The desire to fly Virgin Atlantic's 787 Upper Class as well as the stubbornness of not wanting to pay Delta's stiff cancellation fee prompted this silly round the world routing I took. Afterwards, Virgin Atlantic is not on my dream list any longer.
Last year when flying Air New Zealand, who use the same business class seat, my flight attendant Paul praised the seats for sleeping and called them "game changers" for his airline. That flight wasn't long enough to get horizontal, this flight was. Paul was right, for the other team.
This was my first trip to India. And while I never ventured out into the 112 degree heat, I must say all the people I encountered were extremely nice. It began with a young man named Anand who worked for the Holiday Inn where I was staying in Terminal 3. He met me at the gate when I arrived on JL749.
Arriving in India you have 2 choices. A visa to pass immigration or a boarding pass on a departing flight within 24 hours of arrival and you can't leave the airport. Typically if you're in transit you'd already hold the next boarding pass. In my case, due to my bizarre route home, I needed to obtain my Virgin Atlantic boarding pass to clear security and get to the hotel. However my ticket on Virgin also included a subsequent connecting flight on KLM to Amsterdam. Before my arrival Anand had gone to the Virgin desk to arrange for the boarding pass. He was unsuccessful.
To make a long story short, they were unable to print the KLM boarding pass as it wasn't in the record. After a 90 minute or so wait they hand wrote a boarding pass so I could clear security and promised the issue would be resolved in the morning, as it was. While this was an inconvenience, without Anand and the Virgin Atlantic representative I might be sitting in the transit lobby right now.
I have no idea how it got resolved. I called Delta and they claimed everything was fine (after 30 minute hold). I also tried twitter but it took them 4 hours to respond. Not good. Apparently weather issues in the states.
For those that need to transit New Delhi, the Holiday Inn is not a bad way to go. For 15,000 IHG points (often on sale for $89) or a normal rate of about $110 you get a room and breakfast.
Just be prepared for this room they call the restaurant.
But breakfast was not your typical buffet.
There were a couple of chafing dishes with hot items plus made to order omelets or pancakes where the chef personally delivered the dish as well as asked if you wanted another. When finished the server, another nice fellow named Prince, presented a typical check portfolio. Knowing that breakfast (or whatever you want to call it) was included I was about to protest only to open the portfolio and find a guest survey asking how you liked the service. As I mentioned, everyone was extremely accommodating.
Virgin Atlantic uses the shared Plaza Premium lounge in New Delhi. This is an attractive full service lounge whose only drawback is it's somewhat small. Yet it is well appointed and very comfortable.
There is a shower facility, massage room and VIP room.
Food was plentiful in the back room as well as made to order eggs.
Indira Gandhi International Airport is an older facility. From the time I landed I noticed that there weren't very many aircraft on the tarmac and as this photo shows not many folks at check-in on a Saturday morning. I guess because of the heat most flights are overnight.
There are plenty of places to shop for authentic Indian goods.
Boarding was to commence so off to the gate. "Dream Girl" had already arrived.
After a short wait in the boarding area,
proceedings began on time.
Entering through door 2 of this Boeing 787-9 aircraft, Virgin flight attendants were armed and ready.
Thirty-one upper class seats will be occupied on this flight.
This is as peaceful as it will be. Notice the storage area behind the seat for pillow, blanket and mattress pad. Great use of this space.
The front cabin bulkhead wall, which would be my view today.
There are no lavs, nor is anyone allowed in front of row one. The lavs are back behind door two. While the lavs were kept tidy throughout the flight, the floor was very sticky.
I dislike these seats, for multiple reasons beyond being stacked like sardines.
Nice touch, a bottle of water. Now reach for it.
SeatGuru marks row 7 as missing a window. SeatGuru should mark rows 2-11 red because you are unable to look out the window unless you can turn your head 60 degrees just to use one eye.
Row one is the only seat you can look out the window.
Go ahead, dim the window tint.
I'd like to see Virgin Atlantic's internal study of how many people knock their beverage over from this tray.
And the purpose of this reading light? Because it's not for reading. I know, it's to see where your drink spilled.
And of course the smallest monitor of any international business class pod.
And finally a bed that is so hard (even with a mattress pad) it's like trying to sleep on the floor. But at least you can adjust the window tint.
Obviously I wasn't overwhelmed by the hard product other than being on a Boeing 787-9 series. Would the soft product overcome my disappointments?
Virgin Atlantic is one of the few airlines that provide sleep suits in business class. There aren't proactively placed at your seat, so I asked and received.
While 'd read the VS sleep suits were great, what I received was just okay. The top reminded me of a simple plain black long sleeve t-shirt. I guess Japan Airlines Porsche Design pj's have jaded me.
An amenity kit was waiting at the seat.
Standard fare, no slippers so I had to put my shoes on each time I visited the lav because of the sticky floors. Maybe I should have tried "thisworks" as I couldn't sleep on the rock.
And finally less than noise cancelling headphones. Maybe I forgot to flip the switch.
Well there is always food and beverage to make the memory.
Paragraph 4 failed to materialize.
Upon boarding I was offered a glass of champagne.
Not a fan I went for a red, the Bodega. This was served with Ruffles potato chips. A first.
The good news is you can extend the mini-monitor and use the shelf for your chips and drink, turbulence be damned!
Of course Virgin Atlantic is very popular flying down to Sir Richard's favorite, the Caribbean, hence Mojitos are the cocktail of choice.
This pod has a very generous table. But once extended you are trapped in your seat. Some seats, like the reverse herringbone designs allow you to slide out with the tray in place. Not so here.
Of course if you have the monitor out the back half of the tray is useless and if your phone is charging the cord is in your butter.
And no I did not pilfer these.
I chose the Mozzarella salad.
It was nicely presented and tasty.
For the Main I chose the fish, partially because I didn't know what the other dishes were.
I didn't care for it at all. You can almost see the flour coating and the fish was slightly undercooked.
Next up was a cheese plate. I passed.
"At the bar", had a small selection of items. Today it wasn't a very popular place to hang out.
By door two in the galley area was a nice display of drinks and snacks, probably for premium economy passengers.
Time for Pudding.
An argument could be made that this isn't true New York style cheesecake, but that would be picky. Besides, it was very good.
Before arrival I selected the Chicken Burger from the Extra Bites menu.
It was good, but they need to change the menu from "Extra Bites" to "Extra Bite" as I was still very peckish.
Can you spot the 3 things missing from the menu description?
This photo was taken upon arrival. The bag from the pajamas and the water bottle I brought on the plane, finishing 7 hours earlier.
Carrier: Virgin Atlantic
Date: May 2017
Route: New Delhi - London
Flight #: 301
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 #G-VAHH, their first 787-9 delivery
Configuration: J31 / W35 / Y198
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Rating: 5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Bland, except for mood lighting during flight
✔︎Like sleeping on a floor
Cabin/Seats Rating: 3 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Credit where credit due, they give out PJ's
✔︎I didn't care for the Main, the other dishes were fine, just small
Amenity/Food rating: 5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎The only savior for this monitor is that it's in your face so it can be small
IFE rating: 3 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Did their job. Friendly but not proactive.
Flight Attendant rating: 5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎I repeat, It's a 787, what's not to love!
Aircraft rating: 9 out of 10 ✈
Comments: This flight is ranked towards the bottom of my business class international flights. Not being able to adjust the window tint without getting out of your seat is silly. Who figured that out? There is nothing I like about this seat. Apparently Virgin has these configured differently than Air New Zealand as I didn't encounter this problem on their 787. And passing by all the windows on this plane it seemed all were the same. Air New Zealand must have them set back more than Virgin.
I had originally selected 1A but changed to 2A due to some comment I read about how often your feet get bumped by FA's exiting the galley in 1A/1K. Well that is not limited to row 1. I can't begin to tell you how often my feet were bumped by someone passing by. Get 1A or 1K if you can.
And throughout this report I never even mentioned the lack of privacy sitting in these seats.
The food was ok. I can see where they have potential, it's just my main wasn't that good.
The flight attendants were nice, but not picking up an empty water bottle and plastic wrap for 7 hours is hard to defend.
It's always important to leave on a positive note, pajamas in business class.
I believe this flight is one of the better values for Delta Skymiles at just 65,000 points in business class with taxes of around $30. Delta doesn't charge Virgin's outrageous surcharge and this redemption was not affected by Delta's recent devaluation.