving onto runway 22L. We touched down on the rainy earth and quickly stopped and exited the runway. The problem with 22 arrivals is that Terminal E arrivals have to taxi a really long time to get to the terminal. After about 7-8 mins we reached the gate. I got off and one of colleagues met me in the immigration hall where he had arranged to get me through the crew booth at immigration. I came down to customs and chatted with some people before getting my bag and heading off to another Halloween party
Overall, I think Virgin are good at what they do. Having not experienced their premium service I can't say for certain what that's like. However, their economy product is inline with most other airlines' economy products. I do think they should begin the IFE sooner after departure. The first 30-45 mins there's nothing. But, I would take Virgin again in the future.
P.S. I'd like to thank John Higgins for taking pictures of my departure from LHR. My seat was one of the windows just past the leading edge of the wing on the lower deck.