Well the day had finally arrived and I was due to take part in the biggest T5 trial to date. The trial was to take place on 19th January and include around 2000 people which is as close as they have got so far to a normal operational day in the terminal.
I was due to fly down on the same morning from NCL on BA1327. With what had happened at LHR in the previous couple of days, I was a little bit skeptical about whether my flight would leave or not.
The afternoon and evening of the 18th was quite tense as I kept an eye on the flights from LHR-NCL hoping that the last one of the day made it and wouldn't be cancelled. Later that afternoon I noticed that 2 of the afternoon shuttles had been cancelled and I had my fingers crossed that the last flight would leave. Delay after delay after delay..........this was not looking good!
I left ba.com for a couple of hours and just decided I would check later. The flight had left LHR and was due into NCL at 0111. Bad news for the people on the flight but great news for me as it meant the aircraft would be in NCL for the first flight of the day at 0620, BA1327, my flight.
A couple of texts to airliners' own Trekster and I was all set for my trip the next day.
Another late night didn't help when my alarm went off at 0430. I crawled out of bed after only being there for 3 or 4 hours and jumped in the shower. The shower and a cup of coffee woke me up and I put the rest of my hand luggage together and was off to the airport.
I only live about 7miles from the airport( as a plane flies) but it normally takes me about 15 minutes to drive there. The roads were empty this morning and I was there in 7 minutes, a new record for me. After parking the car and having a cigarette I went into the terminal and walked up to one of the SSK's (self service kiosk) and entered my booking reference. I had checked in for the flight the day before and had allocated seat 01A so that I could get off the aircraft quickly upon arrival. It also gave me a great view of the engine and the sunrise.
I must have entered my booking reference 3 or 4 times and the system wouldn't recognise my details and asked me to make my way to a check-in desk. I moved to another SSK entered my booking reference and had my boarding card printed. I pointed the faulty SSK out to one of the BA staff members and they said they would have a look at it.
I made my way upstairs to security as it was 0545 and sometimes the queues at NCL can be quite long. Just as I suspected the queue took about 15 minutes to clear and for once I didn't need to be searched. A quick trip into WH Smith for a tabloid paper and I headed down to the gate. BA flights always leave (99% of the time) from gate 3 which was 3 quarters full this morning.
The flight was called for boarding and with only 98 passengers onboard we were all seated in what seemed like no time at all. The Captain came on the p/a system to announce that due to air traffic control delays we wouldn't be leaving until 0655 with a flying time of 55 minutes. This meant that I would be in LHR for around 0800ish leaving me plenty of time to get to the Renaissance on Bath Road. We were also told that we would be pushing back at around 0645 with engine start happening about 2 minutes after that. This was the most informed I'd ever been by a Captain!
I picked up the highlife magazine and started to read John Simpsons article. I always enjoy reading his articles as he has been to some of the most remote parts of the world and he is always in cities that seem really interesting even though off the beaten track. This time he was in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and the article was a very good read.
I quickly text Trekster and let him know that my flight was slightly delayed but that I would see him shortly. At 0645 we started pushback and just as announced by the Captain the engines started 2 minutes later.
We taxied to runway 25 and held short for a couple of minutes entering the runway at 0654. The aircraft then started its take-off role which was very quick, around 20 seconds, and we were soon up in the sky on our way to LHR.
The flight was a normal shuttle service with a hot breakfast bap served with juices and tea or coffee. I opted for coffee and an apple juice but was informed that they don't serve apple juice on the breakfast flights. This was new to me but hey ho and I chose an OJ instead.
BA have changed the breakfast bap since the last time I flew and it is now a ham, mushroom and Gruyere cheese sandwich instead of the sausage, bacon and egg that it used to be. Ill be honest and say that I much prefer the old sandwich to the new one.
I chatted with the lady sitting next to me who was traveling with her husband. They were supposed to travel the day before but had been caught up in the furore that was the LHR incident and there flight had been cancelled. They were traveling to the Bahamas in Club World and were quite excited that they were actually on their way instead of being stuck at home. I was so jealous of them as Ive never been to the Bahamas before. Saying that though I was going to get to see T5 before them J
The FO came on the p/a system to advise that we were just over Birmingham and would be starting our descent from 28,000ft. He mentioned that because LHR was bus this morning we were to be put into the hold and would need to go around it twice before we were permitted to fly into LHR. I kept an eye on the overhead screen in front of me to see where abouts we were and at what height we were at.
We entered Lambourne? (We were holding to the NW of LHR) hold at FL 13000 and went around it about 5 times. Each time I was looking at my watch hoping that we would soon be on our way because I had to be at the Trial reception at 0830. Eventually the FO announced that we would be going around the hold once more and then we would be on our way to LHR. He wsant lying either, one full loop of the hold and we broke off and started further descent.
We got lower and I soon realized that we were lining up for runway 27R. I got a great view of Twickenham stadium even though it was quite cloudy. I was quite pleased we were landing on 27R as this justified my seat choice of 01A. When I chose the seat I was hoping for this runway so that I would get a good view of G-YMMM lying at the end of 27L. I was not disappointed as I got a great view of her and all of the cranes etc around her.
Touchdown occurred at 0813 and we taxied to gate 78 where we were made to wait for about 5minutes before the door was opened. I was glad I was at the front and within minutes I was coming out of the arrivals area. I called Trekster as he had left a voicemail and he told me to catch the number 111 bus to get to the Renaissance. The central bus station was quite busy for a Saturday morning and I wasn't waiting long before I was on the bus.
I eventually arrived at the Renaissance at 0840 and was pleased that registration was still taking place. I joined the queue and when mentioned that I was BA staff was directed to another desk where a guy called Marcus was processing all BA staff members. He made me aware that today all BA staff would be testing out the staff travel aspect of T5 and gave me a choice of where I wanted to travel to, GLA, EDI or HKG
Trekster had mentioned earlier that he was to be a woman for the day (he wasn't in drag or anything though J) and was going to EDI. I chose GLA and I was also going to be a woman for the day (my name was Mrs Evan Giraudoux). At least I'll get to moan at people I thought J
There was a small security desk where my bag was searched for liquids etc and after getting the all clear I was allowed past. I greeted Trekster with a handshake as this was the first time I'd actually met him in the skin as they say. I've known him through airliners for a while and also was once one of his colleagues at BA.
We had a quick chat about what we expected from the day and then waited around to be taken into the presentation room. This happened at 0920 and we took our seats to watch a DVD. A woman entered the stage and advised that there would be some police dogs coming around the room in a moment and then we would be watching a DVD about T5.
This woman had a real New Zealand accent that went to a high pitch at the end of every sentence. I had a little chuckle to myself as I know some people from NZ who are aware they talk like this after their brief stay in the UK. I quite like the accent actually as its very soothing.
The DVD was played and it had one of the main people from BAA and also Geoff Want from BA prattling on about how T5 was going to change the way LHR was run and how it would change the passengers experience. The DVD also went into a little bit of the development for Heathrow East and showed some CGI images of it.
Once the DVD had finished we were advised that we were to be bussed to T5 and to make our way outside. Eventually everyone squashed on the bus and we were driven along the perimeter road with both Trekster and I watching the landing aircraft. We drove right to the door of T5 stopping outside of zones C and D. We thought that we were to get off the bus straight away but we just had to wait for the moment. 5minutes passed and then 10, 20 minutes and then 25minutes passed and we were still on the bus with no communication from BAA. Whilst we were waiting there were lots of busses passing us and we could already see passengers in the terminal as well as watching the odd aircraft take-off on 27L. Eventually we were allowed off the bus and made our way into the terminal building via the connecting bridge at zone C. I was in awe at the size of the place and the fact that you could see from one side of the terminal to the other.
I looked at my passenger scenario again and remembered that I needed to pick up some luggage. 1bag to precise. Once I had managed to take in the size of the place I went to the back of the terminal and picked up one of the hundreds of bags that were lined up. Those of you that have taken part in the trials will know what I mean. I would like to know where they get all of the bags from though.
After picking up my luggage I made my way to one of the 96 SSK to check myself in. The one thing I was surprised about is that there were queues to use these machines. I was under the impression that T5 was to have no queues at all but I guess BAA dropping off 4-5 coach loads of people at zone C and D didn't help matters. Using the SSK was a breeze and in no time I was waiting in the queue (another one) for the fast bag drop to get my bag tagged. The BA queue combers were doing a sterling job and helping all of the customers they could. I was directed, by one of the queue combers, to zone A as I could have my bag tagged there. I got to zone A customer service desk to be advised that they couldn't tag my bag for me and that I should have had this done at the fast bag drop but not to worry and make my way to the staff travel area. The staff travel area is really modern and provides good views of gates A1-4 as well as arriving/departing aircraft on 09L/27R. The way it basically works is that there are 6 or 7 information screens on a wall. Each flight that day will appear on a screen 1 hour before departure with a list of PNR's of all staff listed that flight. Around 45minutes before departure you Will either be accepted or declined for the flight........
anyway my story continues, both Trekster and I went into the staff travel waiting room and just waited for out flights to show on one of the screens. I could see my flight was already on there and spotted my PNR which had nothing next to it as yet. Trekster was all confirmed and he made his way to security advising that we should meet up airside. I waited another 3 or 4 minutes and my PNR eventually had a message saying accepted for flight, please go to fast bag-drop in zone A. Now zone A is a 30 second walk away and once I arrived there I was told by a BA agent that there were no desks open in zone A due to it being a trial and that I should go to zone C where the desks where open. Even from a distance I could still see the queues at zone C but hesitantly headed off int hat direction. I joined one of the queues and a lovely BA queue comber advised that I should just go to zone D as there were no queues there. Arriving at zone D I was greeted by a beautiful BA employee who took my boarding pass from me and asked how many bags I had to check-in. I replied 1, she scanned my boarding card and gave me the bad news that I would not be able to make the flight because I would not make security conformance as it was now 35minutes before the flights departure time and I hadn't yet gone through security. I was told to go back to staff travel and re-list for the next flight. I was gutted
BA have a new process in T5 where if you haven't passed through security at least 35 minutes before your flight departure time then you wont be allowed pas the security checkpoint. I think this is good for commercial passengers but for staff its not the best idea.
I started my slow walk back to staff travel and gave Trekster a quick call. To my annoyance the lucky git was in T5b and had been on the TTS( Track Transit System). I was even more jealous of him than the couple next to me on my flight from NCL who were off to the Bahamas. Some people get all the luck!
I went to the staff travel office which was manned by real BA staff and joined the queue. I quicky got talking to a BA cabin crew member and an analyst from Waterside who had had the exact same problem as me and they were also re-listing. We had a good chat about the process nmd spoke to a BA staff travel manager who was looking for feedback so that they could try and make the situation a lot easier. I found that this was really good because I actually got an email from this manager when I was back at work and he took my feedback on board asking for more in depth thoughts. I like the the fact that BA were actually listening to their staff and hopefully putting some of their ideas into practice when staff travel opens. A litle bit of feedback that I gave there and then though was that T5 doesnt have any clocks, anywhere! How are people supposed to know how long they have left to get through security if they cant tell what time it is
I was re-listed for my new flight which was to leave at 1330, flight number BA9929. All of the flights today were to operarting in real-time so I didnt have to be at the staff travel waiting room until 1230ish and it was now only 1135 so I had just under an hour to kill. I wandered around the landside part of the terminal making my way to zones H and J. I was trying to get a sneak peak of the Premium check-in desks but they were still surrounded by wooden fences blocking them off from view. I found a staircase and walked down the 4 flights to the first floor. The atrium area outside T5 is going to be very relaxing once it is finished and will be a great area to chill out in the summer with lots of trees and seating areas. At the moment though it was still cement and building work so i kept on walking and got to a costa coffee which had some huge speakers outside of it blasting out dance/house music. I like house music but if it isnt your cup of tea this would have really done your head in. I saw a Krispy Kreme counter but unfortunately it wast open yet so I made my way back upstairs to the staff travel waiting area as Trekster should be back in there by now.
I found him using one of the PC's in the room checking his internal emails and he was to flying to JFK as part of his next scenario. The info screens had gone tech at this point and Marcus who I met earlier in the Rennaisance advised that everyone on the GLA flight had been accepted for travel and that I should got to zone c to check-in my bag. This I did and when I got there the lady I was checked-in by was taking the whole trial/volunteer situation very proper. She was calling me madame ( as my profile said I was) with please and thank-you as if I was a commercial passenger and this was a normal operational day. She was a lovely lady, Denise I think she was called. At one point she advised she was having a small system error and that she couldnt allocate seats which would take just a minute to fix. In a joking manner I slammed my hand on the counter and started with the "This is not good enough" speech....... again she took this in her stride and was so professional even though she knew I was just having a laugh with her. The seating issue was fixed and Denise advised that I had been allocated seat 9E and would I prefer to sit in a window or aisle seat. I advised a window and she allocated me seat 01F.
Denise, if you read this your a credit to BA
It was now time for me to go airside and I got to the security checkpoint with over 45 minutes to spare. There is no way I was going to miss another flight!
Security was a simple procedure and because I was taking a domestic flight I had to have my boarding card updated with my biometrics. I had my retina scanned and also had to place the four fingers of my left hand onto a scanning panel. this took only seconds to compete and I was now airside. I had cleared security at the North security area and was in the Gate A area. You get a great view of the rest of LHR from here and on a good day you can see central London. In front of me was a information board placed on a handrail and it pointed out all of the landmarks on the horizon such as Canary Wharf, The Milenium Wheel(which BA no longer sponsor) and Twickenham stadium. I decided that I would try and find my gate so that I could have a seat as my feet were killing. BAA have got loads of shops here although they arent open at the moment Im sure when they are many a person will spend half their spending money before they've even left the UK. My flight was leaving from gate A7 which I found really easily.The area itself is really swish and has a great modern, relaxed, upmarket feel to it. there was a pub adjacent gate A5 which I wish was open as I could have done with a pint at this point. I did however find some sandwiches and muffins that BAA had provided for us. I grabbed a couple of items and took a seat in gate A7's lounge area. These seats are really comfortable and offer great views of 09L/27R for both take-offs and landings. I got a great view of a UA777 and also an AI747.
Eventually my flight was called for boarding, my biometrics checked against the bar code on my boarding card and I was permitted to head to the gate. I went down some escalators and could see some double doors ahead of me which makes me think that this gate actually uses busses to get people to and from the aircraft. As this was just a trial today we werent boarding any aircraft which was a damn shame! and I was handed another scenario. This new scenario had me as an American gentleman called Corey Davenport arriving from Nice. The instructions advised me to follow the flight arrvals and baggage reclaim signs and to pick up another piece of luggage in the baggage retrieval area. I was looking forward to seeing the baggage hall as I had read somewhere about a week earlier that if you lay the Empire State Building on its side, you would be able to get three of them into the baggage hall. How true this is I dont know. If it is true then thishall is f***ing huge
I kept following the signs and passed the corridor to head to flight connections. Eventually i wound up outside the terminal building at the taxi rank. I hadnt passed any security checkpoints, any immigration desks or the baggage halls. How I ended up heer I dont know but everyone form my flight had the same problem.
There was a gaggle of BAA employees handing out surveys to find out what you thought of the place and they also handed out the T5 giftbags. This included a diary/ notepad and a travel adapter.
I jumped back on one of the busses, called Trekster to see where he was and agreed to meet him back at the Rennaisance. Around 10 minutes later we pulled up at the hotel and my T5 experience was over.
I met Trekster and we decided that we would head to The Green Man for a pint a chat about the days goings on. This would also give us a chance to have a close up look of G-YMMM and see what damage had been caused with our own eyes. We jumped on the bus to Hatton Cross and when we arrived headed staight toward the perimeter fence to have a look at the injured 777. She looked in a right state but had airbags underneath her with large cranes hanging over her. There were catering trucks and some low loaders there as well. Little did I realise but she would be moved into the hnager the next day.
My first time in The Green Man and I bought the drinks which were quite reasonably priced considering Im a cheapskate Northerner
It was fast approaching 1515 and my flight back to NCL was due to leave T1 at 1605. We headed back to Hatton X and we waited for the tube to take us back to T1. The train arrived and it was going to T123 first and then onto T4 so Trekster got the next train. We said our goodbyes and I promised that I would be back in the summer to do some spotting. I arrived back at T1 at 1535 and headed otuside for a quick smoke. I had checked myself in the day before also so I had seat 10A which was an emergency exit seat. I went to the SSK which said my flight was closed and this kind of worried me a little. I quickly headed over to the domestic check-in desks and explained the BA woman there that I had checked but couldnt print my boarding card in NCL this morning and that the SSK wouldnt allow me now. She advised that it wasnt a problem and had issuedmy boarding card. She started to ask if I had been to the trials and what I thought of it. We stood for 5 minutes or so before I had to leave because officially the gate was closing on my flight. Security wasnt a problem and I was through in minutes. I checked the flight info board to see what gate I was leaving from. I saw that I was leaving from gate 78 but also saw that there was a 45 minute delay on my flight.
This wasnt good as I wanted to get home and go to the pub to watch Kevin Keegans first game as manager of Newcastle United. I headed to costa and got myself a coffee pulling my newspaper out of my bag along with my ipod. I didnt know how much time I would need to kill here so I settled in for longer than an hour. At about 1620 I saw an influx of people heading down in the direction of gates 78-80. I decided that I should check my flight info and Im pretty pleased I did this as my flight now had a gate number next to it. Woo Hoo! maybe I would get back in time.
I headed to gate 78 where I picked a window( if you can call them windows) seat so I could catch a glimpse of arriving aircraft. Every passenger was now at the gate and an announcement was made by the gate agents advising that we were just waiting for the crew to arrive from a delayed inbound flight but they shouldnt be too long.
Eventually I saw the crew bus pull up and they entered the aircraft via the rear stairs. Around 10 minutes later we were advised that we could board. The boarding process was finished very quickly as there was only 35 people at most on this 156 seat aircraft. The Captain announced that he and his crew were very sorry as they had benedelayed on an inbound flight from BUD and then security and immigration had caused them problems not detaing them for several minutes, although he didnt say what it was for, shame. It was now 1655 and we began pushbakc and taxied towards 27L for take-off. All of the heavies were taking off on 27R as this was in full use and they needed greater a distance to take-off than the 320's and 319's. 27L had the first quarter of it closed but I was still able to get a good view of the 777 all lit up by the huge floodlights above it. We taxied onto the runway and started our roll straight away and agai we were airborne in what seemed like seconds. It had been quite blustery earlier but the wind had seemed to calm down a bit now even though were shook sideways just after rotating.
The flight was a quick one and there wasnt much to see outside as it was pitch black with a thick covering of cloud over Southern England. The overhead screenm showed that we were to take an unusual routing to NCL this evening and even the Captaion noted that it was unusual. Normally the flihgt heads up toward Birmingham and then heads over to MAN and then into the North east form there. Today we headed much further West making our cross country track at Derby and following the East coast past Middlesborough and Sunderland and then into NCL. There were some blokes sitting around me with one of them in seat 10C. He didnt like flying much and his friend in 09A turned around about a minute out of NCL and said, " John, this is where we turn the engines off and just glide in!!!"
John, if that was his name didnt look too pleased and nervously went back to reading his magazine. It was quite a blustery night in NCL and the landing showed this as it was a very hard touchdown after a good crosswind approach.
Take-off from LHR
I eventually got to the pub to watch the last 20 minutes of the game which was a 0-0 draw with Bolton.
Overall I had had a brilliant day. i really enjoy flying even if it is only for an hour or so. I had been on a new aircraft for me G-EUUN, I had seen G-YMMM lying at the end of 27L looking sorry for herself and I had also met up with trekster which we had arranged loads before but it had never come off. Last but not leats though I had visited BA's new home, T5 and what a home it is. I cant wait until it opens so that the flying public can experience it for themselves.
I know this has been a long report and the lack of pics dont help but I hope you have enjoyed and I am open to feedback from anyone
Hopefull Trekster may write a report and then we can compare his experience to mine
Was indeed a fun day, and I shall go ahead and get a TR written up now.
It was a great day. Looking forward to your TR
Quoting MadameConcorde (Reply 3): How do you all get registered to participate to these trials? Do they give you the night at the hotel? Can non-UK residents/citizens participate too? Thanks for this most interesting report.
You need to register at the BAA website and there are more trials taking place over the coming months. Trials normally take place on a Tuesday or a Tursday but if oyur lucky you could try and register for a Saturday trial although they are quite rare.
Quoting Sketty222 (Thread starter): I picked up the highlife magazine and started to read John Simpsons article. I always enjoy reading his articles as he has been to some of the most remote parts of the world and he is always in cities that seem really interesting even though off the beaten track.
- I read those too, he always has soem real interesting stories.
Quoting Sketty222 (Thread starter): I kept following the signs and passed the corridor to head to flight connections. Eventually i wound up outside the terminal building at the taxi rank. I hadnt passed any security checkpoints, any immigration desks or the baggage halls. How I ended up heer I dont know but everyone form my flight had the same problem.