bsteph From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 51 posts, RR: 0 Posted (1 year 10 months 1 week 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 14874 times:
It has been about three years since my last trip report, and I feel that I am long over due (especially given how much enjoyment I get at work reading everyone else's trip reports). While I am American, I live and work in London, which means I take quite a few trans-Atlantic trips each year. 90% of my flying is on Delta (I am from Cincinnati originally and my mom is a proud Delta F/A, so I have my loyalties). I have nothing but GREAT things to say about Delta and have enjoyed all of my trips across the pond in the 767-400 with the lie-flat Business Elite seats. I have been meaning to write a trip report for one of my Delta LHR flights, but I always forget to bring my camera since it has become such a routine trip for me (not to say that I haven't enjoyed the service).
This trip report, however, discusses the new United First and British Airways First products.
I am embarrassed to say that this trip report has been seven months in the making as I will soon explain. I decided to splurge and try the new United First for my flight home for Christmas 2010 (LHR-ORD-CVG-ORD-LHR). As such, I had the best of intentions of documenting the round-trip flight, however, my camera battery died, and I somehow lost the charger. So, the pictures for one of the legs sat on my camera until just recently (note, this report contains pictures taken with both my standard digital camera and my iPhone). Last week, I went back to Cincinnati for a family event and decided to splurge and (hopefully) try the new BA First cabin for my return journey to London (CVG-ORD-LHR). As I was super excited, I finally got my act together and bought a battery charger so I could take pictures, transfer them to my computer and write this report. So, alas, this trip report spans between December 2010 and July 2011 (and, in between that time, I have made about six crossings on Delta).
Anyway, I will let the pictures speak for themselves, though I will include commentary as appropriate.
December 19, 2010
B767-3ER (btw - can anyone explain to me what it means when people say 767-432 or 767-423 or whatever)
I had the awesome luck of originally attempting to fly out of Heathrow on the day that the "snow" arrived and shut down operations for two days. After checking-in (quickly and efficiently) on that fateful day (December 17), I went to the Star Alliance First lounge, only to have my flight cancel. Here is where UA totally dropped the ball. I walked into bedlam after they cancelled my flight to retrieve my bag. I tried to rebook in the lounge but they were fairly useless, so I figured that, since I was flying First, I would have either a.) some sort of priority rebooking or b.) at least a special number to call to rebook. I had neither, and, while waiting two hours to reschedule for a week later, they lost my bag and did nothing to help find it. I eventually sorted through about 40 cancelled flights' worth of baggage and found it stuck on a conveyor belt. Obviously, that priority tag came in handy. Oh well, I was fortunate in that I lived in London and did not have to sleep at the airport. I felt so bad for those who were stranded and really wanted to invite them all to my flat so they could get some sleep.
After stalking ua.com, I eventually got another First seat on Monday. I arrived super early to Heathrow (while en route, the conductor of the Heathrow Express announced that Terminal 5 would not be accepting any additional passengers - I really thought that someone was going to get murdered). Once again, I quickly checked in at the First desk where they assured me that the fight would be leaving. From there, I took the fast track lane through security and headed back to the Star Alliance First Lounge.
When you enter the LHR Star Alliance lounge, you can either turn left for Business or right for First. The First Class lounge is somewhat small but well appointed, and the food was delicious. They made periodic announcements about the flights in a very hushed manner to keep the mood nice and quiet.
I was too nervous to wait for my flight to be called (since it had started snowing), so I made the extraordinarily long walk down to the gate with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we took about a one hour delay for reasons unknown to anyone. Ultimately, we all boarded and anxiously waited for the forward door to close. Here are a few pictures of the seat (and me in it) and cabin.
Obligatory leg room shot
(the air marshal sat across the aisle from me)
(deicing fluid oozing down the window)
After about three bloody mary’s on the ground, we took off approximately one hour behind schedule. The plane went crazy! People were clapping, some were crying and the mood all around was just wonderful. I settled in and found the seat to be comfortable and the service to be good so far (though thought it was surprising that drinks on the ground in First were served in plastic cups).
Dinner was served about 45 minutes after we took off. It was good but the real star of that portion of the flight was the alcohol. The wines and champagne were fabulous.
Champagne to start ☺ (Henriot Brut Millesime 1998)
Starter (Portobello, mozzarella, tomato and asparagus with fresh micro greens and lemon-infused oil)
Soup (roasted carrot and swede soupe)
Salad – very mediocre with frozen creamy peppercorn dressing (fresh seasonal greens with asparagus, cucumbers and sun-blushed tomatoes)
(At this point, this was the progress we had made to ORD)
Entrée (grilled filet mignon with horseradish sauce and (gross) shitake tomato duxelle)
Desert (American airlines love ice cream, don’t they? Anyway, I love it too, so that made me very happy).
After dinner, I started to relax and watched Inception. The screen, as you can see is huge, which is a really nice feature of the new First product on United.
I also had some cheese and fruit (with some Porto (Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005)) from the snack bar.
Another awesome feature of the new seat is this massive storage bin that you get. It is seriously cavernous (the picture does not do it justice).
I eventually decided to take a quick nap and had my seat turned into a bed. The flight attendants offered to help, but I told them that I was fine. Here was my bed for the next few hours.
When I woke up, we had a pre-landing snack (roasted chicken foccacia sandwich with caramelized red onion chutney – sorry no pics). I was so excited to see the progress that we had made when I looked at the moving map.
We landed in what appeared to be a blizzard at O’Hare. Sadly, I turned on my phone to find a message from my mom, my dad and United telling me that my connecting flight was cancelled. I started to get frustrated given the travel delays already incurred until the forward door opened and a United agent came on board, asked for me, escorted me through customs and checked me into a hotel at O’Hare. That is service. I was so impressed and have never had that level of service on any airline (including BA First). They also booked me on two flights the next day (my choice) and gave me a pass to the Red Carpet Club while I waited in the morning. That small gesture seriously convinced me to book United First again for my trip home this Christmas.
Now … let’s fast forward to July and “complete” the trip (it was about time to charge my battery and finish my trip report). It was time to make a trip home for a family function and to enjoy a few days outside of London, spending some quality time with the parents and the siblings. Cincinnati is very humid in the summer, so I also enjoyed a lot of time in the pool relaxing and tanning my very pale self (thank you London summer).
Besides the time off, I also oddly “inherited” a vehicle while I was there, so I thought I would share because I still think its funny and a strange stroke of potentially good luck (time will tell). Before I moved to London, I sold my car that I had been keeping at my parents’ house since college. Big mistake since I now have had to rely on borrowing from my parents or my sister. A family friend had an old pickup that they rarely used (only for Home Depot runs) and offered it to me for basically nothing after one of my sob fests about lack of transportation during a dinner party. So, I am now the proud owner of a 1986 Jeep Comanche Sportruck. I have never had a pickup and anyone who knows me would find it funny that I now do! However, I actually don’t think it is a bad looking ride, and now I no longer have to beg for transportation when I am home for the holidays. And, despite being carbureted and somewhat finicky, it is a lot of fun to drive since it’s a five speed stick. Sadly, it will just sit in the garage while I am away. Here are a few pictures of it.
Thoughts are welcome as to whether I have gotten myself into a big mess! Sorry for the diversion…
July 17, 2011
I had a 2:05 flight from CVG to ORD on American Connection (for some reason, it sounded odd each time the F/A said that – I guess I was expecting American Eagle). I arrived on time and made my way to the International Terminal (Terminal 5).
Once I reached the check-in area, I went to the BA First check-in desk to have my boarding pass reissued (I wanted it on BA paper). I asked the very friendly agent whether or not the 747-400 that I was on had the new First cabin, but unfortunately he did not know (so the suspense continued as I still did not know if I had the new or old seat). I then made my way through security by way of the duty free store. I find the International Terminal at O’Hare strange in that a.) the duty free store is before security and b.) there is no “premium” line (which meant it took about 30 minutes to get through with the afternoon push).
I made my way to Terraces Lounge where I was quickly ushered across the hall to the First lounge (didn’t know there was one at O’Hare). Below are a few pictures with my thoughts to follow.
(I know I am a dork but I had to do it)
(the one redeeming feature of the First lounge was the view)
When I arrived at the Terraces Lounge, I thought that it looked like a nice, standard airline lounge. When they told me that there was a separate First lounge, I was so excited. I imagined it would be some sort of airport Ritz Carlton. I was really disappointed. It was probably only about 500-700 square feet with very dated furniture and bad amenities. It felt extremely cramped, so I went back across the hall to the Terraces Lounge. At that point, I saw the pre-flight dining room, so I asked for a seat and proceeded to sit down for a snack.
The dining room is small and white, but I was happy there. I wasn’t extremely hungry and I wanted to eat on the plane, so I ordered tomato soup and salad and had two gin and tonics. While waiting for the food, I had a conversation with a friendly Austrian traveler who ended up joining me for part of the meal.
After eating, I went on a tour of the Terraces Lounge and found that it actually had better amenities that the First lounge! Obviously, you get the pre-flight dining perk as a First customer, which is nice, but I liked the self serve buffet that was on offer for Club World customers (First customers though could use either lounge). Here are a few pics from my tour.
I eventually went back to the First lounge and had some sparkling water – I figured that since I was flying BA First and trying it out, I owed it to myself to try to get a comprehensive experience. I sat in the lounge until about ten minutes before boarding. I then headed to the gate to take a few pre-departure pictures and was among the first passengers to board the plane.
I will certainly let my pictures of the new (yay) First cabin speak for themselves (I took a lot since I always am grateful when people put up fulsome trip reports and it was my turn to contribute). However, before proceeding to the cabin and seat pictures, I have to say that I had a very warm BA welcome once I was onboard. The male F/A boarding the plane (the door by the stairway to the second floor) smiled and looked at my boarding pass and then personally escorted me to First and introduced me to his colleagues, stating that they would be looking after me. Nice touch I thought and set a good tone for the next eight hours! I got to my seat and immediately ordered a glass of champagne (Tattinger Brut Millesieme 2004).
(my seat – 3A)
(obligatory leg room shot)
(view from seat)
(me in my seat – you will note that I have gotten a bit bigger since Christmas ☺ - I am working on that)
(side view of seat)
(lighting before departure)
(toiletry kit and boarding pass)
(control panel with light fixture)
(view looking towards Club World)
(not my seat – I had a window)
I have flown on many 747s, sometimes in Business and sometimes in Economy. I have never, though, had the opportunity to sit in the nose of a 747, which was just terrific. Takeoff for whatever reason was exhilarating because I felt the thrust of the entire plane behind me (and it was very quiet). Moreover, once we were airborn and the seat belt sign was off, it became like a private club (I think there were only six of us in total).
(people gathering to talk and have drinks by the center console)
Pajamas and toiletry bags were passed out on the ground, so, as soon as I could, I changed out of my “civilian” clothing and into my BA First pajamas (which I am wearing now as I type this trip report). Drinks were expeditiously served though I was shocked that not hot towels were given out for the duration of the flight (on Delta and United, they seemingly hand them out with every meal). Dinner was then served. Below are pictures of my meal.
Starter 1 (prawn dish – it was not on the menu, but was the best food I have ever had on an airplane (I would be thrilled to eat that at a restaurant on the ground))
Starter 2 (Trio of salmon including smoked salmon with fingering potato salad, salmon rillette and balik style salmon)
Starter 3 (Chicken consommé)
Main (steak with creamed spinach, roast potatoes and maitre d’hotel butter)
Desert (Mixed berry chocolate gateau with vanilla anglaise and strawberry)
I have to say that the quality of food was the best that I have ever had on an airplane (with the exception of the desert, which was not good). I also liked the pace at which things were served. Much like on United, I could eat whenever I wanted, which was a plus. What I liked about BA was that there was no cart in the aisle and food just seemed to appear effortlessly. Well done.
As I ate, I watched movies on the ENORMOUS personal television. It was huge and a real plus. I actually wished that my flight was longer because the television, coupled with the comfortable seat, were just spectacular. After about 2.5 hours in the air, one of the F/As asked if I would like my seat turned into a bed. I said yes, and she came by and reclined the seat, put a thin mattress on top of it and made my bed. Again, a very nice touch (considering the mattress didn’t really do much). I slept for a bit and was woken up about an hour before we landed at Heathrow. I wasn’t very hungry, so I skipped the breakfast “main” and just had two bacon sandwiches.
As we were landing, the F/As (who were superb) stopped to thank me for flying. I told them their product was great, and they seemed to appreciate the feedback. I then asked if I could have another set of pajamas to give to my partner (it was his birthday), and she returned with pajamas and an extra toiletry kit.
We landed and (gasp) got a gate at Terminal 5. I went through customs (skipping the fast track line as it was actually slower than the non-EU line!) and headed to the arrivals lounge (Galleries) where I had a quick chair massage and then headed for the Heathrow Express.
Overall, I was very happy with both United and BA. I look forward to flying them again in the future. Thanks to both cabin crews for such a comfortable travel experience! And, thanks for reading my arguably random trip report!
Av8rDAL From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 456 posts, RR: 2 Reply 3, posted (1 year 10 months 1 week 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 14111 times:
Nice report and nice wheels! I "inherited" an old VW Jetta when I was in college. It, too, was a former "airport car" used by my airline pilot uncle who kept several of them at his domciles and home airport. I got it with 225,000 miles on the odometer and 4 different sized tires. But it had a lot of pep for an old beater car on that 3,000 mile cross-country drive from SFO to ATL (in the middle of summer with an inop A/C, mind you).
One of my life goals is to fly in First on BA, SQ, and LH. I hope they maintain those levels of service and not get forced to compete with comparatively substandard Business Class services offered by American carriers.
Maintain thine airspeed, lest the Earth rise up and smite thee.
Burj From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 838 posts, RR: 4 Reply 4, posted (1 year 10 months 1 week 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 13779 times:
Very cool trip report! I totally understand about getting your photo in the seat and in front of the lounge entrance...I think we've all been there!
Please do a TR on a Delta 767 Business Elite flight! I'd be interested on hearing your thoughts, especially on the tray table as I've been told they are actually quite the dodgy design...
How are things in CVG? I occasionally made connects through CVG but not recently with the big Delta reduction in flights and the closing of an entire concourse! I've been told it is almost like a ghost town there!
BTW did you get your partner anything else for his birthday? As nice as BA PJ's are...you did get them for free! LOL
When I few SQ F I got a set of "sleeper suits" for my family...but they still expected "real" souvenirs!
Shame that half of the photos seem to have disappeared!
Both were outstanding, but I have to say that the whole "experience" on BA was better. Now, you please take this conclusion in light of the fact that I was delayed two days during the "snow storm" and was pretty stressed on United. There was just something classic about flying in the nose of a 747 in BA First. In addition, the ambiance of the First cabin on BA was sublime (the lighting and the new seats).
Thanks! Going to the pub after work is killing me (but I love that aspect of living in the UK).
Quoting Tigerguy (Reply 2): Nice report! Too bad that some of the pictures went "poof" somewhere along the line...
Thanks, though I don't know what you mean about the picturings going "poof".
Quoting Tigerguy (Reply 2): 7X7 = model, N = variant, ** = customer code. Thus, a 767-400 belonging to Delta (customer code 32) would be a 767-432. The BA 747 you were on would be a 747-436.
Thanks so much - that has always been a mystery for me when I read these posts!
Quoting Av8rDAL (Reply 3): Nice report and nice wheels! I "inherited" an old VW Jetta when I was in college. It, too, was a former "airport car" used by my airline pilot uncle who kept several of them at his domciles and home airport. I got it with 225,000 miles on the odometer and 4 different sized tires. But it had a lot of pep for an old beater car on that 3,000 mile cross-country drive from SFO to ATL (in the middle of summer with an inop A/C, mind you).
Haha! I am glad you appreciated the addition to the trip report. A lot of my friends are making fun of me for my "inheritence" but I don't care! What year was your Jetta (I had one in college which I loved, which was also a five speed). Much like airplanes and airlines, I also loves cars!
Quoting Burj (Reply 4): Please do a TR on a Delta 767 Business Elite flight! I'd be interested on hearing your thoughts, especially on the tray table as I've been told they are actually quite the dodgy design...
Will do - I fly back to CVG via JFK on 12 August, so I will take some pictures then. I return on 22 August via BOS. Both ways are in J so I will try to do a comprehensive start to finish report.
Quoting Burj (Reply 4): How are things in CVG? I occasionally made connects through CVG but not recently with the big Delta reduction in flights and the closing of an entire concourse! I've been told it is almost like a ghost town there!
It is a ghost town and is very sad. I got excited when I saw a 757 there last week. I have no idea why they can't maintain a few more flights there (especially international) given Delta passengers preference (including mine) to connect/go through customs there. It would be nice if things somehow picked up there.
Quoting Burj (Reply 4): BTW did you get your partner anything else for his birthday? As nice as BA PJ's are...you did get them for free! LOL
Haha! Yes - I got him an Hermes tie.
Quoting Av8rDAL (Reply 3): Shame that half of the photos seem to have disappeared!
They did?!? Can you tell me specifically which ones (at work, my office blocks photobucket.com due to mass storage).
Burj From United States of America, joined Nov 2007, 838 posts, RR: 4 Reply 8, posted (1 year 10 months 1 week 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 12230 times:
Glad you got the photos working again...it was weird to see half of them go away...
Quoting bsteph (Reply 5): Will do - I fly back to CVG via JFK on 12 August, so I will take some pictures then. I return on 22 August via BOS. Both ways are in J so I will try to do a comprehensive start to finish report.
SWEET! Please do... especially try to get some photos of the SkyClub as the CVG one is still the old schoo/traditional type where as the BOS is the new white/blue stylized kind....
Quoting bsteph (Reply 5): I have no idea why they can't maintain a few more flights there (especially international) given Delta passengers preference (including mine) to connect/go through customs there. It would be nice if things somehow picked up there.
Alas I think that CVG won't be seeing anymore Delta service...their best bet is to woe some LCC service... Basically with the merger DTW just makes the better all around hub for the combined DL...
It would be cool to see transatlantic connections to the CDG and AMS Skyteam hubs...
Nice...but is it work appropriate for the UK or the US? I ask because whenever I ride the tube in London I am amazed at the type of business attire that men are wearing....the different cut/style of suits...the patterns/colors/etc of shirst and ties just seem so alien compared to NYC....
photoshooter From Belgium, joined Feb 2010, 353 posts, RR: 20 Reply 11, posted (1 year 10 months 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 10760 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW CHAT OPERATOR
I like your trip report and this trip report changed my opinion about UA (first class). It came to my attention
that the legroom in first class (BA) looks rather tight? I'm flying BA Club next year to the States and I think
it's a good choice if you see that UA first looks like BA's Club
bsteph From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 51 posts, RR: 0 Reply 12, posted (1 year 10 months 3 days 7 hours ago) and read 10610 times:
Thanks to everyone who has posted and viewed my trip report. Please see below.
Quoting Burj (Reply 8): SWEET! Please do... especially try to get some photos of the SkyClub as the CVG one is still the old schoo/traditional type where as the BOS is the new white/blue stylized kind....
I will take pictures from start to finish - I doubt I will go to the SkyClub at CVG since I will be waiting at the gate with my mom, but I will try to pop in. Definitely will spend some time there in BOS.
Quoting EddieDude (Reply 7):
It would be cool to see transatlantic connections to the CDG and AMS Skyteam hubs...
I would love to see DL bring back at least LHR to CVG. From what I understand, the business community is demanding this again and some leaders are starting to actually take action to bring it back (though in the form of a task force initially, so who knows how long that will take).
Quoting Burj (Reply 8): Nice...but is it work appropriate for the UK or the US? I ask because whenever I ride the tube in London I am amazed at the type of business attire that men are wearing....the different cut/style of suits...the patterns/colors/etc of shirst and ties just seem so alien compared to NYC....
Absolutely. I work at a huge law firm (as does my partner) and most of the partners and associates where Hermes ties daily. When I work in New York or Paris, I also where my Hermes ties and have no issues.
Quoting photoshooter (Reply 11): came to my attention
that the legroom in first class (BA) looks rather tight?
Not tight at all - it just kind of ends in a "V" which is more narrow than the seat. I am 6'0 and had plenty of room.
IAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4723 posts, RR: 25 Reply 13, posted (1 year 10 months 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 10491 times:
Thanks for sharing a fine report. It was great to see the UA B763 International product as being a CO FF person I'm quite interested in learning exactly what UA has today before booking a flight on a UA airplane, looks nice.
bsteph From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 51 posts, RR: 0 Reply 15, posted (1 year 10 months 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 10308 times:
Quoting IAHFLYR (Reply 13): Really curious what gave you that idea? It's pretty difficult these days to pick them out as they blend in much better than is years before.
Because I (and everyone else as well) was so desperate to leave LHR after being delayed by two days, I had queued up to be the first person to board the flight. When they announced First and Global Services Boarding, I bolted through the jetway and this gentleman was already seated. I also noticed that he drank nothing alcoholic and never fully reclined in his seat, which I found strange given how comfy the seat was. So, I put two and two together and made my decision. Of course, I am no expert and have nothing to base this on, but it was just my own thinking. Oh, and my seat had randomly been reassigned (I was supposed to have that seat after I rebooked and when I checked in, I was in 2A (better seat any way since it had a window).
Quoting lhr380 (Reply 14): There is just something about the food on BA that is just, well....Im hungry after reading the pics.
Food was excellent with the exception of the desert. Interesting, though, I noticed in another TR that in Club they serve the same steak and sides but just on a smaller plate.
Quoting lhr380 (Reply 14): Surprised about the hot towels. Normally your get them just after take off, and before landing, wonder what happened?
When I was a kid, I, for whatever reason, was super impressed by the hot towel service. It was strangely my favorite part of the meal service.
Quoting lhr380 (Reply 14): Looks like you had a VERY memorable start and end to your journey. Glad you had fun (And did not notice the weight at all)
Thanks - I appreciate the encouragement. I love living in the UK, but the pubs are just too tempting and when I have to choose between a pint and the gym, the gym always loses! So I must get shape for my brother's wedding in three weeks (when I do another DL trip report - LHR-JFK-CVG-BOS-LHR (all in F or J).
IAHFLYR From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 4723 posts, RR: 25 Reply 16, posted (1 year 10 months 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 10194 times:
Quoting bsteph (Reply 15): When they announced First and Global Services Boarding, I bolted through the jetway and this gentleman was already seated. I also noticed that he drank nothing alcoholic and never fully reclined in his seat, which I found strange given how comfy the seat was.
I see.....yet I've boarded flights a few times well before the rest of the passengers when I've known one of the crew members and been seated in my seat when they board, had nothing to drink on the flight and seldom fully recline my seat even on flights across the pond so maybe it was me! hahaha I actually don't sleep on planes but your observations are very interesting to say the least.
Again, great report.
Any views shared are strictly my own and do not a represent those of any former employer.
lhr380 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 17, posted (1 year 10 months 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 9783 times:
Quoting bsteph (Reply 15): Food was excellent with the exception of the desert. Interesting, though, I noticed in another TR that in Club they serve the same steak and sides but just on a smaller plate.
I still remember the beef from First class 2 years ago. Was the best bit of beef I have had in the air before.
Quoting bsteph (Reply 15): Thanks - I appreciate the encouragement. I love living in the UK, but the pubs are just too tempting and when I have to choose between a pint and the gym, the gym always loses
That's why you need to get the priority right. Gym then beer lol
TeamInTheSky From United States of America, joined Apr 2011, 507 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (1 year 10 months 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 9577 times:
Absolutely outstanding trip report! The more I see of BA First, the more I hope to try it one day!
I am an expat stuck in London too, and last Christmas was extemely stressful due to the weather. Not only that, but I was trying to get back to get to my wedding! I ended up taking two trains and a ferry overnight to catch an AF flight back to ATL.
Again, great report! Thanks!
Since 2010: DL, KL, AF, WX, IG, FR , FL, U2, AK, BA, OK, UX