I was connecting to this flight from Melbourne and as my Virgin Australia flight arrived at 9am, even after taking the shuttle to the international terminal, I still had to wait a couple of hours before counters opened for VS201, at around 1300.
I was confirmed for premium economy with the possibility of an upgrade to Upper Class (business), so I had to line up at the economy lane for about 10 minutes before I reached the desk.
The process was smooth but I was told the complimentary upgrade did not include lounge access. I arrived at Gate 58 at 1330, which is adjacent to a waiting lounge with a row of power sockets and UBS charging ports.
Boarding began at 1450, but as I was still working on my laptop, I waited until the final group was called at 1505. I arrived at my seat by 1510.
The seat is 22 inches wide in an upright position, which feels cosy but not cramped. To make it a bed, I had to clear everything away to press the button for the seat back to flip down. As a bed it is 33 inches wide and 78 inches long – comfortable enough for my tall, medium build.
The table is best described as a block, which you can unlock with a button and then pull out into a flat surface. It’s quite light, but sturdy enough that it doesn’t wobble when used as a desk.
The 10.4-inch TV screen is stowed on the partition, and can be unlocked and easily adjusted on the lever. Reading light and the remote control handset are well placed for accessibility.
If I were to complain about the seat, I’d highlight the lack of storage space. There is one under the footrest but it’s in a half oval shape that couldn’t house my shoes or laptop. On my left-hand side was a magazine pocket where I placed my iPad, and next to it a small, shallower space for small items such as handset and glasses. Another problem was that the buttons for adjusting the seat are located at the edge of the partition near the aisle. Other than it being a little hard to reach, my fellow passenger also accidentally pressed them as he grabbed onto the edge of the partition to lift himself up.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE
My seat, 17A, is by the window on the last row in the cabin and the first after you come out of the bar. I initially thought there would be disturbance, but as it turned out the wardrobe in between effectively blocked all the noise. The bar was indeed a popular spot, with quite a few passengers making use of the facility. I loved the idea of being able to go grab a drink to bring back to my seat without much of a walk.
The plane started taxiing out 1540 and took off about 10 minutes later. The seatbelt sign was off around 1605 but it wasn’t some 20 minutes later that my drink order was taken. My drink, a crisp and fruity Lanson Black Label champagne, came 10 minutes later and food order, alongside duty-free requests, was taken after another 15 minutes. Although the service was slow at times, the flight attendants were very friendly, always smiling and sometimes bantering with passengers.
While the service was warm, the cabin was freezing, and the duvet I was given only just took the chill off.
About an hour into the flight dinner service commenced. I had smoked salmon with Thai-style dressing, which was accompanied by warm, aromatic bread with cumin seeds. My main course of choice was lamb loin with red wine jus, roasted parsnip and a three-bean salad, featuring reasonably tender meat and went well with the hearty sauce. There are three white and three red wines to choose from. The La Legua Roble wine (Tempranillo) from Spain complemented the grassiness of the lamb well. I skipped dessert for some cheeses (Cobram vintage cheddar, King Island triple brie and Tarago River blue vein), and made use of the in-flight entertainment system.
There were 62 movies available and I chose Gravity, but fell asleep half way.
I woke up with about an hour before arrival and found that, much to my delight, traditional high tea – finger sandwiches and scones from a three-tier tray – was being served.
Touchdown was 15 minutes early at 2145, and I was at immigration by 2200. Luggage was already there when I reached the carousel, and I was landside before 2215.
While the cabin felt slightly dated, everything worked very well during my flight. I was the most delighted by the service, which was professional but not stiff. The food and wine selections were also superb.
- PLANE TYPE A340-600
- CONFIGURATION 1-1-1
- SEAT WIDTH 22in/56cm (seated), 33in/84cm (lie-flat)
- SEAT LENGTH 78in/198cm
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible return flight (weekday departures) in the first week of May are listed as HK$47,779 (US$6,153), including taxes and surcharges. This route will cease from May 5 but the Hong Kong-London Heathrow service will continue to be served by the same aircraft.
- CONTACT www.virgin-atlantic.com