Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA8048
Aircraft: Airbus A319-131
Seat: 02A (Club Europe)
Distance: 161 miles
Photo © Tony Marlow [Airplane-Pictures]
Photo © Rotate
Having been to Jersey numerous times and always taken the 8048 back to the mainland I was sure it was a post 8pm departure. Despite shunning the advice of my brother’s girlfriend I relented and checked BA.com. A good job too as it seemed I was wrong this time and it was actually 7.30pm. At 6.15pm we got in the car from St. Helier and made the short trip (they all are on Jersey!) up to the airport in St Peter. There was a bit of a queue for the self service check-in machines and so we used the one standalone kiosk beside the coffee shop. Then it was off to security via the boarding pass check desk.
The security people at Jersey are very thorough and this time was no exception. I was pulled to one side for the random security check. My bags were really searched and I was asked why I had three cellphones and asked to switch them all on. I was a little worried when one of them didn’t light up and so they all went back through the x-ray machine. A good five minutes later I was allowed to go on my way…then it was off to the duty free shop to buy a couple of bottles of gin for my mother! Mothers, eh? There was quite a line to pay in the booze side of the shop so I went to the sister store next door to try and skip the line but was rebuffed as apparently their tills aren’t identical or something…anyways, by the time I was back in the alcohol side I was first in line. There was some confusion as to why my Amex card didn’t have chip and pin but after that it was on the way to the small Terraces lounge that BA keep.
We sat in the corner not far from the door that allows access to the ramp. An elderly couple who were decked out in their suits and Burberry coats seemed to take an instant dislike to my wife and I. They looked us up and down in near disgust as we approached our seats not far from them!! There was only one other person in the lounge, a middle aged guy who looked strangely familiar. I might have even sat next to him on one of the JER flights before…Either way I went up to the bar and helped myself to a couple of bags of cheese and onion crisps and also a can of Stella! Had they given us the disgusted look on that trip back from the bar instead I could have understood Unfortunately the JER lounge doesn’t, and never has had much selection of good beer.
The Terraces lounge at JER and the snacks
It turned out the elderly Burberry couple were flying bmi and were called to their flight by the lounge staff when it was ready to depart. (BA allow bmi to use their lounge) They were then replaced by fur coat woman and her teenage daughter just as the loud whoosh of Papa Foxtrot landing outside signified it wasn’t too long until we would be on our way.
It is standard procedure at Jersey to put the signs for the flight to LGW to ‘Boarding’ just as the inbound aircraft touches down and this was no exception. I went to the front desk to check that we’d be boarded through the side door of the lounge which opens right into the gate that BA use.
We watched the stream of arriving passengers walk past the door as the aircraft was readied for the equally short hop back to the mainland. After some time the side door swung open and a woman in a high visibility jacket leaned through to tell us the flight was ready so we gathered our belongings and went through into the gate. At JER the computers where the agents enter the information aren’t exactly hidden and it was apparent there were just 48 passengers on this flight and after climbing the steps it turns out the other 46 were all in Euro Traveller. We were the last to board so it was apparent my wife and I had the five rows of Club Europe to ourselves…again! Happened last year too!
Empty Club Europe cabin
After a quick visit to the toilet (there aren’t convenient ones close to the Terraces lounge) we considered moving forward to row 1 for the bassinet/drinks table But we felt a jerk as pushback occurred and the taxi to 09 began and so decided to stay put.
The takeoff to the east when sat on the port side of the aircraft isn’t particularly interesting in the dark but the lights of St. Helier flashed past on the opposite side as we climbed out and turned north.
Meal service began very quickly with drinks served, then trays handed out, this was then followed by the bread offerings and ultimately hot drinks.
Dinner in Club Europe
The salad was actually quite tasty, pleasantly surprising, and my wife enjoyed it too. It was followed by more offers of drinks before the meal trays were cleared away as we crossed the Isle of Wight. We headed east, passing south of Gatwick itself before turning 180 degrees and descending through the blanket cloud over East Sussex. After what seemed like skimming the traffic of the M23 we touched down on runway 26 and taxied to the south end of the domestic gates.
It was a bit or a rush off the aircraft and for the walk round the corridors and steps of the domestic arrivals area. We then called my mother and went up to the surprisingly empty departures ramp. The only people up there seemed to be staff from the duty free shops waiting for rides and the police! Then it was back round the M25 and home…
Route: London Heathrow (Terminal 5) – Washington Dulles Int.
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA293
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236/ER
Seat: 03K (First)
Distance: 3677 miles
Duration: 7hrs 40mins
Photo © Rudy Chiarello
Photo © Mark Ralph
I had a chance to meet an old school friend for a beer or two near Reading on our way to the airport and my father who was acting as chauffeur needed to be off somewhere in the afternoon so we arrived around three hours before the flight was due to depart. After gathering our bags from the back of his car we said our goodbyes and were off to First check-in. It seemed rather busy yet there were plenty of agents on hand to assist.
First check-in area at Terminal 5*
Security was very fast, I went straight to the front of the line, even though Fast Track wasn’t well policed. We had our boarding passes to hand to show the agent guarding the ‘secret’ door into the Concorde Room that allows one to bypass the usual walk and escalator ride to get to the Galleries lounges.
We were then swiped into the Concorde Room itself and I let the agent know that we had one of the cabanas booked for a couple of hours starting at 2pm. I had booked this through the YouFirst service a few months ago on the back of my wife’s intrigue. The agent summoned the Quintessentially agent who staff a desk in the Concorde Room and he took us to the cabana and showed us how to summon food and drink.
As my wife settled in I went to the Elemis Spa next door and booked us in for a couple of treatments. The only ones left before our flight were at 4pm and we opted for one power back massage and a facial. I went back to the cabana and by this time we were quite hungry and whilst the cabanas are good for one person they aren’t really spacious enough for two, especially for things like eating. As such we left a couple of bags with the baggage check and opted to go to the Concorde Dining area. There seemed to be plenty of booths and we were told to help ourselves to one of our choice.
We both ordered a glass of the rose champagne and water in addition to the Signature Hamburger. We were informed it’d take around fifteen to twenty minutes to prepare the hamburger. A fast food hamburger this ain’t
Dining in the Concorde Room:
1) The booths and menu
2) The Signature Hamburger
3) Lemon Tart
The hamburger was pretty tasty, some proper bread with nice relish and not half bad cheese. Now some might say it is pretty heretic for BA to have a hamburger as their signature piece in their flagship lounge (apologies to American Airlines) and I’ll agree but at least it was good. My wife thought the same.
We followed it up with some dessert, my wife had the apple pie which was horrible and I the lemon tart which was alright. Although it did look a little solitary on the plate, a dribbling of some bright coloured coulis would have tarted (ba dum) it up a little.
Afterwards we left to go and find somewhere to sit down for the hour or so until our spa appointments. We walked out onto the terrace but found that half the seating had disappeared and all the seats suitable for a couple had been taken. We settled with going adjacent to the bar and I got a couple of glasses of the ’99 Pol Roger and retrieved a US customs declaration form to complete so I didn’t have to worry about it onboard.
A few pictures from around the Concorde Room including the bar, various seating areas and the terrace with view*
I noticed a couple of BA personnel enter the lounge and go and check on another youngish couple across the way from us. I recognized the Geordie accent coming from one of them and realized it was Ant McPartlin, the Ant in double act Ant & Dec, with his wife.
I then opted to go and check the weather in Washington on the internet PCs in the Board Room, a smallish room near the entrance to the lounge which sports a few of the last generation Concorde seats.
The Board Room and view out over the departures area
I went back to tell my wife the surprising news that the temperature was in the high sixties. Initially she thought I was joking! As the tide had gone out on our glasses of Pol Roger I went to fetch some more from the bar. I noticed then that a large African American gentleman was being introduced to the Geordie. It wasn’t until I took my seat I realized that it was Samuel L. Jackson! A couple of young girls went up and asked for his autograph (I found out the following day the father of the children was a Flyertalker! Small world!) and I suggest to my wife that she takes the opportunity to follow suit. Her brother works in the film industry, and has worked on several of his films as well as being a big fan of the guy. Alas by the time I got a pen and paper to hand he had gone back out to the terrace where he was sleeping, or just avoiding pesky autograph hunters!
It wasn’t long before it was time to go to the Elemis spa for our appointments. We were checked in at the front and escorted to the back of the area for a clipboard legal disclaimer form job…
Elemis Spa waiting area
Then our masseuses introduced themselves to us. I was paired up with a charming Frenchman who asked if I was of the Harley-Davidson family (!), then asked what line of work I was in and if I’d won the lottery (!!) All rather harmless…I then got settled into the chair which was to work various parts of my leg and back whilst my face was treated. The new Elemis Spa blueprints are a bit different to those of the Molton Brown Spas of old and to be honest I’m not a fan. As the only thing separating the various treatment rooms is curtain they are very prone to disturbance and there is nothing to stop noise coming through from not only the reception area but also the lounge entrance outside. The old rooms were individual rooms with doors pulled across and peaceful music playing so it felt secluded and relaxing…In terms of the treatments as well it’d be nice to have the full body oil massage come back. I used to yearn for those old ones at the Molton Brown spa but Elemis took them away when they took over the running of the spa, I presumed as they required 30min windows whereas the current offerings are less. Credit where credit is due though, the masseuse did manage to get me nicely relaxed, there was one particular substance that was placed on my neck behind the ear that was just divine!
After that was done we filled out a feedback form where I essentially abbreviated the above and we went back into the Concorde Room. Our flight was due to go from the B gates and it did show as boarding but I’m always a little skeptical of such notices. I double checked with the front desk and they noticed that sixteen people had already boarded and we should probably head out there. We left the lounge and were the only ones in the lift down to the transit. The gate, B35, was just next to the lift up from the transit and the gate area was very empty. Even so we utilized the Fast Track boarding lane and walked down to the aircraft where we were welcomed onboard and shown to our seats. A quick look to the right noted the new Club World offering and a glance at the full size PTVs meant we had AVOD on this 777 . All too often on the IAD route we get neglected with either the A market 777s or the ones with postage stamp PTVs!
Jan, the First purser taking care of us welcomed us further and asked if we wanted a glass of champagne, which for this flight was the Cattier Clos du Moulin. This was a bubbly I hold dear as it has recently been reintroduced onto the First winelist, having been previously featured in the Concorde Cellar and was on my only BA001 flight back in 2002
Glass of pre-departure Cattier Clos du Moulin and the BA First staple of macadamia nuts
She said that we were the last First passengers to board, and that if we wanted we could occupy one of the three empty centre pairs of seats. There were only four of us in First on this flight, the other passengers being in 1K and 2A. Nuts were offered along with washbags and pyjamas. A size wasn’t asked and I knew they’d bring the medium which I find to be too short in the arm and a swap to the large was quickly sought. I then went to the forward left toilet to change and my clothes were hung by Jan from the cockpit. The one thing I noticed was that there weren’t any slippers in the usual spots by the buddy seat or in the seatback pocket so I asked if there were any onboard. Initially it seemed like there weren’t but some were sourced after a few minutes.
Anticipating a good view of my hometown and environs after a 09R departure I switched over to the empty 03A for departure. Jan seemed a little curious and I explained my peculiar behaviour and tossed in a sarcastic comment over a Cattier top up about my wife and I being married for long enough
The gentleman in front of me appeared to be a Virgin regular and Jan, a 30yr+ veteran of the airline, recalled a story of meeting Branson on a flight she was working many years ago where it seemed his sole mission was to poach flight attendants to his own airline!
The CSD then made a quick pass through the cabins with customs and immigration forms, I told him I’d already filled mine out and he gave me an actual pat on the back as if I was a good student before walking back to Club World with a big smile on his face!
Captain Baillie, formerly of the Concorde fleet, introduced himself and noted that due to heavy congestion around the airfield (when isn’t there any at Heathrow?) we were to be a little late on pushback, only five minutes though, hardly noticeable on a transatlantic flight like this. Alas after pushback and detaching from the tug we pulled up to stop for some time and watched a trail of aircraft pass us en-route to the active runway. After watching some company 747s pass up and other smaller aircraft from the central terminal area zip off in the direction of London it was our turn to taxi the short distance to the 09R threshold.
1) Holding on the taxiway between T5 and T5B
2) Turning onto the runway, my camera didn’t do the rather cool line of lights stretching away from us justice…
I wasn’t disappointed by the view as we turned after takeoff round south of Heathrow and out across Berkshire and Wiltshire. I could easily make out my home town with a string of lights signifying cars on the ring road and right down through the hills to the south coast. I’ve flown over it countless times but it never gets old. I then tried to make out the glows of less familiar towns as we headed out towards Bristol before spotting the two Severn Crossings. At this point the seatbelt sign was turned off and I went back to 03K happy that I’d seen what I’d hoped for
Menus were then handed out and I had some deliberation time before the first drinks round. Amusingly the menus noted a ‘Catch of the Day’ which said to refer to the menu insert for the kind of fish. The insert then noted it was ‘catch of the day’ with vegetable spaghetti! After a quick ask it turned out the fish was cod. A boon for my wife who can’t get enough fish and chips when we visit the UK, so this was a good choice for her! I opted for a glass of the ’99 Chateau Langoa-Barton, a rather delicious Grand Crus Classe wine that I was given the option to taste before the full glass was poured, a technique often neglected onboard (not just on British Airways!)
Canapes and a glass of rather good burgundy
I gave Jan my menu options and also asked if it was possible to hold back a couple of dishes from the menu in lieu of my ‘Afternoon Tea’ selection before landing. She said that was fine and thanked me for doing it early in the flight before the flight crew took dibs on the leftovers!
I played the ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ game on the AVOD system until the first dish arrived. I managed to quickly win the metaphorical million but before I could get my camera for photographic evidence of my triumph the screen had reverted back to the menu screen! So it was time to try again….
Dinner on BA293:
1) Smoked duck with celeriac remoulade and a watercress and pomegranate salad
2) Liam Tomlin’s confit of chicken with sautéed potatoes, black pudding and bacon
3) Warm chocolate fondant with chocolate sauce and winter berry compote
Meal service started off with bread which was served by the third member of the First team and the particular garlic piece I was after was rather a slippery customer, just not wanting to make the trip from basket to plate!
I got stuck into the bread and put ‘Tropic Thunder’ on as the rest of service continued. The duck starter was very tasty with the pomengrate and watercress salad proving a nice little accompaniment to wrap inside the folded slices. Delicious
The chicken confit was also very good, with the black pudding and bacon bits being particularly moreish. A nicely balanced dish.
The chocolate dessert finale was also rather tasty, although with perhaps a little too much chocolate sauce. I paired this with a glass of the dessert wine, Chivite Coleccion 125 Vendimia Tardia 2007. Excellent Preferable to the Opitz Trockenbeerenauslese BA have served but not quite as good as the Semillon based one I had on Qantas.
After the meal service was cleared away I pushed the table away from me a little, reclined the seat a little more and set myself up for a very comfortable crossing of the Atlantic…in the company of Tugg Speedman, Jeff Portnoy and Kirk Lazarus
Enjoying a cup of tea with some Charbonnel & Walker chocolates and ‘Tropic Thunder’
A bottle of Highland Spring was placed at my seat and a box of delicious Charbonnel & Walker chocolates were offered (which were left at my seat for a good hour or so ) although I’ve been on a bit of tea kick lately and so sampled my way through the five Twinings Fruit & Herb Infusion offerings. All presented rather nicely in a teapot and the aromas were just divine!
Tropic Thunder came to an end and I decided to go back and try and get photographic evidence of a ‘Who Want To Be A Millionaire’ win and so had a few more attempts, eventually getting it. Although I did come perilously close with a 50/50 on my final question before choosing the wrong one. If I ever were to get on the real show I’d hope not to be so careless
What would Regis or Chris say?
I was beginning to feel a few twinges in my legs so chose to stretch my legs. Feeling like a bit of an idiot doing stretches in the middle of an even empty cabin I put on a sweater and took a walk to the back of India Victor. Club World was surprisingly empty but World Traveller Plus and the World Traveller cabin seemed full. I used the useful bulge on door 4L to stretch the muscles in my legs for a few minutes before walking back to the First cabin. I was rather shocked when I put the moving map back on to see we were already over Newfoundland. Even though you still have a good few hours of flight time left it is quite psychological to be passing over solid ground once more. I had a bit of a play around with the AVOD to see what was on with plenty of selection appealing to both US and British passengers. Unfortunately during my browsing the system slowed to a crash which required a reboot. I’ve been lucky on some of my recent BA flights with the system but I hope that some of the bugs get ironed out soon! After the reboot I played around with a couple more games, thought I’d work on my putting with ‘Mini Golf’ which was far too difficult for real golfers I then continued with the golf theme opting for the Ryder Cup Official Documentary. Interestingly it had some minutes of Virgin Atlantic footage that hadn’t been doctored to remove the logos! (For those that aren’t aware, VS carried the Ryder Cup to Louisville) The video was quite interesting though the commentary was a little cheesy, even by golf standards! It was if Steve Coogan had a hand in writing it!
The First cabin towards the end of the flight
The flight was coming to an end and by the time I was done with the Ryder Cup documentary we were near Boston, and with little signs of the final meal service getting underway. Jan didn’t fail me though and before long the table was set and I was tucking into my second helping of smoked duck. It was as good the second time around Then it was time for the flight deck to come back on and note our current situation. Apparently those on the port side of the aircraft were about to enjoy a stunning view of New York City….and so I got up once more to head back through the galley and to 03A for a peek. It was pretty stunning, especially for those who hadn’t seen the city by air before. The black streak that is the Hudson River heading down the west side of Manhattan stood out very easily and amongst the sea of orange glow of the city lights eerily spooky…I then noticed off to my right that Jan had brought my lamb shank stew over and that if I was to eat, change and freshen up before landing I’d need to get a shift on.
Irish style lamb shank stew with poached winter vegetables
The lamb was actually rather good but my eyes were bigger than my stomach and after the earlier meal service and nibbling on half a box of chocolates I was only able to get about halfway through it.
I went to the toilet and after a quick brush of the teeth (amazing how that simple act makes you feel much more refreshed) and change of clothes I went back to my seat and gathered all my belongings, stowing them away in my bags in preparation for landing. I tried to keep my PTV screen out for as long as possible, helping to try and judge the location of the various towns and cities around us but once I spotted the familiar concourses of Dulles off at about one o clock I felt safe stowing it away. It was a familiar approach, heading east of the airport in a southerly direction before pulling a sharp 180 over the dormitory suburbs of northern Virginia and safely touching down onto 01R fifteen minutes early. It was a short taxi past the spooky, white, unmarked 767s (ok, ok, they belong to the CIA!) and then onto the usual BA gates down at the end of the D concourse. As the seatbelt signs were extinguished I gathered my bags in the rush to get a prime spot on the mobile lounges, even though Dulles isn’t usually busy around this time it is almost an OCD thing! Thankfully the Club World flight attendants held back their passengers so the few of us in First could exit from 2L onto the lounges ahead of everyone else. As the lounge filled up the Dulles regulars were completely obvious from the newbies who all took seats at the back of the lounge The drivers did the obligatory shout for people to move to the back, alas everyone pretty much ignored the guy and eventually he gave up and we lowered ourselves past the enormous Trent engine to a safe height for driving across the apron to the arrivals hall.
Once docked up we entered into a rather busy hall, well for this hour of the day anyway. Most of the time BA293 comes in it is the only flight. It appeared as though a United flight from Beijing had just arrived but even so we filed rather quickly to the front of the line. The queue manager types, a mix of INS officials and surprisingly airline staff, were directing people to form lines behind the yellow strip at each available agent. As Sod’s law would have it we were put behind a group of arriving Chinese who spoke no English, hadn’t filled out any of their forms and just stood there as an interpreter was summoned After a couple of minutes we gave up waiting and walked to another agent who seemed to be dealing with those who’d got their act together. It was then through to baggage claim where a sizeable stack of bags had already come through. This including ours which were complete with new First design and priority baggage labels. Customs was a non-issue as always, not even my declared Global Underground CD warranted an inspection, or outing on the arrivals hall PA system
The last task before heading home was to catch the bus to the Green lot, it was only a five minute wait but it appeared as though a bus heading for a lot named after every colour in the spectrum passed us by before our verdant bound transportation arrived….
*Indicates where I’ve used some pictures from other reports I’ve written.