Virgin Atlantic Little Red: VS3046 31MARBack to Forum
Anonymous31 Mar 2013
Sunday, 31st March marked the first ever Virgin Atlantic Little Red flight – from Manchester to Heathrow.
Edinburgh and Aberdeen will follow in the coming weeks but here’s my trip report, based on the flight only.
Having bagged sequence one |:) by getting up stupidly early, I had travelled up to Manchester the day before and stayed at the Hilton Manchester Airport, which is walking distance to the terminals. I have previously been disappointed by Hilton but this one was good enough.
So, after a stupidly late night, I was up stupidly early to be part of the inaugural Heathrow flight. It was dark outside! Having used Passbook on my iPhone for the first time I didn’t have to go to check-in, (while not open it was bedecked with oddly phallic balloons while chocolates were ready to be handed out. to passengers. )
So, straight to the seventh ring of Hell. I mean Manchester Airport Terminal 3 Security.
An absolute disgrace. Lots of flights, lots of passengers and not enough staff. Various announcements were made asking people to identify themselves if they were on a specific flight and they were pulled out of the queue and prioritised. That involved pulling back the retractable ribbbon barriers, and asking people to stand to one side as the worried passengers were called forward, all to get to their flight in time. Other passengers then ducked under the ribbon barrier and little sub-queues formed. Not at all conducive to a good morning. This queue-jumping then irritated the security staff and other passengers. All in all I waited about 35 minutes in a queue and then had to remove my trainers for X-Ray. Actually in all my years of travelling I have never witnessed such a badly organised security system.
I finally got through, and headed for the Escape lounge. This took a bit longer than I expected as the signage wasn’t great and I walked straight past! The Priority Pass app kept me right though.
The Escape Lounge at T3 is a former bmi lounge and uses the same furniture. It’s also the lounge that Virgin use for the UC and Au members. I used my Priority Pass.
A nice range of drinks and surprisingly drinkable coffee (from a machine) were offered, as well as a bacon or a sausage sarnie.
The plane was at Gate 19, and Virgin had two staff walking around offering croissants, pastries, mini chocolates, teas, coffees and some ‘fizz’. Of course I sampled the lot.
One of the Virgin staff here stood out and amazingly witty and engaging. She has worked for VS for 7 years and was clearly proud of working with them. y)
And there was our plane, “Queen of the Cobbles”, proudly in Virgin Atlantic livery. Sadly you can’t really see the lovely purple glow from the lighting onboard.
I stayed in the lounge as I was told that I would be called when the flight was ready. Little Gu eggs were given to boarding passengers. As usual, despite waiting to go through security to what I thought was the last, there was a queue on the airbridge. C’est La Vie.
But enough of that! Time to board, and fight the comfy seat 4A. It has a window and legroom was not a problem. The steward did ask if I wanted an extending seatbelt, which confirms that I will be starting a diet tomorrow. 🙂
There were a few announcements about this being the first ever Virgin Atlantic Little Red flight (which got a cheer), an official photographer wanted a pic of the passengers waving, the Captain welcomed us on board too and during the flight. Take off was, I think bang on time.
The ascent was steeper than I recall than on previous flights.
Service started a little later than would prove practical, I enjoyed my big bacon ciabatta with brown sauce (I won’t post a pic. There’s no way of making a bacon sarnie drenched in brown sauce look appetising!) served along with a coffee, although some other passengers opted for alcohol.
In fact, the service was not able to be completed before descent started to Heathrow, for which the stewardess twice apologised. This will surely be tweaked, today’s flight time was 35 minutes.
Time to sit back and enjoy the scenery.
We arrived at Heathrow to light applause from some of the other passengers; where the Terminal 3 buses were waiting. Passengers going on to other Virgin flights leave the plane but staff waited at the top of the airbridge to direct them, thus avoiding Flight Connections route.
It certainly felt like I was flying Virgin, with Aer Lingus references kept to a minimum. (A sticker by the side of the aircraft door indicated that this was an Aer Lingus aircraft.)
Heathrow Terminal 1 was similarly bedecked.
A nice touch from Wetherspoons.
http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8535/8606754730_260d505a8b.jpg31 Mar 2013
Were you being serious about the seatbelt NIRscot?
There is nothing better than seeing Windsor Castle, whether it be after a 35-minute or 13-hour flight 😉31 Mar 2013
Simon Calder Travel Expert on BBC Breakfast said that he was on the first Little Red from LHR. Virgin were obviously not giving the freebies on the inaugural service……only 27 passengers! Sad.
The day before, the last BA LGW-MAN was almost full. Wierd.1 Apr 2013
An interesting report from NIRscot. At least when they incresed the frequency to 4/day about a month earlier they rescheduled the first flight of the day from 0650 to 0735. 0650 or 0550 to our body clocks – it was the first day of BST – would have been really tough! Interesting however that two of us on the same flight can have such different experiences in the processes. I arrived at Security (had used web checkin) about 0620 with virtually no passengers in any queue! The queueing area was empty! I had purchased Fast Track just in case (I no longer have a VS premium card and dont need Priority Pass as I normally fly Business and have a BA Gold for domestic travel ) which was a total waste of money!! Far more staff than passengers! The security staff told me they had been busy and the dep screen showed 4 Ryanairs leaving in the previous hour but my experience was fine – I guess it is a good example of the peaks and troughs. Couldn’t use the Lounge but at the Gate the VS staff had ‘champagne’ and croissants etc. for everyone. They were using the same Gate with the adjacent Lounge as BMI used to use.
Interestingly the aircraft is painted as Virgin Atlantic and not Little Red. In fact there is no mention of Little Red other than in the class box on the boarding pass and in a cabin announcement. Why use the Little Red name at all?
As usual on inaugurals there were hoardes of ‘representatives’ around the gate – this time lots of red uniforms – some ground staff and some off duty ‘main airline’ cabin crew giving out chocolate easter eggs. All nice and friendly. Interestingly it was already a code share with NZ and SQ. On boarding they were initially unsure whether to check passports but decided eventually not to. They need to be clear about this.
On board the seating was in the VS premium economy purple with soft lighting – looks nice but they have 174 seats on the A320 compared to BA’s 162 I think (2 rows less?) so a much tighter pitch than BA particularly at the front where BA give extra leg room.
Once airborne the service got underway but this is where it went wrong. They took too much time giving out bacon ciabattas – too much ciabatta and not enough bacon – they need to copy Virgin Trains who have a nice bacon bab. As a result they didnt get the drinks service back beyond Row 18 or forward of the back 3 rows – despite a 10 min hold before our approach – before stopping the service so passengers in 8 rows missed out on coffees etc! Returning later in the day on BA we got a perfect demonstration of how it can be done (albeit without the ciabattas but with a similar load on an A320 with probably more alcoholic drinks served) with the drink trolleys out immediately the crew were released well before the seat belt signs went off and all completed 10 mins before landing with no holding time. I am sure VS (or EI?) will get this right but they need to work at it.
It is nice to have an alternative from MAN but as I use this route just to connect – my trips to LON are too easy in 1hr 40m by train – I would only use this VS service for connecting in T1 – even T3 except for VS is probably easier from T5 although the code shares will have a through fare which will help them – I suspect they are going to struggle. Of course with domestic traffic and a longer sector they may do better from EDI and ABZ. I wish them well anyway.1 Apr 2013
Canucklad – Being solely for Posh people, Aloof Air are still trying to resolve the trim issues being able to only fill just one side of the plane on the way out and then other side on the way back.1 Apr 2013
NIRscot – Yes, but how are you to know? It is one of the problems these days knowing how long to allow for Security but I guess we just have to allow for the worst and if security is quick you then have spare time. Sorry we didn’t catch up – I looked for the labels around the gate area but I now know you were in the lounge – never thought of that!
SimonS1 – I guess it is down to competition – BA do it so VS thinks it has to although I would be quite happy with just the coffee. Although the flying time is 35mins the total scheduled time is at least 1 hour or more but your point is still valid.1 Apr 2013
Thanks for the reviews!
I imagine the service issues PegasusAir had will be ironed out as the crew become more au fait with delivering the service on such a short sector.
SimonS1 I agree with you. But for some reason domestic UK flights is a market that demands something ‘hot’ at breakfast. Despite the same airlines serving something inferior (and much colder lol) on longer distance european short hauls.
I remember flying on one of the first British Midland flights from LHR-MAN in Business Class. Of course they were offering a full tray hot meal service with separate bread pass from the basket etc. The aircraft seemed full and ‘Business Class’ was about one third to one half of the aircraft. It was obviously the crew’s first LHR-MAN flight also. No longer had the wheels left the ground than they unfastened their harnesses and sprung into action. They had the double meal cart in the aisle within minutes. The crew member opened the door to the trolley and with the aircraft still climbing and it was like watching dominos fall….1,2,3,4,5,6……14 trays slid out of the trolley and smashed to the floor due to the aircraft still being in a steep ascent. Have never quite felt so sorry for a crew.1 Apr 2013
They will need to get faster with the drinks service, that’s for sure!
I’d be parched without a cuppa and a biccy or G&T and crisps in flight.
Can’t imagine what it must be like flying Inferior Airlines. No drinks? Think of the children!
I shall be sampling Simply Red shortly. I have a few specific questions you might help with:
1. Did you notice if people were being checked to ensure hand baggage was limited to one item, less than 6kg? This is a real negative of the offering, and could easily be addressed.
2. Was photo ID required for the domestic flight?
3. I assume the coaches meeting longhaul mean you’ll never get a jetway on this service?1 Apr 2013