Virgin Atlantic

Heartwarming stories from airports & airlines

We’ve been reading some charming and heartwarming stories from airports and airlines this holiday week.

Sweet Virgin Atlantic seat-swap

First, there is a viral post on Facebook by a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant relating the story of a passenger named Jack swapping his business class seat on a flight from New York to London for the economy seat booked by 88-year-old Violet.

“Of the hundreds of flights I’ve operated, I’ve had the pleasure of looking after footballers, supermodels and some Hollywood movie stars but let me tell you about my two favourite passengers EVER!,” wrote Leah Amy, “Jack and Violet 💜 (I wish she was called Vera or Rose 🤣)”

She went on to explain that Jack’s entire family was booked in business class. But Jack decided to swap seats with Violet. He then “sat on the row of seats directly next to the economy toilets and never made a peep or asked for anything the rest of the flight. No fuss, no attention, literally did it out of the kindness of his own heart, no one asked him to.”

A great story, right?

Well, the story gets a bit better. In response to the story of Jack and Violet, Virgin Atlantic announced it will be offering complimentary upgrades to “the most seasoned person” on board all its flights through January 1, 2020.

Nice!

Birthday treat at Schiphol Airport

Here’s another heartwarming holiday-season travel story. This one from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) documenting a great birthday treat they were able to arrange for 94-year-old Granny Miep.

Canadian hospitality

And one more.

Community helps stranded passengers on Christmas Day. (courtesy Karen KayCee/Facebook)

According to the CBC, when 75 passengers got stranded in Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada on Dec. 25, the community came together in “Come from Away” style.

The town welcomed the passengerw, put together a Christmas dinner and made sure they got on their way.

The CBC notes that what happened in Deer Lake is reminiscent of what happened in 2001, when townspeople rallied to welcome thousands of passengers on planes diverted to Gander – which is also in Newfoundland and Labrador – due to the attacks on September 11.

That real-life story is the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical “Come From Away.”

In Deer Lake’s case, a plane full of WestJet passengers left Toronto for St. John’s late Christmas Eve but got diverted by bad weather.

Deer Lake isn’t a regular stop for WestJet flights, so there was little in the way support for the passengers once they were on the ground and sent over to the local Holiday Inn Express.

But this was Christmas Day. So local townspeople responded to a call-out on Facebook and rustled up a Christmas Dinner that included everything from sandwiches and cookies to turkey dinner and gravy and homemade rabbit stew.

All great stories, right?

Here’s to great travel and more heartwarming travel stories in 2020.

Snaps from Virgin Atlantic A350 cabin reveal

I was delighted to join Virgin Atlantic earlier this week for a fun A350-cabin interior ‘reveal’ party at the company’s crew training facilities (“The Base”) in Crawley, near London’s Gatwick Airport.

My story detailing posh new features that include upgraded Upper Class suites in the business class cabin and the transformation of the Upper Class bar area into a multi-purpose gathering area called “The Loft” is on SFGate.

But sharing some snaps of the mock-up that was on display during the evening here on Stuck at The Airport.

Upper Class suites on Virgin Atlantic’s A350s will now face the windows. That’s a change from the current layout that has them facing the aisles.
The popular bar area behind the Upper Class cabin will now be “The Loft” – with space for 8 people (3 standing, five seated), power ports and Bluetooth headset ports so groups can watch movies or video programs together.
Premium seats on the Virgin Atlantic A350 planes will have four-way headrests and this nice footrest feature. Photo Harriet Baskas
Fabric-covered economy seats have two USB ports and 6-way headrests. Photo Harriet Baskas

Virgin Atlantic’s first A350 – named Red Velvet – will start flying in August, 2019 between London Heathrow and New York JFK, followed by other services to JFK later in the year.

The carrier has 12 Airbus A350-1000s on order, and plans to have all of them flying by 2012 as a replacement for the airline’s 747s.

WOW Air shuttered and airlines, bus lines, travel companies try to help

Beleaguered WOW Air shut down on Thursday, posting a note on its website that all flights had been canceled.

For tickets holders stranded in various cities and airports, and those with tickets for future dates, WOW Air suggests contacting your travel agent or credit card issuer for help and offers this advice:

“Some airlines may offer flights at a reduced rate, so-called rescue fares, in light of the circumstances.”

As of Thursday evening, here’s what airlines, travel companies and even a bus company is offering WOW Air ticket holders in terms of “rescue” assistance:

Early in the day, the Hopper booking site announced that all customers who booked WOW Air flights through its site would get full refunds.

“Hopper will also be paying the full cost of rebooking for all its stranded passengers in transit.”

A variety of airlines are offering WOW Air tickets holders discounted rates on rebooked flights.

Icelandair has a posted a list of discounted Economy fares for stranded passengers en route to, from, or through Iceland. The fares are only available for passengers already on their journey, with a return WOW AIr ticket between now and April 11, 2019.

Other airlines, including Norwegian Air, Aer Lingus, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic are also offering special “rescue” fares to help WOW Air ticket holders. Check with the airline to see what they can do for you.

Even the Megabus company is doing its part to help.

Are you holding tickets for a WOW Air flight? Let us know how your rebooking plans work out.

Virgin Atlantic’s ‘secret’ Clubhouse hotel room

I didn’t get to spend the night, but on Thursday morning I did get to peek into this pop-up hotel room tucked into the corner of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow Airport.

Put together by Onefinestay, the hotel room has unique views of the airfield and, for those lucky enough to have been chosen this past week to spend a night, came complete with all the amenities of the attached Clubhouse lounge, including a personal butler, spa treatments, food service and a cocktail bar.

This is defintely the “Airport Amenity of the Week”

 

Virgin Atlantic lands in Seattle & is welcomed by Sir Richard Branson

Courtesy Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic marked its new service between London Heathrow and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Monday with an inaugural flight from London to Seattle that featured a live-streamed in-flight performance by up-and-coming UK pop-star Raye and an on-the-ground welcome of the Boeing 787-9 by Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic.

Virgin Atlantic’s service replaces the flight currently operated by the carrier’s joint partner Delta Air Lines and will increase the annual capacity on the route by the more than 40,000 seats, Virgin Atlantic CEO Craig Kreeger told Today in the Sky during the flight to Seattle.

“The Seattle market also fits better with the Virgin brand,” said Kreeger, “Seattle is a young, entrepreneurial, innovative, outdoorsy risk-taking kind of city and when you think of the element of the Virgin Atlantic brand and who we attract, it just seems like a great fit.”

At a press conference following the arrival of the flight and the kick-off of several days of in-city celebrations and events, Kreeger noted that the Virgin brand was already well known in Seattle and on the west coast thanks to the airline’s U.S. sister, Virgin America.

Alaska Airlines (Delta’s major competitor in the Seattle market) purchased Virgin America last year for $2.6 billion and announced last week that while Alaska will adopt some of Virgin America’s amenities and some of its cool ‘vibe,’ it will retire the Virgin America name and brand by 2019.

Noting that he thought he’d be polite when asked about that decision, “But I decided not to be,” Branson shared his thoughts on that decision at the post-flight news conference.

“It’s baffling and sad,” said Branson, “When I sat down with Alaska, I genuinely believed that they would treasure the brand, that they would treasure the people, that they would treasure the product and that they knew what they were buying,” he said. “And that the last thing they would do would be to rip the heart out of it, which seems effectively like what they decided to do.”

“It just seems such a waste,” said Branson, “I wonder what it was that Alaska bought and why did they bother?”

Branson also noted that Alaska has to continue on paying royalties on the Virgin America brand under the licensing deal until 2040, “despite what you might have been told.”

The Virgin Atlantic route to Seattle (VS105) departs Heathrow daily at 1:20 p.m. and arrives in Seattle at 3 p.m. and leaves Seattle daily at 5:50 p.m. and arrives the next day in London at 10:50 a.m.

 

The route is being served by a Boeing 787-9 aircraft with 264 seats, including 31 lie-flat “Upper Class” seats, 35 premium economy seats and 198 economy seats.

Photo – Harriet Baskas