Little Red flies from Heathrowís Terminal 1, also known as the Star Alliance terminal. Itís our least favorite at Heathrow, with a cramped check-in area and nightmare security lines. Check-in desks for Little Red are located in Zone A, and being at the end makes it feel a wee bit less frenetic than the horrendousness of the center zones (United and Air New Zealand suffer badly). There were three check-in desks open yesterday, two self-service machines, and plenty of red-sporting Virgin ladies offering help (though since this was their first flight and an event, obviously not all of them are there to stay).
Predictably, security was a nightmare. Donít arrive late to Heathrow, no matter what airline you're flying.
VS3003 departed from Gate 8. Itís a pleasant, self-contained area (for T1) with lots of Little Red branding to get you in the mood. Itís also a fairly swift walk after you get through security, so theyíve done well there.
Drop dead gorgeous (for an Airbus A320), with a similar look to Virgin America planes but without the plush First Class. Youíve got your Virgin color scheme, purple leather seats (ďburnt plumĒ is the precise shade) with contrast red stitching, a purple carpet and purpley-pink mood lighting, which gave the cabin a nice rosy glow for the morning. As you can see from the video below, they also played music (trendy, rather than muzak) during boarding.
The planes, A320s, are wet-leased from Aer Lingus, and we spied Aer Lingus co-branding on the safety information cards. The crew are also from Aer Lingus, though obviously dressed in Virgin uniforms and trained in Virgin etiquette and personal presentation. They were friendly, though on the inaugural flight we'd have been shocked if they were anything else.
Itís an all-economy plane, but the seats are very comfortable, with adjustable headrests. Theyíre wide enough, and recline a couple of inches. But thereís one major downside: leg room is way tight. We read it was 30 inches, but Virgin promises us that itís 31Ē, in line with British Airwaysí shorthaul planes. To us, it felt tighter than BA. Our celebrity neighbor, actor John Hannah, looked cramped and heís 5í10Ē, according to IMDB. Anyone over 6í should play it safe with an aisle seat.
Food and Drink:
Eat before you board if you can't stand a couple hours without a meal. Posh Tyrrells crisps with Little Red branding were yum, but insufficient for breakfast. Irn Bru is available on the Scottish flights, but we went for the inaugural's special cocktail, the Little Red Rob Roy (Dewarís whisky, vermouth and bitters served in a purple plastic glass).
Psst! If youíre connecting from a Virgin Atlantic flight, you actually get a better deal with the airport experience. Since Virgin Atlantic uses Heathrow Terminal 3, you get to skip the hell that is T1 security, with a bus from the arrival gate in T3 directly to the secure side of T1. Virgin say the whole process takes around 20 minutes. Just don't make the mistake of heading out and through baggage claim.
Also, if youíve flown in on Upper Class (or if you have Flying Club Gold status), you get priority boarding and can use the Servisair lounge in T1, though pictures suggest itís a huge step down from the Clubhouse.
Very impressive overall, with our only real gripe revolving around that tight seat pitch. Still, on an 85-minute flight, legroom isnít everything. The attention to detail is fantastic, and seeing Virgin flair on a domestic flight is an absolute joy for those of us used to BA/easyJet/Ryanair/Flybe drudgery. Plus, itís another way to earn miles on one of the most generous frequent flyer programs out there, which is always a bonus.
Stiff competition indeed, to reiterate Bransonís underpants. Canít wait to fly it again.
Below: a short video look around the cabin. Not the best video, but a video nonetheless.
We traveled on this inaugural as guests of Virgin Atlantic, but all photos and opinions are of course completely our own
[Photos: Londontown for Jaunted]