The time had finally come and the night before we flew, I sent tweets to both Virgin Holidays and Virgin Atlantic to issue my challenge to meet my holiday expectations and both accepted it immediately.
First up was Virgin Holidays and their Gatwick V-room. As I wrote back at the end of July, I had been promised a supply of rice milk for M as well as some suitable options for his breakfast and I was keen to see just what would be waiting when we got there. Upon arrival, we met the fantastic Dominic, who knew all about M and our request for rice milk. As soon as we found a table for breakfast, he brought the milk over and then spent some time discussing all of M’s allergies and what food they had on offer that might suit him. I was impressed to learn that they stock B-free bread and although it contains egg and therefore isn’t suitable for M, G snapped up the opportunity to have 2 slices of toast as part of her breakfast. Both children also had some cereal with the rice milk and there was fresh fruit and smoothies available for them too. I was hugely impressed with Dominic’s attitude throughout our time there and at no point felt that we were an inconvenience to any of the V-room staff. Even better, we were able to take the remainder of the carton onto our flight with us, which meant we could go on our holiday knowing M had a limited supply of safe milk to hand.
It was then on to our plane and it all started well. The check-in staff had confirmed that the special request meal had been noted on our booking and the cabin crew provided us with a ready supply of ice to keep the cool-bag of medicines cold for the 9+hours we’d be in the air. I was equally impressed that they offered to place our ice packs in their on-board freezer to ensure that we could keep everything cool until we reached our final destination in Orlando. Eventually it was time for the meal and here we hit our first rocky point. I had requested a gluten-free meal for G which quickly turned up, but there was no sign of the requested meal for M. The cabin crew searched high and low for it, but couldn’t find it and we were left with the option of whatever fruit they could get their hands on plus the snacks I had packed to keep M’s appetite filled. Just as I was mentally drafting a letter of complaint to Virgin Atlantic expressing my disappointment at being let down in such dramatic fashion, our air stewardess hurried up with a tray of food and an apology on her lips. The confusion had arisen for 2 reasons: 1) the meal had been prepared with G’s name on it rather than M’s and 2) it had been assigned to the seat number of another passenger who had also requested a special meal and the names had not been cross-checked to make sure everything was right.
Disaster was averted, but only just. The meal prepared was exactly what I had asked for – plain grilled chicken with rice and vegetables and a fantastic fresh fruit salad for dessert – and M tucked in with gusto. We were lucky that the other passenger had not started eating the meal before the mistake was identified and I’m glad to say that our return flight was not plagued with the same problem, although it still appeared that G had 2 meals (both the gluten-free and special request meals being assigned to her name), whilst M had none! I hadn’t considered that a smaller snack would also be provided on the flight and was delighted Virgin Atlantic had thought further ahead than I had and provided another delicous fresh fruit platter for M to enjoy safely.
I have been really impressed with how well both branches of the Virgin family accommodated our needs and requests on the flights and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone going on holiday with special medical needs. We didn’t run into any unexpected problems with our travel arrangements and I will definitely consider travelling with them again.