We decided that this latest trip (celebrating my big ole nasty 40th birthday and Christina’s 13th birthday two days later) would be “the vacation of a lifetime”, so we cashed in all of our miles and flew Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic—all 5 of us, including the three kids. It’s the first time I’ve ever flown first-class, and with how it much typically costs, it’ll probably be a loooonnnng time before I fly that way again. I have to say, though, it was a fantastic way to travel (especially on a transatlantic flight), and our trip to Heathrow was a pleasure.
We were able to use the Upper Class check-in line, which was much shorter and faster than the Economy class line. As a result, we had plenty of time to enjoy the Upper Class Virgin Airways lounge. The kids enjoyed snacks such as chocolate chip cake and salt & vinegar chips, while Rich had an angus burger and I had the veggie samosas. The lounge itself was decorated in a funky-retro style: we sat in swiveling butterfly chairs upholstered in deep shades of red, burnt orange, and purple….reminded me of Greg Brady’s groovy pad in the attic, without the fuzzy shag carpeting.
We boarded the plane and got our first look at the forward cabin area. The roomy seats were oriented on a diagonal, and resembled reclining chairs placed in individual cubicles. They had lumbar support, and a tray table that slides up and back all the way towards you so that you can watch TV and eat your dinner while still reclining.Virgin Upper Class also offers “flat bed service,” with seats that fold down into beds (complete with duvet covers and turn-down service). The seat-side TV ran a bit slow at first, but eventually worked very well, and had lots of entertainment choices (movies, tv shows, documentaries, and travel destination guides, as well as video games). The remote control for the TV is a video game/channel controller on one side and a phone on the other. There was a bottle of water at every seatside, and very attentive service from the flight attendants (offers of champagne upon arrival, with snacks, drinks, fruit, etc. offered to us throughout the flight)
Dinner was kicked up a notch, too: Chicken with spinach, fava beans, grilled tomato, salad w/mozzarella & tomato with balsamic glaze, and a glass of red wine on the side.
The only celebrity/VIP we saw was the young actress who plays Greenlee on All My Children: she sat next to my daughter, Amy, who doesn’t watch soap operas and had no clue who she was.
I tuned in the news channel and saw that the terror alert in Britain has been raised to “severe” (following two car bomb attacks in London and an attack on the Glasgow airport in Scotland) which means that the threat of a terror attack is “imminent”. Lovely. Honestly, I wasn’t nervous about it. As a native New Yorker, I know that I’m no safer at home than I am in London, so why not go and enjoy my vacation? If it’s my time, it’s my time.
However, once the weatherman came on and grimly reported that there was more rain and flooding on it’s way for Britain after weeks of steady downpours, I decided to veg and watch the Blades of Glory movie instead. Reality can wait.
Our flight was comfortable and felt like it went by very quickly, even though we were delayed an hour and 15 minutes before takeoff (I’m sure it would have been a different story if we’d been stuck back in Economy). In Upper Class, they provided each of us with a black sleep suit and red & black sleep socks, but my seat area (row 18) was just in front of the first-class bar area, and I found it to be a bit too noisy for me to get to sleep. Virgin also offers specialty services during the flight (massages & manicures) but due to high demand, I didn’t get one. However, the technician gave me two Priority Service cards before we left, so that I would Christina and I (the birthday girls) would definitely get the massages on our flight back.
We had a smooth landing, and it was the first time I can remember not hearing the landing gear, bumps or the whoosh of flaps opening up—one of the advantages of being seated so far forward. Most people in our section slept, but I didn’t. As we left the plane, the flight attendants handed us a pink card for the Fast Track Arrivals Lane along with the Landing Card/Immigration form—yet another perk for Upper Class passengers.
next up: London!