VS45 (LHR – JFK) January 2008
This was my 1st experience of Upper Class from Heathrow, and a present to myself for working over Christmas & New Year. It was booked on a Miles Redemption Fare straight after Christmas.
Lets say from the outset that this flight was an absolute delight to be on. Having flown with Virgin Atlantic since 1994 I have no hesitation in saying that this was Virgin Atlantic at its very best, and Upper Class with a Swagger in its step.
From a splendid Clubhouse experience, through super attentive Cabin Crew on the Upper Deck who understood the meaning of a Freedom Menu, and had no problem with me eating 4 hours into the flight, and who regularly came to check if I needed anything, to a Flight Service Manager, (F.S.M.), who spent a considerable amount of time with each and every one of us talking about New York, passing on tips, and asking for feedback on the Virgin Upper Class product, and the associated service, this flight was a joy to behold.
The line from the F.S.M.; Your feedback is very important to me, and Im so delighted that youve chosen to give it; actually made me feel very a special passenger!
So another long weekend shopping extravaganza trip to New York began with an overnight stay at the Crowne Plaza just off Junction 4 of the M4. Despite living under an hour from Heathrow I elected to stay over as the Crowne Plaza had an offer of 69 per night including 15 days parking via Holiday Extras. At that price, and with parking alone at Parking Express coming out at over 50 I thought it would rude not too!
After a very comfortable night, Friday morning soon dawned, and I caught the Hoppa Bus from the Crowne Plaza to Terminal 3 just before 8am. Early I know for a 2PM flight but I wanted to make maximum use of the Clubhouse ! The journey costs 4, and thanks to the Bus Lane on the Heathrow Spur Road, and Tunnel, I was deposited outside Terminal 3 in 10 minutes. Even at this time of the morning the Traffic was stationary back to the M4!
Check In was an absolute breeze. I was seen straight away at the Upper Class desk by a very friendly Agent, who issued a Clubhouse invitation followed by instructions on how to access the new Wing via the lift. All in all a very pleasant experience.
On exiting the lift next to the Upper Class Check Counters, youre faced with a huge glass door that wouldnt look out of place on the Star Ship Enterprise ! Your enter your Boarding Card into the reader on the wall, and then the door swings open ! Next you turn right, walk down the long corridor before your Passport is checked, and then youre though into the normal Terminal 3 Security Screening Area. With 3 dedicated channels waiting, I was though in under 60 seconds, and the B.A.A Security staff were very pleasant for once. After that I neatly side stepped the ongoing, Shoe Carnival, and then on to the Clubhouse. All in all Check In to Clubhouse was well under 10 minutes.
The Clubhouse is such a haven of tranquillity, and is a world way from the madding crowds of Terminal 3. I was welcomed with a huge smile, and no sooner than I was inside, and before I had chance to sit down, drink orders were taken, and promptly delivered. Then from the menu I chose the full English Breakfast washed down with a Bucks Fizz! After surfing the net, and a couple more drinks I was wonderfully pampered in the Cowshed with a facial, and a scalp massage while the treatment mask is on. This was so relaxing, so much so that it very nearly sent me to sleep ! After some more surfing I managed a fresh Salmon Bagel followed by Ice Cream for lunch before heading for the Gate shortly before the scheduled boarding time of 12.45PM. During my time in the Clubhouse I was impressed with the level of service from the staff who were constantly coming over to see if I needed anything.
Todays Gate was almost next to the Clubhouse, so after a short walk I was in the Gate Area looking out at Tinker Belle my home in the sky for the next 7 hours. Boarding commenced some 10 minutes after arrival at the Gate, and was strictly controlled meaning that being Upper Class, I was 1st on being welcomed at the aircraft door by name by the F.S.M. Shortly afterwards I was upstairs settling in to 7A for the flight to John F. Kennedy Airport (J.F.K.)
In fact I hadnt even had chance to sit down before a member of the Crew came over to take a drinks order. It was at this point I asked for a Sleep Suit which promptly arrived a minute later with the Champagne. Then she was back again asking about my plans for dinner asking what I would like so that she could reserve it for later as I asked to eat about 4 hours into the flight. Then the In Flight Beautician came by and said that despite the fact Id received a treatment in the Clubhouse, shed probably be able to get to me on the flight. Finally before take off the cabin crew were back again with another glass of Champagne !
We pushed shortly before 2PM, and were airborne some 10 minutes later from the Westerly Runway heading out of Windsor before turning right and eventually out over Manchester for the Trans Atlantic leg of the journey before making land again at Goose Bay and tracking the Eastern Seaboard to New York.
Once airborne the F.S.M. was round with the extras for the Amenity Kit at which point we talked about New York for a good 10 minutes during which time he offered loads of help, and advice. No sooner than he left the other 3 members of crew on the Upper Deck were round chatting to passengers, getting more drinks, and making sure everyone had everything they wanted. This was to be the norm throughout the whole flight. No need to push the call bell as they always seemed to be in the Cabin rather than the Galley.
About an hour into the flight In Flight Beautician returned and took me downstairs for my treatment, which was the Head & Shoulders massage which again left me relaxed, and nearly asleep!
After that I grabbed a couple of hours sleep, watched a couple of episodes of 30 Rock, and spot on schedule at 6PM dinner arrived The current Lamb dish with Red Cabbage, Spinach, and Mash Potato was put simply mouth watering, as was desert, a very tasty Champagne Chocolate Mouse.
Shortly after dinner the F.S.M. returned again to check everything was OK, which was I took the time to praise both the exceptional crew, and the food. I caught up with a couple of episodes of Only Fools and Horses before another hours sleep at which point Tea arrived in the form of some very tasty sandwiches, and pastries.
Alias all good things must come to an end, and soon we were on the descent to J.F.K. landing 20 minutes early. Unfortunately this was lost in a long taxi to the Gate, and waiting an aircraft to depart said Gate!
The only thing I cant comment on is Priority Baggage as I hit the back of the Air India flight at Immigration which was slow, and took 40 minutes.
Still least the case was waiting when I got through!