Everyone knows that preparing for a holiday and flying can be one of the most stressful experiences you have to deal with before relaxing in a different country. Now this is further compounded if you happen to be a disabled traveller and have so many other things to arrange and think about before you jet off. Thankfully, special assistance services are available and very helpful and understanding. During my London to Hong Kong flight with Virgin Atlantic recently, I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy lounge privileges and have them take care of everything for me.
When I arrived at check in to get my boarding pass, the lovely lady over the counter arranged for a gentleman from special assistance to meet me there and take me through security. During check in, I was informed that I had lounge access. As I usually travel as cheaply as possible, I had never been in an airline lounge before. What I experienced at the Virgin Clubhouse made me reconsider all my life choices up until then, you guys. In order to enter the clubhouse, your ticket needs to be scanned to gain entrance to the facilities. The reception area is both minimalist and fabulously decorated at the same time. Friendly faces greet me as I am wheeled in by my fabulous wheelchair assistant, the lil’ homie Abdel.
As I’d never been there before, the lady at reception gave me a quick run through of the lounge. After I found out what was available, I wish I’d arrived MUCH earlier. The open plan space was decked with a bar, deli section, concierge department and more private areas for those wanting to conduct business or just relax before their flight.
Having worked in a 5* hotel before, I was prepared for the uneasy feeling of not belonging and the staff knowing that I was feeling completely out of place. This was not the case in the Clubhouse. My well worn leather bag and leg brace was the least of their concern. They wanted to know what drinks I wanted before my flight and whether I’d decided on something sweet or savoury from the menu.
This was a rare but very welcome and nice feeling. I was just like everyone else in the lounge, the focus was not on my disability, but what Virgin could do to make the start of my journey, fabulous. And I’ll tell you what makes my pre-flight experience more fabulous, warm pecan tarts with salted caramel ice cream. Can I have some more, sir?
After I’d finished satisfying my sweet tooth, I was met by Abdel once more who took me to the boarding gate. Virgin Atlantic had been in touch with the special assistance team on my behalf and he informed me that he and his team had the details of my flight already and would have everything arranged for me in London and Hong Kong. While it is usually expected to have people waiting for you upon departure and arrival, it was very nice to hear that everything had already been sorted out for me on my return to London.
We arrived at the boarding gate and I handed over my my boarding pass and the scanner lights flashed red. Uh oh, was I about to get chucked from my beloved window seat?! Not in the slightest, I still had a window seat but now it was in the Upper Class cabin! And just like that Curtis Mayfield song, I was about to “Move On Up“. Abdel and I giggled like fangirls that had just sat next to Harry Styles on the bus or something.
I had an out of body experience as I was finally entering the plane and walking to the left, instead of the usual right. I was met by smiling faces in vibrant red. The air stewards never let my glass go completely empty. They introduced themselves to me and reminded me that should I need anything, that I should not hesitate to ask. For the first time in my life I was actually able to get comfortable on a flight and take off my calliper!
This is an absolutely huge deal for me as I usually have to walk around the plane for a bit during long flights as my leg is all strapped up 30,000 feet in the air. And finally being able to stretch my legs out was just the icing on top of the already lovely cake. Everything that I needed was right there, noise cancelling headphones, pyjamas, water and glorious view of the world. Window seats are better in first class.
Having gotten used to okay food on longer flights, it was a very welcome surprise to have a dining menu I could choose from and have the best meal ever. Anyone that knows me, even for 5 minutes, knows that I do not play with my food. It is most certainly the way to my heart!
Between the rather interesting emergency landing video featuring a giant crab, course after course of delicious food and screens at a reasonable distance so they don’t mess up your eyes, VA started off my birthday trip just right! Usually I can’t wait to get off the plane, but with this one, I wouldn’t have minded staying just that little bit longer.