Its been only 6 Months since our last big USA trip to New York but it feels a whole lot longer. The last few months particularly dragging but finally, we are back in the States and this time Back in Sin City. We have 5 Manic days planned in the Adults Disneyland before heading off on a whirlwind Roadtrip of Utah, Arizona and then Route 66 right into California, Stopping at the Real Disney land and Finishing out tour up for some much-needed Rest and Recovery in San Diego.
Day one is a little light on the Trip Report. It is a long flight from Manchester to Las Vegas, Mccarran on our Trusty Virgin Atlantic. We are back in the Economy Section on the Temporary A330’s that Virgin has Leased while it sorts its Engine Troubles on its 787 Dreamliners. This gives us a chance to look at the Virgin cabin and do a mini Virgin Atlantic A330 Economy Review.
We are now very seasoned at Atlantic hopping and have it all down to a fine art to make the process as least painful as possible, so it came as a surprise to us that this trip was basically a disaster, nothing huge went wrong, and no one organization can be blamed, but a huge array of little things just added up and kept going, wrong. Lots of little annoyances adding up to a disaster of a flight.
We start with a big Downer. We had dropped in a cheeky upgrade bid to Fly in Upper Class and thought nothing of it. Unfortunately, I used a Credit Card that I later canceled. I didn’t think much of it until 3 days before the flight I received the E-Mail from Virgin saying the bid had been accepted! Except, The Payment had been Declined. It seems you only get one shot at this and the seats went to the next lowest bidder…Oh well, off to Cattle Class.
As we headed to Manchester at a pretty reasonable hour we realized we hadn’t flown from our home airport in quite a while. We have been favoring the Heathrow flights as with a £29.99 Travelodge the night before it does not make much difference to our travels and opens up quite a few more routes. A lot has changed at Manchester Airport in the last 18 months…Starting with the Drop-Off Fiasco.
They have Phased-in, No that’s the wrong word, dropped in like a bombshell, Paid drop-offs. You can no longer just drive up to the terminal and head off. Now You are charged £3<5Mins £4<10Mins and if you stay over 10 Mins its £25! This has led to near riots and people running members of staff down!
The Alternative is the free Drop-Off and Shuttle bus Option, which is right next to T2 and seemed the sensible option. So we directed our Chaufuerr (Ok, my Sister, Thanks) to this and jumped out to try out the Shuttle system for ourselves.
This is a pretty awful system if you are a T2 Passenger. Despite being right next to T2 the bus heads off on a huge 20-minute long tour of the airport taking in T3 and T1 before finally arriving back at T2 literally meters from where you started. We assumed the bus would hit T2 first but no it seems no one has actually given this any thought at all. Honestly, we would have been better walking. Better still Greedy Airports cold just stop cashing in on folks!
NOTE TO MANCHESTER AIRPORT! – These Charges were brought in to ease Congestion at the Terminal Drop Off points and on the Face of it that is a very good argument. However, as regular uses of the Airport…There Never has been any Congestion at the Terminal Drop-Offs! No one seems to have Challenged you on this but really it reeks of profiteering and a thin veneer of an excuse to try and shield you from this…Shame Bell!
Virgin T2 Check-In
Next on the day’s litany of disasters was the Virgin Check-In. We are used to almost walking straight up to the check-in with little or no queue. To find the below was most upsetting.
35 Mins later and we were checked in and off to security. At least with the whole of virgins customers stuck at check-in Security was mercifully quiet. Again here Manchester was a mess, with a barrage of mixed messages about what should and shouldn’t be in bags and what needed to come out. It was a bit hectic, but we were through quickly enough. A bit stressed but with a nice airport lounge to relax in for the next hour or so.
Manchester Airport Escape Lounge
We booked the lounge for around £20 each from ATP Parking and kind of forgot about it. So it was a pleasant surprise when we remembered. The lounge was crazy busy and we are always surprised to see people walking up hoping to get in? Why take the risk and pay more?
In the lounge, it was a self-service affair with bacon, sausage, eggs, tomatoes, and Beans on offer along with bread rolls. There was also a continental selection of fruit, muffins, pastries, and cereals. It is nothing spectacular but a nice way to calm down after the hecticness of the earlier morning.
After our delays, we only got just over an hour in the lounge before the call to the gate was announced. Just time for another beer before heading to the gate. This was in the new Pier section of T2, Manchester Airport claims to be spending £1bn on the airport and this new Pier is a brand spanking new. And a long way from anything. So a good 10mins later we were at the gate. Just as they announced boarding. There was a huge scrum to get on and we just sat back and waited for it to clear. Why do people rush to board when you will be on there for 11 Hours and have assigned seats we will never know.
Manchester to Las Vegas, McCarran Airport
We will try and keep this short and do a slightly more in-depth review later. The flight itself was pretty uneventful and smooth apart from a bit of turbulence around Greenland. There was a lot of cloud cover for most of the trip and very little to see. So we focused on the Movies and the Service.
The Cabin of the leased a330 is pretty dire. The new seats are falling apart and the legroom is very very tight. I am not a big person, 5’10, and my legs touched against the seats in front. Taller people would really struggle and did, with the vast majority standing up for large amounts of the flight.
Service was really slow to get going, it was nearly an hour into the flight before the first drinks found us. For some reason, our side of the plane was behind the whole way. Every service the trolley came down the left-hand side, 10-15 rows ahead of the right. It as a bit odd and maybe just a case of the left-hand side smashing it and the right just dawdling. It was mildly frustrating, but in the end more comical.
Lunch was ok. The Starter was the now customary bowl of leaves, the main choices were Chilli, Mushroom Chicken, and Pesto Pasta. Our choices of chili and Pasta were passable, just, like a very poor ready meal. There were cheese and crackers and pudding was a Chocolate and Yuzu GU pot, which was delicious but predictably small.
We were also served ice cream, a Steak pasty, and a cream tea late on in the flight. However, being a Vegas flight people seemed quite thirsty and Virgin seem to have reduced their quota for alcohol so around 7 hours in on a visit to the galley I got the honor of taking the LAST bottle of alcohol on the plane. and that was it we had drunk the bar dry! Fortunately, everyone took this ok and there were no riots.
Overall the service just felt a bit chaotic, which matched the day really and while it was not bad, and the staff were their usual polite professional selves it just seemed a bit off the game. Maybe just an off day may be a symptom of the poor aircraft. We look forward to Virgin getting their 787 engines sorted and sending these off to the scrapyard!
De-planing went smoothly and we headed for the dreaded Customs, here were got our first break of the day, and we cleared customs via the automated terminals pretty swiftly, about 25mins. Things looked grim for those not eligible for the self-serve tills, however. We heard stories of 2+hours in the main queue.
Our speedy passage through customs was cut short once we got to baggage as nothing was coming through and all we got was a robot lady telling us there was a delay. eventually, it got moving and our bags were some of the first out. all in all, it took around an hour to get out of the airport. Which is not overly bad for a US airport really.
We weighed up getting the Duece to the airport but with the luck, we were having decided against this and headed straight for the Uber rank. The app quoted $18 and with single rides on the Duece being $6 each it was a small price to pay to get us directly to the Mirage.
Traffic was pretty light, and we got to the Mirage in great time, Check-in queue was zero and we walked straight up to the counter. A wonderful friendly man dealt with our check-in and when offered a $20 tip got us a nice upgrade to a Stay-Well room, with a Strip/Volcano view.
The Stay Well rooms are a touch gimmicky with mood lighting, aromatherapy, air purification, and filtered water. But they are nice touches. The bed is a $4000+ Memory Foam Mattress and is very comfortable. But no time for this now, we were headed for the pool!
A few hours in the glorious Vegas sun was just what we needed to refresh after the flight. We love the Mirage Pool Complex and just chilling in the wonderful tropical setting was utter bliss. We don’t get to relax that often on these trips but this was much needed.
After recharging we were fighting the urge to go to bed. We were still on UK time, it was the early hours of the morning. We pushed on through and headed out onto the strip to take in the Las Vegas Spectacle. The weather was clear dry and very warm, around 80°F. We just wandered down the strip taking it all in before heading back to our room utterly exhausted and passed out around 9 pm Vegas time.
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