Here's one of the very few trip reports I've written where I have gone as a normal revenue passenger. I didn't have any of the normal anxiety about whether or not I was going to get a seat. Such a relief for once.
I went to Farnborough in 2006 and had such a rough time getting home (as a nonrev) that I decided that if I go to Farnborough again I would buy a ticket. For the gory details, click on the trip report here. These decisions are always emotional and are reacting to a bad experience, but nonreving to and from Europe in the middle of the summer is never much fun, so I stuck with the decision. In May, BA offered a special for the summer where if you buy a transatlantic ticket in WT+, Club, or First, they pay for 2 nights at a hotel in central London. I thought it was a good deal, and I do prefer WT+, so I bought a ticket on BA DFW-LHR-DFW and they put me up at the Holiday Inn Regent's Park. The ironic part about the hotel is that it was where I stayed for Farnborough in 2006. Just a coincidence.
Anyway, on with the trip. One month before the trip, BA sent me an email suggesting that I check "Manage My Booking" to see that everything is alright and to see if I want to add anything to my trip. One week before the trip they sent another email reminding me of my trip and offering bonus Executive Club Points if I added anything to my trip. I thought it was a nice touch (even though it was automated) to keep me informed and make me feel welcome. The customer service from the website was nice. Most airlines let you buy a ticket and forget about you.
Soon after 24 hours before the trip I did the "web check-in" to get my seat. I wanted a window on the left side. I checked in 23:30hrs before departure and there was only one window seat left and no aisle seats. I suppose they allow Executive Club Silver and Gold to get seat assignments early. So I grabbed 25A (last row window seat).
The next day I worked until about 3:30pm and then made the 5-minute drive to the airport. I was leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday, but managed to pack a full suitcase. I didn't want to spend Friday in Thursday's work clothes (although I managed to do just that) and I had a change of clothes and shoes for Saturday because rain was predicted during the air show. So I went straight to the web check-in fast bag drop. It wasn't so fast, but didn't take too long either. Maybe 10 minutes. I was hoping the agent would say, "I'm sorry Mr. Bartle, but your seat is broken. We have moved you to an alternate seat in First" but it didn't happen!
I went through security and made it into Terminal D in about 15 minutes. I went over to gate 14 where G-VIIS had just parked, and met up with a colleague who was going to Farnborough with me on the same flight. (Even though we both could have gotten first class on AA if we went standby on our airline--too bad).
After we met up, we went to the "DFW Club" over at gate D22 for a while. We took in the view and got ready for our trip. I asked the agent for the clubs if we could get in the BA Club rather than on my Priority Pass since I was in WT+ (knowing full well you must be either Executive Club Silver or flying Club World to get in) but I thought I would ask since I'm a regular customer at the DFW Club. He declined.
July 17th, 2008
Forty-five minutes before departure, we grabbed an extra bottle of water out of the fridge in the club to stick in our bags and made our way to the gate. Once we got to the gate, they called my friend, giving him seat 35K if I remember right. I was in 25A.
Then they began the boarding process in the old-fashioned way, with First Class, then Club, then World Traveller (rear then front) followed by World Traveller Plus. When they called my cabin I got in the scorching hot jetbridge, which reminded me that the last time I went to Farnborough, I had a very last minute change of plans to fly BA 2192 to LGW and it was delayed because the 106F temperature broke the air cooling facilities onboard the plane.
Sorry this one is blurry. I took another one that was worse and the girl kept turning around and looking at me with a strange look, wondering what I was doing!
At the door of the plane, the flight attendants asked for my boarding pass, which I now know (thanks to a comment from my last trip report) to be a security measure and not just a courtesy to tell me where my seat is. So I willingly gave them my boarding pass and was welcomed onboard by a gent from Scotland.
After taking my seat, I confirmed my fear that the last row of WT+ doesn't have the highly advertised feature of extra recline compared to normal coach. I'm not saying it didn't recline. It did have some recline, but it was about half of normal WT+. I would say it was about the same as normal WT (economy). The rear of my two windows was missing (meaning there's just wall where a window would normall be). Other than that, it was a normal WT+ seat. The legroom was excellent, the footrests and legrests worked well most of the time.
G-VIIS was the standard 4 class 777 configuration with the old CW and the normal PTVs without AVOD, which I actually think I prefer because you can quickly flip between the movies and the moving map. That's much more difficult to do on the AVOD system, which I will go into more detail explaining for the return journey. I prefer the moving map over the movie channels, however, so I'm a bit different from most in this respect!
We pushed from the gate about 5 minutes early. I think the entire plane was booked to capacity, as my friend said there were only a couple seats open at most in the rear. No seats were open in WT+. The person next to me was a businessman on his way to Manchester. I as wondering if he would freak out if I did a video of the takeoff/landing, so I took this picture as we crossed the Y bridge at DFW on our way to the east side for takeoff.
As we approached the EF entrance to 17R (the only one of the three entrances to the runway that BA will use--they require full length of the very long runway) I heard, "Thank you very much, cabin crew, seats for takeoff please." And so we turned onto 17R after waiting for one or two insignificant departures.
After takeoff we flew the standard NOBLY2 departure, which involves climbing straight south until we were just south of downtown Dallas, then an east turn, followed by a turn to the northeast, so that we flew just south of downtown Dallas high enough to avoid the departures from DAL (Love Field) and then made our way toward TXK and LIT.
Climbing over Dallas.
As is customary on BA, the seatbelt sign was off very early, like perhaps just above 10,000 feet. I appreciate that, because on AA they always wait until cruise altitude, which takes forever.
Soon after that, the drink service began. I got a single-malt scotch (Glenlivet) and they also asked if I would be having wine with dinner. I said yes, and they gave me a bottle and a glass for that at the same time. It was a red Bordeaux, which was rather good. On three recent BA flights it has been the same bottle, but I can't remember the name. Prieure de something or other! The drink service also had the pretzel snacks with it.
A while after that it was time for dinner. I had the Grilled Salmon with spinach, which was cooked just enough and not too much (not dry). The dessert was cheesecake and it had the English chocolate like they always give. I look forward to the English chocolate! This time it was a Crunchie. I forgot what else came with it, but it was a very good meal, especially for coach. The salad was unique, but I don't have details now. Perhaps it had a salmon paste too? On BA, you can always get your choice in WT+ because they serve meals there before the WT cabin. I don't remember now what the other choice was.
I didn't do photos of my food this time. Sorry if you were looking forward to them.
Sunset was over Cleveland. About an hour after this, the cabin crew came through with the first water/juice service, and then they made about two more trips through the cabin during the night.
We hit the north Atlantic from the northern part of the north peninsula of the island of Newfoundland. I actually saw the lights from St. Anthony at night, so I knew where I was. I've been wanting to visit the L'anse aux Meadows archaeological site near St. Anthony (CYAY) but can't seem to find a convenient way to get there on a weekend. From there, I could also see some lights in Labrador.
About two hours after leaving Canada, sunshine appeared in a very strange direction--due north! It was not east or west. At first I thought perhaps these were northern lights, but it was blue sky with orange glow on clouds. The light moved to the east before it grew brighter.
As we closed in on the Irish Coast they served breakfast. It was a turkey and cheese sandwich in a croissant roll. The box had an interesting description of the history of the Croissant (underground bakers in Turkey made them in the shape of the flag (crescent = croissant) Marie Antoinette some 80 years later when she married Louis XVI brought them with her to France and then after more than a century they became a big deal in the 1920s). It's similar to the "Earl of Sandwich" story on the box if you want to see a picture, look at my LHR IAH trip report from May.
We were in clouds over Ireland, Wales and then Southern England. Our holding consisted of only one turn before we landed on 27L.
And with this landing, I had completed my first DFW-LHR flight. All previous ones were to Gatwick.
Here's the SQ A380 9V-SKE
We parked on a hard stand, and the first officer, who was flying this leg and was very witty with his PAs said, "unfortunately we have arrived 20 minutes early. It takes lots of organization to deplane on the remote stands. We nearly have everything here. You can see the buses, the baggage, and the stairs. But there is nobody to drive the stairs." Some 20 minutes after that announcement, he made another, "Now that we have reached our arrival time, the stairs are being driven up to the door now." Deplaning was slow because it went in groups, due to the use of the buses.
Here are our buses.
Here is the Old Club World.
I have a very similar pic in a trip report from 2006. I love the huge GE90 close up!
We drove by lots of 747s and 777s on the way to the customs area of Terminal 4.
In May I signed up for the IRIS scanning at passport control and was anticipating using it. The machine was broken so I had to go through passport control like a normal person. The agent was very friendly and welcoming, and the queue was the shortest that I have had in a long time at Heathrow, which is unusual for 8:45am on a Friday.
Once we got through, we were meeting up with one other friend, who happens to be an a.netter "CALRAMPER." He had a cushy business class seat on CO4 from IAH and arrived about 30 minutes after we did, and in the same terminal. So we checked out the "Yotel" above customs arrivals in Terminal 4, and then by the time we got back, he was coming out of customs.
We wandered around the older terminals for a while before making our way to Terminal 5. We had considered flying somewhere out of Terminal 5 on a day trip just for the heck of it, but decided against it. Rather, we ended up doing some plane spotting in the smoking area on the upper level entrance to Terminal 5. 27s were in use, but it still a good spot. I was tired and the weather was not good, so I only took this shot:
Three days in the UK and we saw an A380 on each of the three days. There were lots of 747s, which is always a thrill to see.
After SQ took off, we took the city bus to the Renaissance, where the guys were staying. We got checked in and then enjoyed the view of 27R arrivals that afternoon from the room. Then we went to the aviation store next door to the Renaissance, and went around the building for a sandwich at Cafe Ritazza. After that, we walked to the Sheraton Skyline to see just how rude those guys in the store are. If you're not familiar, look in the Aviation Hobby forum to see how all of a.net has decided the guys in this store are rude! I'll just say they weren't friendly. They never acknowledged my existence when I was in the store, which is somewhat rude, but that's the extent of their behavior. The prices, when translated to US Dollars, were absolutely outrageous, so we only looked.
That afternoon we went to Central London. We made the horrible decision to try the Tube (not realizing at the time we were doing it at 4:30pm on Friday) and it took 1:15 to get where we were going. I had never taken the Tube from Heathrow before, always taking the Heathrow Express (getting 50% off as airline staff), and I think I'll stick with that behavior!
We had dinner at a pub and then hit some tourist highlights around Westminster Abbey, Parliament, etc. We came upon a crime scene just after a possible stabbing had occurred just off Trafalgar Square. There were like 20 cop cars there and we watched the police pull a white bag of powder out of a guy's socks. After watching all this, we went for Charing Cross and made our way home for the night.
The next morning, we met up at Costa Coffee at Waterloo Station, where we had agreed to meet before catching the 0936 to Farnborough. It was a quick ride with only one stop. When we got to Farnborough Main, there was a traffic jam and none of the buses were moving, so we walked, which wasn't a bad walk.
We got through the gates and took in the show. I don't want to write about every detail, so I'll just show some pictures I took.
The star of the show.
I'm not sure what's wrong with the wing here!
Fully armed and pointed at the crowd!
This is the one I'd buy if I had the money!
One of the few airliners on static display. That's Jon to the left.
I was hoping for a close-up to the 777-300, but it was parked across the runway. There wasn't much airline static displays. Not nearly as much as is typical at the Paris Air Show.
Getting ready for takeoff.
I've flown one of these on FSX
They are red. They are in the shape of an arrow. They are the Red Arrows!
I didn't have my wide-angle lense on, but you can see they did a red heart with a red arrow through it. The Red Arrows had a very impressive display.
And now is my tribute to the Airbus 380.
I didn't bother these policemen for obvious reasons. Being from the US, I'm not used to seeing them with huge guns!
They moved the A380 and Red Arrows to the beginning of the show due to the possibility of deteriorating weather toward the end of the show. The weather never did meet that forecast. At the end of the show it was partly cloudy, cool and with a nice breeze. Because of the highlights being at the front of the show, most folks started leaving after the Vulcan flew (sorry no pics of the Vulcan or Typhoon for some reason). We left after spending about 5 hours at the show, so I don't think we missed much. We went through a few of the halls, and did the Boeing tour.
We made our way back to the rail station, this time via double-decker bus. Once we got through the station it was only a five minute wait for a train. While waiting however, we got to watch some of the last performances of the air show from the bridge across the rail line at the station.
When we got back to London, we went to Harrod's for the ceremonial visit. It was so busy we could barely walk. When we went outside we decided London was too crowded with tourists and so we made for Paddington Rail Station and bought tickets to Oxford (one of my favorite places in the UK). We learned, when buying tickets for the train to Farnborough, that groups of three traveling together get a buy 2 get 1 free deal, so we got that again to Oxford.
We had dinner at the Eagle and Child pub and walked around the quiet streets, visiting the Turf Tavern as well.
On the train to Oxford, they made an announcement that they had a weekend special--you could upgrade to first class for 10 GBP. We didn't do it on the way there, but by the end of the night when we were taking the train back, two of the three of us decided to do it (so we could sleep, in theory) and the third was peer-pressured into doing it. The funny part was that a guard never came buy for us to pay them! So we got a free upgrade, though not intentionally. They were very nice comfortable seats.
I parted ways with the other two guys at Paddington. They were going to catch the early 0830 CO flight to IAH. One of them had to work that afternoon! I was confirmed on the 1140 BA to DFW, so I was in no hurry. Since they were staying at the airport hotel, it worked out well for them.
CALRAMPER got businessfirst once again to IAH. Jon who is one of those people that's always on a.net but hasn't gotten a membership tried to get on CO. He had a ZED intended for BA LHR-IAH. He hadn't made a meal listing, but after CALRAMPER checked the loads, CO looked better than BA, and who knows, traveling with a CO employee, maybe he could get upgraded to ride with his friend?
It didn't work out. CO's staff at LHR had never encountered a person needing a PNR built for a ZED pass, so after being bounced around between the ticket desk and the check-in four times, he gave up and went to BA. Well maybe they have encountered it, but if they had this situation before, they had forgotten what to do!
He ended up on BA195 to IAH in WT between two mothers with infants!
I did the web check-in the previous night from a pay-internet kiosk at Paddington station. A BA staffer here on a.net had hooked me up with seat 22K, which is what I wanted. I wanted a window on the right going home. I prefer the right side on the return because the sun is in the window on the left, and from the right there is a better chance at seeing some of the interesting northern landscape or ice.
BA 193 (Callsign BAW05F)
New Club World and AVOD
More than 1 hour late.
I checked in at the "fast bag drop" which once again didn't prove very fast. Actually, before I dropped my bag, I went to a kiosk to print my boarding pass, which issued it in the good cardboard rather than cash register tape like most airlines. Then I walked across the hall to the BA Ticket Desk. I asked them if they were selling upgrades on my flight to Club World. I had decided that I would pay a reasonable sum to upgrade, because I really wanted to try Club, but they ended up wanting too much money. They wanted something like $950 for the upgrade, so I turned them down.
Then I dropped my bag and made it through security, which took about 30 minutes from start to finish.
In Terminal 4, I stopped by World of Whisky to buy a gift for my dad. I usually try to buy him some Scotch that can't be purchased in the US, or is at least very rare. Once I did my shopping, I went to the Holideck Lounge, which is by gate 11. As I've mentioned before in my last trip report, it is a 3-story club, where the top is an observation deck. This time it was sunny, so the pictures came out better.
Here are some pictures from the observation deck.
After an enjoyable visit to the Holideck lounge, which is part of Priority Pass, but also allows guest to pay 20GBP to visit, I went to my gate. It said go to gate 1A. The Concorde gate?
By the time I got there, I heard the announcement, "We are now boarding flight 193 to Dallas Fort Worth." Since they board the whole plane at once, it was quite a crowd at the gate. I noticed the crowd descended and there were buses waiting for us. So we were going to use the buses again! Why do they call it Terminal 4 if the plane never parks at a gate? I wasn't unhappy. I enjoy riding around on the ramp!
In the bus we drove a very long way. I'm not sure where we went, but it could have been all the way to Gatwick as long as it took!
I spotted all BA 777s that I have ever flown on: G-VIIE, G-VIIV, G-VIIK, G-VIIS, and finally we pulled up to G-VIIY, which I had flown before!
Not only have I flown on G-VIIY before, but I sat in seat 22K, the same seat I was assigned! The time I flew G-VIIY before, I flew IAH-ORD-LHR. So it was my third flight in the same seat, if you count both the IAH ORD and ORD LHR.
Here's a look back at the World Traveller Plus cabin from before.
OK enough with my comparisons.
After most people had boarded, they made an announcement that a member of the cabin crew had injured herself and we were going to have to wait for a replacement. It took a bit over an hour for the new flight attendant to show up. Nobody was upset as these things really can't be helped.
At 12:45pm we closed up the doors and pushed out of our parking spot.
Here's the view from our parking spot.
A view as we taxied.
We waited for a long time to cross 27L and then waited a while in line for 27R. It was about a 30 minute taxi.
Here is our takeoff. If you look as they go by quickly, you can see all the Heathrow airport hotels including the Sheraton Skyline, Renaissance, and Park Inn.
Here's a shot of Windsor Castle!
Here's the coast of Ireland as we enter the North Atlantic.
They started with the drink service and then went into the lunch service rather quickly.
After I ordered it, I realized I ordered the same Chicken Tarragon that I had in May. I wish I had tried the other offering, which was some sort of fish cakes. I didn't take a picture of it, but I'll repeat my picture from last May:
The only difference is that the dessert was a rice dessert.
Here we are at cruise altitude. Just a wing shot.
I had my Bose headset and started playing with the AVOD as we were climbing out. I didn't like how hard it was to get from the moving map to a movie. I suppose it's not designed for people like me who want to check the map every 15 minutes or so! It did have a good offering of movies. I started off with Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. After all, I had eaten in Tolkien's pub the night before, it only seemed right that I'd watch Tolkien's movie. I fell asleep and the flight attendant touched my arm to wake me up for lunch!
Then I tried to watch Narnia, since he and Tolkien hung out in the same pub. This was my tribute to the fantasy authors that made the Eagle and Child pub famous. I slept through most of both movies. I think I started another movie which I also slept through partly, and then had to turn it off as we started to descend into Dallas.
I suppose sleep was catching up with me!
Just like we did on the outbound, we flew over the northern peninsula of Newfoundland again, which I want to visit.
The eastern shore of the northern peninsula of Newfoundland.
Here we are according to the map.
It's unusual for me, but I kept my window shut most of the way. I'm not saying this to be arrogant, but I usually end up in first class on AA from London to DFW, and this was my first trip on BA westbound, though I have flown BA eastbound 4 times. One problem with WT+ is that it is on the wing and the glare is very bright and annoying, unlike that in front of or behind the wing. I would have liked to keep my window open, but it was simply too bright, even though I was on the north side of the plane.
We had a nice sandwich service served with a slice of pineapple as we were halfway across the US. I had a cup of tea with it.
Here we were hitting the brakes and beginning our descent into Texas.
We landed on runway 17L at DFW, which is the most distant runway from Terminal D. We arrived at the gate at about 5:00pm, some 80 minutes late. The plane was due out again at 5:30pm, but was certainly delayed.
As I packed up my electronics and started to put my legrest back up, I realized that my legrest had broken during the flight! There were nuts and bolts and things on the floor! I told a flight attendant as I was deplaning that they might have maintenance look at it. The flight attendant assured me British Airways would be sending a bill!
Back home safely at DFW.
My final joy of the trip was going through customs at DFW. I just love the views from the "top" of Terminal D.
Looking back at our plane from the customs walkway.
Looking the other way, into the terminal from the customs walkway.
And looking toward the gates from the crosswalk toward the central immigration area.
We parked just a few minutes before AA79 from LHR, so we were first in line at immigration and it filled up very quickly. The officer was friendly. When I got to the belt, my bag was ready. And I was home again after a very fast, but fun trip.
Thanks for reading!
See, I knew American Eagle was first class all along!
Excellent report, as always, Matt! I really enjoy reading your reports, and you've got some phenomenal pictures! I've always wanted to try BA across the pond, hopefully someday it will happen. For that matter, I'd like to try AA across the pond!
Nice trip report! That looks like some sort of test wiring on the wing for research and development of the aircraft. I used to see stuf like that on test F-18 E/F's when i was in a test and evaluation squadron as a mechanic.
Very nice report! Some great photos and it looks like BA for the most part lived up to their reputation.
You were very lucky to get on VIIY as she is the only 777 in the BA fleet at the moment with NCW and AVOD. Unlike the 747s which they reconfigured as quickly as possible, they decided with the 777s to fit the upgrades to just one aircraft and have it flying around as a guinea pig for a few months to sort out any problems. Hopefully that will include your broken legrest!
Next time you go to Oxford, try the Bear pub .
Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned forever skyward
Quoting Atrude777 (Reply 5): Still in Wash, AA F/C was good to me, will be home Aug 2nd and you can be sure of a TR like your's coming soon!
Looking forward to it Alex!
Quoting LHR27C (Reply 3): Very nice report! Some great photos and it looks like BA for the most part lived up to their reputation.
Thanks! BA has never disappointed me.
Quoting LHR27C (Reply 3): Next time you go to Oxford, try the Bear pub .
You wouldn't mean this pub??
Quoting Mike89406 (Reply 2): Nice trip report! That looks like some sort of test wiring on the wing for research and development of the aircraft. I used to see stuf like that on test F-18 E/F's when i was in a test and evaluation squadron as a mechanic.
1) tight 31" legroom
2) they no longer give full mileage credit on discounted economy class tickets.
3) They charge huge fuel surcharges even on so called "free" mileage wards. Two years ago I paid $250 for a "free ticket" while my sister paid $100 on an AA award for the same ticket.
4) Two years ago they were having luggage problems due to Union problems. I did not get my suitcase BA to BA connection and it was a known fact that it was a common occurrence. Maybe now it's OK?
Otherwise I like flying them. Especially on short European hops where they actually give more generous leg room it seems.
Nice report and some really great photos too (especially like the A380 wing shot at Farnborough!) - thanks for putting it together.
Hope you enjoyed your visit to the UK.
Quoting DFW13L (Thread starter): We had dinner at the Eagle and Child pub and walked around the quiet streets, visiting the Turf Tavern as well.
Quoting LHR27C (Reply 3): Next time you go to Oxford, try the Bear pub .
After 8 years of drinking, I mean studying, in Oxford, I have to say the Turf's fine (touristy, but very pleasant) but next time you're in town, head up to the Gardener's Arms on Plantation Road. Fine selection of beers, ales and ciders on tap and a nice garden to sit out in (if summer ever arrives in the UK this year )