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    Ciprian Hirlea
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    I travelled on Virgin Atlantic on VS2 from Newark Liberty International Airport to London Heathrow in September 2015. The aircraft was an Airbus A340-600.

    As I didn't have lounge access I passed away time on the free airport wifi (although it's worth noting that it only lasted for 30 minute per device but is per device) in a Belgian beer cafe. The flight departed from gate 55 and the scheduled boarding commencement time was 9:45pm. There was a delayed British Airways departing from the next gate with a seemingly never ending array of updates and boarding announcements. Boarding did commence shortly afterward 9:45pm, albeit as upper class and premium economy passengers were called at the same time it was a long line. Boarding was also temporarily suspended to allow a Cathay crew to access a nearby gate. I liked the fact the aircraft name ('Lady Bird') was displayed on the boarding monitor. Notwithstanding the long line, boarding was swift and I was onboard by 9:50pm. There was a flight announcement at just before 10pm and we were told that the flight would take just over 6 hours. I was sitting in seat 20K, which I have liked on previous VS flights. There was some headphones, an amenity kit, purple blanket and small white pillow on my seat. The headphones were the same as economy and this is an area where I think VE could upgrade the PE offering. I laughed to myself as a person in row 19 took numerous pictures of themselves in their seat using a selfie stick. Sparkling wine or juice were offered as a pre departure drink. There was a bit of drama when a couple insisted on sitting together, although someone eventually (and very kindly) agreed to move – I thought the flight attendant handled the situation very professionally.

    As the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy seat has been extensively reviewed elsewhere I will focus on the service elements of the flight. Just a few observations for those that are not familiar: (i) PE is a totally separate cabin – my friend thought it was the same as Economy Plus on United – it's not; (ii) I personally find the seat (which is upholstered in purple leather) to be very spacious and comfortable – I had a larger passenger sitting next to me (i.e. someone that needed to request a seatbelt extension) and still not feel that they were encroaching on my space; and (iii) having taken a number of Virgin Atlantic flights in various classes, I find it the quietest of the three cabins on overnight flights. Quite strangely, the safety demonstration was performed manually and at a very low volume. At 22:15 the captain made an announcement to reiterate that the flight would take just over 6 hours due to a good tailwind and we would arrive well ahead of schedule. Push back was at 22:25pm. Take off was at about 22:40. At about 11pm hot towels were handed out and menus shortly afterwards.

    I spent some time watching the movie “San Andreas” whilst waiting for the food service to commence – it was fairly difficult to hear with the cheap earphones and a baby crying in the cabin. I also found the IFE controller a frustrating mixture of unresponsive and then suddenly highly responsive!

    MEAL SERVICE: DINNER
    Menus were handed out at 11:10pm. I'm not sure if there was a shortage but we were only given 1 between the 2 of us. Drinks were served at around 11:15pm and I opted for a gin and tonic (miniature bottle of Bombay Sapphire provided) and I was given a small packet of Penn State pretzels. Food started to be served at 11:45pm, which seemed a long time given that this was a short night flight. The starter was a small garden salad, which came with a small body of vinaigrette dressing.
    The main course options were:
    – Guinness beef stew;
    – Thai chicken curry; or
    – vegetable ravioli.
    I posted for the chicken curry – my expectations were low but I was really impressed with the taste and the accompanying selection of vegetables including baby corn and pak choy. Warm bread was also served.
    The dessert was a chocolate creme brûlée pyramid, which was passable but not great. The service was professional and decent, but felt a little bit forced and wasn't particularly warm or engaging (more of an observation than a criticism). A drinks menu/list was never provided so I can't provide any information on the drinks available. I wanted to sleep as soon as possible after the meal service had ended so unfortunately missed the after dinner cognac.

    MEAL SERVICE: BREAKFAST

    At 3:10 I awoke to find that the trolley had already started passing through the cabin again to serve breakfast. I opted for the full English, which comprises scrambled egg, a cherry tomato, a mini sausage and some baked beans. It was served with a blueberry muffin in a plastic packet. Whilst all “first world problems” the hot breakfast was quite bland and rubbery, my orange juice was served warm and the coffee was warm rather than hot. After the breakfast service ended, a orange juice with ice was brought promptly on request.

    By the time the breakfast service had finished we were passing over the southern tip of Ireland and we were almost exactly one hour from Heathrow. We were at about 33,000 feet with a 17km per hour tail wind. I used this spare hour as an opportunity to get some more rest. An arrivals announcement was made at about 4:15am.

    LANDING AND ARRIVALS

    Landing was at 9:47 (4:47). It was a long wait to passport control but the queue was quite short and fast moving. The baggage arrived quickly and I collected my bag within about 5 minutes of arriving at the belt – I was impressed, in particular, I was travelling in PE rather than UC.

    In summary, this was a good flight and I was impressed with the quantity of food available. The service was a little rough around the edges but it was well intentioned and probably partially related to the number of passengers and the amount of work involved in serving 2 full meals on a relatively short flight. I really like the PE seat, but the responsiveness of the IFE could and should be improved. I'm sure I will travel PE with Virgin in the future (especially if I’m not chasing BA tier points), but will try and book on the flagship 787-900 if at all possible.

    Review courtesy of Seatplans.com. Original review by user Aspirational Flyer can be found here

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