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#966025 by mitchja
18 Sep 2022, 11:06
Ground Staff
Food & Drink
Cabin Crew
This trip was originally supposed to be in June, however, a couple of days before my trip, I manage to catch COVID-19. VS were amazing in letting me re-book this flight at no extra charge up to the end of Sept, so this was the date I re-booked for. I was also regionally on the VS41 but the agent said as long as the destination was the same, I could pick either of the flights so I picked the VS19. My online booking was updated instantly and the booking was re-ticketed within 24 hours. I originally booked a Z Upper Class fare, however, after the rebooking / re-ticketing my fare morphed into a C fare which meant double TP's & points :cool:

I travelled down from the North West the previous day via Northern Rail and LNER. No issues with any of that. I stayed at my usual LHR T4 Crowne Plaza hotel. OLCI completed the previous day with no issues and boarding pass was issued without any fuss.

I’d pre-booked a Parker Cars transfer for 08:00 to pick me up at the hotel and drop me off via the VS Upper Class Wing. Other than a message saying they would be a few minutes late that morning, the transfer was all straight forward and cost £25.60 which does include the LHR drop-off fee. Whilst the Upper Class Wing drive-through entrance ramp isn’t in the drop-off zone, the exit ramp from the Upper Class Wing is.

The drive-though check-in was a s calm and peaceful as ever with no waiting at the desks. No SSSS on my boarding pass today. One other passenger was being checked in whilst I was there. Upper Class Wing security was quick and painless. It took longer to walk up to the Clubhouse then it did to get through security.

I was warmly welcomed back to the VS Clubhouse which was as good as ever. I headed for some breakfast first before heading up to my usual spot in the loft area. I always prefer sitting up there as it’s quieter and it’s always nice to head up to the patio area on a nice day.

View from the Patio
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The Clubhouse was reasonably busy even for a Saturday but service was not impacted in any way.

The flight was called around 11:45 and we were departing from one of the ~30 gates (can’t remember the exact gate) but it was in the nicer pier rather than the other grotty pier VS often use in T3. The gates where you turn left after exiting the Clubhouse. Not flown from that pier for quite some time when departing LHR.

G-VBOW Pearly Queen (B789) was flying us to SFO today. I was warmly welcomed onboard and shown to my seat 8K. The cabin and seat was in good condition. The FSM soon came and said hello welcoming me back.

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Today’s flight time would be 10hrs 5 mins. The Upper Class cabin was approx half full. The door was closed and we pushed back around 12:50 so only 15 minutes late. The IFE worked well as did the WiFi (free via my Boingo account from the VS Mastercard Reward+ card).

For those without a Boingo account, here are the WiFi prices (which are more expensive than on the A333's as I only paid £20.99 for WiFi Max on the MAN>JFK A333 flight a few weeks before):

WiFi prices
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Th first drinks service was offered after take-off. This is still the only remaining disappointing aspect of the onboard Upper Class service now. The crew are still serving from trolleys and offering those economy style tiny bags of pretzels. Please bring back the proper drinks service with crisps/chips served in bowl etc like it always used to be.

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I’d preordered the meatballs and pasta for lunch having had the same menu a couple of weeks earlier flying from MAN. Apart from the meatballs, the menu was identical to that flight. Whilst it was a little dry, it was actually very tasty and much better than that lump of chicken I got last time.

I watched a couple of films to pass the time. The bar was in use but not heavily used during the flight. Help myself to some of the snacks & fruit available on the bar a couple of times. Remember there is also the Wander Wall between Upper and Premium on all the B789 A/C. The afternoon tea service was again offered around 90 mins before landing. I had the pulled pork again which was delicious.

I do much prefer the VS B789's compared to the A333's despite the seat being identical. The B789's offer much nicer cabin and ambience compared to the A333's.

The crew were as good as ever on today’s flight. All very cheerful, friendly, approachable and professional run by another very pro-active FSM. Another amazing VS flight.

We landed at SFO a few minutes early. Said good bye to the crew and headed to immigration which looked very busy. Thankfully having Global Entry got me though in under 5 minutes once I’d found a working GE machine as several seemed to be down. Again I waited longer to collect my luggage than to get through immigration. Global Entry is so worth the $100 fee every 5 years and it includes TSA-Pre. It’s often quicker getting through US immigration than getting through UK immigration when flying home!

Once I’d collected my luggage I headed to the exit and then to the BART to get to my downtown hotel. I always use a Clipper card for the BART and the Muni when travelling around San Francisco. You can now also switch from a physical Clipper card to an Apple Wallet version which works very well (just the same as TFL contactless / Oyster card system). I’d even managed to top-up my Clipper account online before leaving the UK. That credit was then automatically added to my Clipper card as soon as I tapped in through the BART ticket gates at SFO.

I spent 3 nights in San Francisco before flying Alaska Air to Palm Springs for 4 nights. In all the years I’ve been visiting San Francisco; amongst other things I did a couple of things on this trip I’d never done before such as visiting Muir Woods and visiting Twin Peaks both of which I’d highly recommend.
#966027 by buns
18 Sep 2022, 12:00
Thank you for yet another excellent, detailed TR James :cool:

I was very pleased to learn that, for once, you did not have the dreaded "SSSS" and had a smooth passage through as as consequence :-D

However, not so pleased to learn the menu was as before :-( I know when Mrs Buns and I travelled to MCO back in May, the options of Garlic Chicken or Garlic Prawns did not offer any true choice for those with a sensitive constitution and as a result we took our own sandwiches >-(

I sincerely hope the menu changes, as I suspect the meat balls were equally "flavoursome".

Thanks once again and hope Palm Springs was as good as we remembered it

#966034 by mitchja
18 Sep 2022, 21:55
One thing I forgot to add - roaming with your UK mobile phone in the US is an absolute nightmare now the US networks are turning both 3G and 2G off and UK networks not getting their act together and enabling 4G calling (VoLTE) when roaming.

T-Mobile US is the only remaining network most UK handsets can roam on to allow calls & data and they are also shortly turning 3G off so calls will drop to 2G. You can use AT&T for 4G/LTE data but there's no calling possible as there's no 2G or 3G on AT&T any more.

I had a nightmare in Palm Springs. Lots of 'no service' or 'SOS only' messages on my screen and having to constantly switch my iPhone in and out of airplane mode to get a working signal again. After speaking to Vodafone they had a lot of similar calls the week I was away as apparently there was also a system wide network roaming issue with all UK network providers but it's only going to get worse unfortunately as 3G and 2G disappear.

Many people here will start seeing similar issues next year when our UK networks also start turning 3G off as well!
#966038 by VS075
20 Sep 2022, 11:54
Thanks for a good TR. That's frustrating about the 3G Sunset having real issues with those who are roaming. That said, it's rare I use mobile data when travelling except for Europe where I'm still on one of the legacy contracts where roaming is included.

Luckily it's not often I have to use 3G here (I'm with EE), but in the immediate vicinity of where I live EE are yet to introduce a 5G signal. Hopefully that will change before they switch off their network.
#966041 by mitchja
20 Sep 2022, 17:47
15isto2 wrote:£30 for 500mb >-(

Yep, if you fly over 5 VS flight legs a year (as long as you get an A350 or B789), the £160 annual fee for the VS Reward+ MasterCard covers that WiFi cost alone, not to mention the other benefits the card comes with. There are also no restrictions on usage when using the included Boingo WiFi account though you will have to logon a couple of times during the flight.

Still no Boingo access on the A333’s as they use the GoGo WiFi platform.
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