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Old Jan 5, 12, 9:00 am   #1
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Northumberland, UK and outback Australia.
Programs: Greyhound Bum, BA *useless* Gold, TK Gold, EY Gold, M&M Silver, VA Red
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New Year Hemisphere Hopping on BA ClubWorld and First

Somewhere in a farmer’s field, not far from Longreach, Queensland

Yet another day of stand-by because the Australians do not like rain. Idle thumbs led me to the BAEC forum on FlyerTalk, and rumours were abounding of a possible Christmas sale. On tenterhooks for the 1st December, and promptly booked NCL-LHR-SIN return, in business class without a moment’s thought. BA got £1,040 odd from me. Just like that.

Of course, I used the BA Amex card to get a couple more miles out of the deal should any guilt creep in.

19th December, Still Stuck in Rural Queensland

I was told I will be taking a bus all the way from Emerald to Brisbane with a bunch of drunks. Once again, the BA Amex was whipped out and a one-way ROK-BNE was booked for myself and a colleague. The Venezuelan colleague offered to pay me in Bolivars, beers and bread. No way I am going to sit with a coachload of drunks for over 10 hours followed by 23 hours of flights, so I was tempted to take his offer before he procured some colourful waterproof dollars.

20th December, Rockhampton airport, QLD (ROK)



Did QF change from oneWorld to Star Alliance without someone sending me a memo? It did leave me a bit confused as I am not au fait with domestic Australian airlines.

Brisbane airport, QLD

At BNE, I enquired about upgrading the company economy ticket any of the BNE-SIN-LHR sectors. Eleven-thousa… my senses shut down before rudely awoken when the clerk hissed and scolded at some unruly kids jumping and running, and I guess screaming as well. Then she turned to me with a look of a strict school headmistress and all I could let out was a sheepish “Errr, urm, no, urm thank you” and made a bee-line for the door and refreshments.

I went into a dormant, automatic zombie for the next few days to endure the flights back home in deepest darkest Y and slept until Christmas. Then it was a mad dash to get belated presents for everyone, driving all over Northumberland, managing to avoid corporate-wage-slave’s sheep.

It was suddenly time to dash off to Singapore. I was starting to wish I hadn’t bothered, I was somewhere in Turkmenistan in terms of time zones.

New Year’s Eve. Day of flight.

Was passing by the airport that morning, and popped in to enquire about a special offer upgrade from CW to First I’ve been seeing on FlyerTalk. Now, BA, and just about every other legacy carriers uses Swissport at NCL. They have been there for yonks in the background, and in recent years have taken over the frontline services from the legacy carriers. I remember BA’s changeover – I was flying in and out of NCL just before and after the changeover. It went downhill, fast.

It’s still going downhill. I waited, and waited. I’m sure a geological epoch passed by. I gave up and went to the check-in desk. The staff there was astoundingly helpful – they directed me back to the same desk where I waited. And wait some more I did. The things I do to score an upgrade, a paid one at that.



Eventually, a human appeared and guy said there is availability to upgrade from CW to F, and should cost about £350 to upgrade, there were seven seats available and told me to go to check-in desk to do this and check-in for the flight. Argh!

At check-in, another guy phoned BA. “The line’s engaged.” I waited to the side while two passengers with 6 gigantic bags, some won’t fit on the scales, and had to be taken to the oversized but they did not know where it is, I offered to show them but they seemed distrustful of me, so the check-in lad had to show where it is. I think we will have a net export to China this week.

On the blower again after that kerfuffle and it transpired the last seven available seats were gone. Ah well, managed to move from 14K to 64K, so all was not lost!


NCL-LHR

Security was a breeze, glad to use the priority lane the ticket afforded me as half of Sunderland seems to want to leave that misery of a place for the New Year. Can’t say I blame them either ;-)

On the way to the BA Terraces lounge, I noticed with sadness that the FlyBe lounge has closed. The BA lounge girl (the NCL lounge staff are great) said it will probably be turned into a coffee shop. I can’t help wondering if Emirates might do something though.
The lounge was deserted, even when it was time to board, I could count the number of people including myself twice on one hand. Pictorial evidence below.



Boarded the flight rather late as drank my G&Ts a bit too slowly. My excuse was that I’m out of practise, I have not been in an airline lounge since, since… well over 13 months. A consequence of that and being in row 2 is that my bag is now in an overhead bin in row 20-something.

I appreciate it’s the festive period, so I was not too bothered. On the walk back to my seat, I see three pushchairs. Why on earth are they up there and not in the hold? And they were not small ones either, one looks like a Reliant-Robin three-wheeler “trendy” pushchair. I’m not in a rush, I had several hours to kill at LHR, so I wait patiently until all the passengers were off.

The LHR T5 to T3 schlep.

It bugs me that BA have flights from T3. I have to strop over to the other side of T5. I have to wait for seven alleged minutes for a bus. I have to endure seeing the bowels of LHR and it ain’t a pretty sight and brought back CDG nightmares. I need another G&T. I have to reclear security despite already cleared UK security at NCL. Clearing security for me is an added process of getting hand-patted as I cannot go through the metal detector for medical reasons.

I’d rather bloody A10 it than go through all the hoops of doing an airside T5-T3 transfer. It’s a shame QF can’t be housed in T5 and make the JSA between BA and QF a bit smoother for us on the Kangaroo route.

LHR T3 BA Galleries Lounge

This is my first visit to this lounge. I like it. Nice (non-panoramic) view of the runway and the sounds of the kerosene-guggling beasts taking off to nice and not-so-nice places. It is a bit crowded towards late evening though.



Nice self-portrait, lounge and an IB plane all in one shot. Faces obscured to protect their privacy.

LHR-SIN Club Word, Seat 64K

Once again, I was late to the boarding party, and boarded without any queues. The purser/CSD/cabin-crew/whatever greeted me at the door, and said “Ah, 64K, I suppose you know where that is then?” followed by a smile. You know just by that you have a crew member who knows his company’s product.

I plopped myself in the seat, the Mr 64J did his best to avoid eye-contact. Not even a “Hello” or “Happy New Year”. That suits me, and my body is telling me the time in Ashgabat is somewhere about 3am. Pre-flight champers washed down, followed by a duck pate which is too posh for me. The main course I chose was an excellent and hearty fillet steak, not overdone (and I hate anything cooked more than medium, I am a bloody bloke). I skipped the desert and counted sheep.

Zulu time New Year was over the Black Sea. Nobody including myself cared. I just noted it for inquiring friends.

I skipped breakfast just 90mins before landing. I slept like a log, the cabin temperature was neither too hot or too cold. Disembarking was chaotic, no order was put in place, everyone was trying to leave at once.

3rd January SIN-LHR

The Intercontinental hotel will not let me check out late, so to while away the day, I paid a visit to Singapore zoo. Despite all my visits to Singapore, I never visited the zoo. Took a taxi from Raffles City shopping mall, costing me $18 SGD and wandered around. I never knew giraffes were so funny looking, you just have to see them in the flesh to laugh. I couldn’t get a photo of giraffe as I was too busy laughing, so here is a monkey instead.



Around 5pm, I arrived to check-in at SIN. Holding a Club World ticket, it seems we don’t check in with the plebs here. No, you go to a secret room behind row 4. I never knew that!

I asked if there was any special offers to upgrade from CW-F and there was at ~£450 and grabbed seat 2A. However, it took about 15 minutes to get the new tickets, so I made use of this area, took some photos and had a fizzy drink.



Above: Looking towards the entrance. You can just make out the check-in concourse number 3 through the windows.





The check-in desks at the far end and a staff endlessly stocking a bottomless fridge. Very retro 70s/80s feel to the whole room.



Now armed with a First class ticket, it was time to check out the First class lounge. By mistake, I went to the business lounge, I had missed the right turn. It is rather out of sight and perhaps too discreet.



My first impressions, a typical SIN lounge. Food is nothing to write home about. Selections of drinks is about average.



I am a bit confused by the “Mobile Free Zone” sign when there is a telephone below it.



As I’ve been out all day in the equatorial humidity, a shower is required if my fellow passengers are going to survive a 14-hour flight with me. The showers of the First class lounge are accessed via a round room that felt claustrophobic to me. The usual Elemis Spa shower gel/shampoo, in dark green. Soylent Green anyone?



I whiled away the time by checking out the business class lounge as well. I prefer this lounge to the First class for the décor and general ambience, however it was far too stuffed with creatures so I trotted back to the First lounge where the population density is similar to Mongolia rather than Tokyo. Cue writing this very trip report.

22:15

Yikes, gate is supposed to be closed at 22:25, so dashed off to Gate C15, complete the security malarkey and boarding just began as I entered the gate waiting area. I love it when everything falls into place just like that. I quickly snapped the mandatory photo of the plane that will carry me in its nose back to England.



Those in the know will spot the blanked out windows of the First cabin near the nose. Looks like I will be enjoying New First for the first time.



The photos does make the place looks like a club bar. It probably not as bad but this doesn’t feel like BA. That said, it won’t stop me from taking the seat over a Y seat.



I took a photo of my shoes, and inevitably, the surroundings of the first cabin distracts.

You can see the power socket on the bottom left. Indicated red at the moment, and turns green in-flight. It is one of those useful multi-country sockets, just like my incredibly useful multi-socket extension lead I brought in Libya years ago. This socket however is rated at 110v at 60Hz.



I do not care much for the wash bag, I am a manly bloke; just a bar of soap and something to clean my gnashers is enough. So it goes away into storage.

Stored my own rubbish away, there seem to be only the cabinet in front of me to put my stuff away, no nice little drawers to use.




A nice touch is the light at the bottom to show you what you stuffed into a little hole at the bottom, in this case my laptop - but the weight limit for this is just 4.5 kg if you believe the sticker on the door.

The passport/ticket is there for size comparison. Normally I have these in my pockets in case of an evacuation.



And the blue windows, showing gate C15 in the right window, full of plebs waiting to board and the air bridge in the left window.
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ba97.com flights Updated 18-Aug14, next flights: DRW|RMA-BNE-SYD-SIN-LHR-NCL
Wrong way round the World, a Holidays4Heroes Bear Trip Report from New Zealand to Alaska (four parts)

Last edited by Stez; Jan 5, 12 at 9:12 am.
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Old Jan 5, 12, 9:00 am   #2
 
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By the time it was ready for my meal, the other passengers have already gone to sleep, so in an effort to be courteous, I ate my meal in the relative dim light by the side of my seat. I’m not sure I am liking this lamp from a practical point of view.



The starter was skipped as nothing on it that I liked.

This was breast of chicken stuffed with ricotta and sage, baby carrots, asparagus and polenta au gratin. The chicken was perhaps on the small side, and would be nice to see some sauces, as this is quite a dry plate.




This was followed by desert of chocolate fondue and a rock hard mascarpone ice cream. The ice cream could have done with a bit more warming up.

I noticed that the cutlery does not feel like they have left it on the bonnet of the plane – not freezing cold.

We took a much more northerly route than usual, encountering 100 mph head winds, especially in northern Europe.



I took the hot option and skipped the continental crap. The sausage and bacon was cold and the tomato was piping hot. The nice cabin crew promptly gave me another full plate which was much hotter and apologised for the cold meal. And apologised again about the cold bacon and sausage when they gave me my hot chocolate drink.



It is also good to see a real tomato ketchup, the stuff made by Heinz.

As we head to the end of the trip, I’ve decided the lamp, even while it is off, is annoying, it blocks my view out of the window to the wonderful lights of Europe below. The flexible light of old First is much more useful in my humble Y-opinion.



We landed around 5am at Terminal 3, only one air bridge was attached and that was to door 2. No controls were in place to make the disembarkation more smooth. Eventually ran to the terminal connections to catch the T3-T5 bus, and get myself through North Security.

Well, I got myself through security by taking the Fast Track lane up the escalators, saw that Fast Track is anything but, and cheekily crawled under a myriad of tensa barriers to get to empty security lanes further north.

Much to the looks of disapproval from a bunch of gutless staffers, they did not move or tell me to go back, or even uttered a word.

I don't normally do this, but the queues for Fast Track lanes were absolutely taking the apple juice this morning, I've never seen anything like it.


...and finally schlep the last 150 yards to the famed CCR door. Maybe it was 50 or 200 yards, I wasn't counting.



The CCR was virtually deserted, I think I might have seen a passenger, or it might have been a lounge manager, I prefer to sit outside.





And that ends my trip report. The LHR-NCL trip was nothing to write home about.


To sum up:

+ BA Sale for Club World - £1,004 to fly to the other hemisphere and back in business!
+ ClubWorld Upper Deck – the privacy, the hard product, the food
+ Cabin Crew - down to earth pleasantness
+ LHR T3 Galleries Lounge – plenty of places to sit, if you get in early that is
+ LHR CCR – not your average airline lounge

- Lack of priority boarding at NCL – going down to the back of the plane to store hand luggage is not a premium experience
- Lounge food needs a bit of variety, no change in two years for those “curries” at LHR Galleries lounges.
- New First is not a 100% improvement on Old First
- Light pollution in New First
- First does not feel as private as Club World
- No controlled disembarkation
- Fast Track at North Security was anything but... come on, T5 has been open for several years now, it's high time that BAA (not BA) get this right!
- Unable to upgrade the flight on ba.com due to holiday booking
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ba97.com flights Updated 18-Aug14, next flights: DRW|RMA-BNE-SYD-SIN-LHR-NCL
Wrong way round the World, a Holidays4Heroes Bear Trip Report from New Zealand to Alaska (four parts)

Last edited by Stez; Jan 5, 12 at 9:31 am.
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Old Jan 5, 12, 9:45 am   #3
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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Very nice TR Stez and thanks for sharing your experiences.

I had a laugh at the no mobile phones picture with the landline next to it and you are right re the breakfast sauce. Only Heinz can make proper Tomato sauce.

Finally how pleasant to see a coloured boarding pass

I wonder how many airports still issue these across the globe when travellling BA?

Pete
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Old Jan 5, 12, 11:49 am   #4
 
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Funny to see that Singapore Changi can be so cutting edge in some respects (impressive concourses, living green walls and butterfly rooms) and have such a dull looking First Class Check In Lounge!!

Perhaps understated luxury is a new Asian trend.
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Old Jan 5, 12, 8:55 pm   #5
 
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Brilliant Stez, love your writing style.
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Old Jan 6, 12, 1:17 am   #6
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The F100 you were on is operated by Alliance Airlines and is under Contract with Qantaslink. Not affiliated with Star Alliance in any way.
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Old Jan 6, 12, 5:39 am   #7
 
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Nice to read a trip report from a "manly bloke"

Do you do personal appearances?
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Old Jan 6, 12, 6:19 am   #8
 
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Thanks folks.

As for the Alliance plane, I was sitting in the gate wondering where the hell the Qantas plane was as only the Alliance plane was visible and then it was time to board and I thought "oh no, it's a bus to the plane". Once on board, I found out it wasn't a Star Alliance plane.

Sure, I put in appearances in various airports on the Kangaroo route or to Africa.
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Wrong way round the World, a Holidays4Heroes Bear Trip Report from New Zealand to Alaska (four parts)
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Old Jan 6, 12, 7:16 am   #9
 
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It does look a bit dark when your dinner is served. Thanks for the report, I enjoyed it.
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Old Jan 6, 12, 9:27 am   #10
 
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great tr thanks.
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Old Jan 6, 12, 11:21 am   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stez View Post
The sausage and bacon was cold
Ah yes SIN-LHR was the flight of the raw sausage.

I didn't much care for flying F on that route...leaves far too late in the evening to enjoy it for my liking. Good that you managed to get new F though so worth the upgrade just for that.

I'm like you Stez....the manly type.
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Old Jan 6, 12, 2:14 pm   #12
 
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Great report

I think the lounge at NCL's really top-notch and never ever busy. Makes a nice change to the hoardes outside with orange-coloured bag tags (and not the priority ones!)

I do, however agree that since the ground-operation switched to Swissport, things have gone downhill. Although there is now a dedicated 'Priority' check-in desk!

Brilliant report!
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Old Jan 6, 12, 11:56 pm   #13
 
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you forgot to block the face of the monkey
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