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#930735 by mitchja
01 Jan 2017, 00:00
Ground Staff
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Booked this reward flight to San Francisco earlier in the year after I struggled to either get any VS reward flights or even sensible priced revenue fares to my usual Miami New Year destination. Where else to go for New Year I wondered?

Had a quick look at reward fares to SFO and there was an initially just an outbound reward Upper Class fare and return Economy reward fare so I grabbed both hoping to upgrade / change the return economy reward fare later. Daily checking of the website paid off as a return G reward fare soon appeared; albeit the following day.

After a quick phone call to Flying Club, the return G reward fare was all booked (£30 change fee on top of the extra cabin tax/fees with it being a date change which I could live with)

Having now decided to ditch BA completely for domestic flights (due to them either changing or canceling my last 3 domestic flights at the last minute) to get me down to London, I decided to loose my Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) virginity.

Not being a train person, my only gripe is only being able to book train fares at least 3 months in advance, which is something I'm not really used to. I'd set-up a train fare release date reminded via the VTEC website and as soon as it became available I'd booked a return First class train fare Skipton to London King's Cross via Leeds. There is 1 non-stop VTEC service a day to/from Skipton but the trains times were not sensible. It was no big deal changing trains at Leeds anyway. I also only live about 10 minutes drive from Skipton as well.

All in all an advance purchase First Class train fare to London isn't actually much more expensive than a BA domestic flight. OK I have to get across London to LHR using the tube but that time is canceled out for me with not having to drive an hour to MAN for flight.

I was most impressed with VTEC First Class :-D A much much more civilised way to travel on London.

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VTEC First Class seat
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Once I arrived at King's Cross, I jumped on the tube to LHR and then finally on a hotel hoppa bus to my hotel for the night.

The following morning I set the alarm for 05:30 and headed back to LHR. I arrived at check-in around 06:20 where was checked in. I'd already done OLCI the following day which worked well and issued me an Apple Wallet boarding pass.

The Upper Class Wing door wasn't playing this morning as it refused to open on scanning my iPhone boarding pass. It just kept beeping at me so I headed back down stairs where an agent was more than happy to come back up with me and let me thought manually.

Security was a breeze with no waiting at that time of the morning. Headed towards and up to the Clubhouse where I was warmly welcomed. Straight to the spa desk to make a much needed hair cut appointment and then I headed to the Brasserie for my usual VS Eggs Benedict breakfast ;-)

The section behind the Brasserie along with the upper level of the Clubhouse was blocked off due to the refurbishment. That also meant there's currently no access to the roof garden at present either.

After a quick breakfast it was hair cutting time which was good as usual. I then just found a seat near the bar area where I relaxed for a while. Service was good as usual. The Clubhouse didn't seem overly busy this morning either.

The VS19 was called around 10:15 (I think) so I slowly gathered my things and headed to gate 19 where Miss Moneypenny (G-VSKY) was waiting for me.

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G-VSPY
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General boarding had already pretty much finished so it was straight on-board, where I was warmly welcomed and directed to my seat 8K. I'm not a fan of sitting facing a wall and I actually always prefer the K side of the aircraft in Upper Class on either the 789's or Airbus A/C. 7K is the seat with the missing window the 789's which I had already made a point to avoid. Even if I had wanted to, I could not have sat in the 'A' row as even back in March, the entire A row was already all taken/occupied.

Everyone was soon on-board but there was an issue with a pax who apparently had a pre-existing medical condition so VS where making sure they where cleared to fly. This did cause a delay but they where eventually given the OK to fly.

The usual pre-flight drinks where offered.

Something to be aware if when flying on the 789's in Upper Class is be careful of slightly raised floor section directly under /around the seat area. It's only a gentle ramp up from the aisle but for some reason the floor is raised from where the ottoman is and if you get up to get something out of the over-head lockers and you forget about the ramp it can catch you out if you step back from the seat into the aisle. I nearly went ar$e over t1t doing this and that was with only 2 glasses of champagne :blush:

I've never noticed this on other aircraft in J?

The door was closed and we soon pushed back at 11:43 (so almost an hour late). We had 210 pax, 3 flight-deck crew and 10 cabin crew on today's flight. Upper Class was full. The flight time would be approximately 10 hours and 27 minutes.

The onboard service soon started with the usual drinks and crisps. Menus where handed out just before we took-off, which I'm sure have been posted before.

I choose the soup for starter followed by the mushroom stroganoff finishing off with with the warm orange marmalade panettone. All of which were excellent and very tasty :-)

VERA worked well. My IFE screen, whilst it worked, was a little wobbly and is in need of some TLC. I caved in and purchased the WiFi pass which worked well but only just gave me enough data for the entire flight. Still no AeroMobile (which I suppose many people are thankful off). The (newish) live TV service worked reasonably well though did break up a few times. I watched a couple of films during the flight and paid a few visits to the bar.

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The bar
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The big bar IFE screen
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Th usual snacks and fruit where available on the bar. There's also the wander wall as well between The bar area and the Premium cabin.

Whilst the on-board service in J was as good as ever, you can now see a difference when sitting at the bar as the crew simply no longer have time to chat and interact with pax like they used to as they are on the go all the time now. Only 10 crew didn't seem a lot to me; though there where at least 50 empty seats on this flight as I think the 789's have a total of 264 seats (?)

The FSM was reasonably visible the whole flight and helped out during the meal service.

After a few hours I was feeling a little peckish so I ordered a gourmet burger was was as good as ever. I eat this at the bar.

Watched another a couple of things on VERA and before long Afternoon Tea was starting to be served. This was also very nice and well presented.

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Afternoon Tea
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(one of my friends recently flew BA Club World and he showed me a pic he had taken of their Afternoon Tea service and the difference was very obvious as BA served him the sandwiches still in a wrapper; no idea if that is the norm for BA (?) but VS present it so much better, even now they now longer use those cake stands. He was quite surprised when I showed him my pic of the same service)

Before long the cabin was being secured for our final approach into SFO. We had made up some of the delay as we landed around 14:30ish.

We where soon at the gate and so it was time to say goodbye to the excellent crew. Immigration looked to be deserted even though I headed to the Global Entry machines. I was through and at the baggage belt before anyone else. Bags did take around another 10 minutes of so to start coming off.

No waiting at the customs check point and before long I was heading outside for some nicotine before heading over to the BART to get me into the city.

All in all another great VS flight. The food was excellent as it's not very often I clear all my meal plates on a long-haul flight!! The crew was great as well and really did work hard and work as a team.
#930745 by buns
01 Jan 2017, 08:06
James

Thank you for the super TR - as usual, your comprehensive reporting left me with a very clear picture about the 787 Cabin and I will watch out for the "ledge" :)

May I wish you a Happy New Year

buns
#930813 by tomthumb
02 Jan 2017, 18:04
Cracking Trip Report and must admit that I want to do the SFO route as my sister lives in San Jose - not too far away.
#930816 by Hev60
02 Jan 2017, 18:19
Brilliant, comprehensive and interesting trip report. I shall be doing this route myself soon using the new 787 for the first time so I found all your comments and tips very helpful.
Hope you enjoy San Francisco where I think the weather was more settled recently than further down south.
#930820 by hiljil
02 Jan 2017, 19:08
Thank you for an enjoyable & informative TR . Interesting photos too.

Yes CW afternoon tea is not a patch on UC.
#930852 by marshy11
03 Jan 2017, 20:44
So pleased to hear of a great experience and even better for us with the photos to help illustrate it. Thanks for taking the time to post a comprehensive report. I know I love to read them time and again, particularly when it's a route I'm going to travel on.
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