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#964922 by matt.hibb
23 May 2022, 11:37
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1st work trip for over 2 years. Another sign that, thankfully, things are returning to normal.

I arrived at MAN about 2 hours before departure. This is a tad earlier than I'd normally arrive. But given all the fuss in the media re check-in and security queues, I wanted to play it a bit safer. I had to park all the way over at T3 because all the T2 parking was sold out by the time I booked. So after a long walk over, I entered an almost deserted check-in area. I think TUI might have been a bit busy, but there was hardly anyone at VS. I'd done the fly ready thing the day before, so check-in was done in minutes and off to a similarly deserted security area, literally a handful of people. I was directed to the priority lane, but as in the old T2 it was also being used for families and special assistance. So I ducked out of that into an empty regular lane. Security and check-in took about 15 minutes.

I headed straight to the 1903 lounge and was told I was comfortably the last passenger to arrive from my flight. I recognised some of the staff from the old "cupboard" that was the escape lounge. The 1903 is certainly a massive improvement over that in every single aspect. However, it was utterly rammed when I got there and it was a struggle to find a seat.

The screen was showing about an hours delay, which would make my connection in MCO very tight. But it seemed to show "go to gate" roughly on time. It was a long walk to the gate because it was 1 of the old T2 gates (204 I think). I boarded basically last, because I was trying to finish a couple of Netflix downloads that I'd forgotten to do the day before. Ironically, downloads were faster next to the gate using my phones 5G rather than the rather poor WiFi and non-existence phone reception in the lounge.

Boarded onto what looked like a completely new plane. Didn't note the reg, but all the bucket and spade 350's are new I guess and this was very apparent immediately. There was 1 spare J seat, I sat down in 4G and immediately noticed that the new (well, it's still "new" to me, this was my 1st A350 flight) upper is great from a privacy standpoint. I was a little surprised how close the person was in 4D, but it wasn't a problem with the divider closed. I imagine D/G combos would be great for those travelling with someone. I would really have liked to have tried an A or K seat, but all were taken when I booked rather last minute. I also noticed from 4G (and I assume all other D and G seats are the same) that it is really difficult to get a view outside. The walls on the suites are significantly higher than on the herringbone suites. Still, its a nice comfy seat and there was plenty of storage for my needs.

The crew announced that they were 3 short for todays flight due to last minute sickness on this and another flight. They said they would try their best, but apologised in advance if things were a littler slower than normal. Pushback and take off were roughly on time. It's a very quiet and smooth aircraft in my opinion, a big improvement over the A330 which is where most of my VS experience is as I'm MAN based. There were 2 crew dedicated to the upper cabin and the service was great in my opinion, but it did look like they were working really hard most of the time. I would assume there would normally be 3 in the upper cabin?

There are many things I liked about the new seat. As I've mentioned, the privacy is a major improvement. There's a bit more storage. And the TV is another major improvement. There are a couple of niggles for me though. It's a bit fiddly getting the seat in a position you want it. It wants to move forward and/or upwards more than I wanted it to to get the recline I wanted. And that can squeeze the vertical space between your legs and the table for meal service. I also tried it in bed mode later in the flight. I know a lot of people might disagree, but I thought the old seat in bed mode was really great because of the totally flat surface rather than all the contours of the different seat sections. Still, it is a nice place to sit for a few hours and overall, I'd probably view it as an improvement.

Had a quick look at the booth or whatever it's call in front of 1A. Sat there for 5/10 minutes and I can see it would be a great little place to sit and have dinner and/or a drink with a travelling partner. It doesn't work as a social space at all though. It felt a little weird sat there on my own, so I didn't stay long. For that, I will miss the bar area on other aircraft, past and present. Sometimes I just get bored and it's nice to chat to anyone that seems willing for 5 minutes. Maybe the LHR config A350 still manages this with the loft area?

The biggest disappointment was the food. Maybe it's my memory, but there seems to be a heavier seafood presence than before. Unfortunately for me, that's not good. Starter was ok, asparagus and quail egg. Main was basically a chicken kiev and I can't remember what it came with. But it was all a bit overly creamy and sickly for my taste. I actually can't remember what was for desert. Just had the scones for afternoon tea, which was fine as you would expect.

Arrived into MCO roughly on time. Global Entry was working great, although the signage could use an improvement. The connections "lane" was a bit bizarre at MCO. It looks like a converted room with a standard sized door to enter and 1 single scanner in it. And the door at the other side leads into the Delta satellite terminal. Still, I was the Sky Club within about 20mins of exiting the aircraft, so I can't complain.

Good flight overall. The crew, as always out of MAN were very good, even if they were 3 down for this flight. The A350 is a great airplane, really quiet upfront. Here's to the world getting back to normal!

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