Time to visit home on my autumn break… To get to Helsinki, I used the two remaining coupons of a CX award that I started in May. Thankfully CX has free date changes in awards it seems, so my dates were changed a few times. I wanted to leave on the 13th, but as there were no seats on either BA or QF on that day, I had to settle for BA 10 on the day before. Also worth mentioning that AY had no seats for about 4 months on the nonstops, completely ridiculous as I don’t think BKK-HEL is usually full in C at all. It just seems to me that AY will rather upgrade overbooked Y pax for free than release U-class inventory for award tickets.
12 October 2005
Bangkok Don Muang (BKK/VTBD) – London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL)
British Airways BA 10
2310-0520+1 – On Time
Club World, Seat 61B (Upper Deck)
Photo © Sean Norman
Photo © Mark A Harris
BA10 Photos: http://lari.pp.fi/ba10/index.html
Taxi to Don Muang was quick as usual, and I then discovered that BA has copied UA at BKK and goes through all carry on bags before check-in – completely useless as I could put whatever I want there after this ridiculous check. They put only stickers on the handles instead of putting them over zippers etc. That being said, the Chubb Security screeners were nice and had a good laugh about the fine quality Thai alcohol packed in my bag.
After this episode, I was immediately greeted at the Qantas/BA First counter as all Club counters were occupied. I was helped by a very friendly and courteous Qantas employee – she addressed me by name all the time, filled the flight number field in my departure card etc. There was a glitch in the system and the BA system didn’t recognize my connecting flight to HEL on AY, so the ladies told they’ll sort it out with AY. I said not to worry, just tag my bag to HEL and I’ll get the boarding pass at Heathrow. I was then given instructions how to get to the Qantas Club.
The Qantas Club was its usual self – I have used it more times than I care to remember, mostly with Finnair. It’s definitely the best Oneworld lounge at Don Muang, though there is no hot food which is a small minus. However, a few glasses of Australian bubbly and some rather nice sandwiches was all I needed tonight. The lounge agents soon invited us to board BA 10 to Heathrow at gate 46, so off I went.
The gate was one of those totally roped off from the general area, and random security checks were conducted. Thankfully I wasn’t chosen this time. Before knowing of BA’s “Manage My Booking” (I’ve hardly ever flown BA before), I called their reservation hotline in London to get a seat assignment after my ticket from CX had arrived. A particularly rude agent first informed that I was calling completely wrong number, he only sells tickets. He then proceeded to tell me no upper deck seats are available. Thankfully I then found the abovementioned MMB, and snagged 61B. OLCI didn’t work with my CX paper ticket and Marco Polo Club number, so no chance of getting the exit row seats.
Boarding had already started, so I made my way directly to the upper deck where two f/as greeted me at the top of the stairs. No problem fitting my bag in the large overhead bin – LH should take note and change the 744 upper deck bins ASAP. A glass of champagne, menus and amenity kits were shortly offered, but no newspapers or magazines. A guy behind me was reading a British paper that he probably brought from the lounge, and one of the F/As proceeded to hell him “I want that after you’re finished – we have just some old Australian trash onboard”. She later brought a bottle of champagne to him as a thank you… A bit tacky to do it so visibly in the cabin I thought.
We were pushed back roughly on time, and took off without delay from runway 21R for the long flight to Heathrow. I was pleased to see that full service would be offered on this flight despite the late departure time; it started with the usual snacks and drinks. BA had the same “Out of Africa” nut mix as Kenya Airways did a few weeks earlier. I opted for some more Heidsieck Monopole to drink. Another drink round was made before starting the meal service, which was appreciated. Here’s the dinner and breakfast menu for BA 10.
Bangkok – London
Prawn and guacamole cocktail
Salad of rocket, tomato and Mozzarella cheese
Tossed with toasted pine nuts
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
Grilled fillet steak with a Port wine and Stilton cheese jus
Poached salmon on tagliatelle with parsley cream
Red chicken curry
Fresh ham salad with chive potatoes and mustard mayonnaise
Selected cheese and biscuits
Chilled orange juice
An energizing fruit smoothie
Fresh seasonal fruit
A selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries
Classic British breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled bacon,
Pork sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomato
Tomato and herb omelette served with breakfast potatoes
Stir-fried prawns with Hokkien noodles
Champagne: Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Reserve Champagne
I had the prawns, steak and blueberry charlotte – all of the food was simply excellent. Service was attentive as well – drinks were refilled frequently and plates removed once you finished. Hot towels were offered before and after the meal service if I remember correctly. Again, if I compare this to LH’s business class, BA wins hands down at least on the upper deck where the CW cabin has only 20 seats. But sure BA could afford offering both cheese and dessert… I’m sure they’d serve you both if asked but since it was a 100% load in Club World, I didn’t bother asking.
I then changed to my SQ First Class pyjamas, reclined the seat and tried to sleep. Meanwhile, a bottle of Highland Spring had been placed in the seatpocket in front of me. It took some time to find a comfortable sleeping position as the seat is a little narrow and short of a guy my size, but I’d still take this seat any day over those slippery slope things. I simply can’t believe Finnair, SAS and Thai are starting to fit those things now when BA is already about to upgrade this much superior product. At the end I slept really well, comparable only to flights I have taken in First.
Breakfast service started shortly after I woke up, and it was a full hot breakfast. On Lufthansa’s Bangkok flights, I have usually received a cold plate with a small (more or less cold too…) omelette or crepe added from the cart. I went for the British breakfast and it was pretty good. I’m not a fan of breakfasts on airplanes though. The energizing fruit smoothie was very nice. I asked and got instructions how to get to the arrivals lounge as I had never visited it before.
We touched down at rainy and foggy Heathrow a few minutes past five in the morning… I had missed the registration at BKK, but fortunately BA had written G-CIVD with a marker next to door 2L, so I got it upon disembarkation. Immigration was completely deserted; I think we were one of the first if not the first longhaul flight to arrive that morning. My passport was swiped through the reader unlike last time when they just waved through any EU passport holders.
BA Arrivals Lounge, Heathrow T4
I could have taken a 7 am connection to Helsinki, but opted for the 10:20am flight in order to have some time to enjoy the excellent BA facilities at Heathrow. I got a shower room right away; and signed up for a neck and shoulder massage at the Molton Brown Travel Spa upstairs. There was also a full breakfast buffet upstairs – I was still stuffed from the one I ate onboard, so just had a glass of water while waiting for the massage. Feeling refreshed after a shower and massage, it was then time to take the HEX to T1 for my connecting flight to Helsinki.
13 October 2005
London Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) – Helsinki Vantaa (HEL/EFHK)
Finnair AY 832
1020-1510 – On Time
Business Class, Seat 4A
Photo © Jussi Kettunen
Photo © Jerome Zbinden
AY 832 Photos: http://lari.pp.fi/ay832/index.html
I checked in at the BA Premium Check-in at Zone R, and got a window seat on the two-seat side just as I prefer. Also made sure that the baggage tag number made it to the record… The premium check-in zone has its own security checkpoint – very much appreciated after I saw the line for the usual checkpoint. I was informed I could use either the Servisair or BA lounge – well that one isn’t exactly a very hard decision to make...
The terminal 1 Terraces lounge is excellent in my opinion. A glass of Jack Daniels on the rocks and two Finnish tabloids was all I needed. Also this lounge had a rather decent breakfast buffet of pastries, breads etc, but I still wasn’t hungry. One thing I really didn’t like was listening to boarding announcements every few minutes – I wish BA would stop it just like CX has done at its Hong Kong lounges at least. After all, we should be capable of reading the information on the screens/boarding passes…
The gate used by Finnair this morning was quite a trek from the lounge, and for some reason, there was a second security checkpoint just before the last few gates in the concourse. IMHO completely unnecessary as even transfer passengers are screened at Flight Connections at Heathrow. To make matters worse, there was one screening machine and the line stretched back at least 50 people.
No priority boarding facilities were available, so I simply skipped the line and thankfully the BA agents let me board right away. Difference between Y and C within Europe is so minimal that at least priority boarding should be offered in my opinion. I settled in 4A with decent legroom and seat width. Business class was at least 10 rows, and completely full. Pushback was roughly on time, and I was finally on my way to HEL.
After a long taxi, we took off after an Air India B747. The nose cam was nice as usual, but rather useless after a few minutes as it was still rainy and cloudy in London. Menus and hot towels followed – I was impressed to get the former on an intra-European flight. Here’s the lunch menu for AY 832.
This menu highlights the pure, fresh flavours of the archipelago. The traditionally cured lamb of the starter is combined with the aromatic taste of milk-cap mushrooms picked in the Finnish forests. The main course presents the authentic flavours of our beautiful archipelago at their best.
Lamb with forest mushroom salad
Roasted salmon with creamed onion sauce,
Boiled potatoes and sugar peas
Berry timbale, chantilly cream
Champagne: Champagne Joseph Perrier
Service started with some snacks and drinks as usual, and I had the first of many bottles of the excellent Joseph Perrier champagne on this flight. On shorthaul it’s just the non-vintage type, on longhaul it’s JP Cuvee Royale 1999. Both are very nice in my opinion, and I like them better than the Heidsieck Monopole that BA serves. But apparently Finnair has cut down its glass selection on shorthaul flights – I was given just a normal drinking glass for the champagne.
The food was very good as well, however presentation isn’t even close to the new LH European business class dishes for example in my opinion. Drinks and bread were offered constantly during the meal service. A good thing I chose AY for this flight – had I chosen BA, which was also available, I would have been drinking water and eating one of those (pathetic looking) deli boxes I noticed at the entrance of the Terraces Lounge.
I spent the rest of the flight drinking more Joseph Perrier as you may have guessed… The skies became clearer somewhere over Denmark, and the views were rather nice. We flew almost overhead of Stockholm Arlanda, then the city of Turku before being put into a holding pattern as Helsinki-Vantaa was too busy with arriving traffic. However, we landed roughly on time on runway 15, and taxied past the domestic gates to a remote stand. Helsinki-Vantaa’s new expanded non-Schengen area is already too crowded, and it’s only getting much worse when those new AY Airbuses start arriving.
A bus took us to the terminal, and I waited for ages at the baggage claim before going over to the AY baggage desk. Economy class desk had a long line, but the business class one was empty… I asked the (totally disinterested looking) lady if my bag was perhaps left in Heathrow. “It was not on the flight” Then, I dared to ask if she perhaps knows where it might be. “WELL, I have NO idea!” She starts typing the usual report – asks me the usual questions until we get to “Which one?” Looking totally confused, I dare to ask her what she means. She slams her hand on one of the numerous cards showing perhaps hundreds of different bags and now shouts “Which one?” Well she knew it was a blue hard-shell Samsonite, so perhaps she could have pointed out at one of the cards and THEN asked which one… Absolutely appalling customer service.
I later noticed on Worldtracer that she had also entered my address wrongly in the system… Anyway, this being Finland, there was obviously no home delivery service on weekends, so I ended up picking up my bag from the bus station at 11.30pm on a Friday night…
Overall very nice flights, and definitely higher standard of service I would usually receive Lufthansa and SAS (I think LH vs. BA and AY vs. SK are appropriate comparisons). BA’s current Club World product is excellent; I can only imagine how the new CW will be.
Hope you enjoyed the report!