Airbus A340 Virgin Atlantic Seating Assignment
CHECK-IN As with the outbound flight earlier in the week (click here to read the review), I had tried to check in online but the seat map had not been working so I could not change where I was sitting. I couldn’t print a boarding pass either. On this flight I was unfortunate enough to have been assigned 38E, in the middle of the aircraft, so I was rather unhappy about having an uncomfortable eight-hour night flight ahead of me.
I arrived at Miami International airport, which is about 15 minutes’ drive from Downtown, at 1700, for my 1925 departure on flight VS006 to London Heathrow. The check-in section for Virgin was in Zone F and there was one desk open for Upper Class (business), two for premium economy and four for economy – the queues for these were quite long.
After ten to 15 minutes’ wait, it was my turn to be checked in, and I asked if there were any window seats available but I was told that there weren’t as the flight was full. The agent said he would see what he could do for me at the gate, though. My luggage was weighed and tagged, before I then had to take it to an adjacent roped-off area where another member of staff put it on a conveyor belt.
From here, I went up a nearby set of escalators to security. The airport was quiet and there was no one ahead of me so I was through quickly – shoes off, liquids out. There was a five-minute walk to the airside waiting area, which was a dreary, low-ceilinged place with little natural daylight, scruffy furniture, a pathetic selection of shops, small Pizza Hut and Burger King outlets, and a Budweiser Brewhouse. I sat in here and read my book for an hour while I waited for boarding to start.
BOARDING Boarding started at 1825 from Gate F19, with Upper Class and premium economy passengers called first, followed by economy travellers according to their row numbers, from the back of the plane to the front. I was in the last set of people to board and there was no sign of me begin given a window seat.
THE SEAT Economy class is spread across two sections on this A340-600 (rows 31-46 and 51-65) and seating is configured 2-4-2 (A-C, D-E-F-G, H-K), which is great if you are in either of the pairs but not so good if you are in one of the middle E-F seats as they feel very claustrophobic, particularly those in my row (38). I am fortunate in that I am not very tall so had enough room to stretch my legs out under the seat in front, but there was a man next to me who was over six foot and looked extremely uncomfortable.
Seats A-C and H-K are upholstered in grey fabric and have red seatbelts, while middle seats D-E-F-G have red fabric and red seatbelts. There are individual nine-inch seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens and remotes in the armrest or in the back of the seat underneath the screen (as with seats D-E-F-G). The cabin was clean and smart with chrome handles on the overhead bins and air conditioning vents.
Virgin’s economy seats on this aircraft have a pitch of up to 31 inches/79cm, a width of 19 inches/48cm (1.5 inches/4cm more than on its B747s and A340-300s), a recline of six inches/15cm (one inch/2.5cm more than on its other planes) and audio-video on-demand entertainment systems with a good selection of movies.
Red fleece blankets and pillows were provided, as well as amenity kits containing a toothbrush and paste, socks, eye mask, pen and charity envelope for Change for Children, which I thought was an excellent touch. I also found that a real plus was that standard headphone jacks can be plugged in so I was able to use my own noise-cancelling headphones, which were far better than the ones provided by the airline.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Middle seats D-E-F-G in row 43 are behind a bulkhead so have tray tables and IFE screens that come out of the arm instead of the seat in front, as do those in exit rows 31 and 51. Passengers wanting extra legroom will have to pay for it upon checking in at the airport – those seats with an increased pitch of three inches cost from £30, and in exit rows from £50.
Avoid sitting in E-F seats as they offer no direct aisle access and can make you feel claustrophobic. Those sitting in rows 44-46 and 64-65 may suffer some disturbance from people queuing for the adjacent washrooms. If you want a decent view out of the window, avoid seats A/K in rows 31-38 as they are over the wing.
THE FLIGHT There were 311 passengers and 13 crew on this flight. The purser gave a professional welcome, with each attendant introduced by name, and passengers thanked for flying with Virgin on behalf of Richard Branson. After this, the animated in-flight safety film was played – the most entertaining and informative I have seen, with a voice-over by Vic Reeves and music by Mr Scruff. (Click here to watch.)
Take off was a little late at 1940 and felt quite bumpy. Once at cruising altitude at about 1955, crew handed out headphones and the captain came on to inform us that the journey would take eight hours, with an ETA in London set for 0835 the following day. The IFE system was switched on at 2010 and I was given my pre-ordered vegetarian meal at around the same time. (Although I had requested a special meal in advance, all passengers get a choice of two meat-based meals and one vegetarian, as standard.)
One round of drinks (free of charge) was served during dinner, and I opted for a glass of wine to help me sleep. My meal was a fairly bland tomato pasta with a side of fresh green salad and lemon vinaigrette, plus a fruit salad and a wholemeal roll. Cutlery was plastic and there was a cup of water and a choice of tea or coffee at the end of the meal.
The cabin lights were dimmed at 2200 and I got up shortly after to stretch my legs, get a gin and tonic from the galley at the back of the plane from the obliging crew, and return to my seat to take a sleeping pill. Unfortunately this didn’t really work and I couldn’t get much rest as the seat was so uncomfortable. I even tried using an inflatable neck pillow but this didn’t help matters either, in fact it might have made it worse. No water was offered during the flight so I was glad I had brought a bottle with me.
After about four hours, the lights came on at 0200 and breakfast was served immediately. There was a choice of a ham and cheese bagel or an egg and cheese croissant (very greasy), plus tea or coffee and juice.
ARRIVAL The plane started its descent at 0245 and landed at 0350 (0850 local time) as it had to circle a few times first. We were still 15 minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival time, however. Passengers were disembarked efficiently and I was through passport control and into baggage reclaim by 0920. There was a ten-minute wait for my suitcase to arrive. From here I went straight into central London to work, despite feeling dazed after having barely slept.
VERDICT I was sitting in one of the worst economy class seats on board so found it very difficult to get comfortable, let alone sleep on this night flight. However, Virgin offers a good economy class product on this aircraft, with amenity kits, friendly crew and a great selection of films on personal AVOD entertainment systems.
PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to Miami in October started from £506.
Стратмор подошел еще ближе. Он хотел прикоснуться к ней, но не посмел. Услышав имя Дэвида, произнесенное вслух, Сьюзан дала волю своему горю. Сначала она едва заметно вздрогнула, словно от озноба, и тут же ее захлестнула волна отчаяния.
Приоткрыв дрожащие губы, она попыталась что-то сказать, но слов не последовало.