Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

by - November 24, 2013

This past August I had a terrifying experience. I was calling Virgin Atlantic to ask about exchanging money at their counter thanks to my Flying Club membership and while I waited on hold for about 15 minutes I read on their site that they had a new partnership with Delta. It was a few days before my flight and my heart sank. Yes, I am an anglophile but that's not the reason I fly Virgin. I fly with them because the service is impeccable and if I'm going to be on a 7+ hour flight, sitting in economy, I want to be as comfortable and pampered as possible. Virgin Atlantic offers that. American based airlines, in my experience, do not. These days I will do anything to avoid flying Delta, American Airlines or Continental when I go overseas. Their flights are usually less expensive but that doesn't sway my decision on who to fly with. I normally begin my European trip in Paris and have gone as far as flying into London and taking the Eurostar into Gare du Nord OR heading over to Luton Airport to catch the Easyjet into Charles de Gaulle on the same day just to avoid those carriers.

My fear in August was lifted as soon as I spoke to a representative and I happily hoped on a Virgin Atlantic plane and experienced the amazing service that always leaves me landing comfortable and happy in the UK.

But this morning the fear came back. I was looking up flights to head back over to the UK in April and saw that they had flights from NYC-LHR-LAX for $651. YAY!!! That's LESS than I ever paid for my NYC-LHR round trip flights! But then I saw why it was so cheap: the flights are direct to London but then have layovers on the way back where I'll end my journey with Delta. For $400 more and inconvenient times (who has the energy to be at Heathrow for a  9am flight?!?!?!) I can fly Virgin direct but any of the flights under one thousand dollars use the Delta partnership. It sucks, I wish there was a more middle ground but the money isn't what scares me, it's the fact that Delta is taking over US routes and I fear that I'll end up always having to make a connection and suddenly be on an aircraft with sub par service all the while missing out on the whole Virgin experience. Would I still have the option of free wine/liquor drinks for the second half of my flight? Will snacks and meals be provided as part of my ticket cost? What about pillows and a blanket on the house for the portion of the trip that is flown via Delta? So many questions!

I'd like to know if anyone has flown Delta via Virgin. Is the experience the same? Do they try to match the great level of service that Richard Branson and co. have developed and that has made Virgin Atlantic what it is? I'm hesitant to try it. One would think that a $400 savings is reason enough to give it a try but flying for 12+ hours in one day means that if I can have comfort even in economy then I would want it for the entire trip and not just the first half. After all, it's at the 7 hour mark that delirium starts to set in for me!

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