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Trip Report Virgin Upper Class Man->Mco

Discussion in 'Transportation & Travel' started by keith, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    I thought I'd type up some thoughts whilst the experience is fresh in my mind.

    We usually fly PE with Virgin although I can't say I've ever been happy with that. The problem with PE in my mind is that it's just not different enough from economy to justify the difference! It's very much economy+ rather than business class. (which in fairness to virgin, is what the name premium economy suggests, they don't claim it's business class).

    So for our December trip we used some miles and got upper class both there and back for the same price as we'd normally pay for PE.

    so a brief few thoughts....

    Pre-Flight
    No difference. All the usual virgin online stuff worked the same way as for economy/PE. We hadn't booked any "limo to airport" or anything like that although I understand it is an option

    At Airport
    We arrived a full three hours before the flight and there was already something of a queue at all the checkin agents but as soon as the virgin staff saw our upper class tickets, they made all efforts to get us to the very next agent (whatever else they were doing) and so we were pushed through in seconds. A very noticeable difference from eco/pe

    --check in
    The check in itself seemed much more personal and quicker. They'd already printed out our information, cards etc. and instead of a huge amount of typing going on, it felt as though somehow they'd done it before we arrived leaving just something minimal to do when we turned up. We were only at the desk for a couple of minutes but everyone was polite and fussed over us to make sure we had our invitations to the exec lounge etc. Cases were tagged Upper class and then we were free to go.

    --security
    Up to security, Manchester wasn't doing too well that day with huge queues! it was as if they were on higher alert or something. We were able to bypass the queues by using the fast lane and got through the detectors etc but then they decided to empty DW's carry on which was fully of electronic stuff. After a good look and swipes with electronic swabs etc they repacked and we were off. Obviously no better treatment for UC there ;-) nor should there be.

    --lounge
    Manchester terminal 2 is not great for lounges :( no virgin atlantic special lounge with massages and video games, all that stuff people get down in London. Nope, just a bunch of chairs and some space to put our flat caps and rest our pigeons ;-) well ok, not QUITE that bad. Virgin UC gives invitations for the "Escape lounge" which is about the best of a mediocre bunch at T2.

    I've had a love/hate relationship with the escape lounge. We get free lounge access with our bank account and when the escape lounge opened, we had no trouble getting in. As it became more popular, the staff became increasingly snotty about "free" access and started turning us away because they were too full. Now, they actually have several escape lounges and I've never seen them all anywhere close to full, so what they mean is "we can't be bothered opening the other room for you and we have enough people in this one". Of course, it depends who's on the desk when you check in :/

    So a quick test this time... walked in holding my bank lounge card and before I said anything one of the women behind the counter said "sorry we're full for now" and although I try not to judge, I really feel like she WANTED to say that, there was no real "ok look we're a bit full but lets see what we can do". So I then pulled out the virgin UC invitation and said oh gosh really? Virgin said there'd be no problem? By this time there were three people behind the desk who all looked at each other and one of them then said yes that's fine we'll open the business section for you come this way... (as the original woman glared over at us). As much as I can understand that the lounge schemes have obviously agreed a special deal and so the lounges want to prioritise full price reservations, the attitude is unacceptable and if they're signed up to the scheme, obviously to try and fill up spaces, they should do whatever they can to accommodate the card, opening another area if necessary.

    Anyway, that aside, the business side was nice, quiet and comfortable. We had some nice bacon and sausage sandwiches and pretty soon it was time to board.

    Boarding
    Boarding was fine.... the special assistance always takes an age, kinda wish they'd start earlier, but then UC were called and we were able to board and turn left! Through the PE cabin and to the small UC cabin at the very front downstairs of the plane.

    On-Board
    Shame there's a PE cabin in the way getting to UC since it means they get to disembark first too but hardly an issue :)

    The UC cabin was smaller than I expected in a way but tidy and well put together. I expected the "bar" to be larger and for a few people to be able to sit there but it really was pretty tiny and I didnt see anyone using it on either flight. Still, useful to have somewhere to stand and stretch legs.

    The seat, well POD really, was pretty nice. The usual LCD screen in the side, decent size and no difference in content to eco/PE but that's fine, it was great in eco/pe anyway. There was no overhead or under seat storage in our chosen seats 6a/k but that was ok, there was plenty of overhead space available even when everyone else had put theirs away.

    A little on the layout. The pods are at a 45 degree angle, one on each side of the plane. So if you're travelling with someone, they either need to sit in front/behind you and deal with a lot of neck straining to peer over the seat back or across from you with an aisle in the middle. As the cabin gets smaller towards the front cone of the aircraft, we chose 6a/k which were right in the cone and there was therefore no aisle to speak of between the seats. This meant we could communicate quite easily. Still though, we spoke to people both ways who really had problems being nervous flyers and unable to sit close enough to their partners during takeoff/landing. It's not an issue IMHO but just something to be aware of.

    A useful little drinks tray popped out and a glass of proper champagne was immediately offered. The champagne itself was Lanson Black Label which is supposed to have properties which make it still taste delicious in the air unlike some others. It's a fair enough choice. As a bit of a bubbly fan, I can't say it's the best I've ever had but there was plenty of it :) and seconds/thirds/fourths were no problem.

    Newspapers were duly offered and menu selections taken for lunch. The choices were pretty decent even by my picky standards, and I was able to find something to like in each selection which was fine right up until they said that the menus were wrong and the choices were all different. Ooops! Now this happens, but it happens on virgin too often at the end of the month. They seem to either get new menus too quickly or get the new food too quickly, so at the end of a calendar month the films are often not as described and menus wrong. In Eco/PE - sloppy but ah whatever.... If I'd paid full UC price though, I wouldn't expect it.

    Before the food arrived, the cabin crew came over and pulled out a table. This isn't a silly little seat back tray, it's a really nice spacious table. A proper tablecloth was laid and silverware put out. Really good, personal and what UC is all about. Whilst the crew worked, they called us by name having obviously studied beforehand, and things like that make a larger difference than it feels like it should. A stark difference from the herd them in and shut them up in economy.

    The starter arrived next, I'd chosen mackerel and though, if it were a New York apartment, it would be described as Extremely Bijou, was also very tasty and I thought it was something a bit different for an airline meal! Main course was beef filter which was by contrast pretty huge! Nicely cooked, nicely hot and tasty enough!

    We then had a choice of desserts. All very nice and I had some kind of chocolate cake. Once that was over, they brought a cheese tray over with a rather generous glass of port and a good selection of cheeses. wow.

    So although I normally moan about how awful airline food is, I couldn't really moan this time, it was well presented, prepared and definitely the best I'd had on a uk airline thus far.

    I would still say there's room for an option of some sandwiches for a light option, but it was great in truth.

    I think I'll have to do a part 2 for the rest.....
  2. Slowhand
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    I`m the same as you Keith. We always used to fly PE but ever since our first UC flight thanks to Mr Branson`s FC miles, we`ve managed to do it on our last 6 or 7 trips, and it would now be one heck of a strain to turn right on boarding the plane. :)
    That said, I`d never pay top dollar for the privilege, but if I can blag a good deal, then why not?
    On the subject of the lounges. We went into the new Virgin one at New York on our trip last year and we didn`t really want to leave !!
    The place was HUGE and we even had a 3 course meal with wine [totally FOC] before boarding and after the meal my DW had a massage while I sat around being plied with drinks by the very attentive staff....maybe my [albeit small] tip that I left after the meal helped. :)

    BTW, did you take advantage of the fast trak through security on leaving MCO ? That sure saves a load of time and hassle.
  3. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    Wendy texted me to say to do it but I didn't.... 2 reasons, 1. the main one, I couldn't find it :lol: and 2. the normal line was only taking a few mins so it wasn't as if it'd save an hour. I'd sure like some pointers on finding it though :/ the only lane I could see was "crew/staff" ?
  4. Slowhand
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    Slowhand Cruise Director Forum Host

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    I too had a problem in finding it, but as the queues were ginormous on our last trip, I asked an official looking guy who pointed me in the right direction, although I can`t recall exactly where it is located....somewhere around the middle I think. :shrug:
    A larger sign would not go amiss methinks. :toetap:
  5. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    part 2---

    So the food was pretty good and certainly plentiful. Throughout the flight, we were continually being asked if we wanted more champagne or anything from the bar.

    After the meal, I thought I'd see if they'd let me change the seat into flat position which they very kindly did. The flat bed is a great idea and there were enough sheets and duvets such that it was actually very hot. I started feeling a bit claustrophobic to be honest but that's just me and certainly it was a very clever design.

    In fact one of the best bits of UC is that even in PE, people can lean seats back and theyre in your lap ;( it's not their fault, and Im firmly on the side of "if theyre designed to lean, then use them if youre comfy" but Uc is the only class in which leaning your seat has zero affect on the person behind you.

    Amenity kit was pretty boring much like pe/eco so nothing amazing to report there. I thought at one stage people got really nice expensive toys in UC but perhaps that's for full paying passengers or is in the past.

    Leaving the plane was ok although as noted previously, the PE cabin got off first and they seemed to let upstairs out as well which is half pe half eco these days.

    Still ok, we walked through to immigration and were through in five minutes.

    Through to bag claim and UC really did come out first! grabbed them and out of the airport in record time!
  6. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    conclusion

    SOOOOOOOOO was it worth it?

    Well, I think virgin economy is pushing it ;( I like flying but if there was an option to be knocked out and woken up in Orlando rather than 9 hrs economy, I'd take it! The seats are FAR too cramped and the wide open expanse of peoples' heads, screaming kids... shudder. It's honestly terrible and the only way I can get through it is think of Orlando and try to sleep. So average cost of economy for 2014? £700 return.

    Premium economy - £1400-1500, so double economy cost. Slightly better leg room, reclining still ends up with the person in front in your lap...

    Upper class - anywhere from 3000 to 4000 or more a time :/ but, lots of definite obvious extras!

    So my problem is, PE just doesnt offer enough over economy to justify being twice the price but then again, part of me says economy is SO bad, any improvement is worth going for!

    Then there's UC, definitely better, undeniably, but worth 3 or 4k a seat? not unless you REALLY don't care about money. I mean wow.

    Thing is, once you TRY UC and experience how good it CAN be, eco/pe just seem so terrible :(
  7. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    There is no going back for us :lol:
  8. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    I didn't QUITE understand people saying that before we tried it. I still think that for us, we COULD economy it if it was the only way to get there or to save the dosh to splash whilst out there *BUT* it's such a huge difference that yeah admittedly, it'd be hard
  9. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    Nah, you are hooked :lol:
  10. Slowhand
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    I can`t recall any special goodies being provided in UC at anytime Keith even for the full fare paying folks.

    There was a time a few years ago when I was given loads of "treats" from all of the airlines whenever I flew Business Class [or occasionally First Class] when I was on business trips, but I understand that those days are gone now, probably due to the airlines tightening their belts.

    It`s true what you say though, when you try UC, there`s no other way to go....always assuming you can get it for next to nothing by using your FC miles.
  11. Esmeralda
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    Esmeralda Serious Forum Regular

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    I've had two completely different experiences with Upper Class Virgin, neither paid full fare for, the first one was a free upgrade from Barbados and that experience was divine, the second experience was so bad that I would have been absolutely fuming if I'd paid full price for it. They basically put the heating up and let us get all warm and sleepy and then they buggered off. We never saw the crew :( except for the bare necessities (of life... lol)
  12. Slowhand
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    I assume that you raised the issue with Virgin after that second experience?
    We`ve always found the crew to be very attentive to the extent of being too attentive at times ! :)

    I`m sure they would have cooled things down in the cabin if you had raised the issue with them, unless there was a fault with the a/c system of course.
  13. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    There used to be nice amenity packs and there was always plenty of snacks and goodies on the bar that you could help yourself to. I've got lots of the silver bullet pens they used to have.

    The packs now are terrible and there have been lots of complaints about them. I fully expect them to have new ones at some point.

    There are a few things they stopped, afternoon tea was sandwiches and cakes and it was presented on an old fashioned 2 tier cake stand. It was nice things like that that I miss.

    Virgin have bought back the planes for salt and pepper because of objections. When the craft was refitted, they had a cocktail shaker for the salt and pepper but no-one liked it :lol:

    I don't even bother taking the amenity pack anymore. Did you keep the sleep suit :lol:
  14. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    Hmmmm see I remember in the old old old days, I was always BA from manc but a colleague did UC virgin and he used to laugh at me because although BA was just supreme service, virgin UC used to give him things like silver model planes and stuff. I remember it because the one time I TRIED to get the company to buy virgin, they got a discount rate which specifically excluded the gift and any limo service

    yeah the packs are awful and useless I must admit, the actual pack is nicer than whats inside it

    I was pretty impressed with the service I must admit. Not sure if it was the cakes or the cheese but something came on a 3 tier stand

    yeah I saw that :) I'd rather had the cocktail shaker because I'd already pinched the planes

    yeah I did although I didn't use it :lol:
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    Me too....sshhhh.;)
  16. Wendy
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    Wendy A hui hou kakou makuakane Staff Member Administrator

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    You can add me to that group as well :lol: I've got silver and black.
  17. Esmeralda
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    No I didn't raise the issue, I don't have much faith in complaining to them to be honest. Plus I was really ill at the time and couldn't be bothered with it all. If I hadn't had the first experience I would have assumed it was the norm. The heat was unbearable though. The first time we got our duty free list brought to us and the girl sat at the end of the seat, on that stool and took our orders, then later on she brought them all packaged up, we had snacks offered and at the end a tray of little goodies was brought around for us to take what we wanted, like hand cream etc and sweeties. There was none of this the second time around.
  18. keith
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    keith Camera nut Staff Member Administrator Forum Host

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    I must admit I was really impressed by the service. Couldn't believe how much they did actually and how hard they tried to make sure everyone was happy.

    But I've had flights before with a disinterested crew and I bet it happens every so often in every class
  19. piglet
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    OMG I am getting so excited now about our forthcoming trip. I was hoping to book our seats at the 90 day mark but now that they're bringing in a charge of £25 pp for booking they've changed the booking-in system and now can't book till we're 30 days before departure. I desperately want the 2 front seats as grandson would like to be next to either mum or dad. Me, I don't care where I sit as long as I'm on that plane.
  20. Wendy
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    How can they justify charging £25 per person for UC passengers, crikey they pay enough as it is :nono: the charge gets waived at DTD, you think they would waive the seat booking charge as well.

    I suppose thinking about it, I guess they are just coming in line with BA, our friends had to pay this year to book specific seats in economy.

    I don't like this extra charge at all Mr Branson :nono:

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