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Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:02 pm

Welcome to my second report of 2015 – a trip to the beautiful city by the bay of San Francisco, via Dublin and New York (and an unexpected detour to Los Angeles).

If you would like to view the full report, including reviews and photos from the hotels and of the areas we visited, please visit http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trip-...ium-experience-inc-first-a380.html

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The circuitous routing was a combination of a sale fare ex-DUB, wishing to maximize the amount of tier points earned (without being ridiculous with the number of sectors), and – most importantly – a long-held wish of mine to visit San Francisco.

The full original routing was DUB-LHR-JFK-SFO-JFK-LCY-DUB, with all legs in business class, except the LHR-JFK sector which was upgraded to First with Avios. The JFK-LCY sector utilised BA’s Club World London City product, whilst the transcontinentals were on AA’s relatively new 3-class A321. The actual routing ended up being SFO-LAX-LHR-DUB on the return part of the trip, including a trip on the BA A380. Positioning flights LHR-DUB and DUB-LHR were also booked to complete the trip and enjoy a night in Dublin.

LHR-DUB, British Airways Euro Traveller, A319

It was a relatively early start and a short taxi ride to Heathrow Terminal 5 for our positioning flight to DUB. This and the first sector of the ‘main’ trip back to LHR were booked for the day before the LHR-JFK sector, with a night at the very convenient and comfortable Sofitel to start the trip. As I had booked a hand baggage only fare to get to DUB, the taxi dropped us at the Sofitel’s main entrance so that we could store our luggage for the day. There was no queue at reception, and neither was there at Zone H (Club) check-in where paper boarding passes (I’m a traditionalist in certain respects!) were collected. There was an Easter note on the desk reminding BAEC members that only one guest is permitted per member in the lounges. Security South (non-Fast Track) was a breeze and we were through in under 5 minutes.

The area below the South lounges has, over the past 6 months or so, been turned into the ‘luxury’ shopping area of T5. Some works are still on-going, but the area below the lounges is now almost complete, and looking very smart too with new shops and a premium finish to the ceiling and lighting. The seating that used to be just ahead of the escalator up to the lounges has been removed and replaced with a Fortnum & Mason champagne bar, which is much more befitting of the area!

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We didn’t visit the lounge that morning, but did a spot of shopping before heading towards Gate A7 for boarding. The usual Fast Track lane was in place, and we were second down the line once boarding was called.

The presence of passengers caught the senior cabin crew member by surprise at the door, but we were promptly welcomed on board our A319 (G-EUPE, delivered new to BA in 2000). This aircraft, as with most in the shorthaul fleet now, was fitted with the new Pinnacle cabin – 30” pitch throughout both Euro Traveller and Club Europe (4 rows of the latter this morning), with slightly tighter pitch in the last few rows, and slightly more legroom in Row 1 (bulkhead) and Row 10 (exit row).

I had selected seats 10A and 10C in the hope that nobody would select the middle seat, and this proved to be the case. The friendly crew member in ET giving us the over-wing exit briefing noted that we had ‘the best seats in the house’ and made a reference to the lack of legroom in most CE rows with the new cabin.

The seat pitch at the exit row was around 36” I would guess. I’ve travelled in the new cabins a number of times now since their introduction last summer, and I do find the seats much firmer than the convertibles, but no less comfortable. In fact, I find them slightly more comfortable, and certainly overall the cabin ambiance is much improved. That said, a panel by the floor next to 10A had already become loose, despite this aircraft having a cabin only a couple of months old, if that.

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We took off from Runway 27L at Heathrow towards the West, and were soon cruising at 28,000ft on this short under-1 hour sector. The crew promptly commenced the cabin service, which in ET consisted of the usual post-09:30 Band 1/2 drinks run and choice of nuts, crisps or biscuits from the snack basket. I had some satisfyingly tasty shortbread biscuits, apple juice and water. CE passengers were served the infamous ‘extended breakfast’ – certainly not worth the £105 per person POUG (proactive online upgrade) being offered through MMB and at OLCI.

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On arrival at DUB we had an airbridge and were soon in arrivals, with no queue at immigration. This was my first experience of DUB, and I was not enamoured with the airport at all – a lot of building work was going on in departures, but the rest of the terminal (1) was distinctly dated.

DAA Executive Lounge, DUB

After a brief gasp of fresh air outside arrivals (or as fresh as the smokers and buses would allow us), it was upstairs to check-in and collection of card boarding passes at one of the two Club Europe desks. T1 at DUB has a great old fashioned departure board in the check-in hall, which are increasingly vanishing in favour of smaller screens. There was no queue at either desk, and the very friendly agent pointed out Fast Track security and gave us directions to the lounge.

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Fast Track had a separate entrance and boarding pass check, but then merged in the main security area for search. However, there was an agent preventing standard security passengers from using the Fast Track lane when there were Fast Track passengers waiting. Whilst I understand the need to keep queues down, this does somewhat defeat the point, as with a completely separate lane for FT, we wouldn’t have had to wait at all.



The airport-branded (but Swissport-operated) DAA Executive Lounge is located one level up from the main departure floor, to the left after Fast Track. We were warmly welcomed and given an overview of the lounge, and the agent even went so far as to introduce herself by name should we need anything – pretty impressive for a third party lounge (used by many different carriers and passes, plus available for pay-in at around EUR20). The lounge has two sides decorated similarly, both with seating areas and a bar. I believe one of the sides used to be the bmi lounge back in the day. The right hand area is smaller and was more crowded on our visit, and featured a family room. The left hand area featured a business centre (two iMacs, several laptop stations and two wireless printers) and was generally the brighter of the spaces.

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I think the lounge must be fairly new, because everything was modern and in reasonable condition – with the notable exception of the toilets (located outside reception in the lobby area), which were distinctly dated and poorly maintained.

Newspaper and magazine selections were minimal (mainly Irish papers and airline-supplied magazines), although wifi speed was reasonable and required no code. The wifi did drop from time to time when the lounge was busier.

Food and beverage offerings were very limited – for lunch, the selection was a choice of two ‘homemade’ soups (different options in the two lounge sides), packaged Irish bread, packaged Jacobs crackers and packaged cheese (‘packaged’ is very much a theme in this lounge!). I enquired as to whether sandwiches were offered, but sadly received a negative response. Champagne was… not on offer. The catering (or lack of) really lets this lounge down, as otherwise the space is bright and airy and far from the worst third party lounge in BA’s network.

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DUB-LHR British Airways Club Europe, A319

We boarded our flight back to London at Gate 302, in an area that reminded me of Berlin Tegel’s rounded and yet angular architecture. There was a separate Fast Track lane that was un-policed (as is the norm, although the odd outstation will police the line now and again), with CE/Emerald/Sapphire/Ruby called together ahead of ET.

This flight was operated by G-EUPX, an A319 delivered to BA in 2001 and now with the Pinnacle cabin interior. The aircraft was virtually full, necessitating lots of announcements about hand baggage, a recurring theme these days on BA shorthaul flights. The Club Europe cabin had 3 rows, with all 12 seats occupied. Legroom in Row 1 is much improved over all other rows in CE, and is my row of choice in this cabin on all of the shorthaul Airbus fleet. Prior to pushback, I used the hot towel to clean the greasy window, a standard practice of mine after passing the towel briefly over my hands!

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Service on this flight was afternoon tea, consisting of three very fresh sandwiches with a miniscule salad garnish, a tasty packaged madeira cake, and fresh warm plain or lemon and date scones from the basket. The afternoon tea is loathed by many who deem it too small, but I genuinely enjoy it every time. I would perhaps prefer the cutoff for afternoon tea to be 16:00 or 16:30 rather than the current 17:00, particularly on longer Band 3 flights where it can be up to 40 minutes after takeoff that service starts after the drinks run. To accompany afternoon tea on this flight, I had a Baileys and some green tea towards the end of the flight.

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The purser on this flight made a lengthy announcement as we were descending just north of Wales, advising passengers who would misconnect at LHR (due to the 40 minute delay) which flights they had been rebooked on, and where to meet oneworld support staff on arrival.

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For some reason on this flight, perhaps because it was the final sector for this tired (but still friendly) crew, the final clear-in of glasses was forgotten about in CE – I caught the crew’s attention to clear the glasses from Row 1 at least before we landed.

Once on the ground, we taxied to a gate at the Southern end of T5, and arrived via the Common Travel Area cut-through avoiding immigration.

British Airways Concorde Room, LHR

Approaching First check-in in Zone J, we were escorted to a free desk after a very slight wait, with the escorting agent announcing to the desk agent that we were on the New York flight – a nice touch meaning fewer questions asked at the desk. I do like the F check-in area at T5 with its private seating areas, but in the past year BA have downgraded the nice fresh flower displays to some rather questionable fake shrubs, sadly one of many BA penny-pinching measures of recent times.

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Fast Track South was very slow this morning, taking over 10 minutes to get through. HAL (the airport operator) have recently ‘upgraded’ Fast Track South to segregate it from the main search areas, and there are now two dedicated FT search lanes within a little ‘box’. This seems to have reduced the queue space, and with many trays being rejected and stacking up waiting for search, there was nothing at all fast or premium about this experience.

Entering the Concorde Room through the door immediately to the right after security, we headed straight to the Concorde Dining area. A table wasn’t immediately available within the dining area, and although there were high tables between the dining area and the Concorde Bar laid for breakfast, we opted to wait the five minutes or so until a table in the main area became available, as these seats are more comfortable and private.

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For breakfast, I ordered smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, accompanied by toast, some freshly baked Danish pastries, yoghurt, fresh orange juice and breakfast tea. There was a time when tea in the CCR was loose leaf, but for a couple of years now (I think since BaxterStorey took over the catering) teabags (albeit very nice teabags) have been the only way to have a cuppa. Service was a little on the slow side, and not exactly polished – unfortunately standard for the CCR.

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The main inside lounge space was quite busy, so we opted to relax on the Concorde Terrace until our flight started boarding, which was attended to by a very proactive waitress in stark contrast to the service in the dining area.

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Overall, unfortunately the CCR is looking dated these days. The inside of the lounge in particular is poorly laid out, with not enough individual seating. BA are rumoured to be imminently embarking on a refurbishment of all of the T5 lounges, so time will tell what’s in store for BA’s flagship lounge. I just hope the beautiful terrace remains, along with the genuine Concorde chairs in the Board Room. That said, the Concorde Room at T5 remains a very good lounge, and is still one of the best oneworld lounges in the network.

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LHR-JFK British Airways First, B747

Boarding this morning was from Gate C52, necessitating a trip on the track transit train to the second of T5’s satellite buildings, opened two years after the rest of the T5 complex in 2010. Much has been made previously of BA’s lack of first class ground service, but with the sheer number of daily departures with a First cabin, it’s hard to see any private transfer service being economical. As it is, BA only escort Premier members, selected VIPs and certain high value Gold Guest List members, and even then these are generally foot escorts rather than by car. HAL operate the Heathrow by Invitation service that any F/J passenger can pay for, which does feature a private car transfer to the aircraft.

Boarding was in progress as we approached the gate, and we joined the short Fast Track queue. BA don’t generally board First passengers separately, instead opting for a combined F/J/Emerald/Sapphire/Ruby lane, which on some flights can be 75% of the aircraft load or more! Thankfully on this occasion the queue was moving swiftly, and our BPs were soon being checked by a friendly G4S security agent and a not-so-friendly BA agent.

Unusually for T5C, this gate had only one airbridge, so all passengers boarded through Door 2L. We were welcomed and escorted to our seats in the nose of this 747 – G-BYGA, delivered to BA in 1998 and the same aircraft I flew to HKG on in 2011 in the same cabin. 2A and 2K are, in my opinion, the best seats in the house – forward enough to be out of line of sight of Row 3 and the centre seats, and with a large spacious area between the two sides of the cabin. As with almost all aircraft in the fleet, this aircraft was fitted with the ‘Prime’ or ‘New First’ cabin, first introduced in 2010, with 10/14 seats occupied for the flight. On the seat was a pillow and cushion, with a blanket and headphones laid on the ottoman.

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As soon as I’d taken a seat, one of the two female crew members serving in First offered me a drink (I opted just for water), shortly followed by PJs, a washbag and slippers. BA now offer separate male and female washbags in First, in a much more practical and stylish bag than the previous ‘hard case’ type. Amenities in the male washbag are by The Refinery, whilst the female washbag features Aromatherapy Associates products, matching those in the washrooms in First and the Concorde Room. Newspapers were offered and later stored in front of 4EF alongside the magazines.

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Hot towels and menus were offered shortly after takeoff from 27L, and the CSD did the rounds welcoming passengers. These are now combined wine lists and menus, rather than the separate lists offered in the past. Drinks orders were taken, and I enjoyed a glass of the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, accompanied by some delicious and distinctly non-packaged warmed nuts.

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Service throughout this flight was amongst the best I’ve experienced on BA. Both crew members were very attentive, constantly offering extras and top-ups. The lady serving the K side of the aircraft addressed me by name every time. The crew can make or break a flight, and this crew absolutely made it for me this time. When I wrote to BA at the end of the trip, I made sure to thank them and was told their managers would be informed of my comments.

Lunch orders were taken about 45 minutes into the flight, and service commenced about the same time later. I like to think of the table service in First as unpretentious elegance – everything delivered on a silver platter, everything placed with precision.

The amuse bouche was some sort of salmon and wasabi concoction that was pleasant if slightly unmemorable, accompanied by lovely warm herb-infused focaccia from the bread basket.

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The cream of asparagus and chervil soup was, as is usually the case with BA First soups, divine – perfect texture, and rich in flavour, enjoyed with some more focaccia.

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I was tempted by the langoustines, but ended up jumping to the salad with honey mustard dressing. I’m not a huge fan of salads, but when executed properly as this one was, they are enjoyable and refreshing. The sundried tomatoes in this salad gave it a kick, and the honey mustard dressing complemented the fresh leaves without being overpowering. Am I beginning to sound like Greg or John* yet? *A MasterChef UK reference for those who don’t know!

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My main course was the seared fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with morel mushroom sauce, seasonal vegetables and a herb potato cake. I know what you’re thinking – beef on a plane?! Is he mad?! I don’t have too bad a track record with beef on BA (although beef with BA is a different matter…), but this occasion wasn’t entirely successful. The fillet was certainly on the well done side, but not too tough and retained a smidgen of flavour. Unfortunately the vegetables (the tiny sprig of cauliflower and mange tout in particular) had been totally cremated. The herb potato cake was forgettable. I was offered a choice of mustard and was brought both English and French – one in a First pot, and one in a Club World sachet!

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For dessert, the caramelised apple and chocolate terrine was insanely good, even more so accompanied by the Royal Tokaji Company Blue Label 2009 dessert wine (presented correctly first, naturally). Some breakfast tea and chocolates by Lauden completed lunch.

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Bottles of Highland Spring water were handed out after the meal service, and some fellow passengers opted to have their beds made up for them with the mattress and duvet.

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During the flight, I watched The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington, and some best bits of Top Gear with some nostalgia. The Rockwell Collins IFE system on the 747s is clearly not fit for purpose these days – the large screens in First just accentuate the terrible picture quality, and the cheapy non-branded headphones do nothing for the sound quality either. I do, however, like the split-screen view on the screens in First, which allows the viewing of the map alongside the current programme. Whilst relaxing (rather than sitting up or sleeping), the lack of a leg rest in the latest First cabin is very noticeable, and a clear downgrade over the classic First seat. Unfortunately the cappuccino machine was inoperable on this flight, so I had to make do with an Americano with the film.

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Afternoon tea was served around 90 minutes before landing. The sandwiches were slightly dry (in contrast to the consistently good Club Europe sandwiches), but the tea service was rescued by the lovely patisserie selection, accompanied by a jasmine tea.

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We landed slightly early into JFK, and in a first for me, docked at a ‘tow-in’ stand, requiring the engines to be shut down just ahead of the final docking position, and subsequently being towed into place. I assume this is due to the angled configuration at this particular stand.

The gate had just one airbridge, and instead of docking at 1L as is standard for arrivals (at least at LHR), 2L was used, which meant the forward Club World cabin disembarked before First. The crew at 2L didn’t hold back the upper deck Club World cabin or any of the other cabins on the main deck for that matter, which meant a bit of a disappointing scrum to exit.

Terminal 7 arrivals is generally a pretty drab experience, so I was surprised to see a oneworld ground support agent on the ramp down to immigration calling out our names and handing us our connecting boarding passes – great service! Immigration took around 10 minutes to complete (pretty good going for JFK), and baggage delivery was prompt.

Overall, this was an excellent experience with British Airways. Sure, elements of the catering have room for improvement, and the cabin isn’t the most spacious first class product out there, but it is a distinctly elevated experience over Club World, and simply a very enjoyable way to travel.

[Edited 2015-06-12 14:09:00]

[Edited 2015-06-12 14:15:32]

[Edited 2015-06-12 14:22:46]
 
User avatar
fxramper
Posts: 5839
Joined: Sun Dec 04, 2005 12:03 pm

RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:08 pm

I'm already confused? Maybe just start your massive excessive thread part 1 of 20 next time.

It all looks like One World; below par.

Nice pics, too many though.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:12 pm

American Airlines Flagship Lounge and Admirals Clubs, JFK

For international to domestic connections at JFK, one has to collect bags, clear customs and re-check. There is a re-check facility in T7 to avoid passengers having to lug their bags to T8, however, not being entirely trustworthy of ‘one world’, we opted to take our own bags across to T8. This was a simple process of walking outside to the Air Train, one stop, and then a short walk to check-in.

My first impression of T8 was that it was much nicer than T7 – more open, light and airy, and of course more modern too. As we were connecting from a oneworld same-day international first class flight, we were entitled to use AA’s Flagship Check-In, a separate facility for three-class First Class passengers only, on the far right of the check-in hall. It’s a fully enclosed and private facility, with direct access to a priority security lane, although I don’t believe this lane is actually part of the facility itself, rather just outside. Disappointingly, despite eligibility being clear online and it being confirmed by AA’s Twitter team, we were denied access. The agent on the podium outside was fine, but the dragon summoned from within was distinctly stand off-ish, insisting that connecting passengers weren’t eligible. I perhaps should have anticipated this denial and carried a copy of the rules with me, something which I advise future connecting passengers to do! I fed back the experience to AA and they advised that they would follow it up with their team – read into that what you will!

Priority Check-In is located at the opposite end of the terminal to Flagship Check-In, and is a semi-screened off area of the main check-in hall with a small amount of unimaginative seating along the left hand side. The single bank of desks is separated into Business Class and First Class queues, and there was a short wait at the latter of these two queues before our bags were re-checked (with the BA tags being swapped out for AA tags).

Security, around the back of the Priority Check-In area, was clearly separated into Priority AAccess (AA’s version of Fast Track), TSA Pre and regular lines. The Priority AAccess queue wasn’t long, and the whole process took under 10 minutes including body scan. Not swift by any means, but shorter than our earlier experience at LHR that day. This is no doubt a generalisation, but I find TSA agents on the whole to be notably more officious and downright rude than security agents I’ve encountered anywhere else around the world. The tray system (whereby the stack is generally a messy pile far away from the lane) is just bonkers, and the whole process feels completely uncoordinated. The need for shoes and watches to be taken off without exception (something that is not required unless requested at LHR and most other European airports) is a frustrating example of varying security rules across the world.

In Terminal 8, AA operates a Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club in Concourse B, and a second Admirals Club in Concourse C. The Flagship Lounge in B shares the main reception with that of the Admirals Club, and the agent had to open the separate door to the Flagship Lounge to the right of the reception for us with a swipe card. Once inside, the lounge opens up with a business area to the right and the main seating area to the left, with a café area at the far end. The design is sadly rather unimaginative, and in no way luxurious. The lounge is also on the small side, meaning it filled up quite quickly as the evening progressed and the eastbound longhaul departures neared.

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We arrived in the lounge just as afternoon tea was drawing to a close, which consisted of sandwiches, small finger food and scones. Dinner was laid out at 17:00, and was a very limited selection of tough, inedible roast lamb, bland rosemary potatoes and stringy greens. Distinctly unimpressed, I wandered next door to the Admirals Club, which was so busy I made a hasty retreat to the slightly less hectic space I’d just come from. For the view (including the New York skyline in the distance) and natural light alone, I would rate the Flagship Lounge as slightly better than BA’s Galleries First lounge at JFK, but AA’s attempt at a first class offering is little more than a slightly quieter version of an average business class lounge.

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I was advised by the front desk to leave the lounge around 10 minutes before boarding at Gate C40. Having tired of the Flagship Lounge, we wandered over to Concourse C around 45 minutes before boarding started to have a look at the Admirals Club – and what a difference a concourse made! The Admirals Club in C was far quieter, with a huge welcoming reception area and multiple seating areas. The best area is tucked away to the right of the entrance lifts – advertised as a mobile-free area, the furnishings in this small space were similar to those of the Flagship Lounge (including Eames armchairs) – an oasis away from anywhere else I’d experienced at T8. If it had not been for the almost total lack of complimentary food and drink in the Admirals Club lounges, I would have far rather spent the time here than in the Flagship Lounge.

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JFK-SFO American Airlines Business Class, A321

Boarding our one year old A321 (N114NN) at Gate C40 was the usual efficient AA process, with First Class invited first, followed by Business Class. oneworld Emerald/Sappire/Ruby in Y board after F/J, something that BA could learn from! Boarding through Door 1L, we walked through the 5-row F cabin, which features the same basic seats as AA/CX longhaul J – and very comfortable and private they looked too.

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The transcontinental Business Class product features the same basic seats that KL and QR use in longhaul J, configured 2-2 (meaning of course that 50% of passengers don’t have direct aisle access). I occupied 7D for this flight – an aisle seat in the second row. The second row is ideal, because it’s far enough forward to be amongst the first off at the end of the flight, and yet a row away from any potential noise/light from the galley and toilet at Doors 2. Whilst I did feel slightly exposed in the aisle seat, I found the seat to be comfortable and just what I would expect from a business class product, if slightly lacking the privacy of BA’s Club World. That AA operate these cabins on transcontinental routes is a vast improvement over the reclining seats used up until just 18 months or so ago. I particularly liked the storage area at head height between the seats, the shelf below the IFE screen, and the thoughtful space for shoes under the seat in front.

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Hanging of jackets was offered, as was a choice of water, concentrated orange juice or prosecco in plastic glasses. Quite why AA continue to think that plastic glasses are acceptable in premium cabins is beyond me. A pillow and blanket were pre-set on the seat, along with bottled filtered (Dasani) water, in-ear headphones and a basic amenity kit. Bose QC15 headphones were offered after takeoff and collected around 45 minutes before landing.

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Shortly after the PDBs were offered, menus were also handed out. Despite not planning on eating on this flight, I was pleased to note that the three main courses featuring cheese that were listed online had been reduced in reality to only two courses featuring cheese. What is it with AA’s obsession with cheese?!

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Shortly after takeoff, hot towels were dispensed followed by some delicious ramekin-ensconced warm nuts accompanied by drinks. I skipped dinner on this flight as I wanted to rest, but couldn’t resist sampling the traditional vanilla ice cream sundae with hot fudge and chopped nuts (disappointingly bland). The crew were quite concerned that I didn’t want to eat, but were soon eased when I told them that this was a connecting flight for me today. Passengers in the first row of J were advised that FEBO would be adhered to on this flight, and that the last row would therefore have their orders taken first and front row choices couldn’t be guaranteed. The crew were responsive to requests and affable enough, but really lacking the attention to detail and professionalism that I’m used to with British Airways and other airlines. They were also oblivious to the numerous passengers totally ignoring the seatbelt sign (although this stayed on for a ridiculously long time after takeoff until we were well into the cruise). I am particularly baffled by the cabin crew’s uniform (or lack of) – I can’t work out what AA’s identity for their employees is meant to be from the hotchpotch of garments on display on both AA sectors this trip.

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I played with the IFE a little before resting, and was left slightly underwhelmed by the system – screen resolution was good, but choice was lacking. The touch screen and separate controller consistently failed to produce results, whilst 6C’s IFE failed to start altogether despite a reset, and had to be provided with a Samsung tablet. The controller within the armrest got alarmingly hot in the flight, and I couldn’t find a way to turn the small screen off, which was intrusive when trying to sleep.

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Sleep was made all the more difficult by the chatting crew in the galley area. Needless to say that the flimsy curtain was never pulled, meaning light and noise travelled into the cabin, and nothing blocked the view of the crew browsing their phones on the inflight wifi. Having said that, I managed to get some rest – the seat was quite comfy when flat, and although not quite as wide as some products, I didn’t feel overly restricted in the seat. The blanket and pillow were surprisingly good quality.

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Shortly after the dinner service concluded, a trolley was set up in the galley area offering a selection of snacks such as fruit, biscuits and crisps. As part of the formal ‘light refreshment’ service around 90 minutes before arrival, I had the pleasant warm chocolate chip cookie and a banana – the latter with a knife, as it was lacking in stalk. Cucumber-infused sparkling water was offered prior to arrival, and left me not at all convinced on the choice of infusion!

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There are elements of American Airlines that I like – the consistent approach to priority boarding and solid transcontinental hard product amongst them. Other areas, such as service and lounges, left me feeling underwhelmed, whilst others still, such as catering and IFE left me indifferent. A real mixed bag – far from terrible, but also a way from the ‘great’ that AA are ‘going for’.

We landed on time and docked at SFO’s domestic terminal, where bags were delivered promptly and we were soon in a taxi to one of San Francisco’s most historic and famous hotels – The Fairmont.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:17 pm

American Airlines Admirals Club, SFO

Before we get to SFO airport, it’s worth a brief interlude to explain how our return flights changed from SFO-JFK-LCY-DUB to SFO-LAX-LHR-DUB. At about 04:00 on the morning of the flight to JFK, I awoke about 90 minutes before my alarm to a text message about something insignificant back home. Glancing at my phone (and sleepily perturbed at this point), I was about to dismiss the text message and fall straight back to sleep when I noticed an alert from the BA app saying that the departure time of SFO-JFK had moved to 14:00 (from its original scheduled time of 08:00 or so). I knew instantly that this would mean we would miss our connecting flight to LCY, and subsequent connection to DUB. I spent a few moments double checking that the flight was indeed delayed on my laptop, before Skyping BA You First in the UK (thanks to having a First flight in the booking) to see what could be done. There were seats available in Club World on the direct SFO-LHR evening A380 departure, but these were less than desirable middle seats on the main deck. I enquired as to whether there was availability from LAX with more desirable seats (given we had been scheduled on the ‘exclusive’ CWLCY service), and eventually was told we could take the last remaining window and aisle pair in CW on the main deck of the later evening A380 departure from LAX. Initially the very helpful agent I was speaking to couldn’t book us into F on the SFO-LAX flight, as technically the new cabin class (Domestic First Class) would have been higher than our original booked cabin class (Transcontinental Business Class). After some gentle insistence and explanation that really this was an incomparable situation in terms of product, the agent was able to secure us seats in F. Excellent service from the agent from You First overall, and when I wrote to BA at the end of the trip I made sure to pass on my positive comments.

Our new SFO-LAX flight was timed to allow us to enjoy a civilized mid-morning breakfast at the IC before heading to the airport. SFO’s domestic terminal is quite swish, and although AA don’t have a huge operation at the airport, there are good facilities in place for those few flights that AA do operate. There was quite some wait in the First Class/Emerald/Sapphire line as the single agent dealt with another passenger’s problem, but eventually a second agent at a Business Class/Ruby desk called us over to check-in, with our bags being tagged all the way through to DUB.

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Surprisingly our boarding passes had ‘TSA Pre’ printed on them, so we used this astonishingly quick line to get through security. It’s the first time I’ve gone through security since the liquids bomb plot without taking a liquids bag or laptop out of my carry-on, and without needing to take belt, watch or shoes off (all of which are common in non-Pre US checkpoints). All of the agents were friendly, and we were through in 3 minutes, including me being swabbed for explosives. I’ve since learnt that the SFO security agents aren’t TSA agents, which perhaps goes some way to explaining why my experience with them was the most positive of this trip by far.

The Admirals Club at SFO is fairly new, and is a delightful airy space, well designed with ample seating and an attractive central ‘tree’ feature. The lounge features a great view of the apron action, and (as is usual with AA lounges) fast and free wifi.

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As common with all Admirals Clubs in the US, the majority of food and drink is chargeable. The bartender in this lounge was doing a good job of selling, wandering around the lounge asking people whether they cared for lunch. As we were connecting to an international flight, the welcoming agent at the reception desk gave us a complimentary drinks voucher each (which we used daringly on two bottles of water). I’m not a fan of the model of US airlines charging for food and drink in lounges – I would rather they operated another tier of lounges for those travelling in premium cabins or with status that included some basic food and drink provision. Clearly this doesn’t make business sense for them, but it is a distinct downgrade on the offering of most major airlines in their own operated lounges outside of the States. The complimentary items were limited to tea, coffee, a limited selection of soft drinks (which didn’t include water), cookies, nuts and pretzels. Overall this is a very impressive lounge for a US airline, more peaceful and elegant than the Flagship lounge at JFK.

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SFO-LAX American Airlines First Class, B737

Boarding was from Gate 58A in the usual efficient AA manner, with F invited first. The Domestic First Class cabin on our 737-800 (6 year old N820NN) was of the usual 2-2 configuration of 4 rows of recliner seats. With these seats having a 38” pitch and comfortable width, there is no denying that these seats are in a different league to BA’s comparable product (Club Europe). The cabin was in good, if not spotless, condition, with blankets and in-ear headphones (one set per 2 seats, I’m guessing due to low uptake) pre-set on the seats. I’m not wholly sure why these headphones were on the seats as no IFE was offered on the flight. Sadly no PDBs were offered on this flight by the indifferent crew (which no doubt was also the cause of the Y/F curtain not being closed). This lack of PDBs was especially annoying given there was ample time for boarding, during which time multiple annoying automated announcements about stowing hand baggage etc. were made on the overhead screens. I noticed before pushback our bags being loaded into the hold below us – fingers were firmly crossed for safe connections at LAX and LHR, and a safe arrival into DUB 16 hours or so later.

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There was a very lengthy taxi and hold for departure, but when takeoff came (90 minutes behind schedule, much to 3E’s consternation) it was fairly impressive, with an aircraft taking off in parallel to us on the adjacent runway, followed by a stunning aerial view of the beautiful city.

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Service began promptly after takeoff, with a drinks run by hand from the galley (with glasses variably bearing the AA and US logos), and then two passes of the snack basket. This is where AA fails in comparison to BA – on a comparable Band 1 flight in Club Europe, one could expect a main course salad, warm bread and small dessert on a flight of this length at lunchtime, rather than AA’s rather miserly choice of biscuits, crisps or nuts. Further drinks were offered as we approached LAX.

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As we were running significantly behind time, the cabin crew made several announcements regarding connecting flight gates for domestic flights. We ended up making some time back in flight, but still landed into LAX around an hour late (which was fine by me as the connection was far too long in any case). Somewhat bizarrely the exit from LAX airside for those not needing to collect bags is through what feels like a staff channel at the end of the security area. The Tom Bradley International Terminal was a short, unattractive walk outside, made just a little more bearable at the thought of the new oneworld lounge to enjoy for the next 4+ hours.

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The oneworld Los Angeles Business Lounge, LAX

We had received boarding passes (on AA stock) for all three sectors of the return trip at SFO, so we didn’t need to go to check-in. I did check at one of the Club World desks that our bags had made the connection, and the agent confirmed they were indeed en route to the LAX-LHR flight (although I later checked again at the gate for final confirmation). The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX has undergone extensive refurbishment over recent months, and although some work is still ongoing, the refurbishment has certainly opened the terminal up, which now includes a pretty impressive departure lounge. A priority lane was available at security, but this simply deposited people at the head of the main line rather than having separate security search lanes. After a typically horrid TSA experience, we descended to the departure lounge and followed the signs to the oneworld Los Angeles Business Lounge, located on the mezzanine level above the shopping area.

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The oneworld Los Angeles Business Lounge is jointly branded by British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas, but for all intents and purposes this is a Qantas lounge – indeed, QF operate it, and the interior design takes many cues from Qantas International Business lounges around the world. The lounge is arranged around an internal central atrium, and is pretty stylish in quite a dark and moody way. The space is broken into small-ish seating areas with a variety of styles of seating to choose from, although power points were somewhat lacking.

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Several coffee stations are dotted around the lounge, and there is an attractive bar area (with prosecco rather than champagne), including a circular ‘fireplace’ tucked away in one corner (behind which are the inconveniently placed washrooms). The fireplace seating was being used as a makeshift play area at the time of visiting.

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I used one of the shower rooms to freshen up, and found these to be nicely appointed with Aspar amenities. Additional items such as toothpaste were available from the friendly attendant. Staff throughout the lounge were friendly and professional, actively offering assistance. I checked our seats at one point at the service desk to see whether we could move further forward in the cabin, but the QF agent had to call check-in as the BA system couldn’t be accessed from the lounge – not great for a joint-branded facility.

The dining area featured a reasonable selection of self-serve hot and cold dishes on Qantas’s signature chinaware, with some ‘street food’ carts being opened up in the seating area later in the evening, as well as cheese plates being passed around the lounge – the latter is a really nice touch for a business class lounge. I sampled a good selection of dishes from the buffet, all of which were of excellent quality – the beef in particular was perfectly tender. This was easily some of the best catering I’ve enjoyed in a business class lounge. We were joined at dinner at an immediately adjacent table (in a sea of empty tables) by an intensely annoying loud-mouthed passenger who conducted several Skype conversations at a volume level just below ‘direct glare-worthy’ on the British response scale. As we were leaving the seats after dinner, I quipped to another passenger about to take our seats that perhaps this wasn’t the quietest of areas…

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At the time of visiting, the extension to the lounge hadn’t opened and was still hoarded off, so this perhaps explains the lack of a formal dining/seating area and play area. When we initially arrived in the lounge, it was fairly quiet, but the lounge started to fill up noticeably from around 19:00 onwards as the evening departure peak neared. It was never impossible to find a seat, although the lounge was busier than I would have liked – hopefully the now-open extension has eased some of the strain.

Overall this is a very good business class lounge, easily up there with Cathay Pacific’s lounges at HKG and Qantas’s own offerings at HKG and SIN. The lounge could be improved by more natural light (or at least some brighter artificially-lit seating areas), along with more ample power point provision, but as lounges go this is an enjoyable place to pass a few hours.

[Edited 2015-06-12 14:21:17]
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:19 pm

LAX-LHR British Airways Club World, A380

En route to the gate we walked past the Qantas International First lounge, which looked very nice from the outside at least, and is modelled on their flagship lounges at SYD and MEL. At the gate, although there wasn’t a separate Fast Track lane as such, boarding was announced very clearly: ‘We have 14 First seats on this aircraft – would our 14 First passengers please come forward for boarding now’. This was followed by a separate call for Emerald passengers, swiftly followed by: ‘We have 97 Club World seats on this aircraft – would our 97 Club World passengers please come forward for boarding now’. As our BPs were being scanned, a further announcement was made for oneworld Sapphire/Ruby passengers to board. Three airbridges were used to board G-XLED, delivered to BA just two years ago. Boarding was through Door M2L, and we made our way to our seats in the penultimate row of the main deck Club World cabin. I probably would have chosen seats on the upper deck (and ideally the forward cabin on the upper deck) given the choice, however, the main deck surprised me in its spaciousness and general lack of foot traffic.

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BA have rather unimaginatively used the same basic seats on their A380 in Club World that were first introduced in 2006, updated only slightly in terms of attractive mood lighting, IFE, seat controls and fabric for their latest fleet of aircraft. I really would’ve liked to have seen BA adopt all-aisle access in CW, as window seat and middle seat passengers still have to climb over the aisle seat’s footrest due to the 2-4-2 configuration (2-3-2 on the upper deck). That being said, the Club World seats are still amongst the best business class seats in the sky in terms of comfort (particularly when fully flat), although width and storage space could notably be improved. The only real storage area other than the overhead bin is the tray at floor level, which is virtually inaccessible when the seat is fully flat. Upper deck window seats benefit from a side bin, which doubles as a shelf. Sitting in aisle seat 14B, I didn’t feel as exposed as I thought I might, mainly thanks to the staggered nature of the rows.

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Pillows, blankets and the standard non-branded noise reducing headphones were pre-placed on the seats, with menus and basic amenity kits handed out shortly after the pre-departure drink choice of water, concentrated orange juice, or champagne. Amenity kits in Club World feature Elemis products, as well as a (non-branded) pen, earbuds, socks and an eyeshade. The bag that holds these amenities is designed as a shoe bag – but to me this just looks cheap and really unsuitable in a premium cabin. Despite there being magazine racks at the front of the cabin, none were available (aside from High Life/Business Life in the footrest pocket). Newspapers also weren’t offered, and there were no hot towels at any point during the flight. Whether all this was down to the items not being loaded or simply a less than proactive crew, I don’t know.

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Shortly after our A380’s extremely quiet takeoff, drinks from the trolley were offered by the two female cabin crew members serving our aisle, accompanied by packaged nuts. Packaged nuts are not really ‘premium’, but I didn’t cause a scene or ask for any of the crew to be removed from the flight…

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Prior to orders being taken for dinner, I changed into my First PJs and slippers for the night. There are, meanly, only two washrooms to the rear of the main deck Club World cabin (one either side of the galley), adjacent to two of the World Traveller washrooms. These are separated by an angled solid divider and thick curtain, which did the job of preventing any cross-cabin washroom use. The washrooms themselves are unremarkable (featuring Elemis amenities like the amenity kits), with the only ‘different’ washrooms being located in the forward upper deck CW cabin either side of the front staircase. The placement of the paper towels in the washroom vanity unit is particularly silly, as they have a habit of getting in the way of the basin and taps.



Dinner service commenced (after the usual struggle to release the poorly designed CW table) with my chosen starter of curried crab salad with cashew, apricot and shallot, presented on a linen-covered tray alongside the fresh seasonal salad. I’m not a fan of tray presentation in longhaul business class – BA should really take a leaf out of QR’s book and adopt a non-tray service, which is so much more elegant. The salt and pepper sachet is also distinctly non-premium, as is the continued lack of a bread plate for the choice of warm bread from the basket. The salad was fresh and tasty with quite a kick from the vinaigrette, whilst the crab tasted a little processed for my liking.

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Further drinks orders and top-ups were taken before the main courses were served. I had intended on ordering the rigatoni, however, for some reason the words ‘the beef please’ came out of my mouth before my tired brain could register what I was saying. So it was to be beef on both BA longhaul flights of this trip – I’m either brave or befuddled. The glazed short rib of beef with sweet potato au gratin, roasted red pepper, brocollini and a herb demi-glaze was passable, although the whole dish was swimming in an unnecessary quantity of ‘glaze’, reducing some of the vegetables to mush.

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Tiramisu was the only dessert on the menu, and this was again satisfactory but not remarkable. Hot drinks orders were taken – I enquired whether hot chocolate was available, and the crew member kindly offered to get some from First. My hot choc was delivered with some Hotel Chocolat chocolates.

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Bottles of water (a local brand, not Highland Spring as listed on the menu) were handed out prior to the cabin going to sleep. I slept well for around 5 hours – an excellent amount of time for me on an aircraft, aided by the quietness and excellent air quality of the A380.

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I woke up shortly before the breakfast service commenced, and played around with the IFE for a short while. The selection was not extensive despite being BA’s latest Thales system, and I was disappointed that the split screen map mode isn’t available on this system in CW.

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BA don’t offer a full breakfast service in CW on USA departures, which on this particular flight is disappointing given the Galleries Arrivals lounge is closed at the time of arrival. That said, I was happy on this occasion with the nicely presented fresh seasonal fruit and selection of assorted breakfast pastries, accompanied by the delicious energising fruit smoothie of caramelised pineapple and banana, and some breakfast tea. Warm bacon rolls were offered and I took one for the photo opportunity, but one look inside repelled me sufficiently to leave it well alone.

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Landing on Runway 27R at Heathrow and docking at T5C was on time, and we were promptly leaving our A380 for the transit train to the main T5A building and our connecting flight to Dublin.

Club World is undoubtedly a solid product on the whole, but with many areas that could be improved given a little attention and investment. Aside from a new generation of all-aisle access seat (rumoured for the A350), little touches like non-packaged nuts, proper salt and pepper cellars, a bread plate and a full (non-tray) table service would go a long way to enhance the product. Little niggles like no hot towels and no newspapers or magazines meant that this flight wasn’t quite up there with the best of them, but the A380 is a very comfortable aircraft for passengers and, with the luxury of a better seat choice next time, I shouldn’t think it will be too long before another trip on the flagship of the BA fleet.

LHR-DUB, British Airways Club Europe, A320

There is no longer a Fast Track boarding pass check for UK & Ireland connections in T5 (presumably because BA are too stingy to pay for it), which meant a short wait before reaching an agent. The agent had to re-issue our boarding passes for the LHR-DUB sector onto BA stock before granting us passage. Once past the boarding pass desk, there is a Fast Track lane for the UK & Ireland security photograph, and then a convoluted lane that snakes all the way around to join the main international connections Fast Track lane up to North Security. Regular users of T5 will know that Flight Connections is not exactly its strongest point, and the whole process took upwards of 15 minutes on this occasion. I am hopeful that things will improve when a project currently underway by HAL (the airport operators) concludes, allowing connecting passengers to use an expanded South Security in addition to North.

We popped into the nearest lounge (Galleries Club North) to freshen up after the long flight from LAX, but didn’t have a great amount of time before boarding. As usual with the Galleries Club lounges in T5A, the lounge was uncomfortably busy and in rather poor condition 7 years after opening.

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The usual generic Fast Track boarding announcement was made at the gate, and two lucky connecting passengers in front of us were upgraded to CE on this completely full flight. Our flight to the Irish capital today would be on BA’s oldest operational A320, G-EUUA, delivered to BA in 2001 and equipped with main screen IFE for longer European flights. Despite this, the aircraft looked very fresh inside with the new Pinnacle cabin with 7 rows of CE today.

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Pushback was delayed by around 35 minutes due to some connecting passengers’ bags having to be offloaded, slightly ironic given what was to happen with our baggage at the end of this flight…

Once airborne, a rare announcement was made that the forward washroom was for CE only, a sure sign of a good crew! Hot towels were passed around the cabin and the standard Band 1 dinner service commenced with a trio of chicken salad (the same tasty dish I’d enjoyed coming pack from Paris the month previously), warm bread and small delicious dessert pot. Plenty of drinks top-ups were offered by the crew, despite a full cabin of 28 passengers.

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We didn’t make up too much time en-route, and landed around half an hour behind schedule, a total of 3.5 hours late given our original scheduled time of arrival into DUB from LCY. Frustratingly one of our checked bags didn’t make the LHR-DUB flight, which I thought rather odd given the other bag did. The Swissport agent representing BA at DUB was an absolute star, clearly well versed in dealing with tired and annoyed passengers. The lady advised us that there was a good chance of the bag being on the final flight of the day, which would arrive into DUB in around 3 hours’ time. We opted to go into the city to our hotel in the interim, with me returning to DUB to collect the bag via a couple of taxis after the agent called to confirm that the bag had ‘99.99%’ surely been loaded onto the flight. BA were unable to offer a courier service ‘out of hours’, although clearly it was ‘within hours’ for their flying schedule…

I wrote to BA about the baggage issue and received a laughably predictable nine-paragraph copy and paste response from somebody who clearly hadn’t read my original complaint properly. I responded by email and also tweeted BA, which elicited a phone call the next day from their social media team. I was successful in having the original routing credit for this trip applied to our accounts, but BA wouldn’t budge on the baggage issue and offered no compensation or refund of the taxi fares. This is sadly predictable behaviour from an airline that seems to have more than a few lapses in customer focus these days.

DUB-LHR British Airways Club Europe, A319

Our taxi dropped us at DUB for the final sector of this trip back to London. There was no queue at either of the Club Europe desks – I enquired what the upgrade price to CE would be, and accepted the EUR100 per person charge to end the trip in as much style as BA shorthaul will allow! Fast Track security was empty, as was the lounge – the agent welcomed us in and introduced herself, and checked whether we wanted anything when she came around to clear empties. I resisted the temptation to request any substantial food…

Fast Track boarding was clearly announced, and the line was combed to weed out any ineligible passengers. The hand baggage policy was stated several times at the gate in a vain attempt to avoid the all-too-common situation of complete bedlam onboard.

Our A319, G-EUPY, had 5 rows of CE today, with 13 passengers in the forward cabin. Hot towels were offered shortly after takeoff, and afternoon tea service commenced with the same sandwiches we had on this very sector just over a week previously. The Club Europe afternoon tea service gets a lot of detractors on the BA board, but I find it a perfectly acceptable meal. I would perhaps prefer it finished at an earlier time than the current 17:00 departure cut-off (particularly on Band 3 flights) given the usual service time of the meal after departure, but the sandwiches are invariably very fresh, and the scones and cake delicious. Afternoon tea is a British tradition, after all!

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This was another solid experience with BA to end a brilliant trip.

All comments and questions are appreciated and welcomed - they make writing trip reports all the more worthwhile.

Until next time, safe travels.

Genius12

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Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 269
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Fri Jun 12, 2015 9:26 pm

Quoting fxramper (Reply 1):

I'm already confused? Maybe just start your massive excessive thread part 1 of 20 next time.
It all looks like One World; below par.
Nice pics, too many though.

How are you confused? I was still editing the report together when you posted - plenty more pictures now  

If you read the text, you will see that (particularly on the BA First sector), oneworld can be pretty good. I take it you usually travel with airlines outside of the oneworld alliance?

I have tailored the report here to only include the flight sectors, as that is most relevant for this audience. If you want to see the hotel reviews and photos, as well as photos and thoughts from San Francisco and Dublin, there's a link at the top of the report  

[Edited 2015-06-12 14:30:24]
 
ElanusNotatus
Posts: 720
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Sat Jun 13, 2015 2:08 pm

Hi Genius12,

What a marathon journey you made but made in style. I like a well-written and detailed report, accompanied by good quality photos, and your report certainly fits the bill even if some might consider it too long for their attention span.  

It is fascinating to see the contrasting approaches adopted by the airlines and the policies regarding lounges. In many parts of the world lounge access, including meals, beverages and even spa treatment is part of the package while for some it seems to be an ancilliary product for which extra fees are extracted.

Shame that not everything went smoothly with the baggage delay and inconvenience you exoerienced.

Thanks for sharing.
EN
 
minmaguire
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:09 pm

Great report! I read it on flyertalk a few days ago and just read this version now! My wife and I are doing the same-ish trip in a few weeks DUB-JFK-LAX-LHR-DUB. Not too worried about collecting Tier points so took a more direct routing..although slightly concerned about AA757! Do you have any idea how early we can check in at LAX for BA evening flight?
Thanks for help!
 
767747
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:03 pm

Great report, Genuis12! It made for a very enjoyable read on this Saturday afternoon.

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
The full original routing was DUB-LHR-JFK-SFO-JFK-LCY-DUB, with all legs in business class, except the LHR-JFK sector which was upgraded to First with Avios. The JFK-LCY sector utilised BA’s Club World London City product, whilst the transcontinentals were on AA’s relatively new 3-class A321. The actual routing ended up being SFO-LAX-LHR-DUB on the return part of the trip, including a trip on the BA A380. Positioning flights LHR-DUB and DUB-LHR were also booked to complete the trip and enjoy a night in Dublin.

Wow, what a routing! I absolutely love to fly, but I wonder if I would have gotten a bit bored with so much time in the air!

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
CE passengers were served the infamous ‘extended breakfast’ – certainly not worth the £105 per person POUG (proactive online upgrade) being offered through MMB and at OLCI.

105 pounds for a 35 minute flight? Definitely not worth that money.

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
Approaching First check-in in Zone J, we were escorted to a free desk after a very slight wait, with the escorting agent announcing to the desk agent that we were on the New York flight – a nice touch meaning fewer questions asked at the desk.

I've seen this entrance in other reports; love the BA swirl up above.

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
Service throughout this flight was amongst the best I’ve experienced on BA. Both crew members were very attentive, constantly offering extras and top-ups. The lady serving the K side of the aircraft addressed me by name every time. The crew can make or break a flight, and this crew absolutely made it for me this time. When I wrote to BA at the end of the trip, I made sure to thank them and was told their managers would be informed of my comments.

Great to hear! I've seen/heard mixed reviews of BA of late, but this report makes their F experience appear to be very nice, and definitely a step above Club. But, as you said, it's very dependent on the crew.

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
For the view (including the New York skyline in the distance) and natural light alone, I would rate the Flagship Lounge as slightly better than BA’s Galleries First lounge at JFK, but AA’s attempt at a first class offering is little more than a slightly quieter version of an average business class lounge.

I think your view of AA's "attempt at a First Class offering is a little more than a slightly quieter verson of an average business class lounge" to be an assessment that would carry over to the inflight experience as well. While AA has come a long way in the last few years, I don't see too much of a difference between their Business and First cabins in the way of service and food, albeit the seat difference, and perhaps a bit more personal attention.

Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to your next trip.

Best,

Matthew
 
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kann123air
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:16 pm

Hey Genius12, fantastic report! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Amrit
 
jetwet1
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Sun Jun 14, 2015 5:30 pm

Fantastic report, thank you for taking the time to put this all together for us.

Quoting Genius12 (Thread starter):
This aircraft, as with most in the shorthaul fleet now, was fitted with the new Pinnacle cabin – 30” pitch throughout both Euro Traveller and Club Europe

Honestly, this is a joke, with family in the UK we normally spend a few days there, then fly to somewhere in Europe for a week, with this move BA managed to stop us from ever flying internationally with them.

Quoting Genius12 (Reply 3):
This is where AA fails in comparison to BA – on a comparable Band 1 flight in Club Europe, one could expect a main course salad, warm bread and small dessert on a flight of this length at lunchtime, rather than AA’s rather miserly choice of biscuits, crisps or nuts.

Agreed, food is where the US airlines fall flat on their faces, at least on these short sectors, with that said, the BA breakfast back to the UK isn't much better.
 
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vhtje
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Tue Jun 16, 2015 12:03 am

Super report, thanks for posting!

I personally do not mind the BA CW seat - lord knows I spend enough time in one crossing the Atlantic. In my view, it is one of the better business class seats, the lack of accessible storage around the seat not withstanding. You should try AA across the Atlantic one day - they are getting increasingly competitive with BA with their new 77Ws and refurbished 772s. Plus, AA know how to cook a steak - if in they would teach BA!
 
N1120A
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Tue Jun 16, 2015 4:20 am

Quoting Genius12 (Reply 2):
Quite why AA continue to think that plastic glasses are acceptable in premium cabins is beyond me.

They aren't allowed to use glass for PDBs, for safety reasons. You can argue about that, but at least you don't have to show your BP stub to the FA on boarding as with BA.

Quoting Genius12 (Reply 2):
They were also oblivious to the numerous passengers totally ignoring the seatbelt sign (although this stayed on for a ridiculously long time after takeoff until we were well into the cruise).

Very common among US carriers.

Quoting Genius12 (Reply 3):
I’ve since learnt that the SFO security agents aren’t TSA agents, which perhaps goes some way to explaining why my experience with them was the most positive of this trip by far.

Pre Check is the reason it was pleasant. The CAS contractors at SFO are, if you can believe it, even worse than most TSA.

Quoting Genius12 (Reply 3):
I’m not wholly sure why these headphones were on the seats as no IFE was offered on the flight.

There absolutely was IFE. On that plane, there was audio and probably overhead video short subject TV. Those AA earbuds hurt, however, and are only good for emergencies

Quoting vhtje (Reply 11):
You should try AA across the Atlantic one day - they are getting increasingly competitive with BA with their new 77Ws and refurbished 772s.

AA's newer C seats, across the fleet, are significantly better than the BA seats.
 
AA737-823
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:23 am

Fantastic report, thank you for taking the time to post it. I've enjoyed the pictures, and detailed descriptions.


That said, you seem confused by AA's obsession with cheese.
Have you ever eaten cheese? Because, if you had, you'd understand that it is utterly incredible, and should become part and parcel of every meal. In fact, I'd rank it second overall to bacon for "overall enhancement value."
 

I was surprised to learn that BA doesn't provide a full brekkie on a long flight like California - London. In BIZ.
I mean... even United provides a decent hot meal on such a flight!
 
Genius12
Topic Author
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RE: The City By The Bay Via JFK - BA/AA First And Club

Tue Jun 16, 2015 8:41 pm

Thanks for all the comments, much appreciated!

Quoting minmaguire (Reply 7):
Do you have any idea how early we can check in at LAX for BA evening flight?

BA usually open check-in around 3 hours before the first departure of the day, so typically they will open at around 12:30.

Quoting 767747 (Reply 8):
I absolutely love to fly, but I wonder if I would have gotten a bit bored with so much time in the air!

The flights were broken up in LHR, SFO and DUB with hotel stays, as detailed in the FlyerTalk version of my report (linked at the top of this report). The longest flying days were LHR-JFK-SFO and SFO-LAX-LHR.

Quoting 767747 (Reply 8):
105 pounds for a 35 minute flight? Definitely not worth that money.

EUR100 is about GBP72.

Quoting N1120A (Reply 12):
They aren't allowed to use glass for PDBs, for safety reasons. You can argue about that, but at least you don't have to show your BP stub to the FA on boarding as with BA.

The safety reason is ridiculous given every decent airline offers glasses for PDBs in premium cabins. BA no longer require BPs to be shown on shorthaul narrow body flights. On wide body flights, they are still required in order to direct passengers in the correct direction at the door and to escort First passengers to their seats.

Quoting N1120A (Reply 12):
Pre Check is the reason it was pleasant. The CAS contractors at SFO are, if you can believe it, even worse than most TSA.

Interesting - the agents I had were very friendly.

Quoting N1120A (Reply 12):
There absolutely was IFE. On that plane, there was audio and probably overhead video short subject TV.

The overhead screens didn't show anything other than the generic safety/welcome announcements on this flight. Not sure whether radio was offered.

Quoting AA737-823 (Reply 13):
Have you ever eaten cheese?

I have indeed!  I don't like cooked cheese at all.

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