Plane-spotting in January and February 2008
BA 10 BKK-LHR
BA 554 LHR-FCO
DL 149 FCO-JFK
Since there has been a very good trip report on BA’s brand new Club World seats and service, I am not going to say much. The pictures should give you a good idea about the new seats, which I think they are better than the previous version, but I just find the cabin to be very tired looking for some reasons, not enough personal lights, and storage is very limited. Catering is very weak, which is not really news, but the ground service is just the worst aspect for this particular trip.
February 20, 2008
BA 10 BKK-LHR Lv0015 Arr0555+1 Boeing 747-400 G-BNLF
New departure time: 1:40am
I checked in from Hong Kong, as I flew in from HKG to BKK on CX. Despite on two separate tickets, CX was able to check me in all the way to Rome via Bangkok and London, and gave me all the boarding passes. That was impressive and that is why I think Oneworld in general works better than Star Alliance in these situations involving interlining and connections. When I arrived Bangkok, I headed straight to the lounge, since the transit desk was closed anyway, which was located in the G concourse, closed to other oneworld partners, such as JAL and CX. The lounge has check-in facilities and the BA agents at BKK were wonderful and printed out the real BA boarding passes and made sure my bags were connected to the right flight. The only minus point was that none of them mentioned about the delays, till I noticed it on the departure board but once I moved into the first class lounge, the agent immediately reminded me of the delay and since my connection flight did not depart till 10:30am, I was fine.
BA and QF both offer a joint first and business class lounge at Bangkok. The Business Class lounge opened nonstop from 4pm till last flight out, but first class lounge will close between 6 and 8pm. I used both lounges and have pictures. The Business class lounge is much larger in size and the first class section is half as large, but more comfortably spread out and there are slightly different food and wine selections. Both lounges offer mostly cold items, such as canapés, meat plate, cheese plate, fruit plate, various open face sandwiches, as well as various snack items such as mixed nuts, cheese sticks and crackers. Warm items limit to some warm Thai savories, such as lemongrass chicken wrapped in leaves, tofu stuffed with shrimp paste, deep fried prawns with noodles, and fish cake, as well as cream of mushroom soup. The service is a bit more attentive in first class, as there are less occupants, and the food selection is slightly more expand with a few more items here and then. Champagne in first class lounge is Moet Chandon Brut Imperial. There are sufficient amount of computers at both sections and there are complimentary wifi, unlike its flagship lounge at London. Anyway, the BA/QF lounge is wonderful and the décor is stylish with a sense of elegance and create a very warm environment for both relaxation and working.
The incoming flight was late from Sydney and did not land at BKK until 12:21am. The flight was using gate F5 this evening/early morning. The boarding gate was filled with people, and once again, BKK was just a poorly designed airport and the holding room really can barely hold a full Boeing 747 load. Thankfully there is a separate premium and economy class boarding lanes, and the boarding process, which began at 1:18am, was more orderly. The plane was very full at all cabins but door was able to be closed at 1:41am and we pushed back five minutes later. With the closure of R/W19L-1R, there is a long wait for takeoff this evening. We finally took off at 2:23am from R/W1L. Flying time was twelve hours and thirty-one minutes (plus the holding time over London). For our flight route, we first climbed to 30,000feet over the Bay of Benegal and entered the cities of Mailmein, Kolkata, Kanpur, Delhi, Chandigarh, Lahore, Pakistan, and Faisalabad before climbing to 31,000feet. We then entered the cities of Kabul and Taskhent, and climbed up to 35,000feet before crossing the Aral Sea and city of Tula. We climbed further to 38,000feet and passing the North of Minsk, South of Vilnius, North of Grando, the cities of Bialystok, Olsztyn, Szczecin and South of Bremen, and then Amsterdam and into London.
The new Club World seats are pretty much the same as before, but with improvement on the width due to the S design, better (and automatic) privacy screens, and use of better padding and lumbar supports. The 747 with the mid-J section also features a very unusual seating configuration with the World Traveler Plus (Premium economy) cabin moves to the space between door one and door two (between first class in the nose section and new club world in the mid section). In general, I like the seats and slept very well in the full flat bed with no sliding. The width is also better addressed and the seats come with electrical outlet and larger tray tables and a new laptop bin, which is very deep and can handle a few items. However, the seats really lack personal light (the only light is the side lamp I show in the pictures) and I don’t know why they have to take away the overhead lights. That personal snake lamps are not enough lights in a dark cabin. Also a small storage bin within arm reach will be appreciated especially for eyeglasses and small items. The privacy screen is better now but just hope that those privacy screens won’t break. Most importantly, a better cleaning team should be hired and more lighting is needed in the cabin.
I believe that because of the seat designs and difficulties with this cabin design, catering has to be simplified but with this cut back, the catering looks very weak. First, there is no separate linen to cover the table, which is a big no-no in any premium cabin service. Second, dessert should be all fruit, cheese and dessert, not cheese or fruit or dessert. Third, the plain white china used is boring. To give credits, the quality of the meals is pretty nice and the fruit plate in the breakfast was nice, and the entrée is very hearty and not overcooked. The new Club World kitchen looks pretty underwhelming and more gimmicky than real. When I visited the club world kitchen, the contents were pretty sparse but there are cup noodles, as well as a full fruit basket. Anyway, catering is never strong with BA new club world, so I think much work needs to be done in that aspect, such as adding some elements back to the meals and kept the club world kitchen replenished.
Wine list and Menu:
Kir Royale – Crème de Cassis gives this cocktail its distinctive taste
Buck’s Fizz – Crisp, dry Champagne and naturally sweet orange juice
Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne
Innocent Bystander Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2005
Tim Adams Semillon 2005, Clare Valley
Chablis Champs Royaux 2006, William Fevre
Geoff Merrill Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Coonawarra/McLaren Vale
Beronia Reserva Rioja 2001
Bangkok to London
Salmon gravlax with a lemon, mustard and sour cream dressing
Panzanella Salad with Pecorino cheese
Fresh Seasonal Salad served with Vinaigrette
Braised Short Rib of beef in red wine sauce, carrots, broccoli and celeriac mashed potato
Sake and pineapple-glazed breast of chicken with asparagus and mashed potatoes
Cheese ravioli with a roast pepper sauce
Main Course couscous salad with herb marinated shrimp and lemon olive oil dressing
Chocolate Pecan Tart
Cheddar and Blue Cheese
A selection of fruit
Between meals, please help yourself to a drink or a tasty snack. Please visit the Club Kitchen and help yourself to the selection on display.
Snack salads, sandwiches, filled rolls and wraps
Fresh Fruit salads and fruit smoothies or juice
Choice of luxury cakes
Crisps and chocolate (including organic chocolate)
Chilled orange juice
An energizing fruit smoothie
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
A selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries
Classic English Breakfast of scrambled egg, grilled bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms and grilled tomato
Mushroom Omlette with grilled tomato and hash-brown potatoes
Stir-Fried soba noodles with shrimps
Ground Coffee, decaffeinated coffee or tea
Selection of herbal teas – green tea with jasmine, peppermint, blackcurrant or camomile and honey
Well they missed me for the pre-takeoff beverage service, but not a big deal. They did not address me by my last name, but are very friendly and available throughout the flight. They always insist on you taking part of a nice cranberry apple juice or ask if you need more food or drinks. The F/As are pretty personable and always offer an extra roll or cup of tea.
The new television screen is much larger, and the AVOD is a nice addition to the personal entertainment system. Selection of TVs and movies is good and the touch screen functions are easy to use. No break down of the system, except a little difficult in starting the system shortly after takeoff.
Descent began at 7am but due to ATC, we did not land till 7:54am on R/W27R. We parked at Bay 409 at 8:05am. My major problem with the flight came after we deplaned. During breakfast time, the purser made an announcement concerning the breakdown of the luggage system at Terminal four the day before at Heathrow. He has received instruction that the system was not fixed and all passengers were required to exit immigration and custom and picked up their bags at the baggage claim despite some of us are connecting to another destination. Yes, you can imagine our faces and why Heathrow is so awful (and more, is BA ready for the opening of terminal five?) The purser came to each premium passenger apologizing about the situation and gave us the fast track invitations, which are very helpful.
So you can imagine many of us were in a hurry to leave the plane, and the immigration lines were very unpleasant and many angry passengers were trying to catch a connecting flight and faced this long line. The sad part was that no ground crew was waiting for late connecting passengers at the gate, and most importantly, no one has bothered to tell passengers that the baggage system was fixed and now we can go directly to the connecting flights and check points. Finally at the baggage claims, after waiting thirty minutes, a ground agent made the unpleasant announcement that the baggage system has been fixed and we do not need to pick up our bags and rechecked them. So now we had to travel to terminal one through the long way, and faced another long security checkpoints.
BA really drops the ball at Heathrow and how can it not send a staff making a very basic announcement after the plane was parked? At least kept the purser updated on the baggage situation, so many of us can go directly to the connecting gate instead of facing those long immigration lines and all the hassles. The flight itself was fine and gave high marks to the flight attendants, but the catering is very weak. So far, 2008 marks with these new fancy seats, but catering suffers major cuts left and right at the premium cabin. Nobody seems to work on improving catering, and the new seats do not often work as well as they should be on papers.
Anyway, I include a brief photo album on my connecting flight to FCO. Also my flight on Delta Airlines from FCO to JFK.
The next trip report will be on Virgin America’s inaugural flight to Seattle from San Francisco.