Virgin Atlantic B747-400 LGW/MAN Config 3 EconomyBack to Forum
Anonymous12 Jan 2012
This is a review of the return leg following a fantastic initial flight from London Gatwick to Barbados which I posted previously.
I arrived at Grantley Adams airport with my travelling partner at 1530 via a taxi transfer from my hotel. I was again unable to check in online again so joined the check-in queue at the Virgin Atlantic desk which runs parallel to the quick bag drop queue. The Virgin Atlantic area is located in the main open forecourt of the airport, round the corner to the left hand side.
Neither queue was too long but they all led to the same desks so we were held at the front while at least three groups were allowed to go ahead and drop bags. I had attempted to reserve seats before leaving England but these again were not confirmed so I was asked my preference and secured the two aisle and middle seats in the central bank of four that we preferred.
The woman at the desk was extremely friendly, smiley and helpful throughout the process and I was away in no time. I turned around and went straight through to security by 1545 and handed in my immigration slip (maintained from the inbound flight) before going through the x-ray machine (laptop out, shoes off) and was airside by 1600.
There are plenty of shops airside, mostly duty free booze, souvenirs, some clothing and one shop selling magazines, books and papers. In terms of food and drink the selection is meager with an oriental takeaway and a Caribbean takeaway serving tasty looking chicken wraps, salads and other simple fare. There is also a cafe once you pass through to the gates and a small bar for that last Banks beer before leaving the island, if you can get a seat.
There is plenty of seating airside but most areas are always busy. I picked up some souvenirs and settled in and read my book for an hour until boarding was called at 1700. Reading was not as easy as you would expect though as there was a near constant stream of loud speaker announcements, accompanied by an irritating jingle. The gate was not up on the board half an hour before the flight but I could see the Virgin Atlantic jumbo through the windows sat at gate 15 so sat nearby in anticipation.
A 15 minute delay to boarding was announced before priority boarding commenced. From then on people were called forward by row numbers but it seemed that 90% of people ignored this and went up anyway, leading to a horrendous queue which many people then tried to jump as they felt they were in the right rows to proceed. The whole process was frankly a shambles and a bum fight with many people getting extremely irritated. Staff did nothing to try and organise the chaos and may as well have called everyone forward in the first place.
Once we reached the front of the queue our boarding passes were taken and we were told that we had been upgraded to premium, only to then be told that he had made a mistake and that we had been moved forward to row 35 which on this configuration was still located in an economy cabin, the first of the disappointments to come.
Nevertheless we were seated in 35B and C by 1750 for our scheduled 1755 takeoff. These were an aisle and middle seat next to a chatty Spanish woman and I was disappointed to realise on boarding that this was an older plane than that used for our outbound journey. This meant the seats felt more cramped and reclined clumsily. The IFE screens were tiny (around 6” square) and was played on a loop, not on demand as on the way out. The movie selection was poor and out of date (Red Dog anyone?). Some members of staff were good enough but one older stewardess was extremely surly, complaining to her colleagues throughout. The other crew performed their duties but were keen to get them done and get us to sleep, as per usual on a night flight.
We took off at 1830. Menus were not brought round as they had an error printed on them so dinner choices were said over the loudspeaker and consisted of a beef stew with mash, vegetable pasta and green beans or Caribbean chicken with rice, which my travelling partner really enjoyed.
I opted for the beef which arrived at 1930 and was an oily stew with shredded beef which was really very tasty with smooth mash and a few beans. This came with a side salad which was far better than the bland one offered on the way out including red onion, peppers, beans, lettuce, tomato and (shock horror) some dressing. Pudding was not served separate and was a bizarre (not in a good way) and dry apple crumble. There was no drinks service before dinner which seemed cheeky but drinks were served with dinner. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate then came round at 2030 and most people began settling in to sleep. Passengers were irritatingly not asked to put their seats into the upright position for the dinner service.
I dozed for two hours after watching some programmes on my laptop and woke at 0500 for breakfast. This consisted of peach yoghurt, blueberry muffin and some melon served with tea, coffee and juice. We began our descent at 0545 before a smooth landing at 0615. I disembarked via an air bridge and was through a very quiet immigration by 0640, the e-passport lanes were shut, and I had my bag off the carousel by 0700.
VERDICT A very disappointing flight following the great experience I had going out to Barbados. The airline and crew appear to not be so concerned with finishing your holiday as well as they like to start it with the aircraft, seating, entertainment and food all a lower standard, roll on the refit of these dated aircraft.12 Jan 2012