Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA293
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 14J (Club World - Business Class)
Distance: 3677 miles
Duration: 8hrs 20mins
Date: Sunday 1st January
Photo © Hongyin Huo
Photo © Ryan Hemmings
This flight signified the end of the my short visit back to the UK for Xmas and also meant a rather early start that morning as I had been up rather late the night before. My parents both came to the airport with me and left me right at the end of the Terminal 4 departure ramp so I didn't have far to walk to the BA Club World check-in desks. The terminal seemed really rather empty although I was met at Club World check-in by uniformed BA staff asking my class of travel. He noticed my Silver tags on the luggage and waved me through. Only three desks open today, which seemed a definite step down from the usual complement however I was the only person making up the line today so was soon waved forward to the next available agent. Was handed my boarding pass (unfortunately main deck as I had been unable to OLCI the day before and all seats upstairs were taken) and visa waiver forms before being ushered off in the direction of Fast Track security. The line for PlebTrack wasn't too bad today although soon after I made my way to the head of the FastTrack line a great swathe of people were let through from the other side.
After passing through I headed for the Gate 1 Terraces lounge, a departure from my usual Terminal 4 departure routine that involves heading Lounge Pavilion-wards to book myself into the Spa. Frankly I wasn't that fussed today and I figured the walk was a waste of time as I hadn't given myself enough time to secure an appointment. Instead I went upstairs to see the slightly revamped area of the lounge where it was apparent the Terraces Lounge trademark fountain had been removed. I settled in with a Newcastle Brown Ale beside the window, a 767 below me, my brain presuming it was a longhaul configuration and a 747 besides it which soon pushed back.
Gate 1 Terraces Lounge upstairs
A BA 767 with 747 behind it pushing back
I then moved downstairs to the World Wine Bar besides the smoking lounge and got myself a couple of packs of the rather delicious Kettle Chips. Unfortunately though it appeared my favourite flavour, the Mango Chilli from the EDI Terraces weren't in today Nevertheless, the sea salt and cracked pepper were great so looked forward to enjoying them during my layover at Dulles.
As boarding time got closer I decided to move down to the Lounge Pavilion as my flight was going from Gate 11. Had a quick look at the Best of Britain shop and yep, I'm still there, albeit in form of 8yr model Checked in upstairs in the lounge and jumped on the internet quickly, again with a glass of Newcastle! From where I was sitting by the window I got a good view of people coming into the lounge and saw one particular guy waltz in while pretending to be on the phone. The lounge staff called for him and beckoned him, he then pretended to put the phone down and then it appeared he wasn't eligible for access and was given the boot!!! Quite funny to see the ways, some people try to get themselves into lounges, some better than others!
Gate 10 Terraces Lounge
I then realised I'd as good as torn my boarding pass in half thanks to sitting on it so swapped it out for another at the front desk. Boarding time was nearing and then my flight went yellow before it went green (a reference to BA's departure screens that list 'Go to Gate X' in Green, then 'Boarding Gate X' in Yellow, 'Gate Closing' in Red) so drank up and headed down for boarding.
Gate 11 is one of the worst locations for a Gate as the corridor narrows significantly and so the crowds get in the way of everyone else who is trying to get to other parts of the concourse. BA had a Fast Track line for priority boarding which seems to be doing it''s job as there was no line when I arrived, although I had to force my way through a couple of people who thought I was jumping in ahead of them! Down the jetway to find, errr an enormous line! No announcement from the lounge about remote stand which was my first inclination. In the end stood waiting for about 10mins and I looked around at my fellow passengers for the flight. It was at this time I noticed more and more people are dressing for flights as though they are going to nightclubs...fur coats, revealing blouses, jeans hanging off backside in a way that would make a construction worker proud Not sure who these ladies (in the loosest sense of the word) were trying to impress but it certainly wasn't me, and I'd like to think I am a red-blooded male After a few minutes of people watching the line began to move aircraft-wards and it was apparent there was no remote stand factor today! Just the crew weren't quite ready!
I showed my boarding pass to one of the two FAs on stand directing passengers, left, right and upwards. As we were boarding through door 2L I got the chance to turn left (again ) This actually was nice as it meant the continual stream of people going down the aisle to the back of plane didn't get in the way As I put my bag on the seat to retrieve my First pyjamas the purser, Iain, asked if I wanted a hanger to put them on. Impressive! So I took the hanger and went to the correct bathroom to change! As I emerged I found the cabin a little more populated but still with a stream of people getting onboard and heading towards the back of the aircraft. Coincidentally the couple in 12J and 12K were also on my IAD-LHR flight on Xmas Eve, pretty noticeable as not many people travel in garish blue tracksuits! My neighbouring window seat was now occupied, quashing any hope of having my separate sleeping and eating seats again! I settled down into my seat and got out my music player and headphones to find the damn battery was flat! Resorted to just wearing the headphones which cut out all but speech on the ground. Iain came back inviting me to a selection of newspapers, my reply was 'Anything but the Daily Mail', he chuckled and came back with a Sunday Telegraph. I sat reading as the stragglers entered the cabin and settled. These included what appeared to be a 'honeymoon couple' in 13E and 13F who tipped glasses of champagne at each other at every opportunity, and also a family of four across 14D to 14G. Young teenage girl in 14D with two boys, one of about 13yrs old in 14E with a youngster in 14F and mother in 14G. They all seemed fairly non-plus and quite at home, the elder son playing with his PSP for most of the time.
]Smaller main deck Club World cabin on 747
As I sat with pre-flight champagne in hand the captain came over the PA to say we were going to be slightly delayed as the aircraft needed some de-icing so I settled back into my Telegraph and read the interesting bits pretty much cover to cover, Amenity kits and menus were handed out at this point and at every possible stage I tried to keep everything off the floor and seat in 'green light' position for takeoff. After some period of time, maybe 30 minutes or so it was apparent we were off. The crew went around clearing up after the Indian mother and daughter in 13K and 14K who refused to obey any instructions. They certainly marked themselves out as ignorant + newbies but I could rule it out as poor grasp of the English language. The crew asked them a number of times to put their shoes, handbags, coats, etc up in the overhead locker but they seemed oblivious to the command in hand which lead to a certain amount of apparent stress on the part of the crew. Eventually after a certain amount of gesticulating I got up out of my seat during the taxi to allow the crew to pick up the items in hand as it appeared the passengers in question weren't bothered. After the crew left for the galley the girl in 13K shrugged at me and looked out the window. The IFE had begun before we had even got off the ground and by this time we had crossed 27L and were at the holding point for 27R.
Takeoff was to the west, although not in a window seat I was enjoying the view until the mother beside me decided I was enjoying it rather too much and closed all the window shades! By the time we got to cruising altitude the crew were coming around with the drinks trolley. Elinor and Iain were two of the FAs in Club World main deck today. Apparently there was nobody in First so the two FAs assigned to that cabin came to help out which made for great service I took a Kir Royale and soon after ordered my appetiser from the menu.
Leafing through the new copy of Highlife I actually found a film I was interested in watching! It doesn't often happen but I looked forward to watching 40yr Old Virgin! I settled in for a while as the CSD came over the PA saying the Well Being video wasn't working (Shame ) and that we would be watching a video about entering the US and immigration forms. From the same staple as the old safety video it was ancient, Landor livery and all! It went through filling out the forms (not even sure why I watched it as I had entered the US more times than I care to remember since the production of this video) and the date of arrival of the mythical passenger was 1991! :O
I then settled in watching the film previews, slightly slumped in my seat being a little lazy, all the while supping on my Kir Royale
Crayfish tails and pink grapefruit
Roast red onion, rocket and Feta cheese salad
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
Grilled fillet steak, red wine sauce, butter bean mash and roast root vegetables
Poached Salmon with Asparagus Veloute
Penne pasta with tomato basil sauce and Mozzarella cheese
Spicy chicken with a coriander and mango salad with lemon dressing
Baked rhubarb and vanilla cheese cake
Hereford Hop and Brie cheese
My initial choice of Roast red onion rocket was unavailable although as it turned out later the last one had gone to the lady in 13G so I went with the crayfish tails. I'd had them before in BA Club World and they were pretty good so wasn't too upset about this! Iain asked if I was after a glass of wine and I opted for the Sancerre which was delicious, he also offered a glass of water which seemed a good idea at the time!
Crayfish tails and pink grapefruit
As Iain placed the starter on the table it was noticeable the edge that sits on a runner on the right hand side of the seat was a little loose. He asked if I wanted a blanket or pillow to put on my knee to hold it in place. I spared him the hassle of retrieving an extra pillow or blanket and said I'd be careful! The crayfish tails were excellent, as was the salad (with new dressing) which I went through carefully, making sure I didn't accidentally swallow a tomato that was rather well hidden. Sundried tomatoes Chopped tomatoes Sliced tomatoes Have to say I can't explain it either but I just want to throw up if I get a little taste of sliced tomato!
As Iain took the tray away he asked which main I was after and partly to see if BA's catering folks have improved the dish, and partly because everything else seemed a little uninspirational I went for the steak. My actual order was, 'I'll be brave and go for the steak' to which he laughed, probably because at this second it was being turned into a piece of shoe leather in the galley behind me!
In the time taken to cook the steak I had managed to let my table full of drinks fall off of it's runner in a rather fierce manner The glass of water emptied itself, the wine a little so and the Kir Royale was as low as it always was Fortunately I was wearing the pyjamas and somehow managed to escape most of the wet feeling although the seat cushion felt a little damp. Iain offered to move me to a free seat in the second Club World cabin although I declined and said I'd then take him up on the offer of a second blanket! He then took my glasses away and nicely topped them up for me.
Grilled fillet steak, red wine sauce, butter bean mash and roast root vegetables
Feeling only a little damp I settled into my steak. It wasn't as bad as feared, admittedly closer to school food than restaurant but better than previous offerings out of IAD and SFO and the vegetables still lacked a little quality to them. However I was hungry and before long they were all gone! Nevertheless the preparation of the steak is getting a little better each time.
For dessert I opted for the cheesecake, not being a huge fan of rhubarb I thought I would end up leaving half of it behind. Alas, no, the whole lot went, along with the delicious mini box of chocolates!
Baked rhubarb and vanilla cheesecake
After the movie ended I fetched out my latest Shopping the World voucher and got myself a rather handy adaptor for all my UK plug based appliances...and for free you can't complain!
I put the bed down and pulled the blanket and First eyeshades over me for some shuteye and woke up well over the coast of Canada. After a few minutes Elinor passed through the cabin and offered a bottle of water from the basket. I gladly accepted it and went for a walk down the back of the aircraft to stretch my legs.
View from galley window
After sitting around for best part of 25 minutes and following our progress on the skymap I was concerned I'd slept through afternoon tea, apparently with the rest of the cabin! After some time I heard some clanking the galley behind and it turned out I hadn't. To be honest I usually find afternoon tea the poorest offering of the meals in Club World, usually not helped by the lacklustre choices of sandwich and presentation.
Sandwiches of roast beef with whole-grain mustard and Brie cheese with apple and celery
Sandwiches of chicken Caesar with Red Leicester cheese and mature Cheddar cheese with pickle
Ground coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea
Selection of herbal teas - peppermint, blackcurrant, apple or camomile and honey
I opted for the Chicken Caesar-y thingy and a coffee and have to say if the crew in First manage to serve it from a silver salver onto a plate why can't they bring them on a plate here? Makes it look so much better than being wrapped in cellophane! Anyways, rant about the presentation over, the sandwiches themselves were alright. No picking of tomatoes from these ones!
Sandwiches of chicken Caesar with Red Leicester cheese and mature Cheddar cheese with pickle and coffee
After passing over Boston I usually go to the galley and freshen up for my arrival. I decided since the food service was over with and since I'd spilled my flight's quota of alcohol across the seat it was probably safe to be able do this! So I fetched my washbags from the overhead and Iain collected my clothes from the closet across from my seat. I returned looking and smelling a little better than 30 minutes previous and settled in for the final portion of the flight.
Roz, one of the FA's previously assigned to First came down the aisle asking if anybody required assistance upon our arrival. I said I didn't but asked out of curiousity what her duties were onboard the flight since nobody was in First today. She explained she was to help out in Club World but offered to show me around the First cabin if I wanted. Although I'd flown First a few times I thought maybe they'd let me stay up there for the landing so off we went and for about 20 minutes Roz chatted to me about her upcoming trips to Cape Town and I remarked I was flying there next month so that got a bit of conversation running. Before I knew it there were a few PAs directed at the crew indicating we were only a few minutes short of landing at Dulles. I said that should be my calling card to head back to 13K and off I went to tuck myself back into the seat.
Although dark I managed to deduce we landed on 1R and so taxied across between Concourse C/D and Concourse G to the usual BA gates where we would be met by mobile lounges to take us across to the immigration point. As I gathered my bags from the overhead locker the girl in 13K who had caused problems at the start of the flight asked me to fetch her bags from the locker above, she was clearly capable of doing it herself so I looked puzzled for about 15 seconds, while she was pointing upwards. Reluctantly I went with the vaguely chivalrous approach and got her stuff out, plonking it on the seat instead of her outstretched arm, I rolled my eyes at her scowled and gathered my own stuff and headed for the exit
Having flown into Washington a number of times I knew how to get myself ahead of the usual crowds at immigration so watched as everyone went as far away from the entry doors as possible! The Washington regulars on the other hand were all gathered as close to the doors as possible! After our bus was full we drove around to the immigration point which was thankfully empty, although pretty standard for the arrival of BA293. I was the first off our flight through immigration (the officer exceptionally chipper this evening ) and so stood between one of the two carousels that is inevitably used for this flight. A number of my fellow Club World passengers happened to gather close to me, probably thinking I knew something they didn't. Well, to be honest my suspicions were proven correct and the carousel beside me started. However I held little hope of making a quick escape as is usual when checking 'Priority luggage' with BA. Again I was let down as my bag came through sans priority tag about 20-25mins after the first lot of bags started coming through, BA really need to take a leaf out of the Star Alliance book with regard to this. Strangely some bags arrived with Priority tags, and I know there was nobody in First! Possibly bags connecting from Europe or BA Golds using the F check-in...I don't know! Seems such a lottery either way!
So bags in hand I left a crowd of well over 150 people at the carousel and headed for customs point. Some fools tried to pass through where there was no officer and were subsequently shouted at. For some reason they stood still and looked really confused so I nipped around them, surrendered my customs form and decided against rechecking my bags and staying airside. The things I do to avoid spending time in United Red Carpet Clubs