After an all-too-short sojourn in Shanghai, it was time for my trip home. My sadness at leaving was offset by the thought of 12 hours at the pointy end of the 'plane!
The pollution in Shanghai was something to behold, on some days it was literally 'off the scale' it was so high.
It was a sunny morning when I headed back to the airport, through very industrial scenery.
Shanghai airport is big, so very big. And modern too.
I located the UC check in area, and as usual for me, the passenger is in front took a lot of time. I was beckoned over by another agent and was checked in quickly, and given a lounge invite. More on that later.
I was advised by the check in agent that my luggage had been selected for a search. I was directed to a little office where a non-smiling and unfriendly security agent curtly asked me to open my suitcase, where my toiletries were examined, briefly.
Before long I was on my way and through security.
Shanghai Airport is huge, and a wrong turn can lead to some very long walks. I took a wrong turn while searching for Lounge 77.
Before long, I found it, however any sense of exclusivity was short lived when I saw this!
The lounge was rather basic, although a G&T was welcomed.
I may have found the world's tiniest sandwich!
Shanghai Airport had some lovely places to eat and drink, and even a Burger King for those longing for Western tastes. Lounge 77 isn't worth the visit, to be honest.
Before long, my flight was called, and I made the long walk to the gate.
No welcome by name on boarding this time, just pointed to my seat. Normally that would be a sign of things to come, but I couldn't be more wrong.
I settled in to my seat. 11A, again.
It was tatty, but all the electronic stuff worked.
The FSM announced that we had 168 pax on board, and a wander through the cabins later showed that Y was pretty light.
Incidentally, on both O/B and I/B flights, Premium Economy was pretty well sold. And on this flight, Upper Class looked well patronised.
Champagne was offered before long (there was a bit of a wait, to the point that I thought it wasn't going to happen :0 ) and refills etc. offered. And accepted. :)
The FSM came around to each passenger, sat on the little stool and explained the menu in great detail. She noticed I was reading Viz and said So if I hear someone laughing I'll know it's you!. y)
I like these touches, as it tells me that the crew are genuinely engaged and not just going through the motions.
Take off was uneventful, and while sad to leaving Shanghai, part of me was looking forward to breathing cleaner air!
Virgin now show the inflight entertainment from boarding to landing; but the system had to be rebooted. First for UC passengers, which took five minutes, and didn't work. Then the entire system was rebooted, which took about 20 minutes and solved any problems my fellow passengers had. That said, I didn't find much to watch and I don't know if it's my changing tastes or the selection available on Vera. (Previously known as V-Port).
Soon afterwards a lovely stewardess, we will call C came around with more drinks and bread rolls in readiness for the lunch service.
I had the pork and chicken terrine.
Very tasty, followed by the braised beef with carrot mash.
Presentation was alright. However the food was cold! :0 :0
Before I even had a change to report it, the steward came around and apologised profusely, explaining that the ovens had failed.
A piping hot replacement followed…
A few neck-breaking glances out the window to watch the changing scenary.
And then on to desert. This was described as a 'custard tard' whoever it's definitely a lemon meringue, no?
Followed by a coffee. And yes, the mug arrived looking like that.
I noticed that the FSM went around certain passengers, welcoming them back on board, and I did have a problem with that. It was clearly obvious that certain passengers were overlooked in this welcome, and while I have no issue with welcoming back regular passengers, this would have been a great time to say Welcome to new passengers.
The FSM also dragged about four feet of computer print out paper as she went looking for regular flyers, something that I thought looked unprofessional.
One last look at the outside world before hitting the bar…
Although the flight was technically 'day time' a lot of passengers settled down to sleep.
Not for me though!
I stood guard at the onboard bar and chatted with fellow passengers. The advice from C was to power through the flight as trying to sleep would probably not work.
So, a bar snack - Beef & Bacon Pie.
I managed to get through TWO bottles of fizz on my own, I know, I'm terrible. But I wasn't drinking on an empty stomach. And to make sure of that, it was soon time for Afternoon Tea.
As we approached London, the disturbing announcement from the Captain was that Heathrow was fogbound, so we were heading to Gatwick.
This was ideal for me, living in cool South London, however we did get a slot at LHR after all and landed more or less on time.
I waved at my house as we flew over South London
However, a later announcement confirmed that we could land at Heathrow, where the extent of the fog was easy to see…
Even upon landing, visibility was limited.
I swear that the walk from the aircraft to baggage reclaim gets longer every time! It seemed like miles, but that might have been my slightly merry state.
My luggage was amongst the first of the aircraft, and using the kiosks for security I was in arrivals in no time and heading home.
So, when I read through the report, there seems as if there was a lot wrong with the flight.
And yet, I rated it very highly. The staff were charm personified. Any failings I noticed were cancelled out by the friendliness of the crew, which proves (to me) that it's people that make the difference.
The time at the bar was superb and of course the alcohol flowed freely.
Time to plan my next trip…
EDIT - The amenity kit was in a smaller bag this time. The contents were not great.
Shanghai - PVG
London - LHR
Shanghai to Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic, Upper Class. An example of a flight being greater than the sum of its parts. Viewed individually, there were some failings. However overall, I was very satisfied with Virgin.
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Very good report, pleasant to read. The smog in major Chinese cities is really a shame. I'm sure it puts a bit of a damper on tourism.
Wow, that lounge services so many airlines; and from all alliances! Despite that fact, it seems you found a reasonably quiet corner, although it seems the lounge itself is nothing to write home about.
I like the fact that the UC seats on the left side of A340s face a wall giving a greater sense of privacy, though the wall isn't particularly entertaining to look at, LOL. Do you know if all aircraft will get retrofits to the new Upper Class cabin that they've been putting on A330s? Or will A340s stay with these cabins until they are phased out in a few years. I hear the never seats feel tighter (which makes sense since the config goes from 1-1-1 to 1-2-1.
Either way, Virgin is a great airline and I'm glad they got their SkyTrax 4-star rating back. It's true that they hasn't been the innovators they once were, but VS is still a notch above the competition and deserves their 4-stars. As a Delta Platinum Elite I'm glad that DL and VS have formed a joint-venture giving me the option to fly VS more often as I will get full mileage. Now I just need little red to start flying from Heathrow to CDG and TLS and I will be happy!
Two bottles of Champers on a 12 hour flight is perfectly reasonable :-)
Nice Aerial pics.
Thanks again for sharing!
Nice report, definitely worth waiting, food is prety well executed, cabin is showing it's age unfortunately.
How is the amenity kit?
Do you mind puting a grade to the PVG lounge #77?
It's very pleasant to read
Two bottles of bubbles for a 12 hours flight is quite nice ;)
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