After spending 3 days in Southern California, that included a lot of car trips, from Santa Barbara to San Diego..
..and a couple of visits to the In & Out Burger at LAX
it was time to head back to the UK.
Just like every day that we were flying, we had to wake up early once again. This time it was because we would be attending my younger cousin’s first football (soccer for you Americans) game of the season. The day was beautiful, even though a bit hazy and the location of the pitch, almost under the approach path of 24R provided some good spotting opportunities.
Watching the planes land was almost as interesting as the 12-year-old girls’ football game I went to watch. My cousin’s team won 2-0 and it was time to head back home and sit by the pool.
Progressively, the day got warmer and the rest of the morning was spent in the pool. After having lunch with my girlfriend, aunt and cousins at the Marina del Ray, we headed back to my aunt’s place and packed everything for one last time. Packing didn’t take too long so we were left with a couple of hours to kill before going to LAX
. That was a good chance to go to the In & Out Burger on Sepulveda for one last time. I took my cousin Jake along, hoping to get him hooked on plane spotting. Actually, he took me along as I let him do the driving in order to get some practice, as he is only 16. Depending on the traffic lights it can take anywhere between 45 to 90 seconds to get to In & Out from my aunt’s home. And I found it really surprising that my cousin didn’t know how to get there and had never been there to see planes. We stayed for about an hour and were able to catch a few AA MD
-80s and the SQ
It was certainly great being there one last time and good to see my cousin impressed. Not sure if he’ll ever go there, at least without me, but he did have fun that day.
Anyway, time to leave LA
was fast approaching so we went back home for the final preparations and goodbyes with the family.
It had been 3 years since I was in LA
and SoCal and it was exactly as I remembered it, warm and relaxing, with plenty of things to see and do. Unfortunately, it was time to leave. The trip to LAX
was short. Normally it takes anywhere between 45 seconds to a minute to get there, but we had to make a not-so-quick refueling stop on LaTijera. It wasn’t quick because the credit card reader on the pump didn’t like my card, so I had to get in the gas station, leave my card as guarantee, fill the tank up, go back inside, pay cash and get my card back… a bit too complicated and unnecessary I thought but well, it didn’t really matter. Anyway, back on LaTijera, turn left on Airport Blvd and we were at the Avis drop off area in a few seconds.
As soon as we dropped the car off and made sure we didn’t leave anything important, like passports or luggage or a snowboard, in, the shuttle bus arrived. We hopped in for the short trip to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. On the way it was nice to see a familiar “face” Frontier’s Larry the Lynx flying over us on short final. It was the first Frontier airplane I’ve flown and it will always remind me how amazing Frontier and its people were on our two trips with them.
The trip to TBIT only took a couple of minutes and we were soon at its entrance.
I must admit, it was impressive, it is very different to other terminals I’ve been to, and as I walked inside I felt like it was very big and spacious, at least the check-in area.
We proceeded to the BA
desks, just to our left. There was one desk for First passengers, a couple for club world passengers and a couple more for W and Y passengers.
We went to the First desk and had to wait behind another passenger checking in, a Ray Liota lookalike.
We had checked in online the evening before in order to try and get seats 1A and 1K but even then 1A was blocked. So we checked in with our originally chosen seats, 4EF. I still wanted a window seat though, as well as sitting close to my girlfriend, so when it was our turn to drop our bags off, I asked if 1A and 1K were available. To my surprise, the very friendly check in lady said they were. So we switched our allocation and we were the proud occupiers of the Jumbo’s most forward seats.
Not having flown from the TBIT before I was surprised that after checking in our bags were not put on a belt but we were told to pick them up and take them across the hall, opposite the check in desks were they would be x-rayed. I don’t quite understand why this is necessary but there was no other option, so on the baggage monitoring queue. Fortunately, it wasn’t a long queue so we dropped our bags, waited for 3 minutes while they went through the x-ray machine and off on our way to the Oneworld lounge.
We walked towards the elevator and waited for the next one up, once again, behind the Ray Liota lookalike guy. When we got upstairs we had two options, left for the business class lounge and right for First. We opted for the First lounge, had our boarding passes checked and walked in. It was a nice calm place seemed to be dominated by passengers flying to Australia, no surprise really, Qantas has quite a presence in LAX
We were really full from lunch and we also wanted to enjoy dinning on board our flight so we didn’t have anything significant to eat in the lounge, apart from some fruit to go with the champagne. Actually I opted for the champagne while my girlfriend went for the port. The food selection wasn’t really something to write home about, there was some fruit, brownies, muffins (cupcakes if you’re American) sandwiches, salad, soup and some starter meat on skewer type of nibbles.
It was actually quite nice and relaxing in the lounge with only a couple of other people there. As it was getting closer to the time of our flight, the lounge became progressively busier with the aforementioned Australia bound passengers, but still remained quiet. After finishing reading the paper which informed us that from sunny warm LA
we would be flying back to flood stricken UK I decided to have a shower. After carrying plenty of suitcases around for a while, it seemed like a good idea to get refreshed before a 10 hour flight.
The shower room are located in the business class lounge and have to go through it from the First lounge. There is a door at the far end of the First lounge to allow access. I was given a number plate by the “gate keeper” and was told which way to go. The business lounge seemed very busy, but apart from that, I didn’t have the chance to look around. The shower room itself was big and spacious, clean, with plenty of towels provided. It was a rather refreshing 10 minute shower with good water pressure and temperature.
It was time to head back to the lounge and prepare to make our way to the gate.
Our departure gate for the evening was gate 106, quite a bit of walk from the lounge. We took the lift downstairs and we had to walk for about 10 minutes before reaching the gate. The walk through part of the terminal looked like a construction site, it all brought memories of Heathrow’s T4
. At least it provided some good views of our ride home and I didn’t miss the chance to snap a few photos. If you look really closely, you can see my seat at the very front!
When we reached the gate, boarding was at full swing, with a long line of people. For a moment it seemed like there was no desk for premium passengers, but after making my way through all the people I did see that there was one so I waved at my girlfriend and she followed me in the jetbridge. It did take about 5 minutes before we got to the aircraft, this evening boarding via door L2. We presented our boarding passes to the flight attendant who was greeting the passengers and she asked one of her colleagues to show us to our seats. He asked us to follow him, through the World Traveller Plus cabin and to the galley forward of that cabin. Then, one of the First flight attendants took over and walked us to the very front of the 747, to seats 1A and 1K. One thing that took me by surprise is that after walking through the World Traveller Plus cabin, I was expecting to go through Club World. This was a 52J 747, which I had never flown in before, and it seemed a bit strange, having the WTP cabin forward of CW
The first cabin seemed really quiet and private, a world apart from all the boarding activities going on, a few metres behind. The seat was large and comfortable with the bedding placed under the guest seat.
As we were settling in, the flight attendant came around and handed out our menus, amenity kits and pyjamas. There were two sizes, small/medium and large/extra large. I went for the large/xl, hoping they would fit (I’m tall, not fat, by the way…).
A pre-flight drink was also offered soon after, a choice of water, orange juice or champagne. We both went for the champagne and it was accompanied by a small serving of nuts.
Looking outside I saw the SQ
A340-500 that I had photographed earlier that day, being prepared for the long flight back to Singapore. I don’t care what anyone thinks, but that’s one of the most beautiful aircraft ever made.
The First cabin was about half full for this flight, with seats 1AB, 2A, 3A, 4A and 4E occupied. While waiting for pushback, I decided to familiarize myself with the seat. The controls seemed pretty simple, even though the reading light switch/dimmer was rather hard to adjust to the desired setting.
Pushback was on time and the taxi to runway 25L was quite short, with no other aircraft ahead of us. We entered the runway and never stopped rolling, power was applied and after a long takeoff run we were airborne and over the pacific. Even though the First cabin in the 747 is quiet, it is still not as quiet as the A340-300. But the views from the 3 windows of seats 1A and 1K were incredible, as at that part of the aircraft, the view provided is not only to the side but also forward. I was so glad we were able to get those seats. Soon after departure we started a long left turn that took us back over Los Angeles and ended up with a northeast heading toward Las Vegas.
Not long after, the flight attendant came around with the hors d’oeuvres and wine. My choice for the evening was the 1996 Chateau Leoville Poiferre. The wine was indeed exceptional but the hors d’oeuvres were too mushroomy for my taste. Well, the two of the four were, the other two tasted quite nice.
It was time to recline the seat and relax for a bit before the meal. One of the flight attendants came around and took our meal orders and I also informed him that I would be dinning with my girlfriend at seat 1A.
I watched an episode of the Big Bang Theory and just as it finished it, the flight attendant came back to set the table. I moved over to the guest seat at 1A and I must admit, even though it is a bit cramped, it seemed like the best seat in the airplane. Right at the nose, with a view of the world on the right and the First cabin on the left, I can’t think of a better place to dine inside an airplane. Due to the position of the guest seat, and the curvature of the nose of the 747, it feels like you’re almost outside.
As we were waiting for the meal to be served, the Cabin Service Director came around and introduced herself individually to everyone in First class. I really thought that was a nice touch, I always enjoy a discussion with the crew. Conversation turned to the A380 again and I went on PR
mode for my company. Just like with the flight to ORD
, I think I managed to get a few things cleared up and impress her with what the new airplane can do. Just before she was called to look at an IFE issue in Economy, I asked if she liked working on the 777. Just like the LHR
crew, she said that she hated the 777, the galleys are very un-ergonomic and the humidity is really low, making the after effects of a long flight a lot more pronounced.
Back to the surroundings now, the table itself was rather big and a lot more sturdy and robust than the one in Club world. It was covered with a white cloth and everything arranged neatly on it. For the first course I opted for the salmon while Jacqui went for the soup.
The salmon was very good and according to Jacqui, the soup was very good too. During this course the FA
came around with the bread basket, with a selection of various warm bread rolls. Unfortunately, this was the only time during the meal that bread was offered, which was a bit of a disappointment. On the other hand, the wine glass was always refilled and I remained loyal to my initial choice throughout the meal.
Next up was the main course. My choice for the evening was the beef fillet and I was not disappointed. Even though I was not asked how I would like it cooked and when it was served, it was well done (I’m a medium-rare person), it was still very soft and tasty. Probably the best main course I’ve ever had on a plane. Jacqui went for the duck salad and she was a bit disappointed by that, it was a cold plate and not all that tasty.
When we were finished, the plates were cleared, the glass refilled with wine and we waited for the desert. We both opted for the apple crumble with ice cream and I have to admit, it was great. The second best dessert ever in a plane, second only to the Club World dessert we had 15 days ago. Jacqui was once again too full to finish hers, but I took over, it’s always great getting an “encore”.
Finally, a box of chocolates was paraded around and of course I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to put one last, chocolaty touch to a fine dinner. Right after the chocolates tea or coffee was offered. I opted out but Jacqui got some tea which was offered in a nice big teapot, a cup and a saucer and a separate milk container. That was proper English tea!
When everything was cleared away and the table stored, I returned back to my seat, reclined and turned on the PTV. There was a big selection of movies and TV
programs and the first choice of the evening was “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, chosen because of the recommendation of a friend. That was a mistake; I found the film rather boring with only one or two moderately funny moments. By the end it had become so tiring to watch, I decided to go get changed and go to sleep. On my way to the lavatory, I notified the FA
and he immediately went to make the bed.
For someone who’s 6’3, it’s not easy to change in an airplane lavatory. Even a first class one. The folding seat inside the lav was a nice and convenient addition and in the end it only took a couple of minutes to slip into my First pyjamas which fit just perfect. When I returned my bed was ready with the small mattress/pad placed on the seat, a big (for an airplane) duvet and a couple of pillows. On my way back to my seat I informed the FA
that I would like to be woken up and hour and half before departure, and headed to the front.
I switched off my personal TV
and tried to go to sleep as soon as possible. But to no avail. I just could not get comfortable, the mattress did not cover the whole bed, just part of it and I found that “step” at the shoulder area very annoying. I tried pulling the thing up, but the bed narrows at the top so it wouldn’t fit. And the pillow seemed too big for the width of the bed so it folded upwards and it felt like my head was squashed from the sides.
After unsuccessfully trying to sleep for a couple of hours, I decided to switch my TV
back on and watch something. I opted for The Happening and that was another big waste of time. I mean, the beginning of the film is good, but then it’s about people trying to run away from…the wind… If you’ve never watched this film, don’t. Do something more constructive like manually rewinding tapes or draw moustaches on famous people in magazines…
By the time the film was over, we had a couple of hours to go before reaching LHR
. I decided it was not worth trying to sleep again, so I switched the map display to look where we were. About that time my girlfriend woke up so we started talking for a bit. For some reason and despite my warnings she wanted to watch The Happening. The FA
came over to inform me that we had an hour and a half to go and if I would like anything for breakfast. Even though I was still full from all the food we had the previous day, I did go for the full English. My girlfriend couldn’t take any more food so she just went for the fruit starter. The breakfast service seemed rushed, I was offered no tea or coffee and there was no jam to go with my bread. Again, not too important, but it’s the little details like these that make a difference. The food was great once again, but I could not finish it all.
Soon after the table was cleared and well into our descent, the seatbelt sign went on.
This meant that the TVs had to be stowed so there was no chance to follow the final minutes of the route in the map display. Due to the cloud covering most of the UK it was almost impossible to tell where we were heading. After a couple of circuits and a few hard turned, we emerged under the cloud, quite close to the ground and about a minute before touchdown. Soon we crossed the airport boundary and it became apparent that our arrival runway was 27L, the one our journey started from. The approach also provided a good view of the unlucky "Mike Mike".
Touch down was smooth and the taxi to our arrival gate was very short and during the rollout I was able to take a few picture of an aircraft I’ve flown a few times with, OA
’s A340, “Marathon”.
We docked at the gate at Terminal 5B
and we were some of the first people to come out of the airplane.
We headed downstairs, took the people mover to terminal 5A
, back upstairs and on to immigration. The lines for immigration were not long at all and we were through in about 5 minutes. After immigration we headed to the baggage claim hall where we had to wait for our bags for close to 45 minutes. That is something that certainly needs improvement, every time I’ve flown to T5
, it takes forever for the bags to come out. After the luggage (and the snowboard, let’s not forget the snowboard) was collected, we headed to the arrivals lounge, only to find it was closed. That was a big disappointment as I was looking forward to a refreshing shower. Instead we went up to departures, walked outside and waited for our ride home. While waiting it was a good opportunity to catch a couple of departures from 27R.
Overall the impression from BA
’s First class were good but it felt like something was lacking, without being able to pinpoint what it is. Maybe it was the fact that I didn’t get any sleep, which is more because of my height rather than the bed, but I had hoped to get some rest. Or maybe it was the little details missing from the meal services. But I truly believe the standard set by Club World and the crew on our LHR
flight 15 days earlier is also to blame. They set the bar up so high it made me believe that if Club World is that good, First must be out of this world. Instead it felt it was pretty much the same.
Having written all this, I still believe that BA
have the edge over other airlines, at least across the Atlantic. The seat was very comfortable, the food was incredible and the crews are the best in the sky.
Thanks for reading,
Part 1: LHR-ORD with BA Club World
Part 2: MDW-DEN with F9
Part 3: DEN-SFO with F9
Part 4: SFO-LAX with AA
I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not terrified and screaming, like his passengers