After what was a very short and hectic week-long break in Los Angeles, it was time for me to head back to Oxford to finish writing my Masters’ project and start the Trinity term (my last one, God willing).
Unfortunately I can’t exactly describe this last week in California as a holiday because I spent most of the time working on my project. In addition, the weather wasn’t particularly conducive to relaxing. My parents blamed me for bringing the England weather to Los Angeles, as it was wet and grey for most of the week. Nevertheless, I was able to get some (limited) sun and saw some if not all of my friends.
My flight back to London was due to depart at 17:50 on Sunday afternoon and I found out I could check-in online 23 hours prior to takeoff. At that, I was sitting in front of my computer at 17:50 on Saturday afternoon because that was actually 23 hours before takeoff – if you consider the time change onto summer time. Unfortunately, British Airways’ online check-in system wasn’t quite as smart as I was, and as a result I had to come back at 18:50. Perhaps I should sue BA
for false advertising…their system was not
ready 23 hours prior to departure.
Anyway, from looking at the seat map, it seemed as though the business class cabin wasn’t completely full. I had been assigned a lower deck window (14A) but saw that most of the upper deck was empty. I entertained the thought of sticking it out downstairs because I had never traveled in BA
’s new Club World downstairs on a 747, always upstairs. Then I remembered that on my last trip in Club on a BA
777 in June 2003 (the return of my Concorde trip to New York), I couldn’t access the aisle from the window without jumping over the feet of the person in the aisle seat in the row behind mine. So instead I decided to go with the upper deck again and chose 62A, an exit-row window seat.
I found myself in something of a hurry on Sunday morning due to the time change. I finished packing, made a couple of final phone calls and set out from my house around 14:30.
It seems as though my trip reports would not be complete without the requisite picture of my dog, so here we go. Sara, this one’s for you…now can you stop reading if you can’t be bothered, lol!
Initially it was smooth sailing on the freeway. I saw a car whose plate number tickled me, so I took a picture of it just before it changed lanes. Arabic speakers out there will find this amusing. If the owner of the car is reading this trip report (highly unlikely) I am sorry for publicizing your plate number on the internet:
Unfortunately the traffic started to pile up on the 405 Southbound at Wilshire Boulevard and I got off at Olympic/Pico and took Sawtelle up to Sepulveda and then on to the airport, arriving at LAX
after just one hour on the road – not bad when you take into consideration the traffic on the 405 Freeway.
Note: if you’re from the Bay Area, read the last sentence as “not bad when you take into consideration the traffic on 405 Freeway.” I find it hella annoying how you guys don’t use articles before the noun!
Flight BA 282
Departure Time: 17:50 (Scheduled) 17:50 (Actual)
Arrival Time: 12:00+ (Scheduled) 11:28 (Actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-436, G-BNLN, mfg 1990
Seat: 62A, Upper Deck, Club World
I arrived at LAX
at about 15:30 and drove around the departures level. I saw that the Air France 777-200 had already arrived from Paris and that Virgin Atlantic was there at Terminal 2 with one of their 747-400s. I’m so glad to see that they’ve ditched the A340-600 for flight 7/8. Air New Zealand was also present with two 747-400s, I imagine one was coming from London and the other was coming from Auckland. ZK
-NBU was the one whose registration I was able to catch.
As we turned left around the concourse, I got a view of the apron where some of the international traffic at the Tom Bradley International terminal was parked. The BA
747-400 was parked between an Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 and an Aer Lingus A330-200. I tried to catch a glimpse of the tail number from reading the top of the tail and could just make out that G-BNLN was going to be operating the flight this afternoon.
It was about 15:10 by the time I got into the terminal. The Club World check-in queue was empty and I went up to the desk and handed my bag over for tagging. For some odd reason, the check-in lady (who was Lebanese) wanted the credit card with which I booked the ticket. I fortunately had it, but I wonder why she wanted it to begin with. What if someone else had bought the ticket for me and I didn’t have the credit card? Security reasons, perhaps.
The lady gave me my bag back (after she had checked it in) and told me to hand it over to the security agents for screening. I hate how we have to go through this misery at LAX
. First of all, it’s a huge hassle, especially if you’ve got multiple bags or are traveling with children. Secondly, it usually takes forever and I’m not exactly sure what the point of it is. There must be some reason – perhaps one of you on here can enlighten me.
Anyway, fortunately for me, there was NO ONE there at the baggage drop, so I simply handed my bag over and once they had screened it, I was free to go.
I said goodbye to my parents and proceeded over to security. Again, there was almost no one there. I went through security on the south side of the terminal and so was afforded a view of the west side of the Terminal 4 apron. Air India Boeing 747-400 VT
-ESN was parked closest to me and looked like it was in real need of a polish. The engine nacelles in particular just looked really dull. Perhaps they had a matte finish but in any event, let’s just say that the AI
744 wasn’t visually appealing from my perspective. Incidentally, I didn’t know that Air India was flying from Terminal 4. Or perhaps…was that just the other side of the Bradley complex? Not quite sure…again, perhaps someone can fill me in. I’ve only ever flown away from the north side.
Security was, as always, a royal pain in the proverbial, involving the usual strip tease of jacket, belt and shoes. Of course, I had to take my laptop out of its case and put it through the machine.
The guy in front of me literally took something like 5 minutes to do all this and had to go through the metal detector three times. After he was finished, it was my turn and I walked through the metal detector like a rose. I made my way up the stairs to the British Airways lounge and after walking through what seemed like an endless maze, I eventually found it.
It was the same lousy lounge that I had been to a million times before, but not since 2002. There were plenty of torn up couches and a small snack bar. I opened up my laptop and found that my network card detected the presence of a wireless network, but I could not connect to it. I went up and asked the lady at the door if she knew how I could access the wireless internet and she replied that she didn’t have the password. Leads me to believe that some airline in one of these lounges has put a system in place for the benefit of their premium passengers, but that British Airways hasn’t bothered yet.
To be honest, the lounges at Bradley all seem to suck. Well actually, Bradley itself just sucks. Has anyone been to a decent lounge at LAX
? What is the Admirals Club like at T4
and what is United’s Red Carpet Club like? I wonder, can a one
world elite traveler go to any of the one
world lounges, such as a British Airways passenger go to the Cathay Pacific or LAN Chile lounge? I noticed that the one I was in was shared between BA
and Qantas. Here are a couple of lousy photos:
Once I sat down, I went up to the bar and got a glass of sparkling water and a very stale ham and cheese sandwich. If any of you have seen these stupid “California – it’s the Cheese” commercials, I just have to say how much I hate them. Most of the cheese you find here completely sucks and tastes like soap.
At this point there were only a handful of people in the lounge. I sat down and started working on my laptop. One of the other people in the lounge was also on his computer and he didn’t bother to turn the sound off. I’m not sure what he was doing, but his computer was beeping every so often, much to the chagrin of one particular gentleman sitting across from me. You know that facial expression of disapproval and the accompanying movement of the mouth? He did that every single time the beep went off and looked over at the guy with a look as if to say, “will you turn off ******* sound!”
One good thing about the lounge was that there was a nice selection of newspapers available. Here is the short list I came up with:
The Age (Australia)
The Weekend Australian (no doubt these last two were brought over on Qantas)
The Sunday Telegraph
The New York Times
The Daily Mail
A number of magazines were also lying around. I actually picked up a copy of the Weekend Australian to give to my Australian friend down the hall from me at Keble (the one who lent me “The Assassin’s Gate” to read on the plane).
Eventually at about 5pm I decided to pack up my things and head down to the departures floor, spotting a couple of airplanes and waiting for my pending departure. I headed out of the lounge and went downstairs to the departures lounge and walked to gate 121. The aforementioned Air Tahiti Nui A340-300 was now gone and had been replaced by a Singapore Airlines A340-500, registration 9V
When I reached the gate, I noticed that boarding had already started. There was no one in the “First/Business Class” line so I went through there and boarded G-BNLN. Upon stepping into the aircraft, I showed the purser my boarding card and he said “Right, up the stairs to our roof top garden sir” which I thought was a lovely greeting and much preferable to the simple “up the stairs to your right.”
Upon reaching the upper deck, I saw that only one other passenger had boarded. I sat down in my seat (62A) and made myself comfortable. I do prefer the upper deck to the lower deck for several reasons. First of all, it’s nice riding up top. Secondly, since the walls curves, there are storage bins next to the window seats which is great to keep your reading material or glasses accessible. I put my laptop bag in one of these bins and put my camera bag in the overhead bin.
Here is a shot of the bin that I am talking about. Sorry for the lack of brightness:
I was also pleasantly surprised to see that British Airways had changed the seat fabric – the new one was much softer. This addresses one of the two major complaints I had had about British Airways’ Club World from back in the day – that the seats were too hard. In my opinion, this is no longer the case.
No sooner had I taken my jacket off than the purser (Michelle) came and offered to hang it up. She later came back and offered me a glass of champagne, orange juice or water. I’m not usually a great fan of champagne, but figured what the hell and accepted it.
Here is a shot of me drinking the champagne:
Here are a couple of shots of the seats on the upper deck:
And here is my seat, 62A:
Not that many people showed up to the upper deck. Out of 20 seats, 6 were left empty. One of them was the seat next to me, 62B. Here is a photo of it:
I got out my camera and started taking some pictures as we pushed back from the stand. The safety video came on and I figured I’d take a picture of the some of the silly figurines in the video since I had my camera out but was stopped by the purser, who asked that I don’t take pictures of anything safety related. I think she was a bit confused as to what I was doing and just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t violating any regulations. I explained that I am an amateur aviation fan who writes trip reports online and promised that I wouldn’t take any more pictures of the safety video. She thanked me and walked back to the galley.
We then received the amenity kits. These seemingly hadn’t changed since the new Club World was introduced. Inside was a toothbrush, some socks, ear plugs, mouthwash, toothpaste, lip balm and cream:
As we cleared the apron at Tom Bradley, a Malaysia Airlines 747-400 was coming in and parked at Gate 123. I spotted a Mexicana Airbus A320 and noticed that it had a French registration, which I thought was a bit odd:
We soon made our way to runway 24 left. There were two Southwest Airlines A380-900s and a KLM 747-400 Combi (PH-BFR) ahead of us.
I also took shot of a Hawaiian Airlines 767-300:
Takeoff was smooth and we rotated just as we passed the remote gates at the west end of the LAX
complex. It was a clear day outside and I took a couple of pictures of the beautiful California coastline. That is one thing I do love about Southern California – it has a beautiful landscape.
Here are some photos:
Moments after we took off, the crew came round with the menu and the drinks. Since I had already had some champagne, I decided to have some apple juice instead of my usual scotch on the rocks. Then came my first disappointment – having flown Club World 3-4x times a year until about 2002, I was a little bit upset to see that the small bowl of warm roasted nuts was gone and was replaced with a plastic bag of crummy macadamia nuts, not unlike what you would find in Economy! Not sure why they’ve cancelled this, perhaps it’s a cost cutting measure.
Here is a shot of the nuts and the apple juice:
And one of the menu:
When I was finished with the apple juice, the F/A came back to collect the glass and asked me if I would like anything else. I replied that I didn’t. Soon after, the purser passed by to take orders for dinner. The options were as follows:
Blue crab salad with mango
Mozzarella cheese, sun-blushed tomatoes and grilled artichokes dressed with peppered olive oil
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
Grilled fillet steak with green beans, carrots and potatoes au gratin
Seared citrus salmon on fire-roasted pepper sauce, sautéed spinach and saffron rice
Spinach and roast garlic tortellini with pomodoro sauce and grated Parmesan cheese
Duck confit and foie gras on fresh salad leaves with orange dressing
Key lime pie
Aged Cheddar and Danish Blue cheese
I asked for the mixed green salad and the fillet steak with a glass of Italian red wine.
I started reading a bit of my book and eventually the crew came round with dinner. Therein came my second disappointment – whereas they used to set the tray table with a large cloth napkin, now the dinner tray comes with the cloth napkin on it. It’s a small thing, but I think it detracts from the experience.
Here is the tray table:
Here is a shot of the mixed green salad and a piece of bread (the crew later came round with a second piece of bread).
I was pleasantly surprised to find metal cutlery as opposed to plastic that I remembered having been given previously (9/11, anyone?)
The salad was pretty good and was all I wanted for the first course. The second course was the beef and that was quite good as well, although it was really quite oily.
Dessert was key lime pie with chocolate truffles. I ate the pie (which was fabulous, in fact) and left the chocolates for later. I had a cup of tea as well.
During dinner, I watched “England’s road to Germany” which is an hour-long documentary on British Airways’ Sports Channel about England’s triumph in the World Cup qualification stage. Rooney, Lampard and Owen look fantastic up front. England are looking pretty good actually, but have they got what it takes to win the World Cup this year? I sincerely hope so as England is my favourite team. Is anyone else sick of seeing Brazil win?
Anyway, after the trays were collected, I decided to recline the seat to 180 degrees and relax a little bit while listening to my iPod that my roommate gave me as a birthday present in 2005. I opened the amenity kit and got out the ear plugs and put them on. I then reached for my noise-canceling headphones that were given out on my Concorde flight in 2003, connected my iPod to it and put them on. I lay there on the bed for about 1 hour just relaxing.
Here is a shot of the bed fully reclined:
Here are some other photos of the seat, starting with the control panel:
Here is the TV
and the small fold-out tray for drinks. The TV
swivels back for storage:
There is a gap between the seat and the side bin where you can keep your shoes:
Here is the Ottoman which can be swiveled around depending on how you want to set your feet:
As far as the seat/bed is concerned, I found that the seat comfort has been improved with the introduction of the softer fabric. However, my other complaints from three years ago still stand. The seat is too narrow and the fact that it slopes downwards makes it difficult to get really comfortable. It seriously takes some time to get comfortable in this chair. I spent 10 minutes fidgeting around until I could figure out what to do with my hands. The top part of the chair is closed off by the pod and really, unless you are content with sleeping on your back with your hands at your sides, it’ll take some time to find a position you like.
In addition, at 5’ 7” or 5’ 8” tall, I barely
fit on the seat and my feet dangled over the edge. If you’re any taller than that, forget being able to stretch out completely. I think you’ll have to assume a cocoon position to sleep properly.
Now, before I start sounding like a whining devil (perhaps I already have), I just wanted to say that these criticisms that I am leveling at the Club World flat bed are comparative differences between it and the Club World Cradle Seat that preceded it. I seriously think I would have been more comfortable in the cradle seat, though it was definitely preferable to the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Seat (J2000 seat) that I flew on in 2004.
Anyway, I did eventually manage to get some sleep and despite all the complaining on here, I was asleep for a good 4-5 hours and woke up when the cabin lights were turned back on.
We were about an hour and a half away from London when breakfast was served. I was offered a plate of fresh fruit or some cereal and milk. I choose the fruit and was pleasantly surprised to find that the fruit actually had taste. The crew also came round with a basket of pastries. I took a muffin and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was nice and warm. Note Sven-Goran Erickson
I was then offered a bacon roll with ketchup. I took the roll but declined the ketchup – not really a fan. I had a cup of tea followed by a cup of milk over breakfast while watching England’s Road to Germany a second time.
Here is the bacon roll:
Eventually the trays were collected and we prepared for landing. The crew handed out landing cards, a Fast Track immigration pass and an invitation to the Arrivals lounge:
With 20 minutes remaining in the flight, the fasten seatbelt signs were switched on as we continued our descent into Heathrow.
Here is a shot of the BA
As the tyres of the aircraft gently kissed the tarmac of Runway 27 R, I thought to myself, “God Save the Queen” as I usually do when landing in the UK. We slowed down without the help of reverse thrust and taxied to Terminal 1. After we arrived, an Air India 747-400 came in for landing on the runway and used thrust reversers, which surprised me because I had been under the impression that they weren’t allowed to on that runway due to noise regulations? Again, someone please fill me in.
Here is the Air India 747-400 coming in with the thrust reverses deployed:
There wasn’t really any interesting activity at Heathrow on this morning. I did, however, get a nice view of G-RAES as we were taxiing on the ground:
I also caught my first glimpse of the Turkish A330-200. I tried to see if the Middle East Airlines A330 or A321 was around, but didn’t see anything. I can’t remember if they operate on Mondays or not…I think they don’t.
Eventually we arrived at the stand and parked next to sistership G-BNLU:
The engines and the fasten seatbelt sign were turned off at 11:32 – we were well ahead of schedule. Deplaning was quick and easy and after about 10 minutes of walking, I reached the immigration area of Terminal 1. Before landing, “Fast Track Immigration” invitations were handed out and I used it to go through the Fast Track line. When I arrived, there was no one in the queue so I went through very quickly. Amazingly enough, the baggage carousel for our flight had already been assigned and I waited for my suitcase to come out. Bags started to come out almost immediately.
After about 5 minutes, my bag came out but I must have been daydreaming, as I didn’t initially notice it and it passed me by. I waited for it to come back around. Just as it was passing the conveyor from where bags were coming out onto the carousel, a huge brown box fell on it and some lady a few feet away from me tried to get the box off. I helped her do so, and as a result, missed my bag again! I eventually got it on the third go.
By this time, it was about noon and I knew I wasn’t going to make the 12:00 OxfordHeathrow coach back to Oxford. I had been given an invitation to the British Airways arrivals lounge at Terminal 1 and I entertained the thought of checking it out for a few minutes, but then decided to just go and wait for the next coach.
The walk from Terminal 1 arrivals to the Central Bus Terminal is about 7 minutes, with the major bottleneck being the lift up from the underground walkway to the bus stands. I reached the stand at about 12:10 and waited for about 20 minutes for the X70 coach to show up.
By 12:45 we were already leaving Heathrow and heading out for the M40. There is something refreshing about being in the UK and I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the familiar dreariness of Heathrow airport, the driving on the left or the predictably dismal weather, but I always find myself glad to be here.
I had hoped that in the week that I was gone, the previously bare trees were going to fill up with colourful leaves, the weather was going to become warm and we could finally kiss the winter goodbye, but alas, during my brief absence, the only thing that had changed was the time.
We arrived at the Thornhill Park and Ride around 13:36 and made a few stops before reaching Gloucester Green (the central bus station in Oxford).
Overall, I had a very pleasant trip with British Airways. My experience at the airport could only be described as relaxed. I really didn’t have to suffer through any queues – not at check-in, not at the baggage-drop, not through security, not during boarding, not during deplaning, nor during immigration at Heathrow nor even during baggage collection.
On board, the crew was as professional and efficient as I had come to expect from British Airways. In addition, the flight attendants were friendly, funny and charismatic. I did, however, notice a couple of downgrades in the catering. These were limited to the absence of the warm nuts during the first drinks service and not setting the tray table as I remember that they used to do back in the day. These might seem like trivial points but I can’t really call either of them cost cutting schemes, so why the change? Either way, these two points constitute the extent of my complaints about the service.
I thought that I would briefly summarise the few questions that I had while writing this trip report in the hope that someone can enlighten me on these points:
Why do we have to do the baggage drop?
Where does Air India fly from at LAX
What are other lounges like at LAX
What was the reasoning behind the service downgrades?
Does anyone think England stands a chance of winning the World Cup?
Can you use reverse thrust on 27R? If not what was the AI
What is the British Airways Arrivals facility like?
Hope that you enjoyed the report. If you’ve bothered to read this far down, please leave some comments. I’m worried that these reports are getting unnecessarily long and long-winded!
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.