Sir Richard Branson inaugurated Virgin Atlantic service to Seattle in his inimitable style
On the heels of Alaska Airlines’ announcement that it will soon do away with the Virgin America brand, after having purchased the airline last year to the tune of $2.6 billion, Virgin Atlantic inaugurated daily service from London to Seattle on March 27.
Virgin Atlantic’s daily service from London to Seattle will make use of the airline’s fleet of Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Branson had publicly opposed the merger, but as a minority shareholder of Virgin America, there wasn’t much he could do. The new route will allow the Virgin brand to retain a presence in the Pacific Northwest, and perhaps help to restore a bit of Branson’s entrepreneurial dignity. The route had been announced last year, not long after news first broke about the sale of Virgin America to Alaska Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic’s Airbus A340 called Bubbles – Photo: Lewis Smith | FlickrCC
Recently, I used my Delta Skymiles for a trip to London. However, rather than flying the genteel Southern airline (aka Delta), I used my miles to book an Upper Class ticket with their joint venture partner, Virgin Atlantic (recently named the fifth-best international airline by Travel + Leisure). I was excited to put them to the test!
I had no trouble booking the trip through Delta’s website. I simply logged into my account, searched for DFW to London. 125,000 miles later, I was booked to go to London on an overnight flight across the pond. My husband, who booked separately, also had no problems making his reservation, even though he paid with actual dollars.
The Upper Class cabin – Photo: John Walton
Four engines, for long-haul – Photo: John Walton
The morning of our flight arrived and we took a taxi from our apartment in downtown Dallas to DFW International Airport, arriving at terminal E where Delta has its outpost inside the American Airlines fortress hub. We arrived three hours early as recommended for international flights, but being that it was just before 6:00 A.M. on a Saturday morning, it took less than 10 minutes to check our bags, get through security, and get in to the Delta Sky Club, where I drank all the Starbucks coffee anyone could ever want and grazed on bagels, English muffins, and other breakfast foods.
Virgin Atlantic’s “Golden Girl” Airbus A330 – Photo: Alastair Long
I recently flew Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick (LGW) to St. Lucia (UVF). It was a first-time experience for me, both flying the airline and riding on an Airbus A330-300. The flight was part of a Virgin Holidays package that my wife and I bought at the last minute, although flights to the island from London at this time of the year are also available with British Airways. I’d read mixed reviews about the Virgin Atlantic product, but my wife is a big fan – so I kept an open mind and we opted for the red livery.
I was excited to experience Airbus’ smallish wide-body over the distance, even though I understand Virgin operates the route with a 747 from time-to-time. The closest Boeing equivalent I’d flown on was a British Airways 767 from Moscow a few years ago, and I’d also enjoyed Etihad’s A340 from Abu Dhabi a few months ago – both en-route to London Heathrow – so I relished the prospect of adding a new aircraft type to my repertoire.
Now, I’m a European LCC short-haul aficionado for both personal and (formerly) professional reasons (I used to be the Airports and Ground Ops lawyer for a UK airline). Minimalist seat width, pitch, a single aisle, and scratching around for euros or pound coins to pay for coffee and a muffin are my norms, so frankly any change from that is a win in my book. Actually, that’s rubbish. I love luxury, pampering, and upgrades as much as the next person. I was just full of AvGeek zeal and excitement on the day. Even the delay at LGW security whilst my Kindle Fire was tested for explosive substances was good-natured and efficient.
Um...what? You are holding this blog upside down.
Tis the season for fooling. It is hard to know what is true and what is not true on this day. Some airlines have really gotten into it and come up with great April Fool’s news stories. Who says airlines can’t have a sense of humor? Here are the ones I have found so far:
* Air New Zealand promoted their new pay per pound program, which I have stated previous, it might actually work
* Ryanair will start child-free flights
* easyJet announced the new royal couple will be flying them and honeymooning in Scotland
* WestJet will be adding helium to their aircraft to reduce weight
* Southwest now is able to travel through time and they brought a video back to prove it
* Air France will start Jupiter flights starting Bastille Day
* Swiss Air Lines will hand out different types of chocolate depending on your flier status
* Virgin Atlantic is to have fresh produce and herbs in upper class
* Virgin America announces Sir Richard Branson buys Pluto and re-instates it as a planet
* JetBlue is to get rid of free snacks, DirectTV, direct flights and more (via @hbaskas)
If you run into any more April Fool’s jokes done by airlines (or airline-related) let me know and I will add it to the list with a little shout out to you.