Now for the continuation of the journey to New York. As mentioned earlier, I would be transiting at London Heathrow for my onward Virgin Atlantic flight, which was not too bad an experience. During the transit, we had also went to the VS transfer desk to ensure that our bags would be transferred onto the VS flight. The agent also took our SQ-issued boarding passes and re-issued new ones on VS stock. Our earlier allocated seats were not changed, not that I would want them to be changed for a good reason to be revealed later.
My virgin Virgin boarding pass for my virgin Virgin Atlantic flight! (Sorry, can't help it…)
Proceeded to the gate about 40min prior to departure time. Our departure gate was quite a long trek at Gate 13 but it is definitely not the furthest gate at Heathrow. Our almost brand new Virgin A330-300 was already prepared for the flight to the Big Apple.
Today, the flight would be operated by the aptly named G-VNYC Uptown Girl!!
Head-on view of Uptown Girl.
06 March 2013 Virgin Atlantic VS 9 (Code-shared SQ 2509) London Heathrow (LHR) - New York John F Kennedy (JFK) A330-300 G-VNYC Economy Class
Boarding has long commenced when we reached the gate 30min prior to departure. Boy, does Virgin board their flight early! This flight was also code-shared with SQ but I seriously doubt there would be any SQ-ticketed passengers. There was a random secondary screening (what is new for US-bound flights) which I was so luckily picked for. No worries as it was swift and the security personnel were polite.
Heathrow's Boarding really means boarding, unlike some other airport…
Boarded the aircraft and was greeted by a crew at the door. Stepped into the aircraft and both of us went Oooooo. The first sight that we saw upon stepping into this A330 was the really funky Upper Class bar and a model-like flight attendant concocting cocktails at the bar for Upper Class passengers. A range of newspapers were laid out on the bar counter and us lowly Economy passengers were also invited to grab a copy. However that is where the awesomeness ends as we turned right into Economy, first passing through Premium Economy, which was less ooomph but still way better than normal economy.
Reached my seat at 56K, which was an extra legroom seat! Hence the reason why I would not want my seat to be changed. On VS's A333, seats 50-56 A/C and H/K are designated as extra legroom seats with a seat pitch of 34, compared to the normal 31. These seats could be purchased for an additional USD50 per person. However, not sure whether it was a system glitch or due to my booking class, I was able to secure seats 56A/B or H/K (but not 50-55) during online seat selection, and thus immediately reserved 56H/K. Passengers seated in the normal seats would only be allowed to occupy the extra legroom seats by paying the cabin crew.
Warning on the headrest. Basically, do not sit on this seat unless allocated or paid for.
My 34 seat pitch, making it a more comfortable economy flight. A red blanket was already placed on the seat. However Virgin has discontinued with the economy amenity kits on day flights since a few months back. However they would still be available on overnight flights. The IFE in Economy is fully touch-screen, with no handsets available. However the screen is responsive and the lack of handsets does not bother unless one is to play games, which then may be a bit tiring to the arms.
Stuff in the seat pocket. Not much of an inflight magazine for Vera. More of an entertainment magazine and IFE guide. This aircraft is also equipped with inflight mobile phone usage capability. Not sure about the charges but it was stated as roaming rates.
Passengers were still trickling into the cabin. Today, it seemed that the only hot flight attendant would be in Upper Class. None of the crew in Economy Class today resembled the flight attendants in the Virgin advertisements, haha. Well, not too concerned as long as the service is acceptable.
The cabin lights would have this cool purplish tint throughout the entire flight. Boarding music was playing new released pop songs.
Cartoon safety card.
Hmm, this card accidentally fell into my bag…
At the gate.
Soon, boarding was completed and the purser welcomed everyone onboard, as well as announcing the total number of passengers, which I recalled was around 220pax. Flight time was stated to be a short 7hrs instead of the scheduled 8hr10m.
Had a very long pushback while the entertaining safety video was played. The SQ aircraft that I flew into LHR on could also be spotted.
Started the short taxi to Rwy09R, passing lots of BAs during taxi.
BA Land at T5.
Takeoff from Rwy09R……not….
Apparently there was a small administrative issue with the tallying of bag numbers vs passengers onboard, but this was resolved rapidly. However we had to wait for another 10-15min on the taxiway for a takeoff slot again.
SAS MD80 passing by while we were waiting for takeoff clearance again.
Off we go again, this time successful! However we were 30min behind schedule by then.
Climbing through the clouds.
Service started, first with the distribution of headphones. There is also a Change for children donation envelope within the headphone pack to support VS's charity work, with any donations encouraged in the envelopes and to be passed to any cabin crew upon disembarkation.
This was followed by the distribution of menus. Yes, VS is one of the few airlines which still provide menus in Economy Class, even though it is only a card.
What is on offer for today's flight? 3 choices offered for mains, including a vegetarian choice!
The sun has begun to set. We would be chasing the sunset for almost the entire flight! Longest sunset ever witnessed.
A bar service was first offered. My aisle was manned by 2 male attendants. They were casual and friendly, but nothing exceptional. Not a problem with me as long as they still provide the expected service.
Was given a pack of delicious pretzels and selection of drinks from the bar. We both went for the speciality cocktail without alcohol. According to the crew, it is a mixture of cranberry and orange juices. Tasted fine to me.
Drinks were served in a fanciful but of good quality purple plastic cup.
Started with a movie. IFE movie selections on Virgin's Vera are not bad and comparable to SQ's Krisworld, but SQ is better on the Asian and European movies. Guess this is due to the 2 airlines' vastly different route network.
Shortly after, the meal and drinks cart were rolled out. A crew member would be distributing meals while another would be following behind with drinks.
The meal tray with a salad, main, roll with butter and a cutlery pack.
All laid out with cool purple plastic cutlery used. Dessert would be served separately with coffee/tea. I had a diet Pepsi to go with my meal.
A simple salad and unheated roll.
I had the Minced beef with herb breadcrumb topping, mixed vegetables and potatoes. Not too inspiring and portion of beef is rather small.
My partner chose the Diced chicken with cheese and leek sauce, garlic and thyme potatoes and creamed spinach. This tasted slightly better but portion is again not too generous. Luckily we were not too hungry as our minds were screaming Bedtime!!.
Nicely designed salt/pepper sachets.
After the meal trays were cleared, 'Gu' dessert was served along with coffee/tea. Today's Gu selection was a Black Forest Mini Pud. I also had a tea to go along. Tea was served in a Slurp designed paper cup.
The 'Gu' dessert was what a dessert should be. Sweet, sinful and satisfying! One of the best desserts ever had on a plane! Yummy!!
The sun is still setting.
Visit to the lavatory. It was basic, with nothing more than the necessary.
A view of the cabin.
By the time I have finished my movie, we were almost halfway across the pond.
4.5hrs to go.
The still setting sun. By this time, fatigue has caught up with us and we decided to sleep the rest of the flight away. Guess we missed the mid-flight ice-cream service that Virgin offers. Snacks, such as chips and chocolates, were available for purchase if you want a bit more.
Slept for almost 3hrs and when the glancing out the window, the sky was still in its last moments of sunset. We were then somewhere over the cold Canadian soil.
An snack, supposed High Tea, was served slightly more than an hour prior to landing. It came in a cardboard box.
The snack consists of cheese and onion sandwich and a Great British cupcake.
The cheese and red onion finger sandwiches were cold and unmemorable.
But the Great British cupcake was really yummy!! A really nice sweet treat!! Wished I could have a couple more of it!
Had another tea along with the snack.
Just passing Boston when the pilot came on and gave the arrival information.
Seemed like VS's adopted some of the practices of its previous major shareholder. The cabin was secured for landing, seat upright, headsets returned, and even blankets have to be tucked away behind you, all 30min before landing!! Now who's more safety conscious?!
As there was a storm brewing and heading towards New York area, winds were rather strong, making a very interesting landing. Throughout the entire approach, passengers in the plane were entirely silent while we felt the plane swerving left and right and engines spooling up and down in total darkness. Finally. the skillful pilots made a rather smooth landing onto Rwy04R, half hour ahead of schedule thanks to the weak headwinds. Even the crew remarked that JFK is seriously windy during his arrival announcement.
Parked at Terminal 4.
My seat for the last 7.5hrs. Legroom is good but seat cushion is a bit hard.
Waiting to disembark. A bit of a wait here as only one aerobridge was in use.
Legroom is not that great at the normal rows.
Premium Economy seats.
As there were no other arrival flights at this time, the immigration hall was almost deserted! Luggage was also out quickly and customs just looked at our forms and waved us on. In fact, we only took less than 20min from stepping out of the aircraft to clearing customs! Must be quite a record for an international arrival at a US airport!
London - LHR
New York - JFK
Thoughts on my first ever Virgin Atlantic flight? Acceptable but not exceptionally great. Guess being pampered on the previous SQ flight did not help. Cabin comfort and IFE is acceptable, ambiance is Virgin funky, but catering could be improved, especially for the main course quality and portions. But don't remove the Gu dessert and cupcakes! Service was acceptable, not exceptional warm but not bad either. This sums up my review of Virgin Atlantic, and also the start of my USA whirlwind journey!
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