Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA293
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236/ER
Seat: 11K (Club World)
Distance: 3677 miles
Duration: 7hrs 25mins
Photo © Jason Taperell - AirTeamImages
Photo © Christian Galliker - AirTeamImages
Home time again…after a the best part of the ten days in England and Norway it was time to head for home and is tradition one of my mother’s new year drinks togethers meant we were going to be at Heathrow a little earlier than most passengers. However I wouldn’t be an enthusiast if I said this bothered me!
We were dropped off down at the end of the departure ramp, convenient for First check-in. As I’ve mentioned in previous reports there’s quite a large open area between the First welcome desk and the area where you approach it. This time around one of the two people manning the desk approached my wife and I asked…’Where are you flying to? Follow me…’ That’s more like it! Some ‘welcomers’ take this as an opportunity to scold people for trying to use the First desks without the proper eligibility.
Bags were exchanged for boarding passes and we were off to security, the Fast Track line offering a dubious benefit over the regular line. It seemed to take quite a while and the staff, whilst polite made a bit of a hash of getting everyone through efficiently so by the time I had my bags in the plastic crates ready to go through the X-Ray machine there were four passengers waiting to clear the WTMD!
The wife stopped off in Boots whilst I made do with some HMV browsing before we headed off to the lounge complex to get massage appointments booked and grab some lunch. Fortunately the Elemis Spa had two appointments for our requested Power Back Massages in quick succession so we were able to enter the Galleries First for some lunch. We took seats out on our preferred location of the terrace, grabbed some champagne (Cattier Clos du Moulin which featured on Concorde in later years) and ordered some lunch from one of the waitresses in the First Refectory. Just as we were getting some things from our bag some rather disagreeable sounds could be heard from a couple with a young baby just across from us. As I glanced over to see what was going on I saw the father holding the baby upside down as it puked all over the floor. Marvellous! There was a good 25ft or so between us and luckily the smell didn’t waft over in our direction!!
Starting off in the Galleries First – not sure why my wife has a glass of Rose and a Diet Coke!
Whilst grabbing a glass of champagne a fellow frequent flyer forum member (en-route to Vancouver) came over to introduce himself and we agreed to have a chat over some bubbles after lunch.
1) View from the terrace
2) The light airy feel of the Galleries First
The lounge was rather empty, unsurprising given the off peak day we were traveling, and this meant lunch was out rather quickly.
Caesar salad and summer fruit sponge with custard
The food itself wasn’t half bad, the Caesar salad is a staple First lounge option for myself and was as pleasant as usual and the sponge, whilst out of season was quite tasty. The surprise was my wife’s spaghetti carbonara, I wasn’t expecting much from it but she thought it was superb, and this from someone who lived in Italy for four years!
Enjoying lunch we could see out over the apron and onto runway 9R/27L just outside the window. Some interesting aircraft outside including the Omani 747SP could be seen parked over near Terminal 4. However, the incoming aircraft onto 27L were becoming less and less visible as it became apparent thick fog was descending over the airfield. It was rather short lived though and the worst passed rather quickly.
My new cyberspace acquaintance came over for the promised drink and we got talking about a raft of topics, naturally airline travel being a starter but it turned out we’d attended the same University at the same time and also shared a scarily similar taste in music. Rather quickly it was his turn to head to the Elemis Spa and upon his return my wife went for hers, and then I went on mine.
Our flights were due to depart from the B gates at the same time so thirty minutes beforehand, at the end of my massage, we got our bags from the porter and took the transit to the B gates. Our Washington flight was showing as ‘Boarding Now’ whereas Vancouver wasn’t so we thought we’d go to the Galleries Club in T5B for a last drink. I asked the lounge agent if we should head to the gate and she said there were only 22 of 140 or so left to board so we said our goodbyes to our YVR bound friend and headed to the north end of the concourse where our gate was. For a quick second I thought we had been swapped to a 747 but the very long jetbridges at the ends of the T5 terminals meant that we were indeed aboard G-VIIN parked a fair way out of sight.
Not many of us in Club World today…
The Club World cabin was extremely empty, probably ten passengers maximum so there were plenty of spare seats to place my bags whilst I prepared for the flight. The friendly crew introduced themselves with drinks and newspapers and we settled in to our seats. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before I noticed the red backlit buttons on the remote that made it clear we weren’t to enjoy AVOD on this particular flight. We sat on the ground for a while before a rather unwell looking passenger toddled past us in the aisle, and a short while later a PA made to say we would be delayed by around 30 minutes as a result. No, it wasn’t the baby from the Galleries First
Whilst on the ground we made our dinner selections and also more drinks were brought round. Initial impressions of the crew were rather good, the young Indian lady and German purser made a good double team, smiles aplenty. It was during this time that another passenger came over and introduced himself, he’d managed to see me snapping a picture at my seat (probably the one above!) and came over to ask if I was taking pictures for airliners.net. I told him to look out for this report to be posted
At just after 5.30pm we pushed back and the safety demo was played, at the end the crew came to check and noticed that not only was my seat belt undone but my seat wasn’t in the green light position. I’m usually extremely diligent about such things but this time I felt such an amateur!
Taxiing to 09R
Departure was off to the east from 09R and after a nice bank round to the right we were quickly enveloped by cloud, sadly this was to be my last glance of the homeland as the thick cloud covered the south of the country.
It took a while for the inflight entertainment to get going. I’d found out the two films I was most keen on watching, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps and The Social Network were on the same channel, which was rather convenient.
It was just after the film started that dinner service began, around an hour from London, starting off with the ever predictable smoked salmon.
1) Scottish smoked salmon with yellow beetroot puree and fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
2) Beef and stilton pie with braised beef, potatoes dauphinoise and creamed savoy cabbage
3) Orange and chocolate torte
Smoked salmon, as I’m sure many of you will agree, whilst tasty is a bit passé, a touch cliché. However, this cut, a distinctive deep red colour was rather tasty. Maybe my eyes were just deceiving me!
The main course was unsurprisingly not great, the only highlight being the German purser’s response when I asked for English mustard, “well it could only be, couldn’t it?”
Dessert was reasonable, if not forgettable. When writing this report (five days after) I had to go back to my pictures to remember what I’d had!!
The regular Kir Royale top ups and water top ups were certainly making the film fly by, to the extent where the credits rolled on Wall Street 2 and I wondered where the rest of the film was! I was beginning to feel like I’d fallen victim to the old cabin crew trick of getting the passengers rather tipsy!
The centre Club World seats
With no AVOD it seemed like an absolute age before The Social Network started up and I’d taken this time to grab some snacks from the Club Kitchen, the Walkers Sensation crisps and bags of Maltesers seemed obvious targets.
By this time I’d switched over to the fruity teas, regular readers of my trip reports will notice this is something I do after I’ve got drunk and then realize I need to harness 500bhp for the two hour drive home upon my arrival! During the first hour or so of the film I put away a few bottles of Highland Spring and put to waste a fair amount of Twinings finest as well, the key to a successful sobering up.
Unfortunately the tape The Social Network was on was rather shoddy and just as things were getting exciting the picture began to cut out as did the sound. A bit peeved I switched over to a couple of episodes of The Inbetweeners. After watching films on American TV where the tamest of words are bleeped out, or worse, badly dubbed over, there was something naughty about watching it uncensored
The moving map showed we were over Newfoundland and some light chop caused the seatbelt sign to become illuminated for an extended period of time. This coincided with a switch from us enjoying a favourable tailwind to a headwind, the former though was enough for us to be due to land at Dulles on time.
Must almost be time for afternoon tea…
After the toilet humour was over I grabbed my iPod. After loading up on apps the previous week in EA’s stonking 99 cent sale I decided to forego them all and just lie back and listen to some podcasts, Andy Moor’s Moor Music being a particularly favourite at the moment. EDM fans check it out
As we entered US airspace proper and neared Boston the lights came up in preparation for afternoon tea. It was to be the same old sandwiches as normal; red salmon with cucumber and cheddar with vine ripened tomatoes. Nevertheless it seems that if you put food in front of me on a flight I’ll invariably give it a nibble. As some light chop was once again hindering our progress down the eastern seaboard we were unable to have any hot drinks at the time the sandwiches were served. However, as soon as the light went out the FAs were back asking if we wanted anything
Sandwiches: Red salmon and cucumber and Cheddar with vine ripened tomatoes
Once the tray was cleared away I gathered my belongings and noticed a small pack of errant Maltesers had slipped down and been wedged between myself and the seat for the previous few hours, congealing themselves into a nice malty, chocolatey ball within the bag. Luckily the bag remained intact so they’re being solidified in my freezer as I type this report I grabbed my clothes from the overhead and went to the toilet to freshen up and change. Even on these dayflights where you don’t sleep it makes the world of difference to brush teeth, spray on some deodrant and a spot of aftershave.
As we begun to descend through the thick cloud we emerged into a spot where the only cloud was far below us, it must have been just off the ground since you could see almost every light illuminating the underside of it creating a really cool effect. If only my camera was better….
We were coming into Dulles from the north and for once we came straight in (not flying east of the field and then coming in from the south) touching down on 19C just after 8.10pm.
It was a rather short taxi round to B44 where we left the aircraft from 2L, the CSD (rightly) holding us Club World ruffians back to allow the one family that occupied First to disembark ahead of us. It was a symbolic gesture though as they stood to one side in the jetbridge and everyone else passed them! Being one of the first onto the mobile lounge I bagged prime spots for a quick disembarkation at immigration but as is usual more and more people were trying the same trick, standing in the doorway blocking entry for those trying to board the bus.
En-route to immigration we were held up by a taxiing Virgin America A320, the driver accelerating away from our holding point seemingly just as the wingtip has passed us! As the doors opened at the other end, depositing us into the arrivals area everyone rushed down the escalator to immigration and it was clear that it would be a reasonably quick passage through to baggage reclaim. A few stragglers from a previous flight were in the US Citizens line but that was about it. Since my last international arrival at Dulles in mid October the new baggage reclaim area had opened up just behind immigration. Annoyingly though you have to walk right to the far end of the immigration hall just to double back on yourself to get to the belts, I don’t know why they didn’t punch multiple entrances in. Bags were through within a couple of minutes and then it was off to clear customs. With the renovations at IAD everyone was funneled down a thin corridor to where the old customs point was, but it seemed very backed up. All of a sudden there was a semblance of order and the crowds parted…we were through and back to the busy public area where we called the shuttle back to the hotel.
These light travel days make Heathrow an easy airport to pass through, at least from Terminal 5.
Club World on the 777 remains a disappointment after enjoying upper deck travel for a while, if every cloud has a silver lining that is that it makes flying First a little more special! Not much you can do about the 777 situation given they've all but disappeared from the IAD schedule now.
The crew on this flight were pretty good, friendly and smiling with a degree of professionalism although the call bell did go unanswered on more than one occasion.
I've learned not to expect much at all from the food in Club World (First has been improving steadily IMO) and with the main course in particular this was certainly the case.
Overall a solid flight, I do hold a faint glimmer of hope that we'll see 747s back on IAD regularly soon that'll help put a bit of sparkle into the Club World experience on this route.