Aloha to all again,
Following my first trip report from BRU to ACC via ADD, I thought it would be nice to also detail my return travels.
Since few weeks ago I absolutely had to travel overnight from BRU, and the airlines traveling down to West-Africa overnight are rare (BA,KL,SN, LH all travel down during the day with a return to Europe overnight), I had to look into a creative routing that time. I flew to ACC on BRU-LHR (BA) - LHR-LOS (VS) and LOS-ACC (W3). Of all trips, I think actually that was the most worth detailing, but sleep was more important than taking pictures. Sorry for that
A recap of my welcome to ACC on my last flight ET BRU-CDG-ADD-ACC In J (by mayhem Mar 2 2012 in Trip Reports)
Anyways, here we go for ACC-LHR on VS658.
STD was 10.55, but having checked in online, having no luggage to check-in and never eager to spend too much time waiting at the airport, I decided to leave from the hotel at 9.20. Traffic to the airport is not so bad in the morning, so in 20 minutes the hotel driver dropped me at the check-in area.
ACC has a fairly small terminal for the volume of pax it is handling these days, especially given all the widebodies, and the peak they have in the evening. At this time of day the airport was quite calm though.
Accra Kokota airport terminal
An exotic board, but not many departures around this time of day (most long haul flights leave in the evening)
Before immigration - fill in your disembarkation cards (don't see why they need these)
Accra's airport is not very modern, not that large, but still it provides a good experience.
Although checked in already, I still passed via the check-in desk to have my lounge access card, and just to have a chat. 5 desks open in total, with no-one queuing 1hr before departure.
A very friendly check-in lady told me the flight was very light (101 pax in Y, 6 in J) on this A343. At some point she looked a bit panicked to her screen and called her colleague, which is something I absolutely hate when check-in agents do this. They should not give a grim until there is a real issue, since most of the time it is not an issue, but still upset the pax.
The day after the flight I was continuing on the same ticket LHR-BRU, but since this flight was not yet open, she was a bit worried she could not issue my BP. No problem, I was fully aware of this, but her look made me think something else was wrong. Anyways, I still had a friendly chat with her, and thought this was very good service.
After 5 minutes at check-in I proceeded through immigration and security. At security I was picked out for some more intense screening, which was done thoroughly but very friendly.
Given the terminal was almost empty, apart from 2 very cute groups of school kids visiting the airport (I really wanted to interact with them, but didn't know how, I wish I had some candy to hand out or so ), so going through the airport was a breeze.
Proceeding to the least good lounge at ACC (there are only 2, Skyteam carriers using the nicer one). This one has no day light and only a limited number of seats. In the evening it's always packed, and really boring, this time it was quiet though.
Ok-ish art at the lounge
At ACC airlines/alliances tend to have fixed gates assigned, so they do branding at the gate. Here e.g. the skyteam one
General (empty) terminal
Around 10.20 boarding was called from the lounge, and some 5 pax proceeded to the gate, where, again there was almost nobody to see. (Appart 4 groups of 2 ladies, who every 5 meters asked to see your boarding pass and/or passport for some check.)
Going down on the stairs (ACC does not have a single jetway!) to the bus, I entered the bus and admired some planes on the tarmac. Many nice sights IMO, including a UN 737, the presidential plane (Fokker ???) and an Emirates skycargo 744.
Upper class boards through L1, Y+ and Y through L2
Spotting: quite some variety
J pax enter through the front stairs, and are welcomed by 2 friendly staff. I moved into my seat 8A, and after dropping my stuff went back to the front, to ask if I could visit the cockpit. To be honest, last time I visited a cockpit was prob 4-5 years ago, and the time before that was probably when I was 12. A very very friendly captain and FO welcomed me, and we had a nice chat about how this is probably the shortest VS flight, the light loads to day, how the A340 is not really fuel efficient, the VS slogans, etc...
Back to my seat, where by now a glass of champagne was awaiting me. Newspapers were handed out, and I made myself comfortable.
Empty J class
A340-300 (a bit of an old one)
ATD 10.55 (wheels-up 11.00)
After a short taxi, backtracking down the runway, and a narrow turn, we quickly accelerated to take off. Here I'll be a bit shorter, and go into the real review of the product/service.
Narrow taxi way with eng 1 and 4 over the dust...
Bye bye ACC
Overall, I like VS very much for a couple of unique aspects, and sometimes they are really able to "wow" you, but then again, they are able to disappoint.(like LITERALLY when writing this, they are offering me some candy, I guess they must have seen my mood go into more critical )
Eg. The seat is a great lie flat seat, fairly comfortable to work, a very nice table included, but then shows its age because it has only empower power plugs; the PTV gives video channels rather than AVOD (!), the seat still is a bit narrow, and the worst I think, is the fact that you have to leave your seat to put it to sleep mode. This means there is no 90% lie flat position. I actually dislike the fully fully flat position, and given the way it's built, it's really "bed or seat". With the seat not able to recline far enough.
But then again, I'm being a bit critical here.
But ok food (with outdated IFE in the background )
A very nice pro then is the way they use 2 pieces of table cloth. This really gives a great touch, and makes everything so much nicer looking...
Lunch was served at 11.45 already, and consisted of
- drink service + nuts (no nuts/crisps were served with the pre-flight drink actually)
- warm bread + butter
- an ok amuse geule (olives + goat cheese)
- Salmon/soup (not bad)
- beef/pasta/and a local dish (!) I had eaten enough local Ghanaian dishes lately, but thought this was nice to offer.
- dessert: fairly good chocolate brownie soaked in chantilly (i like) and a coffee (not very strong, but ok)
I was lucky enough to join in on Johnny English, the movie 20' after it had started, and saw it until 10' before the end where I wanted to check out the toilets. I had actually kept waiting for 20', hoping I could postpone the restroom, but I failed. Here the lack of AVOD was very clear to me.
Before getting back to work/writing this TR, I decided to stroll around the cabin, and noticed the back J cabin was completely empty, and E+ was also very empty, but E+ looked quite good actually. Y had a fair load.
Writing a trip report with a less nice view
Sufficient space to work (large table) and comfortable duvet
I caught 2 weird things on the IFE: our routing took us first eastbound and then again westbound (who can explain?) and this Elvis popping up over Italy (who can explain? )
On the flight it was getting a bit cold, which as a bit of a contrast with my LHR-LOS flight, were I thought it was incredibly warm. When I asked one of the F/As for a duvet, she kindly assisted me and even suggested to turn up the heating.
* in flight note* I do think the VS F/As stand apart from colleagues since they are: generally very pretty (sorry, had to share this) and come by very frequently to see if you need anything (at least 1x/hour)
About 1.5hr before arrival the crew came round with tea service. I asked them to have it a bit later, since I was in a working rush, which they kindly did.
The snack was (very) poor. 3 slices of dry sandwiches, and 2 cakes (of which 1 was ok).
Last views above the clouds, lovely sunset, before heading into thick clouds
After some holding above LHR, we landed around 17.40, and with only short lines at immigration and no checked luggage, I was out at arrivals by 17.55! I used the automated immigration process, which I love. It's not faster than a human check, but because you are actually doing something yourself, you don't experience the wait as annoyingly (it's all about perception!).
Landing at spotter paradise
As usual, I have no luggage, and I fly through arrivals
I headed out, looking for the VS limo desk, which is not hidden, but very small, so not that easy to note. A very friendly, and pretty young lady welcomed me, helped me to change the address where I needed to head to, and called my driver. By 18.00 I followed my driver to the nice Volvo, and was heading into London. The drive eventually took 1.30hr, but since the friends I was meeting up with were still at work, I was not in a rush.
The limo service really was a nice extra.
Overall I think VS did a good job on this leg, with extra points for the good service and attention during the flight (although with only a 15% load factor, maybe not so surprising). The IFE is however horribly outdated, and I think many people are looking forward to the new cabins that were recently announced.The food was only mediocre as well.
Would I fly VS again. Well, no actually. And the main reason for that is not really covered in this report. Since they are not part of an alliance, and from BRU they're not really offering flights, I have no interest in becoming loyal to them. The lounge is nice, the service is all good, but the lack of a decent FF program (within an alliance) is limiting it all.
(The reason why I flew them in the first place was for the schedule (I needed to get a nightflight down to ACC). And so it was more a "there are no alternatives" thing than anything else).
The next day I was flying the remaining leg LHR-BRU on BA.
Since there was no limo to pick me up (I actually never checked if BA offers this?) I took the Heathrow Express, and got in a stunning 21 minutes to LHR. Add the 20 min it took from my friend's doorstep, and it still is 50% faster than the limo!
I printed my BP at the kiosk (I always check in online before to select my seat) and headed to the fast lane at security. I managed to just jump ahead of people that were let in the priority lane from the regular lane, but still had to queue a bit.
Heading down to floor 2 (at this great terminal!) I wanted to find my gate, only to find the FIS not working! A bit of a shock, and all people had to go and ask the service desk what their gate was. To my surprise, this manual "gate asking" process went really smoothly, and fortunately my gate was really close. I went to check out the lounge, and found here too an excellent lounge, with a magnificent apron view, and a nice food offering. This actually would have me consider BA as a very attractive airline to fly. (most likely meaning that I drop my loyalty to skyteam)
I took a coke, admired the lounge qualities for a moment, and was looking at one of the monitors, which was not mentioning any message on boarding of my flight to BRU yet. Nonetheless, given that it was some 25 min before STD, I went to the gate, and right at that time an announcement of "final call" was made. Although the gate was right down at the gate, I ended up being one of the last people boarding.
Non-working FIS (what a mess, hope they don't have this during the olympics)
Dream-piece of art
The great lounge
ATD: 17.50 (wheels up)
ATA: 19.45 (gate)
We took of with a small delay, after a bit of queuing at LHR. The plane was ~80% full, with a rather big J cabin (8-10 rows or so)
Overall a good flight, with again very friendly crew, and actually a nice dish served on such a short flight. Other observations were that the seats on the right hand side of the plane were different from the left hand side! (I had a difficult time taking pix, without doing it in such an obviously visible way). On the left the middle seat folded in, so that window and aisle seats have much more width, whilst the right hand were regular economy seats. Quite silly. Also I think the picture frames are horribly outfashioned.
Hard to see, but these are 3 normal Y seats
They screwed up the time on the FIS here too
Nice food for a 45min flight!!! KL just gives you a freaking cookie in J!
I worked a bit on my trip report (typing this one actually on my BRU-FRA flight 2 days after...), and we landed uneventful at 19.45. We parked wonderfully close to the terminal (good job), and with limited queues, no luggage, and plenty of taxis waiting, I was on my way home at 20.00! Great! BRU is actually a really slow airport to get out of normally, but this is 90% due to slow luggage handling, and 10% due to the sometimes very long walk from one end of the terminal.
Parked close to the terminal (I think BA pays extra for this to BRU, since they always get this spot)
All in all BA did a very good job on this flight, with the lounge and the new T5 actually being highly impressive, and a true attractive element for flying with them. Nonetheless, the schedule for me is still the determining factor, and given that I'm not going for any OneWorld flights, it will take a bit more before I really consider them for next flights. It's sad to say, but the last part of this trip report is written from the overcrowded LH lounge at FRA, just because the schedule is better.
Some questions for the good readers:
> what was the initial strategy of VS with the four for long haul? Why did it ever make sense?
> what is the UN plane? What is the plane type of the Ghana presidential plane?
> why the weird routing on VS
> why are BAs seats in J not consistent on the A319
Hope you enjoyed these 2-in-1 trip reports, and I'll get started on my LH BRU-FRA-ACC soon .
Actually, it always takes me more than a week to write these things, so my return flight is already coming up soon. Let's see if i can merge the LH trip reports. (you can expect some complaints about a broken IFE for a daytime flight *horror story!*
Hope you enjoyed!