Advantages Cheap fares, excellent service, first-class entertainment system, decent food
Disadvantages Long wait times, London-Delhi leg needs major improvement
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Who hasn't heard of the almost mythical experience in luxury that flying Virgin Atlantic represents? The Virgin Clubhouse lounges, the on-board massseuse and manicurist, the bar right there in the cabin, the fully reclining beds...the list is endless. But what about economy class? Was there any trickle-down effect, or was the difference enough to effect a Marxian-style revolution (sorry way too much philosophy/history this semester!)My father was eager to find out and so booked us on Virgin Atlantic from New Delhi to London on our summer vacation to Europe this summer, and needless to say, we came away thoroughly disillusioned with the Virgin myth. What on earth had all those people who had recommended Virgin raved about? This flight was the pits, and needless to say, I was not too pleased with the prospect of flying back to the US later in the summer on my way back to university. When I landed in Newark, NJ I was a changed woman. I couldn't WAIT to fly Virgin back home in December for Christmas break. It turns out that while the India-UK leg leaves some room for improvement, the transatlantic segment is absolutely first rate. Read on for comparisons between the two...
The seats on Virgin flights are, in my experience, hit or miss depending on the aircraft you are flying. The US-UK leg was decent, not super comfortable, but I've sat on worse. They're slightly narrow, with an ok amount of leg-room, though if you have exceptionally long legs, you're in for an unpleasant ride. The seats on the second leg however, were hideously uncomfortable. I wound up with body aches everywhere that still haven't gone away 2 days later. What's more, the lady in front of me put her seat back, and in trying to wriggle around to find a comfortable position, I wound up hitting the back of her seat several times, leading her to snap at me (slightly unjustifiably, it wasn't intentional). Even putting my backpack in the overhead locker didn't do much to alleviate the space problem (and it should be noted that I am a very small person who normally has no problems finding a comfy position in airline seats).
The music selection is extensive and allows you to create your own playlist. If you think the person sitting in seat 55K is really cute but don't have the guts to approach them in person, you can discreetly message them using the instant messenger feature of the entertainment system, and if things go well, you can always move up to flirting over the phone using the free seat-to-seat calling. If none of this strikes your fancy, you can while away the hours by playing a variety of video games, or even by learning a foreign language (they have audio books to learn English, Spanish and Japanese). Even the SkyMap program is jazzed up a bit! I think it's safe to say this is probably the best entertainment system on any airline, and I must admit, it brings a lovely touch of luxury to sitting in economy class. The entertainment from the UK to India was not nearly as spectacular - there was a choice of a handful of TV shows and 8 movies, really old games, and a tiny screen. To make matters worse, my handset was lousy and I had to press extremely hard on the buttons to get anything to work, leading to sore thumbs :( Still, the prospect of that entertainment system to and from the US makes me long for the next time I fly...Crew:
Virgin boasts on their website that their food aims to go beyond edible and cross the line into good, an idea largely unheard of amongst most major carriers in economy class, but again, Virgin exceeds expectations. Out of all the meals I've had on Virgin, I would happily eat most of them again. On my most recent flight, the first leg featured a choice of christmas turkey, beef stew, or a vegetarian option. I went with the turkey, and got a mini traditional English turkey dinner - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts and pigs in a blanket. As a festive touch, each tray came with a mini candy cane, and dessert was a heavenly slice of oreo cheesecake (drool...). I can't remember what we had for breakfast, so apologies for that. On the UK-India leg, dinner options were curried chicken with rice, herbed chicken with vegetables, and vegetarian lasagna. The steward recommended the herbed chicken to those who asked, but neglected to tell me that when I requested chicken, I was in fact getting the curried chicken. I didn't discover the mistake until I had opened the dish, and needless to say, I was quite disappointed. The dish was so-so, leading me to conclude that Virgin doesn't do Indian food well. The side dishes were all Indian as well, and generally tasteless and/or stale. I didn't attempt the dessert, which was some unrecognizable mass of yellowish, thick liquid because if you can't tell what it is, you probably shouldn't eat it. Shortly before arriving, we were served breakfast, which was delicious. There was a raisin roll, yummy with English butter, a choice of a cajun chicken or tomato, onion and cheese pasties. I went with the vegetarian option, which was sooo good I was tempted to ask for seconds! Breakfast was topped off with excellent cereal and bio yoghurt, which was poured over the cereal. The mix of granola clusters, tart, dried raspberries and healthy yoghurt was the perfect way to end the meal.
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