Live Blog – Day 1 – Virgin Atlantic London Heathrow to Los Angeles – Upper Class – A350

October 18th, 2022

Preamble – Final, Final, rebooking from Covid

Virgin Atlantic London Heathrow to Los Angeles - Upper Class - A350

This trip really came a bit out of nowhere. As far as we were concerned we had finished rebooking all our lost trips from the Pandemic shutdowns and would now be planning on booking new and different trips from now on. However, our trip to Oahu in the spring was actually only half what we had planned to do in 2020, so when the opportunity came up to do the other half, basically heading back to Maui, we jumped at it.

After a lot of traveling since the borders reopened, we were pretty tired of our 100% business trips and were looking for a break. We figured we needed it and were looking at places to get away to for real relaxation. However, when weighing up the pros and cons, it just felt like wasted money. So we started to think about where could we go that would be useful for the business but also still not too taxing. Maui is the obvious, and probably only choice!

But in our normal do-everything style we would probably end up packing too much in and making it an exhausting business trip and not a real rest. So to counter this, we promised ourselves to only do a few business days while in Maui, but t make the trip really worthwhile, we would smash L.A. for a week beforehand, and do a real USA-style Halloween, visiting the theme parks and scare the bejeebus out of ourselves, while having a ton of fun!

Heading to Heathrow

In what is now becoming a well-drilled exercise we headed down to Heathrow the day before our flight. We have a 4ish hour journey to the airport and had booked into the Sheraton Skyline hotel for a night with included parking via Holiday Extras. This really worked so well and we can wake right next to the airport ready to go.

There are very few restrictions now on international travel to the states and we just had a couple of forms to fill in to confirm we are fully Vaccinated and that is about it. We parked the car up and enjoyed a last British meal before a few weeks on the USA diet! The Skyline offers a high-end Indian restaurant so we got our last fix of curry before being all but deprived in America. We usually avoid this before getting on a plane for obvious reasons, but this looked like a pretty high-end establishment so all should be ok.

We had originally booked the flight on Virgins Premium Economy service but had put a cheeky low-end bid for Upper Class in via Virgins Bidding system and on Sunday we received the E-Mail stating we had been upgraded! To say we were elated is an understatement!

Virgin Upper-Class Terminal Heathrow

Virgin Upper-Class Terminal Heathrow

We woke up pretty early considering our flight was not until 1 pm but as we had access to the Clubhouse we figured we might as well be there and catered for rather than in our hotel room!

Virgin has dropped the perk of free car service to the airport with upper-class bookings, but this is largely because you can now summon an UberExec and any moment for a pretty reasonable fee, and the convenience of the Car service has been eroded. Of course, we did just that and within moments our Exec car was arriving to whisk us off to Virgins Upper-Class Terminal.

This is one of the real highlights of flying upper-class from Heathrow. Virgin has a separate entrance for upper-class customers arriving by car. You head through a security checkpoint to ensure you are an upper-class customer then arrive at a private lobby entrance. Here you are escorted inside, with your luggage taken care of, and checked in at a private check-in desk.

It is all very civilized and feels like arriving at a 5-Star hotel rather than an airport. Zero Stress, Zero hassle! Next the absolute highlight of the trip, your own personal security lane! We all hate security, we feel you are treated like a criminal, herded through hot sweaty queue lines, and have to hurriedly unpack and re-pack your hand luggage, all under the scrutiny of angry shouty security guards! It is no fun at all. Virgin’s upper-class terminal is one of the few places this becomes tolerable. It’s the same hall, the same rules, and the same security personnel, but you get the end conveyor, away from the hordes, and everyone is just nicer, and there is no time pressure or shouting. It’s lovely.

From here it’s straight to the clubhouse. Unless you want to spend a little time in duty-free which is on the way through to Virgin’s ultra-high-end lounge, the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.

Virgin Clubhouse Heathrow

The Clubhouse at Heathrow is Virgin’s own private space exclusively for Virgin Atlantic’s upper-class guests. It’s a pretty special location and offers full Alacarte dining. We were on the breakfast menu which included several breakfast items but the eggs royale (Eggs benedict with Smoked Slamon) jumped out to both of us, along with a glass of pink bubble to get things going.

The menu was all available via the “Scan For Champagne” QR codes on each table, but you could get waiter service or head to the bar as well. There is also a nice deli bar that offers charcuterie and pastries as self-serve items.

There are various sections to the clubhouse, a games room, dining areas, the bar, and even a nice outdoor space that overlooks the runways. Despite the nice morning, it was far too cold outside, but would be nice in summer. We found a nice quiet little nook away from the masses and worked out way through the menu. A few signature cocktails, bubbles, and a very welcome glass of Brewdog IPA saw us through to boarding. The lunch menu came on too late for us to try anything, but it looked excellent offering chicken burgers, wings, gyoza, fish and chips, and even a Poke Salmon bowl.

At around 12:10 we headed to the gate to start boarding the Queen Of Hearts, one of Virgin’s new A350 aircraft. We arrived just as boarding opened for Upper-Class and basically walked straight on.

Virgin Atlantic A350 Upper-Class Cabin Experience

The Upper-Class Cabin on the A350 is a pretty incredible place. The cabin is divided into 44 pods. Each with its own bubble of space and a lie-flat bed. From each seat, you have your personal space where you can’t even see another customer. As we were flying together we took the middle two seats (we were lucky to get a choice when using the bidding system) which meant we could open the divider and the space was like one giant pod with two seats. much better for couples.

The service starts with a glass of bubbly, as we get settled into our pods. Once in the air, another drink arrives as we order from the Lunch/Dinner menu. Chicken Liver Parfet to start with Miso Salmon for me and a Chicken and Wild Mushroom Pie for Kate for the main. Dessert is a black forest gateaux or bread and butter pudding followed by an optional cheese plate. All washed down with lashings of wine. It is a million miles from the microwave ready-meals served up at the back of the plane.

We then settle into our super comfy seats and indulge in the great selection of films, including catching up on a few things we have missed, such as Top-Gun Maverick and Jurassic World Dominion, along with a re-watch of one of our favorites, Downton Abbey 2. The screens are really large and are great quality so catching up on our movies is are real treat, again unlike the small back-set screens of the lower classes that really can be a detriment to a film.

Before long, with heavy use of the call button to keep drinks flowing the day drinking starts to catch up with us, and the simple pushbutton conversion of the seats into a lie-flat bed makes the last couple of hours literally a dream as we drift off with the music channels drowning out any cabin noise.

With a couple of hours to go, we are awoken for a light snack. A fish Finger sandwich followed by an afternoon tea finished off the flight perfectly, with the last cup of tea taken in the plane’s lounge area. Even with the huge lie-flat seat, it’s still nice to get up and stretch the legs and get a change of scene.

Arriving in Los Angeles

We arrived in L.A. a little earlier than planned but had a short delay as there was still a plane on our stand. Still, we were de-planeing about on schedule and we had a pretty standard transit through the airport with the bags arriving around the same time we got through border control.

Outside LAX was the usual chaos and we arrived at the car rental pick-up just as the bus left so we had a 15min wait at the curbside for a bus to the center. We had booked a car through AVIS and as we are members of the Preferred scheme we were able to use the much quieter preferred desk. As we disembarked the bus, a very large family, that almost certainly were NOT preferred members, go off the bus at the same time. So we ensured we got into the Avis office before them as we were pretty sure Chaos was about to rain down.

Sure enough, they has no idea what Avis preferred was, and were in the wrong place, but we think the team there helped them anyway, we are not sure as our check-in was super smooth and in minutes were off to the lot, to pick up our car…we say car but we were given a free upgrade to an aircraft carrier!

We had booked a small-mid-size SUV but had been upgraded to a Buick Enclave, which appeared to have its own gravity field. Despite its vast size, there was still not enough room in the trunk for our 3 cases so had to fold down some of the 96 seats. Still, there was room for another 60 passengers and only the two of us riding so we made do! We climbed into the armchairs up front and got on our way.

As ever the first few miles are a bit stressful as we get back to grips with driving in the states, and LAX really throws you in at the deep end! But after a while, we were motoring along. The Journey to the hotel was around an hour and it was a stunning Los Angeles evening. The sun was setting over the Hollywood hills and the sky took on a stunning pinky-purple hue.

The traffic was terrible, but that is to be expected around rush hour in LA and tbh we have seen it worse, much worse. Before long we were heading to the required exit and looking for signs for Disneyland Drive!

Kings Inn Anaheim

Buick Enclave

We checked into our regular Disneyland hotel. We really treat our Disneyland room as a place to sleep, so we go for a balance of price, comfort, and location. The King’s Inn is anything but fancy, but it’s clean, comfortable, and super cheap. It’s also only a 5-10 minute walk from the gates and that is really important to us.

So we checked in and settled into the room, just long enough to get ready to head straight back out.

Downtown Disney

In an effort to combat Jet-Lag despite the fact, it was 3 am on our time we were going to power through to make sure we could get over the jet lag as soon as possible. It was tempting to head straight to bed but then we would wake at 3-4 am and be tired for much of the following evening, better to keep busy and power through.

There is not much to do in Anaheim at night without a Disneyland Ticket, but one of the things you can do is Downtown Disney, so that’s where we headed.

The Main Disney Esplanade was fully decked out in its Halloween decorations with Oogie Boogie towering over Disney California Adventure and Disney Character Pumpkins over the gates to Disneyland. An Oogie Boogie Bash was in full swing at Disney California Adventure so it was cool to see so many costumed guests milling around.

We naturally did a bit of Early Disney shopping and just looked around the district before heading off to one of our first dining treats of the trip.

Trader Sams Enchanted Tiki Bar

Despite the difficulties getting reservations here we used our usual tactics and snagged a late-night booking inside the Tiki Bar. Trader Sam’s is a Disney icon and we were really excited to get back and try some fantastic Tiki Drinks. As we were heading to Hawaii later in the trip this meant the bar needed to be high and Trader Sam’s is one of the better offerings in Dinsey.

We ordered a Pupus sharing plate and a couple of drinks. A Zombie complete with souviner mug and Mosquito Mojito. The zombie was really good and extra strong with a healthy dose of 151 rum, but the Mojito was a little weak with a lot of ice. The Pupus was ok but it was a lot of money for some deep-fried beans a couple of wings a scoop of Mac Salad and a little Poke. Sure the wings were excellent and the Poke passable for the mainland, but it was a small portion for the $22!

A few other customers ordered the trigger drinks that set the various shows off which are all a lot of fun. The atmosphere was a little subdued and maybe that was partially our fault as we were really getting tired now. We had been on the go for approaching 24 hours and it was time to hit the sack.

We wandered back through Downtown Disney and back to the hotel, possibly taking it in turns to sleepwalk a little, then hit the hay hard. Alarms set and batteries on charge for a BIG Disney day tomorrow.

Walking Total – 5800 Steps – 3.2 Miles

A very modest start to the trip in terms of steps. As most of the day was spent reclining in a lie-flat bed this is hardly surprising, things pick up somewhat from tomorrow.

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Day 2 – Hitting The Ground Running, Disney California Adventure at Rope Drop >>>

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