Had done OLCI the day before the flight and still had my chosen seat of 8K (I prefer row 9 if possible). Made the journey up to Manchester and had an excellent meal in RED’s BBQ, then made my way back to the hotel. Was an interesting train ride back to Heald Green with err, “in-ride entertainment” as a couple were getting a lot more than a little familiar on the train (and it was only 10pm) – thought you only got this on Ryanair!
This is a Trip Report from the Upper Class cabin
Food & Drink
Slept well but woke up early as was in holiday mode. Whilst waiting for the taxi to the airport, Jersey Girl went in to land above me (the hotel was bang under the flight path) & this was to be my ride to Orlando later.
Upper Class check in was queue-less – in fact, some friends on the later VS73 were being checked-in at the desk as I arrived. Having checked ExpertFlyer at the hotel, I noticed 9K had become available, so I changed to that seat whilst at the desk. Security was not too bad – the staff in the priority lane were at least being proactive and sending non-disabled passengers to a different screening lane to the disabled / special needs passengers. Maybe Manchester airport are finally acting on comments that the priority lane was a joke for passengers without special needs?
Up to the Escape Lounge which was not over busy. No VS rep in there today, but the lounge staff explained how the Upper Class card works (free food basically). Joined by friends who had been in duty free / getting secondary security screening (bag fill of electrical / electronic stuff).
The VS75 went from “Go to gate” to “Boarding” very quickly (i.e. 5mins between the status change, which is unusual). I was dubious, but in the past the VS rep in the lounge has told me ignore “Go to gate” and only go when it changes to “Boarding” as this means the special assistance passengers are all boarded – and this was the case today. Got to gate 210 – very close to the lounge – just as the Upper Class boarding call was made. Straight onto Jersey Girl and into 9K. Bubbles were offered (Gardet) and refilled. We pushed back early and took off at about 10:40. Just under 8hrs 30mins to Orlando with 350 passengers onboard. Flight routing is pretty normal, over to Dublin, then Shannon / Galway area before joining a North Atlantic track to take us down the East coast of USA then start the descent into Orlando somewhere around Daytona Beach. Bad weather is currently expected on arrival – but we should be about 25mins early.
As we taxied out there was a nice collection of VS aircraft at MAN. G-VBIG was at gate 204 to form the VS73. There was another 747 on a remote stand (unusual to see 3 jumbo’s at MAN) and 2 Airbuses also on remote stands.
A fairly short takeoff roll followed & the seatbelt sign came off at about 10,000ft – then promptly came back on for 5mins. When it went off again I got the Macbook out and connected to the on-board wifi. It’s pretty impressive, I can stream HD video on YouTube with no buffering – will have to play around with it during the flight & see where the IP address you are given is based / try a VPN to fool BBC iPlayer etc.
I know 2 of the crew members working in Upper Class and they welcomed me back onboard – should be a good flight. Drink orders were taken after takeoff & promptly delivered, followed by lunch orders being taken. The menu is the same as my last flight in June, so see that TR for the menu if you want it – it must be due to change any day now as we’re just into September.
Lunch has now been served – had the parma ham & asparagus (left the latter) then the beef – both were acceptable. Passed on desert & went for the cheese. It’s now 2hrs since takeoff and the cabin has started to go into quiet mode. Interestingly, about half of the cabin have had their seats turned into beds – quite unusual for a daytime flight in my experience.
Thanks to the onboard wifi, I’ve just had a message from the friends on the VS73 – only 132 passengers on that flight! Bet both return flights from Orlando later will be ram-packed though due to the end of the school holidays.
During the quiet time the crew breaks were obviously taking place. There was an occasional pass through the Upper Class cabin to see if passengers wanted drinks, but the crew were not as pro-active / frequent with the drinks runs as others I’ve flown with have been. Interestingly, they did come round offering ice lollies at one point (no idea if this is a new thing or if they were just left over from Economy / Premium Economy due to the light passenger load). I do miss the mini tubs of ice cream though – they were nice.
As we approached Gander / St Johns on Newfoundland it got very bumpy for a while & the seatbelt signs were on. I messaged my friends on the VS73 to warn them to get toilet visits in well ahead of this area in case the conditions do not improve. Rather than flying down the eastern seaboard we stayed out a fair distance over the ocean. No idea if this was to avoid bad weather / turbulence or not, but the flight certainly got a lot smoother.
Afternoon food / tea orders were taken about 2 and a half hours out of Orlando & the food was served about 2 hours out. I asked to have my food a little later if possible & this was no trouble. The filo prawns, a sandwich and slice of carrot cake (odd combination I know) did the trick and filled a gap. In the past I have often left Upper Class flights to Orlando stuffed, but I don’t feel that way now, which is a good as an evening meal of some kind will help me to get used to the time change.
Landed exactly half an hour early at 2pm & had a quick taxi to gate 81. We had the usual “remain seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off” announcement from the flight deck. The FSM then did a PA asking everyone to close the window blinds and turn on all the air vents, so everyone was on their feet with seatbelts undone while we were still parking up at the gate.
Immigration was a breeze (empty hall & not as many people as normal in front of Upper passengers as downstairs PE had only been a third full). Through immigration in about 5 mins. Baggage was the delay today – it took a good 10mins for the first few bags to come through (all Upper ones) then nothing. After another 5 mins two baggage guys went down the belt to downstairs and clearly found a jam somewhere, as the bags came through quickly when the belt/carousel restarted. At 2:30pm (scheduled arrival time) I was in the main terminal heading for the rental car garage. 20min drive to the normal place we stay at on south I-Drive.
On arrival the weather looked very iffy – lots of grey cloud everywhere. It seems to have cleared a little now and brightened up, so need to decide what to do for the rest of the day until tiredness gets the better of us.
Back to Virgin – all in all a good solid flight. Nothing to complain about, but equally nothing worthy of a letter to Crawley Towers praising any individual crew member for going above & beyond what was required.
Finally, about the wifi – I coult not get speedtest to work for reasons unknown. You get a US IP Address based in Chicago on the system on the LGW/MAN 747’s. Speed is good – as mentioned earlier, streaming HD video on YouTube was not a problem (may be a different case if you’re on a business-heavy route where quite a few people may be using the wifi). My VPN software fooled BBC iPlayer that I was in the UK also.