Hardly a week after I arrived in Los Angeles after my year at Oxford, I was due to move again. I would be back in the desert, yes, but this time it wasn’t Southern California, but rather the United Arab Emirates. I had accepted a job in Dubai and was due to begin work on the 15th of August.
There are plenty of options for travel between LAX
. Unfortunately several of the European options involved a long layover between flights and a late connection, arriving in Dubai the morning after and therefore 2 days after having left Los Angeles. Connections from Asia and significantly longer and the timing of connections are bad for westbound routings anyway.
The best option I found was to leave LAX
at 15:35 on BA
278, arrive at Heathrow the next day at 09:45 in time to connect to the 12:45 BA
107 to Dubai, arriving in the UAE at 22:30. I selected this option and had my company book it for me.
A few days before I was due to travel, the terrorist plot was foiled and so that meant security restrictions on my flights. I called British Airways and was advised of the situation. I was only allowed to take my passport, travel documents, keys and prescription medicine on the aircraft. Laptop, iPod and books were all to be left behind. But the good news was that instead of all this hand luggage, I would be able to take another case with me in the hold. Useful since I was moving all the way to Dubai and had more things to take than could be fit in just two cases (which is originally what I was allowed).
Saturday the 12th of August rolled around. I called British Airways in the morning and found that BA
279 had left London late and was therefore going to be arriving to Los Angeles late. I would then miss my connecting flight to Dubai and the gentleman on the phone rebooked me on the later BA
109 departure. This meant that I would have about 10 hours to burn at LHR
I checked in online and chose seat 62A…the window seat just forward of the upper deck door and one of my favourites on the upper deck as you don’t have to climb over anyone’s feet to get to the aisle. I was informed by the BA
Executive Club customer service agent that I would need to be at the airport three hours before the scheduled departure time EVEN THOUGH the damn plane was coming in 3 hours late. I didn’t pay too much attention to him. The flight’s new departure time was 17:30 and I wasn’t going to be there 5 hours early.
I left my house at about 12:30 with the intention of arriving at the airport at 13:30. Despite having only been there for a week and not having lived permanently at my house since 2001, I still found it difficult to leave. Ever since 1988 my family was always on the move and this house seemed to be the only permanent thing in my life and I used to adore coming home to it for the summers and for Christmas time. Unlike last year when I left to go to Oxford, my journey to Dubai wasn’t a temporary thing which would end with my graduation. I was going to start my career and I’d be away from home permanently – in fact, I’d make a new home out of Dubai. It was tough for me to get out of my big comfortable bed for what could be the last time in a long time. It was tough for me to go to every room in the house and bid farewell to them. It was even harder saying bye to my dog, who didn’t know what was going on but just knew that we were leaving the house. We put her into the garden and got in the car and left. As I pulled out of the driveway and onto the main road, I backed up far enough to see the gate to my garden and found that my dog had come to the gate to say good bye!
Heading out of Ventura County on the 101 and then getting onto the 405 we were greeted by the typical Saturday afternoon rush hour bunch. In total it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to drive to LAX
The check-in area was an absolute zoo. It was packed with people and since everyone had bags, it took ages to process everyone. I went to the BA
check-in desk area and saw that the “ONLINE CHECK-IN/WORLD TRAVELLER PLUS” had 2 people being served and no one waiting, whereas the “CLUB WORLD” check in queue had a few people in it. I went and stood in the online check-in queue and I seriously stood there for about 30 minutes. I have no idea what the hell the people in front were doing but it took AGES to get served. The check in agent kept on going back and forth and back and forth between the desk and the office. After ½ an hour or whatever it was, he finally got around to checking me in and taking my bags. I thought that it would have been nice if he would have said something.
He checked in the bags and then gave them back to me. With difficulty, I navigated around the check in area which was literally SWAMPED with luggage to the x-ray machine. Fortunately there was no line and I handed them over quickly. I said goodbye to my parents and went through security – which was a complete breeze! Every was carrying around a plastic bag, so all we had to do was place it on the conveyor belt, take our shoes off and go through the x-ray machine. No fumbling around, taking laptops out of their carrying cases, removing items from pockets and all the other charades. This was the greatest experience I have had going through security at Los Angeles.
After getting into the departure area, I went up to the executive lounge. There were many passengers already there and everyone was either reading a newspaper or watching TV
. By the time I got there, there was no reading material left, so I had a vodka tonic and starting chatting with another passenger. He turned out to be a Boeing employee at the Anaheim location and was going to be moving to the Huntington Beach location soon, so I had plenty to talk to him about because I also used to work for Boeing (Huntington Beach). He told me that he exchanged $118 for £100 and I told him that that wasn’t possible. He kept on insisting that it was and finally told me that he’d show me the receipt. So he pulled it out of his pocket and lo and behold…$218 for £100!
At around 5pm they called the flight and when I got to the gate I found that there were US Army officers screening and inspecting the plastic bags before we got on the plane. Fortunately there were different areas set up for First and Club World passengers and so I didn’t have to wait long to get on the plane.
British Airways Flight 278
: 15:10 (scheduled), 17:45 (actual)
: 09:05 (scheduled), 11:45 (actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-436, G-BNLO
Cabin: Club World
Seat: 62A (later 63A)
Once getting on board, I was warmly greeted by the purser and one of the F/As and they directed me upstairs. I took my seat (62A), grabbed The Economist from the back of the cabin and started to read it. Soon, a MILF came and sat down in 62B, which was pretty cool. She seemed to be traveling with a group of people and after about 1 minute, one of the people with her asked if I would mind moving to 63A so that he could sit with his family. Sitting in 63A would mean that I had to climb over the legs of the guy in 64B if I wanted to get to the aisle, but since I wanted to be accommodating I said OK
and moved over to 63A.
The cabin crew came round with Orange Juice, Champagne or water. I had some champagne – figured that since I wasn’t going to have anything to do on the plane that I might as well get pissed. The Captain soon came over the PA and said that the delay needed no explanation, but that we were going to be getting on our way soon.
We pushed back from the blocks around 17:30 and got in the queue for runway 24L. In front of us was a KLM 747 a couple of Southwest dingbats and a Swiss A340 was close on our heels.
We turned onto 24L and the pilots spooled up the four RB211s. The familiar Rolls Royce roar came on and we started pelting down the runway. After a fairly long takeoff roll, we lifted off the ground and flew out over the Pacific Ocean. We turned south and then East, flying over LA
and giving me my last view of the city which I call home.
The movie system was soon turned on and I tried to amuse myself with them but I just couldn’t get anywhere…I hate movies to begin with and these were pretty lousy ones. Fortunately dinner and drinks came quickly. I had a scotch on the rocks with the same pathetic little packet of mixed nuts. I can’t even remember what the options for dinner were. The starter was a prawn salad. I think the options for the main course included a Greek Khoriatiki salad, some beef option and some chicken option. I remember Comorin saying to avoid beef on BA
and I didn’t really feel like the chicken so I had the greek salad. Of course it was nothing that could compare with how it is supposed to be in Greece – tomatoes, cucumbers, proper Kalamata olives, red onions, Feta cheese, some kind of dried green herb, olive oil and vinegar…but it was light and good. Dessert was a chocolate cheesecake which I topped off with a cup of tea. Following that I went straight to bed and fell asleep immediately.
The next thing I knew, the lights had been turned on and it was time to have breakfast. A bowl of fruit, a bacon roll and tea/coffee was on offer and I had everything except for the bacon roll, which frankly wasn’t particularly appetizing.
We came in for a landing on 27R and touched down right around 11:45. By the time we were on stand at Terminal 1 it was close to noon. Deplaning was beautiful as no one had anything on them. We simply got up and in an orderly single file queue walked out of the aircraft – no rummaging around in the overhead bins or pulling bags up from underneath the seats.
Once getting into the terminal, I noticed that BA
107 to Dubai had already left so there was not much sense asking to be booked onto it. I went through the fast track security for transferring passengers at LHR
and for some reason that took ages. I then took the bus over to Terminal 4 and went into the terraces lounge (the one above the Concorde room). It was just after noon and I had a soup and a sandwich. The lounge was packed and it was quite difficult to find somewhere to sit.
Later on I called some of my friends in London and then went downstairs to the Molton Brown spa and had a shower. I spent the rest of the afternoon on the internet, reading magazines, watching TV
and I got in about 3 hours of sleep in the sanctuary in the corner of the lounge. For those unfamiliar with it, the sanctuary is a small room with a bunch of comfortable sofas and chairs that are walled off for those that want to get some sleep. I woke up around 7pm, had another shower in the Molton Brown spa and then had some more soup in the lounge. My flight to Dubai had been further delayed and it wasn’t until about 21:30 that I walked over to the gate.
British Airways Flight 109
: 21:40 (scheduled), 23:10 (actual)
: 07:30 (scheduled), 09:00(actual)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236ER, G-YMMK
Cabin: Club World
As I walked over to the gate, I noticed that the only 777s in the bay were Rolls Royce machines and I was happy about this because it meant that I would maintain my record of exclusively flying 777s with Trent 800 engines. Due to the slight delay in the departure of our flight, the gate was simply a mess and there was no where to sit. As we waited, BA
flights to Damascus and Tehran were called. Between those two choices, I was more than happy to be off to Dubai.
There was an Arabic speaking family sitting close to me who had bought a Mont Blanc bag from duty free and one of the BA
CSRs was giving them a hard time about taking it on the plane. I don’t know what happened to them in the end because boarding was called and we boarded the aircraft. As soon as the announcement was made, people started swarming the counter from all angles but unfortunately one of the check-in agents made it a point to keep one queue dedicated for Club World passengers.
Getting on the G-YMMK, I was greeted by two Arabic speaking stewards. One was Farid and looked as though he had just emerged from Cairo and the other was Mohammad. I settled into seat 10A and immediately found that it was much less comfortable than the seats on the upper deck of BA
’s 744s. For one thing, the seat is right up next to the wall so you don’t have much room to dangle your arms from the side. There is also limited seat storage. On top of this, the cabin is long and wide and you don’t feel as though you’ve got much privacy. Minus two points for Club World on board the 777. All announcements were made in both English and Arabic. We taxied out to runway 27L and for some reason it took ages to get access to the runway. We held short for about 20 minutes before being allowed to takeoff.
Eventually the pilots spooled up the huge Trents and off we went rocketing into the dark night. It was almost 11pm by the time we were airborne. We turned south and then west, flying south of London and on our way towards Belgium. The cabin service soon started and we got a menu in Arabic and English. To be honest I wanted to go straight to bed – I was exhausted! At this point I had been on the road almost 24 hours. Last time I took a late flight with BA
on a 777 (which was JFK
182 in June 2003, the return of my Concorde trip) I had dinner at the lounge before we took off and that allowed me to go straight to bed. But there was no option for doing this in the T4
lounge. I later found out from FBGDavidson that I could have gone to a different BA T4
lounge in order to have pre-flight dining, but I didn’t know this at the time! But I’ll keep it in mind for next time, Fraser.
To make a long story short, I didn’t bother with dinner. Although I was hungry, I simply wasn’t going to be arsed to stay up for another hour just to have dinner. I went to bed and fell asleep almost immediately. It must have been about 11:30 UK time. Next thing I know, the window next to my seat is hot and I wake up to find that we are flying over the Arabian Gulf. I wish I could remember what I had for breakfast!
Before landing and after breakfast, I wanted to go to the bathroom and freshen up before landing, but I found that I simply could not climb over the legs of the guy in 11B!! How irritating – I had never had this problem traveling on the upper deck, mostly due to luck, but nonetheless I found it irritating. I waited for him to wake up and then went to the lav and was asked by the F/A to hurry up since we had already started our descent.
We landed on what I guess I can be called the main runway at DXB
(07?) and taxied over to the terminal. There were lots of awesome aircraft at the airport that morning, including an Iran Air 727, Virgin Atlantic A340-600, EK
77W, Air India A310 and a couple of others. We disembarked quickly (again due to minimal hand luggage) and I collected my visa from the visa counter and went through immigration.
Miraculously, all my bags arrived in one piece and by 09:45 I was already on my way to Dubai Marina where I was staying at the Grosvenor House Hotel. By the time I got to the Grosvenor and checked into my room on the 27th floor with a view of the Gulf it was already 11am on Monday the 14th of August. That’s midnight on Sunday LA
time, marking about 36 hours that I had been on the road!
Fortunately my uncle from Lebanon was in Dubai on business that day and I had lunch with him and another one of my cousins. Then on Tuesday morning it was off to work! As I write this, it’s now the 6th of September and I’ve been working for 3 weeks, have found somewhere to live and all is well. I apologise in advance for having left out many details in the trip report, but I seriously had no time to write this before as I was moving and adjusting and all that sort of thing and in the meantime I forgot some of the things that I usually include. Sorry about the lack of photos as well – but the explanation for that is pretty obvious.
Overall, what can I say about BA
that we don’t all already know? I felt as though the airport staff and crew handled the security crisis admirably and did their best to rebook people and accommodation requests to the best of their abilities. While I did have to sit and do nothing for 10 hours at Heathrow, the lounge kept me occupied whilst I was awake and gave me an opportunity to get some sleep. And of course it was lovely to be able to have a shower (or in my case, two). Next time I’ll try getting a massage in the spa. And thanks to Fraser I know now about the other lounge!
However I really didn’t like the business class on the 777. Yes it’s the same seat, and I suppose it wouldn’t have been much different on the lower deck of the 747-400, but there was little elbow room (not a problem on the UD) and the cabin is just too big and impersonal. There was also precious little Arabic entertainment options. I reckon if I have the option I’ll check out Emirates on this route in C class next time I am privileged enough to be going in Business.
The good news, however, is that at the very moment when the tyres of G-YMMK gently kissed the hot tarmac of Dubai International Airport, I had completed enough flights with BA
to get silver status. I’ve just received my silver card and am happy to be priority status flyer for the next year! Now I guess this ties me to BA
In total, I must say that I liked the idea of only carrying around the plastic bag. It had everything I needed and nothing else. Yes, check-in was a pain in the arse but security, boarding and deplaning were all a breeze and it was nice not to have the weight of my laptop bag and camera bag when roaming around at the airports. I wouldn’t be too upset if such restrictions continued.
Couple of questions:
1. Now that I am a silver member with BA
Executive club, can I get to the Molton Brown Spa even if not traveling in Business Class? Can I use the pre-flight dining option in the other lounge at T4
2. How do other people feel about the 777 Club World cabin?
3. How does BA
compare to Emirates or Etihad in Business Class?
Thanks for reading and sorry again for the lack of details and lack of photos. Hope you’ve enjoyed anyway. Still have to write LHR
before my memory of those flights completely fades!
Warm (47 degree Celcius) regards from Dubai to all.
[Edited 2006-09-06 22:33:56]
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.