Let Your Vacation Begin on the Airplane

Over the years I have trained myself to believe that my vacation truly begins the moment I touch down at a destination.  Driving to the airport, parking, waiting for my flight and sitting on the plane were nothing more than a necessary evil.  Sometimes painful and sometimes uneventful, it just wasn’t something I looked forward to.  Even when I was lucky enough to enjoy a business or first class seat, I never looked forward to my flight experience and reveled in my time onboard…. until I found the promise land in Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class.

With a new agreement and special pricing for our clients, I felt somewhat obligated to try out this service.  Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s founder, had always been known for creating those “over the top” experiences and I had to find out if he had once again lived up to his reputation for turning something ordinary into something extraordinary.  So I boarded my eighteen plus hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa, with a scheduled seven and a half hour layover at London Heathrow.  “What could possibly be enjoyable about this twenty-four hour enduro-flight”, is what I was thinking, but knowing that my ultimate destination was Ulusaba Rock Lodge in South Africa, I knew I could endure.

Now, I know I sound dramatic but when you only have six days on the ground, almost forty-eight hours of total travel time is somewhat scary for even the most traveled road warriors.  But the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at JFK was quite comfortable and the food was amazing and as we were whisked by the hundreds of travelers standing in line at the security line, I begin to be somewhat hopeful.

Boarding the flight I was a bit surprised by the seat configuration.  Rather than facing completely forward, as you would on any other airline, the seats were angled with half wall dividers between them.  Gary and I realized quickly that having seats one in front of the other was actually a nice thing for a couple traveling together, since we could easily converse back and forth over the wall rather than across the aisle.  The flight attendant came over; offering a nice glass of champagne and asked what size we would like for our “sleeper suits”.  Initially I was a bit weary of the black pajama outfits she was giving us but as I glanced around the cabin I realized that I wouldn’t be the only ninja looking passenger, so I hurried into lavatory, changed into my “jammies” and gave my clothes to the flight attendant to hang in the closest to remain perfectly pressed for my arrival into Heathrow airport.  As we lifted off from JFK and I had a chance to admire my surroundings I began to realize the thought that had gone into my individual seat environment.  The storage space, TV and music system, lighting and movie selection were absolutely amazing.  As the flight attendant set up my space for dinner I realized that my footrest converted into a seat for Gary, so we could have dinner facing one another instead of side by side.  This was so civilized and once you added the linens, china, fine wine and gourmet food, we felt as though we were having our first romantic vacation dinner.

After a nightcap at the bar and turndown service by the flight attendant, I retired to my seat which had been transformed into a sleep environment.  My seat, slash dining room, slash movie theater was now a sleep catacomb.  It was private and comfortable and was a lie flat bed with a feather duvet and down comforter.  As I lay in my bed the half walls took away the fear that I would snore too loud, drool too much or lean into the seat next to me.  So as I drifted off to sleep, I savored the comfort of my flying hotel.

As we descended into London, enjoyed our breakfast and changed from our sleeper suits back into our fresh, clean, well pressed clothes, I could not believe that I felt so good.  This was truly enjoyable and one of the best flights I have ever had in my twenty plus years in travel.

Upon arriving in Heathrow we ventured out to a local pub with my favorite local driver/guide.  This was a nice break in a long journey and still left enough time to enjoy the benefits of the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse including a massage for Gary and a hair cut for me.  After a hot shower in a private spa suite and a few games of billiards, we once again boarded our flight to “repeat step one” on my way to Johannesburg.  I was amazed how quickly the time passed in London with a short pub-crawl and the luxuries of the Clubhouse, which was included in the cost of our Upper Class ticket.

Honestly, I now know why Virgin Atlantic is rated so high in passenger satisfaction and with Largay Travel’s new pricing contract, I know the value I give to every passenger on Virgin Atlantic is money well spent.  A month after returning from my trip to South Africa I recommended Virgin’s Upper Class service to a client and in an email following their trip they included:  “I could not imagine a flight being so relaxing but the Upper Class experience was wonderful, thanks so much for recommending it.”

And so my philosophy of my vacation starting once I land has been forever changed, for as I ended my safari in South Africa I actually looked forward to my journey home.

For more information on special pricing on Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class service and private driver and guide service in London, you can contact Amanda directly at amanda@largaytravel.com

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