I am Anthony E. Savvides. This is my blog.

Reflections & adventures of a writer at heart, a journalist by trade and a waiter by night.

I will never fly Virgin Atlantic (ever again)

with 7 comments

The crew on the Virgin Atlantic flight from Logan Airport in Boston to Heathrow Airport in London was the worst. Not the crew as a whole, but particularly the one (of many) blonde stewardess(es) who woke me up four times (FOUR!!) within two and a half hours. First, she felt it necessary that my pillow be behind my back instead of in my hands on my lap. You know, because if a pillow gets loose in the cabin during takeoff, that’s real trouble. I managed the near-impossible task of falling asleep before we ever even rolled away from the gate, but she had to ruin what had the potential to be some fantastic sleep. Well, as fantastic as it gets on a plane.

Next, a couple of hours later, she woke me up to make sure my seatbelt was on. It was. But, the seatbelt light wasn’t even on, which I pointed out to her. Her response: “For your safety, it should be on at all times.” REALLY? You felt it necessary to wake me up to to check that my seatbelt was buckled under my blanket? You suck at your job.

Rant about airplane safety: I’ve been on enough planes where I feel comfortable saying that, if anything were to happen, Gob forbid, that seatbelt that’s buckled across my lap is going to do nothing for me, especially not save my life. If anything, it’s just there to keep me in my seat for an extra half second while I pull the clip up to release it. Airplane safety, to me, seems like a bit of a joke. Sure, I understand not smoking on the plane and not opening the emergency latch mid-flight if there is no emergency. But seat belts? I don’t buy it. It’s different than a motor vehicle seatbelt, which actually has a locking mechanism and has saved lives. These seat belts on these planes are just ridiculous, like the ones on a school bus. If it’s just holding my waist down, and not my upper body, then it’s just going to hurt me. In my opinion, if there’s a problem on a plane, there’s very little that can be done to avert disaster.

I woke up, again, this time on my own, and got up to stretch a little bit in the aisle. I used the lavatory, drank some water, and returned to my seat. Across the aisle to my right, two men had changed their seating and I was now staring at two empty seats. “Jackpot!” I thought. I collected my blanket, pillow and headphones, and snuck across the aisle into my new paradise. I plugged in my headphones, chose something to play in the background, and curled up into a ball. What felt like hours later, but was only mere minutes, the blonde woman again shook me awake. She had become the bane of my existence on this flight.

“If you want to sleep in these seats,” she said, “you’ll have to pay extra.” I was exhausted. I was still half asleep. I wasn’t really listening. I said “fine, whatever,” and rolled around. She tapped my shoulder again, this time harder. “Sir, what are you doing? If you don’t pay, you have to return to your seat.” At this point, I was ready to smack her in the face. I didn’t. I sat up, nodded, and said “Fine, I’ll pay.” All I wanted, for crying out loud, was some uninterrupted sleep on the flight. She strutted up the aisle without another word toward the rear of the plane. Moments later, another, kinder and prettier flight attendant arrived next to me. She knelt down, and asked how I wished to pay. I pulled out my American Express card and said “credit, please.” She smiled and took my card. I asked what the charge would be in US dollars. She clicked a few buttons on her little portable register. The privilege of sleeping on these two seats cost me $43. It was a bit steep, especially so many hours into the flight, but I paid it. I didn’t want to sleep sitting up, nor did I want the devil, err, the evil flight attendant, to wake me up ever again. As soon as I signed the bill, I laid my head back down and was sleeping again within five minutes. Unfortunately, as the captain prepared the plane for landing, my sleep was again disturbed. It would have been fine if it were anyone else, but there she was, her cold eyes looking down at me telling me I had to wake up, sit up straight, and, again, fasten my seatbelt. Ugh, the seatbelt. I know that you can’t be laying down across seats without a belt on during the final descent, and I knew that this wake up call was inevitable. It always is. But I wish that the same lady who charged my credit card woke me up. I just hated this woman so much at that point that it didn’t matter I had slept for over three hours.

Alas, this terrible travel experience finally ended and we landed safely in London. The whole group, all 40 something of us- 46, if I had to guess, but don’t hold me to it- walked through the labyrinth that is Heathrow Airport, through yet another security checkpoint. Down a few flights of stairs and up some more escalators, we wound up on a bus that drove us to the terminal where we would eventually catch our connecting flight to Amman with British Midland International airways. Three new friends (Melanie, Eric and Amanda) and I walked through the terminal a bit and found a nice little restaurant. We sat on two  couches and ordered some drinks to kill the hour until we could board the plane.

The flight to Jordan from England was a much, much better experience. There was only one blonde flight attendant, Georgie, and she was sweet. Sarah, another member of the crew, was so kind throughout the flight. (She’s also beautiful; her deeply green eyes and sharp, dark features pulled me in from the moment I saw her as I boarded. The English accent doesn’t hurt, either.) She and I got to talking when I woke up, on my own, from my nap around 12 p.m. (London time, 2 p.m. Amman time). My seat, 28D, was in the final row of the plane, just in front of the lavatories. So, when I woke up from my glorious, uninterrupted nap, I ventured into the crew’s staging area/cabin located at the plane’s rear.

On the way to Amman from London, a nice stewardess offered me a leftover fruit jelly from first class. Mmmm. I was snacking in style, right next to the lavatories. I guess sitting in front of the crew’s cabin has its perks.

The timing was perfect, as the crew had just rolled out drink carts, so I had the space to myself to stretch out a bit. Sitting ans sleeping on three planes in one day caused the worst feeling in most all of my joints, especially my knees and neck. Sam and Matt eventually found their way to me, and the three of us stood there, chatting, until we were forced to return to our seats for, you guessed it, the final descent. We had to buckle our seat belts, after all, because the little light went on.

We touched down at Queen Alia International Airport, and as I looked out the window while the plane descended and the landing gear roared from below, I was overcome with happiness, and joy. It felt so nice to be returning to this place that I fell in love with just last year, and to the people who welcomed me and my peers into their country. To see the desert and the tarmac as we descended was, for me, pure bliss- especially after the long, long day of traveling that was now coming to an end.

Welcome (back) to the Hashemite Kingdom, at Queen Alia International Airport.

Disclaimer: I began writing this post on a (digital) post-it note on both of the flights, from Boston to London and then from London to Amman. I finished it earlier last night, and tweaked it a bit more this morning. More soon, photos too. I think I may set up a flickr account, or some other web-based service, as viewing photos in a slideshow is much easier and more enjoyable than within a blog amidst all this text.

I’ll end this post by apologizing for how long this post is. I guess I had to rant about the longest day of travel I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for reading, y’all.

One more thing to add: after revisiting, I may have miscounted. The mean flight attendant woke me up THREE times in a matter of two and a half hours. Still, it was annoying.

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7 Responses

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  1. But…don’t you have to fly them (Virgin Atlantic) again on the way home? So sorry! Truly enjoyed your post, though, if it’s any consolation!

    Susan Teich

    May 19, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    • Yes, yes. We do have to fly back out of Jordan with them. (UGH.) That didn’t occur to me until I posted. But I stand by the post- it’s not my decision to give them business. But thanks for reading Mrs. Teich!! Glad you liked it 🙂

      AESavvides

      May 28, 2012 at 9:05 am

  2. What can I say. Virgin suck. I used to love Virgin but have had 3 flights in a row with flight crew that fail to understand they are providing a service and it is not a privilege for paying customers to be on Virgin planes! I have lost complete confidence with Virgin due to their rude cabin crew and subsequently they have now lost my business and that of my family! Vote with your feet and cash people and use any other airline. Especially for those heavily populated and hugely profitable transatlantic flights.

    Also don’t forget BA and Virgin ripped off it’s customers by fixing prices!

    Andy

    May 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  3. Virgin Atlantic, in my opinion are the worst transatlantic carrier around today. The crew (well the majority!) are so full of themselves for some unknown reason. Seems donning that cheap red polyester uniform gives them the right to give you attitude. I quit flying with them years ago out of LHR. The were good once, but that was along time ago. The Virgin brand doesn’t mean anything in today’s economy. Just another failing corporation.

    Jake

    July 3, 2012 at 6:01 pm

  4. Definately BMI all the way – it’s just a shame they don’t fly many transatlantic routes. You cannot compare BMI business class to the ‘coffin’ like seating and set up of Virgin’s ‘upper class’ VAA sucks!!!!!!!!

    Jake

    July 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm

  5. Sorry to hear you had a bad experience with Virgin. I work as crew. There is no excuse for rudeness like you describe. However…. the seat belts on aircraft are really not ridiculous. If you encounter clear air turbulence or severe turbulence generally you will experience negative gravity. With you’re seat belt on you will feel strain against it, with your seatbelt off you could hit the ceiling, other passengers etc.

    MM

    September 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm

  6. +1 to MM who is being gentle with the safety reasons of having a seat belt on while sleeping.
    God forbid but if the aircraft experiences sudden decompression for whatever reasons (like being hit by a falling meteorite… you never know, you might get lucky) you don’t want to find yourself trying to grow wings at 37,000 ft.
    The rest of it, yeah maybe VA should take notice and try to improve. Like they are going to?

    AA

    October 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm


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