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.
Virgin Atlantic "Tubular Belle" Boeing 747-400 that is taxiing (get it?)
Have you ever flown into a large city, had to grab a taxi downtown and thought, “man there have to be other people doing the same thing? I wish I could save a few bucks and share a cab.” Maybe you had the guts to ask people around you where they were going, but for those of us who don’t, you now have another option.
Virgin Atlantic working with NESTA (UK endowment to support innovation) is helping to test a program to help passengers share a Taxi. Called Taxi2, passengers can sign up on their website, input their flight details, they are then sent information on a probable match and can choose to accept or reject the match. The site will let you pick the sex of your passenger (presumably for safety female passengers, not to set up a date) and the program is not limited to just Virgin Atlantic customers.
Ed Maklouf, founder of Taxi2, said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Virgin Atlantic for this scheme, and our expectation is that this simple, sensible way of saving money and cutting down congestion and carbon footprint will become common activity for air travelers worldwide.”
You are even able to print off your own mini-sign (called “Clever-Ticket”) to help meeting up with your new taxi-friend.
The website isn’t clear where passengers can use the service. I asked Virgin Atlantic and they said, “Since the service is in beta for the first few months we developed it for the London to NY routes initially, however passengers traveling to any of our gateways can utilize the program.” It might be limited now, but hopefully it takes off (heh) and will spread to other locations worldwide. Passengers can get the speed and convenience of a taxi, but the cost of an airport shuttle.
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Branson greeting you to calm your fears. From Virgin Atlantic's website
Are you afraid of flying? For $4.99 you can download an iPhone app that has a 98% success rate with calming people’s fears. According to a Boeing survey, one of every three Americans is either anxious or afraid to fly.
The iPhone app starts out with an introduction from Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic, trying to calm people’s fears of flying. Then users can learn about the flying process, what to expect, a frequently asked questions section, and even a “Fear Attack” button in case you need quick breathing exercises to calm your nerves.
“Our first iPhone app will bring the benefits of our successful Flying Without Fear course to millions of people around the world who are now using mobile technology to make their lives better,” Branson said.
And don’t take my word for it! Whoopi Goldberg stated, “I was a sceptic. I hadn’t flown in 13 years but after doing their program, I understood that while my fear was real, there were many things I didn’t know or had misinformation about, which they were able to clear up. So what happened? The program works. I now fly. It’s that simple.” And you know if Whoopi can do it, so can you!
Even if you don’t fear flying, you get 2,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles when joining the program, which might be worth the $5 all on its own!
Thanks Mathu for the tip!
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