I had spent just about a month in Los Angeles on “holiday” from Oxford between Michaelmas and Hilary terms and now it was time to head back. I booked my ticket to London back in November and selected the 5:35pm departure from Los Angeles on BA 282 as opposed to the later BA 268 because of a massive fare difference! I usually prefer the later flight, but in this case the extra couple of hours wasn’t work it.
I woke up on the morning of 9 January 2006 having had a nightmare about the very situation which had been giving me nightmares for the last few months! What a fantastic start to the day. I ended up getting out of bed just around 8am or so and logged onto MSN messenger. FOMEA greeted me with the following message:
“Shou, you’re up early today Mr. Sassine”
Indeed I was up early. The 5:35pm departure from LAX was going to make it tough for me to get much sleep on the flight, so I wanted to get up early so that I would be as tired as possible in the evening.
I checked my email and was surprised to find a message from British Airways telling me that my flight was going to be delayed. I checked it out online and found out that we’d be departing at 8:35pm instead of 5:35pm – a delay of three hours for those of you incapable of doing the maths.
I was actually quite pleased about this – I originally wanted to fly on the later flight and with the three hour delay, I basically was flying on the late flight! BA 268 is scheduled to leave at 8:45pm, so it was basically going to be the same thing.
After checking my email I screwed around on MSN a bit and then called my friend up in San Francisco to wish him a happy birthday. I then had a manouche for breakfast with a cup of tea and my hair loss pill.
At about 10:20am, I headed down to the local Supercuts to have my hair cut. While waiting, I popped into the Albertson’s supermarket next door. I had originally intended on buying a couple of things from the US to take back to Oxford with me, but looking around the store, I realised that there wasn’t much of anything – save for Cheetos – that I would want that I couldn’t get there. On top of it, produce is in my opinion better there anyway. And anyway, I’ve sort of gone off Cheetos recently, so I left Albertsons emptyhanded.
Unfortunately, there was one major change at home between the time that I arrived and the time that I left. I ended up selling the sparkle in my eye – my 2000 Volkswagen Jetta GLS VR6. We were together for 55,430 miles and 5 years, 9 months, 10 days and approximately 23 hours. I loved that car like nothing else. So many memories in it. Almost everyone I know has been in that car. Now it’s gone, just like that. I had originally intended on keeping it all my life and had taken care of it in such a manner. Oh well – I just hope that the French guy that I ended up selling it to will take good care of it.
On my last day with the Jetta, I really felt as though the car wanted me and me alone. The smile on the front fascia sort of dwindled to a melancholy grimace as I parked her on the kerb for the last time, waiting for Monsieur Christophe.
Heres a random pic:
When he eventually arrived and took the car away, I almost felt tears coming to my eyes as I saw my car being driven away, the CH sticker and green domelights fading into the distance. At that moment – I joined my grandmother in being the only two people in my family that didn’t have cars.
Anyway, here are some photos from the last night with my Jetta and some friends:
Me and my roommate from uni:
Here I am with the car:
Anyway...now I have to move on
From that point on I had to drive one of my parents’ cars. And the choice wasn’t particularly appealing – between a 1995 Chevrolet Lumina Minivan (APV) and a 2004 Toyota Camry (on stilts) RX330 Special Edition. Sadly, the good old van has more endearing qualities than the Lexus.
When I got back from the haircut, I changed cars and took a spin in the van for one last time. It was a lovely day outside – light breeze, sun shining, 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I got back and finished the final stages of my packing.
Lunch today was going to be garlic chicken. I had my mother grill chicken on the barbecue outside…
and then I literally poured garlic…
Over the rest of it. Not very light for sure, but it did the trick:
Here are a couple of pix…mmm…I can still taste the garlic in my mouth! I love garlic, even though it has a pretty strong odour. Here is a picture of my dog – I think she caught a wisp of it:
After lunch I went upstairs and packed my laptop and my carry on bag and went on the house computer to take an online mathematical assessment for a job with Citigroup. I checked sigalert.com and found out that the 405 Freeway was, as usual, congested, and that the new departure time was going to be 20:05.
I said goodbye to the dog:
…and then headed out in the RX330 to the airport, leaving the area at about 4:15pm. There was an accident on the 101 Freeway in Calabasas, so I got off on Las Virgenes Road and took Malibu Canyon down to the coast. The Southern California landscape really is quite beautiful. It’s always nice to drive through the canyons, especially on a day like this. And of course it was lovely to reach the sea. I live on the west coast, but never see the Pacific!
It took me about 38 minutes to reach the I-10 / PCH junction, a distance of 33 miles. And then it took me about another 40 minutes to travel the remaining 10 miles to LAX. Traffic was really something awful. I should have stayed on PCH and taken Lincoln to LAX.
I had checked in online beforehand, so I wasn’t worried about getting a good seat. I took 19J, an aisle seat on the right hand side of the aircraft.
I arrived at Bradley and queued in the “World Traveller Plus / Online Check-in” queue. There was an Englishman with a nice big dark stain at the seat of his pants ahead of me, muttering insults under his breath. I was wondering what was going on, and then noticed that the check-in lady wasn’t at the desk. “This is f*cking ridiculous, where the devil is that b!tch? For God’s Sake!” Then about 30 seconds a child started screaming and he snapped “Oh will you shut up!” Only thing was, he said it to himself and the baby was about 5 metres to his left. He turned around and starting talking to my dad about how ridiculous it was that he hadn’t been served yet and that the service was so slow.
Anyway, the check-in chick eventually came back and checked him in before moving on to me. As I had already checked it online, the process was pretty simple and I took the boarding pass, took my bags and moved on to the x-ray machine.
I really hate how they can’t just take the bags at check-in at LAX. You have to take the luggage to yet another queue where they scan them and x-ray them. It’s really a misery and I wish there was some other way around it.
Luckily it didn’t take too long on this occasion and I said goodbye to my parents and went through security. Another thing I really hate is having to completely disrobe for the stupid security machines. Shoes, belt, watch…its gets pretty annoying and it makes it really easy to lose things. Especially shoes. Damn that shoe-bomber…does he have any idea what sort of misery he has imposed on us???
Once I got through into the main terminal I decided to go get something for my Zambian friend who wanted me to bring her typically American. Since I couldn’t be arsed to think of something before hand, I figured that I would go to gate 120 (which the check-in lady had written on my boarding card) and have a look in some of the stores.
I reached gate 120 and saw that G-CIVN was sitting there – but the sign above the desks said “BA 268 – LONDON HEATHROW” and I was meant to be traveling on BA 282. What had happened? I had a look at the Departure screens and did not see BA 282 listed anywhere. Slightly panicking, I walked up and down the aisles to figure out where my flight was. At that side of the Bradley complex, there was a China Airlines flight to Taiwan and a Swiss A340 (HB-JMH) headed to Zurich (by the way…I had never seen an LX aircraft parked at the north side of Bradley). But no BA 282!
So I headed to the south side of the Bradley and saw literally 800 people just sitting in front of the 5 bus-accessible gates. Gate 115 was for BA 282. Great I thought…we’re going to be bussed over to one of the remote gates. This place was literally packed with people – here is a shot:
There was another flight (Qantas 26 to Auckland) awaiting boarding right next to us, so my estimate of 800 people was probably not too far off. Eventually, they called boarding for us at about 8:10pm and I went through and got onto the bus.
Just as I was getting aboard, the security agent told me to stop boarding because he wanted to have a word with the gate agent. He complained to the gate agent about some guy with a 6’ long beard wanting to go on his own premium bus for First and Business Class passengers. The gate agent soon told that passenger that he needed to get on this bus, so he did, and I got on it too and we pushed back and drove over to the remote gate. As were driving over I noticed an-ex AA DC-10 (registered N131AA) parked with all labels and titles removed. Any idea what it was doing there?
Here is a picture of it in better days:
Photo © Frank C. Duarte Jr.
There were a bunch of other 747s belonging to Air China, Korean Air, Eva Air and Qantas parked with our British Airways jet. As we got off the bus, I really wanted to take some pictures with my camera that I had gotten out for that very purpose but there were a bunch of security people around so I decided not to risk it. A shame really – it was obviously dark outside, but it was a clear night and I had an excellent view of the QF 744 (VH-OJJ).
It would have come out something like this:
Photo © Bjoern Schmitt - world-of-aviation
While boarding I had a good look at the nose gear door and saw that it had the initials “LB” written on it, telling me that this aircraft was G-BNLB.
Boarding seemed to take forever. We were literally waiting at the stairs for 10 minutes before we started moving – and we were on the first bus mindyou! It gave me a chance to take a picture of the plane:
9th January 2006
Departure time: 17:35 scheduled, 21:10 actual
Arrival time: 12:00 scheduled, 14:45 actual
Aircraft: Boeing 747-436, G-BNLB
Seat: 19H, later 19B (in WTP)
We boarded from door 1L and received a very warm greeting from the BA crew at the door. I have always thought that their greetings are the best. I soon found my way to seat 19J. No sooner had I sat down than some woman and her husband came up to me and told that that I was in their seat. I pulled out my boarding card and showed them 19J. He pulled out his boarding card which had 19B with a crossmark through it and then 19J written by hand next to it. The husband explained that the gate agent had changed their seats so that they could sit together and would I mind switching to 19B. I stealthily had a glance over to the other side of the cabin and saw some lady wearing black sitting in 19A, so I figured it would be alright and told them that it would be no problem.
Here is a shot of the original seats:
I moved over to 19B, said “good evening” to my seatmate and got a very dry ‘hi’ back from her. She was probably about 40 years old and looked like a chipmunk. Not sure exactly where she was from.
Eventually they completed boarding and we were ready to go. I was absolutely shocked to hear an American voice announcing to us that he was pilot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against having an American pilot, but in 15 years traveling back and forth on BA 282/268 I’ve never once had a non-British crew, so it was a bit weird. In any event, he apologised for the delay and told us a little bit about the flight.
Immediately afterwards, the Cabin Service Director, Mark Matthews, came on to apologise about the delay once again, telling us that the original aircraft assigned to operate BA 283 from London had a hydraulic leak, so they had to substitute another aircraft. Ironically, G-BNLB had just arrived from LAX when it was sent back operating 283.
We eventually taxied out to the runway and lined up on 24L. Funnily enough, as we passed Bradley, G-CIVN had just been pushed back and the later LHR departure was going to be right behind our tail the whole way!
Unfortunately, the pilot decided not to use full thrust on takeoff. We soon turned left over the Pacific Ocean and were treated to a fantastic view of the Los Angeles area. I started watching the BBC World News as the F/As soon came around with drinks.
I decided to have an apple juice this time as I didn’t feel like my usual whiskey.
I took some time to peruse the inflight magazine and was pleased to see that my favourite Boeing 747-400 was plane of the month. Here is something weird – I thought that BA had converted all of the “lite” aircraft back to the standard configuration, but apparently I am mistaken? Have a look at this:
Another funny thing – BA were advertising some new air circulation system they have and featured a picture of an A340 as the photo!! What a disgrace!
Anyway, by the dinner was ready, my seatmate had already leaned over to the left, tilted her ass in my face and dozed off without having anything to eat. I was given the choice of Chicken and Rice or Beet Lasagna. I wasn’t sure if I had heard correctly, so I asked again: “Beef lasagna or beet lasagna?” The F/A said beet lasagna, so on that I decided to go with the Chicken. Lo and behold, it was the EXACT same meal I had had on BA 268 back in September.
Here is a shot:
And a closeup of the chicken and salad:
It was fairly good however, at least for airplane food. I got up, brushed my teeth, pulled out my earplugs and my noise-canceling British Airways Concorde headphones and went straight to sleep. By the time I woke up, we had just about 3 hours to go, so I decided to continue on with my book. I was reading “The Trouble with Modern Islam” by Irshad Manji, a Pakistani lesbian. I reached page 160 before the lights were turned on and a light snack was served.
By this time, my seatmate was already awake and she also indulged in the snack. I was considering starting a conversation with her, but she seemed so uninterested, so I decided not to bother.
Again, the snack was the exact same snack I had had on the previous flight: a ham and cheese sandwich with “natural” provolone (as opposed to artificial?) with a strawberry crumble bar, raspberry yoghurt and a piece of chocolate.
Of course I also had a cup of tea – which had literally no taste whatsoever. It was just like hot water with some colour. I went back to the lav and brushed my teeth again, put some cologne on and splashed some water on my face to look good for the immigration officer. All this time – my seat mate did not get up!
Anyway, at about 2:10pm the captain came back online to tell us that we had just finished passing over Ireland and would be on the ground at Heathrow in 45 minutes. Without any circling over London, we came in for a very shaky and off centred landing on what I think was 27R (the one on the north side parallel to that road). No thrust reversers – guess its not allowed. We parked at Terminal 1 and I was out and off to customs. Luckily, the line was short and to my great surprise, I got an English immigration officer!
I collected by two cases and made it over to the Heathrow Central Bus station *JUST* in time to catch the 4pm bus to Oxford. By this time it was getting dark and the temperature outside was probably no more than 5°C. I took a seat at the back of the bus and I must say, a smile came onto my face when we turned on the M40 and I realised I was back in the UK.
That smile widened as I got off the bus at Gloucester Green and walked back to my hospital room. Oxford is really a lovely city, even in the winter. It may have been cold, but at least you can feel the seasons. The ground was covered in a bit of frost and the trees were absolutely naked.
Unfortunately the bulb hanging from the ceiling in my room had burnt out by the time I arrived (about 6:15pm) so I had to do with the light from my desk lamp.
It wasn’t the greatest feeling being back to be honest. My living space had been cut by 80%, there was no one to help me unpack, cook, do the laundry, ironing, etc. At least some of my buddies were around. I spent a little while with them and eventually went to bed around 10pm. Woke up at 2am, went back on the computer until 3:30 and then slept until noon!
Naught week (week 0) had started on Monday, so I do have some catching up to do. Anyway, I hope that you have enjoyed this report and if you’ve bothered to read this far down, please leave some feedback. You’ll notice that I took some past advice and reduced the quality of some of my pictures to make it easier to read!
Overall, BA was, as it always is, pretty good. Service was good, fast, friendly and this airline is my choice for transatlantic travel.
Here are a couple of nonav photos I took just for the hell of it.
The good news is that I brought some stuff from home to decorate my room. Here it is in its new look:
Notice the wine that I brought from onboard BA in this shot:
Notice the Word document open in the shot, it is this trip report!
And here I am writing the report:
Well thats it. Next few trips to come:
Back to Los Angeles in March, back to Oxford in April
Possible trip to Frankfurt at the end of April on a British Airways 767-300
Potential trip to India in May. My friend’s cousin is getting married Jabalpur and has invited me for the wedding, so I am trying to figure out if I can go or not. If so, that would be flying into any of Bombay, Calcutta or Delhi, as apparently Jabalpur is equidistant from all of those cities.
Hope you’ve enjoyed reading!