On the Ground: Virgin Atlantic’s complimentary ground transfer to the airline’s Upper Class check-in area at Heathrow, known as the Upper Class Wing, is pure James Bond and highly ego-boosting. My VA-arranged car pulled up to a private gate at the terminal, where a security guard asked the driver for my name. After checking his computer to confirm my reservation, the guard released a concrete roadblock that lowered itself into the roadway, allowing the car to approach the Upper Class Wing entrance. After a no-line, two-minute check-in, I fast-forwarded through the wing’s security lane and walked to the Clubhouse, a large, busy lounge with dozens of windows letting in afternoon light. Upper Class passengers were in constant motion here, walking between the massage station; the wait-staffed restaurants, where you can order meals from an extensive menu; the Cowshed revitalization treatment; the hair stylist; and an extensive Champagne, wine and cocktail bar — all complimentary. Just about any type of edible item a human could ingest — from Jing teas to organic muesli to grilled sardines on toast — was offered self-service or brought by a waitress. Complimentary laptops and free WiFi were available around the room. My senses were totally overwhelmed, and I was thankful to have arrived at the lounge three hours before my 4 p.m. flight. (30/30)
Pre-flight: Entry into the aircraft was fast and efficient via the separate Upper Class boarding lane and cabin door. Virgin Atlantic’s interior décor has a subdued pink and purple glow which may have pretensions, but I found the aura relaxing. This Airbus A340-600 aircraft had 45 lie-flat Upper Class suites in the front cabin, arranged in an angled 1-1-1 configuration, so no seat was next to another. Two-thirds were window seats and one-third in the middle of the cabin, with an aisle on each side. Champagne and refreshments were served prior to take-off, which was about 50 minutes late due to Heathrow air traffic. (28/30)
In-flight: The Upper Class suite, a comfortable beige and brown seat surrounded by a thick plastic shell, is somewhat of a technological wonder, efficiently folding down in an unconventional way to form a lie-flat bed. In the upright position, it provides an ottoman for resting your feet. Even the seat tray and entertainment monitor are ingeniously designed. VA’s Freedom Menu allows Upper Class passengers to eat meals whenever they want, but after the delayed take-off I was ready to eat shortly after the cabin crew took dinner orders. Appetizers were oak-smoked Scottish salmon and watercress and potato soup, served with warm rolls. For the entrée, I chose pan-seared cod fillet with buttered new potatoes, carrots and asparagus. The other two choices — pork loin with glazed apple and Somerset cider sauce or fresh macaroni, sautéed wild mushrooms and baby spinach — sounded equally delicious. Dessert was a selection of English cheeses, sponge cake and chocolate marble cheesecake. Prior to landing, the crew offered sandwiches, scones and desserts. We landed at Newark about 25 minutes late, due to the delayed departure from LHR. (38/40)
The Experience: Flying Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic is a real treat, not only because of the in-flight amenities but because Virgin’s pre-boarding VIP experience is even better than what you would design for yourself if you were Richard Branson for a day. The celebrity treatment that begins with a chauffeured car and continues within the luxurious Upper Class Clubhouse extends into the aircraft itself. This is not your cookie-cutter trans-Atlantic airline, and VA’s savvy, high-tech, customer-friendly attitude is evident from airport arrival to wheels-down on the other side of the big, salty pond.
United Airlines announces a number of new routes.
WalletHub compared the 100 largest U.S. cities across 24 key metrics to determine the best destinations for an upcoming Oktoberfest celebration. The brand’s study found the estimated cost for an American to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, is $5,000. Munich boasts a $1.43 billion annual economic impact on Munich. During Oktoberfest, nearly 2 million gallons of beer are consumed and more than 510,000 whole roast chickens eaten.
Qantas will start using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Sydney–Santiago route starting in late June 2020.
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Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
Hotel brands all over the world have pushed for sustainability. For many, it began with reducing single-use plastics, like straws. InterContinental recently announced the end of in-room miniature toiletries.