A family of 5 with a zest for life, love of good food & passion for travel

Virgin Atlantic Long Haul Flight - Manchester to Orlando 2017 | A Review


We travelled to Orlando International Airport from Manchester Airport in August 2017. Our party was made up of 2 adults and 3 children and we travelled in Economy with Virgin Atlantic. I always love reading flight reviews (see here for my review of Thomas Cook long haul) and thought it might be interesting to share our experience with you.  In terms of disclosure - our flights were paid for by another brand as part of a press trip to Florida but we were not asked to write this review.


Travelling to Manchester


Our flight was set to leave Manchester at 9:45am on Friday morning and we had to get there from Newcastle. Steve was working until 5:30pm on Thursday. I knew I wanted to stay overnight in Manchester on Thursday night before our flight as I'm always paranoid about delays. I did consider driving but I was worried how tired Steve would be on our return (night) flight so in the end we opted for the train. This worked really well for us as I ordered a taxi to take myself and the kids to Newcastle train station and Steve caught the bus from work and met us there. We stocked up on a train picnic from M&S and enjoyed this en-route. I found it so less stressful to travel by train! We have a friends and family railcard and I booked an open return for around £100 for the 5 of us.

We arrived in Manchester at around 9:30pm. Finding a hotel that sleeps 5 is tricky at the best of times, even more so at the airport! I'd normally stay in the Blu Radisson but they only offer rooms for 2 (well that's all they'd let me book) - if you're a couple, I'd definitely recommend. Another option would be Sky Park Secure which we enjoyed during our trip to Cuba. Again though, there were no suitable hotels and it didn't seem worth it as we did not require parking. We ended up booking 2 rooms for £49 each at the Premier Inn Picadilly. It is a couple of minutes walk from Manchester Picadilly Station and very convenient. I'd definitely recommend if you're looking for a cheap overnight stay pre-flight. The trains from Manchester Picadilly to the airport are regular and take around 10-15 minutes direct. We were up nice and early and caught the 6:55am train to the airport. It's an easy walk to Terminal 2 where we checked in no problem. I checked in online with Virgin 24 hours before our flight and our seats were automatically allocated together at no additional cost.

Manchester Airport Facilities


I did toy with booking a VIP lounge as we loved it last time but when it boiled down to it I wasn't prepared to pay for the kids when they wouldn't really benefit from it as wouldn't be drinking alcohol. So we skipped this. We bought breakfast from the first cafe in the departure lounge (the name escapes me) which was fairly cheap and with very friendly service. We then hit duty-free and tried a few perfumes. I bought Urban Decay Up All Night and a Molton Brown travel shower gel gift set. The kids bought a few overpriced snacks from WH Smith and then we found a free soft play area where they played before our flight was called.



In flight entertainment



As the kids boarded at Manchester they were handed a free back pack with an eye mask, magazine and flight socks which was quirky. We LOVED Vera which is installed in your individual TVs. You can set this to kid-only mode if you're worried about what your children are watching. Film-wise, there's loads of choice. Between us we watched The Founder (recommended), Lion, Sing, Beauty and the Beast, Boss Baby, Assasins Creed, Rogue One, Power Rangers, Guardian's of the Galaxy 2, Fantastic Beasts and more......There are TV shows and music channels too. I listened to the Game of Thrones soundtrack on the night flight back and it sent me to sleep!





You are provided with free headphones on your seat to use but I found these to be low quality and was pleased I had taken my own. Steve and Harry were sat in front of us and we loved using the group chat facility on Vera, you just invite a seat to join the conversation and chat away. The kids found this very amusing. Kind of like What's App in the sky. There are plenty of games too and I rediscovered my addiction to Bejeweled Blitz! As it's Virgin's birthday, we were offered complimentary access to their basic WiFi which enabled me to send emails and what's app messages down to earth! You can upgrade to do more for around £15. We took our own iPads but didn't need them at all. All entertainment is included with the cost of your flight. Everyone has their own USB port which you are free to use to charge your device whilst it's in use. You can't leave a device plugged in if it's not in use though (due to the risk of overheating). It wasn't very powerful and I would recommend taking a power pack with you if you think you're going to run low on battery.





The leg room was adequate. The seat in front of me had their seat reclined for the full journey home and I still had plenty of room. You are also provided with a small cushion and fleece blanket and the seats have a leather-type headrest moulded into them which makes sleeping a lot more comfortable. Our return flight was over night and this is the first time I've slept on a plane at all.



In flight meals and drinks


You need to pre-book children's meals on a flight. We did not book our flights and this option had not been added for us so we all ate the same. If I was to fly again, I'd definitely reserve a kids meal for children (especially if they are fussy). You are provided with a menu at the beginning of your flight with a few options available. On our outbound flight we enjoyed a main meal plus sandwich later on and on our return it was a main meal and then continental breakfast. Kids meals are served first, then special diets and then the regular meals. There are 16 crew members on board and service seemed a lot quicker than with Thomas Cook.







The bar is included with Virgin - even in Economy! They come around with their trolley every few hours and there is plenty of choice. From beer (Tiger or Heineken) to wine and soft drinks. You won't go thirsty! They also pop round with a few snacks (pretzels and a fab ice lolly for us) between meals. The food quality was ok but in all honesty, I preferred the food provided by Thomas Cook.


On landing the queue through immigration took around 90 minutes. It was bearable. I had prepared for it to be longer if I'm honest. The staff were lovely. Our cases had already been taken off the luggage carousel and were all stored in a corner - staff directed us to where they were. We picked up our car hire from Nationale. Very easy to find with the airport signage. This was Steve's first time driving abroad - you are straight on the road! He did great though and by the end of the trip was a pro.

Orlando airport - return flight



Most of the shops at Orlando are before you check in. We changed into fresh clothes in the loo (we'd been out and about in parks since 6:30am) and bought some goodies from the Harry Potter store. Check in was quick but getting through security was VERY slow. There were several queues all merging into one and it felt like every man for himself. The sign said expected time was 11-18 minutes but it was more like an hour. We got there though! The departure lounge doesn't have many options - one restaurant, a newsagents, a Starbucks and Burger King.  I wanted to eat before our flight (as did the kids) so we joined the Burger King queue. Again, it was very long and slow moving. A very bad system where one lady was serving everyone from one tiny counter and two people were taking payments. It took around 40 minutes! I would recommend eating before the departure lounge or waiting for your flight if possible. We boarded our flight at 7:45pm and were provided with a welcome bottle of water this time.


The flight home was much the same as our flight here - lots of entertainment, plenty of complimentary drinks and food. The breakfast was actually nice and our pain au chocolat had been warmed up which was a nice touch. We landed around 30 minutes ahead of schedule and passport control/picking up our cases was super easy and quick. We boarded the next train from the airport to Newcastle (waited 20 minutes) and snoozed all of the way home.

Overall, we were very impressed with our Virgin Flight. The staff were lovely, the complimentary drinks kept flowing and the entertainment was fantastic. I would say if you are trying to decide between Virgin and Thomas Cook it would all come down to price - both long haul options aren't bad. I think the drinks and snacks we enjoyed plus entertainment on board was probably worth around £30 per person. If the price difference between the two airlines is massively more than this, I'd be tempted to save my money and fly Thomas Cook.

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Virgin Atlantic Long Haul Flight - Manchester to Orlando 2017 | A Review



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17 comments

  1. We booked interconnecting rooms at radiator for the 5 of us but did have to call to book it

    Plane journey looks quite comfy though

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    1. Will try that next time - on their website it would only let 2 guests per room. Madness!

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  2. I've flown Virgin a couple of times and so far they are my favourite airline, I was a little gutted when we couldn't fly with them to Miami and had to go with BA!

    I love the sound of being able to chat to another seat, that definitely didn't exist last time I flew with them!

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    1. We were definitely impressed. Loved the seat chat but Steve ended up getting a little annoyed when we kept interrupting his film! haha x

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  3. We've flown with Virgin before and found them excellent. Your meals and technology all looked fabulous. Great idea to go to Manchester by train too - I probably wouldn't have thought of that but it seems to have worked really well for you.

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  4. We have flown this route 3 times and would always fly Virgin if we could. I think they are really geared up for kids, and you can't say no to a Baileys when flying back around 3am when you can't sleep. Last time we flew we booked the economy seats that were in the bubble upstairs. Really enjoyed it up there as it was quieter and smaller x

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    1. Oh I've heard very good things about the bubble!

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  5. I've never flown with Virgin, but it sounds like an excellent airline! Will definitely consider them if they offer flights to destinations we want to go. #MondayEscapes

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  6. I found this so interesting, we've never flown long haul before, so I've learnt a lot! Thanks!

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  7. I've never flown Virgin but it sounds really impressive if you didn't have to use your iPads. I dread the kids playing up and I think that inflight entertainment would really do it for me!

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  8. We've been considering a trans-Atlantic flight on Virgin, but wasn't sure how it compared to other options. Thank you for this! #mondayescapes

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  9. Thanks for the review, don't know anyone who has flown Virgin to Florida. Looks like a pretty good experience, certainly beats our Air France experience to Miami. Delta has been good to Boston but since we're looking at a cruise from Miami or Ft Lauderdale Virgin seems a good option - even if we had to make it down to Manchester from Glasgow :)

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  10. I flew with Virgin about nine years go and was really impressed. It sounds like they have a lot more entertainment options now. I really like the fact that your snacks and drinks are all included. Loved this update on what it's like to fly Virgin with kids. Thanks for sharing with #MondayEscapes

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  11. Great review Samantha. I've flown with Virgin before and been very impressed with the entertainment too. I think they have flying with kids down to a fine art. Good to know about pre booking meals for kids, it just wouldn't occur to me to be honest. We've used that soft play area at the airport many times! Great to burn off the excess energy before a long flight!

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  12. We have travelled to to Florida with VA economy and premium and both were fab such great service the boys love the variety of entertainment and flying with older kids is so much more relaxing isn't it ?

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  13. I'd agree with this review completely, we loved flying Virgin - maybe because of the Fab and the drinks! Love Virgin. #MondayEscapes

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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