Trip Review - New York City (JFK) to London (Heathrow) - Virgin Atlantic - A340
In my last post, I briefed you on the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK, where I spent some time before this, my flight to Heathrow. Fun fact: I’d actually flown Virgin Upper Class once before, back in 2003, something I’d long-since forgotten. That was back in the day when Virgin was ridiculed for it’s “blue light” reading light, which I do, in fact, remember suffering through, and overcoming. One could say it was a character-building experience. This time around though, I’m old enough to appreciate the experience, and have an iPhone that can help me document the flight!
I’d be flying an overnight route, departing at 6:30PM and due in at 6:45AM GMT. I know many prefer the leave in the AM, arrive in the PM and crash strategy, but I was spending some time at my parent's house before leaving, and wanted to make the most of the opportunity to lounge by the pool. As such, this is a more limited review, as my flight was pretty straightforward: board, depart, eat, sleep, eat, arrive.
Upon boarding, waiting for me at my seat was a menu, along with my linens and toiletry kit. Unimpressed by the goods inside, but have to say I’m a big fan of the case itself, a Herschel creation. I’ll absolutely hang on to this and find a use for it in the future.
The seat itself is quite luxurious, and I’ll note that the angle is such that I didn’t even recline until midway through the flight! Found myself in the perfect position. My only complaint about the in-seat hardware would be the TV, which is clearly an older system. The touch response is slow and a bit moody, which made it bothersome to scroll through selections (I ultimately decided to watch two episodes of Luther and two of Family Guy). The audio mixing could also use a bit of work, as the balance between bass and treble was quite off. The cabin itself was about 2/3 full, so many passengers shuffled around after we fully boarded.
My pre-flight beverage was, naturally, a glass of champagne. Cheers to the experience! I was also completely won over by the menu card, which knows how to make a guy feel wanted (see photo above). In addition to the menu selections, which I’ll get to in a moment, inside is your breakfast card. Check out my order!
After a second glass of champagne (I assume the Captain made sure I had finished first), we got in line for take-off.
Once in the sky, I received my snack and dinner drink. I went for the Rioja (Spanish red), which were served with some Terra chips. Genuinely can’t remember the last time I ate those, but enjoyed the throwback.
This would lead right in to the beginning of our dinner service. A nice touch if you’re traveling with a companion: Virgin’s footrest doubles as a second chair, so you can sit together for dinner! On Virgin, there’s always a table for two! In an alternate reality, I ask a stranger to share the meal with me, and meet my future wife (or am written about as the creepiest guy in the skies on FlyerTalk/Boarding Area).
Dinner opened with a creamy spring onion soup, topped with crispy wonton strips and chives. The taste was markedly improved when I added some pepper. For my main course, I went with the beef fillet, served in a bearnaise sauce and served with potatoes and asparagus. Although it looks poorly plated, it was actually quite good! Last time I flew Virgin I had the duck (again, this was over a decade ago), and it was so poorly prepared I haven’t been able to eat duck (though I try it from time to time) since.
Dessert was just…ugh. Color me disinterested.
After dinner, I got a few moments to chat with my FA, and slipped him a thank you card. He worked with a smile and kept my wine glass full, which I always appreciate. Was hoping to spend some time at the bar, but it was, in fact, quite crowded, and I had no intention of making new friends on this flight. Virgin staff is always ready with a drink though, and there are plenty of snacks available at the bar, including more Terra Chips.
I then donned my Virgin jammies, asked for a turndown, and crawled in to bed to nab 2-3 hours of sleep. Virgin’s pajamas lack a bit of the airline’s traditional pizzaz, and are a basic pair of black bottoms and a long-sleeve top. I didn’t take a photo because, quite frankly, I didn’t care for them or the fit. A welcome reprieve from my trousers though, and much better for sleep! As quickly as I was out, I was up, and it was time for breakfast service before the ground. It was a standard airline breakfast, but I quite liked the design on the mug!
After he took my tray, my FA came back around and slipped me a bag with a bottle of champagne, a bottle of red wine, and a pair of headphones. He wanted to thank me for thanking the crew! Was much appreciated, and I put it to good use in Paris.
And just like that, I was in London!
Flying Virgin really is one of the best ways to hop across the Atlantic, and, in my opinion, offers one of the best airport-to-airport experiences, when paired with access to the Clubhouse. In-flight crews bring the right mix of knowing competence and friendliness to their role, making for an experience that feels not rehearsed, but perfected and reassuring. While the planes can sometimes feel a bit old, the food a bit bland, and the taxes high (if booking via Virgin), there's not much fundamentally wrong with the product Virgin brings to the skies.