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Week12

Hello everyone, and welcome to 2004. I arrived back in LA on Friday 2nd January and although I hadn't planned to do an update, the events of last Friday dictated otherwise.

I arrived at Heathrow at around 9am and as I entered Terminal3 I was greeted with a chaotic scene the likes of which I had never experienced before at the airport - and this was the 13th time that I had flown from Heathrow. The terminal was just a mass of people, you couldn't see where a queue started and finished for any airline, you couldn't wheel a trolley anywhere, people were getting frantic about possibly missing flights, staff trying to sort things were pretty thin on the ground  - in fact, it seemed worse than the M25 on a bad day!

I was extremely grateful that this time around I was flying Premium Economy with Virgin Atlantic, and there was only 3 people in that queue, so I fought my way through the sea of bodies queueing for normal Economy and was quickly checking-in. The check-in girl explained that part of the problem was that 10 check-in staff had gone off sick and also the additional security around Heathrow was causing delays.

I was assigned seat 70A on the plane which is upstairs on the Boeing 747, which I was very chuffed about as I had never been upstairs on a 747 before. Seat 70A was also next to an emergency exit so it had extra leg-room, which the check-in girl decided to give me as I looked fit & able-bodied! Bless her :) So I was checked-in within a few minutes, as opposed to what would have been at least an hour's wait for Economy passengers. I went through passport control and the security screening without any problems, but again the queues were longer than usual due to the increased security.

Later that morning I proceeded down to the gate ready to board, but with the plane due to depart at midday we didn't actually start boarding until just before noon. Just as boarding was due to commence a Virgin rep announced the names of four people over the tannoy, one of which was mine, and asked us to report to the front desk. When I got there he crossed out my seat no. of 70A on my boarding card and wrote 3A and said nothing more. I was a bit disappointed as I thought I'd blown my chance of sitting upstairs as I assumed row 3 was downstairs near the front nose cone. Boy was I wrong!

I boarded the plane, showed my boarding card to the stewardess who directed me upstairs. This is a result I thought, I'm still upstairs. I went upstairs, walked towards the front of the aircraft looking for my seat only to find that rows 1 to 3 are actually in Upper Class and I had been upgraded from Premium Economy! Blinding result!!

So I was sat there sipping Champagne whilst waiting for the Economy passengers to board. As they say, it's a tough job but someone's got to do it! We actually took-off at 12:59 instead of our scheduled midday departure, and the Captain announced his apologies explaining the delay due to the increased security checks being made. The stewardess came round, greeted me by name, gave a menu for the afternoon meal and explained that the menu is called 'Freedom' as you don't have to eat at a specific time. You can have your meal when you want it, rather than when they serve it. There was also more choice than when sat in Economy.

Another lady came round dishing out posh headphones & a Virgin magazine both exclusive to Upper Class, although I had to return the headphones at the end of the flight. Another lady came round, dishing out a convenience kit and a small pack of Virgin Vie cosmetics, and offered complimentary massages, manicures & other therapies which I declined. I wanted to play with my new reclining seat and have a lie down! It was great having so much space, being able to sit how you want, to lie down almost horizontal for a sleep, etc. Superb.

Later for lunch, the stewardess laid down a table cloth & cutlery and served the freshly prepared meal which came on proper plates. From the menu I chose a Thai chicken brochette for starters, followed by lamb loin served with tomato, bacon, puy, lentils, broccoli & gravy, and then I finished off with steamed orange pudding & custard for dessert. Along with the meal it wasn't a case of "would you like red or white wine with your meal", it was "what type of red or white wine would you like with your meal"! Ahh, bliss. The only problem was I had to drive when I arrived in LA so I made do with a single glass of wine as my only alcohol intake for the rest of the flight.

The rest of the flight went like a dream, the 11 hours passed more quickly than any other flight to the west coast that I had been on before. Freshly brewed tea & coffee was served on request, the leather-backed seat came with its own instruction manual there were so many buttons to press, the only disconcerting thing was the Skymap where you view where the plane is in relation to the Earth. We seemed to be stuck over Scotland for a very long time. Actually 9 hours into the flight it showed we were still over Scotland but thankfully the pilot came on over the PA system to say that it had failed and we were really over the USA!

The plane landed safely in Los Angeles, and although I was let off the plane before the Economy passengers it didn't prevent the long, slow wait through US immigration & customs. I was then greeted by typical English weather when I got outside, i.e. cold, wet &  foggy! Nevertheless, Saturday & Sunday have been two gloriously sunny days, if a little on the cool side, so I've been out and about taking some photographs which you can see here.

I've also updated my database of flights.

That's all for now, so until the next instalment goodbye and take care.

Photos

Week01
Week02
Week03
Week04
Week05
Week06
Week07
Week08
Week09
Week10
Week10 - page2
Week10 - page3
Week12
Week13
Week15
Week17
Week18
Week20
Week20 - page2
Week22

  
  (C) 2004 Mark Sykes