Brent Dax (brentdax) wrote,
Brent Dax

Pluses and minuses

So, I'm about an hour from England as I write this. (I'll post it sometime after I get there.) Getting to this point, however, was something of an adventure.

We booked our flight on an airline called MaxJet. They're practically brand-new—just opened in November. They only have two planes, and only two routes: New York–London and Washington–London. Their planes are all-business class. They're normally $1500 a seat, but very early on, they had a really good promotional rate, which Mom took advantage of.

Note, however, the "two planes and two routes". There's only enough time for each plane to make one trip per day in each direction, so if there's a major delay, there's a major problem. Yesterday, there was a major delay—the plane broke, the repair took a long time, and they ended up horribly behind schedule. As a result, the flight we were supposed to be on was pushed back from 6:30 pm to 8:30 the next morning.

That's actually alright—they were happy to put us up in a hotel, and we have lots of padding in our schedule; I don't have to be at Oxford for another two days. Mom, however, is nothing if not paranoid when traveling. If something goes wrong, she handles it calmly, but tries to salvage as much of her plan as she can. In this case, she asked the airline if they could arrange for us to catch another carrier's flight.

Well, they did. (And they were really nice about everything—the manager even escorted us to the other terminal. Great service, even if they have the occasional scheduling problem.) As a result, we ended up flying Virgin Atlantic—in what they call "upper class".

Okay, some background for you. There are two major British airlines—Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. They're constantly one-upping each other to try to get more US–Britain traffic. It's a race to the top with wonderful results for their first-class service. For example, Virgin's Upper Class service starts with a limo ride from wherever you're staying. (We didn't get this—we were already at the airport, and it has to be arranged ahead of time.) Then you get to hang out in a really nice lounge, where the only thing you have to pay for is wifi. You shortcut the lines cattle class has to go through.

Once on the plane, you get a diagonal cubby, for lack of a better word. It has a seat with a zillion controls, including a button that causes the seat to lie flat and flip over, revealing a bed. The food is really good, and it's served hot. You get actual metal silverware—including knives, interestingly enough. The seats come with noise-canceling headphones (although my iPod earbuds, which form a seal with the wearer's ear canal, actually cut out more noise). The table is much larger and more solid than a standard tray table. There's enough leg room that even I can stretch out all the way. There's a footrest that doubles as a seat you can use to visit with people. They give you a fscking set of pajamas. The screen is as large as some laptops', and swings out and adjusts pretty well.

Besides this, Virgin tends to have good service all around. Even the economy class people get personal screens with tons of movies, free video games, and other awesomeness. As I recall, they also get a little gift pack with some toiletries and things to use on the plane. And...well, excuse my momentary typical-guy-ness, but the flight attendants are a damn sight prettier than most airlines.

So I listened to The Raconteurs (a side project of the guy from The White Stripes—it was an okay album), watched V For Vendetta (a really excellent movie), and listened to both parts of the Pink Floyd greatest hits album (lots of songs I hadn't heard before—I'm definitely gonna have to pick up some stuff besides Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall). And I got some programming done as well. There' s a lot more I could do, too—if nothing else, they have the Goblet of Fire movie.

Oh, and supposedly there's a lounge at the other end with more breakfast. I'm told you can even arrange a massage there (although I didn't). And there's limo service at the other end too, if you have it arranged ahead of time (which we, of course, don't).

All of this normally costs about $4000 a seat—but if you have to travel to London often, it's almost worth wearing a suit and having a boring job.

Almost. I'll stick to American with exit rows. But this has totally spoiled me for any other airline.

Added later: The lounge is pretty nice, although I could have lived a happy life without a receptionist asking if Mom and I wanted one shower or two. (She doesn't look old enough to have an adult son, and all their list shows is our names, so...)
Tags: travels

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