I realised our flight to Hong Kong wasn’t going to be smooth sailing when I checked my e-ticket and realised my travel agent had forgotten to reserve seats for our return journey. With less than 10 hours till the flight, I furiously tried to check in online with zero luck. After endless combinations of e-ticket no/Virgin ref number/name, the answer was a constant ‘computer says no’. I took the plunge and phoned the Virgin Customer Services Centre where I was met with a response of ‘oh yes Madame, I think our systems are down’.
Fast forward 8 hours and we arrived at the Virgin Check In area at Heathrow’s T3. Thank goodness I had my parents in tow as the place looked like chaos. Travel Tip – If you are flying Economy, you have to either check-in online or check in at one of the electronic booths before you get in the queue for Bag Drop. They will not check you in at the desk (as some unlucky passengers found out). A kind Virgin staff member spotted me looking anxious (with two young kids tearing around) and helped to check me in. She then unhelpfully pointed out that there were no available seats of 3. At this point my brain was about to explode with ‘But I tried to check in earlier and systems were down!’ or ‘Have you totally lost my mind, how are my 2 and 5 year old going to sit without me’. However, I remained composed and she said that I should get in one of the mammoth Bag Drop queues and she would come and find me with a solution (ideally me in Upper and Jetlag & Mayhem in Economy).
I absolutely hate queuing as I inevitably pick the wrong one. So I covered my bases and had my dad stand in one whilst I chose another. Nearing the front, the Virgin lady tracked me down and informed me ‘No problem, all sorted. We’ve got you all together, it’s the 3 seats at the back of the plane’. Urgh.
Despite it taking about 30 mins to wait in the Bag Drop queue (I thought Bag Drop was supposed to make things more efficient Virgin?), thankfully the Security queue was the shortest I’ve ever seen. We bid a teary farewell to Grandma and Grandpa (who were slightly relieved they’d have the house back to themselves) and we exited stage left through to Duty Free.
My Airport Angel card through a UK bank account gives me access to the No 1 Traveller Lounge, a great place to feed the kids and relax before the flight. Travel Tip – Check their site to see if you have any cards that allow access. If you think it might be worth it, you can also pay to enter. We spent half an hour eating all their cheese straws and squirelling away magazines before setting off on the long walk to Gate 22. Travel Tip – Some gates are FAR away at T3 so allow yourself plenty of time to walk there with little kids.
Thinking to myself, ooh yeh, I’m a travel blogger, I must take a picture of the kids at the airport I reached for my iPhone in my bag. Only to realise that I’d left it plugged in the wall charging at the No 1 Travellers Lounge. At this point I panicked, we had already been walking for about 10 mins and our flight read ‘Boarding’. My 5 yo clocked my anxious look and started to cry going ‘we’re going to miss the flight!’. Luckily two kind T3 workers who had clearly just finished their shift came over to offer assistance and said they would go and tell the Virgin staff at the Gate that we were running late.
We trekked back to the lounge, picked up the phone and started running (again) towards Gate 22. Yet again another kind T3 worker offered us assistance by way of a wheelchair contraption for my 2 year old and said she’d come with us to the Gate. Thinking it would be quite funny for the blog, I made us all pose for a photo but was then informed by her that we weren’t really allowed to take pictures. So you’ll just have to imagine us instead.
We got to our flight in the nick of time, practically the last ones on board. Then I remembered we were seated right down the back of the plane. Oh joy of joys. Stay tuned for all the fun of the flight…
Travel Tip – With Virgin, you are allowed to reserve seats up to 24 hours in advance of your flight for free. You can do this via ‘My Booking’ online or through your travel agent.