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SimAirline.net - Message Boards • View topic - 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic

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 Post subject: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 30 Jun 2009, 20:36 
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The Hong Kong and Virgin Manager flies Virgin to Hong Kong!

Date: 23 June 2009
Flight No: VS200
Departure Airport: London Heathrow (Gate 320, Runway 09R)
Arrival Airport: Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (Runway 25R)
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 2230 / 2220
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 1750 / 1720
Flight Duration: 12 hours
Seat: 41A (Later moved to 43E (bulkhead))
Aircraft: A340-600 G-VBLU (Soul Sister) Famous shot

This was nearly one year on since my last trip with Virgin Atlantic, and I was looking forward to visiting Asia for my first time (I had connected through Singapore before but didn’t have a chance to check out the city). Virgin Atlantic has been serving Hong Kong for 15 years now, although I was sad that I was not going to fly into Kai Tak.

It was the usual two hour car ride to Heathrow, although the late departure time meant that there was no early morning start. We passed through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, which is served by both the Singapore Airlines and Emirates A380s. The automated check-in process is simple and means there are no queues. I would have preferred the standard check-in counter, as the computer lacks a personal touch, although this system works well and cuts down on waiting times. The flight was one day after Virgin Atlantic celebrated their 25th birthday, although there was nothing more than some promotional banners hanging from the baggage check-in desks. After check-in we had a few hours to kill in duty free, where we ate at the same restaurant which we ate at the previous year, before we headed to gate 20.

Our aircraft was G-VBLU, an A340-600 which has not yet been painted in the new livery. An Air India 777 pushed back behind our plane, before boarding commenced. Our seats were in the forward economy section, and it was nice to see that we had the updated A340 interior. I believe all the A346s are fitted with the new interior, with only some of the A343s fitted with it, although I may be wrong. I originally had a window seat on row 41, although we spotted that the entire row 43 (bulkhead row) was unoccupied. We checked with the flight attendant who said she would turn a blind eye to it if we moved over when we were airborne. The majority of the passengers were from Hong Kong, although there were several Australians on board as VS200 continues on to Sydney after it arrives in Hong Kong.

Pushback was 10 minutes early, and I had good views over the airport. We taxied past an SQ A380, which was my fourth sighting of one of the beasts. The rest of the taxi was relatively short, which took us past T5. After the pilot had lined her up with the runway centreline, he steadily released power to the four Trent 500s. There were very few rattles and we had a steady climb out into the English Channel.

Once we were airborne I slid across to seat 43E, which was a bulkhead seat. It gave better legroom, but the best improvement was the absence of the seat in front. I had nobody sitting behind me so I reclined my chair fully back for the whole of the flight. There is usually a charge for bulkhead seats, although I don’t think it is worth it as the seat width is a little narrower and the tray tables and screens are in awkward positions. Nevertheless, I was glad to have the extra stretching space.

Entertainment on board was provided from Virgin’s on-demand system, called ‘V-Port’. It is one of the best systems I’ve used as it enables you to choose from around 60 films, along with TV programmes (mainly from the UK and US (Family Guy, The Simpsons, Live at the Apollo etc.)) and some music stations. The ability to pause programmes is liberating when food is served. There was a special channel devoted to 1984, which included films shown when Virgin first took to the skies. Airplane! was shown on both the maiden voyage from Gatwick to Newark and on this flight. Some interesting facts are that Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to have TVs fitted across its entire fleet, two babies have been born on VS aircraft and the launch fare to New York was only £99.

I did not watch any films from start to finish, although I did watch some Family Guy episodes and listened to my iPod for most of the time before dinner was served. There was a choice between chicken and beef; I opted for the beef but did not eat much. As usual I do not build up an appetite on planes, although I was not hungry as it was around midnight when the food was served and I had already eaten. Nevertheless, I ate the side dishes and desserts, and then settled down to get some sleep.

As usual the service is very good, with friendly air stewardesses. I managed to sleep for most of the flight (albeit a very uncomfortable sleep), which made the 12 hours go by a lot quicker than if it was a day flight. The flight was relatively smooth and the seatbelt sign was only turned on as we encountered rough turbulence over mainland China. Another breakfast meal was served before we approached Hong Kong, which was a little more appetising than the dinner, and consisted of sausages, oatmeal and some bread.

Our route took us over Russia and down through China, with our TOD at FL375. I wanted to sit in my original window seat for the arrival, although someone had taken the seat to lie down and sleep in. I did manage to see the Hong Kong skyline out of the window in the evening sun, and our approach gave good views over the city. We circled over Victoria Harbour, approaching the opposite end of Kai Tak’s runway 13, and lined up to land on Chek Lap Kok’s runway 25R. The approach is truly magnificent and the pilot greased her onto the runway. Full reversers were deployed and we turned off the runway before schedule. We taxied parallel to the runway and I managed to see a FedEx MD-11 land immediately after us. There were countless Cathay Pacific and Dragonair aircraft, along with a mix of other Asian carriers parked at the gates.

After we pulled up at the gate (some 30 minutes early), we passed through immigration quickly and collected our bags. Chek Lap Kok is a truly magnificent airport, and the bus ride to Hong Kong takes you across the Tsing Ma Bridge, which is the longest spanning suspension bridge to carry both road and rail traffic. A series of other impressive bridges and dual level motorways takes you across from Lantau Island, through Kowloon and under Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island. There are very good transport links from the airport, and the 40 minute journey takes in many sights.

I could see Kai Tak out of our hotel window and I was upset that I could no longer experience landing at runway 13, although Chek Lap Kok is a worthy replacement. The 12 hour journey went by fairly quickly, although I would not want to continue another 9 hours onto Sydney in economy class. The service was excellent and I was glad to be on the newly updated A340-600. All round a nice flight, made better by the arrival into Chek Lap Kok.

I will write the return journey report at a later time…

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 30 Jun 2009, 22:27 
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Joined: 07 Feb 2009, 19:01
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Nice Report!

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 30 Jun 2009, 23:15 
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Joined: 22 Aug 2008, 02:06
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Great report Alex! Any possibility of some pictures on the return?

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 30 Jun 2009, 23:39 
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Joined: 26 Apr 2007, 21:08
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Thanks and no, sorry. It was a night flight back and I could not even take a picture of the plane due to the angle of the gate.

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 01 Jul 2009, 20:15 
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Location: Warwick, England
Date: 28 June 2009
Flight No: VS201
Departure Airport: Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok (Gate 60, Runway 07R)
Arrival Airport: London Heathrow (Gate 319, Runway 27L)
Scheduled / Actual Departure Time: 2325 / 2319
Scheduled / Actual Arrival Time: 0525 / 0512
Flight Duration: 12 hours 53 mins
Seat: 62K
Aircraft: A340-600

We took the familiar route back to Chek Lap Kok across the Tsing Ma Bridge, ready to fly out of Terminal 1. The building held the record for the largest airport passenger terminal, but it is now the third largest behind Dubai and Beijing Capital. Nevertheless, it is an extraordinary building; unlike most airports it is one very large open space, with few walls which makes it look very large from inside.

We checked in through the standard check-in counter (unlike the computer system at Heathrow), and had a look around the plethora of shops (there was one good shop with lots of scale aircraft models, mostly Cathay Pacific) before we went through into duty free. After a quick meal we headed down to gate 60, which is at the very end of the main building, on the northern ‘branch’ of the terminal. One downside to the massive terminal is that it takes a long time to walk the entire length. The usual conveyor belt system helped a little, but it was still a good walk away. I would not like to imagine what it would be like if you were late for your flight and were departing from a gate at the very end. However, there are several monorail-style driverless trains which can carry passengers from the check-in desks to the gates, if you are running late.

This picture does not do justice as to how long the terminal building is. Although we did not go into it, the Virgin lounge is in a good position at the end of the building to give good views across the terminal and the airport. Our gate was near to the lounge and when we arrived there were a lot of Australians ready to finish their SYD-HKG-LHR routing. Due to the positioning of the aircraft at the gate I was unable to see the registration, although when we boarded I noticed that it was painted in the ‘old’ Virgin colours.

My window seat was in the rear economy cabin, and it was on the second row after the seating turns from 2-4-2 to 2-3-2, due to the tapering of the fuselage. The seats are supposed to have limited room due to this, although I found that there was more room due to the angled wall. Either way, I was happy with my seat and was pleased to have the updated entertainment system installed on the A340.

The senior flight attendant informed us that there was a passenger onboard who had a serious allergy to nuts. As such peanuts were not to be offered and we were told not to open any packets which we may have brought on board.

As with the departing flight, we pushed back early and had a steady taxi to 07R. I had some good views over the Cathay Pacific maintenance area, where there were several 747s and A340s with their engines out for checks. As we rolled onto the runway the captain released power as we were on the turn, and the acceleration was much quicker than the previous flight. I did not get good views over the airport, but did manage to get one last good view over Hong Kong before we turned left over mainland China.

As we headed towards out initial cruise altitude of 33,000 feet, dinner was being served. As with the other flight, which was at a similar departure time, I ate little of the chicken, watched a few more Family Guy episodes and then tried to get some meaningful sleep.

As with all westbound flights, time travels slowly and the night was very long; the 13 hour flight is Virgin Atlantic’s longest. Surprisingly the time flew by quite quickly, and after the lights were turned back on I was welcomed over the Baltic Sea by a hash brown breakfast, which was the best meal of the trip. The route topped out at 38,000 feet as we passed across Denmark and our arrival runway was 27L, which meant we didn’t need to make many turns. There were some very clear contrails being formed out of my window, and as I looked back to the tailplane they became even more visible as the morning sun shone through them. I had some great views over Central London. The many Australians on board were pleased to see London (some for the very first time), after a very long journey from Sydney. I tried to sight Wimbledon out of the window, although I did not manage to find it.

The landing was on time and smooth as usual, and we had a relatively short taxi to gate 319. I looked across to Terminal 4 as I we were waiting to debark, and managed to see an A380 in Qantas colours. Most likely they were airborne at the same time as us, flying a similar route. I have now seen the A380 in Singapore and Qantas colours, and if you count the giant Emirates model at Heathrow I have seen every currently operated A380.

We left the plane after a near 13 hour flight (the longest I’ve been on in a while), and passed through immigration. Our bags were waiting for us when we got to the baggage collection carousels; this is probably down to the long walk across Terminal 3 from the gate. Once we had our bags we passed through Heathrow back to the car, where I saw the tail of a BA Concorde, eventually arriving home some 3 hours after we touched down.

The return journey was a much more pleasant experience and I was impressed with Virgin Atlantic’s service, as ever. Chek Lap Kok was the highlight of the flight, and the views over Hong Kong and London were great. Overall an enjoyable trip to Hong Kong with Virgin Atlantic. I will definitely be flying with them again.

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 02 Jul 2009, 16:49 
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Joined: 11 Feb 2007, 16:04
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nice report Alex! :D

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 02 Jul 2009, 17:53 
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Nice. Makes me want to fly with VS anytime.

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 03 Jul 2009, 00:34 
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Joined: 14 May 2006, 10:17
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Excellent report, Alex!
You're really living up to the job as manager of Virgin and HK.

Sounds like VS staff are pretty helpful. The times I've flown with Virgin Blue and Pacific Blue the staff were friendly, but not very helpful. Obviously it isn't reflected in their parent company.

What did you actually go to HK for?

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 03 Jul 2009, 10:59 
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Great Report Alex!
I enjoyed reading it 8)

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 Post subject: Re: 25 Year Old Virgin - LHR-HKG-LHR, Virgin Atlantic
PostPosted: 03 Jul 2009, 20:56 
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Thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate them.

I went to Hong Kong on holiday, Sam. It's a great place to visit.

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