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#933134 by Amo
27 Feb 2017, 22:40
Ground Staff
Food & Drink
Cabin Crew
Greetings all - I have been rather quiet on here of late (not that I couldn't have mustered an opinion on the new VS website...but I don't want to get blocked for excessive use of profanities...) by way of an apology, have a TR!

I travelled up to Gatwick the day before as is my custom. Due to the extortionately priced Premier Inn (for some reason unknown to me!) I had booked at the Hampton by Hilton for the first time which was cheaper AND included breakfast in the price.

This hotel is connected directly to the North Terminal by a walkway - the walk really only was a minute or two so perfect for VS's new home. I am afraid dear readers that I did have a moment of confusion the night before as I went to have a nose at the new VS area - I didn't know this was on the 2nd floor of the terminal so spent several minutes confuzzled by the entire area on the 1st floor being dominated by Easy Jet before asking a helpful information person where to find Virgin Atlantic!! I must be getting old (and blind apparently!)

After a very comfortable night at the Hampton - definitely recommended, I headed to the check in area around 0800. I was seen fairly quickly by a very friendly agent. This was an improvement on past experiences at Gatwick as I have never found the UC agents to be terribly welcoming so thumbs up here.

I went through Premium Security in a matter of moments and so quickly found myself the other side and on the hunt for the new Clubhouse. My goodness - it's a bit of a walk - right at the other end of the terminal it seemed to me, still plenty of opportunity to work up an appetite. I did find the clubhouse very easily and the was thrilled to see that the Gatwick Clubhouse experience is a wonderful as ever. I was warmly welcomed and given a quick tour of the new place. It's lovely - the views are much better than before - actually looking out towards the runway. I booked my facial in first - heavenly is the only word to describe it - I find it really sets me up for the day.

I then sat down for some brekkie - Eggs Florentine - wonderful! As it was my first time in this clubhouse, I thought it would be rude not to celebrate so a champagne was swiftly delivered also. The clubhouse really was a delight from start to finish - I am so pleased it hasn't been "enhanced" in any way by the move!

We were called for boarding bang on time and Priority Boarding was in effect at the gate. I settled into the cabin and began to stow my things. Seat area could have been cleaner but the seat itself was comfy. Unfortunately we had one of the LHR planes so no bar and the slightly older style of entertainment system (no touch screen). This was a shame but given that I don't use the bar anyway, it didn't affect me too much.

I had heard rumours via v flyer of a new champagne on board, unfortunately I made the mistake of not checking first. It was still the Gardet - and boy oh boy did it hit the palette hard after the delights of Lanson in the the CH! I have decided that Lanson must have some sort of toothpaste effect and drinking Gardet afterwards is akin to orange juice!

We were a little late pushing back as we waited for the Montego Bay flight to move away from us first. This coupled with unfavourable en route winds meant we were looking at a delay of around 40mins into Orlando. I believe we had somewhere between 200 and 230 people on board so plenty of room down the back and that combined with the 747's engines meant that take off was even more effortless than usual.

The cabin crew were released soon after takeoff to take the drinks orders. No hot towel this time - I don't know if that is an "enhancement" or just that it wasn't done. We did get a hot towel for landing where the one given to me was so scalding hot that I instantly had to throw it on my seat before my fingerprints were burnt off - yes really!

The CSS serving our cabin was very efficient - nothing "wow", no introductions, no checking if anyone needed any help with the suite or if they were a first timer in UC etc. However that being said, I would rather have a consistent service with the CC there if you needed anything which was what I got. The FSM was also visible throughout, and came round quite a few times to check we were OK for drinks and anything else. I never felt like I was looking for someone to ask for anything, a quick glance in their direction as they walked through and they would come over - just want I wanted really!

The food options were mentioned on a TR recently. I had the halloumi salad, the mushroom stronganoff and the marmalade bread pudding. I was apprehensive about seeing mushrooms as the only veggie option but actually the dish itself was alright. The standout dish for me was the pudding - delicious! I didn't have room for cheese and biscuits which was shame as they looked very tempting. I asked for a brandy which wasn't being served with the cheese and biscuits (port only on the trolly today) but was immediately fetched by the efficient CSS.

I overdosed on movies this flight, having not been to the cinemas in about a year, I had a lot to catch up on - I think I had managed 5 movies by the end of the 9.5 hours!

I missed the mid flight ice cream greatly - the snacks available at the bar weren't as good as last time either - what happened to the Green & Black chocolate bars?!

Afternoon Tea or Extra Bites was proactively offered to everyone in the cabin about two hours before landing. I was still pretty stuffed so just opted for some tea and a scone. Simples but it hit the spot! The chap next to me had the burger which certainly smelled very nice - can't comment on how it tasted though.

We started our descent and took the longest possible taxi back to the gate courtesy of the NE wind direction. We even went over a road - reminded me of Schipol! I wasn't too concerned about our late arrival as I knew most of the the other international flights were due to land around 1730 so hoped that it would give the immigration hall a chance to calm down. For once my hopes had come to pass - immigration was nearly empty as we walked down the ramp! They didn't appear to be using any automated machines at this time. I was through in about 5 mins! The baggage took a bit longer to appear. I wonder if they held it back for a while to let the other flights collect their bags and clear customs first.......which if that was the case meant it worked very well for the VS flight as we spent less time queuing.

Anyway mine was amongst the first 10 or so bags off so I joined the (new, better organised) queue for customs and was out to meet my family soon afterwards.

Overall a solid flight with an efficient crew. It was a bit of a shame to have the plane with no bar - again I don't really use it, but the whole cabin just looks a bit "meh" without it whereas on my first ever UC flight it really made me go "Wow". I have only been flying UC for about 3 years now but I can't help but feel every time I get on a plane (which happens to be at roughly yearly intervals), something else from the service has been taken away (ice cream) or been replaced by something not as good (Gardet rather than Lanson). One big exception here though is the new Gatwick Clubhouse which is just as good as the old one only with better views!

Thanks for reading.
#933139 by buns
28 Feb 2017, 06:55

Thank you very much for such a detailed and enjoyable TR.

With things now in the North Terminal, it is going to take us all a little while before the "auto pilot' kicks in :) I myself had a recce of the new layout a few weeks back and am doubly grateful for the details you have provided as I cannot wait to see the new Clubhouse next week.

If there is one consistent coming out in V Flyer over the past weeks, it is how the new Clubhouse has retained its place as the best in the VS stable and that the co-location with the V Room does not seem to have had any impact.

I know what you mean about the on board service - this is where the "enhancements" have had greatest impact - no green and black, no ice cream and of course reduced staff numbers. If V Flyers can notice, then VS Senior Management must be having a case of "enhanced blindness"

Thanks once again, and keep that sun shining :-D

#933298 by tomthumb
03 Mar 2017, 21:22
Many thanks for the Trip Report and I agree with your sentiments on the enhancements- No Black and Greens - criminal

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