Let me start out by apologizing that this one won't have the traditional amount of pictures and videos as my standard trip report. I'll write a couple more from this trip that will have more pictures.
Anyway, I was flying as a nonrev, and didn't actually decide on which flights to take until I checked in. I really wanted to catch one of the nonstop DFW-LHR flights. BA was oversold. AA was very full with a slight chance that I could get first or business class, but more likely I would be in coach. The 11:35pm JFK-LHR, however, had 9 first class seats and 11 business class seats open, and I could connect to it from the 5:10pm DFW-JFK, so I went with the DFW-JFK-LHR routing.
I worked on Friday, the day I left, and had a 2:30pm meeting that was supposed to last an hour. At 4:20pm, I had to stop it and told the guys I was with that I really needed to get to the airport. My flight to JFK was at 5:10pm.
I drove straight to the Terminal A parking garage (where you spend the big bucks to pay) and quickly grabbed my bag (hand luggage) and hurried to security. I left my car so quickly the rear hatch didn't close all the way and my interior light remained on. When I got home my battery was dead!
At security there wasn't a big line, so I got through quickly. I was in the terminal by 4:45pm. When I got to my gate I heard my name being paged. The agent said she was handing me the last first class seat! That was good news! Seat 6F.
Here's my itinerary
- AA 476 DFW-JFK M83 N9630A Seat 6F. 95% capacity. Very late!
- AA 116 JFK-LHR 777 N791AN Seat 3J. 80% capacity. On time.
Here's my MD83 at the gate. It was a former TWA bird with the less desirable first class.
At the gate, they said there was a maintenance issue being worked on. They were very good about updating everyone, even though they really had no information to share. While waiting I had the rare opportunity to watch Lufthansa abort takeoff with their A340!! It wasn't a big deal because it took off about 15 minutes later. One friend suggested that they forgot the coffee.
At 5:40pm they boarded the 5:10 scheduled departure. I had a 1hr 40min connection at JFK, so was still in good shape.
At 6:00pm they were about to close the door and had everyone seated, bins shut, ready for pushback. Then the captain came on the PA and said that they had changed out the control box for the indicator lights to the landing gear system. He said that even though the work had been done, he was still getting a faulty indicator that probably just needed to be reset and maintenance was on their way back.
Meanwhile, it was extremely hot and sweaty onboard this MD83 with the Texas heat radiating through and defeating the ground air. I was miserable! I was also considering asking the FA if I could deplane and try for AA 78 at 7:40pm nonstop to LHR. I decided to give it until 6:30pm before going that route.
At 6:15pm the mechanics had come and gone and the doors were secured. We were ready for pushback. But now we didn't have any ground staff to push us back. It wasn't until 6:30pm that they finally came out. One was still eating his sandwich on the ramp!
I suppose that's a real concern. Ramp guys have to schedule their lunches around their downtime, and if a flight goes into a maintenance delay, they still have to take their lunch break. Then Murphy's Law makes it where the plane is finally ready when the ground staff isn't.
Whatever the justification, it was a very long 15minute wait with no decent air conditioning and my own concern about spending the night at JFK rather than in a flagship suite!
Once we pushed out of gate A21, we began to taxi toward runway 17R, I assumed. It was a very short taxi. But when we got to the Y taxiway, rather than turning toward the runway, we turned left to the west side of the airport, adding another 10 minutes to our taxi and forcing us into a westbound departure pattern!! It just kept getting worse!
We took off and, as I expected, turned west toward Fort Worth, then made a northerly turn at about the Northeast Mall (which is about 10 miles west of the airport).
I didn't take pictures in flight, first because I was hot and exhausted for the first half of it, and also because there are some people where it "feels" ok to take pictures when sitting next to them, and some people just don't "feel" right taking pictures sitting next to them. This one was one of the latter. I didn't want them running for an air marshal or anything!
After takeoff when we were climbing to FL320 we had a beverage service with warmed mixed nuts. The captain made an announcement regarding our delay and route of flight, but the volume was too low so I couldn't hear it.
Then after that we had dinner. I was in the last row of first, and the meal is served FEBO (front for even flight #s and back for odd flight #s) so I didn't have a choice. It was a cheese tortellini and was pretty good.
After dinner I had a small nap, and then woke up to read a book as I started to see more and more signs of civilization as the darkness began to be filled with city lights. There were no clouds. The weather was perfect. Eventually we were entering the New York area. I saw the EWR airport, which had an impressive line of red beacons blinking by the runways. We were well into our descent over EWR, but then flew southeast over the water quite a ways before circling back.
Our approach was a circling one for 31R at JFK. The pilots had done a good job making up time. We landed at 10:30, which was only 35 minutes late given that we left 80 minutes late. We were parked by 10:45pm, so I knew I was in good shape for my 11:35pm LHR flight. What a relief!
We parked at Terminal 9 and my flight was at Terminal 8, which I hadn't been to since the re-do. So I got a running look at it. It looks nice and new and modern. I was concerned that I would have to go through security, but now you can get freely between the terminals, which makes all the difference. I noticed the CDG 2130 departure was delayed to 0130!!
I wanted to check out the duty free shop by my gate, but they were boarding and my name was on the "cleared" list, so I got my boarding pass and then boarded. I stopped for a minute to realize I was boarding with a first class boarding pass on a flight to London Heathrow!
Seat Assigned: 3G
Seat Used: 3J
Photo © SkyLiner
We boarded at door L2, so I turned left for first class. When I sat down I was greeted by a friendly flight attendant who had some champagne, orange juice, and water on a silver serving tray. I chose the orange juice (it was 5:30am in London already!).
As it was time for the doors to close, I asked the flight attendant if she cared if I moved to the window seat. She responded pleasantly that we are fully loaded, and some passengers missed the flight, so there were quite a few open seats in first, and to make myself comfortable. So I moved over to 3J.
We pushed out and taxied toward 31L. There was only one other plane visibly active and it was a Cathay 747 (perhaps the YVR flight?) which took off ahead of us. Soon we were airborne but not climbing until we turned southeast over the water. Then we pointed toward BOS and climbed up to FL370. We flew right over BOS and hit the North Atlantic over YYT.
I really wanted to get some sleep. I had already eaten on the MD80 from DFW. But it felt like such a waste to completely forgo the first class dinner. I asked for the "executive meal service" where you get the appetizer, soup and salad all at once, where the soup and salad are your entree. I just couldn't see having a filet mignon at 12:30am with 5 hours before I was to land in London at noon local time!
Here is what the meal looked like, when served in this way:
I had my meal, which was a salmon and shrimp appetizer. The salmon had a good smoky taste and no trace of fishiness. The shrimp were well-seasoned and agreeable.
The soup was a wild mushroom soup, creamy with croutons. The salad had a nice mix of vegetables and came with the branded olive oil and vinegar.
The 777 was of the new configuration with the video on demand. While waiting for my meal, I played blackjack and lost a lot of money. During the meal I watched part of the "Water Horse" movie. When the meal was over I looked outside and was surprised to see daylight already dawning. We were above the western side of Newfoundland south of Deer Lake headed toward YYT. It was cloudy so I couldn't see the island.
I closed my window shade, reclined my seat into a 6'6" bed and slept for a couple hours. When I woke up, we were getting close to Ireland. I didn't go back to sleep and didn't feel like watching a movie or TV show, so I put the flight map on. In fact I had slept with the flight map on.
The whole plane was completely dark, even though it was now 10:00am London time. The JFK-LHR is really too short for a proper longhaul. What I mean is that there's not enough time for the full meal service and then enough time for sleep. DFW-LHR nonstop is more like it. There's time to have a long dinner, watch a movie, and catch some rest too.
Once we were about an hour from London the flight attendants looked around to see who was awake and offer some breakfast. Here it is, albeit a very dark photo that I've lightened up as much as my eyes will tolerate:
As we got closer to Heathrow the pilots made an announcement that we would be placed into a holding pattern for 20 minutes. We held over Chartwell. Here we were nearly to LHR but with 31 minutes remaining due to the anticipated hold.
I was on the right side of the plane and we held with right turns, so I got to see the other planes in the holding pattern. The most amusing part was that I had seriously considered catching Air Canada DFW-YYZ-LHR, where I would have been arriving at the same time as the JFK flight, but on an Air Canada A330. That AC A330 was holding with us! At the end of my landing video, you can see the A330 that had just landed ahead of us.
Then I saw this BA 747 cut just beneath us:
After a while of watching 747s, A340s, and A330s holding with us, we broke off to the west to fly west of LHR and then turn back for a landing on 09L. Just before touchdown I got to see Terminal 5 in full operation. You can too...Here's the video:
We parked in Terminal 3, which has a very long walk to get to passport control. We arrived close to 12:00pm, so it was a slow time in the terminal. There weren't huge lines. I was given a Fast-track pass, so I only waited for one family to clear before I went through passport control. I didn't check any luggage, so I left via the "nothing to declare" line and there were no officers monitoring that exit. At least none that I could see!
I then went to my favorite airport hotel. The Heathrow Renaissance. I had reserve the "Plane Spotter's Package" for the weekend. It guarantees you a view of the runways, plus a return ticket on the airport shuttle, and includes the club lounge where you can get all the free bottled waters, coffee, and soft drinks that you would want. Plus they have heavy hors d'oeuvres in the evening. It includes a buffet breakfast as well.
Even though the reservation says there's a guaranteed airport view, when I checked in the agent was very flustered. He complained to me that I had not requested an airport view. I told him it was implied in the "Plane Spotter's Package" and is in the description of the package. He said that airport view must be requested and it was not. Finally he found me a room, so I'm not sure what the issue was. The agent made me feel like I had done something wrong when I booked a room for 50% more than I could have paid without this package at the same hotel!
The hotel was being remodeled, but it was not a problem.
Now you can see why I like this hotel so much, regardless of problems from the front desk. Look at the view from my room:
And there were some new-comers to LHR:
And some Asian flights:
And I assume that this is part of the G-YMMM that went down on approach to 09L. If not, it's a 777 missing a tail in the center of this picture.
I think I'll stop the trip report here and put some of the other parts of my weekend adventure into another report. Thanks for reading!