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Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 6:17 am


This summer was quite enjoyable, on the flying front. Lots of no-frills flights that I did not write reports on (unless anyone is interested in yet-another-Ryanair-report?) and finally the one long-hauler:


Check-in and pre-flight:
Check-in was supposed to start 3 hours prior to departure - I was there half an hour before that. Even before they displayed which desks would be used for the flight, I joined the queue. I'm quite sure I was among the first people for my flight to check-in, yet they had not one single window or aisle seat left in economy! I was quite upset and they promised to try and give me a window seat at the gate. Also, lucky me, I got hand-picked to have my hold luggage searched, and so instead of putting it on the conveyor belt, I had to accompany a friendly security officer to some remote corner and watch him look through my stuff. He explained that due to the four-class-system on transatlantic planes, there were fewer economy seats than usual (122 on the 744, he said) and that many people had checked in abroad and gotten all the good seats! Aaaaargh!
Well, after that, I passed through the passport control and found that my gate, 120, was in some remote location (I believe it's the Victor cul-de-sac). On the way there, I found some great windows from which I watched Concorde getting ready for departure - and another Concorde (presumably the Barbados flight) being towed to its gate. I left that window and went to the gate, from where I watched Concorde being pushed back and taxiing towards the runway. However, it must have sneaked (well, probably roared) to the other runway, because it never took off from rwy 09R while I was watching.
Shortly before boarding began, I asked the BA representatives whether the seat change got through (another guy ahead of me asked the same thing and got an aisle seat) and I was given seat 34K - not my favourite seat (I love the second last row window seats on the 747) Still better than a loathed middle seat, though, and it WAS on the right hand side of the plane, which is better on westbound Transatlantic flights.
Oh, and I got hand-picked to have my hand luggage searched when going through the gate. I guess I must look suspicious to some people....


The flight:
We pushed back and taxied to the runway surprisingly on-time. It was a fine day with significantly fewer clouds than the day before, and we took off, rotating before passing T4 and executing a right turn after takeoff. After we had turned by 180 degrees, I watched Heathrow from above before disappearing in the clouds.
Most of the rest of the flight was rather cloudy - the Atlantic was almost entirely covered in white, except for a small corner of Greenland and some of the icy mountains in Nova Scotia, but the last quarter of the flight had some good views. The routing was surprisingly southern - we flew above Yellowstone, Salt Lake City (Never thought Salt Lake would be this big - seemed a lot bigger than Lake Constance from the air!), Las Vegas and miles and miles of cities that all melted into one big thing around Los Angeles. Seriously, the last 25 minutes of the flight seemed to be purely above one giant city! LA seems to be a lot bigger (in square miles) than London...
So, during the first three quarters of the flight, what was there to do? Well, that's what PTVs are for. The plane had the OMNIA system installed. Compared to Virgin, it's better than Arcadia but inferior to Odyssey. The screens were roughly the same size as Odyssey screens - i.e. roughly 4-5 inches diagonally. There are no games (in economy) or in-seat phones. And, unfortunately, the control is not a handset and cannot be removed from the armrest - but at least it's not in the side of the armrest, but on top. At first, my screen refused to work and then I could no longer switch between TV and audio channels, but when I asked a FA for help, they reset my screen and everything was fine.
Well, everything except the programming. On the Audio Channels, not one single channel was any good. I was quite surprised - last year it had been a lot better. But the pop channel was taken by some crappy Back-to-School-CD-compilation full of really annoying 80s songs for all those pathetic 25-30 year olds that attend these uniformed party events. Sad, really...
And the other channels were similarly disappointing. Somehow, the Nickelback album promised in the magazine was played only at the start of the flight, and then forgotten...
On the movie side, Panic Room was entertaining enough (but not brilliant. Just an average thriller like Don't Say a Word, far inferior to Insomnia). I would advise against watching it on daylight flights, though - the dark movie was invisible on the screen for long stretches. But I wasn't going to sacrifice my window view - always hoping to spot another plane (I constantly sneaked glances outside in that hope). Spiderman was even more stupid than I remembered (honestly, some of the poorest dialogue and the most simple plotting ever seen in a movie!)
Now, a brief comment about the food: It was great. The choice was "chicken or salmon", as the FA put it, and I chose chicken. I'm a chicken kind of guy, I suppose. It turned out to be a delicious chicken curry with rice (no idea whether this thing is called Tikka, Tikka Masala, Madras or whatever). It easily competes with the food of any takeout or delivery service. The salad was fine, too (featuring mozarella cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes and greens). A standard dessert cake completed the meal. All in all, nice. Later, we were served a snack, consisting of sandwiches and some other stuff I forgot. Probably a cake or something. No ice cream, though.
Drink services were suitably frequent and efficient.
So, after seeing more of the continental USA than on any other flight (some of the irrigated circles of crops were funny in the middle of the desert, Salt Lake City had a red lake of something, and I saw something that looked like a dried riverbed. Las Vegas looked perfectly unspectacular from above - but I got to see an America West A320 shoot past - the only plane to be close during the entire flight!) we flew on a straight line into LA, joining the approach path seemingly 40 minutes prior to landing. The approach was great, simply because I saw lots of urban areas. Also, there were so many square buildings - I was wondering whether all of them were storage facilities or perhaps sound stages. Then I saw all the lorries parked in front of them, so it must have been storage. Perhaps California imports more of its food than I thought...
After landing, we crossed a runway and taxied towards the terminal, but we had to wait twice (about 20 minutes in total) because the gate was occupied. Later, I noticed that that seems to happen often in LA



Queues, queues, queues! The immigration queue was surprisingly long, and full of the passengers of a Russian 767 - mostly young Russian mothers with infants in the permanent resident queue! Couldn't help but think of all the "mailorder bride" stuff that the press made up a few years ago...  Big grin
The customs queues were even longer, and, idiotically, they went in opposite directions, ranging from one side of the baggage reclaim area to the other in both directions. Also, the bags for our flight came out through two different carousels - good for families, I guess, but a pain in the ... for single travellers like me.
An hour after landing I finally left the terminal building.
Another hour later the hotel shuttle bus finally came to pick me up.




Well, I was at the airport 5 hours prior to departure. There was nothing, no one, nada, near the check-in desks for BA. So I tried to find a place to sit - the only seating arrangements turned out to be upstairs, by the restaurants, not within viewing distance of the check-in desks. But, alas, the views were spectacular. I shot about 2 films full of the wonderful planes that taxied past the seating area - A Northwest 747, A VG Airlines A330 (I thought they went bust before they ever took off properly?!?), A Hawaiian DC10, lots of AA and UA planes, ranging from commuters to 767s and even a beautiful TWA 767. So I really enjoyed myself there in the waiting lounge. I can only recommend it, wonderful for spotters! You get closer to the planes than at the LHR spotting platform...

When I returned to the check-in desks 4 hours before scheduled departure, the queue was already long, even though no check-in agents had arrived yet. I got scared to end up in a middle seat. Well, eventually when it was my turn I got the last window seat - 37A. The queue, by then, ranged to the terminal entrance.

The flight

Well. A night flight. Not exactly enjoyable at the best of times. I ended up having indigestion and running to the lav twice (the first time in years I had to use an inflight lav! The experience turned out to be not enjoyable.). To be considerate of fellow passengers, I switched my window seat to an aisle seat, because I did not want to wake anyone up. So, apart from the landscape visible after takeoff and before sunset, I did not see a thing. No holding pattern above LHR  Sad(, nothing.
And, to make up for the good food on the way to LA, the food on this flight was spectacularly bad. They ran out of chicken just one row ahead of me, and as I declined the beef they offered me the vegetarian meal. I was delighted, until I opened the aluminium wrapper to find something unidentifiable, with rice and peas. The unidentifiable thing was divided into square cubes. It was slightly jelly-like, not transparent, but slobby-soft and white. With lots of salt on it, it tasted slightly salty. Other than that, it had no taste whatsoever. To me, it looked like cubed Weisswurst without the spices.
The breakfast served later was a joke - a blueberry yoghurt and a roll of bread, a slice of orange cake.

I got not sleep, the only movie that I was interested in and that also was unedited turned out to be Martha, meet Frank Daniel and Lawrence ( a British romcom). It had some nice interior scenes shot at Stansted, which delighted me, using the airport so often, but little else of interest. Everything else was either edited or not interesting.

9 hours later we landed in Heathrow, using rwy 09R and using the thrust reversers only very briefly, then rolling out until the end of the runway and waited to be towed into gate 119 (Victor 19, I think), because of noise restrictions.

All in all, a typical overnight flight. 1 hour of sleep, 8 hours of suffering, but this time I had brought half a litre of orange juice and half a litre of water with me, so I did not need top rely on the drink services. Unlike my last BA flight, however, they were frequent.


Hope you enjoyed the report. BA was not bad, I still prefer Virgin, but I was positively surprised this time. The music channels need a lot of improvement, and check-in can be a real disappointment if your flight origins in London, but it wasn't bad.


RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 8:05 am

Great to see you ply the Atlantic again...and again, it looks like you weren't much interested in leaving the immediate surroundings of the destination airport  Big grin

After reading various reports and pondering on my own experiences, I do agree that BA overall are 'good', but that Virgin could be described as being 'better' or even 'much better'.

I will certainly try to get on their A346 at some stage.

The rubbish food on your return flight might be down to sloppy catering at LAX (this is America remember!  Big grin )

Don't worry about the short trip reports....basically, I'm the same...you get to a point when you just can't be bothered.

Right now, I'm waiting for Go to come out with an amazing offer to Munich which I won't be able to resist....as it's Oktoberfest, they should do something....would love to fly Lufthansa for a change, but can't bear to spend over 100 pounds on such short trips (you can blame Ryanair for that attitude).

Two new additions to STN are Germanwings and Air Berlin!

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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 11:04 am

Very nice report. It has been years since I flew BA, and when I did they had just installed the PTV's and they didnt work yet. What did you do and where did you stay in LA?
DC-10's Forever
"Traveling light is the only way to fly" - Eric Clapton
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 1:07 pm

Ah yes, Picard, the Californians have nothing on the British when it comes to fine cuisine!
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 5:43 pm

I have not previously posted in the trip report forum, but I did want to let you know you have a good report--both interesting and informative. I do have one question for you.

Although I don't doubt the "icy mountains of Nova Scotia" bit, I'm a little curious. As someone who lives in Canada and has traveled through all parts of Nova Scotia, the only area that comes to mind that could be said to have some semblance of mountains would be Cape Breton Island. It is true that much of Nova Scotia is hill country. However, coming from rugged, mountainous British Columbia, it could be that my idea of mountains is skewed. Anyway, Nova Scotia's mountains seem to be well below the year around snow level, and barring an extremely early snowfall, I would doubt any snow could be found anywhere in the province.

To be honest, I can't imagine any part of eastern Canada, barring the far North country, that would have any snow at this time of year. How did you know it was Nova Scotia, and if you're sure it was, I'd be really curious to know if you know over what part of the province the route took you?

Thanks again for your report.
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 5:46 pm

Please...at least give the courtesy of not lumping Nor Cal in with tedious Southern California!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy
I agree with you that flying in from the desert, with its endless "nothingness", and suddenly flying over mountains into urban sprawl is fascinating.

Glad to see your trip report, as i'm taking BA this Xmas Day PHX-AMS-JNB-CPT-SFO . Guess it's still a bit up in the air as to whether we're going thru LHR or not for the first part. A bit scary to hear about the long lines though.

Any tips on where to ask for seats for two burly guys?

Should we get to the airport so far ahead of time as you did, in outlying stations (i.e. PHX, AMS, CPT)?

Nice job, BTW!
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 6:58 pm

Capt. Picard: Nice to see you again, too. Go have a third or fourth daily flight during the Octoberfest, but generally NO offers - after all, when is there a better chance to make lots of money? The 2-for-1 deals generally come along just after the Octoberfest and before christmas. Lowest Go fare is usually GBP55. Lowest bmi/LH codeshare I managed to get this year was GBP 76, from City airport, return to Heathrow. Try opodo - they generally have the best LH/bmi deals.

Yvr74 - Sorry, I got the provinces confused. I remember thinking we were on an amazingly southern route, so I thought the mountains would have been Nova Scotia or Quebec - but I did not look at the air map at that time (I think it was Spiederman showing on my particular PTV during that hour or so  Big grin ). You are right, it must have been much further North. We came in above Hudson Bay, James Bay and through the Kapuskasing-Moosonee-Timmins-Cochrane area (Hah! I remember those villages from one of our previous holidays! That's why I remember them). So whatever mountains I saw must have been at the Northeast corner of Hudson Bay... Guess I was a bit tired when typing up the trip report...

Cmk10: I stayed in the LAX Airport Quality Hotel. Oddly enough, the booking, made through some website, was wrong in their computer (they had it for August instead of September), so after a bit of hassle I got into a room on the 10th floor - a really very nice and comfy room with what must have been a triple bed, instead of the measly single I had booked. The bed was wider than it was long, and had 3 pillows, not 2 or 4 (as in some King size double beds). I can really recommend the hotel - apart from the irregularity of their shuttle bus in the arrivals section (they're quite regular at leaving the hotel, but they don't bother to drive through all terminal arrival areas unless they have to). The views were great - One of the two approaches goes right past this hotel and the Holiday Inn beside it. The windows were a bit dirty, but I think I still managed to get a few reasonable shots of approaching planes. a 200mm to 300mm lens is all you need.

Johnboy: Not sure about check-in times at other airports. But I guess if you want a good seat, be there as early as possible. Also, sometimes you can pre-reserve seats over the phone (my parents usually do) several weeks in advance. If you have 2 guys and fly in a 747, I would go for one of the last three rows in economy near the windows. Here, the seating configuration is 2-4-2 instead of 3-4-3, so no one has to sit in the middle seat. Also, you have a little more sideways footroom in the second and third last row (i.e. you can put one of your feet beside the seat in front of you etc). There is one thing that might annoy you, though: sitting near the lavs will always result in noisy conversations and inconsiderate passengers near your seats. And in the back of the plane, you might feel slightly more vibration or shaking than near the Centre of Gravity. If you fly world traveller plus or business or first, I got no idea where to sit...
Instead, you might prefer emergency exit rows due to more legroom, but then it's 3-4-3, so one guy will end up squeezed.
Anyway, the lines in LHR weren't too long - shorter than in LA by a long stretch. Unless you fly bmi from terminal 1, though (after seeing their 300m queue on Friday, I swore to stick to low costers from Stansted for short-haul!)

Anyway. The one thing I forgot to mention were the idiots on my return flight. A few rows ahead of me was a family with seemingly 3 or 4 generations present, and the young guy (late teens, early 20s max) was noisy as hell, laughing and conversing with the people around him. He looked like a typical teen comedy movie bully (and probably sports hero, I guess). And the people queueing for the lav were also not exactly trying to be quiet. And, when they LEAN on MY backrest, I get annoyed....
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Wed Sep 25, 2002 10:05 pm


Good report. They should have upgraded an A.net bigshot such as yourself to Club! I was beguiled by VS when I first flew them in '98, but decided that overall, BA is more refined. And I prefer T4. Cheers!
Maggs swings, it's a drive deep to left! The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 1:45 am

Nice report Ikarus  Smile

I must say though, having to hold because of an occupied gate at LAX almost ALWAYS and I mean on an everydy baisis, happen to BA! Everytime I go spot BA 744s are always waiting for SIA to get off their gate. You'll never see that happening to Virgin, because they us T2 and not the International Terminal.
If you landed on the south side of the airport, you most likley started on the final approach course at CIVET intersection over San Bernadino (MattD's house Big grin ) Its about 26 miles from LAX, and is the main fix for all arriving a/c into the south complex.
About runway crossings: LAX has 4 parallel runways, 2 on the northside and 2 on the south. The two north ones are 24L/R-6L/R and the south ones are 25L/R-7L/R, even though all of them have the same magnetic heading of 249-069 degrees  Smile Landings are almost always done on the outboards and takeoffs on the inboards.
Also about the food: at LAX the food supplier for most airlines is LSG Skychefs of International fame, who also cater at ZRH and FRA.  Smile

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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 2:39 am

Stretch_8: Well, I doubt whether anyone would be impressed with my airliners.net membership, let alone upgrade me because of it! But it would have been nice...

KLAX: MattD's house? If I had known, I'd have gone to the lav at exactly that time, hoping for some leak...  Acting devilish

I think we landed on the northern runway, though I'm not sure. And I'm reasonably sure that the plane we waited for was a Varig MD11, I saw nothing Singaporean around at all. But I was surprised at the Qantas presence at LAX - I saw 3 of their jumbos parked while taxiing (with a Fiji 742 between them for good measure), and on the next day another one that had the BA blue belly and engines, but a tail section to the fuselage that looked like a green Go aircraft, with an all white tail.

What I LOVED to watch was when one plane landed right beside another one taking off. In one particularly memorable scene, a Swiss MD11 was busy decelerating while another MD11 overtook it on its takeoff roll. To my shame, I forgot which airline the other one belonged to, but it WAS impressive seeing two trijets racing along. Also, I got to see the Air Tahiti Nui A340 take off, but unfortunately did not manage to take any pics. Either way, I liked LAX airport a lot. Photographic opportunities in the waiting area (between the restaurants above the check-in desks) were great!

Seriously, if I lived in LA, I would probably go to the terminal to take pics quite often. No hassle, and the planes that taxi past are impressively close.
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 3:04 am

Good Trip report, if our Customer Relations/Marketing people have any sense they'll look at this site and reports like yours.
Seems our World Traveller service is still variable.
The second Concorde you saw would have been the standby for the BA001, we won't be running any more BGI's until the the BA001 on Saturday is replaced by a BA273 from December to April.
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 4:06 am

A great trip report! I really enjoyed reading it as it was very detailed.

Hopefully we will have the chance to meet again (next time FRA?) for a spotter meeting.

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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:29 am

Did you listen to judge jules from Radio 1???
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Thu Sep 26, 2002 12:32 pm

Salt Lake City had a red lake of something,

That would be the Great Salt Lake. Anyway, just wanted to congratulate you on a wonderful trip report.
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Sat Sep 28, 2002 3:45 pm

Excellent report.

In April 2000 I flown from LHR to LAX on the way to Hawaii and SFO to Lax on the way back. This time, the food on the way back was much better than the way there, as was the flight.

On the approach to LAX, did you see Hollywood? It looks small from the plane but it is there alright.
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RE: Lhr-lax And Back On BA

Sat Sep 28, 2002 10:59 pm

The food you are refering to I believe is tofu.
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