Seat: 1D & 1F
Annoyingly my harddrive only worked for a second when I plugged it in in London, so unfortunately no pictures of this short trip. I am taking my mother on a bi-annual holiday of a lifetime to thank her for all she always did for me and this time I am taking her to South Africa. We will be traveling in style so I have booked us First tickets. A great way to spend your Gold Upgrade For 2 voucher.
The flight from AMS to LHR was uneventful as always. We left exactly on time and arrived about 10 minutes early. I was thankful we did not have to travel during irrops like a couple of weeks before. It was during the snow disruption I decided to add a night in the Sofitel at LHR to make sure we would not be caught up in any kind of mayhem.
Interestingly enough the securocops at the gate where very vigorous about the liquids in the bag thing. I haven't complied with that request in 2 years or so and there is never a problem at any airport. This time they were taking a stand. I inquired why and they told me that they had been reprimanded for not enforcing that rule. So, next time you go through AMS you know to put the liquids/gels in the plastic bag... Stupid rule.
At AMS BA did do priority boarding and we were the only ones in Club Europe. The rest of the flight was surprisingly busy. We were quickly served a salad which was nice but (apparently entirely forgettable) and the drinks kept coming in a steady pace. Since we would not be going anywhere anyways we had small bottle of Chardonnay each and even that tasted acceptable. The crew were lovely and attentive. Not much of an impression you can make on a 50 minute trip.
When we arrived at LHR we slowly (mommy dearest is getting a bit older) made our way to Customs and together with the (arguably) long walk to the Sofitel it took us 30 minutes to reach check-in. I was half expecting us to be the only guests but there was a line and the place seemed rather busy. They later told me they were running more than half empty, but still. The rooms were nice but not fantastic. I took some picture before we checked out, so forgive the mess...
We had dinner at the Vive Restaurant and chose the Butter Chicken. It was quite nice but why can't they make proper Naan bread? It was like cardboard. Not good since that makes the meal for me.
Mommy dearest enjoying the ambience
They have a nice bar too.
We both slept like a baby and had a lot of time to kill. Our flight wasn't until 20:05. Why not go into town, you might ask. Well, we decided against it. That is the disadvantage of traveling with your 72 year old mother (sorry mum!). Some things just get too tiring. I got us breakfast from M&S since we did not feel like paying GB 20 each for it at the hotel after which we decided to check in for our flight. The hotel wanted 2 pounds to print my boarding passes so I passed and walked to the terminal. It was very quiet and we were the proud owners of 2A and 2K in no time.
The BA staff were all very nice and inquisitive. They all wanted to know how I managed to convince my mother to travel with carry-on only for 3 weeks and seemed genuinely interested in what we were up to. No NYE hangovers there.
Security check took a while for a couple of reasons. First of all, if one person starts taking of his shoes the sheep in the herd will all follow. That takes a lot longer. I decided to yell from the back that shoes could be left on and that helped a bit. Second of all the machine kept beeping for no apparent reason so they had to check everybody manually. Last but not least, we were in the Fast Track and that is always the slowest.
One of the benefits of traveling in F is that you can use the Concorde Room at LHR T5. Exclusive to First Class passengers and the happy few with a Concorde Card. Again it was busier than I expected. If you want more details about that lounge you can read about it here: Picture Report LHR Concorde Lounge T5 (by Henkybaby Sep 25 2008 in Trip Reports)
One thing that never fails to disappoint is the quality of the food in the lounge. Ok, for a lounge it is not too bad, but the setting creates expectations. The food at the QF First Class Lounge in MEL or SYD is ten times better. As is the service. I know all the young staff on duty probably still had a nail in the head from the night before but it was slooooow. With a smile though. With a big smile!
Mother waiting for lunch
Her salmon (very dry) and not very nice
My Ceasar Salad. Not a problem there. Unfortunately she who shall remain nameless had changed the camera settings so the picture is less than sharp...
According to my mother the coffee was horrible so we excused ourselves and nested in the lounge.
I tried (in vain) to find a FireWire cable so I could use my harddrive but they don't sell these at LHR. Hopefully I can find one at JNB airport tomorrow or in Cape Town next week.
We were still a bit peckish so we ordered a Tapas. That was quite agreeable together with a rather nice white wine. I totally forgot to write down the name otherwise I would have ordered some.
Once again my mother profusely apologizes for messing with the camera settings.
January 1st 20:05
Seat 2A & 2K
Flight time: 10,5 hrs
We decided to postpone dinner so we could eat on the plane. It was my mother's first First so she wanted to experience it all. We boarded at 19:45 and were on the plane quite quickly. I did need to call an attendant since the Fast Track lane was nowhere to be found. It looked like a busy flight and there were only 3 empty seats in F.
We were taken to our seats and settled in. We were welcomed by our purser for F (Robert) who seemed like an agreeable chap. He did seem a bit confused sometimes but I am sure that is just appearances. He took care of us very well. As is normal lately no personal welcome by the CSD for F pax or BAEC Gold members. Not that it adds anything but it used to be a nice touch.
There was a couple split between 1A and 4K which illustrates the risk of assigning yourself 1A/K (you can do that as BA Gold, but not otherwise) when your partner has no status. Someone else took 1K and he was not moving. I prefer 2A/K since they are the most private.
Settling in in 2K
Surprisingly enough I prefer 62/64 A/K over any F seat. I love the privacy and I love the upper deck. I had not flown F in about a year and I was bitterly disappointed. I can see no reason to pay more for F than for J. BA J is very good and the seats are excellent, especially if you get the good ones. The F cabin even feels more cramped and busy than the upper deck. Too bad. Maybe New First will be better.
The amenity kit. A clumsy bag that is hard to open (according to my mother).
We left the gate right on time and with a long wait to get to the runway we would at least be more or less on time in JNB instead of 30 minutes early. It felt almost strange facing forward for takeoff. Once up in the air I went to change into my jammies. Unfortunately I was a bit of an idiot in the loo. I put my regular clothes on the sink and when I put on the pajamas I pressed the faucet with my elbow or something. Before I realized it my trousers were soaked. Robert tried to get them dry before we landed but it wasn't to be. Once again my policy of 'carry on luggage only!' paid of and I could simply change into something else before landing. How my mother managed to change without incident in those small toilets is beyond me.
Time for dinner! I have no expectations of airline food, not even in F so I can't be disappointed. That proved a wise choice once again. The food options were not really to my liking. We all got the same amuse bouche. Salmon (maybe a leftover from NYE)...
Underwhelming to say the least.
I chose the Braised Hereford Beef with a pie of Mushrooms Diane and pureed potatoes. Edible, but that is it.
Up close and personal
Desert (Trio of Christmas) was nice.
Considering what you pay for a First Class ticket the food is a crying shame. BA and food is not a marriage made in heaven. Their F food is J class. Their J food would be rejected by the Salvation Army but their Y food is surprisingly tasty...
I asked Linda (I believe) to make my bed soon after dinner. It was once again hot, hot, hot in the cabin. I know better than to ask them to change it. It is cold by the doors and that is where they sit. No point in them being uncomfortable if 300 pax can be instead. I tried reasoning with them once or twice but you get silly excuses like "24C is company policy" or "It is almost impossible to change the temperature on a 747". What do they think? That we are idiots? Anyways, socks off, cover off and try to sleep. It worked for about 6 hours, which is fine since we are checking in at the Intercontinental at JNB airport anyway.
Robert apologized that the trousers were still damp but I told him not to worry and got my stuff out of the wardrobe to change into something else. By the way, I did notice that a lot of people went into the wardrobe during the flight. 1A/K weren't happy. When I returned I ordered the full Monty for breakfast, a meal that BA always gets right.
And especially for HIDDY from FlyerTalk a picture of a well done sausage.
It was a smooth descent into JNB. Always nice to have 3 windows to yourself.
We landed and upon breaking a flower pot came sailing forwards into the cabin. Secure your stuff too, dear cabin crew!
We arrived at the gate and I managed to carry two carry-ons, one backpack, a laptop bad and a small bag all by myself so we could keep the pace on the long track to customs. I believe we were at one of the farthest gates possible. JNB immigration can be a right pain though. We arrived as one of the first (Bravo Mum!) but behind another 747 I believe. It all went more quickly than I remembered. We were in line for maybe 20 minutes.
With no bags to collect we were in the IC JNB within minutes after that. If you ever need a hotel for an overnight in JNB, this is the place. Not cheap, but worth every penny. Thanks to my Plat Ambassador status (not Royal Ambassador like some... ) we got nice upgrades and the room is wonderful.
Tomorrow we fly to Hoedspruit for a couple of days of safari. Never flown a DH3 before, so that will be nice.
Meanwhile I wish you all a very happy 2011 and that you may surprise yourself on many occasions!
Feedback always appreciated of course.