Texas & Oklahoma 10 October 2022
The journey to Heathrow Airport through West London should take approximately 90 minutes with normal rush hour traffic a journey of 29 miles. We were due to drop off the car at the conveniently located private house that we were using by 08.30. To give ourselves plenty of time we left home at 06.15.
The weather was appalling and it was pouring with rain which was another factor on the pace of the traffic. Anxienty started to creep in as it was at one point looking that we would get to drop off at 08.45. In fact we did arrive at 08.30 and were greeted with a smile and clear directions where to catch the bus from. We only had to wait 2 mintues for a bus that was one stop away from Heathrow Central Bus Station.
Terminal Three Virgin Check In was manic. Long Disney ride queues snaking left and right to the Bag Drop Off. We were flying Premium and there was a dedicated line that we cleared by 09.20 and were directed to area G to get through security.
We had factored in the three hours recommended to be at the airport but the queue for security clearance was insane. The line snaked up and down the width of the building and staff were calling customers whose flights were within an hour of departure to leave the line and be taken to a fast lane so that they didn’t miss their flights. Finally with a lot of relief we got through into the Terminal at 10.15.
There were of course the usual suspects who even after queuing for nearly an hour were trying to take liquids through or having not taken off jewellery ready to go through the scanners and thus holding the line up for everybody else.
TIP: Factor in another hour with the current airport conditions and eleviate the stress.
The flight was boarding at 10.40 so there was just enough time to get something to eat and a coffee. The retail stores must be suffering because the footfall is literally passing through without waiting because of the security situation.
Boarding was immediate and we in our seats in minutes. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Premium is definitely the way to go. Virgin has gotten rid of Club Class and there is now Upper, Premium and Economy. There are many little touches that make Premium worth the extra fare. You are offered Orange Juice, Prosecco or Water served in a real glass before departure. A full menu card, which I haven’t seen for years. In the galley is something called a ‘Wander Wall’ where you can help yourself to snacks and drinks.
The seat pitch is about 38 inches which is plenty of room for my little legs and there was a neck pillow with a cotton cover, a blanket and a set of headphones on each seat. My only criticism is the arm rests make the width of the seat still quite narrow and quite uncomfortable even though the seat is more generous.
It is 3 years and 4 months since I have been on an airplane and so I was surprised that the safety information video on Virgin is still the same comedic animation as it was the last time I was on board.
There was a foot rest attached to the seat in front but I found it a bit restrictive as it put my legs at a 90 degree angle rather than allow me to stretch out.
The in-flight entertainment screens were an upgrade on the Dreamliner and the touch screen is probably about 12 inches by 9 inches with a separate games controller that also has a screen in it.
So the flight pushed back a couple of minutes early and we settled into our 10 hour flight to Austin, Texas.
The service was really good and it was a welcome return to metal silverware and china plates. There was a hot drink served in a mug which was a real touch. We even had a real afternoon tea about two hours before landing into Austin.
Covid-19 has changed things around and there is no longer a customs form to complete before landing in America. The other thing that was new and I don’t know if it was just Austin, was that we had to collect our baggage first and then proceed to the Homeland Security booths.
Our photos were taken but not our finger prints and not even a stamp was put into our passports. We were through and off to get the rental car in under two minutes. I suspect that this is an Austin Airport thing because my eldest daughter was flying in to JFK on the same day and they had a stamp put in their passport and collected baggage after going through Homeland Security.
Even collecting the car we got a result because you hand a slip to an agent who takes you to your car. We had booked a compact car and refused an upgrade at the desk and the agent literally saw a car that had just been washed and told us to use that one. So we ended up with an SUV for the price of a compact.
Traffic in Austin was incredibly heavy and it took about two hours along the I-35 to Waco our stop for night.
A day of long queues and learning that travelling again needs extra patience these days but glad to be back on holiday and delighted to be on American soil once again.
Day 8 – San Antonio, Gruene & Austin
Day 5 – Oklahoma City & Route 66 (part 2)
Day 4 – Oklahoma City & Route 66
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