I apologize in advance for not having any pics. I don't consider myself shy in any regard but taking pics of seats, meals, etc. has always seemed strange to me. Of course after reading a lot of these reports I realize the benefit they give so please go easy on me!
This past March I took my wife to London and Paris for vacation. It was here Spring Break from college and I was really in need of a week away from work. After checking with Virgin Vacations and other sites I decided to just cash in 200K SkyMiles and get us two Upper Class tickets on Virgin out of Newark. Now we just had to get to EWR
March 4, 2005
-88 (sorry but I gave up getting registrations and tail numbers of Air Jethro planes a long time ago after I lost my list of planes I had been on)
I bought our roundtrips to EWR
on the cheap and couldn't get my wife upgraded so I gave her my ticket to ride up front while I kept the exit row on the MD
-88. I'll spare you the in-depth details of this flight as it was a standard domestic flight on Air Jethro. I fly a lot for business and my choice (being from ATL
) is Delta so they take pretty good care of me although I see the decline in service which bothers me. My wife took my seat up front and I headed back to row 25 for the exit row (the 1st class of coach as a friend of mine calls it.)
We left ATL
a few minutes late which I found remarkable given the chronic delays we have there and made our way up to EWR
. She got a snack that consisted of a chicken wrap, some fruit, and a brownie. Of course she might be lying but I flew the same flight a few weeks before and got almost the same thing so I believe her. I got the standard bag of pretzels and a can of Diet Coke. We flew west and continued well north and then did a 180 which gave us on the right side of the plane great views of Manhattan while on final. We arrived on time and made our way to the Crown Room for a bathroom break and kill some time for our luggage to make it to baggage claim. The Crown Room in EWR
looks and feels like almost every other one that Delta has but the folks working it are nice and I picked up a copy of the NY Post which is always fun to read.
We picked up our bags and made our way upstairs to find out we were incredibly early and that Virgin hadn't even opened up the ticket counters yet. I planned a fairly long layover just in case we had issues getting out of ATL
so we headed to the Virgin Clubhouse which was open. The Clubhouse in EWR
is small compared to JFK
but still nice. There are also no windows which was kind of strange but no big deal. We went upstairs at 1700 and checked in our one bag of luggage and got those wonderful purple boarding passes and headed back to the Clubhouse. We still had 4+ hours until our flight so we grabbed a taxi and headed to downtown Newark for dinner.
I know what some of you are saying right now...are you insane?! Trust me though. If you ever find yourself with time to spare at EWR
catch a taxi and go to the Spanish Tavern restuarant and get the Paella Valencia and a pitcher of Sangria. After dinner they have a shuttle service that can take you back to the airport for free. We got back to the airport and headed back to the Clubhouse for a little bit and then made our way to the gate.
March 4-5, 2005
Plane: G-VBIG aka Tinker Belle, B747-400
We were one of the first ones on the plane and made our way to our seats in 16 and 17K. I had been in UC
before but my wife was quite impressed. The lights are glowing purple and they are playing good music over the PA. I remember hearing U2
, Coldplay, and some other stuff I liked but just don't remember now. The stewardesses on Virgin are great (and smoking hot as well!) in my opinion and were right there offering drinks, amenity kits, and sleep suits. We got changed, kicked off our shoes, and gave the in-flight beauty treatment (what else should they actually be called) our choice. I also gave her my priority card from my last flight where I wasn't one of the lucky ones chosen. My wife said not to wake her if she got picked later in the flight. A stewardess made the rounds and took our dinner choices. Although we had eaten a few hours before I wanted to sample a little bit and picked the veal chop.
The flight was full but we loaded up quickly and taxied out to the runway. Virgin has a great little cartoon for their safety info video and I have to say it is the only one I pay attention to because it is so humorous. We took off to South and then did a 180 giving us another great view of Manhattan but now all lit up at night. I was the second person picked to get the in-flight treatment and I picked the neck and scalp massage. It was great start to the trip and loosened me up. When I got back to my seat dinner was waiting which was nice. I don't remember the exact details of the meal but the salad was good, the veal chop was great, and the chocolate cake and ice cream were just right. Of course it is all served on nice china and you actually get real utensils including a knife which surprised me. I still am amused that the US carriers give you a cheap plastic knife but have no issues also given you a 4 pronged metal fork that could inflict just a much pain.
Now it was time to hit the sack and the stewardesses came around and chnaged our seats into beds. The last time I flew in the UC
Suites I had probably the worst night's sleep in my life. Not just on a plane but in general! I was open minded to give it another try since I wans't feeling all that good the last time I flew. The high walls on the Suites do not bother me when I am sitting up but for me the minutes you lie down the air flow gets cutt off and the air gets stuffy. The second I sit up everything is fine but lying down just wasn't comfortable. The bed is quite firm which also isn't my favorite. I think the next time I fly in the Suites I will just recline the seat into the cradle position and toss the down comforter over me. My wife felt the same way as I did. She wasn't incredibly comfortable lying down and liked the seat better in the cradle position.
This plane has the fancy schmancy AVOD system so I watched a couple of episodes of The Office and then picked my old favorite Caddyshack. After a restless few hours I woke up for good over Ireland and made my way to the bar for orange juice. The stewardess asked me what I would like for breakfast and I picked the blueberry pancakes, eggs, sausage, fruit, and the traditional British baked beans. I also asked for tea and got a funny look when I said no to cream or sugar in it. We got changed back into street clothes and enjoyed the last hour of the flight. We flew past the field and then made a nice turn over downtown (do they call it that?) London and got some great views of Westminster, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. We had a good landing and taxied to the gate in T3
. We got the precious Fast Track cards from the stewardess on the way out the door and made our way to Immigration where we had no wait at all. The path we took this time was different as they segregated us from the concourse and forced us straight to Immigration like we do in the States. 6 months earlier I made a wrong turn off of the jetway and ended up at the end of the concourse instead of Immigration. Is the inbound/outbound segregation a new thing there now? We got our bag and cleared Customs and headed to the Revivals Lounge.
We made the short walk to Revivals, checked in, and were shown to our shower rooms. No matter what Virgin says in their ads about UC
nobody looks remotely sexy after an overnight flight. Luckily for me I (and I need all the help I can get!) could get all fancied up at Revivals. The last time I was here it was literally one of the best showers I had ever had in my life (to make up for the worst night's sleep) and this time didn't disappoint. I got dressed in clean clothes and got myself a cup of tea and read the paper while waiting for my wife. Since we used miles to get the tickets we weren't able to take advantage of the limo service so instead we hiked for what seemed like an eternity to the Heathrow Express where we got our seats for the 20 minute ride to Paddington Station. Nothing fancy here other than a comfy seat and BBC News on the way into the city.
We spent a few days in London and then made our way to Paris for two days. Although not a flight we took the Eurostar to Paris which was fun. I hadn't been on a long train ride in a few years and let the clicking of the track put me to sleep. My father wanted to know what it was like going through the Chunnel. In short...it was dark. Nothing to write home about. We came back the following day and made it out of France as the transportation strike was getting started. Not having seen the news in the past few days I had no idea they were getting ready to strike so I was relieved to get out of there and back to London. We spent another few days in London again and then took the Heathrow Express back out to LHR
for the ride home.
The last time I was in London I got the limo service and used the drive through checkin which is great. This time we actually had to go through the normal procedure of lugging bags and talking to an agent (the horror!) although Virgin makes it painless. I got lost in the terminal trying to find check-in but finally got there. We went through the Fast Track security lines and then wandered around Duty Free spending more money on an already expensive trip. Had the exchange rate not been a killer I would have taken my chances at smuggling some Cuban cigars back home. But at $400 a box it was just a bit too expensive for me to chance it.
We made our way to the Clubhouse and nibbled on the buffet and got some drinks. I had been craving Indian food and ended up getting a nice chicken curry for a quick snack. At that time they hadn't put out any notices about the upcoming changes to the Clubhouse but what they did have was nice. We made our way to the gate and got onboard for our flight back to Newark.
March 11, 2005
Plane: G-VFAR aka Diana, A340-300
The little lady and I got on the plane and received the standard UC
treatment from the stewardesses which is great. I've read where folks are saying Virgin's service has gone downhill. Perhaps I have lower expectations given all the time I spend flying in the States but I rate them right up there with Singapore (which I do think is the best from my experience.) Anyways, we got our drinks, gave the stewardess our dinner choice, veal chop again for me and some sort of chicken dish for my wife. This time we didn't get an in-flight massage so we were given the priority cards for our next flight. Dinner was served pretty soon after takeoff and I started flipping through the movies on the IFE. This plane doesn't have the AVOD system but there are still a fair amount of choices. I watched the second Bridget Jones movie (I know, take away my Guy Card right now) and probably laughed a bit too much for being on a plane. The flight was pretty uneventful and I decided to get some sleep before we landed. This plane has the older sling seats which I personally enjoy more then the Suites. I didn't extend it fully as I feel like I am going to slide off of it when it is fully stretched. I put it in the cradle position and threw the blanket over me, put my eye patch on to block the lights and promptly got a couple of hours of sleep. I woke up about 45 minutes from landing, put my shows back on, and went to the bar for some cocktails. The landing was uneventful, we got to Immigration which was a breeze and then on to Customs. Although we were passed through without an inspection I still get a chuckle of the third degree I always get from the Customs agents. I'm an American citizen for crying out loud. Let me back into my own country! I hold multiple government security clearances and pose no threat. Quit treating me like a potential terrorist. But I digress...
Since it was too late to fly to Atlanta that night I scheduled our last leg for the next morning. We got a taxi to the hotel but the cab driver got lost and drove straight into one of the worst sections of Newark. I finally expressed enough anger to get him to turn the car around and get us out of the 'hood and to the hotel. I checked email and our flight status for the next morning, called Delta and paid the difference to get my wife upgraded the next day along with my Medallion upgrade. We then kicked back and watched the news out of Atlanta where Brian Nichold decided to go on a shooting rampage at the courthouse, kill some folks, and then disappear into the city. Always a nice feeling to go home to a massive FBI manhunt.
We got to the airport the next morning and checked in at the Medallion desk which took no more then 2 minutes. The agent asked me if I was related to Brian Nichols (we shared the last name and that is all.) I started laughing and reminded her that I was indeeed white and he was black therefore the chances for relation were slim. She realized how goofy she seemed, blushed and sent us on our way with a smile. We went to the Crown Room and hung out there until it was time to board. Again, we watched the news, or actually non-news as they had no new information but insisted on filling up as much airtime as the could with "FBI Manhunt 2005!" I'm sorry Jim, I have no new info for you but he is still on the loose. Perhaps he has left the city but I have idea. Now let's go to Marcy at the McDonalds a mile from the Courthouse where nothing has occured to ask people what they think." For those of you outside of the States our news coverage is really just crappy so I'm not kidding about how mindless it can be to watch it.
March 12, 2005
Despite the falling snow we left on time for home. If it was Atlanta the entire city would have been shut down for two days with this little dusting so I counted us as lucky. While waiting for everyone to load up on the plane we got cocktails (it was 5 o'clock in London so no guilt about drinking early.) We got a simple snack after takeoff. This time though it was a roast beef wrap instead of chicken. Nothing fancy but good and filling. We landed a few minutes early and taxied to the gate. Luckily by now they had caught Brian so all was safe for the drive home! The only thing that attacked us was our chocolate labrador and beagle when we walked in the door. (No, we didn't leave them for a week without food. My brother-in-law stayed at the house watching over them)
Well, that's it folks. This is my first trip report so I hope I did an ok job. I apologize again for the lack of pictures.
"If you can't delight in the misery of others then you don't deserve to be a college football fan."