It has been a hectic time. Not only do I need to prepare for a near 6 month sabbatical (starting December 23rd) but also I needed to go to Dubai and Kenya for business. It may sound strange, but although normally I would welcome opportunities to travel, this time I became a little weary. I have been noticing on my last few flights that air travel has become a mode of transport more than something special. Will I finally become normal?
To ease the transition to a normal traveler I decided to combine my two trips into one report. Not only because of my dwindling enthusiasm, but also because not too much happened worth mentioning and I did not take too many pictures. My last excuse is that I have now travelled in seat 62K or 64K of a British Airways 747-400 so many times that I really do not know what to write about.
September 9th and 13th
BA 429/107 and BA106/430
Seat 64K and 62K
Dubai is not my favorite destination in the world. I find I very artificial and boring. I predicted 2 years ago that Dubai’s bubble would burst and here we go. This short trip was partly to visit a friend who lives there and partly for business. Even though KLM offers direct flights from AMS I prefer to fly BA. The hard product is just so much better and you even get a little bit more sleep since the flight is a little longer.
Not important on the inbound however, since I chose the day flight. It meant an early morning start at AMS but that did not matter to me. I enjoyed a quick snack at the lounge before I headed to the gate. Like always I was there early. I can never seem to time it just right…
The short hop to LHR was uneventful. I declined any food since I wanted to have some at T5. After a short break in the lounge it was time to board our 747 to DXB. I remember that I was surprised when I picked my flight that it was a 747 since I thought they only flew 777 or 767 on this route.
It was with a grin on my face that I selected 64K a couple of weeks ago. Normally I choose 62K but I wanted to try something different this time.
I must say that I liked the cocoon feel that you get in this seat. I did miss the open feel of 62K and I did not like that they lowered the divider for everything where in 62K they approach you from the front. For my next flights I guess I can live with both but I chose 62K for my flight to SYD in 3 weeks. I should realize how lucky I am that I can fly on the UD and that I almost always have the choice of 62/64K.
Service on board was pretty mediocre, like always on BA. It is neither here nor there. I appreciate the friendliness of the crew but the offering are just not that great. The food looks like they took the Y food out of the tinfoil…. I chose the chicken and Mr. Tomlin really let me down there!
A skimpy shrimp cocktail to start
Next was the chicken
Looks pretty good, no? Well, unfortunately after a couple of bites it turned out the chicken underneath had melted or something. It had changed into a disgusting gooey pulp.
When I asked the FA about it she just asked if I wanted something else. Of course everything was sold out so I settled for desert.
The meal being gone I settled in for a couple of hours of reading with a view.
We landed in DXB just before midnight and I rushed myself to my hotel. I stayed in both the Grand Hyatt (not so nice) and the Crowne Plaze Festival City (great hotel!).
Hyatt pool. It is enormous but service is poor
Crowne Plaza room
Crowne Plaza and IC
View from Crowne Plaze hotel room
IC pool available to CP guests too
It was Ramadan in DXB so there was not too much going on. The great advantage of the CP is that it is next to the Festival City mall so there are alternatives to eating hotel food or you can go for a nice air-conditioned walk. The Grand Hyatt is too isolated.
The return trip consisted of getting on board, hoping for a quick take off and sleep. The flight back is basically a jetlagger. Too short for real sleep and you arrive early in the morning. I got a quick connection to Amsterdam, picked up my car, drove home and against all my better judgement I went to bed. I recovered after a day or two…
Next up was a short business trip to Bangalore, India. I have been there many times before and every time it is a tough trip. Normally I fly AF but BA has been very competitive in its pricing lately so I got our TA to make me a booking on BA. Again in a 747 and again on the UD.
November 6th and 15th
BA 429/119 and BA118/440
Seat 62K and 64K
Flying to BLR on BA is not the best choice as far as the flight schedule is concerned. You arrive in BLR at 04:50 (or 05:50 in my case) and no hotel will allow such an early check in. You need to book an extra night (not my problem, but still) and you will be tired for at least two days. That is why I decided to leave on Friday and acclimatize in the West End Hotel.
This was a very last minute trip (booked 5 days before departure) but I still managed to get 62K and 64K which are my two favorite seats. Once again I was pleasantly surprised that a 747 served this route since I remember one earlier trip on BA on a 777. The UD must be one of the nicest places in the sky.
Our flight was pretty much delayed by an hour on the ground. The captain was honest enough to explain that we were waiting for a bunch of F class pax that were delayed. Their inbound from the US was late. I don’t mind, but I wonder if they would have waited for economy pax too.
I did not make any pictures on the inbound. I had put my camera in my carry-on and I did not feel like unpacking it. Unfortunate, since we must have had the best looking crew ever. Gorgeous, very stylish girls with those lovely alternate uniforms (with pants).
The India flights always feature a lot of Indian food on the menu. Although I LOVE Indian food I can never get myself to order it on a plane. When I asked for the lamb they told me it was sold out. Now I am not a DYKWIA person but as a BA Gold I expect to be asked my preference as one of the first. The FA freely admitted to forgetting about that but I was out of luck. I pleaded for her to see if there were any selections left from First, but she explained that they all went to sleep and they could not risk it. Eventually she found me lamb somewhere and I was very grateful.
Bangalore has a new airport and we arrived there 1 hour late. I was lucky that they connected the bridge at the door between CW and WT+ so I was one of the first off the plane. Customs can go a number of ways in India, but this time it was quick. No queue, no annoying overzealous customs clerk, nothing. I had no bags so I headed straight for the taxi stand. It is very easy to get a cab at the airport and they charge under INR 500. A hotel car will easily set you back INR 3500.
My hotel of choice for recuperating from my jetlag was the Taj West End. Normally I stay at the Leela (a slice of heaven on earth!) but that was fully booked. Bummer. The TWE came highly recommended on TripAdvisor but I did not find it as good as the Leela.
The room was fantastic though
After two days I moved to the Taj Residency, since that is a lot closer to our office. Speaking of which, always nice to see it mentioned in a book about Bangalore…
The Residency was a lot more relaxed and had better food options. The weather was bad so there was no pool lounging this time.
View from room
Construction next door. No problem since traffic is noisier.
I spend a nice and productive week working with my team there. They are such great people. Once you know how to work with India it can be rewarding. Exasperating, but rewarding.
There is another good reason to go to India as often as possible
I had added an extra Saturday in the hope to lounge at the pool, but in vain. Sunday morning at 07:50 my flight would leave for LHR. Fortunately I checked the night before if the inbound left on time. It was 45 minutes late due to storms in Europe. More sleep! I asked for a car at 06:00, thinking that Bangalore traffic would mean it would take an hour. I forgot it was Sunday and we arrived after 30 minutes. Upon arrival at the airport I was greeted by the hotel ‘fixer’ who tries to sail you through customs. Even though you have checked in online you still need to check in at the airport too.
The lounge was small but reasonably stocked. A lot of pax in the F lounge. We waited for about 45 minutes for the boarding call.
Side note: on FT someone asked how many time it really takes to check a passport. In India that is (and I did count!) 14 times. The most silly check series was: at the gate, 30 meters later in the bridge and 10 meters later in the aircraft. All three checks by BA staff. Huh?
Eventually I settled in 64K hoping to get some sleep.
Fortunately everyone closed the blinds almost immediately after takeoff and I managed to get some extra sleep.
After a couple of hours I woke up to the lunch service. I cannot remember what it was, only that I found it really annoying that they kept lowering the divider during the service. I decided to skip desert and watched a movie. During the flight I had some sandwiches from the Club kitchen where I actually watched a passenger from WT+ being told not to use the kitchen by the crew. So it does happen.
By now the sun was really blinding and I was awake.
I started noticing how dirty the ac was. There was filth everywhere. Also the lining above 64K always seems to go loose.
One cabin picture just before landing.
We circled for about 20 minutes before landing but we were still on time. We made up about one hour in the air.
Since we were early we got a remote stand. A 747 on a remote stand I find ridiculous. They at least let the F pax off first and in a separate bus, but us poor J class pax had to fold ourselves up to fit in a bus that they packed so tightly that when the door opened a pax actually fell out and hurt himself. We were a bit shaken by the Schumacher style driving. Shame on you BA.
I had to wait around 3 hours at the airport. I nestled at the balcony of the Flounge and even managed to get some work done. I normally (and on principle) refuse to work during travel but I was bored.
The flight to AMS left on time. I had another breakfast on this comfortable flight.
I was glad to see AMS and even gladder to get home. No more flying for me until the end of the year.
Hope you enjoyed these raster hurriedly written reports. Feedback is always appreciated and maybe you can convince me that flying is more than just transportation….
[Edited 2009-11-29 07:03:42 by henkybaby]