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#962102 by mitchja
29 Sep 2021, 14:43
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Sorry but this has turned into a mammoth TR. I've broken it down into sections to make things a little easier....

About 6 weeks ago, with no sign of the US boarders opening I rang Flying Club and changed my MAN>JFK booking for early September to MAN>BGI return Z fare instead. This was completely painless to do and I got through to an agent in under 10 minutes (I believe VS have now re-instated the Flying Club Gold priority lines again now).

No difference in fare even though my inbound fare would now be an Upper Class I fare (so double tier points :cool: ) and I’d received my new e-ticket within 10 minutes.

Off to Barbados it was then! Last time I flew to BGI was 10th June 1997 so approx 24 years ago :-O

Time to research everything I needed for flying to Barbados which is on the current green traffic light list. If you are fully vaccinated (which I am) you only need to quarantine until you get your arrival test result as you can also do this in your resort / hotel. Un-vaccinated need to quarantine a full 5 days, taking a second PCR test 5 days after arrival (as well as an arrival test).

Pre-flight COVID-19 testing

As I’d booked the Crane I can quarantine here in the resort, which lets me do pretty much everything within the resort apart from use the beach, the spa, the gym or leave the resort itself.

The Crane operate a coloured wristband system. You are given the wrist bands at check-in. I’m currently wearing my blue one as I’m still in quarantine until I receive my arrival test result.

Test number 1 - needs to be done no more than 3 days before your departure date (this does not need to be time specific based on your departure flight time as I’ve seen a few people worry about timing their test correctly). Barbados require this test to be a full PCR test administer by a professional taking both nasal and throat swabs and also has to be an approved / accredited lab. So no home testing, rapid PCR or LAMP tests.

Test number 2 - on arrival at BGI. You have a couple of options for this. Either request a free one at the airport or book and pay for one privately performed at your hotel. A couple of hotels do have their own test labs (The Crane and Sandals; there may be others as well).

There is a list of approved hotels you can stay in all of which can be found at https://www.visitbarbados.org/covid-19- ... lines-2021. I picked The Crane Resort. They are offering special rates which include arrival and departure testing. You can prebook your test online or just turn up. I’d recommend pre-booking as their can be a wait if you just show up and it does get busy.

You can also book The Crane via Hilton as well, however, they don't offer inclusive testing or the full range of room types available when booking direct.

Test number 3 - the UK gov 2 day before arriving back home test. I purchased a flow lateral test for this and brought it with me which was before I’d booked The Crane resort so I’ve also booked a full departure PCR test there too.

Test number 4 - a full PCR test 2 days after your return.

I booked test 1 using ExpressTest as they seem to offer my nearest drive-thru location (Burnley Turf moor football ground) as well as having good reviews offering reasonably quick test results. ExpressTest are an approved test lab for travelling to Barbados. As I was due to fly Monday 27th, I booked my test for Friday 24th. Again, don’t worry about precise times. Just as long as it’s no more 3 days before you fly you are good to go. There is a section on the visit Barbados website above to calculate you test date based on your departure date.

My test was 10:30 and I received my results the following day around 15:00. It does state results can take unto 48 hours though.

Once I’ve got the test result I could fill in the online Barbados immigration form. You are required to upload your test result as well as your vaccination status. You can also does this via the BIMSafe app as well. That all came back straight away and I instantly received my arrival immigration QR code via email.

The Flight

I’d pre-booked parking at the MAN T2 West carpark which is now the closest to the new terminal entrance (the T2 East carpark is also still in use which is the one opposite the old T2 departures). If you prebook it’s drive straight in and out as they use a number plate recognition system at the car park barriers.

There are several other parking options at MAN but I’d rather pay a little more to use self parking with a short walk to the terminal.

The West multi-storey carpark is linked to the new terminal via an indoor walkway. The check-in desks are still where they always used to be in the ‘old’ section of departures but you no longer go up the steps to security instead head back to zone E in the new section.

Before being able to check-in I was asked to show my proof of negative COVID / fit to fly test. You are also handed a Barbados Health authority form to fill in before you land requesting a few bits of info including your contact and hotel details. Once this check has been done you are issued with one of those red VS stickers on your passport. I’ve missed those! Check-in was quick and efficient with no issues.

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There are at least 9 security lanes, 3 of which where in use today. Fast-track was in use and work very well actually which is a very pleasant change for MAN T2. Lets see what happens when passenger numbers ramp up though.

Security was pretty efficient and seems to be working well. It’s then just a short walk up an escalator and through the duty free to reach the main new terminal area. Its very spacious and feels light and airy. Much much better than the old T2. There are still a number of un-opened retailers but the basic requirements are all there. The airline lounges are located on the upper level via the escalator, lift or stairs. Not sure where the new VS Clubhouse is gong to be? I was going to ask the VS staff in the lounge but there weren’t any.

The 1903 and Escape lounges are next to each other sharing the same entrance. VS are currently using the 1903 lounge along with SQ (that I saw whilst there, there may be other airlines using it too).

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The lounge is a massive improvement on the previous Escape+ lounge and wait for it…….yes it has it’s own bathrooms now as well - something the Escape+ lounge lacked.

It’s all self service but there are also wait staff around as well. As this was early morning, breakfast was on offer. All the usual including freshly cooked toast etc. There is a chef & kitchen so it looks like other meal times may well offer more substantial food offerings.

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Nice views of the airfield with windows on 2 sides. I think I counted about 6 parked VS A/C?

Whilst I didn’t come across any uniformed VS staff in the lounge, they do announce the flight departure (which is only the VS77 3 days a week at the minute).

Left the lounge and headed to gate 206 - they are still using the old departure gates as well as well as the new ones. Follow the signs and they take you back along the end of security into the ‘old’ section of T2. Whilst the gates are still in use, none of the shops etc are though.

Boarding had already commenced and so I was able to walk straight onto the aircraft. I was warmly welcomed and directed to my seat 3K.

The aircraft as a B789 G-VAHH Dream Girl. Everything onboard was in good condition and appeared to work. The seat was very clean actually so it looks like VS are keeping their promise when it comes to cabin cleanliness.

Amenity kits, PPE kits, menus and full size water bottles where on each seat.

It’s been 19 months since I’d last set foot onboard a VS (or another) aircraft. Pre-departure drinks where offered as usual. All the crew where very friendly, professional and a credit to VS. This continued throughout the whole flight as well.

All pax where onboard with time to spare, the door was closed and we pushed back on time. Todays flight would take approx. 7hrs and 59mins. Upper Class had 1 empty seat, Premium was full and Economy looked to be about half full.

The on-board service VS provide at the minute in Upper Class is slightly different as they now use trolleys to serve meals and main meal sides come with plastic covers on the plates. It not massively different than normal and certainly not below the normal VS standards.

Once airborne the FSM came and introduced himself to me.

A drinks service was offered shortly after take-off again served from a trolley but other than that its was the same as always.

The menu on todays flight:

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I had the Roast Cod which was delicious. Fish does seem to work very well as an onboard aircraft meal and I’d pick the fish option every time over other choices.

The IFE worked well with a reasonable selection of films which kept me occupied during the flight.

The on-board bar is now in use again and it did get used during the flight by several pax including me. I didn’t stay long though.

The crew where all very visible and on hand during the entire flight. Ice creams where handed out mid flight too.

Afternoon tea was served around the usual 90mins or so before landing. Again other than the plates having plastic covers on, this was up to the same high standards as ever.

I’ve said it before but VS have really got their on-board catering spot on now for Upper Class. It’s never been as good IMHO. It’s still as good as ever even now.

Not long after the after tea service was cleared, the cabin was started to be secured for landing into BGI and we landed at 14:27 almost 40 mins early.

A VS A333 from LHR was already on the ground at BGI. Steps where some in place using door L2. Said my goodbyes and thanked the crew. Onto a bus for a very quick ride to the terminal.

All in all a fantastic flight made even better by a great crew :cool: :D

I been flying VS now for 21 years and flown over 130 VS flights and I don’t want to offend anyone here but I’ve always maintained the following theory about VS. If you put VS MAN based crews together with LHR VS ground facilities and A/C you have a real winning combination. MAN ground facilities and A/C are now catching up so I really really do wish VS every success from MAN and I hope things go from strength to strength out of MAN.

I’m more than happy to fly VS again from MAN now the new terminal is open, security is improved as well as the lounge situation I’ve got 4 VS Upper Class bookings so far ahead of me and 3 of those are flying from MAN.

Before this flight I was a little apprehensive about flying again and I was a little concerned about how I’d manage wearing a mask this entire ~8hr flight. To be perfectly honest, it was a piece of cake and I even forgot I had my mask on a couple of times when trying to drink something without removing my mask! No hesitations what so ever is flying long-haul again whilst wearing a mask. VS provide you with 3 or 4 masks in your PPE pack. I also took my own. They just ask that you wear one at all times when not eating or drinking and change it every 4 hours. The PPE pack also contains a sealable disposal bag to put all your PPE waste in. As far as I could see, everyone seemed to be complying with the mask rule.

BGI Arrivals Procedure

Having spoken to someone at work who flys to BGI a fair bit, they recommended I book one of the priority arrivals service. A few companies do this, but I was recommended Platinum Services Ltd.

They offer various services, with their priority arrival service costing approx £41 per person. Before arriving they ask they you send them your proof of vaccination, pre departure proof of negative COVID test and a copy of your passport.

You are met by one of their agents as soon as you step off the bus from the A/C. They escort you through the priority health screening arrivals area. You first show your proof of vaccination. I’ve printed mine off via the download link from the NHS app. They take the Barbados Health authority form you where given at check-in. The then finally ask to see your proof of pre departure negative COVID test. You are then given a blue wrist band. A I had already pre-booked my arrival PCR test at the Crane Resort I was then allowed to move though into immigration. You place your passport on the scanners and show your immigration QR code which is generated before your departure. Finally you collect you luggage and that it. As soon as I reached the carousel my bag appeared.

The queue for the none-priority health screening and airport testing looked quite long!

You are then just asked to pay for the Platinum Arrivals service via their office which is the arrivals area. Best £41 I’ve spent and I’m recommend Platinum to everyone. Well worth it.

Aircraft to taxi was 20 mins. I was checking in at the Crane by 15:30. That took longer actually as my room wasn’t quite ready as they where still filling my pool.
#962103 by buns
29 Sep 2021, 15:41
James

Thank You for such a detailed TR of the VS flying experience in these challenging times.

Great to see the on board experience is as good as ever and just like the good old days :-D :-D

The new lounge facilities at MAN certainly look very appealing and are in stark contrast to the overcrowded BA facilities at LHR

Enjoy the rest of your stay at The Crane and thank for re-igniting my desire to get back on board a VS aircraft

Buns
#962104 by ScoobySu
29 Sep 2021, 16:56
Thank you James for the detailed trip report! MAN definitely looks much improved!
#962105 by Murraymint
29 Sep 2021, 18:18
Thank you James for this fantastic TR. It is pleasing to hear that MAN has finally upped it’s game and hopefully this will continue as passenger numbers ramp up - my next 2 trips are from LHR so not sure when I’ll be in MAN again.
As you say, one really needs to be on top of the admin when travelling at the moment but it looks like you had that sorted without any problems.

Enjoy your stay!
#962108 by Treelo
30 Sep 2021, 10:13
Thank for the great TR, James, how lovely to read one again! Hope you enjoyed Barbados.
We're now looking forward even more to May and our first trip in almost 2 years - Roll on!!
Again, thanks for taking the trouble to post
#962110 by VS075
30 Sep 2021, 13:12
Thanks for the TR James. Good to see you gave MAN a second chance now more parts of the redeveloped T2 are open and are impressed. I'm looking forward to trying it out myself.

Thanks as well for the details about the testing protocols at Barbados. We're currently looking into potential late honeymoon options for next Spring and Barbados is a candidate given their procedures and given our original desire to head east is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon. The steps we need to follow seem straightforward enough providing everything is done in order and when they're supposed to be done by.
#962111 by mitchja
30 Sep 2021, 13:57
Having a wonderful time at The Crane. So good to see my Flying Club points and tier point balance increasing again as well :cool:

It’s also very easy to social distance here and Barbados mandates wearing masks everywhere in public areas apart from around the resort pools or when eating and drinking. Hand sanitising stations are available before entering all buildings and temperature checks are performed before entering bars and restaurants.

As my room has its own private pool (quite a few rooms here do) I technically don’t even need to step for outside my door. Most of the restaurants do take out and ordering online. The resort general store will also do deliveries and online ordering as well. I have a full kitchen in the room. There is also of course room service.

I’m guessing guest numbers here are down compared to usual as none of the pools or restaurants are particularly busy.

I have not locked myself away here though by any means!


All the form filling in and testing procedures etc are pretty straight forward for Barbados. They have the health screening and arrival procedures down to a fine art at the airport.

Do keep checking the Barbados Travel protocol website though as things are still changing slightly every couple of weeks.

Once thing I didn’t mention but it’s not a issue for me at all it that there is currently a curfew in operation throughout Barbados. It’s currently 21:00-05:00 Mon to Sat and 18:00-05:00 on Sundays so all bars and restaurants including those in resorts take last orders an hour or so before these times in order to allow the staff to get home.
#962119 by flyingfox
30 Sep 2021, 22:03
An enjoyable and informative TR James thank you for the detail. I wonder if the “extra bites” are available at any time after the main meal service or is it the planned last meal? West coast flights are long as you know without something like the burgers etc they used to provide.
#962125 by ColOrd
30 Sep 2021, 23:50
Mitchja, this TR has really warmed my heart, seeing things get back to normal and glad you had a great flight. I am in a similar position to yourself, I haven't travelled since Dec 2019. Fingers crossed, it looks like my Christmas trip this year will go ahead.

I kinda agree with you in principle about Manchester crew, I have have flown with Manc crews three times, my first ever two flights MAN-MCO-MAN and then a few years later a week after JFK launched my trip was LHR-JFK-MAN and I agree Manc crews have a warm "Northernness" about them, you and I both know that we northerners are just better, but I leave that debate for another forum! If the CH can really match the LHR experience, then even from Peterborough, I would happily channel some of my VS trips through Manchester as I really want the base to work for VS, but also for added connectivity from the North's primary airport!
#962148 by mitchja
01 Oct 2021, 14:01
Well my negative departure PCR test came back within 5 hours and the final UK immigration passenger locator form has been filled in and submitted for my flight home tomorrow :-(

Guess which form was the most complicated, most difficult and took the longest to fill in - the UK immigration passenger locator form of course. Once you do finally manage to create an account and then fill it in, it’s a nightmare.

If you don’t manage to scan both your NHS COVID vaccination QR codes within about 20 seconds, it throws a wobbler at you. It took me about 4 attempts to complete this form >-(

I’ve printed it off as well at the resort. It’s 4 pages long.

Do take a print out of your NHS vaccination QR codes with you as if you only have a single device with the NHS app on, your obviously won’t be able to scan those using the same device you are filling the online form in with. It did say something about showing your vaccine status once you arrive if you don’t manage to upload it though.

I try to be prepared as I possibly can be for things like this. I’m hoping immigration won’t be as chaotic as I’ve seen in the media at LHR coming back into MAN :-O
#962160 by mitchja
01 Oct 2021, 22:26
Something else I forget to mention, having just checked in online for my return flight tomorrow, VS boarding passes in Apple Wallet still don't show priority status. VS have had this issue for around 3 years now maybe even longer? Surely it can't be that difficult to fix?
#962193 by Q_Division
03 Oct 2021, 08:34
Thanks for this mitchja. This is great for me as I go through the "should I travel, what will be different" sets of thoughts for my trip scheduled at the end of November.

Out of interest, what sort/type of mask did you wear for the flight? A bit like I suspect you were thinking before hand, that is one of the bits that "worries" me the most so it was good to see it didn't bother you to the point you forgot you had it on a couple of times.
#962203 by mitchja
03 Oct 2021, 18:06
Q_Division wrote:Out of interest, what sort/type of mask did you wear for the flight? A bit like I suspect you were thinking before hand, that is one of the bits that "worries" me the most so it was good to see it didn't bother you to the point you forgot you had it on a couple of times.


I purchased a box of these. The ones VS provided you with are similar though I found those to be a little loose.
#962225 by MoJoJo
04 Oct 2021, 17:37
Thank you very much for the detailed report. I’m off to BGI from LHR later this month so found it really useful as too am feeling a little nervous about the whole think not least of which having not been on an aircraft since February 2019 8-) :cool:
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