Today I have moved to London to kick off the new adventure of living abroad. After living in Los Angeles for nearly 10 years, I have taken a new post at work which takes me to London. As part of the visa application process, I listed the number of times I’d been to the UK in the past ten years – about 15 times. And in the ten years before that, I’d wager another 15 times at least. So while not an unfamiliar place, I will be adjusting my view through the lens of a resident not a tourist. My two boxers Ronnie and Lucy will also make the journey – they arrive tomorrow.
I have started this blog to share my experiences with my friends back home, my family as well as anyone else who might be thinking about the same type of adventure. I also travel a fair bit, so intend to share my experiences and impressions of various airlines, locations etc. Below you’ll find my experience flying over on Virgin Atlantic. I hope you’ll enjoy following the adventure with me, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Virgin Atlantic VS008 – Los Angeles to London
I fell in love with what I call the ‘acoutremont’ of travel when I was young and opened my first Kosher in-flight meal. All the little compartments and mini-packages. My love was sealed later in life on Virgin Atlantic – then flying Premium Economy back and forth from London to New York for my former employer Ragdoll. The food was also presented in little packages with cute sayings – much better than the Kosher food of my youth.
I flew Virgin Airways Upper Class and Upper Deck on my moving trip to London. I am happy to see my favorite airline item – the airplane salt and pepper shakers with the ‘pinched from’ on the bottoms – are still provided.
The other favorite item of mine generally are the Dopp kits – the little packets of ear plugs, toothbrush, socks etc. I’ve collected a variety over the years. While the Virgin Dopp kit comes in a lovely fabric, the contents aren’t particularly special. Considering their partnership with Cowshed, one expects some Cowshed lip balm or hand creme in the packet – alas not to be.
Upper Deck has been re-configured so that the back half is Economy seating. While this makes the remaining five Upper Class rows fairly quiet, it also cuts you off from the attendants and the best thing about the plane – the bar. A signature feature, the Virgin in-flight bar is a great reason to stretch your legs and meet some fellow passengers. But having to traverse through another class and down the stairs requires the bartender to quiz you on your seat number to confirm your right to sit down. A weird interrogation to get a drink. Nonetheless, I sidled up and had a scotch, and chatted up a lovely older British couple about places to live in London. They live out in the suburbs – not for me.
The other challenge with Upper Deck is that upon exit you are stuck behind a large group de-planing in front of you – the Customs Fast Track helps, but not ideal.
I am sad to say overall Virgin lost a little luster for me. While the Clubhouse in Heathrow still ranks as the best airport lounge in the world (in my view – so far!), at LAX it shares the Air New Zealand lounge – very nice but no Clubhouse. Many other airlines have caught up to the Virgin Experience and in some ways surpassed it. They still get high marks for overall service and for great car service to and from the airports.
And yes – I pinched my salt and pepper shakers. What’s the best item you’ve pinched from an airline?