This is my first post here and my first trip report at airliners.net. This trip took place in Feburary this year and this part covers the booking process and the first flight, BA1. The second part, which I shall post soon will cover the hotel stays, the Amtrak trip between New York and Chicago and also the flight home from Chicago.
It was June 2010 and my fiancé and I had been discussing our holiday plans for later in 2010 when she asked me what I wanted to do for my 30th in February 2011. For her 30th just 6 months earlier we had gone to NYC for 5 nights so the options were wide open!
We worked out that we could realistically take a week off work but felt that Asia was just a bit far away and South America we wanted to visit, but with more time. In the end it came down to Europe or North America.
We’ve been to the West Coast and visited NYC a number of times but we had always fancied Chicago so that was identified as an early runner. However, as my favourite sport is ice hockey my 30th seemed a good excuse to head back to The Garden and so the trip was now beginning to take shape that involved splitting a week between New York and Chicago.
Making the Booking
The intention was to make use of an Amex 2-4-1 voucher and fly business class to New York or Chicago and back from the other.
We had flown every class with BA
(albeit not down back for 5 years) but had never flown the London City to New York route, something I was keen to try out and one of my main reasons for including New York in the trip. It was also an opportunity to get boarding pass with BA1.
We were able to get two seats on BA1 on the day we wanted and as we couldn’t get Club World seats coming back from Chicago we would have to slum it in First. Oh the hardship! Actually I’d have preferred CW
(25,000 miles less!) but such is life. As we were returning from a different airport I had to call and make the booking, all of which was done with ease and seats selected thanks to my fiancés Silver status.
The next job was to get us from New York to Chicago. There were ample flights throughout the day to Chicago with a variety of airlines. The alternative was to travel with Amtrak on the overnight train which departs New York at 4pm and arrives into Chicago at 10am the following morning.
Whilst the fight would have been quicker, it meant going back to the airport, etc and would only give us a small amount of time more in Chicago or New York given the timing of the trains. The train also worked out considerably cheaper than flying by the time you take into account air fares, transport to/from airport, additional nights hotel and meals. Travelling by train would also be a more relaxed experience and would let us see other parts of the country.
We booked our train tickets 8 months in advance and got the cheapest fare, $86 each for our coach ticket and $188 for the accommodation upgrade which was a Viewliner Roomette that included a toilet and sink but no private shower. The cost of the accommodation also included our meals (dinner and breakfast) and drinks, with the exception of alcohol.
As for hotels we decided to try something a bit different in New York and opted for the small Library Hotel. My fiancé wanted a view over the lake in Chicago so we went for the W Lakeshore.
London City - New York JFK
Friday 18 February 2011
So the day had finally arrived and in less than 5 hours we would be walking up the steps to enter the A318 that would be taking us to the Big Apple on BA1.
We woke up relatively early and my fiancé cooked a lovely breakfast before doing some last minute packing prior to starting our journey to London City Airport.
From my fiance's flat in London it would take us around an hour to get from Clapham Junction to LCY
by public transport (which was our preferred option for this trip). First up was the train to Waterloo where we would take the Jubilee Line to Canning Town and finally the DLR on the London City. We would have gone via Bank had there not be major works taking place rendering the escalators and lifts out of order.
The DLR train which we joined at Canning Town was very full with passengers heading towards City Airport, many sporting top tier frequent flyer cards and/or business class luggage tags.
We arrived at City Airport and made our way down the escalator towards the main entrance.
Upon reaching the front door to the airport we approached BA
’s dedicated New York check-in desk where the check-in staff printed our boarding passes, tagged our bags to JFK
and wheeled our cases away. Overall we found this an extremely efficient and friendly service.
We strolled into the airport terminal and walked past the BA
check-in desks where we could see our bags being taken away.
Next stop was the London City security area which is notoriously famous for being slow (although better than it was). I had read/heard that they provided a dedicated security line for the New York service to enable the late check-in of 15 minutes for the trans-atlantic service. As we were there 90 minutes before departure I wasn’t sure if the dedicated line would apply.
Approaching the security entrance we handed over our boarding passes which the man took one look at, scanned and at the same time said "So you're my New York passengers" very clearly and quite loudly for all to hear! We were then directed to an empty security line and staff manning that area we told we were for New York. Needless to say security was quick!
With the time now approaching 11.30 my fiance wished to do a little magazine shopping for the flight before we proceeded to Gate 24 which was now showing as open.
At the bottom of the stairs our boarding passes were checked and we were given US Customs Forms which we had to complete prior to our arrival in Shannon.
At this point there were 11 other passengers in the lounge, some of whom knew each other, and so we found two empty seats with a table beside them and sat down.
There was a selection of drinks, fruit and crisps available in the lounge. Whilst it in no way compares to the offer at LHR
it is a different product and I don’t believe it merits a bigger selection. I doubt many turn up 2 hours in advance at LCY
to make use of the lounge facilities and to relax!
I got us each a nice brew each and helped myself to some fruit whilst we completed the customs forms.
Boarding was announced at 12.30 and everyone was invited to board their leisure. A couple of passengers crossed the tarmac straight away whilst others finished up phone calls or packed away their papers before heading out to the aircraft. We finished our cuppa and then strolled out to the plane when I could see no queue on the steps.
This was the final BA
cabin (other than the new First product) that we had to experience and I was very much looking forward to stepping on to such a small plane with only 32 seats.
Wow - what a fantastic plane!
We were welcomed on board by the Gatwick based, Mixed Fleet crew who were very friendly crew and directed to our seats, 2A and 2B. Pillows and blankets were on our seats which we put in the overhead lockers together with our bags. Coat hangers were waiting for our jackets which were promptly placed in the cabinet at the front of the plane.
All 15 passengers were on board by 12.40pm and we left the stand at 12.50pm making our way to the runway. Take off was surreal – very short and powerful and before we knew it we were up and through the clouds that were covering London.
The flight time to Shannon was 1 hour and 10 minutes during which time we would be served a starter, a drink and our orders taken from lunch en-route to New York.
Crew were quickly into service and during the flight to Shannon we managed several glasses of champagne and the duck salad on the short hop to Shannon. The internet sign went off at 10,000 sq ft people began reading emails, etc.
We landed in Shannon shortly after 2pm and were led through the terminal where we arrived at the entrance to immigration. For those of us with checked bags, 6 out of 15 passengers, there was a holding area where we had to wait until they had carried out the necessary work before we could proceed.
Once we were given the all-clear to proceed there was a quick security check and while laptops and liquids could remain in our bags, shoes had to be removed. We then made our way to Customs and Immigration where there were 3 counters open for 6 passengers and it didn’t take long!
We had to identify our bags and then our passports were stamped and we were back at the gate area waiting for final on-board preparations to take place before we could re-board.
The entire process was carried out very effectively and we were back on board within 30 minutes ready for take off at 2.40pm.
While lunch was being prepared the media players were provided and set-up. Whilst it is not the full selection of films that you would get from LHR
it was more than enough to keep me occupied for a few hours!
A nice salad to start with followed by the fillet which was fantastic and very well cooked. No complaints with that or the chocolate pudding. All washed down with some beer.
Following lunch the other half watched a film whilst dozing whilst I had another beer and continued to watch more movies whilst having the odd chat here and there with the very friendly cabin crew.
Afternoon tea was served before we arrived in NYC and I opted for the pork belly salad with some scones and cream cakes.
After landing we had a short wait before arriving on our stand as we had to wait for other aircraft to leave the area.
A lovely flight with some great views.
We arrived on stand just after 4.30pm, 45 minutes ahead of schedule and beside my favourite aircraft, the mighty 747. I would have been nice to get a picture of the A318 beside the 747 but it wasn’t to be.
The next part interested me, how long would it take us to get into a taxi?
I started the timer as we left the plane and kept it running whilst we walking through the terminal, collected our bags and got into a yellow cab for Manhattan. It took us just under 9 minutes!