Tag Archives: 787

Once a Virgin always a Virgin

While standing out on the south parking decks at ATL yesterday, I realized it was one of “those” moments. We were awaiting the arrival of the first Virgin Atlantic Airways jet to arrive at ATL. Not only was this the first Virgin aircraft to arrive at ATL, it was a Boeing 787-9! As reported from the official site for this special flight this will be the “first ever gig streamed mid-air from Virgin Atlantic’s new connected 787.” The flight featured performances by 2 of the UK’s hottest acts: Gorgon City and Rudimental. We have to say the SoundCloud performances (the London Mix was phenomenal) had us dancing, albeit from home. We weren’t lucky enough to be one of the lucky passengers on board. From the sound of things fun was had during the excursion from London to Atlanta!

The Virgin brand has always been about what’s “in”, fun, hip, cool, chic, even edgy. Whether it’s marketing, advertisements, activations, the on board experience, or uniforms, they pay attention to every detail. Throughout the travel ribbon you know you’re traveling on Virgin. There’s a sense of excitement, journey, and adventure. Sir Richard Branson is the brand. He is all of the above and has done a bang up job making sure the brand remains intact. As Delta now owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic, it is our hope that the little airline that has stood up to the likes of British Airways and has carved out a niche, is able to retain its brand and not succumb to any pressures to be more mainstream.

Pic courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Pic courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

This is not the first time Delta has canoodled with a Virgin. Back in the mid-90s Delta and Virgin Atlantic placed their airline codes on certain flights between London (both LGW and LHR) and several US cities (LAX, SFO, JFK, EWR, BOS, MCO). Back then Delta took the code-share arrangement one step further than placing their code on Virgin Atlantic flights: Delta actually had its flight attendants on board these code-share flights. I was lucky enough to have this experience and spent 2 weeks in Crawley, just outside of London, at the Virgin training facility. We spent a good bit of the time learning the emergency procedures required as a Virgin flight attendant. I even learned what a “torch” and a “loud hailer” were. Training was intense. We had to learn all about the different types of 747s. The 747-400’s were easier as they were standard. The “Classics”, the 747-200’s complete with spiral staircases, were all slightly different. One, G-VMIA (India Alpha), had 2 lower galleys. Highlights of the training included learning how to deliver Virgin-style service on board. They were meticulous in how to serve Virgin customers. I can clearly remember the instructor saying: “When delivering a beverage to a customer, place the drip mat (napkin) down logo facing up, facing the customer. Richard (Branson) doesn’t print these for the customer not to see the Virgin logo.” Wow! Simple concept. It’s all about the details.

My friend CLiff and me at the Virgin training facility in Crawley.

My friend CLiff and me at the Virgin training facility in Crawley.

I even had the opportunity to meet Richard at his home in Oxford during one of the summer parties given for employees of the Virgin brand empire. We were standing near the front door of his home when he just popped out! I was taken with his unassuming and down-to-earth nature. We spoke with him for a few minutes letting him know we were Delta FAs flying the code-share flights. He thanked us for our work and then went into the crowd of hundreds who were in attendance. It was very surreal. It was one of “those” moments.

Seeing the Virgin 787 land at ATL brought back many memories of my Virgin experiences. Many companies could learn a lot from Virgin on how to deliver a better experience for its customers. Looking forward to seeing their aircraft regularly grace the skies of Atlanta soon. Thanks for the memories Virgin!

#flightdecks pic courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

#flightdecks pic courtesy of Virgin Atlantic

Sylvester

 

Following a Dream…liner (on the hunt for the 787 Dreamliner)

The 787 is taunting me. Teasing me. In fact she’s being downright elusive. Ever since the 787 Dreamliner was introduced by Boeing it has been our goal, as the airlineguys, to fly on this revolutionary, highly technical airplane. After years of delays and issues with the lithium-ion batteries, which grounded the entire fleet worldwide, the 787 made a triumphant return to the skies on April 29, 2013 with Ethiopian Airlines.

IMG_2670Currently, United Airlines is the only US-based carrier flying the 787. When United introduced the Dreamliner they were flown on domestic routes to test its reliability and serviceability. After the much talked about grounding, the 787 was re-introduced to the domestic sector, again to test reliability, serviceability, and to monitor the lithium-ion battery fix. As planned from the outset, United’s 787s were designed as an international long-haul product.

So, it was with excitement when United announced that the Dreamliner would fly domestically until the summer schedule went in to full effect, at which time the 787s would fly their intended routes, international. It was our chance to fly this magnificent plane. Unfortunately airlineguy Darin couldn’t join me on this adventure (we gotta get him on a 787 soon!).

The first attempt to fly the 787 was a bust! I didn’t make the flight out of Atlanta to make the connecting 787 flight in Houston. Talk about being majorly bummed. Not wanting to take any chances on the second attempt, I flew to Houston the night before and got a hotel room.

So, now here was my dilemma: standby for the early (7a) IAH – ORD flight, or take the mid-morning (11a) IAH – ORD flight. Against everything I know when it comes to standby travel, I chose the mid-morning flight. (@FriendlyStew and @NonRevAdventure I’ll take your advice next time). All seemed fine until I woke up the next morning to find out that the 11a departure had an equipment swap from a 787 to a 757. Oh, the horror! Again, majorly bummed.

I’m an optimist.  I did some research, made some calls, and sent a few frantic text messages. Much to my delight there was a late afternoon (4p) 787 flight from IAH – ORD. With camera in hand, a positive frame of mind, I headed to IAH for a day of people watching and planespotting. Besides getting on the 787, could you ask for anything more entertaining?

In the hours (about 5) spent at IAH here’s what happened:
• took loads of airplane pics
• was fascinated people watching (amazed how each airport has its own “personality”)
• bumped into 3 aviation professionals who attended a customer service training class I helped facilitate (besides being #avgeeks, the airlineguys are aviation consultants specializing in customer service)
• recognized and reconnected with a high school friend who is an RN and who now is a United pilot (I’m still reeling from this chance encounter and so happy to be reconnected with Mark!)

As you can see, my time spent at the airport waiting for the 787 was well worth it. Yes, she was being elusive, but I had come so far and was not about to give up now.

When I received my seat I was beyond excited: window, exit row.

Here are my thoughts on taking my first United 787 flight:

• First impression — gorgeous
• Mood lighting upon boarding —  soothing (there are 6 settings: boarding, meals, relaxing, cruise, sleep, preloading)
• Layout of FC – spacious (this is where I want to be on my next 787 flight!)
• E+ — roomy, relaxing hues of blue and grays throughout the cabin
• Windows — most were darkened already, customers began experimenting with the window “shades”, impressed with how the tint changes from transparent to opaque with the touch of a button, the size of windows (30% larger according to infographic card in seat pocket) was very noticeable — when seated you had an unobstructed view of the horizon (no craning of neck to look up or down)
• Sound — very taken with how quiet this plane was at takeoff and cruise altitude (60% less noise than planes of comparable size), it was so quiet I could clearly hear the crying kid a few rows back, noise-reducing chevrons on engine nacelles contributes to reducing noise levels of the engines
• Wing — loved the wingflex, sliced right through the air even in mild turbulence
• Crew — friendly and efficient, had nice conversation with Edwin who too is from South Florida, and Sandy was kind to take my picture
• Food — ordered the Tapas snack box, Bloody Mary, water, crew were proficient with handheld devices
• IFE — full selection of films, TV, music, moving map, UA services/amenities, a full system reset was completed on at least 2 occasions
• Landed on time, to gate after short delay due to ramp congestion

A special thank you to ticket agent Heather P (great eye contact, smiled, knowledgeable in job duties) and gate agent Ms. Matthews (smiled, accommodating, calming announcements). They made the check in and boarding process pleasant.

Overall, an awesome passenger experience and a wonderful introduction to the Boeing 787! Would love to take a long-haul flight to experience the 787s feature of increased oxygen and humidity of the cabin air (lessens the effects of jet lag we hear). Hint, hint 😉

Thanks United for an awesome experience!

airlineguy Sylvester

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