I’d been in Seattle the week before ( AA/AS First Class & US Express: RIC-SEA (pics+vid) (by Fbgdavidson Jul 13 2006 in Trip Reports) & AS/AA First Class & US Airways: SEA-RIC (pics) (by Fbgdavidson Jul 13 2006 in Trip Reports) ) and my wife picked me up from the airport at Richmond three days before I was due to leave for London with my papers in hand I was good to go…
Route: Washington – Dulles Int. – London Heathrow
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA224
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236/ER
Seat: 02A (First)
Distance: 3677 miles
Duration: 6hrs 25mins
Date: Friday 14th July
Photo © Martin Aves
Photo © Ryan Hemmings
Having flown the United dayflight a few months ago I thought it was a good idea to try the British Airways ( UA Business Class: IAD-LHR-IAD (w/pics) (by Fbgdavidson Feb 22 2006 in Trip Reports) ) equivalent. I’d pretty much used the evening 292 service every time previous to this and so I felt a bit like a fish out of water arriving at BA check-in during daylight hours! I’d investigated hotels but booking at short notice midweek was going to be fairly pricey. Even Hampton Inns close to Dulles were in the $200 range and I hate being ripped off so decided we’d make an early start and I’d drive up from Richmond since I’d have little else to do all day!
We arrived at Dulles a little earlier than expected, just around 6.15am and check-in was heaving. The Club World check-in had over a dozen people waiting and I couldn’t even see where the main cabin line stretched to, but fortunately First was well, empty The check-in chap joked that he had a spare boarding pass for my wife but based on my online check-in experience the morning before the only room for her would have been in the overhead!
I said goodbye to Kirstin and put my bag through the luggage scanner and locked it, waving it off to Heathrow, hopefully arriving eight hours or so later, intact and unmolested. Speaking of unmolested I got in the line for security Surprisingly for early morning the line wasn’t very long at all, although I have heard that MWAA have, in the past week, introduced a premium security line As I walked over to the shuttle to the D concourse the incoming mobile lounge arrived and so I sat for a few minutes as it filled up. An elderly couple were amongst the last to arrive so I gave up my seat for them to sit together.
Unfortunately it turned out the BA First Lounge isn’t open for the early flight, a minor disappointment but for the sake of completeness here are some pictures from a previous visit. Thumbnailed so not to confuse it from this report
British Airways First Lounge at Washington Dulles
Instead I made the short walk to the Terraces Lounge, a relatively new addition to the lounges at Dulles following it’s refurbishment last year.
British Airways Terraces Lounge at Washington Dulles
I sat with a glass of water reading a few magazines from those on offer as the lounge filled up slowly and boarding time approached. With an 8.05am departure I made my way, slightly ahead of the crowd, up to Gate D32 at 7.30am. A rather loud alarm could be heard echoing around the concourse and ahead of me the small food court area and surrounding gates were in darkness. It was a slight reminder of my rather treacherous passage through Cape Town Airport in February! The non-Fast Track line snaked a fair bit out of the line but as ever the Fast Track line itself was rather empty, if static and in darkness . I put my bag down and stepped out of the boarding line and sat on the adjacent seats. The crew, plus captain’s wife arrived and were taken aboard and after about ten minutes or so boarding commenced.
Unusually we boarded through 1L and I removed my little things for the initial stages of the flight, then proceeded to put my bags in the overhead. I do like the fact in First you have plenty of room in your own overhead locker My first impressions of this seat weren’t too good as the shelf between the seat and the window seemed unclean! I brushed a few stale crumbs and other bits into the gap between the window and the shelf. I was offered a pre-flight drink of champagne, orange juice or water to which I accepted the former however strangely there were no macademia nuts as per usual. The usual ‘serenity’ of the First cabin was somewhat disrupted by everyone heading to the rear cabins, don’t BA know this wears out the carpet! This did make the pre-flight service a little tough for the flight attendants who were being knocked and interrupted by the near constant flow of traffic.
Seat 1E in First. Note the useful little shelf and locker on the left hand side, a useful something that none of the other middle seats offer (1F being the exception)
I was offered a sleeper suit and went to the forward bathroom to change into it, was quite amusing to find all the crew bags stored in there After returning to my seat I noticed the captain’s wife was sitting in 1A , one of the perks I guess but I’m still a little against non-revs in First on a three cabin aircraft to be honest!
I was offered a newspaper and accepted the travel friendly version of The Times, having not been home for a few months I certainly wasn’t going to read a copy of The Daily Mail As I glanced around the cabin I noticed the Highlife Shop magazine and remembered my mother had a little shopping list for me so scoped that out. As we were waiting the captain came round and said hello to everyone, a nice touch whilst the First Officer prepared for pushback I presume. A few minutes later and ensconed in seat 0A our friendly captain introduced himself to us, apologised for the delay in pushback and said that we were still expecting to arrive early at Heathrow thanks to strong tailwinds, a flight time of just 6hrs 25mins!
As I’d had a few drinks in the lounge I was about ready to visit the bathroom (no excrement test results here I’m afraid ) but was chuckling a little when I went to the stall in front of 1F this time and again found it full of crew bags . As the crew were sorting things out in the First galley I went back through the Club World galley and was given ‘permission to pass through my kitchen’ by the Club World purser .
Soon we were off, and taxiing around to runway 1L…
Takeoff video – BA224 from runway 1L at Washington Dulles
Menus were handed out soon after takeoff and I found out it was just brunch on the flight, no second meal service closer to arriving in London which was rather disappointing, I mean even United managed a couple of decent sized multi-course meals on my dayflight with them in and that was in Business Class!
I perused the menu which is as follows:
Welcome to the FIRST dining experience, where you are in control of when and what you eat. Please create your own menu combination, from a light meal to a complete meal.
Chilled fruit juice
A selection of yoghurts
Fresh seasonal fruit
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Roast vegetable bisque
Fresh salad leaves with your choice of balsamic vinaigrette or garlic and sour cream dressing
Full English brunch of scrambled eggs, grilled fillet steak, bcaon, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash-brown potatoes
Coconut chicken curry, cauliflower sagaloo and basmati rice with Indian bread.
Warm crab cakes on fresh salad leaves with your choice of Thai chilli dressing or garlic mayonnaise
New York cheesecake
Bacon roll served with tomato ketchup
Penne pasta with your choice of pomodoro sauce or wild mushroom sauce with freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Duchy of Cornwall biscuits
A selection of cheese and fruit
Aged Cheddar – A full falvour and buttery texture are hallmarks of this classic cheese
Fleur de Maquis – Also known as Brindamour, this cheese is encrusted with dried herbs
Danish Blue – A rindless, semi-soft cheese with deep blue marbling, Danish Blue is prized for its creaminess
A basket of fresh fruit
We offer you a choice of
English Breakfast, Darjeeling or Earl Grey tea
A selection of fruit and herbal teas – peppermint, apple and blackcurrant or camomile and honey
Fresh roast and ground coffee or decaffeinated coffee, espresso or cappuccino
Selection of reception sandwiches
Steak and ale pie with garden peas
Espresso, cappuccino, fresh roast and ground coffee or decaffeinated coffee
Tea or a selection of fruit and herb teas
The wine list was as follows:
Pommery Cuvée Louise 1997
Pommery’s top wine, Cuvée Louise, is made only in the finest years and only from grapes in their finest vineyards in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte de Blancs – a stunning wine.
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2004,
Domaine Billaud-Simon, France
After the blistering heat of 2003, it’s nice to get back to a classic, steely dry Chablis! The family –run Domaine Billaud-Simon can always be relied upon to make elegant, polished wines.
d’Arenberg “The Hermit Crab” Viognier Marsanne 2004, McLaren Vale, Australia
Eccentric Australian winemaker Chester Osborn grows these two Rhône Valley varieties in his McLaren Vale vineyards. The wine is soft, rounded and peachy with a delicately floral finish
Wente Riva Ranch Reserve Chardonnay 2003, Arroyo Seco, USA
This is a high quality, archetypal Californian Chardonnay – rounded with well-integrated, toasty oak with a thrilling array of citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
Château Talbot 1995, Grand Cru Classé, Saint-Julien, France
Talbot is such a consistent performer and shows all the silky texture and suppleness one has come to expect from the great Saint-Julien château.
Saint Joseph 2001, Guigal, France
2001 was a simply wonderful vintage in the northern Rhône Valley. This wine is made solely from the Syrah grape variety and by an acknowledged master, Marcel Guigal.
Rodney Strong Symmetry 2001, Meritage, Alexander Valley, USA
Meritage wines must contain the classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet and Merlot. This is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and is rich, harmonious and powerful.
Close Labère 1999, Sauternes, France
A brilliant mid-gold colour and a bouquet of honey and beeswax precede a delicious mouthful of apricot and dried figs, sweet and rich but fresh and clean
Warre's 1988 Colheita Port
Complex, sweet, nutty flavours offer and admirable after-dinner glass.
SPIRITS, DIGESTIFS AND LIQUERS
We offer a complete range of classic and timeless spirits, digestifs and liquers including Gonzalez Byass Sherries, Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky, Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, Smirnoff Black Label Vodka, The Glenlivet 18-year-old Single Malt Whisky, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Whiskey and Camus XO Cognac.
A selection of traditional and modern drinks including Coca Cola, Highland Spring still or sparkling mineral water.
We banked round almost due east from Washington across Annapolis and just south of Atlantic City then out into the North Atlantic for a rather southerly routing.
The entertainment began with the ‘Well Being’ video and the audio was played throughout the cabin, something I thought was a bit odd…after this my menu order was taken and my champagne was topped up.
By this stage I’d noticed that the ‘First View’ options had not been handed out. Usually this is one of the first things done on the ground so I requested the little slip hoping to get ahead of the game.
A tray was also brought around with a selection of drinks on it including orange juice, the smoothie (I presume the energizing smoothie from Club World) and some cranberry juice. Not being much of a fan of the other two I took an orange juice.
Climbing out over the North Atlantic with a glass of Pommery Louise and orange juice for company
I handed back my First View choices to the FA and within a minute my first two choices, ’Fun With Dick & Jane’ and ’Syriana’ were in my possession. So I put the former on, this of course required winding back to the beginning so I waited a few minutes supping on my champagane.
’Fun with Dick and Jane’ in rewind and the ever present glass of Pommery Cuvee Louise…
Several minutes later my champagne was once again topped up without asking, the danger of flying First Class with the table out! By this time I’d already drunk the majority of a bottle and I’d been onboard not much more than an hour!!!
I noticed for the chocoholics amongst us that a tray of the famed Lily O’Briens had been put out on the magazine shelf in front of seat 1K. Something definitely worth remembering for later in the flight, and since I hadn’t eaten much and with food on the way I didn’t want to ruin my appetite with chocolates!
An hour after takeoff my smoked salmon had arrived, I must have been one of the last to receive my food as I saw fruit plates and various menu items go to the seats behind me for the previous few minutes. The bread basket also did the rounds and I attained a glass of water somewhere in all the goings on!
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
I LOVE smoked salmon and cream cheese and this wasn’t going to disappoint. I’d had some a few months ago on United and it was fabulous and this was a touch better, my only complaint was I could have done with a tad more cream cheese.
Coconut chicken curry, cauliflower sagaloo and basmati rice with Indian bread.
I’d been away for a few months and not managed to get to an Indian restaurant since Christmas this seemed a good way to start off my trip back to Blighty. To be quite honest I was really disappointed in this dish. The rice was very dry, the sauce was a bit of a slick and the bread brought back painful memories of eating some cardboard as a dare when I was at prep school! I left the cauliflower sagaloo completely!
New York cheesecake
With the sole cheesecake option for dessert I went for yep the cheesecake This was nicely presented and coffee was served at the same time. Would be nice to have a little sugar bowl instead of the little paper sachets that get drenched as they lay in the saucer during the slightest bit of turbulence….in international First Class all these rather trivial little touches do make a difference!
The coffee itself was quite strong but delicious, certainly didn’t taste like your average four buck chuck from Starbucks!
I carried on watching 'Fun With Dick and Jane', quite a good little movie, certainly helped to pass an otherwise boring transatlantic flight…When this finished I swapped it over for 'Syriana' and watched some of that through. I was starting to tire a little so arranged the pillows just so and laid back for an hour tuned into Bose QC2s and GU #013, Sasha at his very best
Another victim of the great service aboard BA224 today…fortunately I made it off at Heathrow with my face intact
Photo © Fraser Davidson
The 13 seat First cabin aboard G-YMMG
After waking up I requested the extra pouches for the BAg that was handed out earlier in the flight and these were brought round rather fast. Sometimes the crew look funnily at you when asking for these, sometimes they don't know what you are talking about and the other times you get a smile and a thumbs up, today was that day Upon their delivery I asked if I could get a small dish so I could head around to 1K to snack on the Lily O'Briens chocolates laid out for us, however, a minute later they were brought round to my seat and left with me for a good twenty minutes
Regular checkups were made on water and wine and with a few hours left to fly I enquired about the possibility of getting a bacon roll off the snack menu anytime between now and landing. This was delivered as we were passing just over Southern Ireland, perfect timing
Bacon roll, sans ketchup and HP sauce
The CSD who was particularly excellent on this flight apologised profusely for the lack of ketchup and brown sauce as it appeared they'd run out. She'd checked Club World too and it was lacking there too and being one of those resourceful types even offered me some of her personal stash of Marmite! I politely turned her down on that offer being one of those 50% of people that hates the stuff
At this point I am going to end my extended commentary on the flight and let my pictures do the talking, the views coming in over South Wales and down the Thames Valley were pretty breathtaking, especially since I flew right over my house. Sadly my pictures didn't quite do it justice (the full size versions can be found on the linked photo album at the end of this flight) but here we go:
South Wales again. The airfield visible is Templeton in Pembrokeshire, now disused
Newbury, Berkshire - The controversial bypass is clearly visible on the left hand side running north to south. The racecourse can also be seen on the right hand side of the shot
The former USAF base at Greenham Common. The six former cruise missile silos can be seen just south of the west end of the runway. My old golf club is visible just north of the runway
Reading, Berkshire - The Reading to Basingstoke railway line is clearly visible along with the A33. Looking closely the Madjeski Stadium, home of Reading Football Club can just be made out.
Making a turn just south of Heathrow to head back towards Maidenhead this large fire at Thursley became visible
Farnborough - The airfield can clearly be seen along with many of the stands going up for the airshow the following week
Blackbushe - Where is the B52 doing a flypast?
Henley-on-Thames - The straight piece of the River Thames is home to the annual Henley Royal Regatta. The white stands of the Stewards and Regatta Enclosures can just be made out.
The airfield at White Waltham near Maidenhead
Dorney Lake - Close to Windsor and owned by Eton College this was venue to many a regatta that my younger brother competed in.
Eton, Berkshire - The buildings of the famous college clearly visible. The west end of Windsor Castle can just be made out in the bottom right hand corner too.
Windsor Castle - By now it was pretty clear we were on a 9L approach as opposed to 9R signifying a rather long taxi over to Terminal 4.
Landing on runway 9R at London Heathrow
After landing on 9L we taxied around the back end of the airfield across runway 23/05, with Concorde just visible around the corner and got in the queue to cross runway 27L/09R for entry into Terminal 4.
A few minutes later and the engines spooled up a touch, enough to get us moving and over to Terminal 4, right on stand at the end of the main concourse, at least I was spared walking the length of the Victor Pier! As we pulled up at the gate from my window it was clear there was a load of guys in suits with a Chrysler minivan and a fleet of other cars waiting to take someone important off the aircraft. In the rush to get off I couldn't tell who was awaiting VIP treatment and I was left wondering if I'd flown with a VIP and not even realised who they were
Immigration line was empty at this time of the evening and so it was just the almost predictable wait for baggage. Heathrow can be hit and miss when it comes to this and today was a definite miss. One 'memorable' occasion I'd walked from the Victor gates pretty quick, had no wait at immigration arrived at baggage reclaim to find my bag already on the belt awaiting me Well that day certainly wasn't today, 15mins to get the thing moving and then another fifteen minutes whilst the baggage guys no doubt held back all the First and Club World bags
A number of customs officers were out in the baggage hall clearly visible awaiting to catch someone, probably following a tip off of some kind. I saw one poor chap get the treatment but then he did have the stereotype weed smuggler look about him He even looked pretty stoned as he came past me
Finally my luggage arrived and off it was back to where I'd just flown over an hour ago...if BA could arrange ejector seats for those living in the Thames Valley I'd be the first to give it a go
More pictures from this flight can be found on my Imagestation site here
Route: London Gatwick - Jersey
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA8033
Aircraft: Boeing 737-528
Seat: 01C (Club Europe)
Distance: 161 miles
Date: Monday 17th July
Photo © Michael Kominik
Photo © Jid Webb
Was an early start for me this Monday, across the backroads of Hampshire dodging countless pigeons and down to Gatwick and into the NCP Flightpath car park. I'd arrived in good time, expecting it to take two hours and accounting for traffic it looked like I'd misjudged by about an hour
Having checked-in online to 01C the previous day I decided to use the self service check-in machine. Had another look at the seatmap to see if any window seats were available, alas no, even in the 11 rows of Club Europe on this flight it looked like 1C was the best available.
At this time Fast Track was closed for some unknown reason and the lines looked enormous, the whole area in front of the security checkpoint was full so I just joined along with everyone else. A guy with a bag covered in BA Gold and First tags started having a go at the BAA woman asking why fast Track wasn't open, she claimed it wouldn't open until 6am yet it was 6.45am As it happened the line moved fairly fast and once my boarding pass was checked and photo taken I was through very quickly. The Fast Track bag scanner had been opened and the chap called over 'weary travellers'
I headed straight to the First Lounge to get a bite to eat, it was pretty empty and I didn't struggle to get a table. I poured myself a glass of Charles Heidsieck champagne and ordered a couple of bacon rolls from the kitchen.
BA First Lounge at Gatwick
The lounge slowly filled up a little more and I grabbed a copy of the paper to pass the time. Amongst those filling up the lounge was BBC Business Editor, Jeff Randall, off somewhere with a companion.
Bacon rolls and champagne
There was certainly a Special Services presence, going around and speaking with the high value Gold cardholders making sure everything was ok, unsurprisingly I was passed by I poured myself another glass of champagne to console myself that I wasn't special enough for special services and then a familiar face came across to see me. A Flyertalker was in the house! I'd met the chap a couple of times before including at a so called 'Do' in my honour last year when I was moving to the US. We chatted for a good fifteen minutes or so and then my flight went to last call so it was off to the gate.
There was a line of a dozen or so passengers and when I made it aboard I'd realised I'd cut things a bit tight. The nearest overhead available was back at about row 7. This wasn't looking good for getting off at Jersey
Either way I took my seat and leafed through the pages of Highlife and Business Life until the necessaries had been completed by the crew. Looking about I was the only person not in investment banker, suit and tie mode. Certainly appears as if the Jersey route is raking in the money, maybe on Mondays at least Hot towels did the rounds, with such a short flight time I guess it makes sense to do such things at this time.
Pushback was a little late although we were assured of a quick crossing to Jersey this morning, taxied out to runway 8R and off we went. As soon as the wheels were off the ground a member of the crew walked past me in the aisle, must be like mountaineering!! We turned round and passed the north side of the airfield and with Gatwick still visible I was handed a hot breakfast I'd flown this route before in Club Europe but it was a fairly lightly loaded Saturday and there were only three rows of front cabin service. However to have breakfast in hand about three minutes after takeoff and still climbing was something else
Club Europe breakfast
Hot breakfast, bread, coffee and tea for fifty five people and even time for a second drinks round on a 31 min flight is quite astounding and a real credit goes to FA Louise Griffiths who was running around like a mad thing to keep everyone fed and watered.
Second drinks round - Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Blue Top champagne
We passed over Guernsey and looped around for an approach into Jersey from the west and over St Ouens. As we descended my glass of champagne was poured into a plastic one. Somehow we avoided crashing off the end of the runway, lots of noise after touchdown and we still took the last turning off to head back to the terminal!
As the plane came to a halt my mission to retrieve my bag began. I shuffled down the aisle and one chap just beside where it was saw my plight and took it out of the bin and passed it down to me
I left the plane by the front stairs, Louise again managed a smile and a thankyou as she awaited the next rabble to board and then head back to the mainland. My brother and his girlfriend were right outside waiting for me, and so was the Jersey sunshine