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Technically, Virgin’s newest route started last week – let’s call it a soft launch. The official inaugural flight was today, and Jaunted was on it.
When we say “inaugural”, we mean “party plane”. This is Virgin, so instead of a to-keep menu and a quick photo op at check-in, the plane contained the following:
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The other week we told you about a very cool in-flight message that popped up on our screen during a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to Los Angeles that made us fall in love with Virgin and long-haul travel all over again. Now we're here to tell you all about this airline meet-cute that we had.
See, we didn't intentionally book a Virgin Atlantic flight. This editor actually cashed in American Express points and Delta Skymiles to fly Delta business class over to London. But through a code share agreement, I was put on a Virgin Atlantic flight for the return trip. Which I felt "Meh" about. I had flown Upper Class back in 2010 and definitely liked it, but I fell in love with Delta business class on a flight to Chile last summer. The lie-flat seats truly impressed me. So I was slightly bummed I wouldn't have that experience on the way home. But now, I'm glad I didn't.
Here's my breakdown between the two airlines for the approximately 11-hour flight from Los Angeles to London and back.
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Last week, while flying in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, we were engrossed in the insanely good documentary "Finding Vivian Maier," about a prolific photographer in Chicago in the 1950s and 60s whose work was discovered after she died — at a storage auction, no less.
Just as we were delving into the mystery of who she was, where she came from and why she took so many photographs of everyday life, these little notes appeared on the monitor:
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Selfie sticks may be increasingly banned at destinations, but the original handheld selfie is still very much alive, even in the air. Beginning this month, Virgin Atlantic is offering "#SkyhighSelfie spots" onboard the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Virgin Atlantic teased the #SkyhighSelfie spot as early as October 2014, when their 787 made its inaugural flight from London to Boston. Now, finally, the spots are up and available, which look to be located on walls near the galleys.
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Even though NYC was largely unaffected by the #Blizzardof2015 last night, with only 10 inches falling in the area, a few unlucky passengers on a London-bound Virgin Atlantic flight from JFK Airport were stuck inside a plane for six hours, waiting to take off, but then a passenger got sick and needed to be removed.
Then the plane had to be de-iced but time had run out. The travelers on flight VS004 were then told the plane would not be taking off tonight after all due to the weather. Given that 7,000 flights in the Northeast were cancelled because of the storm, this was not so surprising.
Unfortunately for the passengers, that decision was made at midnight, an hour after the 11pm curfew for road and subway closures, which meant they were forced to spend the night in the airport.
Passengers were given $15 vouchers to McDonald's, the only restaurant open in the airport. And then they had to find places to sleep inside the airport. Their luggage could not be be taken off the plane because reportedly there was no one qualified to take it off.
The Daily Mail, of course, has photos and eyewitness accounts from passengers. Be hold lots of uncomfortable sleeping positions!
Virgin Atlantic has given the following statement on the event:
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British Airways Club World
Let’s not beat about the bush: if you’re flying long-haul, business class is best. In fact, once you’ve turned left on a plane, and tasted that delicious champagne and that (hopefully) flat bed, it will take nerves of steel to cross an ocean in any other way.
But not all business classes are created equal. Some are worth that premium price; others less so. Some are best for working; others for sleeping; and others for simply feeling glam (as you'll see below, it's a very personal choice). So because, much as we’d like to, we can’t all afford biz all of the time, we asked the frequent flyers of Jaunted (plus an extremely knowledgeable friend) two questions: which business class is your favorite, and which would you not bother with? Because, if you’re going to splurge, it’d be a shame to land up with a dud, right? #firstworldproblemsalltheway
Virgin Hotels officially opened their doors to guests in Chicago yesterday and our sister site, HotelChatter, has the first look inside a Virgin guest room, excuse us, chamber for those visiting Chi-town. But if you were expecting to find a replica of a Virgin America airplane, complete with purple mood lighting and singing and dancing employees, you might be disappointed.
The historic building on Wabash has been done over into a very Virgin property, with lots of bright red touches everywhere, from the red tiles in the shower to the red SMEG mini fridge in the chambers, and the bright red coats worn by the lovely lady greeters at the entrance.
And even though the hotel is an American company, there are quite a few tributes to its British heritage--like the London Bridge depicted on the chamber rugs, the Birds and Blokes signs for the bathroom, the bright red telephone booth that serves as the hostess station at the not-yet-opened Miss Ricky's All-American Diner and the Union Jack on the dog bed at check-in. And for some reason, the chamber bed reminds us of Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic.
There's even a wall devoted to Sir Richard Branson in the 203 Coffee Bar (opening in a few weeks) and the history of his Virgin multimedia company, featuring photographs of Branson and his various companies, including Virgin Cola. (RIP.)
While the staff is incredibly happy and relaxed, no one has busted out a robot rap...yet. So if we're talking airlines here, Virgin Hotels feel more Virgin Atlantic than Virgin America but at the end of the day, Virgin Chicago actually wants to be a hub for locals.
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Flight attendants are pretty unique people. Not only can they expertly mix a cocktail at 35,000' with a little turbulence (shaken, not stirred), but they're also trained to snap into action during emergencies and still wave "buh-bye" with a smile at the end of every flight. They're not simply born with the ability; the skills are taught and reinforced through rigorous training, some of which is quite eye-opening.
Here are a few things you probably never would have guessed about flight crews from 5 airlines:
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This isn't just any 787, either. Virgin Atlantic is the first European airline to welcome the longer, cooler 787-9 to their fleet, and they do so on their own 30th birthday as an airline, hence the aircraft's name, "Birthday Girl" G-VNEW.
Inside are 198 Economy, 35 Premium Economy, and 31 Upper Class seats, plus a new "Wander Wall" concept in Premium Economy. This is essentially a snack-and-chat station, since the bar is reserved for Upper Class only. Speaking of that barit's been redesigned to fit within the 787-9, but you'll still be able to pop on a barstool and order a Virgin Redhead somewhere 38,000' above the Atlantic Ocean. Instagram it instantly, thanks to long-haul in-flight WiFi onboard.
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It feels like forever ago that the future existence of Virgin Hotels was teased. In reality it was only 2010, and finally there's a solid opening date. The first Virgin Hotel will open in Chicago in January 2015, and roomsexcuse us, "Chambers"just went on sale from $209 per night.
For everything we know about Virgin Hotels to this minute, you'll want to check out the HotelChatter story, because right now we're pretty distracted by the tasty news that hotel stays will work with flights towards your frequent flying totals. The NY Times tucked this tidbit into the very end of their story:
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Well, it was lovely while it lasted. After 1.5 years of flying, Virgin Atlantic's regional subsidiary Little Red is calling it quits. The goodbye will be a long one, however; the airline won't send its last A320 into the UK skies until September of 2015, making its total lifespanfrom launch in April 2013 to close in September 201529 months.
Issues contributing to the demise include too much point-to-point travel versus connecting to Virgin Atlantic long-hauls from London, and too few slots to truly compete with British Airways on the routes. Both of these reasons go against the whole goal of starting Little Red, which was to offer travelers connecting flight service from other UK town into the Virgin Atlantic long-haul jets in London, and to offer "consumer choice on key domestic services after British Airways' takeover of bmi gifted them a monopoly on these routes."
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Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of all the new route announcements that come our way, so we’ve complied a little bit of a rundown below. As long as you can afford the fares, this should definitely help add to your passport stamp collection.
· Cathay Pacific:
Heading to Hong Kong is about to get a little bit easier, as Cathay Pacific is preparing for some new nonstop flights to and from the nifty fifty. This time they will be departing from Boston on their way to Hong Kong, and it looks like things are scheduled to takeoff for the first time on May 3, 2015. Once the necessary government seals and stamps are in place the flights will do their thing four times per week, and the flying fun will be completed thanks to some Boeing 777-300ER—complete a true first class cabin!
· Virgin Atlantic:
Great news for those who call the Motor City home, as it looks like Virgin Atlantic is putting the pieces in place for a new route across the pond. The plan is for the carrier to do the nonstop thing between Detroit and London beginning during the summer of 2015. Obviously things can change between now and then, but it does sound like this should be a daily option.