Tried & Tested

Virgin Atlantic Little Red A320-200 economy

30 Apr 2013 by GrahamSmith

BACKGROUND Virgin Atlantic launched its domestic network at the end of March, using slots freed up at Heathrow by the purchase of Bmi by BA’s parent company, IAG. It serves Manchester four times a day, Edinburgh six times-daily and Aberdeen thrice-daily under the branding “Little Red”. The services are operated using all-economy A320s wet-leased from Aer Lingus – crew are employed by the Irish carrier but are in Virgin uniform and trained in the UK airline’s style of service, while the plane features Virgin Atlantic livery. This was the launch flight for the Edinburgh service, which had a number of journalists on board as well as Sir Richard Branson and Virgin executives.

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 1 at 0730 for my 0920 departure on VS3003 and proceeded to Zone A at the left-hand end of the terminal. The Little Red section had one priority check-in desk, three bag-drop desks and three self-service check-in kiosks. I was given my boarding pass by welcoming staff, dropped my bag and was directed to head to Gate 8. I had my boarding pass checked before going through security, which was busy but quite well organised, and I was through in ten minutes.

THE LOUNGE Flying Club gold members and Upper Class passengers who have transferred from Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network can use the Servisair lounge at T1, which I hadn’t been granted access to, so I went straight to the gate. There was another boarding pass checkpoint en route.

BOARDING This started from Gate 8D at 0835. People who required special assistance or were travelling with children were invited to board first, and then passengers were boarded by row number, starting from the back of the plane. I boarded via airbridge, was greeted warmly and was in my seat (20B) at 0845. My first impressions were that this was very much a Virgin experience, with the purple lighting and pop music you get on its international flights.

THE SEAT There are 29 rows configured 3-3. Seats are upholstered in Virgin’s aubergine leather. They are comfy and have decent legroom for a short-haul product, with a 29- to 30-inch (73.6cm to 76cm) pitch, and recline of four to 4.5 inches (10cm to 11.4 cm). There is a stable fold-down table (mine was a bit marked), an adjustable head rest, a coat hook and a magazine rack.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Sit towards the front to disembark first. Row one has more legroom, as do exit rows 12 and 13, though you will have to wait longer for the drink service – which starts simultaneously from the front and back – if you sit towards the middle. Avoid the back row, as you cannot recline and are closest to the rear washrooms and galley.

THE FLIGHT We pushed back on time at 0920 and took off about 15 minutes later. A complimentary drink and snack service started swiftly as soon as we were cruising. Beers, wines and spirits were on offer, as well as soft drinks and, for this flight, a special “Little Red Rob Roy” cocktail featuring Dewar’s whisky, sweet vermouth and orange bitters. Dewar’s whisky is available on all Little Red flights, and Irn Bru on Scottish ones. Snacks included cookies from Scottish brand Bronte and Tyrrells crisps, and small packets of Love Hearts were also given out. Bacon rolls are served on departures before 0900. It did take rather a while for the trolleys to make their way through the aircraft – the flight was packed – and I didn’t get a chance to finish my coffee before crew came around to collect rubbish and I had to fold up my table in preparation for landing.

ARRIVAL We landed ahead of schedule at 1030. There was a press photo call on the tarmac after we disembarked.

VERDICT An enjoyable short-haul service – punctual and comfortable with friendly crew and a complimentary drink and snack service (a little rushed on this flight but very welcome all the same). While Virgin doesn’t offer as many daily flights as BA on its domestic routes, Little Red will be offering solid competition to its rival.

Michelle Mannion


Fact file

  • DEPARTURE TIME 0920
  • 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 Internet rates for a return flight from London to Edinburgh in June ranged between £108 and £530 depending on flexibility.

 

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