Good Day one and all and thank you for clicking on my first every trip report.
After many years of sitting and watching this site, I finally decided to sign up just a couple of months ago with the original intention of writing a trip report on a KLM MD
-11 Economy flight from Amsterdam to Montreal, returning on a British Airways 777 to London Heathrow in Club World. Unfortunately, this trip had to be cancelled at the very last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. I am still hoping to visit Montreal before christmas, so keep an eye out for my report.
So, I had nothing to write about. Until last week. As we all know, British Airways are using their Airbus A380 on crew familiarisation flights to Frankfurt. I had never been on an A380 and thought this was the perfect opportunity as I had no plans to be going to Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Johannesburg. Within moments of deciding I had wanted to go, I had the flights booked. I would be flying out to Frankfurt on the 06:45 A380 flight, returning on the 11:50 A319 flight in Club Europe on both sectors. Whilst I know the excitement of the BA
A380 short haul flights has probably died down, and there's already a couple of trip reports up, it gives me something to write about and I will have finally contributed. Also, to my knowledge, I don't think there's a A380 Club WorldEurope trip up yet :P
So, the flights had been booked using Avios + £50 on the Tuesday and the flight was on Thursday so I did not have long to wait. Thursday morning arrived rather early with my alarm making lots of noise at 4am. A quick shower and a glance in my bag to make sure I had the essentials, I was out the house at 4.35. Somehow, despite using this bus regularly, I managed to mess up the time of my bus to T5
and so was standing at the bus stop for a good 20 minutes before one came at around 5am. It's a short journey to T5
of around 10 minutes or so and as my bus neared T5
, I could see Lea parked up at C Gates. Although it seems BA
haven't been doing very much with her, she has been a very busy girl with lots of training, test flights and virtual flights where 469 staff have been playing passengers, simulating flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong. During this simulations they've tested boarding and disembarkation, cabin crew and flight crew procedures, the onboard service and putting the IFE system through its paces to ensure it can handle 469 people all wanting to do different things at the same time.
I got to the terminal at 5.15 and took the lift to departures. I had already checked in online the day before but of course wanted a proper boarding card, so printed it off using the self service machine. I've always known South Security to be the quietest, especially first thing in the morning, but today the electronic guides told me that north was todays best bet. So off I trotted to the other end of T5
A couple of minutes later, I strolled through the fast track lane, to be greeted by a line that wasn't very fast track at all. It's so typical of Heathrow to firstly not have enough staff to deal with anything, but secondly by sending people through the fast track who aren't entitled to it. This coupled with the fact that everyone in the line this morning seemed to have never been through airport security before made the process unnecessarily lengthy. I was sure to fill in a comments card.
I had intended to go to the South Galleries lounge in T5A, but as I was right next to the North Lounge and that at the early hours neither would be very busy, I went in for a coffee and a little bite to eat. Indeed it was very quiet and blissful compared to the bustle of the concourse. I found a lovely spot overlooking the domestic gates where a 767 was parked. I do love the 76's and am glad that BA
are refitting them to keep them going for a few years. i was on a refitted one back from EDI
a month or so ago and I do love the new short haul cabin.
I didn't take any pictures of what I was eating (was obviously too hungry) but it was a simple mushroom and tomato roll, wasn't very nice either. I washed it down with an orange juice or a cup of coffee. I didn't take any pictures of the lounge as I didn't want to disturb other people's quiet time so please forgive me, but I'm sure there's plenty of pictures of the Galleries lounges on here
They had the bars set up and the wines were available… at 5.45 in the morning? But no champagne. So I was unable to have a little champagne breakfast. I could probably have got some if I'd have asked, but there was seemingly no lounge staff around. As is to be expected from nearly everywhere these days, the coffee was awful.
Soon enough it was 6am and I thought I'd better make my way to C Gates. When I got to gate C57 at around 6:10, they were just starting the Club boarding.
BRITISH AIRWAYS 902
to Frankfurt FRA
Departing Terminal 5 Thursday 8th August 2013 at 06:45
Arriving Terminal 2 Thursday 8th August 2013 at 09:30
There she is, G-XLEA, British Airways' first Airbus A380. She's been a long time coming, and I'll forever refer to her as Lea.
And looking from whence I'd come
My arrival was perfect timing, so after a few shots ^^ off I went down the jet bridge and onto the aircraft. Boarding pass checked and I was quickly welcomed aboard. What a beauty this aircraft is. Off across to the other side and worked my way to 14K. We all now what BA
's Club World seat looks like, and the vast majority of us like it. It's much the same but with a new cover. I'm not sure if I prefer it over the blue...
Whilst they haven't changed much, they have improved the seat control panel by including a privacy screen button rather than having to feel about for the one on top for the crew.
The only thing that differs from other aircraft in BA
's long haul fleet is that the privacy screen is connected to the same power source as the power sockets in each seat, which is turned off for take off and landing. This means that you can longer put the screen up after the demo before take off and before landing it comes down and startles you, even though the crew make a PA to tell you it's going to happen. It's a little annoying, but nothing major.
Unfortunately, they haven't improved the armrests and even on this brand new bird, they feel wobbly already.
No report is complete without a legroom shot.
Normal welcome PA's were made from the cabin crew, but they did make a point of mentioning that it's a special A380 service and that they hope we enjoy the new A380 experience. Boarding was extremely quick, though the loads were extremely light, even if this had been on a 767 or A321, the plane would have hardly been filled. Club wasn't even half full and I doubt Traveller was either. The Captain came on introducing himself and his colleagues, and there were quite a few of them. Four flight crew making the most of this training flight to FRA
along with a full cabin crew complement of 22. Minimum legal Cabin Crew count is 18 on the A380. The Flight Crew again mentioned it was a special A380 'treat' and he hoped that we were as excited as they were but he did say that as it's primarily a training flight, the upper deck was off limits and although we may want to see the aircraft, we were politely asked to remain in the cabin of our seat.
As we waited to depart, I couldn't help but notice how big the wings are.
I knew they were big, but looking at them here they look even more massive.
There was some confusion as to whether it was a manual or video Safety Demonstration, with my screen being popped out and then a few minutes late being put back in. Turns out it would be a manual demo, and after the doors were armed, the safety briefing began. Pushback was a few minutes late at 06:51 and we began what felt like an everlasting taxi to the other end of Heathrow. I think the departure runways were changed from 27L to 27R at the last minute as headed towards 27L until we got down by the hangars, turned left and then headed to 27R. Maybe someone can clarify if this was the case or are they the only taxiways capable of handling the A380 at LHR
? Nonetheless, it was great to see the reflection of the aircraft in T5
as we taxied out.
I'm a firm believer in not using electronic devices or reading any books or newspapers during the critical phases of flight for the simple reason, it's a distraction. As proven on many occasions, you just don't know when it'll all go wrong without any warning at all and you should be paying your undivided attention to what's going on inside and outside the aircraft no matter how many times you fly.
Our take off roll commence at 07:15 and up we went. Now, I know we've been told this aircraft is quiet but you can't really get a sense of it from YouTube videos. However, this aircraft really is quiet. With takeoff power applied the change in the level of noise was minimal and the feeling of power was immense. Less than 30 seconds later we rotated and climbed gracefully into the sky.
Service commenced quickly with the usually hot towel and then straight into breakfast. There was the option of the Full English or continental breakfast and of course I chose the first one. I do love BA
's short haul breakfast. It is miles better than the long haul offering.
I finally got my champagne breakfast!!
During the boarding PA's, the cabin crew had already informed us that 'in line with other British Airways flights to Frankfurt, there would be no inflight entertainment on today's flight', but I was surprised and disappointed that they did not even have the map option available. It would have been nice to follow the aircrafts progress on the screens. Alas, the Speedmarque remained on the screen for the duration of the flight.
After breakfast, it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the ambiance of this beautiful aircraft. It really is a whispering giant! Whilst I love the 747, she is a bit loud whilst on this you can hold a conversation without struggling to hear what your seat mate is saying. The cabin lighting is also superb. Enough light without being intrusive. It will be fantastic on the long haul services in creating the right tone for the flight. It also changes gradually so no more being awoken for breakfast by the sudden change from darkness to the harsh bright light.
I do find the windows on the A380 a bit odd. Massive on the inside, but actually really quite small on the outside. They give the impression of letting in a lot of light, but don't give you a great field of vision.
A little visit to the toilets...
In flight retail was offered but I don't think there were any takers and the cabin crew also passed through for the comic relief collections. Soon enough we began our descent into a rather overcast FRA
. Touch down was at 09:28 local time and we taxied to the gate. Again, another long taxi and we stood still for about 5 mins as apparently ATC didn't know which way they wanted to send us. But eventually we pulled onto stand at 09:48 18 minutes behind schedule parking in between an American 777 and a Delta 777. Unfortunately I was unable to get the reg's of either aircraft.
I said my goodbye's to the crew and trotted off to immigration. Being an EU citizen, it's a very easy affair. No questions and a very brief look at your passport and you're off. But they could be a little friendlier. The man might as well have thrown my passport back at me. Anyway, through that and past baggage claim. This part of FRA
is a dive. Dark, dingy and depressing. Not what I was expecting at all! Obviously I had no bags so went straight through nothing to declare and back to check in where I used the self service machines to print off my boarding pass.
Off I went through immigration (which I don't understand about foreign airports, we don't do it in the UK, why do they do it everywhere else?) and then into the departure lounge. I made my way to the JAL lounge which is the one BA
uses at FRA
. It's quite small and not as fancy as the Galleries Lounge in T5
but it does it's job. I had some cold meats and cheese along with a glass of water and champagne whilst I carried on writing this report.
I'd had the last of the bubbles and over half an hour later when I went back for another, the bottle hadn't been replaced. I also went to the toilet and left my seat. When I came back I sat somewhere else and the empty plates and glasses hadn't been cleared away even after some 30 minutes. Not a very good performance and not what I expected from JAL.
Speaking of the toilets, they're very Japanese. More buttons then the Club World seat!
At 11.15 I made my way out of the lounge and headed to gate D3
. Another thing I hate about euro airports is security at the gate. It means I have to get to the gate earlier and sit in that uncomfortable holding pen before the aircraft is ready rather than being able to sit in the lounge. It does annoy me so! As I left the lounge, I said goodbye to the lady at the front desk. She didn't even raise her head from whatever she was reading and the top of her head said goodbye in a very disinterested tone. Very bad show JAL!!
I got the gate and could see Lea was still on stand, although she still had another 10 minutes before her departure time. My flight back to London was meant to go from D1 but due to the late departure of the American 777 to Dallas, it was changed to D3
. As I walked into the holding pen, the 777 was just pushing and behind it on the other side, I could see a BA
A319 on a remote stand. I didn't know for sure if that was going to be my aircraft, but I would have felt confident in placing bets on it.
Indeed it did turn out to be our aircraft and we were bussed over. No priority call for Club Europe though. Whatever happened to Club Europe getting their own bus?! Even if it's a flight not departing from base, I still expect it!
BRITISH AIRWAYS 907
to London LHR
Departing Thursday 8th August at 11:50
Arriving Thursday 8th August at 12:35
We arrived at the aircraft and everyone got off the bus. Boarding was from the forward and rear doors but you could just pick where you wanted to go. The ground staff should have been telling traveller customers to go the rear doors and club to the front but they just stood in the middle and did nothing. Because of the scrum, I was unable to get a clearer picture of the aircraft, but she was a little dirty.
Was welcomed at the door by a lovely Purser who welcomed me by name and to Club. Sat in my seat and got myself comfortable. Was a little while before the second bus load turned up. By this time it was 11:48 so evidently it wasn't going to be an on time departure today.
Pushed back at 11:57 and again had a little taxiway tour. Entered runway 18 about a quarter of the way down and began our take off roll at 12:22.
Seatbelt sign went off at 10,000 feet and the drop down screens appeared showing the map. It was nice to have it on this flight. Hot towels had already been given out on the ground, so it was straight into the service, which I have to say I find a little odd. A choice of either a ham and cheese croissant or a meant and cheese platter. Erm, it's lunchtime?! However, I loved how the Purser presented both options so I could make an informed choice. In fact, the purser was excellent all round. Very attentive, yet not intrusive and used my name throughout.
As you can see, I chose the second option. Despite finding it rather inappropriate for this time of the day I enjoyed it nonetheless. It was made even better by the champagne. Emer, the Purser, offered a second pastry to which I decline and then removed my tray offering me more champagne if I wanted it.
As we cruised along at 38,000 feet, I enjoyed my champers and continued to write this report, occasionally glancing at the moving map and out the window.
The wrapper from the napkin and cutlery pack showing my home city
We began our descent just to the North East of Bruges over the North Sea at 11:58 UK time. First Officer came on at 12:03 and gave us an update on our progress and where we were in the descent and to say we should be on the ground at 12:30 for an on time arrival at the gate at 12:35.
The Olympic Stadium, always a great sight!
Indeed the FO was correct, smoothly touching down at half past the hour on 27R followed by a short taxi to another remote stand! At least here, disembarkation was done properly with a dedicated bus for Club Europe! Into the terminal, quickly through arrivals using the automated gates for biometric EU passport holders and then to the underground!
All in all, a lovely day out on British Airways! I thoroughly enjoyed it although I do think they could look at the lunchtime offering. I would have loved to have spent longer in Frankfurt, though I had to be back in London in the afternoon. However, I am planning to fly to Stockholm on one of BA
's 787's soon, so might try and combine a little Frankfurt night stop with that!
The A380 is a lovely machine and I hope to have the chance to try it out long haul sometime!
I hope you've enjoyed reading my first trip report and I look forward to reading any comments and feedback you may have.