Date : 22Oct02
Flight : VS009
Route : LHR-JFK
Type : A346
Reg : G-VMEG
Class : Premium Economy
A few days ago I finally got to try out the new A346. Myself and my girlfriend decided on the morning of the 22Oct to go to New York for the day, so I called up staff travel and booked us a couple of tickets.
We arrived at the airport and went to the ticket desk to collect our tickets, then got checked in. We were accepted straight away and given seats in Premium Economy. At the gate we had our seats changed so we had the middle row of 3 to ourselves on the last row of the premium cabin. The seats were seats were next to the toilets, this wasn't a problem (some pax complain that it smells - but it didn't) except for the lazy economy passengers that kept coming through the curtain to use them, rather than walk half way down their own cabin and use their own toilets.
The seats are the new type of seats that are gradually being installed on the fleet and have the 9" PTV's with the MAS3000 - V:PORT video on demand IFE. The seats also have 2 airbags in the base of the seat that can be inflated or deflated to suit your own comfort. We watched the safety video which is produced in a cartoon/animation type format which caused some problems getting certified at first, but has proven to actually make more people watch it. It is narrated by Vic Reeves.
As we began to taxi out, I noticed a rather loud squeaking noise coming from the overhead bins above my seat. This was most annoying and combined with the sound of a screaming baby seated on the first row of economy, we did not get off to a good start.
We got to the holding point at 27R and began to enter the runway, all of a sudden the pilot slammed on the brakes and we came to a sudden stop, half the a/c on the runway, half not. From where I was seated I could see a BA 319 was still on the runway and had not begun its take off roll, I assumed that our crew had heard him being cleared to take off and anticipated him moving sooner than he actually did, once he finally did commence the take off roll, we began moving again. I noticed that we went forwards quite away onto the runway, before the actual turn to line up, this due to the length of the aircraft. After a few seconds the Rolls Royce Trents began to wind up and the brakes were released. We started to move and you could feel the power of the engines pushing us back in our seats. I was impressed with how quickly the a/c seemed to accelerate and we were airborne by the time we got to the compass centre, where usually in a 744 or a 343 you are still on the ground. As the aircraft rotated we went into a shallow climb, then once the tail was clear of tail strike distance, we pulled up into a steeper climb and the aircraft just powered straight up unlike it's baby brother, the A343.
After a short demonstration video on how to use the IFE, the full interactive service was turned on. We were given a warning from the cabin crew about the system being initially slow when first activated due to high demand on the computer, and just to be patient. I decided to look at the information section first, rather than try to access the movies, so I wouldn't have to wait, I also activated the skymap on the spare seat in between us. After about 5 mins I then went into the movie section and looked under new releases to see what I wanted to watch. The IFE has a choice of 41 channels, far too many to watch on a 7 hour flight, so I chose to watch a film called 'Once upon a time in the Midlands'. The bar service then came round, so I obliged by having a rather large Bacardi and Coke. Shortly afterwards we were served our meal. I opted for the Chicken Tikka Massala, which I had had before when I flew to MIA a couple of months ago. The starter was a salad, and we had a chocolate brownie for dessert and also some cheese and biscuits. I had a can of Miller with my meal. After the meal and film had finished, I decided to try out the games. I had been looking forward to playing Battle Mail Kung-fu which is interactive and you can play against other people on the a/c. Unfortunately it wasn't working, so I opted for Hangman. I then played Tetris, and finally played 10-pin bowling which I turned out to be quite good at. After about 1 hour of game playing, I began to watch another film - Black Hawk Down, which I had wanted to see for a longtime. Unfortunately whilst I was watching it the cabin crew kept coming to talk to me and bringing me more cans of beer, so I kept having to pause the film, and the IFE was turned off before the film had finished as we were about to land. At this point, I moved to a seat by the window on the port side of the aircraft and could see lots of other aircraft flying around in the area. We flew down over Long Island, then turned back out to sea before turning over Jamaica Bay to land. From my position I could see Manhattan Island, and the Empire State Building stood out quite prominently. After landing, and due to the taxiway restrictions for the A346 at JFK, we had to roll to the intersection of another runway before we turned off and doubled back on the inner taxiway heading towards Terminal 1. As we taxied in to our parking bay, I could see an Air France Concorde parked on a remote stand. As we parked on the gate I noticed that we taxied onto the stand a funny angle, and just before we stopped, the aircraft was steered quite sharply to the left before coming to a stop. We disembarked and went on our way.
Date : 23Oct02
Flight : BA ???
Route : EWR-LHR
Type : B777
Reg : G-CIIV (I think)
Class : Club World
We were originally going to fly back on the VS004 from JFK, but decided to go to EWR and get the VS002 instead as there were more seats available on that flight. On our arrival at EWR, we saw that the VS flight was delayed by over 4 hours. This caused us a problem, as we both were back at work the next day on late shifts and could have been late for work. The girl on the VS ticket desk suggested we try BA, I didn't think they would take our VS tickets, as they were annual free tickets. We went down to the BA desk anyway and they listed us for stand-by. We then went to the gate area and had a couple of beers in the bar whilst waiting to board.
I went over to see if we had been onloaded, but we hadn't as check-in had not been closed. We waited until most pax had boarded before going back to ask. We were told we had not been onloaded and were disappointed that we might be late back for work. Whilst chatting with the BA staff, it turned out that they did have seats available, but did not have enough meals for the revenue pax, never mind staff and the CSD was being difficult and had refused to take us. I said that we were not bothered about any food, and would be happy to go without as long as we could get on. The gate staff then went back onto the aircraft to ask, then came back and said we could go (this was about 3 mins before STD) we gave the gate staff a bottle of red wine for their trouble and help getting us on.
We ran onto the a/c and were given seats in row 19, which happened to be the last row of Club World. My girlfriend took the aisle seat on the middle block, and I had the seat next to her. The seats were the new flat beds in the little booths, so I was facing the rear of the aircraft, which was ok except for the World traveler Plus pax gawking at me. To most people this would be quite strange, but it was not the first time I had flew facing backward on an a/c, as I had flown on a Dan-Air BAC1-11 on the exit row when I was a child facing backwards. The feeling of hanging in the seat on take off is quite weird though. The seat by the window was free and I had wanted to move into it, but as we pushed back straight away, I didn't get chance.
We taxied out and took off, the GE-90 engines launching us into the night sky. I could see the lights of Manhattan out of the window and it looked pretty amazing - I wish I had moved now for an even better view. The cabin crew came round soon after take off and took our drinks order. We both chose a champagne cocktail made with Archers Peach Schnapps which was quite nice. A short time later another crew member came round and took our food order. I said I'd be happy with whatever was left, but he insisted on me making a choice and said we should get something.
I began to watch a film called 'K-19 Widowmaker' about a Soviet nuclear submarine. The IFE was fairly basic compared to VS and didn't have any games. After about 20 mins, we were presented with a tray of food. On it there was a salad and a chocolate brownie. I hadn't bothered to read the menu as I wasn't expecting any food, and assumed we had the vegetarian option and proceeded to tuck in. I ate the salad, then ate the chocolate brownie. Whilst I was eating it, my girlfriend looked at me and asked why I was eating it when we hadn't had the main course. I thought that was all we were getting, and was so hungry I just scoffed it, I did not realize they would bring the main course separately. When our main course arrived, we did actually get our choice of meal, I had the beef which was served with potatoes and green beans which was quite nice, though the beef was a bit well done. The meal was cleared away, and we were offered fruit from a bowl, so I had a banana.
I then reclined my seat about half way and carried on watching the film. I was so tired and just wanted to go to sleep, but I was well into the film so thought I may as well finish watching it first. After the film had finished (it was a very long film) I reclined my seat into the fully flat position and tried to go to sleep. I couldn't get to sleep at first as it felt weird being laid down on a plane, and when my head was on the seat could feel the vibration of the engines, but after about 30 mins I went to sleep. I was so tired I didn't even bother to wake up for the breakfast service, but I understand from my girlfriend that she had a bacon sandwich and a mug of coffee which she said was very nice. I finally woke up and returned my seat to the upright position when we were instructed to by the cabin crew before landing. When I took my eyeshades off, they had already opened the curtain and cabin divider so I was greeted by the sight of the World traveler Plus pax gawking again.
We landed back at LHR on 27R and taxied to Terminal 4. Our flight arrived over 1 hour early due to only having a flight time of a little over 5 hours. We were lucky and got assigned a parking gate straight away, and it was actually at the terminal as opposed to a remote stand.
We got off the a/c and walked through to reclaim our bag, only to find it had not made the flight. It was delivered the next day.
All in all a nice day trip to New York, and it was good to compare the BA Club World service to what VS offer in Upper Class. BA's seat is better than the VS seat, but VS has better amenity kits, better IFE, gives out sleep suits and duvets instead of nothing and a thin blanket on BA, and also has the bar and beauty therapy service onboard which BA do not offer, so depends what you look for when you purchase a ticket as to which airline to fly.
Hope you enjoyed reading my report - sorry if it was a bit long.
"She Rolls, 45 knots, 90, 135, nose comes up to 20 degrees, she's airborne - She flies, Concorde Flies"