Despite having reported on this fine industry for nearly 20 years, and being a Englishman to boot, I have never flown with that stalwart UK upstart carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways before.
Sorry Sir Richard and Steve. It’s not a deliberate thing. It’s simply a lack of opportunity thing.
So with an Airline Business event (Airline Distribution) taking place in Ft Lauderdale, Florida in late April here’s my chance. Virgin from London to Miami works well. Time to put a lack of Virgin in my life to bed as it were.
Two things are standing out for me so far halfway through the trip as Airbus A340-600 “Madame Butterfly” transports us across the Atlantic.
Firstly the crew in this Upper Class cabin is extremely personable and professional. This is probably as good as it gets in the northern hemisphere and must be close to the benchmark that Singapore Airlines sets for consistently brilliant service.
A neat touch is Virgin’s on-board beauty therapist. There are some 100 of these crew members giving facials, manicures and head/neck massages on the airline’s business routes.
This flight’s therapist Katie tells me it’s a tough job to get with many more applicants keen on plying their trade at 40,000ft than there are positions. As a Virgin virgin I get to sample the head treatment – it’s a fun way to spend half an hour on a 9 hour flight.
It is however Virgin’s funky and chic Clubhouse at Heathrow that puts the experience at the top of the class. Honestly you need to arrive hours earlier than your flight to fully appreciate it. OK no-one will because we are all too busy, but at least bring your friends.
That is my vow. I was jealous of the party having a great time over a full English breakfast.
Then a couple of colleagues decide to play pool. When was the last time us boring business types hung out playing pool (or snooker or billiards if you are English and can hit balls on a large table) for goodness sake? We think we’re being sociable if we share a coffee at Starbucks.
The Clubhouse offers lots of little experience zones. I couldn’t experience them all in the hour I had, not least because I had no friends to play with. However, the business room did the business for me: a cross between a Harry Potter library and New York loft office. Even the smoking room is given a touch of magic dust by being branded a fumidor.
Oh and a final thought: perhaps Virgin could take the therapy thing a touch further and offer mental therapy for crashed out/burnt out/traveled out execs as well.
While I ponder that one I think the on-board bar has just opened – must dash.