On the Ground: There is no way you can beat Virgin on the ground. Business-class passengers are offered limousine service to Heathrow; as you approach the airport, your driver calls the private check-in desk to prepare your boarding pass and luggage tags. This service comes close to what the president receives: You pull up to a private unloading area where you are greeted, your bags are taken and check-in is completed inside. If you think this is as good as it gets, you are mistaken — you go through Virgin’s private security and you are in the airport. The only shocker was a request for volunteers to downgrade to premium-economy class in exchange for a round-trip economy ticket, as the flight was oversold. I found this insulting and declined. How does that equal a business-class seat?
The Virgin Clubhouse Lounge at Heathrow is a real plus. A hostess welcomed us and talked about the Virgin experience, including the frequent-flyer program. The Clubhouse deli is a nice addition. Besides meats and cheeses, they offered three types of smoked salmon: beet infused, dill and pepper — outstanding. Little touches like large glass containers of candy, a pool table and a library were a hit. I opted for a haircut in the salon, which offers all sorts of treatments as part of the business-class experience.
Pre-Flight: Whatever you do, do not wait for the Clubhouse call to board the flight, as you really need to be one step ahead of the hordes. The reason is simple: not enough onboard storage. When Virgin redesigned its business class, they took out the center overhead bins and reduced the size of those remaining. Slightly overstuffed rollaboards will not fit in these bins, plus the bins contain duvets and bed padding (a hassle throughout the flight, as passengers stuffed the duvet behind their seat and had to retrieve it to make their bed). The redesign includes narrower seats, with an additional row down the center, and the two aisles are narrow; business travelers with the maximum carry-on have to walk like a crab with baggage in tow.
The friendly and attentive crew delivered newspapers and offered Champagne and orange juice. Within no time we were westbound for Newark.
In-Flight: The menu was adequate, with beef, chicken and vegetarian options. Dessert was a yummy English sticky pudding followed by a selection of cheeses. Nobody used the onboard bar, and I question its use except to hold snacks. I enjoyed a movie, but it would be difficult to work in the narrow space. There is no place to keep your laptop and belongings; everything has to go in the overhead or lockers, so you are up and down, getting things as needed.
I was surprised there were only two bathrooms for business class. I had to time my visits with great strategy, and before landing there were long lines. The open cabin design with less storage might look nice, but it adds the storage worries of economy class. When we landed, the flight attendant forgot to get my companion’s coat, which added to my list of things to do: Get coat, get two rollaboards from locker and hold up the other passengers.
The Experience: What happened to Virgin Atlantic Airways? I reviewed the previous business class years ago, one of my best flights ever; the seat was large and long compared to the current short and narrow one. Passengers more than 6 feet tall will have issues. The service was personal and the amenities were great, but — and perhaps it is a sign of the times — adding seats and eliminating bathrooms and storage are not improvements.
- Less than 10 minutes for check-in
- Friendly and helpful agents
- Priority tagged bags
- Airport lounge
- Complimentary in-lounge food
- Priority boarding
- Helpful and courteous flight attendants
- Pre-flight beverage service
- Pre-flight newspapers and magazines
- Extensive on-demand menu
- Self-serve in-flight pantry
- Amenity kits
- Lie-flat seat/bed
- Mattress and comforter
- In-flight menu with three entrée choices
- Top-shelf wines and liquors
Since its prestige for attracting the world elite grew in the 1960s, Greece remains the go-to destination for glittering holidays. Each step of the journey is enrobed in luxury, from culinary traditions with the highest standard of execution and name-brand, high-end shopping to first-rate wellness locales and elite accommodations, like 5-star hotels, private villas and yachts.
I imagine that when writer Hans Christian Andersen mused, “Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale,” he was standing at the edge of Copenhagen’s historic Tivoli Gardens, one of his favorite haunts, enlivened by the swirl of human happiness that surrounded him: children laughing; carousels spinning; games of chance played for prizes; lovers holding hands; hungry people whispering over sweets, hot drinks, beer and towering, open-faced smørrebrød, Denmark’s quintessential sandwich. That fairy tale lives on today at the second-oldest amusement park in the world, a spectacle of folly architecture, bakeries, gardens, rides, restaurants, puppet shows and joy ... and which also happens to be one of the city’s most storied places to convene for business.
The restored Park Hyatt Toronto reopened its doors, bringing luxury, sophistication and glamour alongside a nod to the hotel’s Canadian heritage. Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge collaborated on the hotel’s refresh, drawing inspiration from Canada’s seasons and natural landscapes.
GBTA’s Convention 2021 will bring the business travel industry together for the first time in a long time. Once again, you’ll learn and connect with experts and each other, along with discussions with leading thinkers, entrepreneurs and change makers addressing the issues that matter most.
I recently dined at Irwin’s in Philadelphia. The restaurant is located on the rooftop of the Bok Building, a former school turned collective of small businesses, non-profits, artist workshops, a bar and restaurant. I previously visited Bok for the bar and yoga classes, and I was excited to experience the restaurant.
Cathay Pacific reaffirms its commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 with a pledge to use Sustainable Aviation Fuel for 10 percent of its total fuel consumption by 2030. The airline has made pioneering efforts in supporting SAF development for more than 10 years.
Without a doubt, the pandemic changed the role of airports in the travel industry. Hamad International Airport’s role evolved in many ways since the pandemic hit. Now, more than ever, airports are responsible for creating a secure passenger experience. As the gateway to Qatar and the world, the safety and wellbeing of staff and passengers has always been at the core of Hamad International Airport’s strategy.
Arriving early afternoon in Puerto Rico, we jumped in an Uber and took a short, 15-minute drive from the airport to La Concha. As it was Tuesday, the streets were not too busy and the hotel lobby was calm. During the weekend, the scene likely would have been more bustling. We were greeted by a staff member who requested proof of vaccination and government-issued ID, and were given a wristband to indicate we were fully vaccinated. All guests are required to be vaccinated and wear masks at all times while moving around the hotel. Hand sanitizer stations were placed around the lobby, in elevators and in each common area.