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Flying With Kids – The Virgin Review

 

Virgin departure boardFor any of you planning to fly the HK-London route, here is my latest review of Virgin’s economy offering.  We fly this route several times a year and I’ve found Virgin is usually the cheapest between the direct flight competitors of Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Virgin.

If you are choosing between these airlines for this particular route then there’s really not much in it, in terms of product.  And by product I’m referring to economy – if you are lucky enough to be flying business and have buckets of cash then you must choose Cathay, by far the most superior of the three.

Here are pros & cons of each airline:

Virgin

PROs – Virgin is usually the cheapest.  They offer both a bassinet & bigger car seat for bigger babies.  Annoyingly kids have to be over 12 to collect airlines as part of the Flying Club.

CONS – Old planes, needs a bit of a refurb.  Worst entertainment system of the 3.

BA

PROs – Departure in to and & out of T5 which is lovely and clean. You can set up an Avios Household Account which will allow you to collect air miles for your kids over the age of 2.  Better planes, esp. the A380 which is nice and shiny.  Great entertainment system.  Offers bassinet & bigger car seat style one. Great snack collection in the galley

CONS – If you are traveling solo with a baby they won’t let you book a bassinet aisle seat.

Cathay

PRO – Good entertainment system. In general, friendliest staff of the 3.  Plane (777) usually in decent condition.

CONS – Always expensive!  Rubbish snack selection unless you like pot noodle.

For a more in depth review of Cathay economy vs. BA economy please see this previously post

FLIGHT REVIEW – OUTBOUND HK to London VS201

My travel agent, Daryl at Concorde booked my flights.  He also informed me that as of April 2015 there is a new booking system in that it is no longer free (surprise surprise) to reserve your seat in advance.  You can either pay extra to do this or get in quick from online check in 24 hours in advance. I was concerned because on a previous flight they hadn’t seated me with my children although this was rectified on board.  However, this time when I checked in online, we had been given seats together.

We left for the airport around 9.30pm which was enough time to give the kids an hour’s sleep (I put them to bed as usual and they wore their pyjamas to the airport).  There was no queue for bag drop off and immigration was fairly quick.

Onboard

The A340-600 is starting to show its age and some of the seats could do with a deep clean! We were seated in a row of 4 in the middle in row 41 D-E-K.  We were in the back row so it did mean there was nobody behind us which was nice although I don’t think we had a full recline on our seats.  Row 43 would also be good but rows 44 and 45 are too close to the toilet.  Sitting on the left hand side of the plane, we were also near to the disabled toilet which is helpful if you’re trying to fit several people in each time!

Virgin amenity kit

There is a small amenity pack including socks, eye mask, toothbrush and pen. I wasn’t offered anything in terms of entertainment for the kids (travel tip – bring your own kids entertainment!). There was a bottle of water left on each seat and they did come up & down the aisles regularly with water.

Virgin entertainment

The TV selection is ok but not as great as on Cathay or BA where they have more than one episode of each series available. You can start watching as soon as you get onboard. Rather than touch screen there is a remote control which is not easy for young kids to use (i.e. after each episode of Peppa Pig you will hear the words, ‘muuum i want more peppa pig’). I was not offered any kids headphones (travel tip – bring your own kids headphones as they will fit in the socket)

Asleep on Virgin

The Virgin HK-London leg departs at 11.35pm.  MY TOP TIP is to try and get your kids to sleep during take off when the lights are off.  As soon as you are at cruising altitude they will switch the lights on for the next few hours.  I might sound like a mean mum but I don’t let them have any form of entertainment on take off, I make them close their eyes and promise that they can watch TV as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is off.  Needless to say we all fell asleep.  I also put my hand up to say I gave my 3yo phenergan.  This worked really well and sent her in to a deep sleep for about 9 hours.  My 5yo fell asleep naturally but was very fidgety.  She insisted on sleeping across two seats. (travel tip – buy a comfortable travel pillow for yourself!  If you are going to be squashed on either side by your children then you will thank yourself for packing a travel pillow. I use a J-Pillow, see pink pillow below!)

My J Pillow

We missed the dinner and the breakfast was a bit poor (chicken breast and pancakes for the kids meal?!). Pack your own food, especially as the snack selection was limited or non existent at times.

Arrival in Heathrow

It is a long walk to immigration so bring your stroller if your child won’t walk.  The last few times I have done this leg there has also been enormous queues at immigration.

RETURN – London Heathrow to Hong Kong VS200

It’s always a long walk to the gate at T3 so bring your stroller/Trunki etc.  Even longer if you’ve left your phone charging at a random plug point and need to go back for it but that’s another story. Boarding time for this flight is 10pm so by this point most young children heading onboard are slightly feral.

We were on the same aircraft A340-600 but this time in different seats, 37 DEF.  Therefore we were able to recline our seats but I was also unlucky enough to have a screaming child behind me.

The temperature started off boiling hot and moved to arctic about an hour in.  (Travel Tip – dress yourselves in layers. I also pack a cosy travel blanket for the kids which they get quite excited about using).

I did the same trick and made sure we were all asleep on take off.  We slept for the first 7 hours and watched TV, did sticker books, read stories, ate etc for the rest of the flight.

Virgin kids magazines

The food seemed much better on this flight – the kids breakfast was actually pretty decent! (Travel Tip – just don’t let your kids try to drink their own juice unless it’s through a straw. They will spill it all over themselves).

Virgin kids meal - breakfast

More tips on flying with Virgin 

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