Advantages Cheap, reliable, friendly staff, good entertainment options, free booze
Disadvantages Lack of legroom
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Having never used Virgin Atlantic, prior to Christmas we booked a holiday for four people to Las Vegas via Expedia.com. As there wasn’t a choice of carrier, we were stuck with Virgin and much to my dismay, in the weeks approaching the actual holiday I heard horror story after horror story of the level of service to expect. Departing on 23rd December we were to fly direct from London Gatwick to Las Vegas.I had never been to the USA, most of my holidays being taken in Europe, therefore I was looking forward to actually flying on a 747, it being the larger Jumbo Jet than I was used to, and secretly I prayed for that extra bit of leg room anyone over 5 foot craves.
As we were flying to the West Coast of America, the flight time was approximated at 10 hours.After arriving at Gatwick it took no more than 10 minutes to find the check in desk for Virgin. You can’t help but spot the large Virgin signs and the red and white colour scheme. Once the party had assembled we approached a long but fast moving queue. Whilst waiting to check in our bags we were approached by Virgin security and were asked the usual mind numbingly simple questions. Although the fact the lady asking the questions was not fully conversant in English, the process was simple and after a few repetitive questions we quickly came to the desk where our bags were weighed, tagged and taken away ready to be loaded onto the plane.
I found the check in process very straightforward and taking into account the flight was full, it only took 30 minutes from starting to queue to getting rid of all our baggage.After passing through Airport security and having the usual searches carried out on our hand luggage, emptying pockets, removing belts etc we were directed off towards our gate where we waited……….and waited……….and waited whilst every row was called except for ours. Although you are searched as you enter the gate, Virgin security personnel were also randomly stopping and frisking people as they went to board. I know in this day and age that additional security is nothing to be sniffed at, but I was determined I wasn’t being searched again and quickly bypassed them and onto the plane. Obviously no determined hijacker/terrorist is going to be concerned by 4 security guards wielding walkie-talkies!!
All in all, the boarding of the plane took around 45 minutes and we were on the plane prior to the scheduled take off time.Whilst we waited for the plane to actually take off we were “entertained” by numerous different Christmas Carols pumped through the intercom. The TV screens in the headrests hadn’t yet been activated.
The first thing that struck me when I sat in my seat was that there was very little legroom and I did seem to be rather squashed into my seat. Removing the blanket from the magazine holder alleviated this problem slightly but not much.Due to the length of the flight, Virgin had put a pack together that combined a set of earplugs, blindfold, toothbrush and toothpaste. Nice little touches, even if I do say so myself.
Thankfully (as I’m not a good flyer) we took off on time and we were soon cruising towards our destination at 550 miles and hour.I had never been on a plane for more than 4 hours, and the thought of not being able to smoke combined with a cramped space left me with a sense of dread, however this was lightened by the in flight entertainment. Each seat has a TV screen and the cabin crew handed out free earphones.
There were 11 channels available. 5 movie channels consisting of new releases (Collateral, Anchorman, Bad Santa, Garfield) and these played on a continuous loop throughout the flight. In addition to these films, there were comedy channels showing episodes of The Office, Little Britain and Alan Partridge. There were also 2 channels for the kids showing cartoons and animations. All in all, there was something for everyone. In addition to the entertainment channels, a screen could also be selected that showed how far into the journey you had progressed, what altitude you were flying at and the ground speed. I found myself flicking to this screen quite regularly like an excited child!!Now, the real entertainment. Did you know that drinking alcohol in the air doubles the effects it has on your brain?!? No, I didn’t either and proceeded to try and drink myself into a coma. It didn’t work thankfully otherwise I would have missed the spectacular views of Iceland and Greenland from the air.
I could never understand why people got violent on planes until I was informed the drinks were included in the prices of the ticket. Well, it would be rude not to try and drink the price of your ticket wouldn’t it?!?The cabin crew on our flight were fantastic. They were well attired, polite and always willing to help. As Rachel had her wedding dress with her onboard they took it away and hung it up in the crew quarters so that it wouldn’t be creased. We didn’t ask them, they asked us, which in this modern age it is a pleasure to see staff in a service industry use their initiative.
Over the course of the flight we were served with one meal, and a snack. The meal itself was a Christmas dinner of Turkey and stuffing and it was edible. I wouldn’t be breaking out the Michelin stars, but I was hungry and I wasn’t repulsed. On top of several cans of Stella, I probably would have eaten my arm after a while. The meal was served with a bottle of water, cheese and biscuits and a chocolate mousse. The mousse was lovely!!The snack was a Spicy Tikka baguette and this was also tasty. All in all, the food was much better than I expected.
At the booking stage we were given several meal options. These options included:Low Sodium
As a joke, I ordered the low calorie option for Alan and the bland meal for Andrew (Andy.Mack). As we had ordered online I was amazed when these meals actually turned up on the plane. Obviously, Alan and Andrew weren’t overly keen to eat these meals and they were taken away and replaced promptly.The most disappointing part of the entire Virgin experience was disembarking. This was something of a free for all and resembled a rugby scrum with no control by the cabin crew. The steward who had taken Rachel’s dress brought it back quickly and (and without prompting).
Once we had passed through immigration and collected our bags there were no signs of any tampering and no dents, bumps or scratches to our case.After calculating the cost of using Virgin, it equated to £319 per person return in economy. BARGIN!
CHECK IN: 4/5
CUSTOMER SERVICE: 5/5
HIGHLY RECOMMENDEDThanks for taking the time to read and rate.Steve :o)
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