British Airways BA284
From: San Francisco - International (SFO/KSFO)
To: London - Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
World Traveller - 25G
Boeing 747-400 (reg. unknown)
Flight Time: 9h 50m
Departure: 4:35pm (On Time)
Arrival: 11:00am June 17th (20 minutes late)
Photo © Ben Wang
The time had finally come for my long awaited trip to Finland for rest, relaxation and visiting family. Much finagling to get shift trades and vacation requests approved and ticket requests had all been taken care of, and I was the proud owner of round-trip space available tickets on British Airways SFO-LHR-HEL-LHR-SFO. The BA agent that did the ticketing in SFO was nothing short of fantastic. Such a nice person.With Travelpro packed and my trusty Jansport backpack accompanying it, I arrived at SFO about 1:30pm.
I got in a medium-sized line for check-in, and was almost at the front of the line when the queue comber checked my tickets and said "We're asking all staff passengers to check-in at counter 140 starting at 3:30pm." TWO hours to wait just to be added to the standby list? And the queue comber wasn't exactly the nicest person either... oh well. I left the line and went over to the next aisle to check up on my parents and brothers who were also traveling to Helsinki, but on KLM and connecting through AMS. They checked-in and got their seats, etc. The NW agents ground handling were really nice and friendly. Big plus for NW. My family got in line for security for the A Gates and I stood with them until they were just as far as I could go. I said goodbye to them and then walked around all the aisles, etc. and waited for 3:30 to pull around.
Got back over to Aisle 10 for BA about 3:25, and waited for Counter 140 to open up. And waited, and waited, and waited. Other NRSAs (company) had already been checked in and taken care of. Finally, about 3:45, the queue comber saw me, talked to someone, pointed at me, and then came over, checked my tickets, then told me to follow her to a position. I was checked in almost complete silence except for the security questions. She wasn't that friendly, and most certainly not a great start to the trip. The upside was that I could finally proceed past security to Gate A4. Boarding was just beginning to commence as I arrived. I handed over my card to the agent at the desk, who kindly told me a seat wasn't ready yet, they'd call me when it was.
I sat down and made a few phone calls and waited. Finally, all standby customers were paged and myself, among others, received seat assignments. I received 25G, which turned out to be the first row of World Traveller, bulkhead, aisle. Nice! I boarded, and a very friendly greeter directed me to my seat. I stowed my belongings and took my seat. My row became a hotspot of activity as two related families tried to be seated together. It was all finally settled seconds before the plane pushed back. We pushed back right on time at 4:35pm, and taxied for about 15 minutes before reaching the end of Runway 28L. After a minute, the engines spooled up and the plane gathered speed as it rocketed down the runway. We were in the air and on our way to London.
BA's World Traveller product is a standard against which all others are judged, in my opinion. All seats offer PTV's with 12 channels of video, as well as 12 additional audio channels. They also have footrests (except in bulkhead seats), and moveable headrests with these little drop-down wings that are very comfortable to lean your head against and sleep. The flight attendants came through with drink service, and the meal followed shortly after. I had the chicken, which was very tasty, and accompanied by a green salad with Asian Ginger Sesame Seed dressing (and I thought they only had it in United Business/First... ), roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and a piece of blueberry quark cake for dessert. Most delicious.
I watched Cartoon Network on my PTV for a while, and also watched the UK show Coupled, which was pretty good. I also did a lot of AirShow watching, so I can't seem to remember if I watched a movie or not... I think I did I also read the High Life inflight magazine, which is really quite good. I got a good bit of napping on the plane, on and off. Finally, about two hours out of London, they served breakfast, which was yogurt, fruit, and juice.
We landed at London Heathrow 20 minutes ahead of schedule, but unfortunately on the opposite end of the airport from Terminal 4, we had to cross one active runway, and there were a few ground delays from a rainstorm which had just passed the area. That, and our parking spot was not yet vacated by the departing aircraft. We eventually pulled into the gate 40 minutes after we landed, at 11:00am. Sped through Immigration and Customs, and began a very long layover process at London Heathrow, as my onward flight didn?t depart until 5:25pm.
June 17, 2003
British Airways BA798
From: London - Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
To: Helsinki - Vantaa (HEL/EFHK)
Euro Traveller - 18D
Airbus Industrie A319(reg. unknown)
Flight Time: 2h 5m
Departure: 5:25pm (On Time)
Arrival: 10:05pm (10 minutes early)
Photo © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
Photo © Art Brett
I spent my time doing all sorts of things, taking the Heathrow Express from T4 to T1/2/3 (this is a free service), walking around all of the terminals, visiting shops, etc. I checked in for my flight about 1:30pm with this wonderful agent who was quite friendly. I received my seat assignment right away, which was very nice. After more poking around, I went through security into the waiting lounge. I poked at a few of these shops too. I saw a place for showers for £3, and I bit. It was so absolutely refreshing and exactly what I needed. Having forgotten hair gel, I went to Boots nearby and purchased some. Made a call to my uncle's cell phone in Finland to tell him what time I would be arriving. My parent?s had gotten there a couple of hours prior, and my parents were already out walking. Finally the monitors read to go to Gate 22 for boarding. I took a couple pictures of my plane, and then we boarded. We pushed back a couple minutes early, and I dozed on and off until we got to the active runway.
After a relatively short takeoff roll, we were airborne and on our way to Helsinki. The flight attendants came through with beverages and then the snack. They were offering chicken or vegetable, but by the time they got to my row it was just vegetable. The sandwich was multi-grain bread with lettuce, mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, and some other stuff in it. It was interesting to say the least. I washed it down with the accompanying selected fruit pieces, which were tasty, and also with some still water and Sprite. I napped some more on and off, and read the High Life and Business Life magazines. The sky stayed quite light, with the sun above the horizon, until we began our descent into Helsinki, at which point the sun started to slip slowly below the horizon. We landed 15 minutes early and pulled into Gate 33. We deplaned, my trip through Immigration and Customs was painless, and I was out into Finnish soil about 10:15pm, with a light wind and cool temperature to greet me. I waited about 20 minutes before my uncle arrived to pick me up. We arrived to my uncle's house about 11:05, and the rest of my family was already asleep. Go figure
Comments & questions welcomed as always!
Part Two (SK HEL-ARN and BA ARN-LHR-SFO) coming soon!