It has been about three years since my last trip report, and I feel that I am long over due (especially given how much enjoyment I get at work reading everyone else's trip reports). While I am American, I live and work in London, which means I take quite a few trans-Atlantic trips each year. 90% of my flying is on Delta (I am from Cincinnati originally and my mom is a proud Delta F/A, so I have my loyalties). I have nothing but GREAT things to say about Delta and have enjoyed all of my trips across the pond in the 767-400 with the lie-flat Business Elite seats. I have been meaning to write a trip report for one of my Delta LHR
flights, but I always forget to bring my camera since it has become such a routine trip for me (not to say that I haven't enjoyed the service).
This trip report, however, discusses the new United First and British Airways First products.
I am embarrassed to say that this trip report has been seven months in the making as I will soon explain. I decided to splurge and try the new United First for my flight home for Christmas 2010 (LHR
). As such, I had the best of intentions of documenting the round-trip flight, however, my camera battery died, and I somehow lost the charger. So, the pictures for one of the legs sat on my camera until just recently (note, this report contains pictures taken with both my standard digital camera and my iPhone). Last week, I went back to Cincinnati for a family event and decided to splurge and (hopefully) try the new BA
First cabin for my return journey to London (CVG
). As I was super excited, I finally got my act together and bought a battery charger so I could take pictures, transfer them to my computer and write this report. So, alas, this trip report spans between December 2010 and July 2011 (and, in between that time, I have made about six crossings on Delta).
Anyway, I will let the pictures speak for themselves, though I will include commentary as appropriate.
December 19, 2010
B767-3ER (btw - can anyone explain to me what it means when people say 767-432 or 767-423 or whatever)
I had the awesome luck of originally attempting to fly out of Heathrow on the day that the "snow" arrived and shut down operations for two days. After checking-in (quickly and efficiently) on that fateful day (December 17), I went to the Star Alliance First lounge, only to have my flight cancel. Here is where UA
totally dropped the ball. I walked into bedlam after they cancelled my flight to retrieve my bag. I tried to rebook in the lounge but they were fairly useless, so I figured that, since I was flying First, I would have either a.) some sort of priority rebooking or b.) at least a special number to call to rebook. I had neither, and, while waiting two hours to reschedule for a week later, they lost my bag and did nothing to help find it. I eventually sorted through about 40 cancelled flights' worth of baggage and found it stuck on a conveyor belt. Obviously, that priority tag came in handy. Oh well, I was fortunate in that I lived in London and did not have to sleep at the airport. I felt so bad for those who were stranded and really wanted to invite them all to my flat so they could get some sleep.
After stalking ua.com, I eventually got another First seat on Monday. I arrived super early to Heathrow (while en route, the conductor of the Heathrow Express announced that Terminal 5 would not be accepting any additional passengers - I really thought that someone was going to get murdered). Once again, I quickly checked in at the First desk where they assured me that the fight would be leaving. From there, I took the fast track lane through security and headed back to the Star Alliance First Lounge.
When you enter the LHR
Star Alliance lounge, you can either turn left for Business or right for First. The First Class lounge is somewhat small but well appointed, and the food was delicious. They made periodic announcements about the flights in a very hushed manner to keep the mood nice and quiet.
I was too nervous to wait for my flight to be called (since it had started snowing), so I made the extraordinarily long walk down to the gate with plenty of time to spare. In fact, we took about a one hour delay for reasons unknown to anyone. Ultimately, we all boarded and anxiously waited for the forward door to close. Here are a few pictures of the seat (and me in it) and cabin.
Obligatory leg room shot
(the air marshal sat across the aisle from me)
(deicing fluid oozing down the window)
After about three bloody mary’s on the ground, we took off approximately one hour behind schedule. The plane went crazy! People were clapping, some were crying and the mood all around was just wonderful. I settled in and found the seat to be comfortable and the service to be good so far (though thought it was surprising that drinks on the ground in First were served in plastic cups).
Dinner was served about 45 minutes after we took off. It was good but the real star of that portion of the flight was the alcohol. The wines and champagne were fabulous.
Champagne to start ☺ (Henriot Brut Millesime 1998)
Starter (Portobello, mozzarella, tomato and asparagus with fresh micro greens and lemon-infused oil)
Soup (roasted carrot and swede soupe)
Salad – very mediocre with frozen creamy peppercorn dressing (fresh seasonal greens with asparagus, cucumbers and sun-blushed tomatoes)
(At this point, this was the progress we had made to ORD
Entrée (grilled filet mignon with horseradish sauce and (gross) shitake tomato duxelle)
Desert (American airlines love ice cream, don’t they? Anyway, I love it too, so that made me very happy).
After dinner, I started to relax and watched Inception. The screen, as you can see is huge, which is a really nice feature of the new First product on United.
I also had some cheese and fruit (with some Porto (Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2005)) from the snack bar.
Another awesome feature of the new seat is this massive storage bin that you get. It is seriously cavernous (the picture does not do it justice).
I eventually decided to take a quick nap and had my seat turned into a bed. The flight attendants offered to help, but I told them that I was fine. Here was my bed for the next few hours.
When I woke up, we had a pre-landing snack (roasted chicken foccacia sandwich with caramelized red onion chutney – sorry no pics). I was so excited to see the progress that we had made when I looked at the moving map.
We landed in what appeared to be a blizzard at O’Hare. Sadly, I turned on my phone to find a message from my mom, my dad and United telling me that my connecting flight was cancelled. I started to get frustrated given the travel delays already incurred until the forward door opened and a United agent came on board, asked for me, escorted me through customs and checked me into a hotel at O’Hare. That is service. I was so impressed and have never had that level of service on any airline (including BA
First). They also booked me on two flights the next day (my choice) and gave me a pass to the Red Carpet Club while I waited in the morning. That small gesture seriously convinced me to book United First again for my trip home this Christmas.
Now … let’s fast forward to July and “complete” the trip (it was about time to charge my battery and finish my trip report). It was time to make a trip home for a family function and to enjoy a few days outside of London, spending some quality time with the parents and the siblings. Cincinnati is very humid in the summer, so I also enjoyed a lot of time in the pool relaxing and tanning my very pale self (thank you London summer).
Besides the time off, I also oddly “inherited” a vehicle while I was there, so I thought I would share because I still think its funny and a strange stroke of potentially good luck (time will tell). Before I moved to London, I sold my car that I had been keeping at my parents’ house since college. Big mistake since I now have had to rely on borrowing from my parents or my sister. A family friend had an old pickup that they rarely used (only for Home Depot runs) and offered it to me for basically nothing after one of my sob fests about lack of transportation during a dinner party. So, I am now the proud owner of a 1986 Jeep Comanche Sportruck. I have never had a pickup and anyone who knows me would find it funny that I now do! However, I actually don’t think it is a bad looking ride, and now I no longer have to beg for transportation when I am home for the holidays. And, despite being carbureted and somewhat finicky, it is a lot of fun to drive since it’s a five speed stick. Sadly, it will just sit in the garage while I am away. Here are a few pictures of it.
Thoughts are welcome as to whether I have gotten myself into a big mess! Sorry for the diversion…
July 17, 2011
I had a 2:05 flight from CVG
on American Connection (for some reason, it sounded odd each time the F/A said that – I guess I was expecting American Eagle). I arrived on time and made my way to the International Terminal (Terminal 5).
Once I reached the check-in area, I went to the BA
First check-in desk to have my boarding pass reissued (I wanted it on BA
paper). I asked the very friendly agent whether or not the 747-400 that I was on had the new First cabin, but unfortunately he did not know (so the suspense continued as I still did not know if I had the new or old seat). I then made my way through security by way of the duty free store. I find the International Terminal at O’Hare strange in that a.) the duty free store is before security and b.) there is no “premium” line (which meant it took about 30 minutes to get through with the afternoon push).
I made my way to Terraces Lounge where I was quickly ushered across the hall to the First lounge (didn’t know there was one at O’Hare). Below are a few pictures with my thoughts to follow.
(I know I am a dork but I had to do it)
(the one redeeming feature of the First lounge was the view)
When I arrived at the Terraces Lounge, I thought that it looked like a nice, standard airline lounge. When they told me that there was a separate First lounge, I was so excited. I imagined it would be some sort of airport Ritz Carlton. I was really disappointed. It was probably only about 500-700 square feet with very dated furniture and bad amenities. It felt extremely cramped, so I went back across the hall to the Terraces Lounge. At that point, I saw the pre-flight dining room, so I asked for a seat and proceeded to sit down for a snack.
The dining room is small and white, but I was happy there. I wasn’t extremely hungry and I wanted to eat on the plane, so I ordered tomato soup and salad and had two gin and tonics. While waiting for the food, I had a conversation with a friendly Austrian traveler who ended up joining me for part of the meal.
After eating, I went on a tour of the Terraces Lounge and found that it actually had better amenities that the First lounge! Obviously, you get the pre-flight dining perk as a First customer, which is nice, but I liked the self serve buffet that was on offer for Club World customers (First customers though could use either lounge). Here are a few pics from my tour.
I eventually went back to the First lounge and had some sparkling water – I figured that since I was flying BA
First and trying it out, I owed it to myself to try to get a comprehensive experience. I sat in the lounge until about ten minutes before boarding. I then headed to the gate to take a few pre-departure pictures and was among the first passengers to board the plane.
I will certainly let my pictures of the new (yay) First cabin speak for themselves (I took a lot since I always am grateful when people put up fulsome trip reports and it was my turn to contribute). However, before proceeding to the cabin and seat pictures, I have to say that I had a very warm BA
welcome once I was onboard. The male F/A boarding the plane (the door by the stairway to the second floor) smiled and looked at my boarding pass and then personally escorted me to First and introduced me to his colleagues, stating that they would be looking after me. Nice touch I thought and set a good tone for the next eight hours! I got to my seat and immediately ordered a glass of champagne (Tattinger Brut Millesieme 2004).
(my seat – 3A)
(obligatory leg room shot)
(view from seat)
(me in my seat – you will note that I have gotten a bit bigger since Christmas ☺ - I am working on that)
(side view of seat)
(lighting before departure)
(toiletry kit and boarding pass)
(control panel with light fixture)
(view looking towards Club World)
(not my seat – I had a window)
I have flown on many 747s, sometimes in Business and sometimes in Economy. I have never, though, had the opportunity to sit in the nose of a 747, which was just terrific. Takeoff for whatever reason was exhilarating because I felt the thrust of the entire plane behind me (and it was very quiet). Moreover, once we were airborn and the seat belt sign was off, it became like a private club (I think there were only six of us in total).
(people gathering to talk and have drinks by the center console)
Pajamas and toiletry bags were passed out on the ground, so, as soon as I could, I changed out of my “civilian” clothing and into my BA
First pajamas (which I am wearing now as I type this trip report). Drinks were expeditiously served though I was shocked that not hot towels were given out for the duration of the flight (on Delta and United, they seemingly hand them out with every meal). Dinner was then served. Below are pictures of my meal.
Starter 1 (prawn dish – it was not on the menu, but was the best food I have ever had on an airplane (I would be thrilled to eat that at a restaurant on the ground))
Starter 2 (Trio of salmon including smoked salmon with fingering potato salad, salmon rillette and balik style salmon)
Starter 3 (Chicken consommé)
Main (steak with creamed spinach, roast potatoes and maitre d’hotel butter)
Desert (Mixed berry chocolate gateau with vanilla anglaise and strawberry)
I have to say that the quality of food was the best that I have ever had on an airplane (with the exception of the desert, which was not good). I also liked the pace at which things were served. Much like on United, I could eat whenever I wanted, which was a plus. What I liked about BA
was that there was no cart in the aisle and food just seemed to appear effortlessly. Well done.
As I ate, I watched movies on the ENORMOUS personal television. It was huge and a real plus. I actually wished that my flight was longer because the television, coupled with the comfortable seat, were just spectacular. After about 2.5 hours in the air, one of the F/As asked if I would like my seat turned into a bed. I said yes, and she came by and reclined the seat, put a thin mattress on top of it and made my bed. Again, a very nice touch (considering the mattress didn’t really do much). I slept for a bit and was woken up about an hour before we landed at Heathrow. I wasn’t very hungry, so I skipped the breakfast “main” and just had two bacon sandwiches.
As we were landing, the F/As (who were superb) stopped to thank me for flying. I told them their product was great, and they seemed to appreciate the feedback. I then asked if I could have another set of pajamas to give to my partner (it was his birthday), and she returned with pajamas and an extra toiletry kit.
We landed and (gasp) got a gate at Terminal 5. I went through customs (skipping the fast track line as it was actually slower than the non-EU line!) and headed to the arrivals lounge (Galleries) where I had a quick chair massage and then headed for the Heathrow Express.
Overall, I was very happy with both United and BA
. I look forward to flying them again in the future. Thanks to both cabin crews for such a comfortable travel experience! And, thanks for reading my arguably random trip report!
[Edited 2011-07-22 06:45:17 by SA7700]