After a wonderful week in Fort Lauderdale enjoying 7 days of sunshine and temps ~28'C every day, meeting up with US friends who I'd not seen in 2 years it was sadly time to head home.
This is a Trip Report from the Upper Class cabin
Food & Drink
The Fort Lauderdale beach area was particularly busy this New Year and I've never seen so many people around the beaches; clearly many people were staycationing this year. The weather has also been exceptionally warm and sunny as well this year.
(This was the beach at 07:15am the morning I flew home)
Whilst in one of the bars here I saw this rather amusing social distance sign:
(there were a few variations on this animal theme; 4 penguins or 1 horse for the 2M/6 ft distance)
Bags had been checked all the way from FLL via ATL to MAN again. The DL check-in agent at FLL needed to verify all my paperwork (48 hr pre-UK departure COVID test, COVID vax cert and PLF). I'd ordered and taken with me a lateral flow test for the 48 hr test though there were several locations in Fort Lauderdale offering free testing which apparently is acceptable; not that this test is required any more.
Once again I was unable to check-in online with Delta either via their app or their website as a message kept telling me I needed an agent to verify my paperwork.
I'd also printed everything off which really does seem to speed up the checks. Nothing required this time at the gate whilst boarding the DL flight to ATL so looks like DL are stream lining things a little bit more now since November.
After an uneventful First Class flight to ATL, we arrived a few minutes early at the domestic T concourse again at ATL and as I only had a ~90min connection in this direction I jumped on the plane-train this time to head to the International terminal. I was at the Delta Sky Club lounge in concourse F in under 20 minutes.
I opted to sit in the semi-outdoor Sky Deck area of the lounge which is always nice when the weather is good. I also felt a little bit more COVID-19 secure sat in fresh air as well especially whilst removing my mask for eating and drinking.
I wasn't sure if the VS flights were called in the lounge still (they did used to be; DL flights never are though) so I didn't risk waiting and headed to gate A2 at 16:45 for a 17:40 departure. Good job I did actually as it was pretty chaotic at the boarding gate as everyone had to queue and show and verify their COVID-19 paperwork (again) with VS before you were able to board the flight. There were 3 staff doing these checks as well as doing their normal gate duties. People showing apps and handsets etc seems to take some time whilst my paper documents where all verified much quicker.
Boarding was late even though G-VKSS (Mademoiselle Rouge) was on stand and had arrived from MAN early the same day as I suspect they where waiting to get all the pax verified first.
As properly most of the pax were connecting from other US airports I guess not many had been COVID-19 paperwork verified at check-in at ATL. Whilst in the queue waiting for this verification there was some confusion from other pax with the DOCS-OK bit printed on boarding passes. This is the passport check only and not the COVID-19 paperwork checks. The gate agents were sticking the red stickers on boarding passes to show completed verification checks.
Boarding finally started around 17:45 so 5 mins after departure time. As usual with many many DL domestic flights pax where congregating and crowding around the gate area eager to board first. People who needed extra time to board were called first followed by Upper Class. Most of the congregating pax had to wait.
I was once again warmly welcomed on board by the FSM working the door and directed to 8K again. This was actually my first time on a VS A333 since the old dream suite had been removed and replaced with B789 version 2 Upper Class suite. Again on this flight the bar area was out of use.
The A333's don't quite have the same sparkle as the B789's IMHO but it more or less the same cabin. Not sure if it's my imagination but the suite did feel a little narrower?
I had no intensions of eating dinner on-board this evening- I never do on the shorter homeward bound flights. I prefer just to get as much sleep as possible going home plus I was driving home from MAN anyway so avoided any alcohol.
Here is the menu:
The breakfast menu was slightly different to previous flights as bacon rolls are back (well almost; more on that later)
We pushed back at 18:21 and were airborne by 18:37. The crew were once again very attentive and were busy looking after everyone in J. There were a couple of empty on this flight. I didn't catch the pax numbers either but it looked pretty full down the back.
As soon as the seat-belt sign was turned off I got up converted my seat into a bed and headed to the washroom to change into my shorts and t-shirts to sleep in. Sleep suits were offered before take as well.
As I got back to my bed, the FSM came over and introduced herself to me, thanked me for being a Gold Flying Club member and apologised for to introducing herself sooner. She also asked if I wanted waking for for breakfast which I did.
My Bose Sleep buds do seem to really help when sleeping onboard flights as I don't remember much else after that other then being woken up for breakfast several hours later!
I changed back and converted my suite back to a seat. Breakfast was then offered. I did ask for the bacon roll but unfortunately they had not been loaded, instead a sausage muffin was offered which was actually very tasty and went down very well:
Before long the cabin was secured for our landing into MAN at around 06:50 so only 20 mins late. It was the old 20x gates again. Said my goodbyes to the crew and it was a short walk to a complete deserted immigration hall again. Again the e-gates didn't work so I had to seek assistance but I was allowed through after confirming my DoB and where I had come from. Headed down baggage reclaim were bags started coming off soon after. Mine was within the first 10 bags off.
I had my return day 0-2 PCR test booked for 07:30 with the walk-in Randox test centre in MAN T2 arrivals. Once I'd found it; you exit the arrivals area completely and turn left were you will then see the signs. There are no single within the terminal arrivals area unfortunately. There was 1 other pax in front of me and I was there bang on 07:30. My test was then performed a few minutes later. I have to say it was one of the most thorough COVID-19 swab tests I had so far. Not only were my tonsils swabbed ( I don't have mine) the whole of the back of my throat was also swabbed along with both nostrils.
Once that was done, it was a short walk back to the West multi-storey carpark and then the drive home. I was home before 09:30 that morning.
Randox emailed me my negative COVID-19 test report the following morning at around 01:30am so was waiting for me when I got up the following morning. PCR test to result time ~ 18hrs
All in all another wonderful VS flight. The crew were very enthusiastic and nothing was too much trouble again for any of them.
Since September 2021, I flown on 8 VS Upper Class sectors. 6 from/to MAN, 2 from/to LHR. All 6 of the MAN based flights the FSM and the CSS on at least 1 flight all welcomed me onboard, introduced themselves to me and thanked me for being a Flying Club Gold member. Nothing on on either of the LHR flights. The return LHR flight was actually one of the worst ever VS flights I've ever been on and VS Exec office did reach out to me for that.
I've smashed my Gold tier point membership renewal this time round as my membership was extended to Sept 2022. I already now have 1700 TP's (1220 of those earned since Sept) with at least 200 more TP's in June and properly more before then so I should easy hit 2000 TP's this year which is a record for me so I'm taking it easy flying wise now for a few months