I had never flown a 747-400. I had Monday-Wednesday off, the 27th to 29th of August, and Summer was finally over, so the flights were empty. I would be traveling as a Oneworld non-rev. I decided I would do a super-quick trip to London! I had been in SHV that weekend for my nephew's birthday, so I started from there. The fullest flight on my journey was the AA Eagle EMJ-145 SHV-ORD, but I thought I could get a seat without a problem. The weather looked good, so no ORD ATC problems.
AA 4513 SHV ORD August 27th EMJ 145 N941LT (second to newest one in the fleet)
BA 296 ORD LHR August 27th 747-400 G-CIVH
AA 79 LGW-DFW August 29th 777-200 N760AN (7BV) (to be covered in my next trip report)
Day of Departure
N941LT (the newest Embraer in Eagle's fleet is #942)
33 Pax out of 43 authorized
Photo © John Davies - CYOW Airport Watch
I arrived at the airport quite early, just due to the logistics of getting a ride. I checked in at 0940 for this 1215 departure. I was flying standby, as I am an American Eagle employee, and was just checking in for the ORD flight. Using the self-service machine, it didn't authorize me a seat right on the spot, so I got a verification slip to get me through TSA screening.
I didn't check a bag, as I was only going to spend one night in London. I had only two changes of clothes, so they fit nicely in my large carryon bag. One of those 10/18/22 bags with rollers.
I won't drone on about what a great airport SHV is, but there was definitely something worth noting. AA seems to really be growing. Until DL shut down DFW, DL was #1 in SHV with passenger loads, but now AA has taken over. Eagle has recently added another SHV DFW frequency, bringing that total to 11 DFW flights and 1 to ORD. When I was walking to the gate, the 0940 EMJ to DFW was taking off. Then about 30 minutes later another EMJ landed from DFW. It left at 1050. Shortly after it left, a Saab landed from DFW. As the Saab taxied out, the EMJ from ORD was landing. Even the Saabs pull up to a full size jetbridge as well, which is nice.
With the 0940, the 1050, and the 1135 flights to DFW, that's 134 seats available in this 2 hour span. You'd think it would be easier to run one MD80, with the same capacity, rather than dealing with 3 aircraft and crews.
Anyway, back on track, my EMJ arrived right on time at about 1150, so things were looking good.
They boarded the flight, and the agent still hadn't called my name. I didn't know the agent this time, though I do fly out of SHV a lot. Finally he looked over at me, as I was the only one in the gate, and asked if I was going to ORD or DFW. I told him I was standby to ORD, and he printed out a boarding pass. Seat 16A. I love sitting on the A side by myself, especially on a long-haul Eagle flight like this. Scheduled time in the air: 1:45.
I gate-checked my bag and headed for my seat. When I sat down, a person sat down in front of me with a really strong, pungent odor! They were about to close the door, so I looked behind me and saw the back row was empty, so I moved, making the excuse to get 2 seats to myself, so as not to embarrass anybody.
I took seats 18BC for this flight. Shortly after I moved, the captain came on, and said he had some bad news. Storms were developing well southwest of ORD, but he said we had been rerouted to the east, and needed more fuel, so he had called the fueler, and we would be delayed until the fueler was finished.
That ended up delaying us for about 15 minutes, so it wasn't that big of a deal. Our scheduled arrival time was 2:30pm and my intended flight was at 5:40pm, so I had plenty of time.
We taxied out at 12:30 and were airborne quickly, then climbed all the way up to FL370. There was one beverage service offered. They had snacks available for sale as well. A snack box for $4 of junk food, or a bag of cashews or a bag of trail mix, both for $3. They were selling bottles of water for $2 as well. I do occasionally buy some of that, but didn't this time. I had a big breakfast, and was going to wait for my BA meal in the evening.
The weather didn't seem to present too much of a problem.
Here's the route of flight:
And here we are at the top of descent:
We landed at about 2:30pm and I started admiring all the aircraft at the international terminal. Here's the landing.
And here are some shots taken from the taxi in. They aren't that good, but you can see the subject of the photos, so that's the point.
A UA 767
KLM and UA old and new.
So we parked at gate H2. I went to the AA Credit Union quickly, which is in the lower level gates in the G concourse, and then started for Terminal 5, by taking the train between terminals. On the way there I realized that I hadn't ever been to see the check-in area of Terminal 5 before. Not sure why I had missed it, as much as I like ORD's international lineup.
I arrived at the BA Checkin and found it quite empty. I had listed myself for standby travel and sent in all my passport info on the new BA staff travel website. According to the website the 777s were full but this 747 was rather empty.
Here is a shot of the BA Check-in area.
I walked right up to an agent without having to wait. She was very friendly to me. She printed out a boarding pass and then said, "let me go ask a colleague where we are to accommodate you" I'm like...I'll take the upper deck! I didn't actually say that. She came back after a few minutes and said they would take me in the World Traveller Plus Cabin. I think I was visibly excited and really thanked her. Of the four transatlantic trips I have done on BA as a standby, they have put me in WTP 3 of the 4 times. The other time I was in WT.
I told her I would prefer a window if at all possible. She said, "I'll give you a window and an aisle. It's a seat by the exit row all by itself". I said that would be great, though at that point I knew I couldn't video that takeoff and landing! At least it sounded comfortable.
I thanked her again and took my boarding pass.
Putting my keys, change, and wallet in my carryon bag, I breezed through security, which had a lengthy line. It was about 3:30pm when I went through, and that's peak time for the international terminal.
I really had high expectations for ORD's international terminal 5 (or the M gates) as it always looks so impressive on the outside. Inside it's not impressive at all. The corridor is too narrow and rather than shops, they have duty free kiosks built into the walls of the corridor. The impressive part of the terminal, however, is the view. Here are some shots I took. No security people offered me any resistance in taking these.
Other than these, there was an SAS A330, a Turkish A330, a Royal Jordanian A340, and Air France A340, a Virgin A340.
This shot has 2 EI A330s. One arriving and one departing.
Using my Priority Pass card for lounge access, I went to the Swiss Lounge. It's the lounge Priority Pass uses in Terminal 5. The view was too bad for me to even bother with taking a picture. It's small, but comfortable, and with a slight view of the KLM and BA gates. The food and drink offerings were very nice.
See the Swiss logo on the cookie?
In the Swiss lounge, they had a refrigerator full of soft drinks, sparkling water, and beer(European and domestic). On the nearby counter there was self-service alcohol of all sorts. They also had a gourmet espresso bar, but I didn't know how to operate it, and it was self-service as well.
Seat 28J World Traveller Plus
3935 miles according to the personal video unit on "flight map" page.
Let's call it 80% full. The economy cabins were nearly completely full, but Club World was rather empty. First had a few remaining seats.
Photo © Mark Ralph
I spent about an hour in the lounge, and even saw my 747 pull up, and then decided it was time to move on to the gate at about 5:00pm, since it was a 747 and departure time was 5:40pm.
Shortly after I got to Gate M11, which is basically adjacent to the Swiss lounge, they began boarding. The last group called for boarding was my group, which was World Traveller Plus, rows 28-33, since it's the front of the economy cabin. I found my seat, which was by itself as advertised, and had a nice console next to it, where I could place a book or whatever. I didn't get a picture of the seat, but here's the console.
Photo © Will Lanting
A photo from the database of BA's 747-400 World Traveller Plus bulkhead seats. Notice the leg-rests.
My console next to me.
The water wasn't included with the seat! There was no seat in front of me, so you'll see there the safety card and High Life magazine were off to my right. Directly in front of me, about 5 feet in front of me was the FA jumpseat next to the emergency exit. The overhead lockers didn't look as new as the 777 lockers, but they were generous. My large carry-on had no problem at all fitting in there.
Also, directly in front of me, was Club World. It had a great look to it. I'm not all that familiar, but it looked different from Club World last year on the 777. I think it was updated. Here is the view from my seat.
Pay attention in the picture to the two shaded lights on the overhead in the very center. They are shaded with paper which gave it sort of an Asian feel. Also the BA logo up front was lighted. It looks like they put a lot of attention into the lighting when they updated it, though without doing the colored mood lighting, which doesn't seem like something BA would do anyway. Too "trendy" I would imagine.
We pushed out right on time from the gate. My seat had a video unit that folded into the seat like most business class seats have. I noticed there were no "main-screen" TVs or monitors anywhere in the cabin, so I was wondering if I was supposed to bring out my monitor for the safety video, or leave it stowed for taxi. Before I could make up my mind what to do, since nobody around me (on the adjacent bulkhead row) brought out theirs, a flight attendant came by to bring out my monitor, explaining to me that he needed it out for me to see the video and then immediately stow it for takeoff when the video was through.
By the time he got all the bulkhead seats video monitors out (4 in the middle, mine, and two behind me who had staggered seats with lots of legroom not directly behind me) a flight attendant made a PA announcement. The video unit failed and was not playing in the main cabin. Consequently, in order to not delay the takeoff, she instructed all flight attendants to prepare for manual demonstration.
Each flight attendant had a zippered bag, the size of a large woman's purse, and inside it contained demonstration equipment for the manual safety briefing. Looking ahead of me, there were two flight attendants back-to-back in the aisle doing demonstrations. Then it dawned on me that Club World had to have flight attendants in front and back due to the forward and rear facing seats. There were very few people in Club World. I would say maybe 10 people, and there were lots of flight attendants doing the demonstration for them. It looked a little bit awkward for the two flight attendants in front of me back to back without much room between them, doing their safety video. Nevertheless, they were BA flight attendants, and consequently, they did a remarkably professional demonstration. Then they quickly stowed their gear as we taxied.
I could see through the exit window, which was angled in front of me, but my better view was slightly behind me, and it was looking down the rear area of the wing and the flaps. Every time we hit a tiny bump in the pavement the enormous flaps on the wing shook with lots of movement. I know it's due to the size of the wing, which magnifies the movement, but it almost seemed to me unstable. That's due to my ignorance of the physics involved. It really gave me an appreciation for the size of the plane.
Some 20 minutes after pushing out, we lined up on the newly-renumbered runway 28, which is very close to the international terminal. It used to be 27L. We lined up and the engines began to roar. It was an impressively powerful takeoff. After we rotated, and before the gear came up, I could really feel the shaking of the still-spinning wheels. I was sitting over the center of the wing, so the vibrations were most pronounced where I was sitting. Then we turned north,and kept a north-northeast heading even over Lake Michigan.
Our route was to be the farthest northern route I have ever had on a flight going eastbound. Usually the route going eastbound would be over Montreal, then the St Lawrence Seaway and Newfoundland. This time we nearly got as far north as the southern areas of the Hudson Bay and James Bay, then we flew over northern Labrador, and even clipped southern Greenland. We weren't too far south of Iceland either. Approaching the UK we remained north of Northern Ireland and then flew south in the Irish Sea and just south of Manchester toward London.
After we settled at cruising altitude of FL370, there was a beverage service, where I chose some Scotch, which is free in all cabins on BA. When serving me the Scotch, the flight attendant asked me if I would be taking wine with dinner. I said I would have some red wine, and he handed me a bottle. Shortly after that, dinner service began. BA serves World Traveller Plus before the World Traveller cabin, which is nice. The family in the center section across from me was served special meals for dinner and breakfast, before they brought out the carts for the main service. The meal offerings were a choice of chicken or beef. I chose the chicken breast with gravy over rice with green beans. It came with a salad, with which I took the vinaigrette dressing. There was also a roll. Dessert was a marble cake. And, one of the touches I love on BA, is that they give you an English chocolate too. This time it was a Crunchie.
Here's a blurry picture of my dinner. I declined the tea/coffee afterwards, as I hoped to get some sleep.
During dinner, I watched a couple of TV shows, including good British Comedy "Little Britain." It was fully "on-demand" with lots and lots of movie and TV channels, plus games, audio, and the flight map. I had my Bose QC2 headset with me, which I have been using a lot this year. I'm still glad that I shelled out the money for them!
Once dinner was over, they turned out the lights, and I put on the eyeshades that came in the amenity kit, which I have forgotten to mention until now. The amenity kit for economy is nothing fancy, but it is everything you need. It included eyeshades, socks, a toothrbrush, and it seems like something else, which I can't remember. I am glad they gave me the toothbrush, because I had forgotten mine on the trip!
We cruised at FL370 over Canada and then over the Atlantic, we climbed to FL380. Our ground speed remained around 610mph, with a 40mph tailwind for the majority of the crossing. South of Iceland it picked up a bit with a 70mph tailwind, increasing our groundspeed to 640mph.
I slept from the southern end of Hudson bay until we were over Greenland. Then I dozed off a bit and woke up shortly afterwards when we were south of Iceland. So I got about 2-3 hours sleep total. I really wanted to get more sleep, as I was only going to have one day in London, and wanted to be somewhat rested. I couldn't sleep too well, because the person behind me kept kicking his legs around which ended up shaking my seat. The legrest on my seat was nice, but the footrest didn't seem to match up with it too well. I couldn't get it to adjust to a comfortable position.
One thing I really liked about the BA crew was that they didn't force people to close the windows, which I have had forced on me on recent flights on US carriers. The windows on my right remained open for the entire flight and also the window at the exit across the plane. I'm glad the exit window across the plane remained open, because the sunrise was gorgeous through that window. The hour or so leading to sunrise when crossing the Atlantic yields some of the most beautiful colors in the sky that I've ever seen. I always look forward to seeing that.
As we flew over Greenland I walked over to the window and looked out. I couldn't see anything, but some clouds. I think it was completely overcast. The moon was full, so I think I would have been able to see the ground if it weren't for the clouds.
A zoomed in shot of Greenland.
Here's a shot of the setting full moon over the edge of our massive wing. There's also a contrail above.
As the sky started lighting up, breakfast was served. At this point we were about an hour or a bit more from London. It was too dark to take a picture of the breakfast offering and I didn't want to bother the people sleeping around me with my light, so I'll describe the very simple breakfast.
Breakfast was an apple cinnamon muffin, strawberry yoghurt, orange juice in one of the plastic cups where you pull the top off, and of course, some tea with milk and sugar. I accepted that morning was upon us and we would soon be making ready to land. So, no more sleeping!
I went to the restroom and had to wait a minute for someone to come out of the lavatory. While waiting I took a picture here of the normal World Traveller Cabin. It's really dark, but I thought I'd put it in here anyway.
Club World as the sun was getting ready to come up. The lighting shows up really well here. One strange thing I noticed here that you can sort of see. On the upper right of the bulkhead you can see a remote control for the TV, the same as is found at every seat (with the greenish color display). It was mounted on the wall above the flight attendant jumpseat. No flight attendant ever touched it and I wondered why it was there.
In a few minutes, after passing between MAN and BHX, we were on our descent into LHR runway 27R, and the captain said "cabin crew, 20 minutes to landing." I gathered my books and my Bose headset and then stood up to get my carryon out of the overhead locker. I packed all my things in my carryon bag, so I would have it all ready for when it was time to deplane. Then I took my seat and strapped in for the landing.
Shortly, looking to the right, I saw we were on downwind to runway 27R. It was a sunny morning in London with very few clouds. We flew over Central London, and made our base turn over the Millennium Dome. Then another right turn and we were on finals to runway 27R.
Usually, when landing on a 757, 767, or 777, it seems like the landing gear feels a bit clumsy upon touchdown and it's never very smooth. This landing on the 747 was the smoothest landing I've ever felt in a "heavy" jet. I was very impressed. It felt as if the wheels simply started rolling. Reverse thrust was applied and it was very loud and impressive. After a few hard pulses on the brakes, we turned off near terminal 3. It was just after 7:00am. A few AA flights were there and a VS or two. It didn't take long to taxi by terminal 3 and then cross 27L. When we pulled into terminal 4, we taxied by Kenya Airways 777 5Y-KQS. We came to a stop at a gate in the corner, next to a Qantas 747, VH-OJG.
On the taxi to the gate, I talked to the flight attendant who was facing me in her jumpseat. As I could see Terminal 5, I asked her about it, and she told me it would open some time in the first half of next year. She said they have already moved some administrative offices there and people are already working in the terminal. They are doing that to phase everyone in slowly and orderly, and also to find problems as they occur. Then I asked a few things about her job, like how long before a flight she has to report to the airport. She was pleasant and we had a nice chat. After we crossed the other runway, I turned my interest out the window to see what aircraft were at Terminal 4.
Sadly, it was time to say goodbye to my 747-400, but after a satisfying flight.
Here are some blurry shots of Club World when I was walking off the plane. Sorry they are blurry, but it was still just after 7am and we were moving.
Notice the magazine rack (yes it's blurry) on the bulkhead.
Here is a picture of my 747 from the walkway to passport control. I only took this one, as I didn't want to get in trouble. In this picture you can see my 747 obviously, and next to it, you can see the tail of the QF 747 next to us. Also, just behind the QF tail, or to its left, you can see the KQ 777 tail just sticking up above my BA 747's body.
Shortly after taking the picture, we rounded the corner and I saw an unexpected sight. I think of Terminal 4 as always having an impressive lineup of 777s and 747s. There was a KLM Cityhopper F50 parked at a gate! I didn't expect that! Such a small plane for such a big terminal. I know normal narrowbodies do fly in and out of Terminal 4, as I few into Terminal 4 in June on a BA A321 from CDG, but seeing a propeller plane was something else!
Passport control had a huge line for the UK and EU passports, but the line was small for "all other passports." Since I'm one of those "others" I got through in maybe 20 minutes, which wasn't bad. I was a little bit nervous about how the inspector might question me, since I have been through the UK a few times this year already, and was only planning to stay for one night! When he asked how long I would be there, I answered honesty, "a couple days" (Tuesday and Wednesday). He asked where I was going after that. I asked what he meant. He asked if I was going from the UK to some other place in Europe or what. I told him, no I would be going home, as I had work Thursday afternoon! (it was Tuesday morning at the time). He asked what I was in the UK for, and I told him I wanted to see a certain exhibit at the British Museum, which I truly did--though my main reason was for plane-spotting. I didn't want to bring that up. His response was "Oh, a man of culture" and I shrugged my shoulders. Then he said, "well enjoy your time here, welcome to the UK." He knew I was airline staff, as that was on my landing card, and I told him I worked for AA.
I felt welcome, and was glad all that was over with. I didn't have to go to baggage reclaim as I had my carryon with me, and went out the green exit. The last time I went through, I went out the blue exit (arrivals from the EU). And so that's how I ended up in my favorite element--London's Heathrow.
The trip report is over, but I'll continue to write a few aviation spotting related paragraphs and hotel info.
I spent a couple hours wandering through the terminals to see what was new and what was going on. I've read recently here on a.net that Terminal 3 was a mess, but I figured it was just people complaining. I was in a rush last time I came through LHR, so I didn't get a chance to see Terminal 3. I went over there to check it out, and wow! It's horrible! There are partitions up directing people where they can walk around the construction.
After going through Terminal 4, 3, and then 1, I decided to take the "Hoppa Bus" to the Renaissance, to see if the aviation viewing area was still there. I knew I could take a city bus, but wasn't familiar enough with the area and street names to take it. I thought it cost 5 pounds return to ride the "Hoppa" but it has gone up to 4 pounds each way--rather expensive I think.
It dropped me off at the Renaissance, which is probably my favorite hotel in the aviation world. You can get a room that is about 150 yards from runway 27R/9L. The way I discovered it was from looking out the window once as I landed at LHR onboard a BA A320 from GLA. I didn't have hotel reservations for that night, and booked the Renaissance as soon as we parked! I walked through the hotel and wished that I had reserved a room there, rather than at the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, which is the AA crew hotel, so I had a discount there. I walked through the lobby toward the gift shop, because I noticed it had airplane models in the window. They have a sizable collection of airplane models there now at the gift shop.
Then I went out of the hotel's front door and along the street to where I thought was the aviation viewing area. It's now mostly an office building, but it has a small aviation book store in the bottom of it on the outside. There's also an exhibit on the top floor, which I didn't visit. The book store wasn't open yet, so I went to the Riazza Cafe on the opposite side of the building and had a cup of tea with a muffin for my second breakfast. It was now about 10am.
I was watching all the departures, as the main arrival runway was now 9R (was 27L earlier but we landed on 27R) while sipping my tea and enjoying the view. I started thinking how nice it would be to stay in the Renaissance, go ahead and get a room right then and a nice hot shower before I went to central London.
I grabbed my bag and went to the Renaissance. I told the front desk agent that I had a reservation in central London, but would like to stay one night if they had a room and a reasonable rate. I showed her my AA ID and my AAA card. She gave me a rate slightly higher than the rate I had at the Holiday Inn, and I asked if I could get a room with a good view of the runway, as that was the reason I wanted to stay there. She said one with an excellent view on the second floor had just vacated but needed to be cleaned. I told her I would gladly wait for that. She offered to call the Holiday Inn and cancel my reservation, and make sure there was no charge, before committing me to the Renaissance. That was great customer service.
So I went back next door while I waited. She told me to give them 30 minutes, but I was gone for 45. My room was ready when I got back. While I was next door, I bought a book that I had been wanting for a couple years now. A "World Airline Registrations" book for 10 pounds, where I can properly keep up with my spotting. I saw some spotters with a scanner and some good binoculars in the parking lot, so I went over to them and introduced myself as an American spotter. They said they were surprised! They didn't know there was such thing as an American spotter! I told them I had met one other in America.
We had a nice chat. They said they were going to Stansted after lunch, then Luton, and then Gatwick on this Tuesday. I was really impressed with their enthusiasm. It was a father and an adult son. They said Heathrow gets a bit boring, and I called them crazy! But then I suggested my home airport of DFW gets a bit boring with all the shiny silver and they said that would be heaven for them! I found out they were at the Paris Air Show on Friday and I went to it on Sunday back in June.
Anyway I didn't want to distract them too much from our hobby, and I wanted to take a shower, so I went back to the hotel and checked in. The room, even though it was the second floor (top floor is the third) it lacked absolutely nothing. The runway was right there out my window. I was in heaven and started to reconsider my desire to visit central London! I actually did go to central London after a nice shower and visited a couple touristy spots, including the British Museum. The next day I flew home in first class on AA 79. That trip report will be forthcoming in a few days.
If you have made it this far, I will reward you with more pictures. I took these the next morning as the sun was coming up, and the small pocket camera I brougt with me didn't do very well in the low light, so I've also put in three very short videos of aircraft landing and taking off on 27R, and a bit of LHR Tower broadcasting on my scanner. All these pictures are taken from my room's window. Some are more zoomed in, but most are backed all the way out.
Like I said, these aren't the best pictures, but it shows what you can see from my hotel. A few show the terminal areas--the terminal straight out in front is Terminal 1, way out to the right and behind is Terminal 3. Terminal 2 is behind Terminal 1. Terminal 4 is across the other runway, behind the seen terminals.
Here are the video of 2 takeoffs and 1 landing.
Thanks for reading!