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#954351 by FLYERZ
18 Feb 2020, 22:47
Ground Staff
Food & Drink
Cabin Crew
Hopefully a shorter trip report, the return journey following my first trip report.

Conscious of how early we arrived for our LHR-JFK outbound, we were keen, particularly given any return journey is a tad more depressing, to arrive at the airport 2hrs before departure. We were once again on the new A350 and the delights of Economy Delight (sorry for that one!). As the sun set on a freezing (highs of zero) but blue-sky day in New York, boarding commenced on time just under an hour before departure.

This is where the chaos ensued! I personally blame a misleading announcement/quiet tannoy. The initial announcement came for pre-boarding for those with mobility issues and young children. This alone led to what seemed like everyone getting to their feet and surrounding the boarding line. At this point the gate agent reiterated that this was pre-boarding and for everyone else to clear the boarding area and return to their seats. About 5mins later the gate agent began to announce priority boarding for UC, PE and Gold passenger, not noticing a wheelchair passenger who was sat amongst the crowd still waiting for their assistance in order to bored. Once again everyone seemed to surround the boarding area making subsequent official boarding calls down the priority rankings to resemble a game of human tetris. This led to a much more stressful boarding experience for all. This is a personal peeve of mine but I struggle to come up with a solution ot the issue that people are inherently bad at listening.

Despite the gate chaos, onboard was sea of calm and we were greeted onboard, soon forgetting our stresses. Another seemingly full A350 flight with a notable American presence including a school group. I am a sucker for moodlighting and at night the A350 was not disappointing. The Captain soon announced that thanks to another storm on the way, Storm Dennis this time, that we would have a rather quick (albeit not record-breaking) flight time of 5hr 30mins, expected to arrive c.1hr early around 5.20am. This however would come at the cost of some persistent turbulence (within my Top 3 worst).

An enjoyable flight save for two bouts of turbulence, the first lasting what felt like about 20 mins, the second about half of that. Whilst I am a fairly regular flyer taking 3-4 flights minimum a year I can’t say turbulence doesn’t still get me! The first bout in particular was prolonged and came mid-way through the meal service. Cabin Crew handled this very professionally and I couldn’t help but feel for them. I know if I were in their shoes I would have run back to my seat straight away. They however carried on service until the turbulence was deemed to be too much. After a nervous 10mins further (for me at least) the worst of the lumps and bumps eased before repeating about 2hrs out of the UK. The winds were definitely making themselves known and the tailcam perfectly captured this during the rather skilfull landing into a very quiet LHR, arriving at 5.18am.

Food & Drink
Dinner options consisted of 3, what I considered to be very appealing sounding plates 1) Chicken and Spinach Curry, 2) Pulled pork, mac &cheese and beans; and 3) Tomato & Basil Gnocchi. After much debate 2 of us went for the Gnocchi and 1 for the curry. The Gnocchi didn’t disappoint, whilst looking at someone else’s pulled pork this wasn’t the most appealing looking (although I can’t account for the taste). As well as no bread roll, which I’ve learned is normal nowadays, there was now no salad either. In traditional fashion however the GU dessert and the second portion I nabbed were the stars. We slept through breakfast due to the short flight time (only 3.5hrs remaining after meal service) and as mentioned before, the IMO enhancing head rest). This was the new normal - croissant and fresh fruit so not much to miss. I do think given lots of people tend to sleep through breakfast or don't fancy an economy style fully english this is a decent enough option. If I had a magic wand though I would change it to include granol/yoghurt and a pain au chocolat or other pastry.

One thing I noticed was no amenity kit or even just amenities on the seat (toothpaste/brush, pen, eyshades,socks). I’ve noticed over the years the policy for these changing. Given this was sa night flight though I would have thought this was fairly standard? And is certainly what most of the competition offer. Similar to the salad/bread roll that I questioned myself how big a negative they really were, I thought whilst appearing cheap, on the whole this wasn’t a big issue. I do though like to brush my teeth before arrival.

After what on the whole (excl. boarding) was another solid flight on Virgin the journey was somewhat overshadowed by my bag not arriving on the carousel. Considering the number of flights I’ve done over the years I suppose it was overdue, however still frustrating in the moment, especially when our other 2 bags made it just fine. I quickly completed the relevant admin at the Virgin Baggage Desk (believe this is all outsourced) but disconcertingly found out that ‘the bag was loaded in JFK but clearly hasn’t arrived on the belt here’. Like some kind of riddle, I queried what this meant and whether my bag was therefore still in JFK or somewhere here in London. The agent couldn’t say, but now with my details said they would be in touch. Long story short, the bag was later returned to me although (per my investigative skills) had appeared to have fallen off the aircraft/loading belt on arrival at LHR. The bag was quite severely damaged with the handle no longer extendable, with many tears and bits of plastic ripped off. An explanation and any kind of compensation/bag replacement, I am still waiting for.

#954359 by Miyamoto Musashi
19 Feb 2020, 03:00
Thanks for the detailed review. I've had the same boarding experiences out of EWR and as a whole I've found Virgin Atlantic boarding(in the US) to be one of the most consistently chaotic ones I've had on any airline. That's a real shame because of the overall good experience otherwise.
#954360 by buns
19 Feb 2020, 07:17
Thanks for the detailed TR, all so important to get the Economy experience reported on V Flyer.

I have to agree about the Gate chaos - something which is often experienced in Orlando. I suppose in defence of VS, Gate areas in the US are just not made big enough - hence why there is bunching for any flight.

Sorry to hear about your bag - hopefully Crawley will make appropriate recompense

Thanks once again

#954366 by FLYERZ
19 Feb 2020, 12:18
Glad it's appreciated. As much as I love a UC trip report, I find there aren't as many EC reports of recent times so useful to have an idea of where the product has got to following changes/new aircraft.

That is true, the LHR boarding was and in my experience is usually seamless and I wouldn't say those gates are massive. I think at JFK and maybe other US airports a better strategy would be to follow what some other airlines have and have clearly marked seperate boarding lines/groups. I've seen it where there have effectively been 'holding pens' cordoned out so that even if passangers start to queue when they shouldn't they are kept contained within their line and the priority is restored. Appreciate this would possibly require more space but at gate A6 that we were using in JFK there were already cordonsr, just that they seemed not to guide any passengers through them.

#954367 by mitchja
19 Feb 2020, 12:36
Thanks for another great TR!

The boarding scrum is a US thing as I see it regularly with DL at all US airports. It was utter chaos when I was boarding my DL flight from JFK>FLL a few months ago. The staff literally had to stop boarding and move anyone from the gate area then start again. It was pretty much then same at the FLL end as well.

I know DL have tried various techniques at the gate area, none of which seems particularly successful.
#954368 by FLYERZ
19 Feb 2020, 12:59
By way of an update, for anyone who faces a damaged/delayed bag. Crawley Towers came back explaining that the bag had fallen off of a largage cart on arrival at LHR which caused a delay to it being returned to the carousel (beyond the 20mins I waited for all bags to be collected). They appologised and offer 6,000 miles as compensation for the inconvenience. Seperately I have now heard back from their baggage repair/replacement partner. The guy on the phone noted that with the bag probably costing me about £60 5+ yrs ago, with depreciation there was probably little value left. Despite that though VS had passed on a note that they wanted the bag to fully restored/replaced. They therefore offered me a brand new comparable case apparently worth more than my previous one.

I have to hand it to VS, whilst this was an unecessary stress they have made up for it in my eyes with the way they've handled it.
#954378 by Murraymint
19 Feb 2020, 16:21
Thanks for the excellent trip report (s) and for the update about your baggage. Well done VS for sorting that out.

Admittedly, I don’t have as much experience as others on here with US gates but having been through MCO, SFB, JFK, EWR, DTW, MSY, BOS and ATL, I have been fortunate to avoid the scrums mentioned - except perhaps for MCO.

Of course, you know what’s going to happen on my next trip..........
#954414 by Red Velvet
21 Feb 2020, 21:39
Re. amenities for economy

They are onboard and available on request from the crew: socks, eyeshades, pens and earplugs are all individually loaded

I understand that after having cabins full of partially used / unused economy kit packs constantly being found on the floor post-landing and after being trampled on during disembarkation, unused product couldn't be repurposed

A more effective way of communicating to economy customers that amenities are actually available is being worked on, possibly a PA or menu's: albeit IMHO we've become saturated with too many PA's and too much written copy

In the meantime, I would ask when onboard: day or night flights
#954415 by FLYERZ
21 Feb 2020, 22:52
Very useful to know that! Makes sense and fits in with their more green approach of late. I do think it should be advertised though. Maybe just a line on the food menu after the tea/hot chocloate service or keep the bathroom stocked with a few packs.
#954449 by Red Velvet
24 Feb 2020, 20:38
Yes, copy on the menu or some other comms is definately being worked on. Challenge of putting kit pieces in the toilets is that there's no obvious place to put / secure them without everything flying about and ultimately ending up blocking the toilets: which is why the soap bottles tend to fixed to the bulkhead now
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