This trip report is based on a trip to London and Luxembourg which my wife had to take, and I decided to tag along. She would be needed in Luxembourg for three full days, but having been there before, I decided I would only stay around two days. I decided to use miles on this trip, and still sitting on my payout, I would try to get a cheaper fare to London, as I did not have enough miles except on UA
, but that routed me terribly.
Business class on EK
was just too cheap to pass up. Her ticket, admittedly paid for by work, was HK
r/t, business class. I bought business class on EK
$26k. The timing though was tough.
I went to the airport at 4:30pm to catch my 5:55pm flight.
Plane: A380 (A6-EEV)
Notes: More or less on time
Getting to the airport was a snap, and by the time I arrived at the gate, the lines were formed for boarding already. I was on the plane in a snap. Most everyone by now knows how awesome EK
business class is on the A380. I snuggled myself into the seat, made use of my two storage bins, and put my backpack into the foot cubby.
Boarding was done from gate 60, which now can board directly to the second floor of the plane, I really wouldn’t be bothered with seeing steerage passengers again until passport control in London.
The flight attendant for this section, came over and introduced herself. She asked if there was anything she could bring me or help me with the seat. I said it was not necessary, but she remained attentive throughout the flight.
As we made our way to the runway, we were chased by a Dragonair A320, but eventually, it was our turn and we powered away from Runway 7R. You can watch the video here: Takeoff from Hong Kong
A series of turns and we were pointed essentially directly at Dubai. We drooped down a bit, but freely flew over Southern China (something that Cathay doesn’t do on the route), and then made our way over India, came up under Oman, and straight into Dubai, landing towards the water.
The internet was turned on pretty quickly and I was texting my wife who hadn’t even left for the airport yet (her flight was at 11:55pm) and my friend in London, who agreed to pick me up in the morning. They were amazed. However, not wanting to pay for it, my free 10MB was quickly used up. It’s a good service, and pretty fast. If I were traveling for work, I could see paying for it easily. However, I note that over Thailand it said that it was not permitted to be used whilst we are overflying Thailand. Then worked for Myanmar, and over the Ocean, but didn’t work over India, then worked again the rest of the way.
The food was fantastic. I ordered what was essentially a Chinese Chicken dish with rice, and was blown away, it was so delicious. And as EK
did on my flight to Bangkok in April, they came back and offered leftover entrees to anyone who wanted a round two. But I politely refused as I did not want the stewardess to think less of me. I ended up being asleep for the second meal, or groggy, and when I awoke, she told me that it was too late to serve a full meal, but she would be happy to bring me a sandwich from the bar area. It was a nice touch, but a shame as I would have liked to have tried the full English.
The IFE is the only area where I think EK
could improve. I am not fussed about censored movies, having grown up on Saudi Arabia and having grandma’s letters censored a movie without the boob scene is no big thing. But the selection, I found wanting. I mean in this day and age, no Dragon’s Den? Shark Tank? Instead, there were other programs which were generally meaningless. I would note, that it is relative, because there were way more Indian, Middle Eastern, and other South Asian movies, than say on Cathay.
I went to the bar area in the middle of the flight, and saw a few people talking politics, a hipster taking pictures with flight attendants, and there was a blonde flight attendant who made fun of my bedhead, after I asked for a Pepsi Max. I still don’t totally understand the advantage of a bar over seats for the airline, but it was the first time I saw it being used by people actually going to the bar, granted only two of them.
The flight was smooth except for over India, it was really bumpy. When I looked out the window though it was hazy, but clear (I could see city lights below), so it was not weather bumps, just air. I was not worried about pilot disorientation then, and went back to sleep.
As we made our way into Dubai, I was excited, as I had four hours to kill. My friend had made the trip a while earlier and said that you have to try the lounge, you can board directly from the lounge, blah, blah, blah. But I am rarely a lounge guy, as I like airports for the vibe, not to sit in a lounge.
All pictures for Flight EK383 are here
We parked at Terminal 3A. I made a note of the transfer, as you land, you are brought into an area where you can transfer, or you can “land”. I personally think everyone was transferring, but there is a separate line if you have the red card from the premium classes. They made me take off the metal, and take out the laptop, but oddly, I noticed people putting wine and stuff onto the tray (in the tamper duty free bags of course). After that, I came up the escalator into the shopping mall.
I wondered around end-to-end, and found it smallish and dead. I saw that I could go to the B gates on a train without security or any controls. So I did, and that was what I was expecting. It was a zoo! I loved it, there were so many people darting all directions, and every couple of hundred meters you could enter to win a luxury car.
There were shops for everything imaginable, and a Burger King! Even a Boots! So I spent a couple of hours there, then saw my flight was actually leaving from the A gates, so I made my way back there. It was still mostly dead, though it had picked up a little bit. I decided to go to the lounge, but was side tracked by a foot massage place, which I took the opportunity to get one. That took about an hour, and was lovely.
Then I entered the lounge. There was not a lot of available seating, but it is a terrific place. I grabbed some food from the buffet, it was ok, and a PepsiMax, then found a seat. It was getting close to boarding time, so I found the gate area from the lounge. There was about 10-12 of us gathered, and then a guy showed up and started checking boarding passes and letting us through.
I thought we would walk directly from the lounge to the plane, but not so. In reality, you take an elevator down to the boarding level, still separated mind you, but then board through the normal jetway which reaches onto the second deck. No bother.
Again, the warm welcome, and the setup was so cordial. They have mastered how to deliver the top notch service, without going over the top, and they even know how to dial it back too. There was a lot of fuss around me during the boarding as a couple didn’t realize their seats were not together, and no one wanted to switch because the middle seats were all couple too. Honestly, I think the woman needed a break from that husband and sitting apart for 6 hours and 10 minutes would do her good.
Plane: A380 (A6-EEA)
Notes: More or less on time
After pushing back on time, we circled Terminal 3A before heading out to the runway. Oddly, it was hard to get the gist of what was happening, but it seemed we waited for about 3-4 planes once at the runway before taking off.
Here is the Takeoff Video
The flight went over the Gulf, then went over Iran, just across the border from Iraq, up into Turkey, followed across the northern coast of Turkey, into Eastern Europe then direct into London. I was excited to try the free 10MB of internet again, but it said it was not permitted the entire flight. Really, the whole flight? Iran, I get. But porn is legal in Turkey, I thought for sure it would work there, but ok it’s dubious. But then Eastern Europe, and even Germany!
Anyways, I slept almost this entire flight. Though right after takeoff it was very bumpy, the rest of the flight was quite smooth for the bits I was awake. I do notice that EK
pilots are very quick with the seatbelt sign like US pilots, and like the US, the flight attendants are lax about enforcing it as long as it is mostly smooth.
This was an older plane too, It had a shoe cubby, which was right sized for ladies shoes but not my feet. The setup in the seat area overall was not as nice either as the EEV plane which took me from HKG
. I would have thought that London would be their bread and butter route, and EK
would want the shiniest and newest plane on the journey like a polished penny.
Landing in London, and being close to 7am, I expected a hold, but we really did not have one. We were brought in and a smooth landing and taxi. We made our way to the gate. Once parked, it was quite a delay until the doors opened. Then, the captain said that the upper deck can deplane, but the lower deck would have to wait for the police to clear the passengers. Odd.
All pictures for Flight EK007 are here
Announcements for EK383 were in Arabic first, then English, and occasionally in Cantonese, but not every announcement. For EK007, Arabic first, then English only. The safety video (and other videos) were played twice on both flights in Arabic and English only.
But again being closer to 7am, I wanted to rush to the passport control because I know that the queues can go out the door. There was literally nobody there. Let me put it this way, I was first in line. In fact, I did not bother going to the ‘fast lane’ as there was no need.
Passport control was a snap, and the lady was very friendly and giggly, which was a nice change. When I arrived at the baggage claim, I saw my bag going around already! I grabbed it and went outside to look for either my wife, or my friend, or both. There was neither. And if I had a complaint about Heathrow T3
arrivals, it would be this: you know enough to sell Dr. Pepper Zero at WH
Smith in the Departures area after security, but not in arrivals? What about all of those poor people (mostly Americans) that have had to travel without a fix for 6-7 hours?
Anyhoo, after a series of text messages, it was sorted, and then I was swooped away in a Mini Cooper to Stanwell-Moor.
We spent a day in Staines, and then went to our friend’s sister’s house for an agreeable meal. The next day, my wife had an early morning flight to Luxembourg on BA
. From Terminal 1, which as is well signed, it is in its final days. It was so dead. I think after her flight at 8am, there was not another flight until 2pm or so. Anyways, it was so empty, that the Costa Coffee girl could go to the bathroom and leave it unattended, and not fret so much about lost business. Though it happened to us, the gal working at the bar across the way said to help ourselves unless we want coffee and the Costa lady would charge us when she returned. That’s pretty much exactly how it went.
Well, we put my wife through security, and I would be following along later but I would be on a flight via Zurich on SWISS at 1:35pm. So we went back to my friend’s house, and I did more spotting from his yard. Then his partner took me and the dog to the park, where it was easier to see the planes, though they were a bit farther away. I thought we would go to lunch, but I recalled that they were a bit slow to get started when they lived in Hong Kong, and sure enough, the same was true in Stanwell-Moor. At 11:30am, he said he would take me to the airport, but I thought it was a bit early. Not so he said. He said, that businessmen and women who had to go to Europe for the week would all be going to the airport now and it could be crowded.
Well, he was way wrong. Terminal 2 was dead. I checked right in for my flights and was invited to the Lufthansa lounge. I was eager to see T2
as I had not been yet. I chose SWISS over Lufthansa because I had just been to Munich airport in June, and I had been to the Frankfurt airport many times. I had been to the Geneva airport before too, so Zurich seemed like a good choice. The miles were the same for the routes, but in business class, either way, it was a good deal.
Terminal 2 is nice. It’s a bit smaller than the main space at T5
, but the layout is very similar. I had a delicious burger at LaSalle’s, my first food of the day, and then wondered over to the gate. The plane was there, but it was an A320, not the scheduled A321. As we were lining up, I could hear people chatting, and it was interesting. So, it seems there were more than a handful of Americans who were willing to backtrack to Zurich to fly to America.
Others, like me were going to other places in Europe. I didn’t realize how far I was backtracking for Luxembourg, but in reality, it’s not far is it? I came from Hong Kong already!
Notes: Late leaving, landed on time
The flight was late boarding, and late pushing back, but I think the block time was way over inflated. The flight attendants were so nice. They had to move the curtain to add one more row in business class for me. There ended up being no one sitting on my row either except for what seemed to be an off duty flight attendant across the way in F.
We taxied out to the active departure runway, where the captain announced that we were number six in line, which he estimated to be ten minutes wait time. Announcements were only in Swiss German and English, but the safety video was only in English.
They served a smallish meal, which looked so nice I had to take a picture. It was really delicious too. Especially, the chocolate mouse (compote?). Who knows, it was yummy. Then it got cloudy, really cloudy, and then we cleared the clouds, and it was dark… from the clouds. After landing, we zigged and zagged to the D-gates, which I think is only there to allow flights to Europe non-Shengen access to gates connected directly to the terminal.
Landing Video in Zurich
All pictures of LX333 can be seen here
On the taxi to the gate, I saw many RJ100s which I was excited to fly, and another reason I booked SWISS. I also knew I did not have much time. I boogied as quickly as possible, and made it to the gate, only to find a holding pen after they take your boarding pass. We waited for well over 20 minutes, before what was probably the sexiest bus driver ever showed up and waved us onto a red bus to take us to the plane. Given the weather, I didn’t expect to see a short skirt and high heels anywhere!
I noticed that some planes used a covered stair truck, whilst others used the stairs from the plane. We were the latter. Climbing the stairs and getting into the seat, it was still freezing on the plane, and it started snowing again. But it was about 4C
, so we didn’t deice. The flight attendant in business class I think was Canadian, as she competently gave the announcements in French, English, and German. She was the best, one person, looking after a demanding full business class.
This plane was full too, and lots of a passengers from China and Japan. Makes sense given the financial nature of Luxembourg and how it has positioned itself.
Plane: Avro RJ100
Notes: More or less on time
This flight was scheduled for 40 minutes according the Captain, and it would be a direct route to Luxembourg, where it was snowing. Funny enough, this was the second flight in a row, that had a Peter (or Pietr?) as the captain.
This flight I struggled to take pictures with the camera as it kept focusing on the snow on the window, or water on the window, and not the outside. I learned later how to fix this, but this is why only a few pictures. We still had a small snack, which was quickly cleared then we descending into Luxembourg. Now it was night time, and still snowing, so really not a lot to see until landing.
All pictures of LX758 can be seen here
I was excited to see that we would be exiting at a jetway given that it was still snowing and looked like four inches or so was on the ground already. Since I entered Europe in Zurich, it was straight to baggage claim. Where we waited about 30 minutes for the bags. Then it was out to a cab.
After arriving in the hotel, we ordered room service, and went to sleep. The next day, I went exploring. I had been here before a few years ago in a similar circumstance, and it had not changed a lot. In the Kierchbirg, I can say that there is a construction boom. I guess that is the only place they can do it, haha.
The next day, we shared a cab. It would drop her off at her office in the Kierchbirg, and I would go onto the airport. It would be early, but she could get there for work on time. But the buses made the travel so awful, it took 15 minutes to go about 1km. Once cleared of the old town, we were in and through the Kierchbirg in no time.
I checked in with the friendly check-in agent for SWISS. He has mentioned that it is only a 4-5 hour drive, but many people fly anyways. Security was funny, as they do not seem to give a crap, but then literally make you take off everything to go through the metal detector.
Once done with that, I was into the shopping area, and cleared out my Euro. When I booked this, I swore it was an RJ100, but alas a Fokker F100 rolled in. Also a first for me, and operated by Helvetic. After about 45 minutes from its arrival, we boarded. This flight was very empty.
Plane: Fokker F100
Notes: Early on both sides, lovely weather
The Takeoff Video
Landing in Zurich
All pictures of Flight LX751
The crew again was awesome, and in a know your audience moment, the announcements were only in English. Another small meal was served, and before I knew it, I was on the ground in Zurich. This was going to be a long wait too.
I wondered around, went to Burger King, and did some spotting. I also got to chatting to a very interesting woman at one of the KIOSKS in the long finger pier. She proceeded to tell me that she hates every city in the world, except Beirut and she has no idea why anyone would live in a big city as they are boring. She much prefers small towns. Not the sort of ‘airport ambassador’ one would expect, but most people dealing with her would be leaving Zurich, not landing.
Some Spotting at Zurich:
All pictures from my layover at the Zurich Airport
I wanted to fly to London City, so I had to wait almost four hours in Zurich. But if I was going to Heathrow, I would have to wait for at least two hours. From what I saw on my transfer on the day prior, I thought I would stay in the European section as it had more to do and eat. I guessed I would be leaving from the D Gates, but it was not shown yet.
Plane: Avro RJ100
Notes: More or less on time
Finally, my gate showed up, and I decided to make my way there. There was little urgency in boarding, and I realized that was because the flight was not very full. We pushed back and went to the cross runway (the long runway, was only used for heavies it seems, note my spotting pictures). This flight too the announcements were only in English, except the pilot, who did Swiss German and English.
We departed onward and upward, and I am sure if there was an airshow, we would have flown right over Luxembourg on the way into London City. The setting sun made it hard to get good pictures out of the window, but I tried my best. Landing in London, things got a bit easier. I was torn. I was trying to remember which seat had the views of Canary Wharf A or F. I was booked in F, but thought it was A, so I switched. I missed Canary Wharf, but I did get some good photos of the City, and the planes on our taxi backtrack.
The Takeoff Video
Landing in London City and some backtracking
All pictures of LX464
Landing at London City was pretty neat. That same day their expansion plans were approved, which is cool. It’s a terrible airport for spotting, but good access to the city and only about GBP35 to Leicester Square by taxi. It would be a smashing airport for electronic entry as only one person was working the non UK/EU line.
After a few days in the city, we were staying with our friends in Stanwell-Moor, which is just a few yards away from T5
. We decided to take a taxi there, since the trip to the airport could be expensed as part of the work trip, the difference between going to T3
or Stanwell-Moor being negligible.
However, a cabbie turned out to be a right character. I found him mostly enjoyable, but I would never hire him. First, he said he wanted to turn off the company’s GPS
, so he would only have to pay back the firm GPB1 or GBP11. I couldn’t quite understand him. Later he said that he worked for a bank when he was younger, and him and his mates would transfer millions of pounds into their accounts print a statement then transfer the money back. That seemed implausible and shady. Also, every sentence was punctuated with “You wit me? You wit me mate?” which in America would be “you know what I mean?” or “Are you following?” if you are from the Northeast. He said he lived in Essex, but my friend said that shouldn’t be the issue.
After a couple of more days scooting around the Staines area, we visited Windsor and the Air Force Memorial, where I did some more spotting with some especially lovely shots of the Qatar A380 making a quick U-turn after takeoff.
Spotting from the Air Force Memorial of Qatar A380:
We went back to take a nap, and I just happened to check my wife’s phone when I went to plug in mine, and saw that Cathay had text her saying her 10pm flight (CX254) was canceled, and to get to the airport before 19:30 to be rebooked. I had already packed almost everything as I was tidying up, so I woke her up and then saw a new text saying her
Keep on truckin'...