DUB-LHR-CPT | WDH-JNB-LHR-JFK-LHR-DUB
November 21, 2002
AER LINGUS EI168
SKD DEP: Dublin, Ireland 1405
SKD ARR: London Heathrow, UK 1520
ACT DEP: 1415/1433
ACT ARR: 1535/1540
Airbus 321-211 EI-CPF
Seat: 14C Economy
Finally, the long awaited day had come – I’m finally off to South Africa!!!! I arrived at Dublin Airport at 12:30 to find a relatively empty terminal and London departures had a line of about 5 or 6 people. After a 2 minute wait my bags were tagged and sent through only to London as I would have to reclaim them on my arrival in Heathrow. One of my relatives had driven me out to the airport so we went up stairs to have some coffee/tea to kill some time before my departure. I made a few last phone calls before I left and then handed over my mobile phone to my aunt – that was it now no more calls on the mobile for the next two months!!!! So, by this time it was 1:30pm and it was time to proceed through to security and my gate for boarding. If I was in any other airport I would already be through to do some spotting but seeing the only traffic at Dublin is either Ryanair or Aer Lingus it can get pretty boarding.
I was actually quite surprised when I reached the gate that the flight was 100% full. Given the check-in I thought the load would be light – I should have known better as London-Dublin is one of the busiest routes in the world. Aer Lingus are finally using the C pier at Dublin which is a welcome change. The gate areas are bigger and the boarding seems to take less time than when you depart from pier A or B. On boarding I found my seat 14C midway through the cabin. Sitting next to me in 14D was another New Yorker bound home for JFK. Inflight service on Aer Lingus is nearly non existent now that they have gone low fares so we spent the entire flight chatting about Ireland and the food. It also helped that she was particularly attractive. I never really enjoy these puddle jumper flights to London because the seat pitch is so small but thanks to our conversation the flight went very nicely.
We had arrived into London late due to being placed in a holding pattern. That was really no bother given that I had several hours on the ground in London to kill. I reached the baggage claim and waited about 25 minutes for our luggage to arrive.
Now how would I get to Terminal 4?? Would I take the bus or the train? Well….I opted for the train and figured that would be my best bet. I had done this before when I dropped people off at T4 for a flight to JFK and then I took the train to T1 for my flight to DUB so I knew it was relatively simple.
November 21, 2002
BRITISH AIRWAYS BA059
SKD DEP: London Heathrow, UK 1910
SKD ARR: Cape Town, South Africa 0850+1
ACT DEP: 1917/1953
ACT ARR: 0854/0857
Boeing 747-436 G-BYGC Chelsea Rose
Seat: 14K Club World
Photo © Jason Taperell
Photo © Jason Milligan
So, I arrived at a most chaotic Terminal 4. The entire terminal was chock-a-block with people. Fortunately for me, I was travelling in Club World and proceeded to a very empty block of desks. Baggage was tagged for Cape Town and I was now well on my way to leaving the wind and rain of the UK and Ireland behind and headed for sunshine and 30 degrees celsius!!! My boarding pass was stickered with a Fast Track label and I was allocated a window seat 14K on the main deck.
I could not believe the line for the security check – it was nearly stretching outside to the curb. The Fast Track had about 10 people in line. Thankfully it was quick and painless. I have never departed from Terminal 4 before and once through security I realised just how massive it was – the shops, restaurants, everything!!! All I really wanted was a computer to do some last minute eMails and a drink…..and for that I decided it was time to try out the BA Terraces Lounge across from gate 5. I have heard so many wonderful things about BA’s lounges……I was disappointed. The seating is multicolored couches and chairs that is reminisicent of Argos style interiors. The bar was well stocked with a variety of drinks, but the foodstuffs/snacks were non-existent. The Combiz centre was very good….several computers/workstations and no waiting times at all. What I did like was the views of the tarmac of a B777 which I believe was headed for IAD.
I can’t complain though. I got my ticket for free and otherwise would be paying for internet and my glass of Bailey’s. But when I compare Aer Lingus’ new lounge at JFK’s T4 and this lounge Aer Lingus have really outdone themselves!!
It was about 6:30pm and I decided it was time to leave the UK and Ireland behind me for the next month so I wandered over to Gate 5 and boarded my first 747-400 flight for Cape Town. I liked the boarding gates they have in T4. I liked the existence of a separate “board at your leisure” desk for First, Business and elite cardholders. There was no waiting to board so I proceeded down the jetway. I was welcomed on board by a very friendly and enthusiastic crew and was shown to my seat. This was a great seat. It was a rear facing window seat against the back wall. So, when I needed to climb out I would have to stretch over anyone’s legs. Fantastic!! At long last I was getting the experience of playing with one of the most talked about business class seats. I was quite impressed. I had heard many things about the seat being very narrow. Well, in fairness to those comments it is when you compare it to other business class seats. But there has to be a trade off somewhere…..you can’t get a 25” wide seat in business class and 78” of legroom at the same time. So BA give you a seat with 19-20” inches width and 78” of legroom. The video screen is the largest screen I have ever had it was about 8-9” wide. There is no legrest in this seat but a footrest attached to the wall or seat in front of you. And the seat was fully electronic – a first for me.
So after evaluating my seat and deciding that the 75,000 AAdvantage miles I cashed in was excellent value a glass of orange juice or water was served to me at my seat and handy little tray was retracted from the side of my seat near the video screen. I found this ingenius as you didn’t have to bring out your tray table. And then the amenity kits were distributed. They were quite small compared to the amenity kits distributed on their other oneworld partners. It seemed to me they were concerned with cutting down on the amount of money they spend on the bag itself so they give you your socks, eyeshades, and earplugs in your headset bag which allows them to give you a relatively small bag for the other little things like your toothbrush and toothpaste.
I took a look around and noticed a full load in all classes of service. Now I know why BA have added on an extra 3 departures each week for Cape Town. With loads like this they would be dumb not to.
Pushback was slighty late and then we proceeded to join the long line of takeoff departures. We were airborne going on close to 8pm. Shortly after takeoff we were served a drink and I chose a champagne cocktail – a Grand Mimosa. At this time our meal orders were taken. Our menu was as follows:
Loch Fyne Bradan RostSalmon Pate with Roasted Brioche Slice
Roasted Baby Peppers and Mediterranean Vegetables with Oregano Dressing
Fresh Seasonal Salad served with Vinaigrette
Grilled Fillet of Beef with Tarragon Butter, Wilted Spinach, Sauteed Mushrooms, and Potatoes Fondantes
King Prawn Korma, Braised Rice and Coriander Naan Bread
Four Cheese Ravioli and Pesto Cream Sauce, Wilted Baby Spinach and Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese
Main Course Chef’s Salad of Cajun Chicked, Sweet Tomato, Coriander and Red Onion Salad
Apple and Sultana Pie with Custard
Fountain Gold, Brie and Stilton Cheese
Nescafe Coffee or Tea
Chilled Orange Juice
Energising Smoothie of Banana, Raspberry and Honey
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Greek Yoghurt with Cereal Grains
Classic British Breakfast of Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Bacon, Pork Sausage, Grilled Tomato, and Sauteed Mushrooms
Brioche French Toast with a compote of Berries
Selection of Warm Breads and Breakfast Pastries
Nescafe Coffee or Tea
Lanson Black Label Champagne
Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc, 2001
Nederberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, 2002
Chateau Villa Bel Air, 1999
Saint Veran, 2000, Georges Duboeuf
Klein Constantia Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998
Gigondas, Duc Mayreuil, 1999
So, I decided to go for the good old beef. It was quite tasty and I enjoyed the meal. I thought for sure that this was going to be my last decent meal for a month so I savoured every bite. I also ate the apple tart for dessert but the dessert was very disappointing. Other airlines have a dessert trolley with a selection of deserts – I thought dessert was lacking on this flight. Nonetheless I settled in to watch the end of my movie (title???????????????????) and then put my bed into the flat position and it was off to bed I went.
Roughly 3-4 hours later I woke up and took a look at my screen to see that we were just passing over the Equator. Having never crossed the equator before I felt like I was venturing into uncharted waters – very exciting! I took a walk around and observed how packed to the gills this flight really was. World Traveller Plus was directly behind me and it was 100% full and further on down the back World Traveller was also 100% full. I took notice of the newness this aircraft seemed to exhibit and a little research shows that it was delivered in 1999. There were vintage photographs of BA Aviation on the walls in WT+, Club, and First. I thought it was quite strange to see the aircraft registration plastered on the walls of the galley but it made my job of figuring it out much easier!!
Back to my seat for another 4 hours of sleep before landing in Cape Town. At this time I noticed that the blankets really weren’t big enough for the bed. So, yes I would agree with everyone else on this forum that the blankets in Club are somewhat inadequate. But I still managed to head back off to sleep until I smelled the aroma of a “Classic British Breakfast.” Well…I decided to go with the French Toast because it sounded nice. And….it wasn’t. It was disappointing. I’ve always associated French Toast with those thick slices you see on the Aunt Jemima box…..this was actually toast. Oh well……better luck next time.
Breakfast was collected and then landing cards for South African customs were distributed. I thought the US Customs Form was a pain in the rear end…..the South African one is even worse!! Finally though…..our 747 emerges from the cloud cover and Cape Town becomes visible. Table Mountain is staring us right in the face!!!!! After nearly 12 hours of seeing nearly nothing my first sight is amazing. Then you look below to see the Cape Flats. The grim reality is that the majority of Cape Town’s population lives in this form of Temporary Accomodation – well that’s what it’s termed.
We arrive just slightly behind schedule and park next to another BA 747 in the Union Jack Scheme and recently arrived Malaysian Airlines flight. The airport does not have one single jetway. We were bused a short distance to the immigration facility. OK – Club was definitely a benefit here…..the Malaysian flight was nearly all processed and just a few people remained. There were 6 Immigration Officers handling non-RSA passports and it took a while because they ask to see your return ticket and they have to affix a sticker on your passport and stamp it. I’d say if you were in 48K in the back you’d be at least an hour trying to get off, get through immigration and get your bags.
My bag was already going around the carousel and I proceeded to the taxi rank outside and drove on to my hotel – the Holiday Inn Waterfront.
I was in Cape Town for 6 days and then I headed for a 16 day Namibian Tour. The tour finished in Windhoek.
December 14, 2002
BRITISH AIRWAYS BA6274
SKD DEP: Windhoek, Namibia 1500
SKD ARR: Johannesburg, South Africa 1640
ACT DEP: 1450/1454
ACT ARR: 1630/1635
Boeing 737-200 Advanced ZS-OLC
Seat: 1F Club
Photo © Arthur Yu
I was originally supposed to go all the way to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe but my travel agent screwed up. I had bought a Y class ticket from VFA o I was able to change it for a flight from WDH to JNB with no penalty. The best part was that the C class fare from WDH to JNB was the same as the Y class from VFA to JNB….so I traveled in C class for the 1 hour 40 minute flight.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Windhoek airport. So I didn’t plan to spend so much time there. A shuttle picked me up at my lodge in Windhoek at 1pm. For some reason they built the airport about 50km outside the city centre….and in between the city centre and the airport there is a whole lot of nothing…..believe me. So….there were 14 check-in desks to process 7 flights for the whole day….. They must be a bit overwhelmed in the evening when a full 747 departs for Frankfurt!! I was impressed. Modern computer systems, magnetic striped boarding cards, and bar coded baggage that went down baggage belts. I’m sorry if there are any Namibians reading this – my expectations were very very low.
There was no C class counter but a woman sitting under a South African Airways screen called me over and checked me in. I was given my boarding pass (An Air Namibia one!!!!) with seat 1F and an invitation to the Air Namibia Executive Lounge. I’m sorry a what??? Yes even a lounge…..way beyond my expectations. I proceeded to immigration behind the check-in desks where my passport was stamped one last time in Namibia and then through the security check. There was your usual x-ray machine and walk through metal detector. No surprise there. The lounge was just beyond the security check. I sat down with about 40-50 minutes to kill. I took a seat near the window and watched our bird ZS-OLC disembark.
The lounge was basic by lounge standards but it was poshly furnished in comparison with the rest of the airport. There were TV screens with CNN on. And there was a coffee/tea station with some biscuits. Newspapers and Magazines were also available. I took an FHM (South African Edition) and relaxed with about 4 others in the lounge prior to our flight.
At about 2:35pm I made my way next door to Gates 1 and 2 where we boarded. I walked out to our 737 which was now boasting the Union Jack colours. On boarding 2 reasonably attractive South African girls welcomed us on board. I dumped my backpack in the overhead and took my window seat. I took a look at the High Life Magazine and then the BA/Comair South African magazine. Both were very interesting. I noticed that xXx would be playing on my flight Tuesday evening to London. Prior to takeoff we were offered water or orange juice. The seat was very comfortable. C Class was in a 2-3 configuration. Very similar to a domestic US first class seat. A very big difference to some European C class seats. I was impressed. Economy was nearly 100% full while Club had 6/15.
We pushed back slightly ahead of schedule and on my right hand side I saw Air Namibia’s 747 – V5-NMA. That was it – no other aircraft.
Our flight would take us over Namibia to Botswana and down to Jo’burg. Shortly after our takeoff to the West we were offered hot towels. I decided that this was going to be an alcohol free flight and that for the next 5 days I would be on detox – these overlands are also Club-18-30 holidays!!! Drinks were offered and I took a sprite. Meals were offered very shortly afterwards and the choice was chicken or beef and I elected for the chicken. It was served on a tray with a salad, piece of carrot cake and a very large mug. The Royal Doulton China of course was very English. The food was tasty and I enjoyed it.
Given that I spent 16 days drinking I fell asleep and only woke up just before we landed at JNB. Again I got to fill in that stupid Customs form!! JNB is massive. It has about 6-10 gates at the terminal building and about 100 parking spaces and of course we parked in a parking space and got bused to Terminal 6. Immigration was very easy and the baggage delivery was very quick. I went from plane to taxi in about 15 minutes….not bad coming off an International Flight!!
December 17, 2002
BRITISH AIRWAYS BA056
SKD DEP: Johannesburg, South Africa 2015
SKD ARR: London Heathrow, UK 0525+1
ACT DEP: 2025/2048
ACT ARR: 0510/0519
Boeing 747-436 G-BYGE Union Jack
Seat: 60A Club World
Photo © Matthew Willmott-Sharp
Photo © Chris Sheldon
The majority of my stay in Jo’burg was spent relaxing and recuperating from my overland. Since the travel agent screwed up my trip they paid for one extra night in Jo’burg at the Sandton Sun Intercontinental. I then transferred to the hotel I had arranged – The Michelangelo on Sandton Square. By far the best hotel I have ever stayed in. The room was absolutely gigantic!!
The hotel was kind enough to let me have a late check out time of 5:00pm. My taxi picked me up and off to JNB I went for my long haul to London. I had heard bad things about JNB Departures…….but I never expected what I encountered. Firstly, if you want to get your VAT back there are inspectors before check-in to check your stuff….and they want to see EVERYTHING you bought. I estimated I had about a $20 refund coming my way and decided it wasn’t worth it. OK, moving on, I found the BA London desks. My passport was checked and ticket inspected and I made my way to the Club desks…..big mistake!!!!
“SIR – OUR ECONOMY CLASS CHECK-IN Q BEGINS HERE.”
“Sorry, but I’m in Business class.”
“SIR – THE LINE BEGINS HERE FOR OUR ECONOMY CLASS.”
“Yes – but I’m in Business Class.”
“LET ME SEE YOUR TICKET!!! (Looking at ticket) This is not a business class ticket – you have to use this line.”
Now you have to understand that everyone, their mother, and their grandmother was in that line. I just couldn’t wait in that line!!!
“Listen (I’m losing patience) – this is my boarding pass for the outbound flight and it says CLUB WORLD (asshole!!) and the ticket indicates both are the same fare basis.”
“OH OH OH I DON’T KNOW – GO SEE THAT LADY.”
OK, so after 10 minutes of fighting over what line I had to stand in I proceeded to “that lady” who was sitting under a FIRST class monitor. Absolutely ridiculous!! I approach her and just say he told me to see you. Ok no problem she says. I ask for a seat upstairs and that was no problem. Then she hands me my boarding pass after she writes in big letters – NON REVENUE. That’s fine I know that a FF ticket is considered non-rev but why did she put this on it?? So I ask. Her response is “non fare paying passengers cannot have access to the lounge.” WHAT?!?!?!?!?! Now, mind you all this fighting over the line and everything is happening in an airport with NO AIR CONDITIONING and the temperature outside is nearly 100 degrees F. Now I wanted to plop down in the lounge and have a nice tall glass of Amarula Cream with ice – and this news really irritated me!! I indicate that while I may not have maid Dollars, Pounds, or Rand for my ticket I did indeed pay 75,000 miles. And that when you cash in for a business class ticket you get all the benefits of business class that a normal fare paying passenger gets. No no no. “I used to own my own business and I will tell you that no company allows that.” Aside here….if you used to own your own business why are you checking in people for a flight to London at Johannesburg Airport?? And you aren’t anywhere near retirement yet??? OK, back to the fight….I asked to see the duty manager because I felt this was utterly stupid. Duty manager comes along and says to here…..well all business and first class passengers have access to the lounge. Oh well no – he doesn’t. Yes, says the duty manager – it doesn’t make a difference. Oh well I disagree says the agent. Finally the duty manager tells her that she has to print a new boarding pass and let me move on.
Finally!!!! And mind you it’s very hot and now I am very irritated. I proceed behind the check-in counter to the security/immigration area and get my passport stamped DEPARTED. At this point – even though I thoroughly enjoyed my whole month down there I was like THANK GOD!!! The lounge was to the right of the security area and downstairs. Inside it was identical to that of the London lounge except much smaller. The bar area was very very good and I had a double Amarula Cream to calm my irritation. Only to become irritated again to realise I am sitting in a room with no windows, and still no air conditioning!!!! And it’s only 6:15pm………2 hours to go!
There were 2 computers for internet access and only one of them worked. Quite frankly I am very surprised…..BA has a big JNB operation with 2 London flights daily, 7 daily to Cape Town, 1 daily to Windhoek, 1 daily to Vic Falls, several daily to Durban, and further flights to Gabarone, Port Elizabeth, Harare, Nairobi, etc….this lounge was just too basic for all these flights. SAA has separate lounges for their First and Business Classes and I think this is something BA need to consider for this JNB lounge. OK….time for another Amarula Cream. Yes, I did give up on the detox…but it was well deserved!!! At 7:00pm announcements were made that BA56 to London was boarding – I thought this odd considering there was over an hour to pushback. I sat around for a while more until around 7:30 when I hear in the lounge that BA56 was on final call. That was when I decided to make my way out to the gate. Now I see why it takes so long…..your bag is searched, your shoes are searched, etc again. Then you board bus to the parking stand. I was on the second to last bus. It must take an awful lot of buses to fill a full 744.
I found my seat upstairs and I was in the first row behind the flight deck. There were only 20 seats on the upper deck and about another 30-40 downstairs. This bird had a different configuration than the Cape Town one. I can only figure that CPT is more a leisure destination and JNB is more a business one and thus warrants a huge Club cabin.
Again, the seat was the same and I was exhausted so I would be doing a lot of sleeping! Menu was as follows:
Chicken and Pancetta Terrine
Ricotta chees and roasted vegetable gateau
Fresh Seasonal Salad served with Vinigarette
Grilled Fillet Steak, Roasted Garlic Butter,and
Black Pepper Mashed Potato
Pan Fried Lemon Chicken, coriander rice
Sweet Potato and Thyme Pancakes with mushroom ragout
Or Main Course Greek Salad
Cheese and Biscuits
Chilled Orange Juice
Fruit Energising Smoothie
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Scrambled Eggs, Grilled Bacon, Pork Sausage
Tomato and pan-fried potatoes
Cheese and Tomato Omelette
Grilled Fruit Brochettes
Selection of Warm Breads and Breakfast Pastries
Same as Outbound to CPT
Dinner and drinks were served etc in the usual fashion. I opted for the beef which was really nicely done and the mashed potatoes were nice as well. No dessert I was exhausted and wanted sleep. And so I slept for about 7 hours straight and woke up to the smell of bacon. Of course I had the eggs, bacon and sausage breakfast and it was delicious.
Arrival into London was just about on schedule into busy T4. I pity anyone arriving at that hour of the morning without a EU passport because you would be waiting a long time before you could get your bags.
Baggage delivery was a little slow but mine was one of the first out. I made my way to the Arrivals Lounge for a shower. What a wonderful oasis inside an airport?!? The shower suites are equipped with everything you could possibly need to re-energise youself. I made my way up to the lounge area for some more breakfast and checked some eMail. I was there for about and hour and a half killing time.
Headed over to the Renaissance where I would stay for the night. I headed into central London to do some shopping and do the London Eye. It was a great day out.
December 19, 2002
AMERICAN AIRLINES AA131
SKD DEP: London Heathrow, UK 1635
SKD ARR: New York JFK, NY 1930
ACT DEP: 1635/1705
ACT ARR: 1850/1858
Boeing 777-200 N753AN
Seat: 30C Economy
Photo © Colin K. Work
Up this morning for my flight to JFK which seemed short in comparison to the flights I just recently did. I checked-in at 1:15pm and headed upstairs to Burger King for lunch….delicious!! Security took me approximately 45 minutes to get through as there were an awful lot of people travelling for Christmas. But I suspect it is like this here every day.
Walked around in the shops and before I knew it I was boarding through Gate 14 for the flight home. Of course, this was a full flight in all classes. I had reserved the bulkhead at row 30 so I had loads of legroom.
I was one of the last to board in the back for some reason and overhead space was pretty limited and thankfully I had checked the bag I carried as handbaggage from JNB otherwise I’d be searching way down to the back. Some geek says to me “oh could you try and put yourself somewhere else because I don’t want anyone elses stuff near mine. “ I looked at him and said are you serious because my stuff is going here weather you like it or not. Weirdo!!!
Pushback was on time and the crew were particularly friendly on this flight – unusual for American – but nice to see. I noticed that since October you now have to pay $4 for your alcohol as I see AA have gone down the CO route. I can see this as a cost cutting measure as I am sure free alcohol is a massive expense on international flights. Dinner was beef or chicken and the beef I had was very tasty and the chocolate cake was extremely nice – another nice meal on AA!!
Again, I slept for a good part of the way to JFK. I normally don’t sleep on flights but I was damn tired. The guy sitting next to me started talking to me when they came around with a pizza before landing. I don’t care for the pizza so I just ask them for the cookie that they give you with it and a cup of coffee. The guy was flying from MUC to RDU so had just the ERJ flight left that evening before getting home from a long day of flying.
Landing was a little ahead of schedule to a quiet T8 – immigration was a breeze. A New Rochelle guy who was checking US passports knew exactly where I lived – weird because whenever I say where I’m from even people from New York are like where?
It was a great trip and it all came to an end in New York’t T8 – a dump. But as I say – Welcome to New York…..
I am not posting the January back to Dublin flight with AA100/BD123 because just thinking about it infuriates me. All I will say is I checked in 3.5 hours before departure and they had already given away my seat………argh! The three hour delay on the BD123 flight made it worse…….bad bad bad trip back to Dublin.