Had a last minute change of plan & binned our Friday night trip up to Manchester as I felt horrendous. This did mean binning the Premier Inn booking for the Friday night – be we only lost £30. It would have cost us a lot more had we stayed there as we’d have eaten either in-house (airport hotel prices) or jumped in a take to eat in nearby Hale – and Hale is not a cheap place.
This is a Trip Report from the Upper Class cabin
Food & Drink
So after a delightful 4am wake up, we made it to MAN for not long after 7am. Thankfully I was feeling a lot better by now. Car drop-off & Virgin check-in was all a breeze. The much derided MAN “Priority Assistance” security lane was not too bad this morning – through in not much over 5mins. We did both get selected for the full pat-down & wanding-down after the body scanner. The only negative about the security search area was that it was roasting hot. I don’t just mean warm, I mean uncomfortable. I fully appreciate there is lots of heat-generating equipment in there, but the air-con must have been on the blink.
Picked up some duty free and then had a wander round T2 to cool down from security. Specifically I wanted to take a nosey at the new T2 pier. I need not have bothered, the words “cheap & nasty” come to mind – it’s clearly been done on a tight budget. It will be interesting to see what the main T2X is like when it eventually opens next year (it’s running behind schedule).
A quick look at gate 208 confirmed we’d got the dreaded G-VBIG. Up to the Escape Plus lounge which was pretty bearable . The hot breakfast food offering was (A) very hot & (B) replenished regularly. (A big improvement on our previous Escape Plus experience, when Escape was exactly what you wanted to do).
The miserable buggers in the lounge would not put the Rugby World Cup Final on either of the two TV’s – insisting they had to stay on Sky News & BBC News 24 with closed captioning. They were wasting the time as about 90% of people in there with a laptop / tablet / phones was streaming the match & reacting vocally to happenings on the pitch.
The lounge desk agent came round about 10mins ahead of the “Gate Open” time on the monitors advising they were ready for Orlando passengers at gate 208. Headed down and was literally straight onboard – no Manchester Virgin boarding fiasco like I’ve experienced in the past.
Once onboard the crew were proactive in offering drinks & laptop power converters. Seems we have 444 onboard (so practically full) with a 8h23m flight time. There was a slight delay after boarding was completed as we were still refuelling, but we pushed back 10mins early & took off pretty much bang on schedule. A seemingly Southerly North Atlantic Track today.
The service was what you expected from an attentive VS crew. We did get asked why we had not pre-ordered meals… the chance would have been a fine thing as the link in the email Virgin sent would not even display a menu, let alone allow a pre-order.
For those interested, the current Upper Class (September cycle) for VS71, 73, 75, 77, 85, 109, 121, 125, 127, 161, 163 & 181 is…
Tomato soup, crème fraiche
Citrus seared prawns, watermelon salsa, coriander, mint & sweet chilli
Cumin roasted cauliflower, asparagus, tomato, cucumber & minted yoghurt dressing
Braised beef, horseradish mash, honey carrots, kale & madeira sauce
Seared honey & thyme chicken linguine
Vegetable tagine, cous-cous, mint & coriander
Grilled salmon, fennel, walnut & tomato basil butter
Raspberry sponge pudding, double cream
Chocolate hazelnut tart, white chocolate mendant
Cropwell Bishop stilton
So that lunch over & done with. G-VBIG has the old Vera IFE system (what was V:Port) onboard and already 3 IFE screens have failed in Upper and it’s iPads & apologies from the FSM.
After the meal service the boring part of the flight came when you just want to arrive at your destination. The guy in the next seat to me had [what I hope was] his girlfriend on the flight in either Premium Economy or Economy. She paid regular visits and the cuddling / kissing / sharing his seat when it was in bed-mode was getting gradually more intense – the crew were plying them both with alcohol too. In the end the CSS told girlfriend to leave and she did not return again. That couple need to fly Singapore Suites / Eithad residence… at one point I was half expecting a repeat of the Lily Allen & Liam Gallagher alleged experience on a Virgin flight.
Whilst said cabaret in the next seat was going on I’d decided I was bored with the IFE (which was clunky at best) and obtained internet access for the remainder of the flight. Was able to stream all sorts off YouTube so watched all the best bits of Only Fools & Horses going back over the years, which was way better than anything on the IFE. Alright Dave?
Just over an hour before landing the crew came round offering the extra bites. Partook in the classic burger, which was OK & the patisserie selection, which was I was amazed how many people were ordering alcohol at this late stage in the flight. Two couples even requested – and got -glasses of wine about 15mins out of Orlando. The double ding for imminent landing went off not much over 5mins later so the glasses were removed. One couple necked the wine, the other surrendered what was left.
Given all the airlines say about alcohol problems onboard, it was certainly flowing freely today. The amorous couple next to me were on scotch – and not small measures. This is not me being bitter as I could only drink in moderation – I knew from the outset I was driving on arrival in Florida so stuck to two of the small glasses of champagne in Manchester and one 330ml beer before lunch.
We landed about 24mins early and parked up next to a LATAM plane that had arrived just before us – and at a gate closer to immigration. I thank the Global Entry gods as I was through in about 3mins, bags out 5mins later & in accommodation on South international Drive within 50mins of touchdown. When waiting for bags looked back at the immigration queue – it was looong, as close on 700 passengers had been dumped on the CBP within 5-10mins.
All in all a fairly solid Virgin flight. The IFE on G-VBIG is knackered, but we knew that. The crew were in the main very good – just slight concerns about the free-flowing alcohol & passengers somewhat frisky in full view of the crew, who continued to serve them drinks for a while longer.