October 19th, 2004
# 292, Washington Dulles to London Heathrow
We arrived at IAD
at 19:55 for a scheduled 21:35 departure, the first leg of a trip to Croatia and BiH. For this trip I was accompanied by an older lady friend who uses a walker (my beautiful wife had planned to make this trip, but cancelled for health reasons, hence I went). At that time of the evening on a Tuesday, Dulles is fairly quiet following the 14:00-17:00 mad rush of over the pond and transcon arrivals and departures. We had no trouble at the Club World check-in, and the very pleasant BA
staff member helped us to security with our bags for screening. We were given “tickets” for pre-flight dining in the BA
lounge in Concourse B. Our flight was to the BA
’s “Sleeper Service,” with no large meals en route to Heathrow.
These days, Dulles is improving, but remains a mess. There is a new central security screening entry point, with numerous, loud television monitors explaining all of the rules (of course, only in English). Getting through security was not bad, but then trying to locate an elevator for my friend and her walker was quite an adventure. We made it on to the mobile lounge, and we headed out to Concourse B. (The mobile lounges will be phased out in the next two years as an underground tram comes on line). I could see the tail of our bird on the other side of the terminal as we approached.
lounge at IAD
is not bad, but it is small and needs to be redecorated. Recall, until 1994, Concorde made 3X
trips per week between LHR
. One enters the lounge after ringing the doorbell, and meets a BA
staffer at a desk. If in First, you head to the left, if in Club, to the right. We made our way to the right, and noticed the lounge quite full. One thing I have noticed about most BA
Club World customers: the days of the well-dressed in premium cabins are history. Most of the people in the lounge appeared as if waiting for a Greyhound coach. Anyway, the selection of drinks and snacks was very good, but soon we decided to eat. Having drained two bottles of Grolsche, I decided it was time for wine. BA
had a swell selection of main courses and sides, all in buffet format. We ate well, expecting not to eat again until the next morning on the ground.
Before long, it was time to board. Aircraft G-CIVO awaited us. WT
+ had already been loaded, and the bird was waiting for us high-lifers in Club and First. The on-board staff was great helping my friend, and stored our large carry-ons and her walker in closet on the main deck as we made our way upstairs. We were assigned seats 62 A & B. But in my distraction helping my friend, we sat down in row 64; not to worry, the chaps assigned to these seats had no problem switching with us. I sat in A, she in B. I must say, it was great being upstairs in Club. The bird appeared very clean, but a little worn here and there. Our push-back was right on time at 21:35, and we joined a short queue for a departure to the north, in heavy rain, from RW
The take-off in a bird as large as the 744 never ceases to amaze me. From my window, I head a nearly clear view of the leading edge of the wing and the awesome Rolls-Royce engines 1 & 2. We were up, up, and away in what seemed like a very short time. In spite of the rain, we climbed through the weather and broke through the cloud deck at around 3,500 feet. Of course, I had on the flight mapper as soon as possible. We reached our cruise in only a few minutes.
After the usual announcements, the superlative BA
Club Word service began. To my surprise, we were handed detailed menus. “Huh!” I thought to myself; this was supposed to be the “Sleeper Service,” wherein we already ate in the BA
lounge. I was expecting cookies and a warm drink. Instead, the menu offered “Supper:”
Appetizer: Mixed salad leaves, sun-blushed tomatoes, Parmesan and Blue cheese with balsamic olive oil dressing.
Main courses: (I selected) Surf and Turf of grilled fillet steak and prawns, green beans and baked jacket potato soufflé’. (The other choices were Herb-roasted breast of chicken, and cheese tortelloni pasta.)
Dessert: Cherry almond tart with a cheese and port service.
I was feeling a bit bloated from the meal in the lounge, so I skipped any more beer. But I was not going to miss a high-fallutin’ BA
Club World meal! I selected a glass of Chateau de Gaillet 2001 to wash down my meal. The food was excellent! The small foldout elevated trays for the beverages in the Club seat are clever, but prone to be fragile; a bit of chop, and my friend’s wineglass hit the floor. As for the “Sleeper Service, I did not miss not missing another meal. have come to conclude is a BA
ruse to avoid serving a meal to Club passengers. I can’t imagine BA
would get away with this in WT
or in First!
After eating and a decent glass of port, I settled down. My friend placed her seat in the flat position, but I was not yet tired. I watched a bit of “The Manchurian Candidate,” and decided that someday, Meryl Streep will have to portray Hillary Clinton. I also watched an episode of “AbFab” that made me laugh at points. I then tried to sleep, and indeed the electric flat bed seat is a very clever design. But unless we are glass smooth, I can’t sleep for very long on an airplane (even with the 2 glasses of wine and one of port). We also hit some chop over the North Atlantic; that prevented me from sleeping. The flight mapper indicated no head or tailwind, so I was not sure why we were bouncing around a bit. Also, taking a tip from fbgdavidson, I did take the “walk of shame” downstairs into the aft of the plane; she was only about 70% full.
Dawn’s first light saw us approaching the North Irish coast, and it was time to eat again. This time I quaffed a ruby grapefruit juice and “Fresh seasonal fruit (melon slices and berries) and Cheese and black pepper savouries. I decided also that it was time for coffee, and had my cup filled at least twice.
Since our arrival at Heathrow was a bit later in the morning, we were not put into a holding pattern, and made what seemed like a direct approach to 27R and made a smooth touchdown. From that point, we had to taxi over to T4
. Of course, I love seeing the icon that is Concorde G-BOAB; gosh do I miss her and her sister birds! A mate (buddy in U.S. English) who worked in BA
’s Concorde engineering department tells me that, despite the fact that G-BOAB sits unprotected from the elements in the middle of the airfield, the craft is regularly checked and protected. Let’s hope we see her flying again, someday, somehow.
We taxied over to T4
. I was concerned that, as sometimes happens, we would be parked at a remote stand and need to descend stairs. That’s a long trip if, as is the case with my friend, you are elderly and use a walker. But happily, we parked at a Jetway. We were in no hurry, as we had reservations at the Renaissance Hotel LHR
overnight. We were actually the last passengers to disembark. The very helpful crew had taken the walker and our bags just outside the hatch, and we were off. I must say, one FA
was very attentive and considerate to my friend. The FA
even brought her one of the white roses from the WC
. This was my friend’s first trip across the pond on BA
. The company did a great job impressing her and me.
But wait, there is more! Since we had time, I wanted to make full use of the arrivals lounge at T4
. Again, we were a late morning arrival, and T4
was somewhat calm. After fast-track immigration, collecting our checked baggage and H.M. customs, we headed to the lounge. For those who have not visited, it is a very nice break after a long air journey. We went up to the “Terraces” style lounge, and decided (you guess it) to eat again. A fine selection of English and American breakfasts, baked treats, and beverages. The cappuccino machine is really a marvel; it sounds a bit similar to the 744 spooling up engines as it percolates and mixes the coffee drink selected.
For my last act on this BA
journey, I decided to try the Molton Brown showers on the first floor. I have to say, the shower is a bit complicated for plumbing-challenged Americans such as myself. I turned on the three knobs, and water came out at all levels. In fact, one nozzle was directed squarely onto my “John Thomas”(they don’t call me Stretch 8 for nuthin!) I decided that that was a bit too luxurious (and I didn’t want to get into trouble the way Mirrodie did one time
). Before long, I was cleaned and pressed, ready to go. As an aside, I am sold on the Molton Brown products, thanks to BA
. Yes, the lotions, colognes, etc., are a bit on the “metrosexual” side, but so be it. The ultra light baj hydrator is the best after-shaving skin treatment I have ever used.
Next, it was time to make our way from T4
to the Renaissance Hotel. To my dismay, the “Hotel Hoppa” does not make the trip to T4
(or so I was told). So, I dragged my poor friend onto the Heathrow Express train for the ride to T3
, and we found the “Hoppa.” We arrived at the Renaissance, and I made sure I had a room overlooking the runway. I certainly did, and spent most of the afternoon watching the procession of BA
, VA, BMI
, and other birds arriving and departing. I highly recommend this hotel for an overnight “spotting” stay at LHR
. For dinner, I wandered down to the Sheraton Skyline. I had to visit the model airplane store housed on the property. I did so, and what a place! They have an amazing collection of not only airliner models, but also military and even passenger cruise and military warships. I asked if they had a “Super VC
-10” in BOAC livery. They had one, a beauty. I explained to the bloke that I had made my first trip from America on the real thing way back in 1969. Alas, he still wanted £125 for the model, too rich for my blood.
All in all, a great start to my journey. BA
, as usual, did not disappoint. I am now a very loyal customer, even though the BA
service to Croatia only runs in the summertime to DBV
. More on that part of my trip in Part Two, still to come.
Maggs swings, it's a drive deep to left! The Tigers are going to the World Series!!!