Airline: Virgin Atlantic Airways (VS/VIR/VA)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Registration: G-VFAB “Lady Penelope”
Seat: 38A (Economy)
Distance: 5,456 miles (8,780 km)
Duration: Approx. 10 hours
Date: Saturday 26th February 2005
Photo © Rafal Szczypek
Photo © Jonathan Simmons
After two and a half months of waiting, and hours of planning, the time had finally come for me and good friend Michael Catchpole (Mikec) to fly to Los Angeles for our week long vacation in Sunny So Cal. We kicked it off the fun at the Sheraton Skyline at LHR with one day to go before we flew over to the USA.
I left my house on Friday 25th Feb for the 1.5 hour coach ride to LHR. When I arrived at LHR, I got the 285 bus from the C.B.S. to the Sheraton Skyline. I rang Michael to find he was stuck in traffic on the glorious M25. This was no problem, I hung around in the hotel lobby whilst he made his way down from Herts.
Michael arrived (finally ) with his case and his Mum. She pledged that she was coming along with us, to which I replied “Yeah no problems!” It was great meeting her, and we said our goodbyes. We then proceeded to check in to our hotel room. We thought getting a hotel room the night before we made our Atlantic crossing would be a wise move, due to us both living a good hour or so from LHR we could never be too sure on the traffic etc.
That evening we got the tube into Central London and had a meal. We discussed all the possible ventures we could explore whilst out in the US. The evening was a highly spirited one, which ended with a couple of White Russian Cocktails! (Something very famous was “Airborne - 25th Feb 2005”… Something to do with a hoodie!)
Here you see the basic items you need to make a White Russian Cocktail, if you haven't had the chance to taste one... Do it NOW!!
It was 7 a.m., Saturday 26th February 2005.……
Happy 25th Birthday Mike!! I was awoken by my alarm on my phone, then by the alarm on the TV, and then by Michael’s alarm on his phone. His alarm tune was “Kelis - Trick Me”, oh boy how I’m growing to be sick of that tune! I stumbled into the bathroom, had a shower and put on my glad rags.
I thought Mike would be awake by now, little did I know he was still in a deep sleep. I poked him a bit, then opened the curtains. He still wasn’t awake, so I then poked him in the arm a couple of times, at last he was awake. I was like “Get up, time to fly to LAX!”.
We were picked up at 7:45 a.m. by a Mercedes E-Class taxi which we had ordered the night before. (45 minutes for the both of us to get ready!) We were dropped right outside T3 where we headed over towards the entrance. Mike wanted a quick cigarette before we went in, as this could be his last chance for the next few hours! Once he had finished, we proceeded towards the Virgin Atlantic check in desks. It was relatively busy today, a lot busier than it had been when I flew to LAX in April 04. There were plenty of desk agents working to cope with the amount of passengers so it didn’t really seem to take too long. We were asked the normal security questions whilst waiting in line, they took a look at our e-tickets and put a Virgin Security sticker on the rear of our passports.
We arrived at the front of the queue, and we were called over to a check in desk. We were given seats 38A and 38B, with thanks to Leezyjet for the help with the seats. We checked in our cases and had our hand luggage weighed and we left for security. We went via the exit so Mike could have another smoke, god damn smokers!
I went to Travelex to pick up my $1,000 USD so I could live a little whilst in the US! After that we went to TGI Fridays for some breakfast. The meal was very good and the service was excellent. I was really excited by now as it was only about 2 hours till we flew!
After breakfast we went to the World Duty Free shop and spent half an hour (!!) looking at different aftershaves. (Tarts) I bought myself some Echo by Davidoff, and Mike got himself some Aqua Di Gio by Armani. We proceeded to the smokers area where I choked to death for 5 minutes!
Once we reached the main waiting area, we see that we had been assigned a gate. We rushed there with out pause! The closer we got the faster we walked, as soon as the window for our gate came into view we actually ran towards it! The moment of truth was seconds away! Much to our delight, we were flying on G-VFAB today. We were satisfied with that result, as it would be my first experience with the great V:PORT!
Here you see our lovely Lady Penelope waiting for us!
Once we arrived at our gate, boarding and the additional security screening had commenced. We see that the queue was actually quite large so we quickly made a stop off at the Boy’s room. I rang fellow user and companion MYT332 to break the news that I would be flying G-VFAB. He wished me a nice vacation and we said our goodbyes! (Alex it was like 11:15 a.m. and you were drunk! )
I then rang my mum to just say I was leaving and I’ll see her in a weeks time, she wished me a good time and I turned my phone off. (She’ll be bugging me via text messages all week, so there’s not much emotion there!!)
I’m not one to complain, but this was taking the biscuit really… The additional security screening on the gate has to be one of the most embarrassing events before you board an aircraft. We had spent the morning relaxing and I was feeling rather great. Now we had some asshole frisking us, tearing apart my contents of my camera bag. This was not fun! I’m happy for them to make our skies safer and what not, but god damnit!
Eventually we boarded and we were welcomed by the fresh VS crew. “Good morning sir, seat 38A, on your right, Thank you.” We made our way down to 38A & 38B where we sat admiring the fact we had no window to look out of! We weren’t actually too fussed, as the extra leg room made up for it.
Me and Mike sat down and summarised the fact that we were flying to Los Angeles today, and after all that waiting it was finally happening today! We were joined by a middle eastern looking chap, who sat down in 38C.
There was a bit of a delay as they seemed to have lost one of the passengers! Finally the passenger was located and the aircraft doors were closed. We pushed back and the glorious CFM’s started up with that amazing groan and deep vibration that rattles the entire cabin.
We made our taxi out to the runway and with not much of a delay we ploughed through the murky London skies. We had that amazing gust of wind that hit the under carriage when we rotated sending a vibration through our part of the cabin!
You know earlier I complained about the lack of window? Well it wasn’t too bad as we had two cabin crew sitting directly opposite us for take off. One of them was the spitting image of Rachel Stevens, and with out sounding like a right pervert, (As I have a girlfriend who would kill me if she read this!) she was absolutely gorgeous!
We made a series of banks and turns and before we knew it was levelled off for our initial departure altitude. The V:PORT system was booted up and they were playing Sky News whilst it was being loaded. They advised us that it might be a little slow to start off with, but everything will be running smoothly in no time.
Whilst this was happening I grabbed the Virgin “Seat Back” magazine and had a look at what movies and other entertainment we would be having today. To my delight, we had an amazing selection of movies and music to choose from which would keep us occupied for significant amount of our journey.
Mike pointed out that they had the Scissor Sisters album loaded in the music albums, I immediately went here to listen. (Little did I know how much this album would be involved over the next week or so!) I enjoyed the first few songs, Mike exclaimed “Listen to Tits on the Radio!” So I did! Absolutely fantastic song!
Before we knew it we had the first round of drinks and pretzels already. I gave my pretzels to Mike as I wasn’t too peckish. The Virgin Cola and Ice was excellent, and I was ready for more V:PORT!
I started watching some movies and spent some time staring at the amazing moving map! We both watched “Supersize Me” which literally made us both feel incredibly sick. Lunch wasn’t served long after this! It didn’t ruin my appetite that’s for sure.
We had been flying for just over two hours now, so I wanted to take a walk around the aircraft. I usually feel a bit wary about walking around with my camera fixed around my neck, but I was discreet as possible. I took a view from the window down towards the rear of the aircraft, the blue sky was fantastic in this one!
View from the rear of the aircraft, smashing colours as always!
On the way back to my seat I also took a shot of the cabin. You can see the passengers enjoying the V:PORT system here. Half of them probably don’t even realise that this system is one of THE BEST out there!
Cabin view of our busy VS7 flight, pax can be seen enjoying the IFE!
So far the service was impeccable, they had pre-warned us that they were a member or two short. We really didn’t notice a difference in service at all! They remained polite, efficient and how you would expect Virgin to be. This is one of the reasons I fly Virgin, they have such a young, rich, fun, non-chav image about them.
There was an incident with a couple of passengers who sat behind us… Once they had finished with their tray, instead of waiting for it to be collected, they got up out of their seat and put it in the emergency exit row. (Directly in front of our feet!!!!!!!) I just could not believe my eyes! To top it off, the trays toppled over and rubbish just went all over the aisle. (What was I saying about chavs earlier? Was I wrong?!)
One of the male flight attendants asked me who put it there, and I was definitely not going to deny any knowledge, so I pointed him in the right direction! He gave her a good telling off too! “Do you expect me to pick that up? Do you do that at home? That is unbelievable!”
Anyway, we were getting closer and closer to Los Angeles. The excitement became greater and greater! I found myself getting quite restless, so I took my mind off things with some more V:PORT entertainment. I got stuck into Fahrenheit 9/11, interesting documentary!
We were about 3 hours from landing and I decided I wanted to have a nosey in Premium Economy. I felt like a naughty school kid wandering off into the cabin! No one seemed fussed at all really. I got some shots of the glorious CFM’s as we passed over some very rocky looking terrain.
Wow, wow and wow. I love the view from up here, the engines are just so gorgeous!
I spent the rest of the flight relaxing. We hung around by the emergency exit door just taking some shots of the winglet as the sun illuminated it. I ordered myself a Virgin 747-400 model, which they didn’t have on board so I reserved it for my return flight home. A very nice model for £15!
View from the door just in front of us!
For all of you that haven’t been as lucky as I have to experience V:PORT, fear not, eventually all VS aircraft should be fitted with this absolutely fantastic entertainment system. I got you all some shots of the system. I really did enjoy having it at my fingertips for the entire time I was in the air. It made the flight seem very quick in comparison to others I have made!
The welcome screen, already it looks awesome!
The Moving map, which you can control! Currently over North Dakota.
Some flight stats here, 2:20 to go!
I wandered off to the bathroom to quickly freshen up. I then became seated, and an announcement was made on the PA…. “Would passengers Justin Wood & Michael Catchpole please make themselves aware to a member of the flight crew please?” Me and Mike looked at one another with a look of panic all over our faces!
I approached one of the flight crew who went off and had a word with another FA. A guy come back and said “Hey, you are friends with Lee (Surname withheld)?” I replied with “Yes?!” “Oh cool, well the Captain says you are more than welcome to visit him at the end of the flight!” This was excellent! We thanked him and started getting all giddy!
The captain came on the PA and announced that we were flying over Las Vegas, and we were not far from landing at Los Angeles. The weather was absolutely fantastic! It was about 65 degrees with some scattered clouds. Considering what we had just left back home in London, this was a damn sight better!
We had started our descent and I packed up my things and placed them in the overhead locker. The seatbelt sign was soon put on, so I retired to my seat once more. The excitement was kicking it right about now! In a little over 2 hours we’d be out in the Los Angeles sun, driving down the 405 Highway to Beverly Hills!
I can recall looking to my right as we were banking, and seeing the buildings and a lot of clouds! We were joined by the two cabin crew again, who seemed to grow very flirtatious with one another!! They were quite good actually, they sparked up a conversation with us about the awards that were taking place in Hollywood tomorrow evening. We didn’t have any plans to go there, that’s for sure!
We touched down smoothly on 24R, and I was getting increasingly excited about the week ahead! There was a bit of a delay getting a gate, but eventually we came in and parked up next to the KLM 744 that is usually there when you arrive on VS7!
As soon as the engines were shut down, two passengers walked towards the front of the plane. The two cabin crew in front of us were in utter shock that they had left their seats and walked towards the front of the aircraft!
Eventually, the door was opened and the passengers started to disembark. We waited around patiently whilst the steams of people walked down the aisles. The plane was empty, when the female member of crew that was sat opposite us said “Is there anything I can help you with?” We just said that we had a flight deck visit arranged. She said “Oh, come on up. You can wait in upper class!”
I sat down in one of the upper class seats, I was in heaven for a few moments! The captain then welcomed us into the cockpit. He was having a discussion with a despatcher about some of the problems he encountered during the flight, this was rather interesting to hear actually.
We started to take some shots of the interior, when the captain and despatcher asked if they wanted them to move! We said “Sure!” The captain replied with “Snap away to your hearts consent!” He was a nice chap, as was the despatcher! I just love how roomy the cockpit of the 747-400 is.
Roomy 744 cockpit.
Close up of the panel and thrust levers!
It was our time to leave the aircraft as the cleaners wanted to start their work. We shook hands with the captain and thanked him for the excellent flight. He said “No problems” and we walked off into the smelly Los Angeles air!
At this moment in time, my mind was just like “WOW, We’re finally here!!”. There is something about flying over the other side of the globe in a matter of half a day, it just really excites me!
We hit the queue for passport control, it was as expected really. Probably took about an hour for us to get through. One thing that was different to last time I flew into LAX, was the cute little dog that was sniffing everyone’s bags! I was given my lovely stamp in the passport, just a shame they didn’t put any effort into where it actually went in the book!
We walked to the luggage carousel, where we waited for a few moments. I then needed to take a leak, so Mike waited there like a gent for our cases. I came back from the bathroom to find him struggling with two cases! I grabbed mine from him and thanked him!
We walked out into the Los Angeles air, where Mike lit up a cigarette! Well done mate, you managed to keep it cool for the 10 hour flight, I’m impressed! The hustle and bustle of LAX never ceases to amaze me, but I love this place!
View from where we were standing waiting for our bus to the Radisson, LAX.
I was just about to throw my phone at the wall, because it didn’t pick up any network, when our bus arrived. It arrived, but didn’t stop!! I was not happy! I think I even swore too loudly, because a lady looked at me a bit oddly. Oops, my bad!
Eventually a second bus came. We needed the bus for the Radisson at LAX, as this is where Midway rentals were based at LAX. The transfer didn’t take too long! It was weird going back to the Radisson as I stayed here last time I was in LA. Who cares, we were here to pick up our Mercedes C240!
We arrived at Midway, and we were greeted by a young chap who was absolutely cool. He started discussing Drum & Bass with us! It wasn’t our kind of Genre, but it was nice. He joked with me when it came to the car we were renting, he said “Corolla….. right?!”
He handed us keys to a BMW, we looked at each other. OMG! We had passed this brand new silver BMW 330i on the way in, it was ours! This was quite a big step up from a Mercedes C240!
Here is our gleaming BMW 330i, the day after we picked her up. Sitting on the Santa Monica Beach car park!
We loaded her up, and done an on the spot inspection for any dents or dings. The car was in excellent condition. It was only about 2 weeks old according to the guy! All was well so we said thanks and agreed all of the paperwork.
You should of seen us once we jumped inside this car!! Exclaiming like little girls about every inch of this car! Leather Interior, CD Changer, Harmon Kardon stereo system, heated seats, a 3.0 litre engine with 225 BHP!!!!! OMG! Okay I really need to take some pills!
We reversed back, and I could see the reflection of the car in the windows. It looked absolutely top dollar! We pulled into Sepulveda and just boooooooooooooooted the gas, it was safe to say this car was extremely fast! We cruised along Sepulveda, heading north. We found Manchester Avenue and joined the 405 North to Beverly Hills. By the way…. We found the Crowne Plaza no problems. LOL! (3 days later we’d check out and go stay at the Westin Century Plaza!)
We spent a week in Los Angeles having fun. The weather stayed fantastic the entire time. We went to various places, and see various things: A day trip to Las Vegas, Universal Studios, Hooters, A drive to Orange County, Picture taking at LAX, Santa Monica Beach, Huntington Beach in OC, and lots lots more! Overall I took around 1,500 pics (3.0Gb)!
I want to say thanks to Virgin Atlantic for another amazing trip over the pond. You always impress me and remain my first choice airline to fly. A special thanks to Michael Catchpole for the absolutely amazing time we had together! Cheers.
Well folks I hope you enjoyed that one, all comments and questions are welcomed.
PS: If anyone is interested, some of the shots from the trip I have uploaded to my site can be found on Cool website up ahead! if you look at the portfolio section for more info! Cheers.