Did OLCI at T-24 and managed SEQ1 & 20 due to separate booking references. Finshed the packing then made our way up to Manchester for an overnight stay before the flight. En-route we both commented that is was depressing as it was all but dark at 4:30pm.
This is a Trip Report from the Upper Class cabin
Food & Drink
Ventured into Manchester briefly & both commented it was cold (was about 3C) & that thermal coats would not be needed tomorrow night in Florida. Returned to the hotel & got sleep of sorts – the rumblings of aircraft noise & being in holiday mode meant that a complete nights sleep was not going to happen.
Had already worked out the night before from the Orlando Airport website & Flightradar24 data that it was highly likely to be VBIG on todays flight, so Upper Class minus the bar. Checked FR24 again when I woke up and sure enough VBIG is about 2hrs out of Manchester.
Taxi to the airport and walked straight up to the Upper Class check-in desk. Bags checked & up to security. Normal complaint about the Priority Lane, i.e. it’s full of families / special needs passengers that take a lot longer to screen. All the normal lines were practically walk right up to an x-ray machine. At least one of the staff manning the queue had the common sense to release the tensa-barrier to let non-family / special needs people out of the Priority Lane into a normal one.
The sign outside the Escape Lounge claimed it was full to capacity & no walk-up entry was available. We had no problems finding somewhere to sit with nearby power points for charging. There was once again a VS rep in there (different one to last time 6 weeks ago, but also a cabin crew member who is expecting & is therefore grounded). She was very helpful & circulated round the lounge making polite conversation with the VS passengers.
The boarding call went out in the lounge so down to gate 212 we went. The MAN ground crew (who are actually Swissport employees in Virgin uniforms) had not even started boarding special needs passengers – they could not organize a pissup in a brewery.. After a short while they did this [started special needs boarding], but were hampered by the design of the gates at MAN – only 1 lift to take people in wheelchairs down to jetbridge level. (Most airports use ramps as opposed to lifts & stairs as it helps to speed things up). After about 20mins waiting at the gate, they finally decided to start priority boarding without even an apology for the delay. The “don’t care / not my problem” attitude was out in force today. During the delay to boarding they did check passports & boarding passes – when boarding started one of the ground crew just told us to go to the plane – without scanning our boarding passes. Had we not told him about the non-scan it would doubtless have delayed the flight.
Got onboard VBIG and turned left to Upper Class. The “bar of sorts” serves it’s purpose as somewhere for the crew to put drinks & service items during service. Upper Class is full – no surprise there as only 14 seats. Pre-takeoff champagne offered & refilled whilst we were waiting for some stragglers to board. They appeared not long after we had been advised we were waiting for them. The call went out for all ground crew to leave & we pushed back promptly. 8h15min to Orlando, so one of the shorter MCO flights I’ve done. Flight routing is pretty standard – Liverpool, Dublin, out over the Atlantic to Newfoundland then down the Eastern Seaboard, back over land near Virginia then out over the ocean to do a Daytona Beach approach into Orlando.
Pre dinner drinks were served & kept topped up. Meal orders have been taken in FC status order again – got my first choices. I won’t bother listing the menu as it is the same as it was 6 weeks ago (see my previous TR / the UC menu thread). Lunch service was good and as with 6 weeks ago, I like the slightly more leisurely pace of the service with the crewing changes. Again, as with 6 weeks ago, we had a very hard working CSS in Upper (different one to last time). I will probably drop Crawley Towers a letter on my return as she was going the extra mile.
So now the cabin is in quiet mode while people digest their lunches / snooze / watch films. One or two things I’ll watch on Vera – once I have taken care of the films I loaded onto the iPad for this flight.
Thanks to two new films on the iPad, the quiet part of the flight passed quickly & before a seemingly short period of time, we were 2hrs out of Orlando and afternoon tea / lite bites food was being offered prior to landing. Again, the menu is exactly as in my last TR / the UC menu thread, so I’ll not bother repeating it. Had a very good afternoon tea before some good turbulence which had the seatbelt sign on for a good 20mins.
An uneventful & smooth landing in Orlando followed at about 15:01 & we were at gate 81 some 5mins later. Since my last trip 6 and a bit weeks ago, they have changed the approach route to immigration. You now get sent through a back-room I have never seen before, before getting to close to where you used to enter the immigration hall, where an airport ambassador sends you down the right line, depending on your ESTA / last US visit status. I got sent to the APC kiosk, but it rejected my passport as it’s got under 6months validity left on it. Saw an officer at a normal desk and was admitted promptly – the bags were on the belt within a minute of us entering the baggage hall.
From touching down at 15:01, we were in the main terminal just after 15:30 and at our accommodation on South I-Drive by 16:05. In fact 4hrs after landing, we had cleared all immigration / customs, collected car, driven to accommodation, checked-in, been to Publix for grocery shop, showered and changed and taken the 25min Trolley ride for dinner on I-Drive. You can’t fault that.
So all in all another good Virgin Atlantic experience. Only additional thing worthy of note is that it was the FSM’s 21st employment anniversary with Virgin today & an announcement was made to this effect on landing… followed by a “Thanks for that [name omitted]” PA from the FSM.