Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA108
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236/ER
Seat: 04A (First)
Distance: 3421 miles
Duration: 6hrs 55mins
Date: Monday 19th May
Photo © Krzysztof Skowronski
Photo © Mike Moores
We opted to take the dayflight back to London as the night flights left at some rather ungodly hour of the morning. The trip back started in one of Dubai's unbelievably cheap taxis, 11 Dirhams (about $3) was all it took for the ten minute or so trip from hotel to curbside.
Unlike most European or North American airports check-in for our flight was after a security check. Our checked bags had to go through a scanner and were then searched by hand. The check-in desks, even at 'rush hour' for our flight, were empty and we were passed over to a Club World agent as the one dealing with First was busy.
Following check-in were more formalities; boarding pass check, then passport control which was followed by security. Then it was down into the tunnel under the apron, and up into the famed Dubai airport shopping mall. The place was absolutely heaving and I had zero interest in buying anything (unlike the wife! ) so went to the British Airways lounge near gate 26.
British Airways Terraces lounge at DXB
The lounge was quite busy and had a little breakfast offering. I asked about wireless internet and was told it was provided by the airport free of charge. Alas I was unable to get onto it... The wife returned from shopping to find me eating a bowl of Coco Pops! It was like being nine years old again!
As time ticked on until departure I kept trying the internet but it wasn't going to budge. There was a brief distraction for many passengers as Sir Cliff Richard and a little gaggle of people entered the lounge. I thought the service on this flight would be top notch as usually when someone well known joins you in the cabin you suddenly find it gets all ramped up
Around 8.45am the call was made that our flight was ready to board from gate 18 and we all got up en masse and headed down there. There was another security checkpoint and we were reunited with the World Traveller and Traveller Plus passengers. The flight was delayed quite a bit and with no seats the lounge based passengers were standing up in the gate area. You could see Sir Cliff and his group were drawing quite a few stares and fingerpointing. Alas the restrained public didn't come up and ask for any autographs. I did notice that he had a grey/silver Concorde luggage tag on his roller bag though
Bizarrely the call was initially made for World Traveller and World Traveller Plus passengers to board which didn't make sense for a number of reasons. Firstly because there were separate jetbridges for F/J and the rest, plus all the First and Club World passengers were standing up in the gate area, also it means the pre-flight service for premium cabins is rushed! Madness!
About ten minutes after the first passengers boarded it was time for the remainder of us. Kirstin and I follow Sir Cliff and his group down the First/Club World jetbridge into door 1L and I see the flight attendant direct them to their seats. When I enter the First cabin I notice that the cabin is almost empty and Sir Cliff is noticeably absent...because he's in Club World I joked with the flight attendant who escorted me to my seat that it isn't often I fly in a cabin ahead of someone who has been knighted! She said she was surprised to see him in Club World too!
As expected with us being the last onboard the pyjamas, coffee + date, pre-flight drink, and washbag delivery were all horribly rushed and newspapers were forgotten. I only had time to change into pyjamas before pushback at 9.30am, although we were told to be delayed a little as DXB was once again operating on only one runway.
For you fans of 1970s trijets
The First cabin did feel very empty on this flight as all the centre seats on my side of the cabin were unoccupied. Menus and wine lists were handed out and subsequently followed by orders taken for post-takeoff drinks. Looking out the window we felt a bit alone. With the exception of the Biman DC-10 we were pretty much the only non-Emirates aircraft heading out to 30R!
Departing DXB from runway 30R
On departure we had a great view of the Khor Dubai area and also out towards the Burj Dubai which you really can't escape when in the emirate. Once off the coast 'The World' was visible through the haze. Being several kilometres off the coast it is quite hard to gauge how enormous the complex is, fortunately we had a container ship to help give some perspective.
Through the haze you can just make out the eastern part of 'The World' and in the foreground the container ship
The seatbelt sign was turned off very quickly and canapes and post takeoff glass of water were delivered rapidly.
Post departure water and canapes
The Cabin Services Director came and introduced herself and this time it seemed like she was actually human (read my LHR-DXB report for the polar opposite!) and rather friendly!
Lunch orders were taken by the First purser and I was asked when I wanted to eat. It seems BA are getting better at offering the dine when you like option I chose to have mine at about 11.30am Dubai time. My wife was more keen to get going so we didn't dine together on this occassion. There wasn't much to see out of the window as there was blanket cloud cover so I took the opportunity to catch up on the news and flicked through the 'First Life' magazine until the movies rolled. Being in a light hearted mood I was happy to watch 'Mad Money' but the tape seemed to be shot. The sound was completely buggered and so I told one of the flight attendants about it and she joked about the poor quality of the tapes and said she'd try and fix it. As a substitute I watched a quite interesting, though not too recent, biography on Bill Gates.
Towards the end of the documentary the meal service began.
Lobster salad with a light lemon mayonnaise
Caramelised onion and parsnip soup
Fresh salad with creamy herb dressing
Poached king prawns on a light pea, fennel and herb salad with creme fraiche dressing
Strawberry trifle with amaretti biscuits, light custard and fresh cream with toasted almonds and pistachios. The dessert wine is the 2002 Willi Opitz Trockenbeerenauslese that has made a re-appearance
The food was once again pretty good although I didn't do myself any favours with the two salads which turned out to be very similar.
En-route, heading back into European airspace
Flying over Turkey was pretty spectacular and I was enjoying the view from the window but decided to get some shuteye as we crossed over the Black Sea coast. Instead of getting the crew over as per the CSD's advice I opted to make the bed myself.
I got a good few hours nap and woke up just over Berlin with my wife tapping me on the shoulder asking about the lunch option. I chose to sleep for a bit more and awoke around forty five minutes out of Heathrow. With only a short amount of time I left I changed out of my pyjamas and freshened up. It looked a really nice day over the Thames Estuary but London was shrouded by cloud. Once under it I enjoyed a nice view of the western part of the city, with Heathrow looming over to port as we headed out west of the field, cutting back over Maidenhead and Windsor.
And yes, the bear slept well too
For first timers to London this would have been a nice introduction to the area and we got the tourist view of Windsor Castle inbound to 09L touching down at 1.55pm. As with all landings on the north side of the airport we had a long taxi to Terminal 4, something I won't miss too much in the move to T5. We came pretty close to G-YMMM and the tracks left by her last few moments as a passenger aircraft on our way into remote stand 431. Yes, remote stand!
It took about fifteen minutes for a dispatcher to arrive, without whom we were not allowed to alight. This did give time for the buses to arrive though. Sir Cliff, however, was met by some high-visibility jacket clad fellows and driven off in a Renault Espace never to be seen again! The drive through the bowels of Terminal 4 was actually quite interesting with views of the baggage handling facility, though it didn't make up for the fifteen minutes I was stood in the Club World galley next to Mr Blackberry talking shop...
The walk from the bus stop to immigration was fairly short, better than Victor that's for sure and I even chalked up my second 'celebrity' spot of the day. Peter Luck, who was featured on BBC's 'Airport' as an El Al employee appears to now have been downgraded to the BAA yellow polo shirt brigade. He was working at the entrance to T4 Flight Connections checking liquids...some people have the world in the palm of their hands and just get Munsoned.
Immigration was fairly quick though my wife was held up for some time as the immigration officer was questioning her second entry into the UK in less than a week. I was through much faster and surprisingly for Terminal 4 our checked bag was already enjoying the perpetual journey around claim belt number 4.
Then it was off to the Sheraton Skyline for the night....
Verdict: Just like the LHR-DXB flight the service on this flight was right in the middle of the park. Dependable; not mindblowing and not particularly disapponting either. At least the CSD on this flight was a bit more friendly.
The IFE issues were bothersome and with the AVOD system still being somewhat problematic (see my SFO-LHR report) I'm severely lowering my expectations on IFE being watchable. Not good for BA, or a premium product.