Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA292
Aircraft: Boeing 747-436
Seat: 04A (First)
Distance: 3677 miles
Photo © Simon Gregory - Jetwash Images
Photo © Ben Wang
Yes, it was that time of year, the regular Xmas trip back to the UK to see the family beckoned. As we’d been booked up for a few months, we’d had secured the seats we were after, although had not taken advantage of the Gold cardholder privilege of being able to select 1A and 1K together. As the cabin didn’t look full and we had bags to check it didn’t make any sense to online check-in and in the mid afternoon with plenty of time allowed for traffic we headed up to the Dulles. Traffic for once was non-existent and so we called some Reston based friends and stopped off to see them for an hour or so before driving the last few miles to the airport. Strangely this was the first time we’d used the long-term car parks at Dulles in our many trips there. Usually we just do a Park & Fly effort from one of the nearby hotels but this time around it didn’t make any sense from a financial standpoint. After standing in the cold for ten minutes with no bus anywhere around we utilised the solar driven phone to call assistance….and then a bus turned up. Not sure if it was just coincidence but at our local place the shuttles seem to wait by your car, or at larger places they come round very often. Either way we were the only riders in the bus that was heated to a desert like temperature and after being dropped off on the arrivals level made our way up to BA check-in.
The check-in area was surprisingly busy for 3hrs before the flight and thankfully First check-in was, as usual at IAD, empty. We were informed of a one hour delay in departure of our flight due to headwinds for the incoming 293, but this would then propel us across the pond at a great rate. Alas this was possibly the worst news for someone looking to sleep as you want all the help you can get! Give me headwinds and plenty of ‘em! Then I was asked for the American Express card used to pay for the tickets, a problem when you have four of them (my wife and I give eachother supplementary cards off our accounts) and alas it was the fourth one we tried that got us the thumbs up!
With boarding passes in hands it was off to security, usually the ‘Premium Passengers’ line is a real god send but tonight it wasn’t well policed and there seemed to only be one security station in operation this evening which really held things up. It seemed that a number of lines were feeding into the screening area and each were given a chance to let a dozen or so passengers through at a time. Despite the lack of stations open there seemed to be plenty of TSA personnel walking down beside the security lines leaning over the plexiglas barrier and giving the boarding passes the stamp of approval. The girl ahead of us was flying Southwest and her flight due to depart in 40mins time so she was a little nervous, the woman behind us was kicking up a fuss asking us if we’d paid for premium security too. At this point it was too late to do anything else (like use the downstairs checkpoint for example, even if it was open) so we just stuck it out for a few minutes. When we were given the honour the Southwest passenger ahead of me did her very best to prolong her interactions with the TSA, forgetting she had this and that in her pocket, and that she had to take her coat off etc... I guess it is true that passengers check their brains with their bags…
After that was over and done with we headed off to the shuttle to Concourse D, possibly for the last time before flying BA as they are moving out of the shed and into Terminal B early next year We initially went to the First lounge and were greeted by the ever cheerful, Amanda. She first introduced herself to me when in her Special Services role on the mobile shuttle after arriving from London when I first started flying over to IAD quite a few years ago now. Made an excellent first impression
As pre-flight dining had just started we left our bags in the locker and popped next door. There was a new girl manning the pre-flight dining area and she wasn’t sure if we were eligible noting it was only her second day and she’d been looking for the ‘J’ on the boarding pass
We were the first of the First passengers to arrive for the evening service and so had a choice of tables. Some of which overlook the tarmac so went for those, after all it isn’t often that you get enjoy dinner with aircraft shuffling around outside.
The First Dining Room at Washington-Dulles – some of these pictures are from old reports
Our waiter came over with menus and a wine list, giving us some time to peruse the various options before ordering. My wife started off with a glass of bubbly which has been downgraded (at least on my taste preference scale) to Duval-Leroy from Taittinger NV, which itself was a downgrade from Veuve Clicquot NV a while back. After a taste my wife had the same views and left it in preference to a Chardonnay whilst I was glad I’d only bothered with the Pinot Grigio.
It wasn’t long before the starter arrived…
1) Portobello fries, wild mushroom consommé and shiitake mushrooms with balsamic glazed cipollini onions
2) Vegetable madras curry with basmati rice, spinach and chick-pea relish and mint chutney
3) Warm cranberry clafouti tart with pine nut brittle
I was actually very pleasantly surprised with the food! It combined some elements of aesthetics with some interesting ingredients and tasted great. The Club World efforts are surprisingly good too but these are a step up and it didn’t look out of place in the white tablecloth environment of the First Dining Room. My wife went for a chicken and spinach roulade as her main course and said it was a touch dry, I tasted and agreed with her. Also she found the pine nut brittle with the dessert to be rather sugary.
By the time we left dinner around eight or so other passengers were in the room with us, some alone on cellphones, some reading books and there were a couple of other businessman “couples”. We went back to the First lounge where I spoke with Amanda about the setup in Terminal B. She said that apparently they were due to move in around 2001 but 9/11 and the subsequent downturn put the kibosh on that. She seemed excited about the move and said it‘ll be what it always should have been...
The First lounge at Washington-Dulles – pictures from other reports
As per usual Fox News was on the flatscreen TV in the corner but other ‘entertainment’ had recently been installed, an internet PC with printer. This proved useful as I’d forgotten to print off a copy of our itinerary for the wife at UK Border Control.
The peace and quiet of the lounge, and my Woodford Reserve and coke were about to be interrupted with the one thing nobody wants to hear shortly before a longhaul flight….a crying, no, screaming baby! I thought it was going to be one of those flights and was almost preparing myself for a downgrade to Club World, if indeed they were flying in the front cabin with us.
Amanda let us know she was going to assist in boarding the 264 and several other passengers left the lounge at the same time. She noted that a colleague would be back to look after us soon, and that we’d be called for pre-boarding. This came at around 10.55pm and so we trundled up to the usual gate, D32, and into the FastTrack boarding lane. We boarded through 1L and I was escorted to 04A where I was soon offered newspaper, washkit and pyjamas, accepting all but the former. As usual with the First seat I checked to see if it was reclining properly but couldn’t get it going, even with my slidey bump-jump technique. As there were plenty of other seats available I wasn’t too worried and opted to get more violent with it in the air!
The purser, David, introduced himself and offered a nightcap so went for a brandy. The other First purser also introduced herself to us and coincidentally came from a part of Spain where my wife lived for some years so they had plenty to talk about.
Brandy and canapés
In the time it took us to settle in with menus, washkits, change into pyjamas, make pleasant conversation and take a few sips of brandy the other seven First passengers had arrived and pushback had begun just over eighty minutes late. The crying baby was now nicely settled and silent in 01K with mother whilst father was in 04E across from me. We made the short taxi to runway 30 and began the airborne portion of our journey.
After trying the bump and slide with 04A I informed David of the problem and said I’d take the delicious sounding risotto and hot chocolate and cookies at the vacant 02A. He seemed confident the problem would be able to be resolved by the time I’d eaten.
1) Oyster mushroom risotto
2) Hot chocolate and cookies
I watched the big cities of the east coast pass as I ate my last food of the night and as David predicted the seat was fixed and set up ready for my slumber. I noticed my wife sound asleep as I headed to brush my teeth and then hopped into bed in my usual tip to tail way…
Speeding across the Atlantic
The next thing I become aware of was the cabin lights coming on after what seemed like an hour asleep. Alas after sitting up and looking around it appeared as though a few people were enjoying breakfast and we were coming in over the Irish Sea. David offered breakfast to which I accepted a glass of orange juice and the CSD passed round landing cards, noting me lying head to toe in my seat. She commented on it being unusual but she had seen it before. Personally I find it can make quite a bit of difference, especially on BA where the headrest of the seat makes it not entirely flat around the head area in the conventional sleeping arrangement.
Waking up in 04A
After freshening up I enjoyed watching the world go by, mostly that above us thanks to blanket cloud cover. I then put the seat back into the ‘green light’ position as the cabin was prepared for landing.
Arriving over Southern England
It was announced we were to be delayed for five minutes or so just north of the airfield but before we knew it we were piercing the clouds over south central London. Those on the ‘A’ side of the aircraft don’t get the great views of Central London but I’d settle with the homes of tennis and rugby as we neared 27L.
Twickenham rugby grounds
We touched down at 10.35am and taxied past an extremely empty looking Terminal 4, past G-VIIG (the aircraft I emigrated on back in ’05 and flew to DXB earlier in the year) before docking at Gate 48, home to possibly the world’s longest jetbridge! We disembarked through 1L and so were amongst the first gaggle of people down onto the transit via lift which left with just a handful of people onboard. There was no line for IRIS so it was another efficient arrival into Terminal 5. I was reunited with my wife down by baggage claim where our belt had already been nominated but seemed to be hosting the vast majority of passengers off an earlier arrival from Miami. Then the announcement was made that there were some problems with the baggage belts and I was thinking we’d be waiting some time. However, it took around 15 minutes for a fresh set of baggage to arrive and ours were amongst the first to come through Disappointing based on my previous Terminal 5 standards but good for Heathrow Then it was off to the Arrivals Lounge upstairs…
This was new for me, I’d yet to use this lounge on my trips into Terminal 5. It was easy to find and we checked our bags at the door. A rather miserable looking staff member swiped our boarding passes and we went off for a quick shower before getting breakfast. The shower staff were immediately recognisable and will be to anyone who has used the old Terminal 4 Arrivals Lounge with any regularity! The area is a bit different to what I was expecting with several pods (each assigned a colour) which have around twenty or so showers at each one. As such you are told to go to ‘Red 11’ for example. The rooms are quite spacious for one person but are a rather plastic affair. The Pharo showers from the other arrivals lounges have been retained and I listened to Radio 5 which was piped through the speakers.
Afterwards I felt much better and went to the Concorde Breakfast Room which is a separate area for First passengers. As it was nearing midday by now I was getting a little unsure as to whether the kitchen was still open, the fact there was nobody else in the room didn’t make me feel any easier! I looked over the menu, ordered and waited for my wife to arrive. As I’d had nothing on the aircraft I was quite hungry at this stage and so went for strawberry yoghurt to start with full English breakfast, plus some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. I then called my mother to let her know we’d be ready in about an hour so it was a good time to leave for the airport.
Breakfast in the Concorde Breakfast Room: Strawberry yoghurt, the full English and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs
The room was nicely furnished and the food was alright, though the scrambled eggs were a bit tasteless. I’ve heard the waiter just goes outside and gets you the self serve stuff that Club World passengers get! Either way it filled a hole…then again not as good as the excellent breakfast we’d had in the Qantas First lounge in Sydney earlier in the year. That is my benchmark for lounge food!
The Terminal 5 Arrivals Lounge
After we were finished we sat in the very comfortable wide bowl seats outside the Elemis Spa and read a couple of magazines awaiting the five minute call for us to head up to the departure ramp and throw our bags in the car for the ride home…
Route: London-Gatwick - Jersey
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA8047
Aircraft: Airbus A319-131
Seat: 03A (Club Europe)
Distance: 161 miles
Photo © Stefan Sonnenberg
Photo © Gerry Hill - WorldAirImages
My many trips to Jersey to visit my brother had been exclusively on BA’s ageing 737 fleet, although I was pleasantly surprised to find after booking this flight that the 737s had been swapped out for A319s.
We checked in online on the morning of travel and following lunch took the train to Gatwick from Wokingham, determined by my father to be the best compromise for us and him. We arrived at 3.50pm and took the shuttle from the busy South Terminal to the empty North Terminal.
Despite the masses of self service check in machines it appeared as though I was unable to use them, my Executive Club card being booted out on a couple of occasions so we went to the First desk. Unfortunately this was manned by only one member of staff and she was dealing with a family so we waited, and waited. Someone from the World/Euro Traveller line popped over noting the Executive Club cards my wife and I had to hand and suggested the Club desks across from us. Like the First desks they only had one person staffing them and were dealing with a passenger already, so offered no obvious advantage, but we went over anyway. Again we waited but the person ahead of us seemed to be another time consumer. After ten minutes or so we were eventually dealt with (the other people were still at the First desk!) and within thirty seconds our boarding passes were handed over. Fast Track security seemed quick too, and after having our photos taken we were in the shortest of the lines. Alas, the guy in front of me, despite his gaggle of BA Silver tags on his bags didn’t know his arse from his elbow at security and required verbal assistance from the security personnel to get his bag in order, then took multiple attempts to pass through the WTMD.
My wife seemed to attract the attention of security personnel for no particular reason and after a frisking we were on our way to the lounge complex via the duty free store to purchase a bottle of champagne for my brother. After some deliberation we chose to mull over the bubbly options over, a glass of bubbly in the First lounge Thankfully there was a decent selection; a ’99 Pol Roger or a Lanson Noble Cuvee Rose. We also chose to order from the menu so went to the kitchen and requested the red pepper and tomato soup for my wife and I went for a version of Caesar salad for myself. The plentiful bags of delicious Kettle Chips also made an excellent accompaniment
The feast of kings!
I noticed our flight had been put back from 5.55pm to 6.40pm so called my brother to let him know. Apparently the aircraft had experienced a technical issue before an earlier flight to Dublin and this was a knock on of that.
The Gatwick First lounge – picture taken from other report
After some reading of magazines, newspapers and general conversation I noticed the flight had moved forward ten minutes for a 6.30pm departure. As a result we chose to leave the lounge forty minutes beforehand to go and purchase the selected bottle. After purchase we noticed the screens on the edge of the shop said our flight was closing. It seems that with these Jersey flights they are always listed as closing before boarding has even commenced, regardless of that with a posted delay that had been brought forward I thought it prudent for us to go, or more accurately rush, to the gate. It’s a short walk to Gate 55 and after having our boarding passes scanned and photograph verified it was down to 55F. As suspected boarding hadn’t even commenced and a PA soon after our arrival noted that boarding was due to begin in around twenty minutes. So it was an about turn and back up to the First lounge. Exactly the same thing happened on my last trip to Jersey a few months ago!
Back in the First lounge we noted the delay to our flight to the agent and so sat near the entrance for best view of the screens. The agent said she’d call the gate and let us know when we could leave. Around 6.25pm we put down our fresh glasses of ‘99 Pol Roger and once more went down to Gate 55. The gate agents notified each other saying we were the last passengers expected, though we did feel a little better when we saw the queue on the jetbridge leading up to the aircraft.
There were five rows of Club Europe on this flight and there were only seven passengers so plenty of room for us, indeed we had row 3 to ourselves.
The soon to disappear three seat starboard side arrangement of Club Europe
Around 6.35pm we pushed back following a rather amusing introductory speech from the guys in the flight deck. For the first time on these short flights we were treated to a safety video, rather than the manual demonstration. It was a relatively short taxi out past the South Terminal to 26L and an equally brief take off roll.
It felt as though we were climbing steeply for some time until the screens dropped at the 10,000ft point. The seatbelt sign was then switched off and so I went to the bathroom, just as the aircraft began to climb at a steeper angle so the short walk was a pretty good workout!
Upon my return it was clear the dinner service on this flight was underway, well with a 30-35min flight time there isn’t much of the cruise portion which isn’t meal service! Despite that no corners are cut versus the slightly longer Club Europe flights, you still get the bread rounds (yes, plural) and several drinks rounds including tea and coffee.
Chicken salad with bottle of Beaujolais
The meals were just handed out on the assumption that most Club Europe passengers would be eating. I was trying not to eat anything of great substance as my brother’s girlfriend had some feast planned but I had a nibble nonetheless. The chicken wasn’t too bad, not Michelin Star quality but better than some poultry based dishes I’ve had in Club Europe of late. The Lily O’Briens chocolate was rather tasty too, though I do miss the more substantial desserts from four or five years back.
The chap in front of us in 02C was coincidentally the guy who held us up at security. He seemed to be enjoying his meal service and the mini bottles of Pommery NV to go with it. My wife and I reckoned he’d had about four during the flight! If it was good stuff I could almost understand
With the overhead screens showing our path west-south--west-ish across southern England we then turned over the Solent heading directly for Jersey itself, I presume to avoid going into French airspace. This was a routine path based on my previous flights but I’d never seen it displayed before. The map also acted as a useful guide as to when the clock would run out on the drinks service and items would be cleared away. Just as I polished off my glass of Beaujolais it was time to clear down as we descended towards the island.
As we turned in heading for directly for runway 27 and desceneded further it felt rather unusual for me. Flying in the dark on descent was something of a novelty as I’ve previously enjoyed arriving in the hours of daylight trying to spot my brother’s house. At night the island seemed much larger and that was nothing to do with the work of Pol Roger …After just a couple of minutes of orange glow flashing by below the cabin rattled and we were treated to an IAE created dose of reverse thrust.
As usual on BA flights the announcement was made about contacting ‘any of our oneworld alliance partners’ if assistance is required. It always amuses me to hear this, especially at smaller airports like Jersey where there is no oneworld presence except BA!
After pulling up at the usual spot the steps were brought to the aircraft’s side, bags were retrieved and the short walk across the tarmac was made. We then walked round to the departures area to meet my chauffeur brother who was waiting for us…