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Virgin express with a little stress
Date: 11/02/01, updated on 11/02/01 (94 review reads)
Advantages: reasonable airfairs
Disadvantages: connection at brussels
The airline Virgin Express is not exactly the same company as Virgin Atlantic, it is Virgin’s budget sector airline, that I think it is run by Sabena, the official Belgium carrier. This means that you cannot use your Virgin Atlantic Airmiles to buy tickets or use the frequent flyer program to speed up check in, basically they operate a similar service to EasyJet and Go.
Last year I bought tickets for four people to Rome from their website, after surfing between EasyJet, Go, RyanAir, LastMinute.com, ebookers and a few others, I found they offered the cheapest prices. Considering that we were flying on a Bank Holiday weekend the overall price of the return fairs per passenger was £163 including tax. The cheapest tickets found anywhere else were £234 with RyanAir. This was a flight on a Saturday morning flying out of Heathrow, there was only one small problem and that was the fact that we had to change at Brussels, this is the case with the most of their flights (makes sense as the service is run by Sabena).
However the website is plain and simple to find your way around, and includes a map showing all destinations that they fly to. Moreover the booking process is very swift and only takes 3-5 minutes to book your flight. Like EasyJet you must enter your start point, date including return date, number of people travelling and destination and the website will give a list of all possible flights and prices. From the UK most flights fly out of Heathrow, but some fly out of Gatwick. It is possible to fly direct to Shannon (Ireland), Copenhagen and Berlin from the UK, but to fly to any other destinations, that include Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Milan, Nice and Rome, then you must change at Brussels. This is the only obvious inconvenience. When you decide to go ahead with a transaction the website gives you a reference number to present at the ticket desk at your departure airport, there are no tickets involved. I found this
very convenient, but EasyJet I am told use exactly the same procedure. The only problems that could occur are those regarding security, but this is checked for, as you have to produce passports at the ticket desk.
As for the departure flight, I found this very enjoyable, the flight from Heathrow included a mini Breakfast, consisting of a roll and coffee, it was just about edible. The actual airplane was quite comfortable, there was enough legroom considering it was cow class and the seats were all upholstered in leather. Also the staff were courteous and helpful. This was repeated in all the airplanes.
The connection in Brussels was not a problem, we had to hang around Brussels airport for approximately one and a half hours, but this enabled us to shop in the duty free (although not really duty free when travelling in EU) and get a bite to eat. However on the return journey the plane was delayed by an hour and this caused problems in Brussels. It became a worry that we would miss the connection at Brussels. When we arrived in Belgium, we had to run around the airport, go through passport control, and the get to the plane to fly back to London. The joke was after having all this stress and running halfway around the terminal, we got back on the same plane again. It is now quite funny, but we were not amused at the time.
Overall not the best of experiences, but to be fair to Virgin Express the price is very reasonable, and you must be prepared to accept potential problems if your journey includes a connection. Delays are not usually the fault of the airline, in this case it was bad weather in Brussels. If I require flights to Europe again, I will definitely check the prices on their website and possibly use them as a carrier if there are large price differences.
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