Orlando Stories and Tips

Virgin all the way; flying from Manchester to Orlando

Overview

Over the last few years, I have flown many times from Manchester in the UK to Orlando, Florida with a variety of airlines, including British Airways, Britannia, and Delta and have not always been particularly impressed with the levels of service and amount of seat room onboard the 747-200 used on the route.

Booking:
The best and cheapest way to book is to either book your flights direct with Virgin Atlantic over the internet (www.virginatlantic.co.uk) or to book them as part of a package holiday, including accommodation, with Virgin Holidays (www.virginholidays.co.uk). I would recommend shopping around on the Internet for the best prices and airline.network.co.uk is a good site for comparing the best deals.

The last time that I flew form Manchester to Orlando was two years ago, and I took advantage of the upgrade offer. You can either travel economy, premium economy, or Club Orldando (up to May 2005). You pay for an economy seat, and then you can upgrade one-way from approximately £295 for a premium economy seat and add an additional £200ish for Club Orlando.

I have flown all three ways, and the economy service on Virgin is good, with helpful staff, but being over 6’2", the legroom isn’t great! If you pay for Premium Economy, then you enjoy a separate cabin, a seat with a 38" pitch, welcome champagne, and basically the same food, but with better service and more drinks! You also enjoy separate check-in.

If travelling Club Orlando, then checking in at the airport, you have a separate check-in and are then able to use the 'fast pass' security lane, as well as gain lounge access at Manchester and Orlando. Once on board, you are greeted by cabin crew with a glass of champagne, bucks fizz, or orange juice. Your seats are in the upper part of the aircraft (known as the 'Bubble'), and there are never more than 12 seats (located in pairs), which adds to the luxury and privacy. You usually have one cabin crew per six people in the cabin. The seats are luxurious and recline, with plenty of room to walk around the cabin and stretch your legs. You have your own TV screen with over 10 channels of TV programmes and movies. From the end of May 2005, the Club Orlando service will be replaced with the full Upper Class service that Virgin operates, which will make the ‘bargain’ upper class a thing of the past…

Whichever class you fly, you still get a good choice of meal, including vegetarian, seat back TVs, free drinks throughout the flights, in-flight pack, ice cream during the movies, and kids received a welcome rucksack. Other parts of the flight are the same service as economy and premium economy, including the amenity kit (doubles as a beach bag) and meal, which feature a choice of three, including vegetarian, options. Free drinks are served throughout the meal (including liquor after dinner). You are served dinner first so always get your preferred meal choice.

The big advantage to flying Club Orlando is the seats, but because there are far less passengers and a lower crew-passenger ratio, the individual attention to service is far higher, and drinks and refreshments are served to you continually throughout the flight.

One final point is that the bubble is accessed via stairs, and I do not think this would be suitable for people with limited mobility--best to check with the airline prior to booking.

Why fly with Virgin as opposed to other operators?

Pros?

Good cabin crew and onboard service, including quite good meals

Good upgrade opportunities and much cheaper than other airlines’ business- and first-class services

Book in advance to get the best deals, and look out for special offers from Virgin, such as free child places, discount bookings, etc.

Cons

Old 747s used on the Manchester route that aren’t as nice as London airports and don’t have the up-to-date upper class suites fitted. Maybe this will change in time! Think we are always the poor relations in the northwest…

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