I wondered whether it was worth writing a report on a similar flight experience, but for those who like reports, let's see how far I get without nodding off...
Tuesday 19th - Wednesday 20th Nov
G - YMMF
Scheduled : Actual : 1555 : 1555
Scheduled : Actual : 1015 : 1015
Dropped off at San Diego's Terminal 2 at 1.38pm for the flight back home. The weather was beautiful, why was I going back to England ?!
Took the escalator upstairs to departures, walked up to the BA check-in area. About 5 desks were open, although all had "Position Closed" signs. However, this was not the case. I joined a small line which formed behind a cordon. Passengers were invited to walk up to a desk as it became available. A delightful young lass checked my e-ticket receipt and invited me to proceed forward to one of the vacant desks.
Online check-in is not yet available for BA flights from
the US. However, I had requested a window seat at the time of booking. Was checked-in by Japanese-speaking Miyaki, a friendly girl. She confirmed I had been assigned seat 33K, and would that be alright ? Course it would, me dear. She then commented on my short stay in San Diego, and I had to explain the limitations of missing lectures...
First impressions count, and BA ground staff at San Diego are young and friendly - so far, so good.
Security, to my surprise, was an absolute breeze. A very short queue to check b.cards and passports, then through to baggage screening. Staff were courteous and in good spirits. The trip was off to a relaxing, hassle-free start.
Arrivals screens showed BA 275 from Heathrow had landed 26 minutes early, at 1.29pm. Must have been driving around a corner at that time, as I don't remember seeing the 777 come in to land as I drove towards the airport. Shame, bet it looked awesome.
I really enjoy American airports - they always seem to place an emphasis on having very large, open views of the apron. Our flight was already parked up at Gate 20. A banner with " Who's ya Daddy ? "
would have highlighted the size issue I talked about earlier
Boarding started at 1515. There was no fast-track boarding for Club and First Class passengers, and this caused a couple of grumbles amongst the relevant pax, forced to join the very long general queue at the gate. I sympathise with the pax here : if BA are going to successfully justify charging very expensive Club and First Class fares, every effort should be made to ensure seamless travel. If fast-track boarding is available at other BA ports - such as Buenos Aires, it should also be available at San Diego, unless there are some underlying security reasons preventing this.
Anyhow, the queue moved relatively quickly, and eventually everyone boarded G-YMMF without too much bother ! Crew were the same cheerful lot as on the 275 flight. Again, this aircraft was not fitted with the new Club World or World Traveller Plus cabins - perhaps it was part of the Gatwick fleet. As I understand it, the Heathrow fleet is being given priority.
Walking through the Club World cabin was encouraging - it was full. As was the World Traveller cabin. Pretty much a full flight, according to our Captain.
The (same) cheerful Captain came on to welcome us all aboard, and inform us of the routing and enroute weather. Today, we would be taking a rather convoluted taxi route to the threshold - this involved crossing the active r/w twice, in a zig-zag fashion; this path was necessitated by the size of our aircraft relative to the taxiways. We'd also be taking a more southerly route than usual to the UK, something to do with the strong North-South winds blowing today...
Take-off was approx to the north-west, so pretty much into the sun. To my side, a view of the coastline, and the communities of Mission and Pacific Beaches, and La Jolla. To the left, the city of San Diego. The take-off was quite beautiful, and we soon flew past the coast and briefly westwards over the Pacific ocean, before making a long, left turn to back-track and line up with our intended north-easterly route.
I did not pay much attention to the sky-map, although the rough routing was San Diego > Phoenix > Alberquerque > Kansas City > Detroit > Montreal > St.Johns > Cork > Cardiff > Heathrow (with a few never-before-heard-of zany place-names in between).
As opposed to the previous flight, BA 274 was full of American travellers. Three people I spoke to had availed of a special $99 each-way deal to London. Perhaps this was the reason for the full load, at least in Economy. Well, $99 per sector is better than zero......plus, BA may gain some repeat custom in the future.
The meal and drinks service was broadly similar to that outlined in the previous report, although I feal the meals on this flight to London were of a slightly lower standard. The coffee was unacceptably revolting. I don't expect gourmet coffee in Economy class, but there's coffee of the acceptable kind, and then there's just putrid water with some faint hint of a coffee flavour....the meal lacked any sort of presentation - I opted for a chicken and was served a mass of disgusting sludge. I don't know whether this is down to the caterers at San Diego, or whether it was just a bad day, but I feel there could have been an effort to make the food at least partially edible....
In any case, don't get me wrong. These are just small niggles, but I feel they should be looked at. The service was delivered with flair and informal professionalism, and that's what counts in my book - not the taste of the coffee
Again, I was given the choice of 4 different wines with my meal. This was on top of the pre-dinner drinks service.
With dinner cleared, the tea/coffee service began, only to be interrupted once we started hitting a few bumps somewhere over Chicago. Once the seat-belt signs were off again, I asked for a refill of my revolting coffee.
With the last of the tray-tables stowed, cabin lights were switched off and the communal snooze hour began, with only the small glare of a few PTVs remaining as evidence of the die-hard "I'm not going to sleep" posse. That included me, as I find Economy class seating far too cramped for any kind of proper sleeping activity to take place.
Again, 4 drinks rounds were made during the 'middle of the night', water or OJ.
After getting bored of " The Road to Perdition " (actually, to be fair, it looked quite good) I elected to head back to the galley to initiate some conversation with the oh-so-nice crew. I commented on their 'big kitchen' at the back. And it was. Have you seen the rear-most galley on a 777? It's bloody huge.... After a few juices, I mentioned the fact that I was in San Diego due to my birthday a few weeks ago. One of the girls then asked "Do you drink"? Of course I do, don't be silly, so she gave me 4 bottles of Californian Merlot (of the variety served in the First Class cabin), a very nice gesture I thought.
Our initial cruising altitude was FL340, we eventually reached 390 over the Gulf of St.Lawrence. Our 'Viento de cola', or tail wind, was 150 mph, so we were doing very nicely indeed.
Breakfast was disappointing. Disappointing, in the sense that it wasn't of the cooked variety. I was hoping for some good old sausages and bacon. I was handed a small bowl of fruit scrapings. Well, ok slices of fruit
But still, you get the picture. Perhaps this is part of the cost-cutting strategy. If so, I hope they reinstate it when things get better, there's nothing worse than having to eat a few measly pieces of fruit when you're starving.
Of course, I naturally opted for some more revolting coffee.
The approach into Heathrow was the usual affair for those who've done it a million times. Weather was crappy as usual, we entered a holding pattern for about 20 minutes, then proceeded to enter the the mirk on course for the final approach into 09L, the Northerly r/w. We entered behind an Air France 737. The touchdown was again, very gentle.
Taxying to Terminal 4 took an eternity, and we held short of 27L before being given clearence to proceed onwards, across the active and towards T4. In this time we had a nice view of all the 27L/09R departures climbing over us, such as a Gulf Air A330, a Cathay A340 (that must be rare), and the usual US airlines heading out to various locations.
We taxied towards remote standard W4 (I believe), and thus pulled up next to 772 G-VIIS. Again, I quite enjoyed walking down the stairs, and taking the little ramp tour in the shuttle bus...still quite a few BA craft in world colours...saw the Nalanji, the Botswana, the Waves of wherever, the Swedish one, Colum.....
That's it really.
Conclusion : There are perhaps a few minor issues with catering
but this hardly detracted from my enjoyment of the flight. Conditions were a little cramped, it would be nice if I could afford WTP, there's definitely a market there....Again, BA show they can deliver the goods, and their service was friendly and effcient. I still think Virgin, Emirates and SQ have the overall 'edge', but BA has the worldwide reliability. Oops, did I pinch that phrase off some alliance.....?
I've probably missed out a few things, or skimmed over others too briefly, but I'm sure you'll appreciate I really need to catch a few zzzzz's, I am utterly jetlagged, and don't want to see another plane for a loooong time!
Hope you enjoyed the ride, see ya all next time.
(Next time will be on December 4th, with Korean Air to Seoul and Sydney. Please, no comments such as "Good Luck - and be sure to pack that parachute", or "Why aren't you flying BA"?)....