Hi, everyone! Welcome to the first leg of the Winter 2016-17 travel series! So, this is my first actual break from reviewing CX flights on FR, and I was quite excited to review other airlines here! After a crazy pre-holiday planning session with my family which I'll get into details in the pre-flight section, I finally decided that I'd go to London for both Christmas and New Year's since I have extended family there, and this would be a good opportunity to catch up with them. Also, I haven't been to the UK in many years, so I was definitely quite excited! In any case, I hope all of you enjoy reading this report.
Initially, I was supposed to fly back to Hong Kong for the holidays until many events happened unexpectedly. For instance, my parents had business trips right after Christmas and my sister was going for a vacation with her friends a few days after as well. So, everything in a way started to go haywire until my mom suggested to go to London, since it has been a while and I could get the chance to re-visit the city since I last went there years ago. After thinking about this for a couple of days, I finally decided that I'd fly to London!! After all, it's one of my favourite cities in the world!
While searching for flights on several travel websites, especially during the pre-Christmas rush, I stumbled upon a good deal with Virgin Atlantic that I knew I had to immediately grab it! Also, this flight (VS4) was one of the only available options left. So, I considered myself quite lucky that I was able to book this flight! I was quite excited to fly on Virgin Atlantic because I've heard a lot of good things about the airline. So, I pretty much had high expectations.
Anyways, back to the flight. I got the private car that I always hire in order to go to the airport. I left at around 3:00 PM, which gave me enough time to get to the airport as there is always the peak hour traffic as well as the pre-Christmas rush. So, I was able to make it to John F. Kennedy International Airport in good timing. The process of checking-in for this flight was smooth as always, but security took quite a while due to long lines, which was not surprising.
Terminal 4 Departure Entrance
It took me a little while to find the VS Upper Class check-in counters, especially with the crowds. However, I was able to find it easily.
Upper Class check-in
Heading towards security
The airside was an escalator ride away
Terminal 4 Airside
The "famous" view from the terminal
IMO, I would definitely say that Terminal 4 at JFK is one of the better terminals if compared to Terminal 7. At least there was somewhat of a variety of shops and restaurants
Making my way towards the lounge located where the A gates are, which is quite small
The A gates
Now, to get to the lounge, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, as well as the Emirates lounge and the Air India Maharaja Lounge, they are located one level above the main departure area and are accessed through a staircase or an elevator. Although the area was a bit small, it was quite easy to spot the lounge.
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse entrance
Few shots of the lounge
Once I arrived at the lounge, I found it to be quite full. Hence, it took a while to look for an available seat. However, it give me a good chance to explore the lounge for a little bit. Overall, it's a pretty decent lounge. I would say the highlight from my perspective would be the colour scheme along with the amenities including a hair salon, pool tables, food and beverage choices, and different types of seating options
Since I had time before I had to board my flight, I thought I'd get myself something to eat
As soon I was done with my drink, I looked around the lounge a bit more
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340-600, G-VFIZ, also bound for LHR
Ultimately, I found a seat by the window in order to see if I could get some good views of planes. At that time, I chatted with my sister for a bit while deciding what to get from the menu.
The menu had a good selection of choices, and I ended up getting a salad at the end as I wanted to have something light in order to save room for what was going to be served inflight.
After spending some time at the lounge, I soon realised that it was time for me to board. It was only a short distance from the lounge to the gate. So, it was not that bad
Heading to gate A6
Gate A6 area
London, I'm coming for you!
The ramp-styled aerobridge
Plane to LHR: an Airbus A340-600, G-VGAS (aka Varga Girl)
Well, time to board!
Some pre-flight information: Date: 22 December 2016 Airline: Virgin Atlantic Flight Number: VS 4 Route: New York (JFK) - London (LHR) Aircraft: Airbus A340-600 Registration: G-VGAS Distance: 3445 miles Scheduled Departure Time: 6:30 PM Actual Departure Time: 7:16 PM Scheduled Arrival Time: 6:30 AM Actual Arrival Time: 6:12 AM Flight Time: 7 hrs Departure Gate at JFK: A6 Arrival Gate at LHR: 21
Upper Class, which was quite crowded. It was very obvious that this was going to be a full flight
My seat, 7K
The legroom, which I found to be narrow
Menu and amenity kit already by my seat
It was very evident that this plane was very outdated, especially with the aircraft being put to use
Pre-departure beverage: Orange juice
Menu for today's flight. I somehow like the style of it
By the time boarding was completed, the upper class cabin was completely full! This was when the captain came on with his pre-flight welcome, advising us that there were going to be slight delays in terms of departure, but an early to on-time arrival into London, with the flight time of approximately less than 6 hours.
View from my seat, Singapore Airlines Airbus A380-800, 9V-SKR which will serve as SQ25 to SIN via FRA along with El Al Boeing 777-200LR, 4X-ECD, about to be on its way back to TLV
Prior to pushback, the crew were going around the cabin taking orders for the upcoming dinner service. That's one thing that I've noticed on some airlines where the crew would take orders on the ground prior to takeoff. I would say, it's a smart procedure!
I remember the pushback occurring at around 6:45 PM that evening
Views of Terminal 4, along with the iconic JFK control tower
More aircraft at the terminal
At this point of the flight, the cabin lights were dimmed in preparation for takeoff
After the long taxi to the runway, we finally took off at around 7:15 PM
I'll be back soon, America!
The planned flight route for tonight
Within 10 minutes after departure, the cabin lights were back on, and I went off to discover the inflight entertainment
Perrier, a.k.a. my usual!
After browsing through the entertainment selection, I ended up watching Bad Moms, and that was the only movie I watched for the entire flight since it was quite short
Prior to the dinner service, I headed on to the bathroom. I have to admit, the mood light was a nice touch!
Table setup with bread and the appetiser: fennel and mandarin salad
For the main course which I ordered prior to departure, I went with the chicken breast wrapped in bacon with red cabbage, green beans, and parsnip puree
Once I was done, the crew courteously cleared the table for us. At the same time, the cabin lights were dimmed yet again allowing for passengers to rest.
I thought this would be a good time to check up the progress of the flight
It turned out that we had less than 4 hours left, and we were making it in good time!
Afterwards, I continued with watching Bad Moms
Once I was done, I decided to call it a night. In fact, one thing that I've heard about VS is that in Upper Class, they have turndown service. Hence, I asked one of the crew members to set up my bed since I was not familiar with the arrangement. Afterwards, we ended up having a good chat about the holidays as well as London, since I told her that this was my first trip after many years. She told me that I'm really going to enjoy my time there, and I did at the end of course! She had even told me about Winter Wonderland, which is an annual Christmas festival and a huge tourist attraction. I have to admit, It's a lot of fun!
Anyways, getting back to the flight. I tried to sleep on this flight. However, there was a slight problem. I found the flat bed to be pretty narrow and uncomfortable. Also, I am 6'0" and the bed was definitely not designed for my height!
I was able to sleep for 2 hours, but I felt very groggy once I woke up
I woke up only to discover that we just passed Ireland and were already preparing to land
Just as I expected, the captain came on again at that time announcing that we were now starting the descent into Heathrow Airport and scheduled to land ahead of the scheduled time.
The UK landing card, together with the fast track invitation and my passport
The seat belt sign came back on giving the indication that we had to prepare for landing, which didn't take long.
The usual holding patterns before arriving into Heathrow
While we were descending, I got a good chance to take in the sights of London
It's not that hard to believe that London is and has been one of my favourite cities in the world
Mood lighting in preparation for landing
We landed at 6:12 in the morning, which was 20 minutes ahead of schedule! The taxi to the gate was quite short too.
Docking at gate 21, Terminal 3
My seat as clean as I found it when I boarded
Disembarking/Arrival into LHR
Time for the long walk to immigration!
Escalator leading up to the immigration hall
See you after immigration!
It took less than 5 minutes to get my bag!
Another 2 minutes later, I made it to the arrival hall. By the time I got there, it took less than a minute for my relatives to spot me from the arrival hall. As soon as I found them, I had a nice reunion! After all, I haven't seen them in a long time!
Afterwards, we made it to the car park where I was ready for a fun-filled vacation in London!!
Virgin Atlantic Virgin Clubhouse
New York - JFK
London - LHR
Overall, this was a good flight onboard Virgin Atlantic. In regards of a first impression of this airline, there were a number of factors which did well such as the crew (who were friendly and courteous), but I did feel that some parts were lacking. In particular, the seat, which was extremely narrow making me feel very uncomfortable while sleeping. Also, the seat features were very outdated! However, I can't say much since this route was served on the Airbus A340-600, which is deemed to be an older type of aircraft. In any case, I had a good first impression of this airline, and I would definitely fly with them again. Anyways, thanks for reading this trip report. I hope you enjoyed it. Tune in next time for the return flight which I'll be posting soon!
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