Two summers ago, I had the privilege of an invitation to London with Virgin Atlantic, joining a few journalists from around the world to launch their new A330neo aircraft. An unexpected bonus was the privilege of flying on their Upper-Class experience, which was as expected, an aviation experience par excellence.

Heading to London again, this time I resisted the urge to board the aircraft and turn left to the inner sanctum of Upper Class, and experience their economy option to take me to London.

The seductive lines of overhead purple lighting led me to my red seat, where the journey began. From the classic Vivienne Westwood outfits, a vibrant staff, good drinks selection, and wide entertainment – it was a seamless experience and reminder of why Virgin remains my carrier of choice between SA and the UK. I must also say, that being over 6” I’m always cautious of feeling cramped, and this was certainly not the case. Along with the leather headrests, I got a few hours of sleep with ease.

A love story celebrated

During a leg stretch in the gallery, a steward asked if I was off to London on vacation. I explained why I was going to the UK – I’d fallen in love with an Englishman and 4 months later I was taking the plunge and heading to the UK so we could be together.

He was so touched by the love story – that at the end of the flight I was given a welcome to the UK note and then a bottle of Hambledon (a fancy British fizz). A gesture that speaks volumes of the calibre of staff that proudly grace the red Virgin uniforms.

While disembarking the plane I hadn’t had all the Upper Class perks, but what I was left with was something I distinctly felt on my previous flight – a sense of being completely looked after by a staff that were completely dedicated to their roles and their company – and also in a vibrant and engaging manner. Something I’ve not experienced on other flights.

The missing cologne

Arriving in London, pulling my bag off the luggage belt I discovered that the locks had been broken, and upon a quick inspection, my two colognes were missing. Despite that this was not in any way the airline’s fault, but rather an unfortunate incident in South Africa’s OR Tambo airport, I reported it to the staff at the airport. Within a week of my arrival, they had already replaced the stolen items and even had my bag collected, repaired, and returned. A service that went above and beyond.

And to the frequent flyers

As a last word, the Frequent Flyer programme is also one that truly works. From the return economy trip booked for this flight, I would receive enough points for a single journey between Cape Town and London and only have to pay R2500 in taxes. With another airline I’ve used before, it would have taken me seven return journeys to amass enough points for a single return journey, hence this is a reward programme that works.