For the second time in my life I turned down free flights – why?! Why would I do that, I think I need my head testing!
Worry started to set in when I did online check-in on the morning of our flight from London to Delhi; Virgin were asking for volunteers to catch a later flight. They were oversold.
It’s not the first time this has happened to me. Back in 2010 when me, the other half and my younger brother went to New York, Virgin were oversold by 5 passengers and they were asking for volunteers to catch a later flight. As compensation, they were offering free flights anywhere on their network! Free flights!
As we were a group of 3, Virgin were keen to get us on the later flight and I was really tempted, I’d been to New York before anyway so losing a few hours wasn’t a big deal to me. My brother wasn’t fussed either way, but the other half was more cautious. In the end, we stuck with our original flight and declined Virgin’s offer of free flights (crazy, right?). Once we board, I was reading the inflight magazine, winding myself up at all the great destinations that we could have flown to for free. One of those was Tokyo, which was how the 3 of us ended up going to Japan 7 years later; my brother promised that once he’d qualified as a doctor he would take me to Tokyo to make up for it! Virgin dropped the Tokyo route in 2014, but we had the most amazing experience flying with Qatar Airways instead – one of my best travel bargains ever!
So anyway, back to 2018, and I’m at the PC checking us in for the flight and Virgin asks for volunteers to catch the flight the next day. As we had quite a packed itinerary, I gave it some thought and ultimately decided not to take up their offer. If Virgin had of “forced” us off the aircraft at Heathrow, we would have been entitled to EU261 compensation which, for the distance flown and length of delay, would have been over €600 each. I made the call to get to Heathrow and see what happens.
When we arrived at Heathrow, Virgin staff were still asking for volunteers. It’s a shame that Virgin only had the 1 flight a day to Delhi and no other airlines were flying out that night, as that may have swayed me to take up their offer. As it was, we would have needed to stay overnight in London (at Virgin’s expense) and would have missed our first day in Delhi. We decided to stick with the original flight.
Check-in was quick at the dedicated Premium Economy counter and there were no other passengers ahead of us. Virgin doesn’t have many flights leaving in the evening so there were no big crowds, particularly for Premium Economy and Upper Class.
Using my Lounge Club pass that comes with the American Express Gold Card, I paid for us to use the Club Aspire Lounge in terminal 3. The lounge was fairly quiet when we arrived, about 1900, but it got progressively busier. There was a decent hot buffet of soup, pasta and curry with rice as well as salad and a complimentary bar. Quite a few V&Ts and G&Ts were drunk! Mum obviously loved the free WiFi!
We were so comfortable in the lounge that we barely noticed the call to start boarding, about 40 minutes before take-off. We scuttled our way to the gate just before they started boarding Upper Class and Premium Economy passengers. I gave a little snigger at the name of the aircraft; such a child!
We were in seats 25A & 25C which is the last row in Premium before Economy on Virgin’s 787-900 Dreamliner. I like these seats as you can recline fully without worrying about the passengers behind you; great on a night flight.
It took a while for pre-departure drinks to be served and it was hard not to make comparisons to my last few trips with Qatar Airways, which is really unfair to Virgin as the Qatar flights were in Business Class.
An incredibly sexy flight attendant brought over menus for dinner and I was looking forward to Goan prawn curry but they didn’t have it; the wrong menu had been handed out and the meals on offer bore no relation to the menu. They only had curries to choose from, no other options, which disappointed mum. Although this was a flight to India, it was pretty short-sighted to only offer curries to eat. Having said that, the tikka masala was very nice. The salad and dessert both had nuts in them so mum couldn’t eat them which again seemed an odd choice considering many people with an allergy to 1 nut may stay away from all nuts.
One of the highlights of flying with Virgin Atlantic is their massive choice of entertainment and movies. As this was a night flight though, I only watched 1 movie (3 Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, it was pretty good!) then settled down for sleep. I didn’t sleep as well as my last Premium Economy flight back from Orlando, but it was an ok rest. Its at sleepy time when you realise how much you enjoy Business Class with its full flat beds!
Shortly before landing, a breakfast of waffles with blueberry and a custard sauce was served. It was delicious but very sweet. As I’d spent a few hours napping, I didn’t have anything from the Wander Wall but the selection looked decent. I made a note to check it out on the day flight on the way home!
As we started to disembark, I realised that the woman sat in front of me was a blonde version of Linda from Bob’s Burgers which made me laugh! The smile was soon wiped off my face by the line at immigration, which took over an hour to clear. I thought e-visas were meant to be quicker?
For our return flight, boarding was a bit chaotic (I’ve never had so many wheelchair passengers and families on a flight before!) but we were in our seats about 20 minutes before take-off. A glass of prosecco was promptly served, much quicker than on the outbound. We seemed to taxi for ages, it felt like we were driving back to London!
The same menu that we were given on the outbound was handed out again by the same sexy flight attendant. The prawn Goan curry was really nice and worth the 10 day wait, the rice was particularly tasty. The flight attendant forgot our wine which was a bit annoying. I’m not quite sure what the cake thing was for dessert, but it was nice, kind of a creamy mousse type thing. I absolutely love the tea cups, I even considered trying to steal them!
Although this was a day flight, it hit me again how much less space there is even in Premium Economy than in Business Class! I actually look forward to meals on flights and eating in such a cramped space isn’t easy. I’ve definitely been spoilt with consecutive Business Class flights! Maybe I should do an Economy flight soon, just for research purposes. We’ll see.
As I didn’t explore the Wander Wall on the outbound, I made sure to raid it on this flight. I love Joe & Seph’s Popcorn but I’m not sure what I thought about the protein ball thing. Again, there was a selection of drinks, crisps, popcorn and other bites.
A second drinks service started about 3.5 hours before landing. It was a bit touch and go that they might have run out of vodka, gin & tonic, but it was all right in the end!! Shortly after, a supper of vegetable lasagne with a soft drink and biscuit was served (it looks like wine in the glass, but it’s apple juice!). The lasagne was ok, very much like ratatouille with a bit of pasta. The biscuit was weird, a bit dry and tasteless.
We landed ahead of schedule by about 25 minutes. As we were descending, the plane dropped out of the sky and everyone took a sharp intake of breath – what it is about being on a plane with my mother and nearly dying?! My heart was in my mouth and I couldn’t wait to get on the ground! Once we’d actually landed the plane just didn’t slow down, I honestly didn’t think we were going to stop and that we were going to take off again! I’m not sure I’m going to fly with my mum in future, that’s Kenya, Las Vegas, Sorrento and now this trip where I’ve felt like I’ going to die in flight! She can go to Florida on her own next year!
Date of trip: February 2017
Price paid: 20,000 Virgin Flying Club points per person, used Virgin Black American Express upgrade voucher to upgrade to Premium Economy + £415.00pp taxes.
Points earned: None but did Virgin’s Miles Booster offer and bought back 21,736 points for £167.00.