Tried & Tested

Virgin Atlantic Little Red A320-200 economy

23 Aug 2013 by GrahamSmith

BACKGROUND

Virgin Atlantic launched its Little Red brand for domestic flights in March, first to Manchester and then to Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Operated by all-economy Airbus A320s wet-leased from Aer Lingus, the aircraft feature Virgin livery while crew wear Virgin uniform. Little Red serves Manchester four times daily, Edinburgh six times and Aberdeen three times.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 1330, almost two hours before my flight's scheduled departure at 1525. I had already printed my boarding pass and had no baggage to check-in, so walked past the Little Red section in Zone A. However, it had three drop-bag desks open and there were three self-service kiosks.

Passing through security involved swiping my printed boarding pass at an automatic gate, standing in a circle and staring into a camera for two or three seconds before I was let through. Then it was business as usual as my bag went through the x-ray machine and I walked through the next, metal-detector, gate.

I grabbed some food then made my way to Gate 8. En route was a second manned security check. Here, I presented my boarding pass to a security guard, who asked me to look into a camera. Presumably, this was to have a second picture of me taken, to compare to the first taken a short while earlier. After ten seconds, I was waved through.

THE LOUNGE

Not having access to the Servisair lounge, I walked past it on my way to the gate. It is open to Flying Club gold members and Upper Class passengers who have transferred from Virgin Atlantic's long-haul network.

BOARDING

Boarding began at 1440, some 45 minutes before take-off. The elderly, those with disabilities and parents with children were asked to board first, followed by passengers in rows 15-29, then those in rows 1-14. However, the flight was only about 10 per cent full so these followed in quick succession one after another. Last boarding is 15 minutes before take-off, which is when I walked onto the plane.

THE SEAT

The A320 has 29 rows configured 3-3, seating 174 (to see a seat plan, click here). I was welcomed on board and directed to seat 1B. Being the front row, it had more legroom, as do exit rows 12 and 13. The table was stored in the arm and was relatively stable once unfolded. As the flight was so empty and my row was full, I moved to seat 2A once we had reached cruising altitude. There, I had the row to myself and a more stable fold-down table attached to the seat in front. All seats are aubergine leather and have adjustable head rests and a coat hook.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

As stated above, rows 1, 12 and 13 have more legroom. However, choosing a seat in the middle will mean you'll likely be last to receive a drink/snack as the service starts from the front and back simultaneously. Sit near the front to be the first to exit the aircraft. Avoid the back row as the seats cannot recline and are next to the rear toilets.

THE FLIGHT

The aircraft pushed back five minutes late at 1530 and there was then a further 20-plus minutes of taxiing before we took off at 1553. Once at cruising altitude, a complimentary drink and snack service started. My colleague who flew Little Red in April commented that the drinks service started simultaneously from the front and back. On this flight, it began solely from the front, presumably because the flight was nearly empty.

Among the items on offer were apple juice, orange juice, various carbonated drinks, tea, coffee, wine, beer and various other alcoholic drinks. I asked for a beer and was offered the choice of a Heineken or Tiger and opted for the former and a glass of water. Both drinks were served in a transparent purple plastic cup. I was also handed a small 15g bag of Tyrrells "plane" crisps in a "little red" pack. A short while later, I was given a small packet of Love Hearts sweets.

ARRIVAL

We landed five minutes behind schedule at 1700.

VERDICT

A thoroughly pleasant, stress-free journey, made all-the-more amenable by a friendly cabin crew. With less than five months' service under its belt, Virgin Atlantic Little Red is a welcome addition to the short-haul domestic market.

FACT FILE

  • DEPARTURE TIME 1525
  • FLIGHT TIME 1hr 30mins
  • PLANE TYPE A320-200
  • CONFIGURATION 3-3
  • SEAT WIDTH 17.8-18.3in / 45.2-46.4cm
  • SEAT PITCH 29-30in / 73.6-76cm 
  • SEAT RECLINE 4-4.5in / 10-11.4cm 
  • PRICE Online rates for a one-way flight from London to Aberdeen in September ranged from £87.30 to £325.30 for a flexible ticket.
  • CONTACT virgin-atlantic.com

Graham Smith

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