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VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 11:46 am

Aloha to all again,

Following my first trip report from BRU to ACC via ADD, I thought it would be nice to also detail my return travels.
Since few weeks ago I absolutely had to travel overnight from BRU, and the airlines traveling down to West-Africa overnight are rare (BA,KL,SN, LH all travel down during the day with a return to Europe overnight), I had to look into a creative routing that time. I flew to ACC on BRU-LHR (BA) - LHR-LOS (VS) and LOS-ACC (W3). Of all trips, I think actually that was the most worth detailing, but sleep was more important than taking pictures. Sorry for that  

A recap of my welcome to ACC on my last flight  ET BRU-CDG-ADD-ACC In J (by mayhem Mar 2 2012 in Trip Reports)

Anyways, here we go for ACC-LHR on VS658.
STD was 10.55, but having checked in online, having no luggage to check-in and never eager to spend too much time waiting at the airport, I decided to leave from the hotel at 9.20. Traffic to the airport is not so bad in the morning, so in 20 minutes the hotel driver dropped me at the check-in area.
ACC has a fairly small terminal for the volume of pax it is handling these days, especially given all the widebodies, and the peak they have in the evening. At this time of day the airport was quite calm though.

Accra Kokota airport terminal

An exotic board, but not many departures around this time of day (most long haul flights leave in the evening)

Before immigration - fill in your disembarkation cards (don't see why they need these)

Accra's airport is not very modern, not that large, but still it provides a good experience.
Although checked in already, I still passed via the check-in desk to have my lounge access card, and just to have a chat. 5 desks open in total, with no-one queuing 1hr before departure.
A very friendly check-in lady told me the flight was very light (101 pax in Y, 6 in J) on this A343. At some point she looked a bit panicked to her screen and called her colleague, which is something I absolutely hate when check-in agents do this. They should not give a grim until there is a real issue, since most of the time it is not an issue, but still upset the pax.
The day after the flight I was continuing on the same ticket LHR-BRU, but since this flight was not yet open, she was a bit worried she could not issue my BP. No problem, I was fully aware of this, but her look made me think something else was wrong. Anyways, I still had a friendly chat with her, and thought this was very good service.

After 5 minutes at check-in I proceeded through immigration and security. At security I was picked out for some more intense screening, which was done thoroughly but very friendly.
Given the terminal was almost empty, apart from 2 very cute groups of school kids visiting the airport (I really wanted to interact with them, but didn't know how, I wish I had some candy to hand out or so  ), so going through the airport was a breeze.
Proceeding to the least good lounge at ACC (there are only 2, Skyteam carriers using the nicer one). This one has no day light and only a limited number of seats. In the evening it's always packed, and really boring, this time it was quiet though.

Ok-ish art at the lounge

Clean toilets  

At ACC airlines/alliances tend to have fixed gates assigned, so they do branding at the gate. Here e.g. the skyteam one

General (empty) terminal

Around 10.20 boarding was called from the lounge, and some 5 pax proceeded to the gate, where, again there was almost nobody to see. (Appart 4 groups of 2 ladies, who every 5 meters asked to see your boarding pass and/or passport for some check.)
Going down on the stairs (ACC does not have a single jetway!) to the bus, I entered the bus and admired some planes on the tarmac. Many nice sights IMO, including a UN 737, the presidential plane (Fokker ???) and an Emirates skycargo 744.

Upper class boards through L1, Y+ and Y through L2

Spotting: quite some variety

J pax enter through the front stairs, and are welcomed by 2 friendly staff. I moved into my seat 8A, and after dropping my stuff went back to the front, to ask if I could visit the cockpit. To be honest, last time I visited a cockpit was prob 4-5 years ago, and the time before that was probably when I was 12. A very very friendly captain and FO welcomed me, and we had a nice chat about how this is probably the shortest VS flight, the light loads to day, how the A340 is not really fuel efficient, the VS slogans, etc...
Back to my seat, where by now a glass of champagne was awaiting me. Newspapers were handed out, and I made myself comfortable.

Empty J class

Amenity kit

A340-300 (a bit of an old one)
Seat 8A
STD 10.55
ATD 10.55 (wheels-up 11.00)

After a short taxi, backtracking down the runway, and a narrow turn, we quickly accelerated to take off. Here I'll be a bit shorter, and go into the real review of the product/service.

Narrow taxi way with eng 1 and 4 over the dust...

Bye bye ACC

Overall, I like VS very much for a couple of unique aspects, and sometimes they are really able to "wow" you, but then again, they are able to disappoint.(like LITERALLY when writing this, they are offering me some candy, I guess they must have seen my mood go into more critical  )
Eg. The seat is a great lie flat seat, fairly comfortable to work, a very nice table included, but then shows its age because it has only empower power plugs; the PTV gives video channels rather than AVOD (!), the seat still is a bit narrow, and the worst I think, is the fact that you have to leave your seat to put it to sleep mode. This means there is no 90% lie flat position. I actually dislike the fully fully flat position, and given the way it's built, it's really "bed or seat". With the seat not able to recline far enough.
But then again, I'm being a bit critical here.

Outdated IFE

But ok food (with outdated IFE in the background  )


A very nice pro then is the way they use 2 pieces of table cloth. This really gives a great touch, and makes everything so much nicer looking...
Lunch was served at 11.45 already, and consisted of
- drink service + nuts (no nuts/crisps were served with the pre-flight drink actually)
- warm bread + butter
- an ok amuse geule (olives + goat cheese)
- Salmon/soup (not bad)
- beef/pasta/and a local dish (!) I had eaten enough local Ghanaian dishes lately, but thought this was nice to offer.
- dessert: fairly good chocolate brownie soaked in chantilly (i like) and a coffee (not very strong, but ok)
I was lucky enough to join in on Johnny English, the movie 20' after it had started, and saw it until 10' before the end where I wanted to check out the toilets. I had actually kept waiting for 20', hoping I could postpone the restroom, but I failed. Here the lack of AVOD was very clear to me.
Before getting back to work/writing this TR, I decided to stroll around the cabin, and noticed the back J cabin was completely empty, and E+ was also very empty, but E+ looked quite good actually. Y had a fair load.

Nice view

Writing a trip report with a less nice view

Sufficient space to work (large table) and comfortable duvet

I caught 2 weird things on the IFE: our routing took us first eastbound and then again westbound (who can explain?) and this Elvis popping up over Italy (who can explain? )

On the flight it was getting a bit cold, which as a bit of a contrast with my LHR-LOS flight, were I thought it was incredibly warm. When I asked one of the F/As for a duvet, she kindly assisted me and even suggested to turn up the heating.
* in flight note* I do think the VS F/As stand apart from colleagues since they are: generally very pretty (sorry, had to share this) and come by very frequently to see if you need anything (at least 1x/hour)

About 1.5hr before arrival the crew came round with tea service. I asked them to have it a bit later, since I was in a working rush, which they kindly did.
The snack was (very) poor. 3 slices of dry sandwiches, and 2 cakes (of which 1 was ok).

Dry snack

Last views above the clouds, lovely sunset, before heading into thick clouds

After some holding above LHR, we landed around 17.40, and with only short lines at immigration and no checked luggage, I was out at arrivals by 17.55! I used the automated immigration process, which I love. It's not faster than a human check, but because you are actually doing something yourself, you don't experience the wait as annoyingly (it's all about perception!).

Landing at spotter paradise

As usual, I have no luggage, and I fly through arrivals  

I headed out, looking for the VS limo desk, which is not hidden, but very small, so not that easy to note. A very friendly, and pretty young lady welcomed me, helped me to change the address where I needed to head to, and called my driver. By 18.00 I followed my driver to the nice Volvo, and was heading into London. The drive eventually took 1.30hr, but since the friends I was meeting up with were still at work, I was not in a rush.
The limo service really was a nice extra.

The car

Overall I think VS did a good job on this leg, with extra points for the good service and attention during the flight (although with only a 15% load factor, maybe not so surprising). The IFE is however horribly outdated, and I think many people are looking forward to the new cabins that were recently announced.The food was only mediocre as well.
Would I fly VS again. Well, no actually. And the main reason for that is not really covered in this report. Since they are not part of an alliance, and from BRU they're not really offering flights, I have no interest in becoming loyal to them. The lounge is nice, the service is all good, but the lack of a decent FF program (within an alliance) is limiting it all.
(The reason why I flew them in the first place was for the schedule (I needed to get a nightflight down to ACC). And so it was more a "there are no alternatives" thing than anything else).

Part 2:

The next day I was flying the remaining leg LHR-BRU on BA.
Since there was no limo to pick me up (I actually never checked if BA offers this?) I took the Heathrow Express, and got in a stunning 21 minutes to LHR. Add the 20 min it took from my friend's doorstep, and it still is 50% faster than the limo!

Heathrow express

I printed my BP at the kiosk (I always check in online before to select my seat) and headed to the fast lane at security. I managed to just jump ahead of people that were let in the priority lane from the regular lane, but still had to queue a bit.
Heading down to floor 2 (at this great terminal!) I wanted to find my gate, only to find the FIS not working! A bit of a shock, and all people had to go and ask the service desk what their gate was. To my surprise, this manual "gate asking" process went really smoothly, and fortunately my gate was really close. I went to check out the lounge, and found here too an excellent lounge, with a magnificent apron view, and a nice food offering. This actually would have me consider BA as a very attractive airline to fly. (most likely meaning that I drop my loyalty to skyteam)
I took a coke, admired the lounge qualities for a moment, and was looking at one of the monitors, which was not mentioning any message on boarding of my flight to BRU yet. Nonetheless, given that it was some 25 min before STD, I went to the gate, and right at that time an announcement of "final call" was made. Although the gate was right down at the gate, I ended up being one of the last people boarding.

Non-working FIS (what a mess, hope they don't have this during the olympics)

Dream-piece of art

The great lounge

STD: 17.40
ATD: 17.50 (wheels up)
STA: 19.50
ATA: 19.45 (gate)
Equip. A319

We took of with a small delay, after a bit of queuing at LHR. The plane was ~80% full, with a rather big J cabin (8-10 rows or so)
Overall a good flight, with again very friendly crew, and actually a nice dish served on such a short flight. Other observations were that the seats on the right hand side of the plane were different from the left hand side! (I had a difficult time taking pix, without doing it in such an obviously visible way). On the left the middle seat folded in, so that window and aisle seats have much more width, whilst the right hand were regular economy seats. Quite silly. Also I think the picture frames are horribly outfashioned.

Hard to see, but these are 3 normal Y seats

They screwed up the time on the FIS here too

Nice food for a 45min flight!!! KL just gives you a freaking cookie in J!

I worked a bit on my trip report (typing this one actually on my BRU-FRA flight 2 days after...), and we landed uneventful at 19.45. We parked wonderfully close to the terminal (good job), and with limited queues, no luggage, and plenty of taxis waiting, I was on my way home at 20.00! Great! BRU is actually a really slow airport to get out of normally, but this is 90% due to slow luggage handling, and 10% due to the sometimes very long walk from one end of the terminal.

Parked close to the terminal (I think BA pays extra for this to BRU, since they always get this spot)

All in all BA did a very good job on this flight, with the lounge and the new T5 actually being highly impressive, and a true attractive element for flying with them. Nonetheless, the schedule for me is still the determining factor, and given that I'm not going for any OneWorld flights, it will take a bit more before I really consider them for next flights. It's sad to say, but the last part of this trip report is written from the overcrowded LH lounge at FRA, just because the schedule is better.

Some questions for the good readers:
> what was the initial strategy of VS with the four for long haul? Why did it ever make sense?
> what is the UN plane? What is the plane type of the Ghana presidential plane?
> why the weird routing on VS
> why are BAs seats in J not consistent on the A319

Hope you enjoyed these 2-in-1 trip reports, and I'll get started on my LH BRU-FRA-ACC soon  .
Actually, it always takes me more than a week to write these things, so my return flight is already coming up soon. Let's see if i can merge the LH trip reports. (you can expect some complaints about a broken IFE for a daytime flight *horror story!*

Hope you enjoyed!
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 12:46 pm

Hehe i like that you mention that the crew are attractive at VS.

You should try BA on the London/Accra route, which is now operated by Mixed Fleet, we give those Virgin lot a run for their money  

Kind regards

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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:14 pm


Great report, sorry to hear about the outdated IFE of VS! Tought all was AVOD by now, guess I was wrong  

Next trip report: Well worn A330s and Hassle free MUC transfer
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:21 pm

Nice report Mayhem!

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
this Elvis popping up over Italy (who can explain? )

Haha, no idea

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
The snack was (very) poor. 3 slices of dry sandwiches, and 2 cakes (of which 1 was ok).

Looks like they tried to copy BA's "high Tea" service, with the same results

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
The limo service really was a nice extra.

Indeed, nice to have a limo included

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
Since there was no limo to pick me up (I actually never checked if BA offers this?)


Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
> what was the initial strategy of VS with the four for long haul? Why did it ever make sense?

I gues they had the 747s, then the 340s cae along, and suddenly all their aircraft had 4 engines...might as well make VS seem like a safer airline than others but dint of the fact that you have less chance of falling out of the sky.

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
> why are BAs seats in J not consistent on the A319

You got a plane with the new space saver seats (like LH NEK seats idea). Some A32S have then, some don't. New ones have it. Upcoming flights: AMS-RIX-BUD-VDA,ETH-TLV-FCO-LHR,STN-TXL-LCY,LTN-CPH-LTN,LGW-SZG,MUC-LHR
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:38 pm

Nice report. The food on Virgin looks a little iffy. A lot of these recent Virgin trip reports makes me thing they need to upgrade their menu's a bit.
Topic Author
Posts: 153
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 4:32 pm


Thanks for reading!

@ HUYfan what is Mixed Fleet?     I definitely need to try that out apparently? 

@ gabrielchew, hope the BA snack is a bit better then at least! And regarding the seats, I was referring to the fact that the right hand side of the plane had different seats than the left hand. It was 3-3 but the middle seat on the left had the armrests that could fold in to the center, thus making the window and aisle seat wider (nice in short haul business) whereas the right hand had 3 identical seats. In the end it's not a big difference, but it was one of the few airlines that still had a wider seat (vs just a blocked middle seat) on the short haul, so it's weird to see it applied inconsistently...
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 5:22 pm

Nice report, thanks for sharing. VS seem to be improving catering.

Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 3):
You got a plane with the new space saver seats (like LH NEK seats idea). Some A32S have then, some don't. New ones have it.

From the back they appear to be the old seats. These are not regular economy seats (although normally half the Y cabin will be sat in them. They are converter seats and are wound apart, hence the gap you see between them for more space and the pushing together of the B seat on the left hand side. They go back until a certain point on aircraft, with all three seats sold in Y and the seats wound back in together and the B seat released on the left as the seats are pulled apart. After that it's space saver regular economy seats that can't be converted. Newer A32X have all space saver seats.
Despite the name I am a Boeing man through and through!
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:30 pm

Quoting mayhem (Thread starter):
what was the initial strategy of VS with the four for long haul? Why did it ever make sense?

I think it was more an Airbus slogan used when the A340-600 was launched, and as VS were the launch customer for the type, they used it too.

And I believe that you were on the newest of the 4 A340-300's VS now have. Only one has AVOD, the rest have the odyssey syste
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RE: VS Upper Class / BA J: Africa To BRU Via LHR

Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:31 pm

Nice tr  

Regarding the screens, that was a shock walking thru that terminal that day and them suddenly going off...... People just stopped and all looked. I was in the lounge in B and thankfully my screens did not go lol.

Thanks again for a good tr and looking forward to more (and yea, try BA longhaul next time)
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