Virgin Atlantic A350 Manchester to Orlando trip report part 2

Virgin Atlantic A350 Manchester to Orlando trip report part 2

Virgin Atlantic A350 Manchester to Orlando trip report part 2 1024 768 Joe Bleasdale

This trip report covers Orlando to Manchester on the Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 leisure configuration. You can read part one here.

I was due to fly back to Manchester on the Sunday but decided to move this to a day earlier after a busy week. This flight was slightly different to the outbound flight courtesy of the aircraft still being an A350, but sporting the leisure configuration. Virgin has a handful of these aircraft that are specifically designed as high density Economy aircraft. As such, Upper Class only has 16 seats, rows 1-4. Directly behind that is Premium Economy separated by a bulkhead. It’s very reminiscent of the old 747-400. The one quirk other than the smaller cabin is that Premium Economy passengers will almost always disembark first as virgin tends to use door 2L to board and disembark.

Upon checking in, the agent immediately asked me if I’d consider a downgrade as they were overbooked by 4 people in Upper Class. This was not good news as that’s a significant overbooking for such a small cabin. They offered me a free* Upper Class flight anywhere on the Virgin network, or 75% of the cost of my ticket back as cash. I decided to think about this offer. The agent tried to pressure me into making a decision there and then, but I decided against that. I knew this problem was big enough that I could probably make the decision right up to boarding if need be. In the end I decided to stick with 1K in Upper Class as I wanted to sleep on the return.

*The “free” tickets offered are actually reward flights. And the way it works is you have to pay the taxes & fees associated with these flights but you don’t have to pay the points. So it’s not entirely free, and you also need reward availability to use this kind of freebie too. So it sounds great, but in practice it isn’t that good. Hence why I declined this offer.

The details

  • Carrier – Virgin Atlantic
  • Aircraft – A350-1000 (leisure config)
  • Route –Orlando to Manchester
  • Seat – 1K
  • Flight Number – VS74
  • Departure time – 23.20 local time (1 hour late)
  • Arrival time – 11.30 local time
  • Ticket type – Premium Economy (K) upgraded to Upper Class reward (G)

Orlando lounge experience

Virgin uses the Delta Skyclub at Orlando for Gold and Upper Class passengers. I’ve been to some pretty old airport lounges, but I think this one was the oldest. There wasn’t anything wrong with it really, it was just dreary. That said, there was food and snacks on offer, plenty of seating and the service from the staff was fine.

Boarding was delayed due to thunderstorms over the airport, but once the flight was called I headed down to the gate. It was very busy due to the age of this terminal and an A350 with high density Economy cabin accounts for A LOT of people.

Delta Sky Club Orlando Seating

Boarding & Upper Class Suite

Boarding was efficient and quick. Once I was at my seat, the Cabin Service Supervisor was attending to the passengers in Upper Class. The FSM was nowhere to be seen for most of the flight and there were no Gold welcomes either. I got the feeling she was just dis-interested which was a little disappointing. I was in seat 1K for this flight which was unusual as I usually sit on the lefthand side of the aircraft, but due to the last minute change I didn’t have that option. Seat 1 is better than seat none, though!

Thanks to significant thunderstorms, we were late departing by over an hour. But during this time I got to chat with the crew on the flight deck and get an in depth technical tour of the A350 which was cool.

Virgin Atlantic A350-1000 cockpit

The A350 leisure configuration has a different social space because of the denser cabin configuration. Rather than the (useless) loft at the rear of the cabin, there is a still useless Booth at the front left of the cabin. It’s quite reminiscent of the massage station the old A340 aircraft had.

The Booth social space available on the leisure configuration A350-1000

Onboard service

As this was a night flight, there was a bit of a rush to get the service done so people could sleep as we crossed the Atlantic. I wanted to sleep too, but I still indulged in the full menu on offer. I decided not to have a starter and just went for the mains, dessert and cheese course. For the main, I chose Brown sugar brined pork chop with leek & Yukon potato gratin.

Brown sugar brined pork chop with leek & Yukon potato gratin.

Dessert was a chocolate cup, which I’d had on many previous flights and the cheese course was American themed with Mariehe gouda, Kunik soft, Greathill blue served with chutney, crackers and grapes. Port was on offer, but I didn’t take any.

After the food I decided to try and sleep for a while. The CSS asked if I wanted to be awoken for breakfast and I said yes please. I asked her to make the bed up for me (a normal request on Virgin) but she clearly didn’t want to for some reason. She relented when I told her I didn’t have any bedding, so she could find some whilst I changed into pyjamas. I was hoping she’d know some tricks to making the seat completely flat but that was not the case. I did sleep for a bit, but I really prefer the bed on the 787.

Breakfast & arrival

I’ve said this before, but I will say it again. Breakfast on aircraft sucks. You can get a better breakfast at Costa or Pret. I really think airlines should abandon their own breakfasts and partner with someone like that. That would fix the bad coffee problem too! That being said, I had to eat something so I opted for the option that I knew would be OK which was a warm maple syrup muffin. I’d seen someone else have it on a previous flight and knew it would be a nice snack.

Warmed maple syrup muffin with caramelised banana.

Before long we were lining up for arrival on runway 05R in Manchester. I enjoyed views of the north west countryside and I noticed that due to our routing, we’d fly right over my Mums house which was nice.

Bottom line

As Business Class flights go, it was fine. I think the biggest drawback remains the A350 seat and the fact we had to wait for the Premium cabin to leave before we could disembark. But given the cost of this upgrade was minimal (an upgrade voucher plus $200), I think it was a good deal.

Let’s plan your next trip…

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