Virgin Atlantic B747-400 economy
CHECK-IN I arrived at Gatwick’s South Terminal at 0830 and reached the relatively short check-in queue at 0845, although the queue didn’t take long to fill out behind me. As I was travelling in a large group of nine passengers I hadn’t checked in online and the process was dealt with a little slowly at the desk, with passports checked and baggage loaded in a given order as requested by the check-in staff.
Once this was complete I made my way upstairs to the automated security area, which I love. The barriers read the barcode on my boarding pass immediately and I picked the shortest queue according to the overhead screens, although the entire area was well staffed and fairly quiet. I went through the long snaking duty-free area and made my way up to Frankie and Bennys for a coffee and some breakfast.
BOARDING The gate information showed on the screen at 0910 and I set off at around 0940, arriving at gates 31-38 at 0955 as it’s quite a walk - boarding was due to close at 1000. There was no queue and I was in my seat by 1005.
THE SEAT As a group we had paid for the extra legroom seats (an extra three inches from the standard 31 inches, costing £20 per person on this flight, for more information click here) and I was in 43C, an aisle seat.
This was one of the newly refurbished B747s stationed at Gatwick (to see a seat map click here) and the interior looked great, with newly upholstered seats in red or purple cloth and new touchscreen JAM in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens with ports for plugging in personal devices fitted. The JAM system is really fantastic, quick and responsive to touches and loaded with over 300 hours of content, with up to date film choices on this flight including Lawless, Taken 2, Looper and Ted just some on show. The picture and sound quality are also greatly improved from the old Vera system.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The extra-legroom seats are all good for space and I didn’t spy any annoying IFE boxes under the seats so I would simply opt for personal preference and get as far forward as possible as the B747s can take a while to unload. Note that although row 38 looks appealing this is near a bank of four toilets so gets extremely busy at times. Anywhere between rows 25-37 are good economy seats.
THE FLIGHT Pull back was at 1040 and we took off by 1045, another bonus at Gatwick is that the queue for the runway is never as long as at Heathrow. Menu cards were handed out soon after the seat belt sign was turned off at 1115 and consisted of: Bangers and mash with gravy and carrots; Christmas dinner (I was travelling on December 27); Penne pasta in a white sauce with roasted vegetables and Italian cheese.
All dishes were served with a mixed salad, pre-packed white bread roll and a Gu black forest dessert, followed by tea and coffee.
The drinks service came at 1150 and I had an orange juice and a bag of sour cream and chive flavoured pretzels. Lunch was served at 1240 and I went for the bangers and mash, which was tasty enough but overly salty.
I settled in to watch a couple of films and read my magazine until ice lollies, water and juice were brought round at 1530. The crew were cheery and energetic throughout the flight. They were excellent with all the children on board and dealt with an ill passenger quickly and without fuss.
Afternoon tea was served at 1745 and consisted of two cheese and onion finger sandwiches on white bread and a cupcake, which I was informed by my neighbour was delicious. The sandwiches were tasty but a little stale. The last two hours of the flight dragged a little, but this is to be expected and at least there was plenty to watch.
ARRIVAL Love heart sweets were brought round just before we began our descent at 1850 and we landed in Barbados at 1915. Immigration was typically busy and the queue was slow moving but we were eventually through to baggage reclaim by 1930 and had our bags and were outside in another ten minutes.
VERDICT An excellent flight all round on a plane that looked brand new. The crew were cheery, everyone was in a good mood and there was plenty of entertainment to keep everyone busy.
PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to Barbados in March ranged between £574 and £1,817 depending on flexibility.
SEAT CONFIGURATION 3-3-3
SEAT PITCH 34” (extra-legroom)
SEAT WIDTH 17.5”
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PatJordan - 21/01/2013 22:55
Great review, Scott. What a way to start....breakfast in Frankie & Bennys!! Hard to beat that for a pre-flight nosh up!
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