Atlanta

Flight Review: Virgin Atlantic Business Class A330 - Atlanta to London

Feeling antsy, I made my way from the lounge to the gate in Atlanta's international terminal. Still fairly early, I wanted to be ready to board the first flight in a long line of great products coming up in this trip. From the departure gate, our plane was displayed outside of the window, ready to return home to London.

Airline: Virgin Atlantic

Aircraft: A330-300

Class: Business

Flight: 104

Route: ATL to LHR



After waiting for a short time, the business class section was called to start boarding, so I quickly made way for the aircraft.

Walking down to the plane, Virgin Atlantic does an impressive job of wowing you at first sight. On the other side of the entry door is the iconic lighting of the Virgin brand, pinks and purples flood the cabin, and style almost takes such a forward role that function kind of goes out the window. The immediate impact on you is impressive, nice little wow factor on first visual.

Missing Overhead Bins in Center Row of Seats

Missing Overhead Bins in Center Row of Seats

Look for a few more minutes, and the flaws start to come out. The most immediate to any passenger on the plane is the complete lack of overhead space for the middle seats. I understand the thought here is that there are fewer business class seats, so they should require far fewer overhead compartments. In practice however, the seats do not provide much storage space around them, so that extra hand bag or backpack many passengers carry needs to go overhead. While there may be fewer passengers in the forward section, there is a need for more luggage per person to go in the overhead. Our flight did run out of room for a few passengers and those bags needed to be placed in the coat closet instead. In my eyes this was a huge miss.

Upper Class Seat

Upper Class Seat

Seating was another miss in my opinion. Virgin Atlantic was definitely try to cram as many seats into the cabin as possible while still offering lie flat beds. Problem here is that the seats are placed at a pretty extreme angle, so window seats are actually hard to see out the window with.



Second and probably most annoying is how tight the seats are. Business class seats are not cheap, and if you are paying top dollar for these seats, then you are going to want a comfortable seat. Virgin attempted to get as much revenue as possible here and sacrificed passenger comfort. Honestly, I'd never pay full price for a business class seat in this arrangement, probably part of the reason this arrangement, while Virgin's newest, is already going away. Passengers just aren't happy with it. 

See Through Seat Dividers

See Through Seat Dividers

Sitting down, the artistic seat divider becomes an in your face element. Beautiful from a design aesthetic sense, the see through nature loses a sense of privacy that is a cornerstone of business class. Business customers want privacy to work, and sleep. Making the cabin feel more open air is a nice design choice, but beyond looks, the feel isn't right for the type of customers the airline is trying to attract.

Amenity Kit

Amenity Kit

Before the plane pushed back, the crew came around and offered amenity kits and sleep suits. Sleep suits are the British equivalent of pajamas. The flight attendant gave me a medium sized pajama. I was skeptical of the sizing since I normally wear a large to x-large, but the mediums ran so big they actually fit me quite well.

Amenity kits on Virgin were quite sparse as far as kits go. There was some useful stuff in them, but it seemed to be lacking the variety of most normal kits. The bags were also the least useful of all those I received on this trip. I find myself underwhelmed by this kit, it's not one I'll be inclined to reuse. 

Champagne

Champagne

Preflight champagne, orange juice or water was offered before takeoff. I chose the champagne, which was middling at best, nothing to write home about. Once again, the disclaimer here is that I'm not a big drinker, so take my alcohol recommendations with a grain of salt. I don't like alcohol, so I'm pretty picky on drinks that contain it.

As for the service crew, they were quite impressive. Friendly, attentive, laughing and joking. The crew brought a friendly and fun feeling to the cabin throughout the flight. Crew did strike a nice balance between being attentive and having fun. I would say service could have been a little faster, but they were always on top of things when they were needed.

Once we taxied out to the runway at Atlanta, the plane took to the sky for a nice 8 hours flight to London. 

Traffic in Atlanta

Traffic in Atlanta

Traffic in Atlanta

Traffic in Atlanta

Taking off from Atlanta

Taking off from Atlanta

After takeoff, food was ordered and served. I'll be doing a food review later this week, stay tuned for that. 

Once meals were done I watched some TV since it was still a little early to go to sleep in the US. Pulling out the in flight entertainment screen, the selection was up to date, but lacked depth. Once you saw the newest films, there wasn't a huge back catalog to choose from beyond that. Being that this was only an 8 hour flight, the entertainment selection wasn't a huge deal, but I could see it being a bit boring for the longer flights. 

As a note, the screen is controlled by a separate remote. Like many modern products, this remote has a built in screen. The screen allows you to view the flight maps while still watching something on the main entertainment screen. My unit had some issues at first. The maps froze the handheld unit's screen for much of the beginning of the flight. I did not notice when, but the unit did eventually load the maps later on in the flight after I just ignored it for a while. This just highlights that the plane and product is showing a little age. Dings and bangs showed all over the cabin, nothing major, but minor things that did make the cabin feel aged. 

After watching some movies, I got ready for bed. A flight attendant helped make my bed, and for good reason. Virgin's seating is not like most lie flat beds. Most other products allow you to stay in the seat and just go along for the ride as it converts to a bed, but not the Virgin Atlantic seats. These you need to bring to a full upright position and then unlock the back of the seat, which then folds down to a flat position. This is not intuitive and really I'm not sure I still know how to do it.

Similarly this is a problem when waking up. Getting ready for breakfast, we hit some turbulence. This meant I could not unbuckle and get up from my seat to convert back to a seat. In the mean time I just sat up in my bed until the ride smoothed out enough that the flight attendant could convert it back to a seat and give me my morning meal. 

Landing in London

Landing in London

After a quick meal, we prepared to land in London. As always, London was cool and breezy but a beautiful day otherwise. The captain touched us down and before you knew it we were through immigration and on to British soil.

Virgin Atlantic was a beautiful product, but suffered from being too highly focused on that beauty. Design was put before function here and the seat was tight, difficult to convert to and from a bed, and see through dividers sacrificed a lot of privacy. At the end of the day I was happy to be in business class seat over economy, but the seat was a little lackluster. I look forward to seeing what the new updated business class product will be from Virgin, 

Lounge Review: Delta Sky Club - Concourse F - Atlanta

Atlanta lies only 2 hours by car from Greenville, South Carolina, by air the flight is an impressively fast 25 minutes. I prefer to fly out of and into Greenville; it's easier for friends and family to pick me up. Greenville also is less of a hassle getting through TSA screening points since passenger traffic is so much lower than at a major airport like Atlanta. Soon after arriving at the airport, we boarded the plane and made way on the first of many legs on my biggest trip of the year.



After landing in Atlanta and deplaning at Concourse T, I had a long walk to the international terminal which is located at the opposite end of the airport. While Atlanta does have a train system to travel between concourses, I decided to walk the long distance between concourses. After all I was about to sit on a plane for 8 hours, seems best to get a little exercise before hand.

Once I stepped into the international terminal, I walked down through the departure gates to get an idea of where things were in the terminal since I’d never flown internationally out of Atlanta. After familiarizing myself with the lower level, I was ready to go check out what is considered to be one of the better of the Delta Sky Club lounges. Only problem is, I couldn't find any signs directing you to where it was. So after looking up the location on a terminal map online, because it also wasn’t shown on the in-terminal maps I saw. I discovered it on the second level that I had not yet visited.

Entering the lounge, the staff was extremely friendly and inviting. After a few moments fiddling with the non-working mobile boarding pass, I was on my way into the lounge. The first thing that struck me was how much smaller the lounge was than I was expecting. In the lounge is the well advertised sky deck (outdoor seating), a large sitting room indoors, a long sitting hall area and a small loft in the main room. It probably is quite large, but the way it is laid out, things seem much smaller than they likely are.

Main Seating Area

Main Seating Area

After checking out the vegetarian food options, I headed out to the Sky Deck to check it out. The Sky Deck is an open air deck that is one of the few places in the world that you can actually be on the secure side of the airport and be able to go outside. Keep in mind that this is Atlanta, so it was quite hot outside, and I was attempting to charge my phone. Atlanta heat and a charging device do not mix well. Both my phone and my tablet started to get hot.

In an effort to avoid overheating my electronics and myself, I moved inside for the remainder of my time there.



Overall the lounge is certainly better than my other experiences in Delta lounges, but concourse B has actually just opened a brand new lounge that looks to be on par with the international lounge if not better. Despite the concourse F lounge being one of the best Delta lounges I’ve been in, it is still a lounge from a US based airline, so it was a little lackluster, and did get fairly crowded as the evening rush made their way to the airport. 

One thing I do appreciate about US airline lounges is that they tend to do buffets over served food. I've found that served food tends to be difficult to order if only because there often isn't anyone around to order from when you want to get something.

Food at the lounge was pretty standard for a US based lounge. Cheese, fruit, crackers, cookies, other snacks and a few soups and hot dishes.

Crackers, Chips and Cheese

Crackers, Chips and Cheese

Soups

Soups

Soups on offer were Italian Wedding and Red Lentil. I did not try either, but it is worth noting that many of the lounges for Delta are now serving a Squash soup that is vegetarian, and it is very good. I was able to try some on my return to the US at the LA lounge. If your lounge offers that option, I recommend that, keeping in mind it is a tad bit on the sweet side.

Back in Atlanta, I made my way to the hot dishes table. There were only two options, the one I chose was the vegetarian pasta. Really it was run of the mill, just sauce and pasta, nothing too exciting. If you're hungry though, it'll do the trick. Personally I didn't go overboard since I knew a meal would be served on my Virgin Atlantic flight. 

Pasta Dish

Pasta Dish

Once I had some food, I made my way to the main seating area where the views of the aircraft were great. That is certainly one thing going for this lounge, it has one of the better views of the many lounges in Atlanta. I say that because many of the other lounges sit much lower and closer to the tarmac, also the other lounges tend to see rows and rows of Delta planes. Concourse F is an international terminal though, so you get a range of aircraft passing by during the day and variety is the spice of life.

View From Lounge

View From Lounge

Really the lounge isn't as great as I had hoped. It did get fairly crowded in the lounge, and the food selection didn't blow me away. It certainly has some unique features, but acting as a flagship lounge, it was not nearly as large and open as I had thought it would be. 

Certainly a good spot to spend the hours prior to your flight, but nothing mind blowing.

Virgin Atlantic A330 Atlanta to London: Preview

Here are some quick photos of the Upper Class cabin in the A330-300 that I took aboard Virgin Atlantic. Enjoy!



The mood lighting of the Virgin Atlantic fleet

The mood lighting of the Virgin Atlantic fleet

The seat was tight to sit in.

The seat was tight to sit in.

In flight airshow

In flight airshow

One of the best vegan meals I've had in the air... or on the ground for that matter.

One of the best vegan meals I've had in the air... or on the ground for that matter.

ATL Restaurant Review: Fly Burger

Walking through Concourse B of Atlanta's main South terminal and you will cross paths with Fly Burger. The little burger restaurant near gate 27 features a hostess, waiters/waitresses, a long bar, and fast service. Sitting down to eat at the start of my 3 hour layover in Atlanta I was ready to try what Fly Burger had to offer. This restaurant had caught my eye on my first walk through 3 days earlier. 



One problem that flying as a vegetarian can quickly bring up is that food at the airport heavily features meat and can often make eating a decent meal difficult. Of course we can always go to the little convenience store that is found in every airport, but those options are mostly along the lines of candy, chips and a few granola bars. Places like these do not give a great flight experience, the more I eat chips and candy crap, the worse I feel. Smaller airports have this problem in abundance since they lack the customer draw at these smaller airport that would justify a restaurant opening with vegetarian options. If you are vegan, it's even harder. 

Fly Burger stood out to me on my way to New York because they offered a vegetarian option while laying over in the worlds busiest airport. When I found out my flight to Greenville would set me up in the exact same area as my flight to Syracuse did, I figured I'd stop and try their veggie burger on the return trip.

Fly Burger, as the name telegraphs, is a burger restaurant specializing in just that, burgers. When I sat down, I knew what I was ordering so I didn't look over the menu in detail. There are certainly other options such as sandwiches and the like, but why eat anything but a burger at a burger place, so I ordered my veggie burger and fries.

The menu splits all the meals, sides are sold separately from the burger. If you are vegetarian, you likely know that being vegetarian often means our meal choices tend to be lower cost. The veggie burger at Fly Burger was no different, being the lowest cost burger on the menu, just under $10. Of course the fries were more than $4, which is a little steep, but we're in an airport. Captive audience and all, we know to expect this type of pricing here.

Service was quick at Fly Burger, they turn tables over fast and for good reason. Most people in the airport aren't there for a leisurely meal, they want in and out to catch the flight they are waiting on. This restaurant delivers speed, and the waitress helping me was decent, she wasn't blow me away nice, but she wasn't rude either. After placing my order with her, it was not too long until the food was sitting in front of me. 

Veggie burgers can range in what constitutes them. In this case there was certainly some black beans, some corn and definitely a grain base as many restaurant level veggie burgers often are. The burger comes with tomato (I dislike these so I asked for the tomato to be left out), lettuce and red onion. First thing you'll likely notice is how huge the burger was. It looked like a small frisbee and overhung the bun by quite a large margin. 

The burger was soft and with ketchup added to the mayo that comes already applied, the burger was hard to keep on the bun. It kept trying to run away in one direction or another when you gripped the bun. Once I took a bite it was pretty obvious this was a pretty well made veggie burger and likely made in house. Take a few more bites and the one flaw becomes glaring, it is way way too salty. Now I enjoy a decent amount of salt on my food, but this was like a salt lick, way overboard. It's not immediately obvious, but that salt taste builds and builds on itself. The side of fries was very good, well balanced salt, but added to the burger it became too much.

So what would I suggest for this restaurant. Well if you like salt, try the veggie burger, it was a bit overwhelming toward the end of the meal, but that does not negate the fact that the burger was very tasty otherwise. I want to love this place, but salty food is pretty basic stuff, so at the end of the day I'm going to tell you to pass on this restaurant. It's got so many good things going for it, and maybe they had a bad day, but this was not well executed and salty food is something that puts people off. I hope they get a handle on this, but for me, I'll try something less salty next time.

Delta Deepens Korean Air Partnership

In the past Delta and Korean Air have not always been the best of friends and that is reflected in their earning structure. Even though both airlines are part of the SkyTeam Alliance, flying on board Korean Air and crediting the miles back to Delta is not a good idea. Flights on Korean Air don't earn and MQM's  so none of the flight goes toward your elite status in any way, only toward your redeemable miles. Well that looks to be changing.



Delta has just announced a strengthening of relationship between Korean Air and Delta. While it doesn't look like the earning structure has changed for Korean Air flights, Delta is adding flights to Seoul.

Starting on June 3rd, 2017, Delta will be adding a daily flight between Atlanta and Seoul, South Korea. This daily route will be operated by a Delta 777-200LR aircraft outfitted with a 291 seat configuration. This will be a pretty nice route since the 777-200LR aircraft on Delta features one of their best Delta One business class products they have. These are reverse herringbone configured seats, and looks to be pretty awesome.

Delta Boeing 777-200LR Business Class

Delta Boeing 777-200LR Business Class

Beyond this daily flight, Delta and Korean Air will be expanding their codeshare flights. Those who are not aware, this means that Korean Air may sell certain Delta flights under a Korean Air flight number and Delta may do the same with certain Korean Air flights. What does this mean? It means that these flights count as Delta flights and earns miles as if the flight was operated by Delta. That means full MQM's, MQD's, MQS's and redeemable miles.

What this means for me is better access to Seoul, one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world. I fell in love with Seoul when I visited last fall, and I've been looking forward to making another trip to that amazing city. This means more access to Seoul on Delta and from Atlanta which is very close to where I live. Direct flights to Seoul within a 2 hour drive of home... just awesome!

The only bad things here is that earning structures don't look to have changed on non-codeshare flights, and we need to wait until next year for the new flights to start operating. I for one will be grabbing one of these flights as soon as I can.