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Virgin Atlantic - really good long-haul flights
Member Name: lilshakespeare
Advantages: Friendly staff, on time, easy check-in, great inflight entertainment
Disadvantages: Hard seats, food not that great
I flew with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow to Johannesburgh, South Africa, in November/December 2007, economy class. Virgin is usually one of the most expensive airlines to South Africa, but we were lucky enough to find a special deal on one of the travel websites.
Having flown many long-haul trips with a variety of airlines, I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly and helpful staff, who remained so for the entire 11-hour flight.
The online check-in went seamlessly and we were not caught up in horrendous queues at the airport. The plane appeared to be recently refurbished but the seats were a little disappointing. They were very hard and narrow, although there was space enough to stretch your legs out under the seat in front of you, which you cannot do on some airlines. They did have a wonderful lumbar support cushion built into the seats, which you could inflate or deflate to fit the curve of your spine, something I've not come across before.
What really makes a Virgin long-haul flight better than many of its competitors is the fantastic in-flight entertainment. Our aircraft had one of Virgin's new entertainment systems, with individual seat-back TV. You can play movies/programmes at any time (you don't have to wait for a film to run through before it begins again), as well as TV games. You can even challenge those sitting near you to a game. I really struggle with flying long-haul as I cannot sleep on a plane, so the entertainment system was a major bonus for me.
Like most non-budget airlines, the inflight meals (dinner and breakfast) and drinks were free, and during the flight one could wander into the galley to get something to drink or snack on. The meals were not the best I've ever had on a plane - it was as though they had been prepared days in advance! They were, however, edible and quite filling. The also fed us fairly soon after take-off, so that we were not eating in the middle of the night.
All in all, this flight is one of the better long-haul experiences I have had and I would definitely use them again (if the price is right, of course!)
Summary: Well worth booking for a long-haul flight