VS19 (LHR – SFO)
VS19 (LHR – SFO) 31st October, 2018
Once I got over the shock of not being on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner but rather an Airbus A340 – 600 that until 6 months ago was languishing in retirement in Tarbes-Lourdes-Pyréenés Airport, France, I really enjoyed this flight which had the added bonus of touching down an hour early in San Francisco too.
When Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic do something, it’s always big and bringing the Airbus 340 – 600 (Registration G-VNAP) out of retirement last year was a huge investment for the company when the Boeing Dreamliner engine curse struck.
Whilst the Inflight Entertainment isn’t the most modern the outside paint job and decals proclaiming “a big virgin atlantic thank you” have given this ‘Mature French Lady’ from Toulouse aptly named “Sleeping Beauty Rejuvenated” new lease of life and she made light work of this trek to the West Coast of America in just over 10 hours.
Despite being bused to a remote stand between The Heathrow Tower and Gate 22, pushback was more or less on time and the short queue for the runway (09R) meant that the airborne time was shortly after 11:40 so only around 10 minutes late departing.
Whilst I have done a few Runway 09R departures from London Heathrow, it was nice turn left rather than right off the runway which afforded stunning views on an autumnal day of Wembley Stadium and North London before coasting up the centre of England over Luton, Northampton, Leicester and Manchester before skirting Glasgow and out over The Hebrides.
From there the routing took us to the South of Iceland before making land again over Greenland, Baffin Bay with that perinatal favourite of East Coast Transatlantic flights Hudson Bay to the South before heading further through Canada and the Northern Territories with Alberta on the right hand side and Manitoba and the left hand side of the aircraft.
After that we passed Calgary and Winnipeg before heading into the USA and passing over the states of Washington and Oregon before California and the Pacific Coast became a welcome sight!
The onboard service was good. After a quick initial round of drinks, lunch arrived equally quickly. I opted for the meatballs and pasta dish which included a salad starter and a cake desert all washed down with a cheeky French red wine! Lunch was followed by a round of coffee and tea, then a round of brandy or Bailey’s. Another 90 minutes lapsed at which point ice cream arrived.
And whilst the Airbus 340 – 600 doesn’t have the ‘Snack Wall’ of the Boeing Dreamliner, there was a plentiful supply of snacks and drinks available from the gallery. If the truth be told, I didn’t really need to snack as 6 hours into the flight another round of drinks appeared with a food choice of a hot cheese and tomato or a steak pasty too. Finally afternoon tea was served 90 minutes prior to landing
I must confess I didn’t really touch the Inflight Entertainment during the flight apart from using the ‘Moving Map’ to research this blog post. I had already loaded the iPad with music and movies.
One thing I love about arriving into San Francisco is the breathtaking views you get.
And today was no exception with views of the coastal town of Salsulito, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and downtown San Francisco before coasting in down San Francisco Bay where the aircraft makes a 180 degree turn near Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Cupertino to line up with the Northern parallel runways at San Francisco International Airport.