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#938142 by SlimpyJones
06 Sep 2017, 21:43
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Preamble

As with many of my trips, this was the result of a general browse around Google Flights looking for solid deals. I had a summer trip to book. Many of my recent travels had been to the US, and as a mainly solo traveller I felt like doing something a bit different, so was eyeing up deals to Cancun, Cape Town, or somewhere relatively comfortable during the summer months.

After almost settling on Cancun, I noticed Mexico City was an option. Mexico City is a bit of an unloved destination. Perhaps it conjures up images of gang violence, cartel wars, poverty and street muggings. In fact each person I told about my idea expressed concerns about my safety and what on earth I was thinking. But almost the opposite was true when reading travel blogs, video guides and other online accounts. Turns out it was actually quite a popular destination with plenty of things to see, eat and do. It also had an interesting history and there were some fascinating out-of-town activities as well.

Being not much of a party-goer, this seemed like a far better idea than Cancun.

The direct options from LHR were Aeromexico and BA. I think AM picked the cheap slots as their flight left Heathrow in the late hours of the evening and got into MEX at around 3am so that option was out, and I'd rather not give BA my money. Fortunately, Delta had connecting options via Atlanta and a handful of other destinations. So I took a punt on a reasonably good Upper Class/Business deal and went for it. It was to be LHR-ATL-MEX on the way out, and MEX-JFK-LHR on the way back. And so it was done!

My last few trips have all started at some ungodly hour of the morning and involved travelling to LHR from my home in Huntingdon on the day of the flight. As the VS103 departed at 11am, I opted for an overnight stop at the Ibis on Bath Road outside Heathrow. It's a perfectly adequate place to stop for the night and it did everything I needed it to do for £42.

LHR

I think I'm going to do the pre-flight hotel much more regularly. The day started at 6am which was far more reasonable I thought. I was out of the hotel 10 minutes later and was lucky to catch a bus almost immediately as I got to the stop. It was only a few stops away from Heathrow Central and the walk was equally easy.
Being a curious type, I couldn't help but look through the sealed off walkway to T1. I didn't fancy taking a picture owing to the two security-types watching me..

Made it to Heathrow for around half 6. Zone A was moderately busy already, with the Delta Security desks backing up quite a long way. The lady checking me in was friendly and chatty and adorned my case with not one but three priority luggage stickers. The purple VS Upper Class label, a yellow Sky Priority one and another Virgin Priority tag. Way to make a guy feel important!

Up the lift and through the Upper Class Wing. The security line was non-existent and owing to the scrum downstairs, I was grateful I wasn't in the regular one.

Clubhouse time!

Clubhouse time started at 6:45. Which would give me a decent three and a half hours to indulge. Made the usual dash to the spa desks where I sought a haircut appointment. Alas, I had come on a day where neither of my two favourite hairdressers were in! Ah well.
Not in the mood for a cooked breakfast, I headed over to the Deli to have some cold cuts. The lady behind the counter didn't really make much eye contact and was quite distant with me, and the other guests after me. Not the greatest start to the morning admittedly, but I had my meats and cheeses so I was content for now.

Haircut was had by a new lady who was nice, and then followed up with a lovely steam shower. It seems as part of the refurb the showers had also been given some TLC, with huge coloured glass panels replacing the rather stained looking tiles that used to be there.

Next up was a trip to the bar and posting a wave to you fine people, along with some snaps of the new "cinema" area. In possession of a Dark and Stormy, I took one of the seats in the new area and watched some of the cycling. I really like this area. Instead of the old (and often broken) headphones hanging off a stand, you now need to plug your own into some speakers set by each of the chairs.

After I'd had enough I spent some time talking to one of the concierge ladies about some missing Clubhouse Guest Passes from renewing my Gold status. She was very helpful in chasing them up. Then it was back to the bar where I availed the Clubhouse of some pancakes, then a sausage sandwich... all while sipping whiskey.

It was a lovely morning so I headed upstairs with a beer into the garden (which I technically shouldn't bring a drink into... whoops!). The conditions were perfect and this was the first time I'd ever been able to use the garden in nice weather. I spent the time relaxing in the warm sun, drinking a beer, watching the planes takeoff. At that place and time I was thoroughly in my element, and I hadn't even stepped on a plane yet. Alas, owing to milking my phone data allowance on the way down I hadn't enough to use my Flightradar app to identify who was going where! Oh well.

ImageThe pool table has made a triumphant return to the loft

ImageGood times..

ImageG-VFAN pushing back before heading to LAX

Sadly though my time had ended. Far too premature as always! And so at 10:20 it was off to Gate 19 to board G-VFIT for the flight to Atlanta...

Image
Annoyingly the Economy queue moved faster at the gate, but at least I had no SSSS on my boarding pass this time! Boarding was already in progress and so down the Upper jetway!

On board

I noticed, as others have, that no water was handed out on boarding. Either way, I was warmly welcomed on board at the very front of the plane. I had selected 7A in the months before as it seemed to have a mix of privacy and the ability to see the rest of the plane.

7A actually has the "snooze zone" curtain between it and 8A so I imagine this seat is nice and private when (or if?) the curtain is ever used.

ImageThe view from 7A. Someone with bare feet already... ugh!

My only complaint at the time was that my IFE screen was in pretty bad nick, after popping it out of it's home the casing was completely loose!

ImageOoops!

Not only that, but the screen itself didn't work at all. I managed to flag down a passing member of cabin crew to let her know. She said she'd see if she could get an engineer on board to take a look at it. In the meantime she left me with a glass of champagne, and the flight time was announced as 8 hours 55 minutes with quite a Northerly route today.

After having a little chat with my neighbour in 6A, it turned out it wasn't possible to get an engineer on as we were too close to departure. Fortunately though there were some free seats on the opposite side of the cabin that I could switch over to. I felt bad to abandon my neighbour quite so soon, but I wanted IFE!

I sat down in 11K. Almost immediately, the chap in 10K asked if I'd be willing to swap so he could sit next to his brother in 12K. I obliged, and so now I was in 10K! Musical chairs completed, I was finally settled in my third seat of the flight. And we hadn't even left yet!

ImageThe view from my new seat, 11K

The cabin crew lady who I spoke to before was actually taking care of the A-side. She and I had a good humoured exchange about the recent seat swapping. So far the crew were doing well!

And so the doors were closed with 231 on board. Upper had a handful of spares, mostly the G seats. On my wanderings, there were a few empty middle seats in Premium and the odd row free in Economy.

We pushed back on time and after a fairly long wait, we finally took off to the West at 11:30am.

A nice welcome back

After the seatbelt sign disappeared, I got up to use the toilets. As they were both occupied I waited up by the bar and chatted to the cabin crew setting it up. My IFE troubles had clearly spread through the galley as they all seemed to know who I was! We took a minute or two to clarify who was now in which seat too!
At that moment, I was approach by the FSM to shake my hand and welcome me back as a Gold flyer. Which hadn't happened in nearly a year! It was a very nice welcome surprise and cemented that I knew this was going to be a good trip over.

Back at my seat and the chap doing the drinks round on the K-side seats greeted each passenger by name and asked if they needed any assistance with the seat controls. This was great to see as it was lacking on my last UC trip a few months prior.

I opted for a Kentucky Maid and asked also for a bottle of water. The CC was surprised I didn't have one and implied it should have been on my seat. Both arrived along with the standard bowl of crisps. The cocktail was very good.

Settling down

Since there were no episodes of Travel Man or any other TV show I fancied watching, I went to the Movies section and started watching Mindhorn, starring Julian Barratt from the Mighty Boosh.

About an hour in, lunch orders were taken. The menu was still from the June cycle, so it will have been posted here many times before and has probably expired now so I shall not repeat it here. I opted for the Parma Ham & Asparagus to start and took a punt on the Beef Fillet as the main.

ImageParma Ham & Asparagus starter

The Asparagus tasted good but it was rather wilted and quite soft. The Ham tasted a bit strange. I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different about it, but it was incredibly salty (moreso than I would expect parma ham to be). All in all, a bit of a let down.

Onto the main...

ImageFillet of Beef with new potatoes and béarnaise sauce

The Beef was a little overcooked for my tastes, though it was still easy to cut and chew and it tasted nice. Although it was a little on the small side (again, for my tastes!). The potatoes and sauce were very good. Overall, the dish was good.

At this point we were just south of Iceland and it looked like we would actually pass over Greenland. Plates were cleared away promptly and I requested the chocolate sponge pudding for dessert. I'm afraid I wolfed it down far too quickly to catch a picture. Rest assured it was very delicious though :P

I decided to leave my seat and get my cheese and port course at the bar. In the end I actually spent a good hour or so at the bar chatting to various cabin crew who came and went. It was really nice to get the chance to socialise with them and talk to them about the various aspects of their jobs. All of them were happy to chat and it was an excellent experience. I also developed a taste for Port in the process...

Half way there

After I'd spoken to pretty much every member of the crew covering the Upper cabin, I headed back to my seat. The cabin had quietened down and the windows had been closed to allow people to sleep. Why this happens during a daytime flight I will never really be sure.

We had indeed passed over Greenland but I was too busy at the bar to remember to take pictures! I instead completed a Sudoku game as nothing else took my fancy in the movies section. With about three hours to go we were well into Canada. I fancied a mini-burger and the CC was happy to oblige.

The burger arrived after about 15 minutes and although the alleged BBQ crisps did not materialise, there was a side of pulled pork! Even though the bun was stone cold, it was really tasty and smelt amazing. My neighbours picked up the scent...

ImageMini Burger with pulled pork

I decided to stretch my legs again and headed over to the bar. Shortly after I was joined by the chap I had swapped seats with and his brother, who were travelling down to Central America (I forget exactly where...). The two of them took inspiration from me and both ordered a mini-burger each. Theirs arriving with avocado!

After they returned to their seats I had a chance to talk to the FSM about my travels, and a bit about the comparison between the Virgin Upper and Delta One seats. He acknowledged that there was definitely a lack of storage with the Virgin seats. And in what could be a V-Flyer exclusive, he revealed that some new seats were in testing for the A350s! He didn't elaborate much and I didn't want to quiz him further on this lest he gets himself in trouble but I imagine there will be speculation in due course.

Once we were over Pennsylvania the cabin started to come back to life again. The CC were doing the rounds asking if passengers required anything to drink or if they wanted anything from the Light Bites menu. Nice to see these being proactively offered. I asked for the finger sandwiches and a cup of tea. I was sad to see that the "trio of cakes" I relied on so much previously were no longer adorned on the menu :(

The sandwiches and my tea arrived promptly!

ImageFinger sandwiches and tea

On approach

Some "real" turbulence hit as we crossed into Virginia and for the first time the seatbelt signs turned on. Around the same time the flight deck announced that we had begun our initial descent. I decided to find the FSM to thank him for a great flight and to get the names of the crew who had looked after us, as they were all brilliant. Feedback has been sent to Crawley Towers.

Seatbelt signs went on permanently around thirty minutes before arrival. Lovehearts did the rounds too. I've not seen those in a while!

We flew past ATL and turned around for an Westerly approach and touched down at 15:22 local time. A short taxi to the F Terminal and we were parked up at gate F4 at 15:30, bang on time next to G-VWAG who had arrived from Manchester around 15 minutes earlier.

Transiting at ATL

Thanks to the magic of Global Entry I was through immigration in a matter of minutes. My bag also materialised on the carousel after a short wait. While waiting I checked out the tags of the other bags going past. Lots of bags heading to Orlando, Nassau and Montego Bay.

After grabbing my bag and heading through customs, I checked the boards for my next flight - DL131 to Mexico City. Bizarrely though, my flight had been cancelled, but another DL flight was leaving for MEX at the exact same time. Confused, I headed to the recheck desk where the agent explained that there had been a change to the flight number... how very puzzling.

Nonetheless, the bag was re-dropped and I was through security quickly. I decided to locate the gate I was departing from in the E terminal to avoid any nasty surprises. After locating my gate I absconded myself into one of the Terminal E skyclubs to grab a shower and wait for my flight down to Mexico.

The connecting flight was good, but not really remarkable enough to warrant a trip report of it's own. I finally landed into MEX and 21:50 local time (6 hours behind the UK) and at my AirBnb in Condensa at 23:30. Another 24 hour day!

Return trip reports MEX-JFK and JFK-LHR (both on Delta) to come, featuring close calls and full spectrums of emotions!

Thanks very much for reading. :)

ImageGreetings from Teotihuacan!
#938145 by honey lamb
06 Sep 2017, 22:51
Lovely TR with loads of detail and photos.

Thanks for posting
#938146 by Bretty
07 Sep 2017, 00:00
An excellent TR tanks, and with photos! Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for travelling, which comes trough so clearly, and great to read a positive report showing how great VS can be when the crew are on form.

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