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Joined: Sun Dec 05, 1999 3:34 pm

Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:02 pm

Readers of my previous trip reports may know that I spent a year living and working in London, UK, where I met my future wife. We moved back to North America in 2003, however, I had so enjoyed that year that I was so excited to go back some day. Unfortunately, I just hadn’t gotten the chance. There was always something that got in the way – money, work commitments, our kids, the fact that our families were on opposite ends of the continent and needed visits – meant that we could not prioritize it. However, my incessant moaning about it got extremely annoying to my wife, who suggested that if we didn’t have the time or ability to take a family trip, maybe I should just go on my own for a week. So, I promised to keep the trip as cheap as possible, and started looking for a package deal for travel during Spring Break, 2012 (I'm currently a student).

Although prices during the break were too high, I found a package for just over $1,000, within the first two weeks of my Spring Term. It was spanning the April Bank Holiday weekend (arriving Friday morning, departing Wednesday afternoon), and included five nights in a hostel, and the following flights:

American Airlines MD-83, PDX-DFW - American Airlines 777-200, DFW-LHR
British Airways 747-400, LHR-SEA - Alaska/Horizon Q400, SEA-PDX

This trip would include my first-ever time on board a 747! Oh, so excited I was. I was looking forward to wandering around in all the places that I had frequented almost a decade ago. Also, I may have mentioned how I am a real transport nerd – so I was also excited see all of the cool new vehicles and updated train stations that had appeared since since I’d been gone.

It was tough getting through that month, but I finally made it! It was two days from departure. And then, came a surprise.

On April 3rd, 2012, a huge storm cell moved through the Dallas/Fort Worth region. 22 tornadoes were confirmed to have touched down in the area, and DFW airport was pounded with golfball-sized hail. I watched with a sinking heart as the news came in that a good-sized portion of American’s fleet was now out of service until the aircraft could be inspected for hail damage. The airport was closed, passengers were stranded, and it was a bad-luck event all around.

I didn’t have any news about my flight until I arrived at school the next evening (the day before departing). I attempted to check in for my flight from a school computer, only to be told that my noon flight from Portland to Dallas Fort-Worth had been cancelled. No other information was given. So I got on the phone to see what could be done, hoping to be finished in time for the first night of my accounting class.

It took only about eight minutes on hold to reach someone (not bad, especially considering they must have been getting a lot of calls). I explained the problem and the pleasant rep on the end brought up my flight, and began looking for an alternative.

She found it pretty quickly; I was switched to travel out on AA’s 8am departure to DFW. Excellent! I had to leave pretty early in the morning, but at least I was on a plane now! I even got a window seat. She then started to look for earlier flights on to London, but I said that she didn’t need to – I had the perfect window seat picked already, and I didn’t mind extra time in Dallas…I thought I might head downtown and have a wander if I had a six-hour layover. However, just the act of starting to look for alternative flights somehow disconnected the veg meal request I had made on my already-booked flight. She said that she would put the request back in, but since it was a little less than 24 hours until the flight, it might not go through. I said that I would check at the airport and eat in advance if I needed to. I told her thank you, hung up, and ran off to my class much relieved.

Admittedly, I got barely any sleep that night, two and a half hours at best. I had to be at the airport earlier than the buses ran, so I took a cab up to the Lloyd Center MAX station, and caught the red line train all the way to the airport.

I chose to check my rolling suitcase so I didn’t have to lug it around Dallas. Security was crowded, as is usual in the mornings, but I was through fairly quick. I didn’t wander too much as I was still tired, but I found my gate and listened to music while waiting for boarding.

Waiting for passengers

Flight 1 of 4
  • Thursday, April 5th, 2012
  • Portland International Airport (KPDX) – Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport (KDFW)

  • American Airlines, McDonnell Douglas MD-83

  • N975TW

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Photo © Manas Barooah

The flight boarded on time. I took a seat, and was happy to find that an empty middle seat separated me from my neighbor. Shortly before departure though, a woman arrived and took the window seat directly in front of me. She was one of those people who just makes you roll your eyes – she talked with an annoying nasally accent, and spoke waaaay too loud, in a tone that's impossible to ignore. And she immediately started yapping to her neighbors. “Aah, I didn’t think I’d make it on this flight! My cab was 10 minutes late and I thought I was a goner!” Oh lord help me, a 10-minute cab delay meant that you made it to your flight with a scant two minutes to spare??? Please, let her neighbors not encourage her by talking much.

We pushed back, and the engines roared to life. By the time we reached the runway, the woman had pretty much given up talking and it looked like she was now trying for some sleep. We launched into the air, and turned towards the southeast towards Texas.

She ended up not sleeping. She started talking to her neighbors again, but they weren’t that talkative. Awesome! But then the guy in front of them turned around and got in on the conversation. He seemed the ‘beefcake’ type. And the conversation they had reminded me of the moronic interviews they do on those horrific reality shows - where they talk about only themselves, but try to work it up to sound all meaningful, as if they can link any possible life lesson to themselves in some way. And just as on reality shows, they sounded pretty much like jackasses no matter what they say.

I might as well tell you what I heard, since the volume of her voice wouldn't let me ignore her. Apparently she was on her way to New York to have an interview for a writing position at some big news outlet, and the person who was interviewing her may or may not have wanted to have a relationship with her. She’s not married but has a kid, and she also talked endlessly about her trip to Thailand. Oh, and she purchased alcohol twice – on this 8am flight.

You may have noticed I’ve talked more about her than the flight. But I just couldn't ignore the volume of her voice (the guy wasn't so bad). The conversation was annoying the crap out of me…and it lasted THE WHOLE FLIGHT. No breaks. So I put on music, as loud as I could and delved into my book.

Mountain crossing

And so we made our way across the mountains and deserts towards Dallas. We landed on time, and had a lengthy taxi to the gate.

Arriving at DFW

Lufthansa A340

Plenty of American jets

Pulling up to the gate

Shiny 777

We pulled up next to a gleaming 777 and I got to listen to the heartfelt goodbyes from the people in front of me. “If I get this job, the first thing I’ll be writing about is this flight!!!” And if you write that article, the first thing I’ll be doing is trolling in the comments section.

Ugh. Just...ugh. But ah! I was here. Dallas was cloudless and warm that day (in marked contrast to the stormy images I had been seeing from two days ago), and I proceeded out to the roadway to find a bus that would take me to CenterPort, where I could catch a TRE commuter train into Dallas. I found it pretty quick, and got on the air-conditioned shuttle. I had to change buses halfway there due to their routings, but I finally made it, and waited just ten minutes for the next eastbound train.

CenterPort TRE Station

It was a pretty dull side trip overall, the weather turned hotter than I’m comfortable with, so my walk was pretty short. I did get to take some shots of a few nice-looking buildings, and some trains.

Downtown Dallas

Dallas DART light rail

I'm not sure, but I think we're in Texas

The 3:50pm train back to CenterPort was much busier than coming into the city, since we were starting to catch the evening exodus from downtown. But I still had a nice seat, and I enjoyed the ride. There was a shuttle waiting for me at the station, and within 20 minutes I was back at the airport.

I went to the closest security check I could find at Terminal D, and was surprised to find it was extremely crowded, and extremely slow. I thought that since DFW was less into the O&D market, it wouldn't be so bad...but wow. After fifteen minutes of not getting very far in that line, a TSA agent called from the line entrance that there was another checkpoint a two minute walk from there, where there was barely a line at all. I hesitated, since I knew many people behind me would get there first, but decided to head there. Sure enough, by the time I got there the line was almost as long as the one I left. I sighed, and just waited it out. The entire process (both lines) took about 50 minutes.

The first place I went was to find AA customer service to ask if my vegetarian meal would be aboard the aircraft. I needed to know if I should be eating first. I asked an agent at a service desk, she looked up my ticket, and smiled – “yes, I do see it here on your ticket!” Excellent! I thanked her with a big smile. Now I could just go explore with my last hour before boarding.

I did the ‘grand tour’ of DFW, as I’ve always thought the SkyTrain is. If you ride the train around counter-clockwise, you get to look out over the airfield as the train makes its way through all five terminals. It’s quite the exciting experience for the av buff!

Qantas 747 in between voyages

My first time encountering Vision Airlines

US Airways A320

All over the airport, I could see aircraft sitting idle on the ramp, no doubt waiting for their damage inspections. I seem to recall that there were about 60 mainline aircraft taken out of service after the storm, and it seemed to the untrained eye that more than half of them were still sitting out waiting for inspections. One good thing that I knew was that only a single 777 was out of service, so I had known ahead of time that my flight to London (on a 777) would not be delayed because of it.

Stranded MD-80s

I had noticed that there were no photo opportunities of my aircraft from the gate, so I tried my best to get a photo of it from the SkyTrain.

My aircraft, an American Airlines 777-200

DFW D Terminal

I couldn't get a photo of my own 777, but here's another one gate-side in perfect light!

Zoomed out

After doing the full circuit, I headed back to the gate. Boarding began fifteen minutes later, and I waited until most everyone else had boarded before boarding myself.

Flight 2 of 4
  • Thursday, April 5th, 2012
  • Dallas Fort-Worth International Airport (KDFW) – London Heathrow International Airport (EGLL)

  • American Airlines, Boeing 777-200

  • N753AN

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Photo © James Mellon

I had a window seat close to the back of the aircraft. It looked like all of the window and aisle seats in the rear economy section were occupied, but a good number of the center seats remained free. My seatmate was an older woman traveling to England to visit her son and his family. She was very friendly but a bit on the large side, so I felt a bit squished for the bulk of the flight. We talked for a bit, and as we taxied out, she showed me photo albums of all of her kids and grandkids (she travels prepared!). The sun was setting at the time, but we were talking away so I missed any photos of departure. The taxi was fairly quick, and we took off to the north. We both watched out the window as we climbed out over Texas while dusk fell over (I think) Lewisville Lake. It was quite a beautiful sight!

After we reached cruise, the crew did their drink run. AA had just recently begun serving free beer and wine in trans-Atlantic economy, so myself and my seatmate each were given two bottles of red wine (one for now, one for the meal) and we toasted the start of a great trip for both of us. I noticed that the regular meal service had begun, and I thought I would have received my special meal already. I asked the flight attendant when she got to our row, and she said that if I hadn’t received it yet, then it wasn’t on board. Oh brother, really? I had that meal reserved for a month, and because of a moment’s checking by a reservations agent it was gone. I guess the agent who checked had seen the request, not the actual meal being on the plane. However, the day was saved – one of the meal options was vegetarian! It was a cheese-filled tortellini with tomato sauce, served with salad, bread, and a brownie for dessert. And I have to say, it was pretty darned good! It was actually the first time I had been served a meal on an aircraft in almost a decade (haven’t done any travel outside of North America in that time, and it’s been all buy-on-board). They did a second drink run, and we got some more wine and enjoyed our meals.

After a third drink run and a clearing away of the cutlery, the whole cabin sunk into a nice calm. The lights were dimmed, some people lay down in the center section to sleep, and I decided to watch some of the PTV programming…I think I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory and The Simpsons. I then got a bit of a kick when I went exploring in the entertainment system and found that I could play Tetris. My seatmate watched and asked “what’s that game?” WHAT! You’ve never seen Tetris??? However, it was nearly impossible to play because of the laggy and unresponsive hand controller, so it didn’t last too long. Oh well.

After that, I felt pretty tired so I tried to get some sleep. It didn’t work too well though. So I watched an episode of BBC’s Sherlock (it was a second-season episode that I hadn’t seen yet), and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Again I tried to sleep. Still nothing. I watched a movie but spaced through half of it, I don’t even remember what it was.

Out over the Atlantic, we went through a period of rough turbulence. I won’t lie – I got pretty freaked out – images of AF447 kept popping into my head. Luckily, it didn’t last too long. Finally, I managed to fall asleep.

I woke up only about two hours later, when we were approaching the British Isles. The sun started to rise, and we got a breakfast consisting of a warm croissant, yogurt, and I don’t remember what else.

Good morning Europe, wherever you are

I was starting to feel a bit stir crazy and overly excited to get on the ground, but when we arrived into London airspace, we were directed to hold south of the airport for about half an hour.

So close, yet so far

Finally, we were directed into the approach. I was on the perfect side of the aircraft, on the perfect approach, with the perfect weather, and was able to get those awesome photos of central London that we all love to see.

The Thames Barrier and LCY

Isle of Dogs


Westminster & Waterloo Station

Belgravia I think?

Another bend in the Thames

Kew Gardens...I remember having a date with my wife here!

Hounslow? In any case, really really close.

The huge LHR complex begins

“If you were on BA038, you'd have landed by now!”

We touched down on the south runway, and I excitedly snapped photos of all the cool aircraft out the window. We taxied around to Terminal three.

Only my second time seeing an A380 in real life – and no, I don't get out much

Spoiler alert, there are many different airlines at LHR

And what country are you from?

Really like the blue

I'm really here, I'm really here – OMG I'm so excited!!!

When we docked, an arrivals rep came on board and gave all passengers a warning that due to labor issues, there was a longer-than-usual wait at customs and immigration. I left the aircraft, and as with everyone else, started really hustling to customs, expecting pandemonium. I figure that all arriving passengers had received the same warning, because there was an Air Canada 773 and a Thai 747 which arrived at the same time as we did - and all passengers coming off of those flights seemed to be rushing as well. I arrived in the customs hall, and lined up at international arrivals. The line wasn’t *too* bad, I think it took about 45 minutes to get through – but the line had easily doubled in size when I reached the front as when I joined. But, my passport was stamped, and here I was! I had a Zones 1-4 Travelcard for the week, and I opted to take the bus to a rail station in Zone 4 to save the extension fare. So I bused it to Southall Station and caught a Heathrow Connect train into Paddington.
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Posts: 391
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 1999 3:34 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:05 pm

Well, I won’t bore you with all the details of my trip. But being that you all probably like traveling stories, I will share the adventure of my first day and night – because it really was quite the adventure. As you recall, I had booked the cheapest accommodation available to save money. That ended up being a hostel out near Kensal Green. I showed up, and the first thing I noticed is how run-down it looked on the outside. There was a large group of people standing right outside the front door smoking, and when I got inside, it was just as run-down as the exterior. I was told by the disinterested check-in clerk that there was a ten-pound key charge for the room (this was the first I’d heard). Since she wouldn't accept the only eight pounds I had on me, I had to walk out fifteen minutes to the nearest ATM.

The ATM walk took me along this pleasant canal

With some more cash in hand, I returned, again fighting past the group of smokers. I checked in, and went up to my room. It was a mixed eight-person dorm room right above the front door (still smokers there). It looked like the entire room was booked, as there were personal belongings by all the beds but one; however no one was in the room. My top-bunk bed had some kind of gray ash over the top sheet, which made it look like whoever made the bed did so while smoking. I thought it was a perfect time for a shower, so I went in search of one. I walked the entire third floor, and though I found the bathrooms (pretty disgusting to be honest), there were no showers. I did however find a cockroach running along the baseboards. Returning to my room in confusion, I then noticed that there was a small shower stall in THE ROOM ITSELF. Yes, a room shared with seven strangers, male and female, had a small shower stall in the room itself. Privacy while showering would be difficult if not impossible. Wow. In any case, I took advantage of the empty room to shower, and then I decided against a nap – I just wanted to get out of here. I’ll worry about it later. Maybe tonight I’ll be so exhausted that I’ll just collapse into bed without thinking too much about how awful this place is.

And so I took off into London! My favorite city – it was so great to be back.

Buses at Victoria Station

The hustle inside Victoria Station

My old workplace in Clerkenwell – which was completely deserted (as was the entire area) on this Bank Holiday Friday

London Overground train at Clapham Junction

Waterloo Station, going through considerable construction works

From Waterloo Bridge

Now, the moment I had been dreading had arrived. I had to go back to the hostel. I arrived at about 10:15pm, and went to the room. It was still deserted, clouds of smoke were still coming through the window, and music was absolutely pounding from the club/restaurant located in the building. I decided that I wouldn’t go to sleep without meeting at least one of my roommates, so I cracked open my book some more. At about 10:45pm, the room was still empty. I was getting more and more pissed off, and decided to leave the hostel again. I rode the bus back into the city, and noticed a 24-hour internet café. Ah, a perfect place to waste an hour.

When I sat down at the computer, still frustrated with my lodging choice, I started to wonder how much it would cost to get another room – something a little more private. I caught up with my wife on Facebook and she said go for it (God bless her), and I found an inexpensive hotel near Edgware Road Station, and booked it for the following night onwards. I was much happier now, but my heart still dropped at the thought of spending even the one night at that hellhole. Then it dawned on me – in my 34 years, I have never once stayed up all night. But here I was in a city I loved, with unlimited travel, and a network of night buses that I could just ride around in to keep warm. I was horribly behind on sleep, but I had a second (or maybe third, fourth, fifth) wind going, so why not? My excitement revved back up again. I grabbed a coffee to go and headed back out into the cool late evening. I spent the last few minutes of the day wandering a near-abandoned St. Pancras Station and feeling alive!

Newly-opened ticket area of King's Cross Station – the last trains of the night are departing

An abandoned St. Pancras Station at midnight (despite what the clock says) – kind of surreal. The last time I was here it looked VERY different.

After that, I found an open-late sandwich shop, got some much-needed food energy, and caught a bus towards Walthamstow, the east London suburb where I had lived for six months. I wasn’t going to explore (I’d return for that), I just needed a direction to go. I got out there, and returned on a different route. I was amazed, when we came back into central London at 2:30am, just how busy the city still was. There were people everywhere! I arrived at Victoria, used the facilities (someone was asleep and loudly snoring in one of the stalls), and slowly traveled out towards Paddington. When I arrived, I couldn’t see many options for bus travel onwards, so I decided to wait in the station for the first local train out. The first one didn’t leave until 4:42 am, so I had a bit more than an hour to wait. By now, my stay-up-all-night excitement had completely waned, and I walked about shivering in the cold, abandoned station for that time. As the Heathrow trains started to arrive for their morning duties, I was able to get some pretty cool photos.

One of my favorite photos of the trip – Paddington at about 4:15 am

From the crossing bridge – Heathrow trains in place for the day's first runs

It was only at about five minutes before departure when they actually opened the doors of the train, and I was able to get on and start warming up. Being nice and warm almost put me to sleep, but I had to force myself off the train at Southall (my ticket wasn’t valid beyond there), and I was out in the damp cold again. There were few bus options, so I just went to the opposite platform to wait for the next train headed back. But damn, it was another 30 minutes to wait.

Southall Station – cold and quiet at 5:15 am

By the time I was back in the city, the Underground was just starting to open up for business.

Warming up on an extended Bakerloo trip

It was beautifully balmy in the tube compared to out in the open, and I made my morning plan while warming up on the empty Bakerloo line. I would travel back to Walthamstow, check out my old neighborhood, return to the hostel at about 10am, grab my suitcase, head to the new hotel, and if my room was available, take a much-needed nap.

Although I must have been kind of zombie-like in my appearance, I still very much enjoyed the morning!

My old house out in Walthamstow

Taking the Overground back into the city – Gospel Oak Station

I returned to the hostel at about 10:30, and gave the still-disinterested check-in clerk my made-up story about a friend having offered a place to stay (I'm too polite to say that I wouldn’t sleep in this disgusting place if they held a gun to my head), and I was told that while they couldn’t give refunds, they could give credit for the unused nights that I could use over the next six months. Yeah, that's happening.

Even though I ended up having completely wasted money on this place, I was not at all depressed about losing it...I was just happy to be out of there. I walked past the smoker’s club one last time, and I felt free! Within half an hour, I arrived at my new hotel. The room was ready, and although it was the size of a closet, I had never felt more relaxed and comfortable. By now I had been through 65 hours with less than 5 solid hours of sleep, so I passed out pretty quick. I slept for four hours (longer than I wanted, but I unknowingly turned off my alarm in my sleep).

Well, that was the most exciting part of my story. Now I’ll just show you some of the photos I took during the rest of my stay. As I said, I am really into transport so I got lots of photos of trains, stations, buses, and I also spent some time spotting at London City.

Regent's Park area

Oxford Street, from the top of a bus

Wellington Arch

Barking at night

Barking Station

New S-class underground trains at Aldgate Station

I decided to go back to the hostel; I really wanted a picture. Memories...

Hampstead Tube Station

Central Walthamstow

Storefronts of Hoe St., Walthamstow

The Victoria, Walthamstow

The Olympics was still 4 months away, here's how it looked

Cool new DLR train at Canary Wharf Station

DLR at Poplar Station

Classic Routemaster at the end of Heritage Route 15

They were just finishing building this when I left – the London Gherkin

New Cross Station – I spent a long time waiting at this station for a train that didn't come, since the route was out of service for track upgrades this weekend

Lewisham Station

Brixton Station – I really ended up loving this photo

Croyden Tramlink – a somewhat uglier paint scheme than when I was last here

Another casualty of track maintenance week, I couldn't take the Tramlink any farther than Mitcham Junction. So, I took a train back into London from there

First thing in the morning at Baker Street Underground Station

Beautiful building in Kensington

At Clapham Junction Station

London Bridge Station

Awesome double-decker

Silver Routemaster

Near Trafalgar Square, another Routemaster

King's Cross Station

Standing on Blackfriars Bridge

London Liverpool Street Station

While spotting at London City Airport, these clouds moved through and dumped a ton of rain

Pouring rain all over London

DO-328 taking off in the rain

And just as soon as the rain showed up, the sun was out for BA's A318 departure for Shannon and New York

I had been quite excited to see this one!

Luxair and the end of a rainbow

Air France/Cityjet

One of many BA E-jets

Pity the shadow, this was a cool catch – my first photo of an Alitalia plane in about a decade

Cityjet F-50

It was a surprisingly beautiful evening after the rain disappeared

In Rotherhithe - a few dozen meters from where my wife and I lived during our last 6 weeks in London

Some of the refurbished maritime buildings that populate the docklands

Isle of Dogs panorama – click to view larger!

I last made this walk 10 years ago, but I still remembered the route to Canada Water Station...what a beautiful area

My last night in London had me taking a long walk along the Thames for some night photos – here's the Shard

Looking towards the London Eye and Charing Cross

From a pedestrian overpass of some sort

London Eye and Westminster

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Posts: 391
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 1999 3:34 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 7:07 pm

I had such a great trip. It was everything I had wanted it to be – I explored all the places I used to frequent, saw some new places, took tons of photos, but now, sadly, it was time to return home. I had a flight back on British Airways (my first-ever 747 flight), and I arrived early to explore Heathrow a bit. I started in Terminal 4, and then rode the surface buses out to Terminal 5.

Heathrow Connect train at Terminal 4

I had seen photos of Terminal 5 (new since I'd last been here), but it is very impressive in person! Just the size of it…wow.

I wanted to carry my suitcase on the aircraft so that if we arrived in Seattle early, I could stand-by for an earlier flight on to Portland. However, the carry-on sizes are smaller than American carriers so unfortunately I had to check it.

Even though I had just as little on me as I normally do while traveling in the US, the buzzer still went off when I went through security and I was forced to have a pat-down. I then got to walk around the terminal and marvel at the size.

Massive interior of Terminal 5

British Airways a'plenty

Unfortunately it's difficult to get photos of the individual aircraft

Overlook panorama; the elevators straight ahead lead to the satellite terminal access tunnel

BA's Olympic A320 – with a shadow on it, it looks kind of ghostly and pale – hardly ideal for Olympic show-off-iness

I knew that the flight would depart from one of the satellites, and it wasn’t posted which one until about an hour from departure. I made my way over to Terminal 5A via the train. When I came out from the train and took the escalator up to the departures level, there were magnificent views of a 747 in front of me. I soon found out that it was my aircraft.

Up close and personal

Beautiful day, pity there wasn't more sun during the rest of my stay


The Seattle flight departs at about 3pm, which is in a departure block not shared by many other flights, so the satellite was almost completely deserted – I think of the sixteen-or-so gates, only two had active flights.

Some other 747s parked nearby

Awesome-looking plane

Plenty of widebodies at the satellite terminals

Good ol' 777

We started noticing that there was probably going to be a delay as the boarding time came and went. There was almost no activity at the aircraft – no food trucks, no cargo being loaded, nothing. Although about half of the passengers were lined up (including me), gate agents came over the PA system and said that boarding would be delayed for 15 minutes, and would we all just sit down. No one did, I guess not wanting to lose their place in line.

15 minutes later, the same announcement was given once more. I chose to leave the line, and went and found a quieter place to sit and wait it out. I had noticed that there was now activity out by the aircraft, so things were progressing.

Still no one in the jetway

The satellite terminal was very quiet this time of day

Boarding began about 45 minutes later than scheduled, and I excitedly lined up at the entrance. The crew was very professional – looking at my boarding pass, smiling, and welcoming me on board by name. I had lucked out on online seat selection the day before, snagging a window seat in the 2nd last row of the aircraft – where the fuselage begins tapering. This combined with the two-abreat seating makes it a very spacious economy seat with plenty of personal space. My seatmate was a quiet British man in his thirties, with American residency.

Flight 3 of 4
  • Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
  • London Heathrow International Airport (EGLL) – Seattle Tacoma International Airport (KSEA)

  • British Airways, Boeing 747-400

  • G-BNLY

Pushback happened about 50 minutes later than scheduled, and we began a slow taxi out to the runway. Anyone who has ever sat in the back of a long aircraft can attest to how strange and cool this feeling is – being that you are hanging so far out from the main landing gear, when the aircraft taxies and turns
sharply, you really feel like you’re on a ride, being pushed left and right with fair force!

Qantas A380s

PIA 777-300

TAM A330

Qatar 777, holding for the same runway

We arrived at the runway, and after a long acceleration, we were off into the wild blue yonder. Most everyone closed their shades for the flight, and soon the meals were served. I got my special meal, which was kind of disappointing. It was rigatoni with tomatoes and a white wine sauce that just didn’t seen very flavorful. It also was a pretty small portion. I was given a couple of bottles of red wine, and I ate while watching more of The Simpsons. I asked for a beer a little later on, as I enjoyed another unseen episode of Sherlock, and then watched the sixth Harry Potter movie.

Occasionally the passengers in front of me would open their shades to take a look out, and at one point they looked out for longer than normal. I followed suit and my jaw dropped to see the wide, snowy expanse of Greenland stretch out beneath us.

Greenland down below

Simply stunning

It was a stunning sight! After finishing Harry Potter 6, I decided to watch The Dark Knight, and I started to get really hungry. It had been about six hours since a too-small meal, and I was hoping for some snacks, but figured I would have to wait it out until the pre-arrival tea service. I got a chickpea salad sandwich, which was ok, but the bread was a bit soggy. There were also crackers, but the entire service barely made a dent in my hungry stomach. It’s strange that we received what seemed like less food on this, an eight-hour daytime flight, than I did on the red-eye to London. I was pretty disappointed about this, and so was my stomach.

We approached an overcast Seattle, and landed (I still had about 15 minutes left of my movie before they turned off the IFE system, dagnabbit). The flight emptied out, and we all proceeded to customs.

Waiting to deboard; here's an idea of the space I had

What a trip!

It took about 25 minutes to go through customs, and combined with the lateness of the flight, I figured I would be on the Portland flight I was booked on and couldn’t standby for anything earlier. But then when I got on the inter-terminal train, it didn’t go anywhere. It had broken down. With no other way to get to the other terminals, we were just forced to sit there and wait. Now I was afraid that I would miss my connection. After about 15 minutes, technicians got it moving again, and I hustled through the terminal and arrived at the gate where boarding was well underway. My seat on the Q400 was a window in the back of the aircraft, just in front of two immature-sounding teenage girls and beside a too-big man in a business suit. I was pretty wiped by this point, so I didn’t take any more photos.

Flight 4 of 4
  • Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
  • Seattle Tacoma International Airport (KSEA) – Portland International Airport (KPDX)

  • Alaska Airlines (Horizon), Bombardier Q400

  • Unknown Registration

The flight was short (you’re only in the air for about 35 minutes), but the FAs managed to do a drink run to the entire (full) cabin. Horizon Air serves free local beer/wine on their flights, and I had a nice microbrew. We arrived in Portland to a beautiful sunset, but I was so wiped that I didn’t take a single photo. I got my checked suitcase, and caught the MAX towards home. Sadly, my 5-month-old daughter burst into tears when I picked her up after getting home – I had been gone a week, and I smelled different. After a shower she was more comfortable with me though.

So, that was it! Here are some thoughts about the in-flight experience:

Flight one (AA PDX-DFW): OMG that was an annoying person to be sitting behind. The service was bog-standard US domestic fare, free non-alcoholic drinks and nothing else…I don’t remember too much about the flight.

Flight two (AA DFW-LHR): The service was just ok, nothing to write home about. Despite having my special meal disconnected, their regular meal option was vegetarian and it was pretty good. The breakfast was dull though, and only the warmed croissant differed the meal from a continental breakfast.

Flight three (BA LHR-SEA): The crew was exceptionally friendly and professional, but the meals were very small and I was hungry throughout half of the flight. No snacks or drinks were offered between lunch and tea (more than a five-hour span), although I did get a beer when I asked for one.

Flight four (QX SEA-PDX): The crew was friendly, as most of my experiences with Horizon Air have been. The free beer/wine was enjoyed as always.

Ultimately, it was a fantastic trip and one I will remember. Thank you for reading my trip report, and I hope you enjoyed it!

I hope you enjoyed my 11th trip report! Links to my other 10 are below in case you missed them.

2003 – FR/EZ LGW-DUB-EDI-LGW (and Spotting)
2004 (June-July) – Continental & NWA YYZ-CLE-SFO-MSP-YYZ
2005 (October) – Air Canada & United YYZ-ORD-SFO & 2005 Spotting photos
2006 (August) – United & Air Canada SFO-DEN-YYZ-DEN-SFO :: (picture link)
2007 (September) – US Airways FAT-LAS-MCE :: (picture link)
2007 (September) – United SFO-IAD-BUF-ORD-SFO
2008 (May) – US Airways FAT-LAS-LAX-LAS-FAT
2009 (January) – Toronto Aerial Tour w/story of my crash in 2000
2009 (May) – Northwest & Continental PDX-MSP-DTW-BUF-EWR-IAH-PDX
2010 (April) – The Trip Of No Point – PDX-SEA-DFW-TPA-ATL-PDX
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Joined: Wed Nov 21, 2001 2:35 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 8:52 pm

Great report - it's always a pleasure reading your reports and so pleased to see a new one published by you.

As a fellow resident of SE16, your pics there remind me what a great neighbourhood this is.

Super pics of London and boy, did you get around ! Just about every London mainline train station featured. I work near Victoria and try to avoid that station like the plague - it's horrific to be a commuter there because there are so many tourists with suitcases who don't have a clue where they are going (which is fine) but they all seem to think they are the only person on the platform/sidewalk, which in a city of nearly 8 million people, they are not!

There have been lots of changes here in the past decade. Some people say London never changes, but London is always changing. Every day.

Great review of your flights too. The BA 744s look super sleek and it will be sad to see them all eventually go.

Thanks again, Palmjet
Eastern - Number One To The Sun
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Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 5:43 am

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 9:39 pm

Great report! Looks like you had a great time in London - you got some great shots! Upcoming flights: AMS-RIX-BUD-VDA,ETH-TLV-FCO-LHR,STN-TXL-LCY,LTN-CPH-LTN,LGW-SZG,MUC-LHR
Posts: 6380
Joined: Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:16 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:12 pm

Great report!

You should have consulted with someone familiar with Dallas. Its not like northern cities where the action is downtown. Downtown is very dull and mostly just an office park. Uptown is much more vibrant and offers a lot of pedistrian activities.
Topic Author
Posts: 391
Joined: Sun Dec 05, 1999 3:34 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Sat Jul 13, 2013 1:02 am

Quoting palmjet (Reply 3):
As a fellow resident of SE16, your pics there remind me what a great neighbourhood this is.

Thanks Palmjet! I remember you mentioning in a past trip report that you were in that area and I'm glad you noticed the photos.

Quoting palmjet (Reply 3):
Super pics of London and boy, did you get around ! Just about every London mainline train station featured. I work near Victoria and try to avoid that station like the plague - it's horrific to be a commuter there because there are so many tourists with suitcases who don't have a clue where they are going (which is fine) but they all seem to think they are the only person on the platform/sidewalk, which in a city of nearly 8 million people, they are not!

I had it pretty well planned out to maximize my time. One thing is that I avoid the tourist spots. When I started traveling as a young adult I did the tourist traps, but as I grew I found that I didn't enjoy those things as much as just wandering around a city, exploring out-of-the-way neighborhoods and snapping lots of transport vehicles. Those closest I came to being a 'tourist' on this trip was using a public W/C by the Tower of London.  
Quoting gabrielchew (Reply 4):
Looks like you had a great time in London - you got some great shots!

Yes thank you, I certainly had a fantastic time!

Quoting LAXdude1023 (Reply 5):
You should have consulted with someone familiar with Dallas. Its not like northern cities where the action is downtown. Downtown is very dull and mostly just an office park. Uptown is much more vibrant and offers a lot of pedistrian activities.

It's a pity I didn't get to explore Dallas more, I'm hoping to go back maybe on a weekend trip to explore further. It was the heat combined with the tiredness combined with the limited connection time that pulled me back to the airport before seeing very much of interest. Next time!
Posts: 899
Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 7:17 am

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:30 pm

Quoting cytz_pilot (Thread starter):
and included five nights in a hostel

Why, that is usually a disaster in the best of cases.
But glad you enjoyed the trip.
Posts: 1866
Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 8:39 pm

RE: Riding Rails And Waxing Nostalgic In London -AA/BA

Sat Jul 13, 2013 11:58 pm

I find the AA chocolate brownie disgusting. They serve it on every international flight from the US.

The regular meals on BA are great. Surprised that their vegetarian meals are so bad.

I noticed that you get just as much food from London to New York as to London to the West Coast.

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