I'd already decided to try the Retreat Suite upgrade for £200 which as before becomes available in manage your booking & the VS app at the T-14days point up to around the T-48hours point before departure. I booked and paid for this using the VS app. Once you select the seat, the next pages ask you for contact and then payment details. Once all that goes though you are emailed a new e-ticket with an extra charge on it. Paid of this using my VS Reward+ M/card and it shows as a normal VS ticketed transaction so hopefully I should get the bonus points for that transaction.
This is a Trip Report from the Upper Class cabin
Food & Drink
Interestingly once the seat is confirmed, you appear to be still able to select any other unoccupied seat in the Upper Class cabin. Not sure what would happen if you did this....I didn't want to find out so just left it alone! This was my seat map the day before departure so the other Retreat Seat showed as being blocked again.
OLCI completed the previous day again using the app. I had a late check-out at my hotel and so left around 4pm for an 8:50pm departure. I could see that G-VLDY was heading to TPA from LHR so would get the same A/C flying home.
TPA which was about a ~35min drive with the traffic. It's a relatively easy drive from/to TPA and car hire drop off is well sign-posted. Alamo are located on level 1. The monorail takes you from the car hire centre to the main terminal via a parking garage stop. VS check-in is located in the same area as DL & AF right at the far end from the monorail station down two levels. 2 desks for Upper Class check-in. No-one waiting in front of me. Once again the new yellow priority bag tag was attached to my checked bag. Check-in opens 4 hours before departure.
The agent mentioned they use the International Club Lounge which is located near gate 78 (she also wrote that location on my boarding pass). You head up 1 level for departures then head towards another monorail. There are 2 monorails depending on your departure gate. As you enter the station there are barriers where you have a photo automatically taken.
Once off the monorail, you enter security which was quick and painless. The TSA-Pre lane had no-one waiting in front of me. It's then a 5 minute walk or so to gate 78 and the lounge. I was first to arrive and greeted by a VS uniformed agent. There were no other airline using this lounge today. Hot and cold snacks are available including soup. Pizza slices were brought a few times whilst I was there. Hot and cold drinks with bar tender serving all the cold drinks including alcohol. Washrooms available in the lounge but no showers. There's a small luggage storage area and a few books & magazines to read. It's another windowless lounge though unfortunately. It still had a relaxing atmosphere though.
The lounge agent made an announcement informing everyone that the incoming A/C had arrived from LHR and was being cleaned etc. At around 20:15 another announcement was made asking everyone to gather by the lounge entrance as they would be escorting us to the gate. The only other airport were I've had this escort is MCO; no idea if they still do this there? It's only a few minutes walk to gate 88. Priority boarding was in use, however, the automatic facial recognition gated boarding system didn't want to work for me so an agent had to manual scan my boarding pass.
I was warmly welcomed at the A/C door and directed to my 1D Retreat Suite seat. The extra space the Retreat Suites have is immediately noticeable compared to the other seats. There is way more floor space between the seat and your buddy seat / IFE screen.
I'm 6' 2" and I barely managed to reach the buddy seat with my feet when the seat is in the fully up-right position, this seat like the A350 seat has a separate forwards - backward sliding movement option though so you can rest your feet on the buddy seat.
There no way you can reach the massive 27' IFE touch screen with your seatbelt on. You either need to link your device and use that or use the remote control.
To give you a sense of for much more room you get comparing this seat to the window seats; if looking down on the cabin, the Retreat Suite seat sit further back compared to either of the row 1 widow seats do and the IFE screen is further forward than the window seat IFE screens as the middle bulk head wall is nearer the front of the cabin. You cans sort of see this in the photo IMG_1075 below. I would say there is more than double the available floor space in the Retreat Suites compared to the other seats.
There are 2 sliding doors on the suite. A full size one and a half-width door which almost meet in the middle. These doors are once again locked in the open position for take-off. After take-off in the closed position:
The seat itself including it's operation is exactly the same as the others in this cabin:
On the right hand side of seat 1D there are 2 extra deep storage bins. The white section nearest you is the first one, this is also where the slide out table is stored. There is also another similar sized storage bin forward of that one next to the IFE screen / buddy seat. In there I found 2 extra cushions as well
Unlike the other seats where the table folds in half, the table in the Retreat Suites comes in one piece and feels much more substantial. It's quite heavy and not the easiest thing to get out (there is actually a sign next to it stating to seek crew assistance if required to get the table out). It's spring loaded so you have to push it down to unlock it before pulling it up and then outwards:
The table then can slide forwards or backwards as required.
The buddy seat appears to lift up and lock into position. I couldn't work out how to do this myself so again crew assistance would be required for this.
No-one was sat in the other Retreat Suite so I kept my divider open for the flight. I did close it though to see what it was like (sorry not the most exciting photo):
You can operate this part of the divider yourself and again you push on it to unlock it then slide it to the closed position.
The forward part of the portion is also removable and lowers, though this requires crew assistance. I didn't try that either on this flight sorry.
The other Retreat Suite has the storage bins on the same side but due to the suite entrance, there only looks to be one storage bin on that seat:
That suite also has the full size + half sized sliding door. From an accessibility point of view 1D would be much easier to get in and out if as 1G has the storage areas to negotiate to sit down. 1D would also be much more wheelchair friendly as well.
This evening's flight time would be ~8Hrs 15 mins. The service onboard this evening's flight was spot on again. The FSM came and said hello and all the crew working in Upper Class were all amazing. A couple of empty seats in J. The seat map showed a lot more empty seats in other cabins.
Crew offering the usual pre-departure drinks and another drinks service after take-off. I went for the speedy super option which was tomato soup and a cheese toasty. I asked to be woken for breakfast. I slept reasonable well. When in fully flat bed mode, it felt longer than other seats with the extra size of the buddy seat ( I briefly put my 4A seat in bed mode on the outbound flight just to try it).
In comparison to the B789 / A333 J seat in bed mode; being 6' 2" I can easily touch the end of the ottoman with my feet. No such issues on the A339 certainly in the Retreat Suite.
Breakfast was nice and tasty. I didn't use the loft on this over-night flight. Due to the misty weather at LHR we have a minor delay landing but was only about 15 minutes late.
As usual the passport e-gates spat me out again along with many others. Boarder Force had 1 agent working the 'seek assistance' desk was clearly working in slow mode as well this morning as quite the queue was starting to form
Those UK passport e-gates are not fit for purpose.
Luggage already coming off the carousel once I got downstairs which was a first for VS at LHR for me. My last few VS flights I've had to wait >30mins every time for luggage. Maybe LHR is finally getting on top of its staffing issues?
Headed up to Revivals which was in manual check-in mode due to another one of those now infamous all to common VS IT issues so was taking quite some time to process arriving pax.
All in all another great VS flight. The Retreat Suite experience has hooked me in and I'd be happy to pay for it again. My next VS in may to JFK is showing an A339 so far