Tagged: ba

Rio to Heathrow (again) on BA World Traveller Plus 

Last weekend I flew a flight I have only done in business or first for the past two years in BA’s WT+, or Premium Economy.  Right up until check in I was due to fly in economy, and I wasn’t looking forward to it!  However I got upgraded to WT+ for free, most likely due to overbooking as there wasn’t a free seat on the plane!

The extra leg room and seat width, greater recline and improved food of WT+ makes a huge difference.  BA normally offer airport upgrades for around £200, and it’s very much worth it in my opinion.  Sleeping becomes feasible (comparatively), watching a movie becomes comfortable.

Seating is only 8 abreast, which is great.  That’s one less than most other airlines.  Economy is only 9, again one less than most.

Here’s a quick video of the cabin as I boarded:

The flight leaves at 945pm, so a reasonable enough time for an overnight flight.  A hot towel was offered shortly after take off, with a drinks service soon after.  The meal service was nearly 2 hours in to the flight however, a bit later than I was hoping for.  There are two options from the business class menu available, a tenderloin of beef, or breast of chicken.  I had the chicken, and it was edible.  I often find chicken options very dry, but it wasn’t as bad as some.  The wine however is the same as economy.

A reasonably sized screen, the viewing angle gets a bit bad if the person infront reclines their chair and you do not.  There’s two USB ports and a multi-country AC socket.

The crew were friendly, although I didn’t see them walking up and down very often with a drinks service.  As I was trapped in a window seat, I had to use the call button to request some wine, and only managed one cup of coffee with breakfast, as there was no more available…  That was disappointing, as in my memory they normally offered a top up!

So lately when I’ve looked at prices, WTP has been within $200-300 of business in each direction, and over $400 more than economy.  That’s enough to be worth stretching up even further perhaps.  However when the price is close, it is an easy decision for me.  Indeed. Sometimes it is less!  Same goes for the airport upgrades – $325 Or £225.

On the return journey I paid for my upgrade.  It was a much quieter flight with only 8 of us in the cabin!  I had both seats to myself, so more space including two tables to spread out on.  The service was also a bit better, but still no drinks trolleys coming through except after take off and with the meals.  The meal service itself was great!  The beef main meal on the return was excellent – a real surprise!  And even the chicken light meal was pretty decent.

Upcoming travels

I have a few reviews still to publish over the next couple of weeks, but I’m excited at the travel ahead.

Well…  Not the first two!  Rio to London in BA economy in May – this’ll be my first time since 2012, and my first time on the 777-300 with the newer IFE.  BA operate a 3-3-3 on their 777s, one of an increasingly small number to do so.  

Whenever I’ve been booked in economy before I’ve been successful in getting an upgrade to Premium Economy, a cabin I like a lot.  Lately though it has been a lot more than economy when paying cash, and so close to business class in price it hasn’t seemed worth it.  But a good miles + money option, or all miles.

After, I have an Air France economy, in both the A330 and 777.  The first I haven’t done, but should be ok with 2-4-2 layout as I have done on other A330s.  However the 777 is 3-4-3.  The seat is pretty small…  Last time I had an exit row seat with infinite leg room, but a seat so narrow it actually squeezed me!  We will see… This time no exit row, so marginally wider as the table and TV isn’t in the arm rest.  

I enquired about an upgrade to AF, but seems that is only available with miles and I don’t have enough with Flying Blue, and the price to purchase would make it far too expensive.  Having said that, the business class on both these flights isn’t great, with no fully flat bed.  I am really intrigued to fly Premium Economy here, and will try for an upgrade at the airport of then have any deals – I’ve heard rumours of good offers.

Then a flight I’m looking forward to – Qatar Business Class on the 777-200.  This is a 2-2-2 layout, so a wide seat on a 777.  It’s not the latest cabin, but still a very highly regarded soft product and a decent hard product.  Can’t wait to see how it compares to the other One World carriers.

London City to Edinburgh on BA + Edinburgh BA lounge

I love flying from London City!  It is such a fantastically convenient airport to get to (especially as I used to live in East London), you can arrive only 15 minutes before departure, security is extremely quick, and of course it is located on the DLR.  There is no lounge at City, but it is very much set up for business travellers, and you don’t have to spend a lot of time there anyway.

In March I was flying from London to Edinburgh for the day.  I had booked a hand baggage only fare, a mistake in hindsight as this prevented me from stocking up at my favourite whisky store, Cadenheads!  The outbound flight was on an Embraer 170, operated by BA City Flyer.   I love the Embraers from LCY.  Just two seats either side, pretty comfortable service, and I always like the fake offs from City, especially in the westerly direction.

Boarding at City always involves a short walk (I’ve never had to have a bus anyway!) out to the plane.  Rather than pulling up and needing to be able up ushed back, the planes turn around as they pull up, letting them pull straight out without needing a push back.  

It is only a brief flight up to Edinburgh, around an hour.  Just enough time for a quick breakfast service.  It was a surprisingly decent attempt at a Full English for effectively an all economy cabin and very little time to serve a full plane.  Sausage, bacon, something rose,bling scrambled egg and some mushrooms, with a decent cup of coffee. 

The crew were very efficient and sufficiently friendly.

After a nice but very cold day in Edinburgh, we got back to the airport, straight through security with no bags, and in to the British Airways Lounge.  This was my first time here, and I was very impressed actually.  BA operate quite a lot of flights a day from Edinburgh to the three London airports, but that is it.  The lounge and plenty of seating, some decent wines, beers and spirits, and a selection of sandwiches and snacks in the evening.  

I had received an email a couple of days before telling me the return flight would be operated by WDL Aviation on behalf of BA.  What this meant was a change from the scheduled Embraer 170 to a BAe 146-200.  This was my first time on one, the original aircraft of London City AirPort (The 146 is known for its special characteristics of a steep take off and approach angles and short take off run, and for being unusually quiet – for many years it was the only plane certified for LCY).  For those note familiar, it is a small single aisle plane, with three seats either side (but thankfully only 2 used, otherwise it would have been extremely cramped).  The distinguishing feature is the wings and four engines.

  

WDL is a leasing company out of Germany.  I wouldn’t say the crew were friendly, but they were efficient.  There was no food service, just a bag of nuts or crisps, but there was a full drinks service.  But I must say I don’t think I will be queueing up to fly on a BAe146 again!  The plane was at least 20 years old I’d have guessed, and showed it in terms of the interior fit and finish.  The seats were narrow, but the legroom was just acceptable for me to fit in.

The landing at Heathrow was coming in from the east, passing over Dartford Bridge, Tilbury docks and touching down just over an hour after take off.  The flight was rather turbulent, and the landing quite hard.  But less than five minutes after touching down I was waiting on the DLR platform for a train.

All in all a nice day, although I think BA operated a better service themselves on a much more comfortable plane. Bathe real surprise was the lounge at Edinburgh for domestic only flights.  For the price, I don’t see why anyone would fly EasyJet or other budget airlines from London to Edinburgh.  

London to Rio – BA First – experience in the air

So… picking up from the last post!

Sometimes there is a bit of chaos at the gate I’ve found… and this was about the most chaotic ever…  with no announcement to board there was a huge queue of people, half of them at the Fast Track lane.  After a couple of minutes they announced boarding would start, but a huge throng of people started towards the fast track queue…  I slowly managed to edge through the crowds of waiting people who were being told not to queue yet, to find a nice arguement starting on a guy who was in Premium Economy and insisting he should be allowed Fast Track.

It turns out, despite the seeming throngs of people, no one was actually supposed to be in the fast track lane yet…  We were the first in to the First cabin, today with two boarding air bridges, with a dedicated one for First.

The Rio flight is operated by a 777-300.  On all the BA First cabins, there are 14 seats, but some slightly different arrangements.  This is 1-2-1, with an extra two seats on the window sides to the middle.  We were shown to our seats and home for the next 10.5 – 11 hours by Nick, having selected the two center seats.  I’d never travelled in the centre before, always taking the window seat.  Certainly if travelling by yourself this is the better pick.  Travelling together, the centre seats allow conversation, but still a good degree of separation.  Of course each seat does have the hot seat opposite, so you can die together sitting opposite each other.

The BA First seat is a lot more simple than some.  Instead of a control panel with various buttons, there is a single dial you twist.  One way the seat relaxes, eventually turning in to a full flat bed, the other way is more upright.  There’s a button to put it back to landing position, and two to adjust the lumbar support.

There’s two lighting options – a small light in the ‘suite’ which you can turn on and dim, and two overheads, medium and strong light for lack of a better term!

The IFE screen folds back, so no watching during take off or landing.  It is also quite hard to open and close sometimes!  It’s an ok size at 15″, and isn’t too far away from you either.  The controls are in a small handset on the side of the seat (in a small cupboard when by the window), and touchscreen.

The hot seat pulls down (well, part of it) to make a foot rest at a lower hight, which is more comfortable for most positions.

Storage space is not much though.  There is a private closest, which is enough to hang a jacket, shirt and trousers in when changed in to the pyjamas, as well as a pair of shoes at the bottom.  That is it though…  There is an overhead bin for carry on, unlike some other airlines.  But around the seat itself though, there is no storage, other than a small magazine pouch not big enough for a book really, but ok for an iPad or Kindle.

By the window, the small table is raised out the side, which does give some space behind to stow some things.  In the centre it is slightly different, and there is more flat space there, but no where to secure things from sliding forwards.

There are the usual selection of USB port, multi-country mains socket, and a video in if you happen to have composite video out… not met anyone who does yet!

While the plane was boarding another 5 people joined in the First cabin, meaning half the seats were full.  We were served some of the very nice Grand Siècle as we had in the lounge, as well as some hot nuts.  The wash bags and pyjamas were distributed as well.  I do like BA pyjamas – I have eight pairs now, and wear them all the time! The washbag has some ok products (lip balm, moisturiser, eye gel, toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant), but I do prefer the previous bag to the current one, which feels a bit cheaper and is quite small to be useful as a regular travel bag, unlike the previous one.

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The menu was distributed shortly after take off by the Cabin Service Manager, who also had a brief chat with all the passengers, and of course knows everyone’s name.  You can dine at your leisure in First, and we decided to dine together at around 3pm (we took off at 1).  The highest priority is of course the wine list!

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This gave us an hour and a half or so for a movie, and I watched Big Hero 6.  I’m just a kid at heart!  Loved it!!  And a couple of glasses of the pinot noir.

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I can’t for the life of me remember what the Amuse Bouche was on this flight… but I don’t think I liked it much! My starter was the ham hock and chicken terrine, which was pretty nice.  Normally I have a soup, but there wasn’t an option.  For my main I went away from my usual steak option, and went (Shock horror) for the Twice Baked Gruyere and Parmesan Souffle.  And it was delicious I must say.  Matched with a lovely glass of the bordeaux wine, Chateau Haut-Bergey 2004.

The chocolate fondant for dessert was quite divine, one of the best plane deserts I’ve had in a while.  For this I had a class of the Cabidos dessert wine, which has been on my last couple of flights.  They used to serve a Tokaji    , which I preferred, but it is still very nice.

This was my first time dining together, and it quite an interesting experience being able to sit together like at a real restaurant!  The hot seat isn’t the most comfortable in the world, but it is serviceable for a couple of hours, no worse than a simple chair in a restaurant anyway!

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As luck would have it, as it was coffee time the seatbelt sign came on, which means no hot drinks.  It was only for about 15 miniutes, at which time my espresso arrived, and I returned back to my seat for a bit to finish the movie, and to start another.

As it was a dayflight, I wasn’t particularly tired at this point, alternating between watching, reading and drinking!  I’m one to talk to the cabin crew if they are receptive, and on this flight I probably had a good one hour chat with the steward looking after my side of the First cabin.

At this point I had the bed made up, got changed to the pyjamas and slept most of the rest of the flight.  I didn’t bother with the light lunch, still feeling fairly satisfied after dinner and taking an opportunity to get some rest.

All in all a great flight, one of my better experiences on First… although I did miss the window…  I think the electric blind is fantastic!

The Heathrow T5 BA First Class experience

What do to with a lot of Avois and an Amex companion voucher….  two flights in First Class London to Rio sounded a good use!

I flew out from Rio to London on Iberia in the new Business Plus (see review below for that), sitting in the two central seats.  It was an ok flight, comfortable hard product, but the service was not quite as good as my previous flight with Iberia (mainly due to the one excellent member of the crew).

But I was definitely looking forward to the flight back.  I have flown BA First a number of times, but more often on the Rio to London route than the other way round.  I much prefer London-Rio, as it is a day flight with no pressure to sleep, and I get to enjoy the Concorde Lounge beforehand.  Some people might think I’m crazy, and like to sleep the flight away, but I find that a waste of some of the First Class experience (aka wine!).

For this post, I’ll just talk about the ground side experience.

As always, I stayed in the Sofitel, and arrived at the airport around 9am for our 1pm flight, giving plenty of time to enjoy the lounge, do some shopping, and have the pre-booked massage at the Elemis Spa.

The First Class checkin area in T5 is at the far side of the check in hall.  The queue was short, and we quickly got the bags checked.  The Check In area is nothing that special – they are standard check in desks, just in a closed off area with less queues.

Fast Track security was quickly done away with, and through the door straight in to the Concorde Lounge.

I know there are very mixed reviews out there, and I am sure there are better lounges in Asia and the Middle East that I haven’t been to, but I really like the Concorde Lounge.  I’ve been there around 5 times now, and I haven’t seen it overly busy ever.

I find the seating very comfortable, and plentiful every time I’ve been there.  I’ve also never had a problem getting a table at the restaurant.  The restaurant service can vary sometimes, and I have been left standing before being shown to a table, and not always had the most attentive service, which can be disappointing.  But in comparison to lounges such as the AA Flagship First in JFK there is simple no comparison.  I really like having a table service restaurant, with a decent quality of food (at least every time I have dined).

There are also the cabanas, I have never booked one, as I am normally only there for a couple of hours and it never seemed worth it.  But if you are there for a while, especially on connections, you can book one of the cabanas which feature a bed, TV and shower – basically a mini private hotel room really.

This trip the first port of call was the restaurant for breakfast, and a fairly decent full english with a class of champagne.  I really do like the fact you can drink Grand Siècle champagne in the lounge – it is a very nice champagne I hadn’t had before travelling First, and I would rate it very highly.

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After the meal we relaxed on the terrace with some more champagne for a bit, before it was time for the Elemis Spa.

The Galleries lounge actually has better views being able to see the runway (both runways depending on the lounge), but I really like the terrace of the lounge, seeing the planes at the gate (or not sometimes as this picture from a different trip shows!):

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The weather does clear up sometimes to reveal a unicorn though….

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I had booked, for the first time, the ‘Deep Clean Aviator Facial’.  In the past I’ve only made use of the chair, and once the ‘Power Back Massage’.  However this is a definite new favourite if I have the opportunity again.  The issue is if you are not in First and able to pre-book, the chair is often the only thing available and even though it is far from guaranteed even with several hours in the lounge.  Various different Elemis products and oils are used as a face massage, while at the same time having the chair massage on the whole body.

After this there was just enough time for another champagne, a quick bit of duty free shopping, and off to C gates to board.