Virgin Atlantic Brings Tea Time To 35,000 Feet

Afternoon tea is making a come back – at 35,000 feet. Virgin Atlantic says that overseas visitors influenced by TV period dramas such as “Downton Abbey” asked … and so they will deliver.

Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class passengers can now choose between a full tea service featuring ‘English’ Breakfast or Earl Grey tea plus finger sandwiches, scones and cakes served in their own purpose-made dainty cake stand.

“Introducing Afternoon Tea onboard our aircraft is also part of our drive to put style back into flying,” said Simon Bradley, Vice President of Marketing, North America, Virgin Atlantic Airways. “We want our Upper Class passengers to be able to have the same civilized experience as the Queen or indeed to be able to imagine that they are a character in ‘Downton Abbey.'”

The re-emergence of Afternoon Tea was confirmed earlier this month when The Queen, The Duchess of Cornwall, and The Duchess of Cambridge all went to afternoon tea at Fortnum and Masons. And so popular is the trend with smart London hotels that The Ritz and The Savoy now regularly have queues to attend their traditional afternoon teas.

Sadly, this service isn’t available in economy. We guess some ‘class’ divides still stand.

Longreads introduces curated travel reading with Travelreads

Thanks to the Internet, social media and our various smartphones and e-readers, you no longer have to rely on the airport newsstand’s collection of John Grisham novels for travel reading. You can browse the New York Times from your cell phone, read a guidebook on your Kindle or start dreaming about your next trip with an e-magazine like TRVL. If you’re a fan of long-form journalism and fiction, you may look to Longreads for a constant stream of links to new and classic content online.

Today, Longreads has launched Travelreads, a destination-specific channel for travel reading with partner Virgin Atlantic. Compiled by links submitted by readers and curated by the Longreads team, the channel will include traditional travel writing as well as short stories and non-fiction set in a particular destination. “Geolocated Longreads, basically,” as founder Mark Armstrong has called it. All of the links are 1500 words or longer with offerings ranging from 1932 to brand-new content.

Travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg, a long-time contributor and lover of Longreads, was recently hired as a contributing editor and is helping to run the Travelreads feed. “It’s a great place to highlight the best of long-form travel writing,” said Ettenberg. “It’s also wonderful to expand it beyond purely non-fiction travel narrative. To include classics and fiction gives the feed a roundness that I feel sets it apart.” So far, you can find everything from Hemingway’s report from the Spanish Civil War front, to a Haruki Murakami fiction piece on Tokyo cats and a straight-up travel piece on Penang, Malasia. You can search for any place or author you like on the site.

You can find Longreads for your next trip at, or by checking their Twitter or Facebook feeds for “the raw feed” of links submitted by readers. Share your own favorite stories by tweeting links with the hashtag #travelreads. Happy reading!

Virgin Atlantic to open new clubhouse at JFK in March

A new, larger, better Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse for upper-class passengers is scheduled to open at New York’s Kennedy Airport in early March.

The new clubhouse “will create an unique experience for our passengers to complement our flagship Clubhouse and Revivals Lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3,” Chris Rossi, Virgin Atlantic’s senior vice president for North America told TravelWeekly.

The current JFK clubhouse is located on the departure level in Terminal 4, prior to security. The new facility will be positioned near the gates Virgin Atlantic uses in Terminal 4.

The 10,000-square-foot facility will be larger than the flagship clubhouse at London’s Heathrow airport by about 2,000 square feet.Virgin’s Clubhouses are located at Heathrow, Gatwick, Newark, Washington, Boston, Johannesburg, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Rated the best airline lounge in the world, TipsForTravelers says “Virgin Atlantic’s vision is to create an airline that people love to fly, and they add to that that they want to have some fun doing it.

Flickr photo by Deanster1983

5 airlines with great in-flight services in economy class

Last week, I spent 13 hours desperately trying to fall asleep on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London; my economy class seat didn’t have a personal entertainment system and the cabin monitor was pitch black from my angle. The week before, my sister took a red-eye United Airlines flight from Honolulu to San Francisco without the benefit of a pillow, blanket, or snack.

For many airlines, it looks like in-flight services in economy class are going the way of liquids on board. But thankfully, there are still some airlines that understand that service, entertainment, and even a few extras are a part of the customer experience, even for the peons in coach. These five are leading the pack.

Virgin Atlantic
Not only does Virgin offer one of the best personal entertainment systems I’ve ever experienced, they also offer a uniquely British flight experience on their Heathrow-JFK service. From complimentary English publications like Hello and Tatler in the waiting room, to free toiletry kits with socks and eyeshades, to a high tea service with scones and clotted cream, the attention to detail is there.Singapore Airlines
Rated by Zagat as the best international airline for both premium and economy seating, Singapore Airlines spares no expense with their amenities, offering all passengers luxurious Givenchy socks and toothbrush/toothpaste kits. If you happen to snag a seat on their Airbus A380 (say, through this sweet deal) or Boeing 777-300ER planes, you’ll also be able to read digitized versions of publications like the Wall Street Journal and Elle Magazine on Krisworld, the airline’s award-winning inflight entertainment system.

Though it’s a budget airline, JetBlue’s little extras make the flying experience one of the best in the U.S. Their entertainment systems offer 36 channels of DIRECTV programming, while their complimentary snack selection runs the gamut from Terra Blues chips to animal crackers (who doesn’t love animal crackers?). Plus, their Shut-Eye Service on overnight flights from the West includes free eyeshades and earplugs, plus hot towels and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee upon arrival.

Virgin America
Yup, Virgin again. Their American cousins offer sexy dim cabin lighting, standard and USB plugs at every seat, and the ability to easily offset the carbon emissions from your flight through a credit card swipe donation to Plus, from now until January 15, passengers on flights departing from San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Boston, Chicago, and New York JFK can enjoy free in-flight WiFi on new Google Chromebooks through the Chrome Zone pilot program.

Emirates Airlines
I first flew Emirates Airlines from Tokyo to Dubai when I was 12 years old, and it still sticks out as one of my favorite travel experiences. At the time, I was blown away by one of the first economy class personal entertainment systems in existence, as well as the extra Swiss chocolates snuck to me by the charming flight attendants. These days, Emirates offers 1,200 channels of programming plus telephone, SMS, and e-mail services on their ice entertainment system; regionally inspired multi-course meals with locally sourced ingredients; and cabin lighting specially designed to ease jet lag. I’m betting those chocolates are still there too.

[Flickr image via Richard Moross]

Virgin Atlantic celebrates 25 years flying to Miami

4.5 Million passengers later, Virgin Atlantic is celebrating 25 years of flying to Miami. Sir Richard Branson walked the wing of a Virgin Atlantic Airways 747-400 at Miami International Airport this week to celebrate 25 years of flying from London to Miami.

“This is a fantastic milestone in Virgin Atlantic’s history,” Branson said reports the DailyMail. “Miami was the second route Virgin Atlantic launched two years after the airline began and to think that we are now a world-class airline with 32 long-haul destinations is a dream come true.”

In celebration, the airline is offering fares from London to Miami for as low as $281 per person each way during it’s 25 year anniversary sale . Originally good through June 15th, the sale has been extended through June 21.
Since starting to fly the London to Miami route in 1986, the airline’s fleet has flown a total of 67 million miles to and from Miami and served guests over 5 million of their signature meals and ice cream. Passengers have enjoyed 165,000 bottles of champagne with the millionth glass supposedly served aboard the June 15 flight.

“Miami is a key route for Virgin Atlantic” Branson said “with many business travelers commuting on the route each year and holiday makers jetting out to enjoy Miami and its many beautiful beaches. Our promise to our passengers when we launched the route was to offer a fantastic quality of service and innovation onboard at great value and I believe that we continue to fulfill that promise 25 years later.”

Virgin Atlantic also celebrated this week the 10th anniversary of flights between London and Las Vegas with Branson and the world’s most famous burlesque performer Dita Von Teese, at an airside photocall as they walked the wing of the plane on arrival.

Since June 2000 Virgin Atlantic has flown 2 million passengers to the destination, with its twice-weekly service increasing to a daily flight in may 2006 due to the route’s popularity. Today, the airline is also announcing the launch of twice-weekly flights from Manchester to Las Vegas in April 2011.

Here’s to 10 and 25 more Sir Richard!