Flight test: Virgin Atlantic economy class, Manchester to Orlando

THE PLANE

Boeing 747

THE ROUTE

Manchester, England, to Orlando, US

LOYALTY SCHEME

Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (partnered with Virgin Australia)

CLASS

Economy – aisle seat 34G.

DURATION

Nine hours 25 minutes. We push back on schedule at 11.15am, take off 15 minutes later and touch down in Orlando on time – almost to the minute.

THE SEAT

Cramped. Configured 3-4-3. In an undated comment, website Seat Guru says Virgin Atlantic 747s on this route are newly refitted but this plane is still waiting for the treatment or another refurb is due. There's no footrest.

ENTERTAINMENT

Touch screens are a wonderful thing when new … when old, they become an exercise in frustration. In my case, the bar to adjust the volume barely works and when it does, lurches from ear splitting to inaudible. There are 75 movies, 57 TV shows, 154 music albums and 15 games from which to choose. My entertainment salvation comes in the form of free magazines offered at the end of the airbridge before boarding. Armed with Wallpaper, Tatler and the World of Interiors, I'm happy.

BAGGAGE

One piece of checked baggage to 23 kilograms and one carry-on bag to 10 kilograms.

COMFORT

This is a daytime flight. We arrive mid-afternoon local time so there's no demand for eye shades but the small pillow and blanket are used. Orlando is synonymous with Disneyland and we are surrounded by large families with lots of kids. Parents adopt a "take a window seat, clap on the earphones and pretend little Johnny's not whacking his sister or the seat in front" attitude. Siblings occupy entire rows and a "highlight" occurs when "Sarah" pulls out a tooth. "Ahhhhhhhh, get toilet roll," screams her sister who, Dulux dog style, trails a roll from the toilet to the seat. The tooth's had enough and goes missing. Chaos ensues until the tooth fairy takes pity. The parents barely raise a glance.

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SERVICE

Very good. Staff are friendly, helpful and walk the cabin constantly.

FOOD

A pre-lunch Spanish sauvignon blanc is served with Penn State pretzels. The meal choice is chicken and mash, meatballs or curry. I choose the latter, Indian dahl, saag paneer and basmati rice, and it's first class. It's served with a super fresh salad with beans and a salted chocolate bar. A few hours later, ice-cream is served and 90 minutes before landing, chicken and bacon wraps with crisps (chips) and another chocolate bar.

THE VERDICT

For all the kids' antics, this wasn't a bad flight. In the right frame of mind, it was amusing and, in honesty, what four-year-old wants to sit still for nine hours? The staff were impressive. (Having said that, I looked for upgrade availability for the return, night flight.)

Reviewed by Sue Bennett, who travelled at her own expense.

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