Arr: 1214 (29 late)
Flight Time: 7:32
G-VJAM on her maiden flight
VS3 is an early departure from London, but it lands in New York before lunch, giving an extra half-day. The downside is a really early alarm call. However, riding in the back of a Mercedes certainly helped my early start.
Arriving by car I was able to use the dedicated Upper Class Wing. This is a separate check in area not accessible by foot. My driver tipped off the check in staff via an intercom at the gate. Therefore a friendly check in agent was waiting curbside for me. She opened the car door and escorted me to a desk where she checked me in. From there it is a short walk to the dedicated security check, where there was no queue.
Virgin’s Clubhouse is located upstairs past the duty-free area. The entrance certainly has style and creates a great first impression.
I headed straight for the dining area for some breakfast. Service was a little haphazard despite there being a lot of staff. I opted for the Eggs Benedict, which was fine but unremarkable.
Having finished I decided to head upstairs where Virgin has a small terrace. It was rather cold but the fresh air was welcome. Notice the Negus retro-jet was a Terminal 3, which was BA’s main long-haul hub during the Negus era.
Back downstairs I found an area to sit down. The Clubhouse has a chilled vibe, with relaxing music playing. However, the bar area was very noisy and that sounds spread across the whole lounge.
There is no self-service in the lounge, which no doubt reduces consumption. Each table has a menu that sets out what is on offer.
I was still feeling hungry so I went for a bacon roll, which was very good.
Here are some shots of other lounge areas
Around about 8am there was an announcement that boarding would start shortly. It was about a five-minute walk across the Gate 19 in the far pier. The lounge announcement was well-timed as Upper Class boarding commenced more or less as I walked into the gate area.
A small amenity kit and menu awaited in my suite. Although there is almost no storage, every suite has its own overhead bin, so storage is not a problem.
After a few minutes, I was offered water, orange juice or champagne. I opted for champagne.
Due to a technical fault, there was no boarding music or safety video. That meant I had ‘Galley FM’, which was an odd conversation about using people’s ashes to make jewelry.
There was severe fog which slightly delayed our departure.
A large TV screen slides out of the seat in front. I decided to watch the take-off via Virgin’s tail cam.
I tried to pair my mobile with the TV, but alas it would not work.
A number of wifi options were available, but I decided against it.
A stewardess came and introduced herself plus took a drink order. I opted to stick with champagne, which came with popcorn.
Shortly afterward my lunch order was taken. It was served course by course without trays.
The food was fine, but it felt fairly basic. I would probably have preferred steak to sausages for instance.
Lunch was followed by a cheese and port service. This was very enjoyable.
After the cheese and port service I opted for a mug of coffee. I liked having a large mug.
Shortly afterward I went for a stroll down to the new lounge area, or 'The Loft'. There were various baskets of fruit, snacks and alcoholic drinks to self serve. However, these didn’t have a logic set up location, which meant you had to hunt around.
One of the crew stopped by for a short chat. We discussed the new Upper Class. Apparently regulars miss the bar and crew have compared the new lounge to a caravan.
I returned back to my seat and got comfortable in a semi-reclined position.
Vera (Virgin’s entertainment system) offered a huge range of movies, TV and albums. I watched a programme about the An-225.
About 90 minutes before landing I ordered a coffee and scone. A full afternoon tea was available but I was too full.
Before long we were on the ground at JFK and it was time to bid farewell to my suite.
Overall, the Virgin A350 has a wow factor that other airlines plying NYLON don't. In particular, the ground experience is far superior. The service was well-paced, quite an achievement as all 44 suites were full. In terms of catering, I think the meals were a little too 'pub grub' for my liking and weren't premium in any sense. I also kept knocking the seat controls, which inevitably happened just as I got comfortable.
The A350 is a nice plane and there was almost no engine noise. One downside seemed to be toilet drains constantly blocking, which will need resolving.
All balanced up, Virgin A350 Upper Class was an enjoyable and relaxing way to reach New York.