Virgin Atlantic | Airbus A340-600 | SYD-HKG | Upper Class

 

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.This journey is one of those that works out completely different to how you planned it. Originally, I was planning on spending some Avios on British Airways Club World on their direct flight from SYD-SIN. However, those seats vanished between the time of looking and waiting for a few Avios to be credited to my account. Never mind, Qantas still had a few seats left on their BNE-SIN service on the 747. Although that would have meant flying SYD-BNE-SYD-BNE…. However within a very short period those flights vanished too, leaving the only Avios route being with Malaysia Airlines onboard an A330 and a 738.

 photo qfsoldout.pngHaving already logged that combination on this trip, this really didn’t appeal. By perfect timing, an email dropped into my inbox from Virgin Atlantic, saying they had a reward seat sale on. As I had a few thousand of their Flying Club miles lying around waiting for a rainy day, I figured this would be my opportunity. I checked things out and a one way SIN-HKG sector would now be 40,000 miles – which came just within my budget of 41,000 miles. As I didn’t have to wait for any of these miles to appear in my account, I could book this flight without the risk of it vanishing. Of course, there were the taxes to consider, which came to around £120. Bargain!

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After arriving into Sydney, it was time to see what was around. First off was a short walk from my hotel to Darling Harbour.

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And couple of the more famous sights.

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Checking out the botanical gardens. Keeping with the theme of my time down under, the weather could have been better…

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I would have rather seen a Koala or something.

 

There was a good view of the city skyline, Opera house and the bridge from the gardens – just a shame the backdrop wasn’t as good as it had been previously…

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More rain…

 photo Oz6015.jpgSeeing what the city had to offer.

 photo Oz6016.jpgSheltering from yet more rain in the Australian Currency museum. It was actually pretty interesting, so I’m slightly glad it did rain on this occasion as its not the sort of place I’d normally give a second glance.

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As the weather looked to be half decent-ish, I decided to make the journey out to Bondi Beach. Again, it could have been better, but at least it didn’t rain too heavily. If nothing else, it made for a more interesting sky than just plain grey. Although I would have taken blue.

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My final evening was spent seeing the skyline from the Sydney Eye.

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Back at darling harbour to spend my last few Australian dollars on breakfast.

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After a bit if a wander, it was on to the train to the airport.

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I arrived around twenty minutes later. The Virgin Atlantic check in was at the far end to where the train station was. As with all the times I’d checked in with VS, I was met at the entrance to check in, and directed to the correct check in area.

 photo Oz6087.jpgThere were a couple of people in front of me but it was no more than a couple of minutes before I was seen. I came away with a haul of paperwork.

 photo Oz6088.jpgI went for a bit if a walk airside, before using the fast track security.

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It wasn’t overly fast, and rather than being directed through the metal detector with nobody using it, I was sent through the nudiscope with a bit of a queue. Within ten minutes or so, I was through. Rather than head straight fir the lounge, I took a bit of a walk to see what was around.

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Reminds me slightly of LHR T1

 

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A pair of Brits in the distance.

 

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First time spotting an Air Fiji

 

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Turns out I would have been on the MH OneWorld logojet…

 

 photo Oz6038.jpgEventually, I did head off in the direction of the Air New Zealand lounge (which VS use here in SYD), which was almost in a satellite area of the terminal, complete with another forced duty free shop.

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Upon reaching the lounge I was welcomed in.

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It was actually quite a decent lounge, with some good food options.

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Just as I entered the lounge, my plane was being towed on to stand.

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There were also other decent views from here.

 photo Oz6041.jpgUnfortunately, since arriving in Oz, I’d had a cold brewing and today was the day it decided to make a full appearance. So I forced down a hot dog and some sprite before retiring to the quiet area with a couple of pills. Luckily they seemed to do the trick.

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Upon reaching the mobile free zone, there was a woman talking quite loudly on her phone… Another guy soon took care of it though by informing one of the staff members. It was quite amusing actually, as another guy started talking as if he was on the phone, and the same guy popped up like a meerkat to check he wasn’t. I stayed in the lounge before heading down to the gate around 30 minutes before boarding. The crew were arriving slowly but surely, the last of which to turn up were the three flight crew.

 photo Oz6048.jpgJust a few moments later boarding began, and it was the usual mess.

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VS201
SYD-HKG
April 2014
A340-600 / G-VRED Scarlet Lady
Seat: 10A / Upper Class
Scheduled: 14:25/21:55
Off Stand: 14:42
On Stand: 22:12

I made my way on board, and turned left towards my seat. Most of the others boarding around me ended up turning right.

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Apologies for the camera bag…

 

There was an amenity kit on my footrest waiting as well as a bottle of water hidden behind the seat.

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Almost immediately, I was offered either water, OJ or champagne. I took the champagne. I’m hardly a connoisseur when it comes to champagne, but I didn’t think much of it.

 photo Oz6103.jpgOur flight time was announced as 9 hours and 5 minutes.

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Car style seatbelts

 

Newspapers were offered. Goes to show how long this aircraft is away from home base for – this was the Sunday edition, yet it’s now Tuesday. And the aircraft won’t arrive back at LHR until early Wednesday.

 photo Oz6106.jpgAround 10 minutes after our STD, the captain was on again, saying that our ‘lack of progress’ was being caused by a catering issue – there hadn’t been enough meals loaded, so we were waiting for some more.

We eventually did push back around twenty minutes behind schedule and made our way over to the active. During the taxi, the purser mentioned there were 305 pax on board and 17 crew. So a healthy load. Surprising how VS couldn’t make this route work really.

 photo Oz6058.jpgOnce at the threshold there were a few props to arrive and depart. Somewhat appropriately, during our wait a massive rainstorm broke out. It disappeared almost as quickly as it arrived.

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We ambled on to the runway and made a quiet and smooth takeoff and into the low cloud.

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Shortly after departure, the purser – or flight service manager as VS call them, brought the menus around.

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There were also separate menus for the afternoon tea service:

 photo VStea.jpegShe also welcomed me back on board by name and mentioned she had noticed I was a VS frequent flyer, so thanked me for flying VS again. Impressive as I’m just a measly red tier! I’ve never got that treatment from BA… She assumed that I was familiar with the seat, but I sheepishly had to admit it’s been around 10 years since I was last in Upper Class, so hadn’t actually travelled in this seat before. She was more than happy to show me the features of the seat. After she went on here way, I had a look at the amenity kit. Back in the day, VS amenity kits used to be quite special. Now they’re your pretty standard affair.

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At the same time, hot towels were dished out.

 photo Oz6110.jpgA few moments later, drink orders were taken. They were promptly delivered, along with some mixed nuts – although they would have been a little better if they were warmed up like on AA. First world problems…

 photo Oz6057.jpgI caught up with a bit of TV using the provided noise cancelling headphones.

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The enhanced VS A346 cabin – economy is the same.

 

During this time, the table was set for lunch.

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A pair of VS celebs.

 

 photo Oz6067.jpgThe FSM brought around the red wine options, of which there were 5. This wasn’t good enough for the guy sat behind though. I didn’t hear the full conversation, but he did mention quite a few times he’d just got off a Qantas first class flight… Yeah, and?! Personally I thought 5 choices of wine was pretty good. The meal service started shortly after.

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During which time, the guy sat behind decided he was going to complain some more. I heard the word disgusting used a few times, and ‘get me a pen’. Again, I thought all of the food was pretty good. I was offered some cheese, but I declined. Instead, I skipped straight to dessert.

 photo Oz6070.jpgAfter lunch, I decided to watch a film. KickAss 2.

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A great sunset pic, ruined by a fogged up window.

 

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I think the VS cabin looks great at night.

During which, the following message appeared on screen.

 photo Oz6112.jpgI paused the film and took the crew up on the offer. I took a walk to the bar area and could only see the one Upper Class crew member, manning the bar.

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Upscale products in the washroom

 

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Bar snacks

 

I saw the Premium Economy purser appear and I asked him, fully expecting to him to answer with something along the lines of he will find an Upper Class crew member to help me. But to my amazement, he asked where I was sitting, marched down the aisle and made my bed up for me. Good service – as I mentioned, I was fully expecting him to find one of the Upper Class crew members to take care of it. One complaint about the hardware is that the seat doesn’t recline all that much, so lounging is out of the question. It’s either a seat or a bed. Although the plus side of this arrangement is that the bed is very comfortable, especially with the sheet, duvet and pillow added.

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Something to nibble on whilst watching the film

 

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Games after the film

 

Following the film, I went and sat at the bar and made conversation with the crew member manning it.

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Bar snacks again. Unfortunately, all the good stuff had gone.

 

 photo Oz6081.jpgWhilst I was sat at the bar, the ice cream service started. Thanks to the crew member for modeling the ice cream tray so expertly if you’re reading this!!

 photo Oz6082.jpgAfter a while at the bar, the seatbelt sign was illuminated, so it was back to my seat.

 photo Oz6075.jpgAlthough as it was still in the bed mode, this proved a little awkward. During this time, the crew came around and offered drinks. I decided to take advantage of the snack menu and order a burger. And hoped it would turn up after I was able to turn my bed back into a seat… It didn’t, but at least it did turn up in a tray so I ate off my lap.

 photo Oz6119.jpgOnce my tray was cleared, I stuck my iPod on and had a proper lie down.

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Elbow’s latest was tonight’s choice

 

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It must have been more comfortable than I realised, as before I knew it, I was being brought back to life by the afternoon tea service starting. Again, as my seat was in bed mode, it was a case of eating off my lap. A pile of sandwiches and cakes were on a trolley, and you selected what you wanted. I just went with ‘a bit of everything’ and some tea. By this point, I was well and truly stuffed!

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Soon after, the crew started preparing the cabin for landing. Descent started, during which sweets were handed out – much like on all other VS flights, including Little Red.

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Within 30 minutes we were making a smooth landing at HK. There was a long ish taxi over to the stand.

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I know this is a pretty old service, but it was still odd seeing a UA 737 in HK!

 

 photo Oz6131.jpgOnce we had arrived, I was off, and following the HK arrival signs (rather than the London transit signs) and on to the train.

 photo Oz6123.jpgUpon arrival at immigration, there was hardly any wait and I was ticketed into HK with barely a word said. I was waiting around two minutes for my bag before heading off for tonight’s hotel, the Regal Airport Hotel.

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Now I normally don’t say too much about hotels, but I feel this one is worth a mention. I normally find airport hotels are pretty good, however this one was a bit of a let down. Not only did it take an age to check me in but also the condition of the room. It looks decent enough from this picture, however what you cant see is the stink of cigarette smoke, despite reserving a non smoking room. The bathroom was also pretty dirty, with mould all around. The reception area was decent enough but the rooms are in definite need of a deep clean.

But more importantly, what did I think of VS? I think they have a very decent product. Sure, the hardware might be a little dated – one of the main things I noticed was the TV screen was a little on the small side, and I’m sure they had more options on the old V:Port system before the software was updated to the awfully named VERA on Demand. I’m divided on the seat really. It’s a comfortable enough seat, and one of the more comfortable onboard beds I’ve sampled but I would have liked to have the option for something inbetween. Having to eat off my lap wasn’t the best experience due to not having time to convert it back into an upright mode. The main strong point of this flight though was the crew. On my [url=http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/226100]previous VS longhaul flight back in 2012[/url] they were more miss than hit I found, but on this occasion the were great – and getting recognition as being a frequent flyer despite not having status made a big impression on me.

Stay tuned for part 7 following the second part of my detour between Australia and Singapore. Which itself didn’t entirely work out as planned…

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BA/Virgin Atlantic Little Red | Airbus A320 | LHR-ABZ-LHR

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Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

After failing pretty convincingly to bag myself a bargain trip a couple of weeks previously, I thought I’d have another shot at it. Aberdeen has been on the radar for a while actually. Mainly because around eighteen months ago, I was looking at somewhere to go with my VS miles and as BMI were one of their partners they offered the opportunity to go up there for 12,500 miles. I came close to booking however once on the phone to the VS Flying Club, it turned out that BD had only given them their fully flexible fares, therefore wanting well over £100 in taxes – not worth it in my opinion and the city fell off the radar.

In April of 2013, VS themselves started serving the city from London and during the summer I looked at flying to Aberdeen once more – things were much easier (and cheaper) this time. Just 3750 miles and £15 to cover the taxes for a one way ticket. Unsurprisingly there was plenty of availability too:

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So I selected the afternoon departure.

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Seat selection was up next, of which there were plenty.

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As I wanted to try out the BA lounge in ABZ, I elected to fly BA back, again for a few Avios and £15 to cover the taxes. Once more, there was quite a few reward seats available. I selected the late afternoon departure as it would be operated by the A321 – a type I had only logged twice previously.

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I was automatically given the next available seat, however as I was flying on the long version of the A321, I chose something towards the back – as if I had sat at the front, I could have been on an A319! Yeah the seats get better the further forwards you get, but on an hours flight it wasn’t an issue.

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I then booked a room at the Hilton Garden Inn for £59. The whole weekend came in at a few pence under £90 – that’s more like it!

The afternoon before departure it was time to check in for the VS flight via their website:

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My boarding pass was then issued.

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I then checked v-flyer.com to see which aircraft would likely be taking me up North.

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Seemed as though EI-DEI was the most likely candidate.

The morning, much like my last trip, started out like a typical Saturday. Over the road to get the weeks food in, listening to a couple of CD’s and watching the pre show for the Italian GP qualifying over lunch, although this Saturday I set out for the station at 12:45 in order to catch the now customary National Express coach to Heathrow Central. I was welcomed on board by a pretty friendly driver, which was a first!

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Arrival was at 13:45, and I made my way through the tunnels to terminal 1.

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First signs of the VS/DL link up

VS now occupy the area formerly taken up by BD,BA,LH and so on. And with T1 due to close pretty soon, they will no doubt be the last.

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I then made my way through security and in true Heathrow fashion, it wasn’t overly busy but still slow.

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I did seem to uncover a potential issue though. As I made my way through, I was fine. The guy behind went through and the metal detector beeped. However I was the one that was searched? I queried this, and the officer’s answer to that was the detector is slow at going off. Hmmm ok then.

Once through, I had seen that the all blacks NZ 77W was in from the coach, so I made my round to the new gates to take a look at that.

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It was at the complete opposite end of the terminal from where my flight was due to depart from but as I had around 45 minutes before boarding, I thought why not.

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Unusual to see a BA 767 at T1 these days.

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The one I came to this area for!

After this I thought it would be a good idea to head down to gate 8 where my flight was due to depart from.

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It was then through another security check and a pretty long line to where the UK and Ireland flights depart from. Long gone are the days when there was a separate area for these departures.

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Another ex BD area.

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Once at the gate area, a took a seat next to the window, where you can get pretty close to the action.

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Boarding was called on time at 14:55 and I made my way onboard.

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VS3023
LHR-ABZ
7th September 2013
A320-21 / EI-DEI Maggie May
Seat: 9A/12F / Economy
Scheduled: 15:25/16:55
Off Stand: 15:19
On Stand: 16:41

No sooner as I’d sat down it seemed, the boarding complete announcement was given – by my estimation, this flight was around 25% full. Although the EDI flight that was about to depart from one of the adjacent gates looked pretty full.

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Legroom number one.

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I took my assigned seat, but was quickly offered an emergency exit seat. Suited me – other than my camera ended up in the overhead, and that’s pretty much where it stayed. Luckily I have a decent camera on my phone. Not quite SLR quality but you get the idea. The crew member drew attention to the safety instructions regarding the opening of the emergency exit stuck to the seat in front but that was about it. No additional speech like on AA earlier this year or Flybe on my last trip.

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Legroom number two.

I now had a seat mate, a slightly older Scottish guy who seemed pretty keen to chat. Seemed he wasn’t a huge fan of Heathrow – too outdated. Or window seats – ‘if that thing pops, you’re the first out of it…’ Well yeah, he had a point I guess. He seemed to be a fan of exit rows though and was full of praise for Virgin Atlantics new service.

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The captain came over the PA giving the usual welcome speech and a flying time of an hour. He also mentioned that as we were ready well ahead of schedule he would ask ATC for clearance to depart early, although a couple of minutes later he was back on again saying this request had been denied. The crew then gave the safety briefing whilst still on stand and took their seats for departure before we had even pushed back – which was a first. Despite the captain asking for an earlier slot, we pushed back just five minutes ahead of schedule and made a slow taxi over to 27L – mainly due to the fact it was so busy.

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We pushed ahead of a larger step/half brother (VS A343) and finally made an intersection departure at 15:40, behind another step/half brother (an EI A320). Somewhat of a strange relationship going on with Little Red… Much like a troublesome child that VS have fostered from EI whilst still trying to decide if they want children of their own.

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Some ten minutes after departure, the in flight service began. I wasn’t given a choice of snack – it seemed as though the crew distributed the crisps to whoever had soft drinks and cookies to those who had hot drinks.

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Interesting to note that there was one service from the front and another from the back on this flight – presumably to avoid the issues encountered on the inaugural flight where there was just the single service from the front, therefore half the plane not getting served. After this, the crew distributed flying club enrolment forms to everybody. But I’m already a member, and have been for the last sixteen years? My miles paid for this flight…

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Followed by love heart sweets, distributed from the same style trays the ice creams are dished out from on the long haul flights.

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The captiain updated us in our progress shortly after, saying we were cruising at 33,000 ft and had around 30 mins left to run.I got up and went for a walk to the rear galley once the seat belt sign was finally turned off – grabbing my camera whilst I was up.

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Low load today.

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I managed to have a chat with one of the four crew members and she mentioned that there were 31 passengers on board – ouch. I said that was the reason as to why I was taking so many pictures, still feeling like I had to justify myself after the issues encountered on my last trip. Luckily, she didn’t seem bothered in the slightest about it. She also mentioned however that there were 135 onboard on the previous ABZ-LHR service. She offered me another drink and a cookie, but as descent was fast approaching, I declined. There was then a bit of turbulence and I had to take my seat as the seat belt signs were then turned on.

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The captain was then on again, saying that there was a bit of a tail wind, which is why the flight time was so short, and we were now descending into the worst of it. Much of the descent was made over the sea before making a left hand turn over land and on to a bit of a bumpy approach.

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Landing was made at just before 16:40 and we made the brief taxi over to the stand.

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Wouldn’t mind a go on one of these.

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Hmm sure I’ve seen this one already today… and on a certain CDG-LHR hop in April.

As there aren’t any jetways in ABZ, it was down the steps and across the tarmac into the terminal.

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Once disembarked, it was a quick arrival procedure – pretty much through a set of revolving doors and I was landside, taking the grand total of about two minutes from plane to bus stop.

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Once at the bus stop, I received an email reminder to check in for tomorrow’s flight.

As I’d just missed a bus to the city, I figured it would be less hassle to check in at the BA check in desks about ten feet away, considering there wasn’t a queue and the fact that the mobile website was down for maintenance. I was handed my boarding pass with a bit of a confused look – the check in agent asked the girl sat next to her what todays date was and then handed it over to me. Interesting how despite being a reward flight, therefore being cheapest of the cheap, I was still considered C class. I’m assuming this is automatically given to all passengers who are transferring to a Club Europe/World flight and status passengers. Fair enough for the transferring passengers, but the only benefit of the Business UK class is lounge access which eligible status pax have anyway and is reflected on the boarding pass. Oh well, who am I to complain.

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I then sat and waited for a bus – luckily it turned up at 17:00, although wasn’t due to leave until 17:15. Not as fancy or regular as the one in Edinburgh the other week, but nowhere near as expensive either so cant complain.

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I arrived in the city around 30 minutes later and made the walk to my hotel, stopping for some fast food along the way – keeping with the cheap as possible theme of this trip!

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I checked into my hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn at around 18:30. As I recently gained silver status with HHonors, I was given two free drinks coupons, which were used on a couple of pints of Tenants.

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My Saturday night sorted…

The rest of the evening was spent watching Top Gear replays on Dave.

The following morning started a little late, due to a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night – the second time that’s happened this year, and on both occasions happening in Hilton Garden Inn’s. I took a walk to try and find some breakfast before returning to my room and reading the complimentary newspaper.

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I checked out at just before 11AM and took a walk down to the beach.

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After around an hour or so, I took a slow walk back into the city.

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First time I’d seen one of these golden Olympic post boxes.

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My final destination in the city was the shopping centre next to the bus station.

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At 2PM, I caught the bus back to the airport, arriving half an hour later.

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After taking a look around the landside area, I headed through security, emerging into the duty free shop moments later.

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Looks like I’ll have to use my mobile BP in order to keep the souvenir I got yesterday.

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I headed through the fast track security – although there wasn’t anybody in the normal lane either so made no difference really. I was then spat out into a corridor between Boots, WHSmith and a pub. I guess that’s a little different to a duty free shop. Mainly because there weren’t any here.

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I then had a look airside before heading for the lounge.

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I was welcomed back into an empty lounge – nice. It was your pretty standard BA lounge really – although one complaint was that there weren’t any toilets. I would have thought that this would be a standard thing.

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Basic food offerings.

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Mag with a ‘don’t steal’ sticker on the front. The magazines in the London lounges don’t have this…

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And finally a coffee to finish off.

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Slowly but surely, the lounge started to fill up. I was able to track the incoming flight, and it confirmed that I would be on G-EUXJ delivered new to BA in April 2007 and in service withe them since. This would be just my third sector on the A321 – the previous two being a BMI example between MAN and LHR way back in 2003 and the Iberia example I ended up on by pure chance to Madrid last October.

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Pretty precise timing for the gate to be announced

A few moments later I saw the familiar blue belly flash past on the runways and at 16:05 pull on to stand. Feeling a little sleepy, and needing to use the toilet I left the lounge and went for a walk.

I made my way down to the gate to watch the goings on.

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Shortly heading for LCY. I would have picked this flight if there was availability.

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My ride down to London

Boarding was called at 16:20, and as usual everybody had status, where as only two people didn’t.

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BA1313
ABZ-LHR
8th September 2013
A321-200 / G-EUXJ
Seat: 28F / Business UK
Scheduled: 16:45/18:15
Off Stand: 16:47
On Stand: 18:24

It was out on to the tarmac towards G-EUXJ as expected.

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I think we all know the quote here…

I made my way to the rear stairs, was welcomed back and took my assigned seat of 28F.

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Better than the standard VS legroom

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Three more to try

The flight was pretty full, however the middle seat stayed free. In the aisle was a teenager who seemed like he was on his first flight – he fastened his seatbelt when I did, adjusted the headrest when I did and generally looked like he was new to it all. The captain came over the PA and announced a flying time of an hour and ten minutes. We pushed back a moment or two behind schedule and made the quick taxi out to the runway, during which, the safety video was played.

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Once at the threshold, there was a long ish hold for a VS A320 to land. We took to the sky at 17:00.

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The crew started the drink run around fifteen minutes after departure, with two trolleys serving the front section and one for the rear.

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I ordered a tea and a water, but only ended up with the tea in the end – oh well.

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We eventually leveled out at 35,000ft.

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It was pretty cloudy for most of the flight, so nothing much to be seen. The engines spooled back at just before 17:40 as we passed Sheffield.

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On approach, it appeared we were dodging a few of the nasty looking clouds that were around.

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As promised, the captain updated us saying that the bad weather had created quite a few delays, therefore we were likely to be in a hold for around 25 minutes. Probably the longest I’ve ever held for.

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We were held at 10,000ft above Watford before passing LHR.

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We then made a U turn on to finals, getting a good view of Central London on finals.

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A very smooth touchdown was made at 18:15 – so smooth in fact, that it just felt like a bit if turbulence until I saw the spoilers deploy. Interesting how the ailerons lift on this A321 once the spoilers are deployed much like the A346 and A380, yet the A330 I was on last year didn’t do this or the A319 and A320 either. Same for the LH A321 I was on a few weeks after this trip, which was actually a lot newer than this example. Guess it’s a BA thing?

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It was then a slow taxi over to T5 – due to being held up by a 744 on tow and the other taxiway being closed for roadworks.

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We arrived on stand alongside an company A319 and as soon as the brakes were applied, everybody was up – only to stand and wait for ten minutes.

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Guess there is a difference between Club Europe and Euro traveller seats

As I disembarked, I asked the first officer if it was him or the plane that landed that – he replied it was him and I complimented him on it, to which he seemed very grateful.

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It was then through the pretty small UK arrivals area and on to the coach home, getting held up in the typical M25 traffic along the way.

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Much like my trip with BA and VS earlier in the year, it was pretty hard to separate the two airlines. Both were good but for different reasons. The VS crew seem to be very enthusiastic and friendly, but BA seem to be more polished, which I guess is to be expected due to them doing these short routes for a lot longer.

Aberdeen is a good enough city, but I’m not sure I could find enough there to keep myself entertained for an extended period. Although the beach was pretty good and not a million miles from the city. There were also some pretty interesting looking buildings.

Next up will be a four part series covering my trip to Asia in September 2013, featuring a trio of MH A380’s a CX 744 and a JL 763, plus all the usual destination pics.

British Airways / Virgin Atlantic Little Red | A320 | LHR-MAN-LHR

Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

20th April 2012 – IAG completes its purchase of BMI From Lufthansa and announces the airline is to be integrated into British Airways. 15th August 2012 – Virgin (initially) loses the West Coast Mainline train franchise in the UK. Two key dates leading to this weekend’s trip, as shortly after losing out on the rail franchise, on the 21st August 2012, Virgin Atlantic announced they would launch their first domestic services between Manchester and London in March 2013. Being a frequent flyer of Virgin Atlantic for the last nineteen years, being able to take part in one of their inaugural flights for a bargain price was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Initially the flights weren’t able to book online, however shortly after returning from New York (also on VS – see report here: http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/226100 ) the online booking system opened up and I parted with £47.55 to confirm my place on the first flight from Manchester.

A few moments later my E-ticket receipt arrived in my inbox.

This left a further two things to sort. First off how I would get up to Manchester and secondly where I would stay once I was there. Well these were pretty easy questions to answer. I Used 4500 Avios + £13.50 to buy myself a reward ticket onboard BA1372 the previous lunchtime to take me up North.

I then booked myself into the Radisson BLU for the night. I upgraded my room at the hotel to a Business Class room, as these were on the top floor, therefore giving the best views across the airport – more of that later.

The next few months were spent being drip-fed various bits of information about the new VS services. During which time, it wasn’t possible to see any info regarding the booking on the VS website – it was just on a constant ‘loading’ screen.

Further developments saw additional routes to Aberdeen and Edinburgh announced along with the announcement that VS would be wet leasing the A320 aircraft from Aer Lingus. This was a change in plan as initially the services were announced as using A319’s.

Eventually the Manage my booking section on the website opened up and around 8 weeks prior to departure the seat map opened up also. I initially chose seat 19A, however the following day the folks on v-flyer.com hatched a plan. The theory was that if everybody prebooked a window seat and an aisle, unless the flight was completely full then the middle seats should stay empty, therefore creating a business type arrangement. My new seat would be 5F.

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Two weeks prior to departure, the VS flight times were changed – instead of departing Manchester at 06:50, the flight would now leave at 07:35. I’m pretty sure all the Manchester departures have now changed times from the original advertised ones.

One week before departure, I was able to select my seats on the British Airways flight. I would have preferred something towards the front, however these were all blocked. I elected for 17F, just behind the wing in the hope that a few more would open up at check in.

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A couple of days before my flight, my patience was rewarded and I could move forward to seat 3F.

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First off it was time to check in for the BA flight. Unfortunately this didn’t work too well as It said there was a problem and then issued my boarding pass anyway – I’d had a similar issue on my trip to Frankfurt last year.

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This was the first time I’d checked in for a plane on a boat:

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Check in for the VS flight the following morning was flawless. Although their website is still a mix of old and new which looks a bit unprofessional, the function is there. So far then VS 1-BA 0.

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Range of boarding pass options

I elected for the mobile option

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Shortly after checking in for the Virgin flight, I headed off to catch the 10:05 coach to Heathrow. The coach was a bit delayed departing by people turning up at the last minute, then having no idea which terminal they were going from and then finally not having tickets. Following this, there was a technical problem with the coach – so not the best of starts. Luckily the 10:35 service arrived early and everybody was transferred to that one, and we finally left at 10:20… Until some more passengers turned up. Dearie me.

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I arrived at T5 at just after 10:45, and headed off to grab my souvenir boarding pass. As all the desks looked pretty full, I had to make do with a machine.

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I then headed through security. I went to the normal lane, but the guy checking boarding passes told me I had to use the fast track instead – suited me! Wonder of the fact I was sat at the front confused him slightly? I was through in a couple of minutes and headed down to where I suspected my flight would be departing from.

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I was wrong however, as a few moments later gate A11 flashed up on the screens.

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I made my way down and as I arrived an A320 was arriving on to stand. Looks like this one had seen better days as I couldn’t make out the reg above the flight deck windows.

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Soon to be a rare sight I think

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A bit of creative maneuvering later and I could see it would be G-EUUW taking me up north today. At 11:30, a delay was announced due to the late inbound arrival of the aircraft. It was also announced that boarding would take place strictly by seat number only. Of course, this didn’t stop people queuing up anyway.

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Looks so out of place at T5.

Boarding was called at 11:40, but due to being in one of the forward rows I was one of the last onboard at 12:00. I was welcomed back by name and wished a pleasant flight.

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BA1372
LHR-MAN
30th March 2013
A320-232 / G-EUUW
Seat: 3F / Domestic
Scheduled: 12:00/13:00
Off Stand: 12:07
On Stand: 13:12

The flight seemed pretty full, and I had two seatmates. The captain came over the PA and welcomed everybody onboard but didn’t mention a flight time.

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Good legroom in the Club Europe section

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The doors were shut at 12:04 and pushback was made at 12:07. Despite runway 9R being in use for takeoff, it was still a pretty slow taxi for departure.

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Extinguished firefly

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We were finally away at around 12:30, making a sharp turn to the left in the direction of Manchester.

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Pretty steep climb

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Almost immediately the crew started the service – unsurprising considering it was likely to be a sort flight.

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I provided the sandwich myself.

During the very brief cruise, the captain came over the PA saying he had a special announcement for somebody on board. The person in control of the aircraft at ATC’s son was onboard and he wanted to wish him a pleasant flight.

Almost as soon as I had finished my lunch, descent started at around 12:50. There were quite a few turns, and I saw Jodrell Bank observatory a few times so figured we would probably landing on the 5’s.

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Pretty snowy down there

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Jodrell Bank

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Just before 13:10 we made firm contact with 05L .

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We then turned off for T3, passing the Ryanair farm along the way.

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A few moments later we arrived on stand. On the way out, the first officer was stood at the door – I couldn’t help but notice he looked a lot like former trip reporter Jonas. Maybe that’s why we’ve not heard from him in a while? Who knows.

It was then through the bowels of T3 and into the arrivals area.

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On my way out I wondered upstairs to see the new VS check in area.

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Then headed up to the car park to see what was going on – not much.

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Didn’t expect to see this one here

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I then decided to try my luck at checking into the hotel.

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Despite it being before 14:00 they had a room but it wasn’t overlooking the airport… That wouldn’t be any good! I decided to grab a coffee in T2 and try again later.

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Is there ever anybody in this terminal?

Luckily, on my second attempt a room was available. The room itself probably wasn’t any different to a normal one, but the view was worth the extra £30! As I’d paid the extra, I decided to stay in as I’d seen Manchester many times before.

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Just lying around watching planes…

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One for Marc

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The new MON livery really suits the A330

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I did eventually venture into town to grab a bite to eat.

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I then made my way back to the hotel just in time to catch the VS A320 arriving from DUB – thanks to Philip (OA260) for the heads up!

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Followed shortly after by the LX A320 with Sharklets.

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I then headed out to meet up with the guys from V-flyer. No doubt a few of them will be reading this, so good to meet you.

Around 21:30 I headed back to my room to see what (or wasn’t as it turned out) going on.

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Sunday morning started earlier than expected – why can’t I sleep in hotels?! The bed was fine, yet I still woke up at 2am and never got back to sleep.

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Much needed!

Seemed a bit had gone on at the airport overnight.

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Just before 5 am, I set off to T3.

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Interesting choice of shape to say the least….

Once I arrived there was quite a queue. And it stayed that way as check in didn’t open until 05:35. There seemed to be a few issues with the self serve check in machines, but once they were sorted I had the privilege of being the Guinea pig!

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It worked fine for me, although a bit slow. The following person, one of the V-Flyers wasn’t so lucky and had to go and see a person.

It was then off to security – which was a nightmare. People everywhere, all of whom seemed to be running late for their flight. The system at Manchester doesn’t seem too efficient – mostly automated rather than an actual person, so therefore only allowing somebody through every 30-45 seconds or so rather than 10 or so if a person was signaling people through. By which point most had started looking around and therefore missing the green light signaling them through.

Once through – 45 minutes later – it was through a few corridors, then a 180 degree turn back the way I came to where there were a few bits waiting at gate 18, and a few more V-flyers. There were also a few VS crew around, but they wouldn’t be taking the flight they were just on hand to make sure everything went to plan.

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There were a couple of VS officials about – and they seemed a little peeved that EasyJet had sent this particular one

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Boarding was called just after 7:10, and as my boarding pass was scanned I was handed an Easter present from VS.

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VS3046
MAN-LHR
31st March 2013
A320-200 / EI-DEO Queen of the Cobbles
Seat: 5F / Economy
Scheduled: 07:35/08:45
Off Stand: 07:40
On Stand: 08:38

The cabin was very clean and tidy, as expected. Certainly better than the BA cabin from yesterday, although after a year or so I guess they will end up a little grubby as any aircraft in service for any length of time would.

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Decent amount of legroom

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Interesting joint EI/VS branded safety cards

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During boarding, my would be seat mate, another V-flyer said hello and mentioned that he had been moved to the back – interesting as I ended up having a row of three to myself, so couldn’t see any reason for him to be moved.

Soon after everybody was onboard, a ‘photographer’ needed a pic of everybody waving. I use the term photographer loosely as I had a better camera than him so highly doubt the picture will be seen in any mainstream publications any time soon. The official looking guy from VS also took a picture on his phone, although that was more obviously for personal use.

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Gathering to wave us off

Everybody was welcomed onboard this inaugural flight given a flight time of 35 minutes and we pushed back at 7:40 making a fast taxi over to 05L. During this time the captain welcomed everybody onboard this Virgin Atlantic Little Red flight and that if anybody wanted to visit the flight deck once we had landed they were more than welcome.

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Little Red takes to the skies!

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Flying back past MAN

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Once airborne, the crew were a little slow at starting the service compared to BA – I was actually starting to wonder if there would be time for any service. Eventually it did start, just as descent started. Bit of a rethink regarding the service needed there I think. One of the crew even said she was praying for a hold!

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The thought is there, but the practice needs to be polished a bit.

And unsurprisingly, we were put into a hold for ten minutes. Although that still didn’t help the crew out much as just before final descent an announcement was made apologizing to those who weren’t served. After a few laps in the hold, we were down onto 09L and made the short taxi over to T1. Along the way there were quite a few airport workers watching and taking pictures – more than on my Dreamliner flights in December actually. Disappointingly there wasn’t a water cannon salute.

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Note the new AA 773 parked at T3

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Once on stand there was a bit of a wait to disembark, and I had a brief chat to fellow a.netter Slinky09 (who was sat behind me) – who agreed that the bacon rolls plan would never work on a flight of this length. Around five minutes or so later, it was off through T1 and on to the coach home.

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Good looking desk for the launch.

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V-flyers heading off into the sunset… or more likely the pub!

So how would I compare the two then? Well BA were good and well polished, although that’s to be expected as they have been doing these short flights for a very long time so have had plenty of practice. VS also have a strong product, although there were a few teething issues – such as the self serve check in kiosks not working, toilets overflowing and not having enough time to complete the on board service. I’m led to believe a faulty oven was a factor in that though, so it would be interesting to see how they perform when everything is running smoothly. No doubt on the longer runs up to Scotland the service will be fine, but on a 30 odd minute hop it was all just a bit too rushed. The crew didn’t show they were struggling at any point though and stayed professional throughout.

On the whole I think I would say I enjoyed the Virgin flight more – and I would be more tempted to use them again before British Airways, just to see how the service runs once its bedded in.

Virgin Atlantic | Airbus A330 | LHR-JFK-LHR | Economy

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Maps generated by the Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

For my first longhaul trip of the year, I’ll be travelling to New York’s JFK onboard one of Virgin Atlantic’s newly delivered A330’s. I had been wanting to Visit NYC again for a few years now but the high accommodation prices had always put me off. Then, one March night whilst having a conversation with my dad, he mentioned that he had stayed in Brooklyn and, although still being quite a high price, was more reasonable than staying in the center of Manhattan, and a reasonable area too. I did a bit of research and found that hotels could be found in the region of £100 a night. In the end I opted for the Super 8 Motel in Brooklyn for a pricey £420.

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It was then time to look for flights. A bit of searching on expedia showed that the likes of Delta, Continental and United were the cheapest coming in at around £400 return. I also looked at BA and VS – both were around £560 for the dates I was looking for. All options were more money than I had to spend on flights at the time so I held out and monitored prices. During the next month or so, the prices seemed to vary from £370 to £570 with VS who I wanted to travel with, so it was a case of catching them when they were having one of their cheaper moments. VS gave me 3 options to get me to and from JFK – The morning flights onboard their new A330-300, the afternoon flight on the 747-400 or the evening flights on the A340-600. I opted for the morning flights as I’d not been on an A330 before and by departing at 09:30 from LHR it meant I got more time in New York and less time waiting round all day for a flight at home! For the return, again I could have selected any number of options, but once more chose the earliest of the 3 flights from JFK. The reason being that I had logged many flights on VS’ 747’s and the A346 flight left JFK just a little bit too late for my liking and it would of meant hanging round without the use of a hotel for 12 hours. Although this was a difficult choice because if I’d chosen the 747 flight I might just be able to catch G-VROC and therefore would of flown on the entire VS 747-400 fleet. As it turned out, the 747 flights on the days I travelled were operated by G-VHOT and G-VWOW.

One rainy Saturday afternoon, I was again looking at the VS website and noticed the price had come down to £440. In the end I managed to bring this price down to £390 by spending a couple of thousand VS flying club miles I had lying around, and the booking confirmation was sent shortly followed by the E-Ticket.

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Interesting how VS still use the old logo on the confirmation and an older livery

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Do VS really expect me to believe that they’re carrying me across the Atlantic for just £44? Yeah right… Although they all do it.

A few weeks before departure it was time to apply for my ESTA. The last time I travelled to the US this was free but now they charge $14. I guess they have to try anyway possible to make some money!

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Handy for frequent flyers I guess…

Also of note is that this would be my first trip on VS in Economy since 2008 so it will be of interest to see the latest updates to the product.

The day before departure, it was time to check in online:

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I’ve noticed that VS are quite inconsistent with their branding – some things use their old logo where others use the new. Surely its not that hard to change a graphic?

The day I’d been looking forward to for more than a few months finally arrived. I’d been on many trips so far this year, but nothing beats a long haul! This was the most I had anticipated a trip since my first in 18 months to Frankfurt back in March. As usual it was the first coach of the day to Heathrow, at 06:20.

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The coach to the airport was a couple of minutes late but nothing major. More irritating was the couple sat the row in front – way too noisy and enthusiastic for this time of the morning!

Around half an hour later the coach had arrived at the central bus station and it was off through the tunnel to T3.

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Check in was no major hassle. There was a couple in front of me who were trying to check in what looked like the entire contents of their house, however one of the check in assistants saw this and I was invited to use the premium economy check in instead.

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Another sticker for the collection!

As expected T3 had changed beyond all recognition since I last departed from here back in 2006. Barely any shops landside compared to back then, as its nearly all a security area rather than just the one. However it works out better this way due to there being less of a queue. The queues at security that i remember from the old days had always put me off using LHR!

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Still managed to find somewhere for breakfast though.

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After this I headed through security and it was as expected – full of people who weren’t quite sure of the rules! Then it was into the shopping mall.

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I found a window to keep myself occupied for a few minutes.

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G-VNYC can be seen in the background of this one being towed away from its stand.

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Then it was time to head down to gate 1.

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I was welcomed to the holding pen with a ‘welcome back sir’. Although I was a VS flying club silver member for a good few years, that has long run out and I haven’t actually flown VS for over 2 years – so I thought this was a nice touch.

Once inside I found G-VNYC waiting – which was pretty appropriate considering today’s destination. Although I was a bit surprised by this as I had just seen this aircraft leave another gate further round T3 – maybe they decided to move it nearer to the active runway for a quicker taxi? Seemed strange to me.

This was about the best shot I could manage of the plane I was on, however there was a much better photo opportunity of our neighbor.

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And another one off in the distance

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VS003
LHR-JFK
15 September 2012
A330-313 – G-VNYC Uptown Girl
Off Stand: 09:31
On Stand: 12:12

Boarding started at 08:45, although nobody could actually understand the PA – maybe that’s VS’ way of stopping the mass stampede?

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Not for me today unfortunately.

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Interesting to note was that economy had the newer amenity kits, whereas Premium had the older type still.

Once on board, I actually found the legroom pretty decent.

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Flight time was given as 7hours 24 minutes. Shortly before pushback, the crew confirmed there were 266 passengers on board.

This new A330 was certainly much better than the older LGW based 747’s, although these are currently being brought up to a similar standard.

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Range of connection options

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Nearly time to go.

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Departure was made from 27L at just after 09:45.


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Around 10 minutes later the crew started their service, first handing out headsets shortly followed by menus.

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One thing I did notice was that the legroom seemed a little bit more generous in these last few rows. And also that the A330 was very quiet compared to the 747-400 that I’m used to flying across the Atlantic.

It was then time to check out the Jam AVOD IFE:

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Erm… we appear to be going the long way round?

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That’s more like it

Then the drinks service started. It took a while to reach me and by time it reached the row I was in, they had run out of the welcome cocktail. So I went with lemonade instead.

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As soon as the drinks run had finished the meal service began. Although it was still a bit early for lunch I’m my opinion – only just 11:00AM in London. The choices were the usual chicken, beef or pasta.

It was around this time a few bumps began although it was nothing too major.

Once the meal service had reached the row I was in, I was informed by a slightly embarrassed stewardess that the only meal option left was the chicken – this didn’t bother me though as that’s what I was after anyway!

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Tasted quite good but could of been a bit bigger

Then around 50 minutes later the dessert was served, along with some pretty poor tea…

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After this I decided to settle down and watch a movie

After the film finished, I headed to the rear galley and made an attempt at having a conversation with the crew. They seemed more interested in chatting amongst themselves on this occasion though – oh well!

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No fuel dumping on this one

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Ice cream during the movie

By this time we weren’t too far from the coast of Canada and the afternoon tea service had started.

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The sandwiches were pretty average really… in fact they didn’t really taste of anything but bread! A bit more filling would of been a bit better. Although as they were the only choice I guess they couldn’t do anything too fancy. The cake was good though.

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Boredom or a work of art?!

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Land ahoy!

The remaining hour or so was spent watching the minutes count down on the sky map. The seatbelt sign was turned on for around 15 minutes or so although I suspect that was more to do with the crew wanting the parents of the screaming child that decided to run from the rear of economy to upper class to get it to sit down rather than any issues from the pretty minor turbulence we had hit.

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Approximately 50 minutes prior to arrival, the cabin crew informed everybody that the seatbelt sign would be turned on in 25 minutes – and suddenly everybody on board decided they needed the toilet! I figured there would probably be more than a couple at JFK so didn’t bother, and instead carried on watching the skymap.

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Descent started at 11:30 local. It was quite a noisy descent too as the previously mentioned screaming child continued to scream at full volume, with it’s parents continuing to not be bothered…

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Not had sweets on landing for years!

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We touched down at just after 12:00 local and made a fairly quick taxi over to terminal 4E. I thought this was unusual as VS normally use 4W, however the new VS clubhouse is now in 4E rather than before security so this might now be a permanent change.

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Then it was through to a very busy immigration hall.

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Almost an hour later I was welcomed to the USA by an unusually friendly immigration officer. He continually used my first name, made conversation about the hotel I was staying in and generally easy going – something I’d not experienced at immigration in the US before where they generally take the guilty until proven innocent stance. It was off to find the Air Train to Jamaica station.

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Once at Jamaica station, the next stop would be Atlantic Avenue. My hotel wasn’t too far from here. The initial plan was to carry on to Coney Island before checking in, however as I’d inadvertently brought an unlimited metro pass I figured I might as well stop by my hotel as I was passing anyway.

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It was a short walk from Union station to my hotel.

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What’s behind door 414?

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Not bad.

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View is Ok too

Then it was on to Coney Island

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At around 7PM I headed back to the hotel and watched TV for the rest of the evening.

The next couple of days were spent exploring what New York City had to offer:

Sunday it was the empire state building, Rockefeller center and central park. But first off, it was breakfast at the hotel.

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On the way up the Empire state

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LGA in the distance

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EWR in the distance

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And finally JFK

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Grand Central Station

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Slightly closer to LGA

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Pretty impressive elevator

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Monday included Times Square, Ripley’s believe it or not, which is always worth a visit, the USS intrepid. To be honest I thought the USS Intrepid was a little disappointing but the space shuttle pavilion was worth the visit. Finally it was on to the Staten Island ferry to get a few views of the statue of liberty.

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Pretty good for the equivalent of about £4!

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Seems like most of the Berlin wall has ended up in various Ripley’s.

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I also took a walk through the High Line Park

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Waiting for the Staten Island Ferry

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SQ A345 seen approaching EWR

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Making my way back to Times Square

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Tuesday was spent visiting the 9/11 memorial and Wall Street. The 9/11 memorials were well worth the visit. It didn’t cost anything but I’ve heard that it gets booked up a long way in advance. Luckily I went online the night before and managed to book tickets though.

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couldn’t come to NYC and not get a hotdog from a cart!

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Managed to find a model shop near Times Square

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Once I returned to the hotel it was time to check in for my return flight.

On Wednesday I checked out of the hotel and decided to check out the NY Transit museum. Just before I left, I looked up which aircraft would be flying me home – G-VRAY.

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Then it was on to the subway to the museum.

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After an enjoyable couple of hours looking round the museum, I made my way to JFK. As I had plenty of time and it was more convenient, I took the subway to Howard beach and connected with the air train there.

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Once at JFK it was off to check in to collect my boarding pass. This time I was invited to use the upper class check in – a nice upgrade over my check in experience at LHR. I asked the check in agent if the flight was full and she replied not at all. Then I followed up by asking if the seat next to me was free to which she said it was for the moment. She also seemed surprised that I’d spent 4 nights in New York and yet wasn’t checking any bags in… Little did she know my rucksack was full to the brim and probably way over the 5lbs limit! It got accepted anyway though so no big deal.

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Then it was off to explore T4. It reminded me a bit of LHR T5…

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…Except with more building works!

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After grabbing an expensive and very spicy bite to eat, I headed through security. Interestingly this flight would also depart from the A gates. Maybe VS have moved? Although it appears the new clubhouse is here.

Security was hardly any problem apart from the guy in front that seemed more interested in finishing his lunch than actually paying attention.

After that I headed down to gate A5, but much like my trip to Amsterdam a few weeks back, something important was missing.

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Luckily I found it a few minutes later, along with a few others:

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Interesting visitor – shame it was a bit far away

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’Miss Sunshine’ on stand now


VS004
JFK-LHR
19 September 2012
A330-313 – G-VRAY Miss Sunshine
Off Stand: 18:10
On Stand:06:11

Boarding was announced pretty promptly at 17:20 local and the aircraft name, Miss Sunshine was given. At this point, as usual everybody seemed to have some need for pre boarding.

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I wish all airports had gates like this!

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Once on board the cabin crew came over the PA and announced a flying time of 6 hours 11 minutes. A few moments later they came over the PA again and said that as there’s plenty of room, feel free to move around – with the exception of the exit row seats and the extra legroom seats. If anybody did wish to sit in these seats, they would be charged £50 and £30 respectively. I had more than enough room as it was though as I had no seatmate.

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Bit grubby for a new –ish plane

The captain was on shortly after saying pretty much the same as the cabin crew had already said, however he mentioned that we couldn’t land before 6:00am so that might cause a few problems due to the short flight time. He also said that we would be taking off to the North East and taking quite a Northerly track to take advantage of a good jet stream.

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Time to go

Push back was a pretty long 8 minutes. Take off was at 18:30 into some quite nice looking skies.

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Around 10 minutes after departure the crew started their service. I was happy to sit and admire the view for now though.

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Literally a few minutes later we hit some moderate turbulence and the seatbelt sign was switched on again just moments after it was switched off.

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Plenty of room

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Once the seatbelt sign had gone off the crew resumed their service and I settled down to watch a movie. American Pie. I’d seen the original on board VS back in 1999 so seemed only appropriate that I see the latest on a VS night flight too. Much better than I thought it would be actually.

Then it was time for the dinner service. Once again the choices were chicken, beef or pasta. I went for the pasta this time, although I didn’t enjoy it as much as the meal I had on the outbound journey.

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Bit of a retro looking dinner cart.

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And shortly after the hot chocolate was dished out. Not had hot chocolate offered on a plane before and it was quite good. Better than their tea anyway!

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Cruising altitude was 37,000 ft.

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Looks like we’re going to be holding for a while over London.

There was a bit of turbulence over the Atlantic. The seatbelt sign stayed on for about an hour or so, although I think it was on for about half an hour too long in my opinion.

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Cabin Overview

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Time to wake up!

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Nearly there

Just after the cabin lights came back on, breakfast was served. Thankfully VS seem to have got rid of those awful cheese muffins!

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Descent started at 05:15 local. As expected we were a bit early and did a couple of laps of the Biggin Hill hold. Then it was onto finals and some very good views of London. The pictures don’t really do it justice.

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>

Touchdown was a just after 06:00 and we made a pretty quick taxi on to stand, alongside G-VATL that had just arrived from Sydney.

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On my way out I asked for a flight deck visit, which was granted. On my way through I grabbed a quick pic of Premium economy.

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And the new Upper Class dream suite.

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Unfortunately I was only able to visit the flight deck for a couple of minutes, as the ground crew wanted all passengers off ASAP due to the short turn around. This one would be heading back to JFK in a couple of hours.

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Then it was off for a long walk to passport control.

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Luckily, I was towards the back of a reasonable queue but one of the officers saw it was getting busy, and shifted a few barriers which put me right at the front!

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Shortly after it was through the tunnel to the central bus station

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There was a coach waiting, however the driver said this was the 06:45 coach and I was booked on the 07:15… But he’ll let me on just this once – which made sense as I was the only person on the coach. If it was full I could understand but a completely empty one?? Why the fuss? Either way I made it home about an hour after pulling onto stand.

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Free paper on the coach

So that brings an end to another trip.

Virgin are starting to look promising again after slightly losing their way over the last few years. Their latest product is very good, however I’m not sure it’s going to be rolled out across the whole fleet. One of the biggest complaints I’ve read across forums and Facebook is about the inconsistent fleet. They are making progress with standardizing the fleet, which should be complete by the end of 2012, however I’m led to believe no aircraft will have the new Upper Class retrofitted? Either way I was satisfied with the product. The crew was generally good – they more proactive on the return flight however by doing extra drink runs, where as on the outward sector they just let people help themselves from the galley. No big deal though. It was a bit annoying that they had run out of the welcome cocktail on the outbound flight but I guess that’s the downside of sitting at the back. The plus side however is that I was treated to a bit of extra legroom – so ill definitely be choosing these seats if I fly on a VS A330 again.

As always I welcome your comments!