Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
Oh for the LOVE of AVIOS - Kevincm goes to HKG with Swiss and British Airways
Hong Kong 3: For the LOVE of Avios! With Swiss and British Airways
Welcome to yet another Kevincm/GhettoIFE trip report, and once again, it’s back to my home of Row 99Z of a plane. Where I belong really and not in the big seats and wide open plains of First and Club.
It’s time for the end of year trip report and this time, we’re going to concentrate on British Airways to see if they can still deliver down the back of the plane after seeing if they delivered at the front of the plane. However as you can see from the title... nothing is simple with me
And hopefully, no hurricanes, typhoons or any of that silliness this time, and no major equipment losses...
Well. I can hope.
I'm going to apologise for the length of this trip report - I’ve just looked at the section list... and I honestly thought this was going to be less massive than it is - sorry! However, this is NOT the whole thing - I've had to cut down the images quite hard to fit it into FlyerTalk. You can see the full thing at GhettoIFE
Memo to self: Stop looking at booking engines late at night (The Introduction)
Those who know me know that my sleeping patterns are... varied. Sometimes I get nice solid nights sleep. Other nights, I can be crashed out on the sofa after a day of shenanigans at office, and be up at midnight till 5am.
Its times like that I need to be kept well away from my credit card, the Internet and some booking engines as I found a fare on BA.com that allowed me to route from Madrid or Barcelona to London, and Hong Kong.
Now, I happen to like Hong Kong as a place to visit (well except the MTR, but that’s just me), so I ummed, ahhed, and slapped down the credit card to book it, routing the ticket from Barcelona to London to Hong Kong, and back the other way - all with nice long stops to use lounges in between.
Well, I have to take advantage of this BA Gold thing whilst I have it.
For the hotel, the new Holiday Inn Express was about to open in Soho near Sheung Wan station was due to open. Considering it was a mere 15,000 priority club points a night, that sounded a bargain to me, and a booking was made.
That was the easy bit.
The hard bit was how to get to Barcelona. And to quote Public Enemy, it’s a bit “Harder than you think”.
I had three options on the table:
Fly from Birmingham and hope all the connections would fall into place
Coach to Heathrow, BA to BCN and back
Well the 3rd option wasn’t going to happen - at all (least of all due to my love of Ryanair, but mainly due to the fact they didn’t operate to BCN on the days I wanted). The 2nd option I costed up carefully - and it could had been done on a 15K reward saver + taxes - the killer part was the coach cost which was getting back to £50 for a return ticket. Hitting revenue fares - it was heading into £160 + return before the coach.
I therefore grumbled and looked at the Birmingham based solutions, which gave me a choice of five points to go via:
The first two were struck off the list (as I don’t do SkyTeam yet), which left the Lufthansa option and the Swiss option. Both of these are reasonable options to me, although the connection times at all ends were either way too tight or way too long. Sadly, I left it way too late to book the “through in one day” tickets - this lead to me thinking.
Whilst I’ve been to Barcelona before (with Swiss of all airlines when I got my SEN card), I never stepped out of the airport. That was something I’d like to correct.
I therefore chose a departure the day before to get to Zurich, and then travel the next day from Zurich to Barcelona - with a long connection in case of a delay (which would also serve as the time to explore Barcelona). This in turn lead to another problem - what to do with a overnight stop at the Zurich area.
As we all know, the Swiss for “Hotel” is “Open your wallet up and scream” - of which I had no intention to this time. However, in the back of my mind I remembered that there was dayrooms at Zurich Airport - with couch areas available for 40CHF for the night.
Now we’re talking my sort of cash. A quick bit of looking showed they had rooms and couches available for desired price, and an email was sent. Another was received back in a few hours confirming the details.
Here’s the map (and as I insinuated some time ago, it is truly a dot-to-dot) - the best news being I avoid National Express coaches in all shapes and form.
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
After a day of dealing with the incompetence of Duns and Bradstreet, Thawte and GeoTrust (nothing like digital certificates to make a person want to push themselves off a cliff), it was time to grab my stuff which I had packed the night before in the little rucksack and head off from the office.
Of course, the bus took its own sweet time arriving, but soon enough I was passing through Central Birmingham - which is in full Christmas mode - the Frankfurt German market had long arrived.
The bottom end of the Frankfurt Christmas market in Birmingham.
I on the other hand needed two things before heading off: A new power supply for my laptop (I left it at home) and a spare lightning cable (I left that in the office. Doh and Doh.)
After a quick purchase in the Apple Store, it was over to Birmingham New Street for a train to Birmingham International station. The train was on time, and being rush hour - rammed packed solid. No matter for me - its a 10 minute hop to Birmingham Airport on an express service, getting me sort of near where I needed to be.
Pulling into Birmingham international station, it was up the stairs, turn left and over to the Air-Rail link that deposits you on the departure level at BHX. Heading down is the check in area - and where Swissís check in is. There was a cursory hello, passport request, a check to see if luggage needed to be put in the (not for this segments it isnít). Boarding passes were then issued for both flights (both that dayís and the onward segment to Barcelona). No fast track was offered or given (as I found I had entered the wrong SEN number into the booking).
Whoops. Iíd have to fix that later.
Airport security wasnít busy - which summed up the airport really - it wasnít busy. For an airport that proclaims itself to be the 6th busiest in the United Kingdom - it was pretty quiet for a Wednesday evening with a little bit of charter traffic heading out, and Ryanair/FlyBe running the other terminal happily.
After negotiating security, it was time for the game we like to call ďExit via the ShopĒ that airports in the United Kingdom seem to love.
Shop Shop Shop!
Once that hell was cleared, it was off to the Servisair lounge.
Once again, the redecorating fairies have been to the lounge, and to be honest - it looks like someone re-done this with a bit of care for once as opposed to some of the re-decorations this lounge has been through.
Itís an improvement from what was a Red Carpet Club on a bad day to slightly something better that an Red Carpet Club on a good day. The muted colours along with the ikea furniture scheme seems to be a nice fit here.
Hot food and drinks
There were the usual drinks on offer, and shock and horror - warm food. Now part of the reason why Servisair has had to up their game is that a No. 1 Lounge has recently opened at the airport - creating competition between lounges.
And it shows. A reasonable effort all around
Time passed, and it was time to head to the back end of the old International Pier at Gate 59 where our little Fokker was waiting. After a short wait for the queue to die down, I was beeped through to the gate area, and after another wait, the access-way was open to the jetbridge.
My little Fokker.
Leg 1: LX425 Birmingham Airport - ZŁrich Airport Operated by OLT Express Germany for Swiss International Air Lines Fokker 100 125 Miles Earned + 32 Executive Miles
The crew seemed smiling as I boarded and headed back to the back of the Fokker. Since Swiss has dropped the frequency down from 3 a day to 2 a day to Zurich (and switched provider from Helvetic to OLT Express Germany), it seems Swiss are jamming people in as the plane was solid to Zurich.
Fokkers are in the 2-3 cabin layout, so if the plane is lightly loaded - you aim for the right - if itís heavily loaded, you aim for the left for the best seats.
Alas, this is a Fokker 100, so the term ďbest seatĒ doesnít really apply here.
The plane boarded quickly, and soon enough we were away. The safety announcement was pre-recorded, with the two cabin crew demonstrating along.
The exterior of the plane was painted up in Star Alliance colours - and interestingly, the OLT Express crew didnít say ďthis was a Swiss Flight, A Star Alliance memberĒ, rather they said that this was ďA Star Alliance flightĒ.
Soon enough, the little Fokker lined up, and it was off into the clear night
The plane taxied past the A Gate and over to the D Gates, where for the first time that I remembered - the plane got an airbridge connection to the terminal.
As we parked up, the seatbelts were released, and we were allowed on our way - where Swiss thank you chocolates were given out.
Overall: Whilst not as polished as Helvetic are, OLT Express did a good job of delivering the Swiss regional project. I canít help feel it felt a bit rushed with some bits being left over till right at the end (for example - the Swiss Chocolates is an important part of the service)
Up next: Dayrooms, Night rest, Senator Lounges and Swiss Herbal Cannabis Iced Tea....
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
After arriving and being deposited at the D Gates, I had to stop at Kiosk to pick up some chocolate for a co-worker (Branches. No I donít know why she wanted them. But hey... anything for 10 minutes P&Q in the office).
After that, I headed to the D gate clearance area and tried to head upstairs... wellÖ multiple times with doors not opening. In the end I asked one of the security guards to help, and he escorted me up to the Zurich Airport Dayrooms
Overnight - Zurich Dayrooms - Couch Area Cost 40CHF (~£25 or so).
I was welcomed to the dayrooms and after my details were confirmed as well as my onwards flights, I was given a wet-wipe, towel and an alarm clock set for 6:00 when I needed to be going. I was told of the access policy (the doors are locked between midnight and 5:30am), and then I was then shown through to the couch area
Here are few pics.
This first one is lit up with a flash as there was no-one else around. If there were... all through photos would had been in darkness.
A bit more natural light
The couch as you can guess.. is a couch. It had an adjustment to tilt forward or tilt backward. On the couch, there was also a blanket as well. More importantly, there was power sockets (annoying fully recessed so the Euro-pin converter sockets donít fit) and a lockable cabinet for all the valuables in life. Whilst it was not big enough to fit my rucksack, it meant I could take out my camera and other bits.
About 3 other people arrived at different stages of the evening, keeping the environment very quiet with the odd keyboard tapping.
WiFi isnít included. Being Swiss and very neutral, there were a variety of ways to get different providers - ones who charge by the hour, ones who charged CHF5 for 24 hours and one who charged CHF4.60. I went with the cheapest because really - I didnít overly care.
Wandering around outside, it was very quiet as the last flights were going or near enough gone, with some stragglers stuck in the Non-Schengen Zone. I wandered out to have a look around. Nearby there was a smoking lounge and vending machines.
Whilst the vending machines took cards, one item stuck out
No wonder the Swiss are so neutral. Looking into the product, those who want to enjoy it more than they should do - will be disappointed to note the product has very little to none THC in the product. And no, I didnít sample any - I was tired out.
I bedded down for the night - and slept all the way till about 5:30CDT. Not bad, and to be honest, the couch was darn comfortable especially when I angled it correctly.
I woke myself up with a quick shower. Again, the bathroom facilities were simple, clean and shared - all you really need for a quick wake up before heading out into the big bad world.
As 6am came, the alarm went, and I repacked my bag, ready for the off. I checked out and that was that.
Overall: Facilities like this serve a purpose for those who canít justify heading out to an overpriced hotel for the night - or those stuck in a foreign country and canít move till the next flight. I just wish more airports had these places to rest at. The place was clean, comfortable and quiet. What more did I need?
After leaving the Dayrooms, I cleared Swiss Immigration (with a bit of an inspection as I had overnighted at the airport). I was then clear to enter the B Gate area and the transfer area.
My next stop would be somewhere a bit more comfortable: The Swiss SEN lounge. Walking through there, Zurich Airport was in full Christmas mode.
Thatís what you call a Toblerone.
Christmas decorations on the upper deck
SWISS Senator Lounge
I entered the lounge which seemed to be in full morning mode - ie. busy. I was dealt with quickly, and my SEN data was updated in the Swiss system, with a new boarding card spat out.
The lounge itself - well itís very.. Swiss. Lots of dark sofas, the odd bit of art and even at 6:15 in the morning - a very busy place.
Queuing for the coffee machine
Still, there was some cold cuts in the breakfast as well as the usual yoghurt's and muesli.
I resisted the bubbles for this time of the morning - least of all I was planning to be very active when I got off the plane.
Meanwhile, another thing I like about the SEN lounge is the attention to detail - from the staff cleaning up quickly to three different power outlets at the chairs (UK BS1363, Swiss connector and European CE7/7 style plug )
It's the details that matter.
As I don't smoke, I didn't head to the cigar bar, but just settled for a bit until my flight was called.
And eventually it was - at gate A82 - or the backside end of the A Gates.
Reluctantly I passed the Swiss A340 bit of art, and thanked the lounge staff, and headed on my way.
Overall: Still a darn good lounge. Some hot breakfast offerings would be nice, but nothing to complain about. The staff remain the highlight of the lounge.
Once I was clear of the lounge, it was down the escalators to the A gates, and a mixture of a hike and travelator ride to the far end if the A Gates.
Off to the end of the world...
When I arrived at the gate area, boarding had not begun. To best honest, I'd rather be early to the gate - least of al European travellers seem to have caught a nasty habit from US travellers with people using the biggest bag they can legally get through - therefore if you want overhead bin space - get on board first.
Boarding was split to self-boarders in normal economy, and Star Gold/Business having assisted boarding.
Finally a call was made, and I boarded with the priority boarders.
Boarding the plane, I was greeted by an older Swiss crew - but a smiling one. Not a bad thing first thing in the morning
The plane begun to fill up with a reasonable load to BCN. Thankfully the middle seat was free for this segment creating a fair bit of space
Fuelling in progress
Oh yes, speaking of seats:
Yes, still more room than AA. The seats themselves were slimline style, but offered enough support for a long haul pop.
Thankfully the seat next to me remained empty, which created a nice environment to be in for the next hour and twenty minutes or so.
Soon enough push back begun and the Swiss safety video played. After clearing the apron, it was down to a runway where there was a queue to leave the airport, with the captain informing us about the queue length.
Once the warning bong played, our plane lined up for departure - with a quick departure out of Zurich.
The climb was a reasonable one, sailing through the dark cloud of a Zurich morning into the morning sky of the world.
Meanwhile, the IFE started with Swiss showing off its product, changes and Joking Around
Being near the front of economy has its benefits - and this means you’re one of the first to be served.
Today's breakfast was a fresh croissant with coffee and a water - I still needed hydration.
Now, compared to some I’ve had in the air, this was a nice size, and (with a lactacid in hand) quite edible. Not a bad effort at all. Oh, at it goes without saying it was fresh - it makes a difference!
Cruise continued on its merry way, rolling down the miles.
Chocolates were offered (and of course taken - this is Swiss after all!)
Clear down of the plane and Duty Free was completed with ease (with very few takers for duty free), whilst the flight continued on its way, crossing the Mediterranean.
Soon enough, the crew were coming through the plane to ensure it was secure for landing, and the plane begun its descent to Barcelona El Prat
After landing there wasn’t exactly a short taxi - more like a long taxi to the back end of the C gates (C75). Thankfully the docking to the pier was quick, and I was on my way after thanking the crew
Overall: Not bad. Not bad at all. Delivered with the usual Swiss efficiency, it was a good service for a short flight. Again, with the right mix of catering, product and soft service you can get a lot of value for not a lot of cash.
With an early arrival into Barcelona, and long layover, it was time to explore the city. However, I needed to get into the city first. And that seemly is a challenge at Barcelona airport - as the Swiss flight docks over in T1 - and the train station is at T2 - necessitating a bus transfer between terminals. Once you reach T2 (which is dark and dingy compared to T1), itís up the escalator and across the long walkway (the travelators long removed) to the train station.
Joined up travel? Barcelona Airport has heard of the concept.
By the time I had hit town, I had wasted over an hour on travelling into town alone.
Still the train arrived soon enough, and begun heading into town, through Barcelona Sants to Passeig de Grŗcia - where I needed to be. I walked towards town Place De Garcia and then to La Ramblas, and finally off a little side street - the TravelBar.
Now, Barcelona is one place where the concept of ďFree ToursĒ has sprung up. The concept being where the tour guide isnít paid and you pay for what you feel the tour was worth. Whilst there are plenty around, I did a quick read-up on Wikitravel, and looked at TravelBoundís tour which seemed to work best with the timings I had.
The tour took us deep into the Gothic and Roman parts of Barcelona, stopping off at various locations - Las Ramblas, El Call, the place of Santa Eulalia, Europeís Oldest Synagogue, Plaza de Sant Felip Neri, Placa Nova, Barcelona Cathedral, bits of Roman ruins, Placa del Rei, Placa de San Jaume and a fair few other places. The guide was an Irish fellow, who had lived in the city for a few years, and had a good depth of the local area as opposed to some guides that are out there. The tour was carried out in English (even though there were a reasonable spread of visitors from other countries too).
But this is told better with pictures.
Through Las Ramblas
The place of Santa Eulalia
Europe's Oldest Synagogue
Plaza de Sant Felip Neri
Edge of the Roman City - note the bit of the Aquaduct left.
Placa del Rei
Placa de San Jaume - Home to the seats of local government.
Whilst it was a great tour, it was going a bit slower than I wanted it to, so sadly, I had to split towards the end of the tour. As a Tip, I dropped Ä10 in, as I had thought the tour was worth it - by a long way.
Splitting at speed, I headed back up Las Ramblas, and straight to PlaÁa Catalunyawhere an AeroExpress bus was waiting to go. Whilst I could had taken the train, with all the faffing around, there was going to be no chance of making my flight - especially if I wanted to check a bag.
Thankfully the Aeroport Express was that. Express, with a flat 30 minutes to the airport. For Ä5.75 - I wasnít arguing. Whilst it was more expensive than the train, it removed the hassle of the train for a Ä1.85 extra. So this is a rare circumstance where I will recommend the bus over the train, which beats it on convenience and speed hands down.
Clearing PlaÁa Catalunya
Passing PlaÁa Espanya
It also gave me time to cool down and split my bags - allowing clothes and liquids to go into a different bag, and keeping the tech in my hand luggage. Whilst clothes donít weigh a lot - itís still a lesser weight to carry.
Next - Barcelona El Prat Airport, BA0457 to London Heathrow.
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
The Aeroport Express dropped me off at the entrance to T1, and then it was a wander to find the British Airways check-in desks.
My bag was accepted with the agent and me both laughing at the weight INSIDE the bag (3.5kg... hardly worth it... but still). The bag was tagged with a short connection and priority tags, and sent on its way.
I then went through security, and was cleared quickly, heading for the Non-Schengen zone... with dire warnings if I did!
Schengen/Non Schengen post security mixed zone.
This is due to the main shopping area being in the Schengen Zone, whilst there are only a few shops and amenities in the Non-Schengen Zone.
After clearing passport control, I hit the lounge. Well, its a tradition isnít it?
After a bit of clicking and keyboard tapping, I was admitted into the lounge.
Lounges at Barcelona airport seem to be centrally controlled. However, they are quiet places in that lounge - and it seems to have all the modern
Now, in terms of food and drink, youíre spoiled here with a choice of:
Pastas and salads
Pastries and sandwiches
Snacks and drinks
Now, the only fly in the ointment was that there was not free internet access for lounge visitors, so youíre stuck with the free option for 15 minutes, or pay out for full internet access.
I took the 15-minute option - long enough to check email and catch up with the world - alas the 15 minutes is for HTTP traffic only - so no mail or anything else thatís useful.
The lounge appeared to well appointed, with quiet areas and day-room sort of areas too:
Whilst it was a nice lounge, it did lack any ďsoulĒ to it - it was very corporate (apart from the annoying advertising system that seemed to only be plugging a Spanish Lottery). Compared to the madness of the terminal area though (and the madness of getting to the airport), this was a welcome break.
Eventually, the BA flights made the screens that boarding was to commence. I headed out of the lounge, and off to the gate passing a very sunny area.
It was a darn nice day out there.
After exiting the lounge for the gate.
Soon enough, I spotted the tail fins of British Airways aircraft - a BA A320 for Heathrow and an E-170 for City parked at the gate area. Alas, there was no priority boarding in force, so everyone was in one queue.
My boarding pass was beeped and ripped, and I made my way aboard.
Leg 3: BA047 Barcelona El Prat - London Heathrow T5. British Airways, 11A (Exit Row), Eurotraveller (Economy) Airbus A320 10 Tier Points Earned, 1434 Avios (717 Base + 717 Tier bonus) + 24 Extra
After landing there was the welcome PA as our A320 taxied towards Terminal 5, with our plane docking at T5A. Upon docking there was the usual mad dash to get off the plane... and I partook of it, thanking the crew on the way out.
Terminal 5 in the distance
Overall: A very good service. The staff onboard were friendly and communicative, with the CSD leading from the front. The 1 hour 30 segment allows enough time for the service to be conducted in a reasonable of time, yet deliver it with a professional aspect. These are things I like.
Next: The British Airways T5 First Class Lounge - Will it leave a better impression on me than the T3 First Class lounge?
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
Wandering into Heathrow T5, this is my first time in this terminal amazingly (Being a Star Alliance flyer and only recently making the switch to Oneworld is the reason that Iíve kept away from here).
I followed the dots and the signs - and passed the UK Border Control (you donít know how weird that is not clearing immigration in your home country) and straight through to Connections area. As Iím departing through T5, I proceeded through conformance, and then headed upstairs for FastTrack security. Thankfully, the queues werenít massive for FastTrack (although some economy passengers jumped under the tensa-barriers), and I was through without questions after a few minutes.
Being my first time at T5, I didnít know my way around or where the BA F lounge was (hey, Iím new to this BA Games still). I headed to the North Lounge to find out and be told I actually needed to go to the South Lounge for the First Class lounge. So I toddled all the way back to the south lounges (stopping by the chemist on the way for bits and bobs that help when travelling).
I headed up the Escalators and was welcomed into the Lounge.
British Airways First Class Lounge. Glasses of Champers consumed... umm... *blush*
After entering the lounge there were two priorities. The first was to find a seat with a power socket and the secondly, a glass of the bubbly stuff.
I found a nice spot with a view of the window, and a reasonable distance from both the champagne bars and near enough to grab nibbles and such.
Seating with a bit of motion. I kinda like the pic. My seats were behind this area
Bubbles! (Iím on the Rose Bolly... donít ask).
The other champagne bar - closer to my seat. Shame.
After that little exploration (and a hunt for the small rooms), there was a small matter of food. Now, there are two options in a BA F lounge - either going to the food area, or getting something delivered to you. I went with the lazy option and had a burger (without the cheese).
After a short while they arrived. The burger was very edible - easy to the touch. The wedges were how I like them - nice and crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside.
However, for those who like to get food themselves, there was a self service area
The staff were cleaning the place regularly, and people were being looked after. This is a much better performance than the joke that was the T3 First Class Lounge a month ago.
WiFi speeds were ok - not exactly trail-blazingly fast, but acceptable for surfing and mail checking.
The Horse with a lamp. No, I donít get it either.
Looking at the departure board, I saw that BA27 to Hong Kong was going to be departing from Satellite C (T5C). I therefore packed up my troubles, thanked the staff and headed off.
The ever changing cloud
Overall: To put it blunt: one hell of an improvement over the T3 F lounge. It looked good, it worked well, and whilst there were a lot of people there, it didnít feel crowded at any time. I can see why people rave about this lounge now.
I followed the signed to the intra-terminal shuttle, following the advice of others to take the elevators as the escalators take forever.
However when I got downstairs, I was in for a shock - the transit system had halted due to both trains being broken. And that means only one thing - a long hike to T5C.
Considering the signs had it at a 20 minute walk, I did it in 10 (with the me trailing/following the cabin crew), with a lot of people who were very annoyed the train system had broken down.
Well I had to work off the champagne somehow.
A long way to go....
After clearing T5B and finally being granted access to T5C (yes, there were BAA people doing a destination check, I ascended up into T5C. Like T5A, itís light and airy... and at a reasonable temperature after youíve walked a fair distance with a few kg on you back...
(and they werenít pre-boarding yet. The crew had barely made it aboard).
Settling down, boarding had not commenced as I saw the crew board the plane - indicating that there would be more than a bit of a wait.
Boarding started a bit late - however when the call for elites to board was made, I presented myself at the gate. My boarding pass was beeped, and I was allowed to board.
Next: BA27 London - Hong Kong. Or... Slimline seats. 12 hours. Great....
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
Leg 4: BA0027 London Heathrow - Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport British Airways, 37K (Exit Row), World Traveller (Economy) Boeing 777-300ER 35 Tier Points Earned, 11958Avios (5,979 Base + 5,979 Tier bonus)
Boarding the plane, I was welcomed at the door, and directed down the right hand isle. My seat wasnít hard to find - Past Club World and World Traveller Plus, and the first row of World Traveller.
The aircraft looked in great condition - and if Iím honest - like any other 777-300ER that Iíve been on. Except this one had slimline seats. Iíll get on to them later... trust me. Meanwhile, where I was sat, I indeed did have a friend which would impede my legroom - the exit slide.
Ok, itís not the end of the world, but it meant care leg manoeuvring when stretching... and yes - more space than AA and WT+. As for a window... I had a wall.
And the nearest window was behind me or the exit door
As this was mostly a night flight, I wasnít that bothered. Itís still nice to have a window nearby though. In terms of the overhead panel, it was just lights - no overhead air nozzles.
Oh well. Whilst I like the nozzles for my own directed air, theyíre not the end of the world. Other little seat features was the existence of power under my seat and a USB Charging port. All good things.
As boarding continued the crew came around and said hello, talking about pain in the back about the train being broken. They seemed a friendly bunch - Iíd check in on that later...
Soon enough those of us in exit rows were asked to deploy our screens (after I had worked out how to) to watch the safety demo.
Thales i5000 system. Iíll get onto that in a bit...
The safety demo played as the crew took their positions for the demo. After the demo, the screens were stowed as we begun pushing back. Now Iíd love to tell you what runway we took off from, and which direction, but thereís a minor problem. Yes - the no window issue.
But on the plus side, youíre spared my take off and landing videos
Soon enough, we were airborne and into the night sky, making for Hong Kong. After the IFE system was activated, itís time to explore this Thales system to see what it can do,
Hereís some shots of it in action:
The system is categorised into useful bits - films, TV, music, BA and of course, the map.
Exploring the Map Section
The map section was one of the most fun Iíve used. Fully interactive and fully pose-able where you wanted it to be - a great learning tool and a great thing to watch when there was nothing else to watch - which when I tend to fly itís what I reach for. However the BA system had something on it. CONTENT! An airline which actually has content which I like. A good mix of drama, comedy and films.
So, this marks a first for a very long haul flight in Economy for some time - NO GHETTOIFE IFE SYSTEM!
Yes, Iíll lay bets youíre mostly not in shock. More like Iím in shock that an airline has actually thought about its IFE system and delivered it with a usable interface and matched it with content. Top marks.
As I settled into a long session of watching 30 Rock, the drinks trolley came pass. Regular viewers who know I topped up on Champers earlier shouldnít be surprised at the following picture.
The crew offered me a strong Vodka and cola one off the bat. I took one Vodka bottle and popped in my pocket, whilst diluting the other vodka down with cola. Yes. I drown my vodka. No, donít look at me like that.
And touch trolley and head to the galley...
The meal followed shortly there after. I canít remember the choices, but I went for the Chicken option - was Chicken Pad Thai
Pad Thai - with a little helper on top (as the Pad Thai contains milk).
The Pad Thai underneath
Ok, a big plus to BA here - they label their first service meals. Whilst for most of you who travel, labelling will only interest you from a calorific viewpoint at best, for those who travel with allergies - this is a big plus for me (Iíll talk about special meals on the way back). The Pad Thai itself was hot, noodley and had a fair bit of chicken. The pasta was fresh and edible too. Wine was offered during the service (shortly after meals were distributed), and the wine was passable - it wouldnít win any awards, but it was cold and drinkable with the food. The breads were instantly forgettable and the desert... was skipped. A reasonable spread for a first service.
Clear down was completed in a reasonable time and the cabin was dimmed after duty free sales were conducted.
After this point I reclined my seat a smidgen, put The Big Bang Theory on and closed my eyes. It took a bit, but eventually I got to sleep.
After waking up a bit stiff (and sore bottomed), I had found a good 6 hours of the flight had gone on sleep. This is a darn good thing - alcohol makes me a tiny bit silly and a lot sleepy. Whilst slimline seats are nice in theory and can give a bit more leg room, they are hard work on a backside. The best I could do was to place the cushion under my posterior to give a bit more padding for all it was worth. The headrest seemed to work quite well - although it was only adjustable up and down as opposed to adjustable wings - on the plus side this provides a reasonable ďcushionĒ.
Anyway, with a bit to go before the flight, breakfast was served. I went for the English Breakfast option.
The breakfast whilst it looked unappealing actually wasnít that bad. The orange juice was drinkable, the yoghurt untouchable. The hot breakfast was Ok - the egg wasnít that bad (well - decent eggs in the air donít tend to exist in my experience), the bacon wasnít that tough (and not burned - two good things) and the sausage was non-offensive and warm.
A drinks service followed, and the black coffee was warm, black and tasted of coffee.
Not a bad service at all really.
Meanwhile, people where drawing blinds. The person on the end of my row opened a blind and this is what was outside.
The view from my seat.
Soon enough the 40 minutes to land notice was given, and the queues for the two lavatories started to swell. Joy. They disappeared at the 20 minutes to landing, and the crew came round for the final clear down, before strapping themselves in.
Before I knew it, the plane touched down at Hong Kong. I then knew it because some of the condensation on the overhead system that had built up decided to empty... on top of my head. The poor flight attendant tried not to laugh, and as soon as we had cleared the active runway, she reached into the toilet to get me a few tissues to dry myself with.
Well - it woke me up I suppose.
When we came to a standstill at the gate, the flight attendant gave me a few more tissues as well as apologies aplenty, and explained what had happened. I was fine with it - what can you do? Whine and fill in forms? Not me.
Cathay Pacific Tails. Yep. Hong Kong.
The bongs went off, and a thank you to the cabin crew, and it was time to go... all the way through World Traveller Plus, Club World and First, exiting the plane at door 1L
Overall: A very reasonable service for a 12 hour flight. The food was good, the staff were excellent and were communicative whilst offering a good product. Whilst a 777 releasing condensation ontop of me isnít a good thing, a good member of staff watching out and reacting in the best way possible is a good thing.
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
Exiting the plane, it was a matter of heading to the travelators and Hong Kong Immigration. I was cleared within 10 minutes (see USA - it can be done). Rather than head for the luggage belt, I headed for the E-Channel registration (this would come in useful later on the trip). After a bit of negotiation, my BA Gold was accepted as a valid document, and I was allowed to register for E-Channel.
This involves two index fingerprints, a sticker on the passport and a photo... and thatís it. That was another 10 minutes done (which would save a LOT of time later).
Heading for the luggage belt, it had only recently spluttered into life, and was spitting luggage every now and again. Eventually, my little rucksack appeared and I was off after a visit to the small room.
I cleared customs without an issue, and headed for the MTR counter to pick up my HK$300 Airport Express + 3 day travel pass, whilst quickly loading my mail and a confirmed map of where I needed to go once I hit Sheung Wan.
I also loaded an extra HK$50 up on the Octopus card for incidental travel - such as Buses, Star Ferry and the Ding Dings (trams)
All that in hand, it was off to Airport Express.
There was only a short wait for the train, and soon enough Ė I was whisked away from the airport and off to Hong Kong Island
After exiting the Hong Kong MTR arrivals station, I checked and couldnít see the Holiday Inn Express on the local destination board (even though later I found out it was served!). Sighing to myself I knew that would mean dealing with the MTR at peak.
I followed the signs from Hong Kong Station to Central, and then through the rabbits warren that seems to be Central station. Thankfully, heading to Sheung Wan has an advantage at Central - most of the passengers are changing line or getting off at Central - thus when I caught an MTR, it was half empty for the short hop to the next station.
After following the signs and my nose to Exit A2 a bit of guesswork and map reading lead me directly to the Holiday Inn Express Soho.
See. I do have sense of direction at least...
Hotel: Holiday Inn Express Soho, Sheung Wan. Price paid 45,000 Priority Club Points for 3 nights
Back to night time photography of hotels. Old Habits die hard....
After wandering into the entrance of this new hotel, it was amazing to see how much they crammed into a small space.
And how busy it was a tourists from Korea were passing through.
I was welcomed after a couple of minutes waiting, and my rate was confirmed. In addition I was welcomed as a PC Platinum, and informed a welcome amenity would be brought up to my room later.
Two keycards were issued, and I was on my way to the 30th Floor.
The lift is one of those ďtap the keycard and push button to go upĒ style ones. After I was deposited on the 30th floor (yes, 30th... youíll see why in a shake), I turned the corner and headed to my room. Room numbers are limited whilst the hotel is tall; the building itself is on a small parcel of land. Hence building upwards!
The property itself is a new build, only opening in September (hence the very cheap rate for the hotel room). However, there wasnít much hunting on the 30th floor - it was down the corridor and on the left.
The magic door...
Waving the keycard opened the lock, and straight to the right upon the door entry was a slot for the keycard. Popping that in activated the lighting and opened the window blinds.
Lets look inside
Bed and the screened bathroom
Tea coffee facilities
Whilst basic, it did the job. If I wanted luxuries, I would had headed to the Crowne Plaza or the Intercontinentals. But for a place to rest, watch TV, update computer and sleep - this will do fine! The bed itself was comfortable without sinking in the middle of it, the aircon did the job well without freezing me, and the shower and bathroom whilst simple - again - did the job. Sometimes a hotel can mess up on these simple things, so seeing this hotel get it right is a good thing
The Hotel WiFi was reasonable - although it needed you to re-accept the T&Cís at regular intervals. Put it like this: I managed to get my new tablet up and running on the Hotel WiFi without an issue, whilst doing major online work with the laptop.
The views from the hotel room were quite good too - even though I was facing away from the harbour, I was facing towards the Peak
During the morning/day
Being a Holiday Inn Express, breakfast is included in the deal. This was served in the restaurant on the 2nd floor.
Now the restaurant is independent from the HIX, who buys in the breakfast service only. And whilst the spread is nice (if the same each day), there exists a minor problem - and it relates to the size of the hotel that I talked about earlier. The restraint was just too small for the people that were going through it, resulting in shared tables (in fact 1 out of the 3 sittings I went to I had my own table, and on the Sunday morning it was a 15 minute wait to get a shared table!
The food spread was simple - a mix of Asian and Western
Dear Hong Kong. We need to have a chat about what you call sausages and what I call sausages. Those are Hot Dogs.
The hotel also has a common room - or a ďGreat RoomĒ as they call it. Located on the 3rd floor, it has vending machines and other things. I used it on the final day to do a bit of re-packing of my bags.
The staff were friendly and accommodating - a nice crew really. Even the restaurant staff started warming to me on the final day.
Check out was at midday on the final day of the trip - I didnít extend it, but did stow a bag whilst I did bits and bobs on Hong Kong Island that day.
Overall: A great little property. Whilst the restaurant may cause issues as there is so little seating space (for example: 09:00 on a Sunday), it didnít impact overall. For a cheap hotel on Hong Kong Island thatís attached to a major brand - you canít go far wrong with this property.
Next: Your One-Time Exception - Turbojetting to Macau!
After relaxing the night (ok, more like engaging in the fine art of bartering on Temple Street and Kowloon), it was time for an adventure - and todayís adventure would take me by sea to Macau.
I decided to go the reasonable way to Macau - via TurboJet as I was interested in the old Macau and not the Conti Strip (thatís Asiaís Vegas)
With the hotel in Shenung Wan, it was a matter of ducking under the MTR station and following the signs for the passenger ferry over.
Naturally, I didnít pre-book, and the ferries were rammed as the locals here heading to gamble for the weekend. As I didnít really want to hang around the terminal for an extra hour or so, I brought a Super Class ticket on the way out for HK$311 or so.
From there is was blind rush to check-in, and then through Hong Kong Emmigration. For me, there was the normal choice of going through the normal manned counter - or trying out EChannel. I went for the no queue EChannel - and after working out how to present my document, I was through EChannel within seconds.
Which wasnít bad as I hadnít had a seat assignment yet for the ferry. I headed to the gate, where boarding was in full swing, and got a sticker for 4E in Super Class.
It was then up onto the gangplank and abroad.
Boarding, I scored a Hydrofoil (or to be more precise - A Boeing 929 Jetfoil) - a new experience for me (having done numerous ferries and hovercrafts in the past).
Super Class has a reasonable seat pitch - nothing uncomfortable.
The seat itself could recline and had a little flip down table.
Shortly before departure, an attendant made sure seat belts were fastened, and a safety video played. It was then off out of Hong Kong Harbour in boat mode, before applying the Hyrdofoils and kicking it into high speed to Macau. The route goes over the mouth of the Pearl River Delta (and if your mobile phone is sensitive enough, youíll switch through Hong Kongís Mobile networks to China Telecom and then to Macauís telecoms networks as you travel
Pulling out of HK
Breakfast was served shortly after leaving Hong Kong
It was very much an airline meal in most respects - on a tray plonked unceremoniously in front of me. Still, the pastry was edible, and the fruit was fresh. That's the main thing.
There was a bit of IFE - mainly a big screen in front used for advertising or announcements The one hour journey, covering 70km went along quickly with a few sights on the way
Soon enough the Cotai strip was coming up - signalling the end of the trip
And soon the Hyrdofoil descended back down to boat mode as it approached the Terminal Maritimo
Shortly after landing, Super Class passengers disembarked, followed by the masses in Economy.
After exiting, it was time to clear immigration - which was choc-a-block (and what seemed to be a lot of mainland Chinese visitors). Sadly, the EChannel I had signed up for was only good for Hong Kong, so it was a case of queuing up, and being seen to, before proceeding into Macau.
Now, for those who need a little bit of context - like Hong Kong, Macau up until 1998 was a colony. Whilst Hong Kong was under the control of the United Kingdom, Macau was under control of Portugal - hence why signs, words and a lot of things are in Portuguese (as well as Cantonese, Mandarin and the occasional splattering on English. Therefore navigation was a bit harder than Hong Kong, but I adapted after a while.
I headed out to the bus terminal, and after acting a bit confused, I did what any other person would - do - follow the crowd. The bus (Number 3) was grand total of HK$3.60 and dropped me off near the main sites of Macau.
And it was just nice to walk around.
Some photographic impressions - many more on the photoblog at
Soon enough, tiredness caught up with me - maybe because my sleep over the past few days of travel has been so disrupted or I was spending 15 minutes hunting for a 7/11 or Circle K so I could get some shrapnel for the bus. At near enough 15:30 I was back at the Terminal Maritimo, I queued up for TurboJet, and brought a ticket for the next ferry back to Hong Kong in normal class - a lot cheaper at HK168 for the 1 hour trip back.
Emmigration was reasonably quick after a passport stamp out , and duty free was laughable.
I headed to the gate pen, where the there was a short wait before I boarded another Hydrofoil back to Hong Kong.
This time, I managed to specify where I got to sit - so I was on the upper deck of the JetFoil.
Upper cabin Seating
After boarding was complete, we pushed away, boating past one of the bridges that link the Macau Peninsula to the Tapia and beyond, and then the JetFoil powered up for the 1 hour trip to Hong Kong.
Seating is a bit more constricted than it is was on Super Class, but for this normal economy class traveller, it felt spacious enough.
Being at the window, I grabbed a few shots as the journey progressed across the Pearl River Delta.
For the last half hour of the trip, my brain went into shutdown mode as I grabbed a few zzzís, waking up in time to see that the jetfoil was entering Hong Kong Harbour.
Quickly the jetfoil docked, and after a short wait, I was heading down the bouncy gangplank. From there it was a case of follow the escalators and the crowd until immigration. This is where I used the eChannel, and after completing the process quicker this time, I got a little receipt indicating how long I was allowed to stay in Hong Kong (180 days - those British Citizen Passports do open doors...), and was free to enter the territory. Before I knew it, it was in the Shak Tai centre, and retracing my steps back to the HIX in Shenug Wan.
Within 15 minutes of docking, I was in the hotel room, relaxing from a days exploration of another landÖ and more stamps in the passport.
Overall: I enjoyed my day trip to Macau, seeing a different culture that is so different to that of Hong Kong. Whilst I could had got more out of it with a bit better planning (and if I loved Casinos... and I'm sorry, I'm not a great fan of them), I felt like I got a lot of out of the time spent there. Next time, I'll do the trip the day after so not to fall asleep halfway through the trip though...
(Now, if you've been reading this on GhettoIFE, you'd find a pictorial photothing which I've cut from the FlyerTalk version due to the sheer amount of images.... Sorry!)
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
After finishing up my trip in Hong Kong, it was time to head off to the Airport. This time as my baggage had increased, I decided to take the free shuttle bus to Hong Kong Station. Whilst convenient, it did take its time going around (with the driver stopping off to pick up some snacks on the way). Eventually, he dropped me at the entrance of Hong Kong Station, and I proceeded to In-Town Check in (something I love to use to get shot of the luggage early, so I can focus on getting on the train).
My bags were checked, and boarding passes issued to Barcelona El Prat. From there, I headed down to the platform to board a waiting Airport Express train back to the airport.
Efficient as ever, the train dropped me off 24 minutes it pulled out of Hong Kong Station, where i visited a waiting MTR counter to hand over my Octopus card and get a refund on it. It was then a case of walking up to the departure area... when I remember where I left my fleece. On the airport express.
Oh well, I’ll freeze when I get home... for a few minutes only...
Moving along, I exited Hong Kong, cleared emmrigraiton and security. After doing a bit of duty free shopping, it was time for the main reason why I was here - Lounge Hopping.
Oh, you would as well.
Things have changed however. I’m used to heading to the Singapore Airline Silver Kirs Lounge, or Thai’s Royal Orchid Lounge. Now it’s Cathay Pacific’s range of lounges or the Qantas Lounge.
Well, change is good.
Three lounges were selected: The Wing, The Cabin and The BA/Qantas Lounge... well it would provide some entertainment for the evening
Lounge Stop: The Wing:
I was welcomed to the lounge and invited into a very quiet environment, and made my way in.
A lovely circular cubby hole.
The lounge itself was a quiet area, with some quiet coming and goings. THe food selection was reasonable if picky. But a nice quiet place.
But with so many lounges and so little time, it was time to move onto another lounge. I thank the staff and begun my hunt for the next Cathay Lounge: The Cabin. A Short wander back into the main terminal and a bit of good guesswork, I was at The Cabin
Again, I was welcomed into the lounge and directed to the right. The lounge was buzzing, and in the same style The Wing. This time, there were more bars than not, be it a food bar, a Panini Bar or a Health drink bar.
Health Drink Bar..
Again, a nice quiet lounge that has buzz to it, with a variation on the food in the other lounge. I took advantage of a bar and made a discovery of Absoult Vodka, which was Mandarin flavour.
I’m not an alcoholic honest - on my wage packet, I can’t afford to be an alcoholic!
Power sockets were easy to find, and the WiFi was of reasonable quality - useful things. The usual food mix was around, of good snacking quality.
After a while, I decided to see what other lounges are around. Well... I love to explore. I wandered off to the Qantas lounge, and wound up at the Business lounge.
QF Business Lounge Entrance
I was welcomed into the lounge, and the member of staff asked “Would you prefer to pop up to the First Class Lounge instead”.
I nodded and was told to head upstairs... where the Qantas First Lounge is tucked behind emmigration. So, yes - I looped around and around... to end up where I started.
I need to improve myself at this game of hunt the lounge - I’m really getting off the scent these days.
Qantas/British Airways First Class Lounge
I was welcomed in, my boarding pass scanned and I wandered into the 3rd lounge of the day.
Wandering in, I settled down, and acted like any Premium BA passenger would do, and headed for the bubbles.
C’mon. What do you think I was going to drink when I'm in a premium lounge?
Looking in at the food selections, it was a mix of nibbly foods really - still for the mood I was in, perfect enough
WiFi again was reachable, however there was a minor hunt for power sockets. Why is it that some lounges you have to hunt around for a power socket for a while? Oh well - one little thing.
It’s a nice enough venue, but the lounge felt much more business class than first class. However, it served the purpose of being a place to relax and unwind before a flight. This suits me fine.
Eventually the London flight was called, and it was back downstairs and to the gate area, where my chariot of the evening was awaiting boarding
Upon boarding, I was greeted by the crew, and settled down to my seat in the main World Traveller cabin. Instead of an exit row, this time I had a bulkhead row. Bulkhead rows as we know contain a risk - the loud screaming variety of risk.
Thankfully, the right hand section of the row had me and another lady in it. There was a baby in the middle block of economy, but it was relatively quiet.
Pillow at Seat.
After settling down, I started chatting to the friendly cabin crew - I could see this was going to be a reasonable flight tonight. Boarding took its time, but eventually the plane pushed back without a full load of passengers, making for a reasonable environment.
As I was in the bulkhead row, the TV Screen was stowed in the seat. I extended it for the safety demonstration - which was the long version of the demo. Itís still relevant and a good video, but there does need to be a new version of it as it has done the rounds for many years now.
Take off was quick and reasonable, with the planeís four Rolls Royce RB-211 engines powering up.
Now, hereís a little did you know. The flight I went on operated by G-CIVX - which featured in a documentary on how British Airways maintain its fleet at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_yHtfGH0nI (If youíve got an hour, get a coffee and settle back - its a great documentary).
The seat itself is the old generation World Traveller seat, and thatís not a bad thing by any means. For starters, the padding on it is not akin to a steel bench, with the headrest you can drop down so it acts like a firm side pillow - a great alternative against sleeping against the bulkhead wall.
The drinks trolley came around, and I was good... I just stuck to the Diet Coke
Being a late night flight, food followed pretty much behind the drinks, with options. I went for the chicken, which was delivered on a tray with:
In flight throwing projectile... or a roll.
Wine - again very palatable
Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice
The salad was cold and edible, whilst the Sweet and Sour Chicken whilst the rice was a bit soft, the chicken was flavoursome - another reasonable meal indeed. Combined as a tray, it wasnít a bad economy class meal at all.
Cleardown was quite quick as it was a late night flight, and I settled into use this IFE system.
Whilst this is an older generation system, it wasnít exactly lacking in terms of content Ė which is another thing I look for in an IFE system.
From the Big Bang Theory...
Ö to highlights of the Olympic Ceremonies of 2012
And thatís what I fell asleep to (whilst waking up every now and again to restart the video).
Whilst it wasnít sold sleep, I managed to get some rest until about 4 hours to go in the flight. During this time, a lens of mine decided to fall down the back of plane. At a quiet moment, I talked to the crew who offered to help me when we landed. Thanks to a bit of teamwork by one of the cabin crew (and by god, she got a ba.com/welldone from me when I got to the lounge), the lens was found rolled down two rows just before breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, that came along shortly after the lens was found, with a choice of Noodles or a full English. I went for the noodles
The tray with coffee in a BA Paper Cup.
Noodles, Yoghurt and Cake/Pastry/thing
The noodles were warm and plentiful - Singapore style, with a nice dash of meat, eggs and peppers. Not too spicy, but a very traditional far eastern wake up call. The pastry/cake was... edible at best, and yogurt... well we all know what I think about the bacterial fermentation of milk. The coffee was warm, brown and did the waking up thing. All good things. Mostly.
Soon the flight was closing in to London, with the map showing we were crossing the Channel, honing in over Clacton and Colchester, before heading for the London stacks.
As we cleared the stacks, our descent took us on a river approach. Whilst it was early in the London morning
During this time, the crew cleared down the plane - still smiling, talking to the passengers and interacting with all of them as they woke up as we closed into LHR.
And the approach into London was nothing short of... spectacular.
And the final 3 minutes of the trip to landing, captured digitally
After landing on 27R, our 747 begun the long taxi past the T1/T3 complex and towards T5, finally docking at the B Gates at Terminal 5. After a short wait and after thanking the crew for their help during the flight, I headed off the plane soon after 04:45 - shortly after landing.
Overall: Iíve said this once, Iíll say it again - Good Crew Make a Good Flight, and this crew exemplified this. The service itself was reasonable, but the way it delivered made it really enjoyable - like the crew wanted to be there to run the flight to London. Top Marks here British Airways.
Next: I may be in London, but I am nowhere near home. Thereís still Barcelona and the tightest connection possible at Zurich. Newt is... Another trip the BA F lounge and onto Barcelona.
As it was 5am, there seemed to be no-one out to do food at table service, so I went to the food service area to get breakfast
Sausage, Mushrooms Potato and lots of other bits to make an English breakfast
And more sausages!
Of course there was a glass of this to start the day. Donít look at me in that tone of voice.
The lounge got busier as the morning waned on. It was still quiteish, with comings and goings of busy people doing busy things, whilst there was little olde me in a corner dumping pictures onto an ever groaning hard disk drive.
Well, itís something to do to waiting between flights. Besides, it frees memory cards for the next steps of the journey. Thereís three more segments to go before the day is out...
As 8:30 ticked passed, a boarding gate was announced, and I packed my trash up, heading for Gate A1 (whilst stopping off on the way to get some chocolates for the office), still making it in plenty of time for the Barcelona flight.
Gate Alpha 1
Art near Gate 1 in the public area.
After a short wait, boarding was commenced. As I was in the priority queue, I used by BA Gold to get through the gate and onto the plane
Leg 6 BA484 London Heathrow - Barcelona El Prat British Airways, Airbus A320, Seat 11A 10 Tier Points Earned, 1434 Avios (717 Base + 717 Status bonus)
I was welcomed aboard by the crew and headed for my seat in the 2nd exit row of this Airbus A320. After stowing my bags, I settled down to watch the plane load in its entirety, with a fair few hunts for space for bags being made
The Shorter version of the BA Safety Video played, and we pushed back a bit late, heading again for runway 27R, and powering off into the sky.
Once we cleared the cloud there was but blue sky and sunlight... with some higher-level cloud.
Turning in the morning sun
Cabin during Cruise.
Well, this A320 appeared to be ďwell useĒ I think the term is. Whilst it was clean, there were signs that it had seen better dayís
Better days... and Better Glue needed.
Soon enough the food and drink cards made their way down their aisle, with me selecting a diet coke, and an Egg Mayo Croissant for the meal with a cuplet of orange juice too. Add a cup of water as well to help the dehydration I seemed to be going in, this is not a bad idea.
I donít expect high life catering on short segments, and this breakfast seemed to fit the ďfill the corner of a customerís stomachĒ category. Saying that, the croissant was a reasonable size, and the service was designed for a reasonably quick clean away.
Whilst the leather had seen better days, the seat was extremely comfortable with lots of leg room - one of the joys of being an exit row on a European leg.
Meanwhile the crew on-board were performing their duties and being helpful. Sadly, I didnít get a hello from the CSD with his iPad (and also to note - not on any of the long haul legs either). Whilst the crew were there and being helpful, they werenít overly warm compared to some of the recent crews I've experienced.
The flight moved on quickly, and soon enough the bumps of the Pyrenees occurred, signalling the plane was closing in on Barcelona.
Soon enough, clear down was done as was duty free, and we were descending down on the Barcelona area, breaking through the heavy cloud into a rather grey Mediterranean morning.
I swear the Med is down there. Honest.
The plane begun vectoring in for final approach into Barcelona, with the A320 making a nice decent on a wet Barcelona morning.
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
Exiting the plane I cleared immigration in the most stupid way possible thanks to the immigration checkpoint - I went to the EU queue, handed my passport over at the passport page. Now whilst I normally see lots of typing and a swipe of the information bit of the passport, the agent looked at the passport, looked at me, said thank you and let me through.
Itís quick, but thatís a bit of a security snooze there methinks.
Meanwhile baggage was being unloaded, and it was taking time coming out. I think my bag came in the last lot of bags to be ferried from the plane, but it arrived, with everything seemly intact. I cleared customs quickly as they were switching off half of the lights in the baggage claim hall.
After entering the public area, I quickly re-packed a few bags so some stuff I had picked up on route was stored safely (and wasnít bulging out my main bag too much), then headed back upstairs to the check in area.
After a bit of hunting, I found the Swiss check-in desks. I was seen to quickly as a SEN and the boarding passes issued for both the ZRH-BCN flights and the ZRH-BHX flights. With the 45 minute cutover between flights, the computer system seemed confident I could make it.
I still wasnít sure.
With the formalities completed and the luggage taken away, I was off through security, and going through the same security check point I went through on the way out. Within minutes, I was clear (with my bag unmolested), this time heading down to the main terminal area. I tried to buy a coat there (not easy or cheap... Iíd address that deficiency once I was at home) and get gin for those who wanted it in the office. Once purchased, I was off to the common lounge
Lounge Stop - Barcelona Schengen Lounge
I was welcomed into the lounge which in all respects, is a mirror to the Non-Schengen lounge (See Back to El Prat, Lounge, BA0475 Barcelona Ė London)- the big difference is that this lounge was a lot more busier. Still it allowed me a good 30 minutes or so to unwind before the next set of flights.
One thing that was of interest however was the new Lufthansa Business Class Seat that was being demoed. And of course, I had to review it quickly. Why? Because I love you all.
The seat itself does go flat - thatís the good news. As I noted in my initial analysis some time ago, I was worried about the angling of the seat in regards to feet intermingling, and I saw they put a divider up so feet from one seat wonít touch the other person.Put it like this: Youíd need to put effort into it if you want to play footsie with the person in the seat next to you.
The IFE controller and screen were nice to handle, but as usual with IFE - its the content that counts.... and sadly there was little content hooked up in the demo system.
It was reasonably spacious but honestly.... nothing overly special. For those who donít like Lufthansa's current wedgie seat, this is one hell of an improvement though.
Eventually I headed off as the computer screen said that a gate had been called. However, I was in for a shock. 1) The gate was at the far end of the C Gates at C75 and 2) When I arrived at the gate... there was no plane there. Now I was clock watching, as every minute wasted on the ground would add up to less time to run across Zurich Airport.
The plane pulled in about 10 minutes late, with a full unload of passengers, as well as crew who were swapping over at Barcelona.
I guess ďSwiss PunctualityĒ and ďOn-TimeĒ donít apply at Barcelona...
Boarding begun (with separate boarding for Business/SEN/Star Gold and Economy), and I made my way onto this A320 that was taking back to Zurich.
Leg 7 LX1955 Barcelona El Prat - Zurich International Airport Swiss International Air Lines, Airbus A320, Seat 7F 125 Miles Earned + 32 Executive Miles
I was welcomed aboard, and headed to my window Seat of 7F for this leg towards Zurich - 1 row behind the business class. This isnít a bad thing as you donít get a face-full of curtain when you get up later during the flight, or when youíre getting off the plane a rush.
Cabin during boarding
I stowed my baggage in the overhead lockers, and I found myself in a familiar comfortable Swiss short haul environment. Thankfully boarding seemed to move at some speed as there were a lot of people on connections beyond Zurich for this flight, and the plane was buttoned up to go. However, the point where we took off, we were 20 minutes down already.
This, was going to be tighter than I would had liked by any stretch of the imagination. Deciding not to worry about this for a bit (and rather worry at the other end), I settled back into the climb.
After the plane settled at its flight level, the food and drink service began
The usual drinks.
And an Apricot Tart.
Well... this is different. No baguettes with Turkey meat inside? Am I *sure* Iím flying Swiss here? Nonetheless it was a reasonably different thing to have as an inflight snack. I wasnít overly hungry, so I popped it in a bag for later (and considering the expiry date on it, later would be a longgggg time).
The seat? Well I think we all know the answer to that:
Do I need to say it even?
And the seat even supports a GhettoIFE system (yes, it FINALLY makes an appearance on this trip )
Looking at the clock we had pulled in at about 16:20. 5 minutes late on the ground, so that pilot had made up some serious time in the air. Some of that was lost during the taxi to the terminal, but I was mentally preparing myself for the great run that was ahead of me.
And Goodbye to you too... lets hope I make the next flight!!!
Unfortunately for me the plane pulled up at the far end of the A Pier at Zurich Airport. Knowing that the clock ticking on my connection, I pulled my bags from the overhead bin, thanked the crew... and rushed off the plane.
Overall: A slightly different service, but delivered in the usual Swiss style that Iíve come to enjoy on these shorthaul legs offered by this airline. Great crew, good seating that is appropriate for the flight.
Next: Ride Like The Wind (To be Free again)... and homeward bound (Hopefully...)
Programs: Mucci, BMI*G, M&M SEN, FB Gold, PC Plat, Father of GhettoIFE
A quick (and I mean quick) transit of ZŁrich Airport
Sitting near the front of the plane, I managed to make it out quickly. And with the plane docking the far end of the A gates, it was a case of doing it in the musical stylings of Christopher Cross/East Side Beat (take your pick - I prefer the East Side Beat version... but I grew up in the 90's...) to ride like the wind and power walk/run/whatever to the transfer gates as soon as, so I could make LX424 to Birmingham.
After clearing initial traffic coming off other places, I bolted down the travelators, and power walked through the A pier, a hard turn for to the B and D Piers rushing through the local traffic, and arriving at the Schengen Border with about 25 minutes to spare.
5 minutes of it was spent queuing to leave Switzerland. A quick diversion to the small room, and I was right next to the boarding gate... which was running late.
What is that about “The more things change?”
Another pit stop to pick up more chocolate for my co-workers, and boarding had begun, with Elites being seen to by a person and non elites having to use the scanner. I was beeped and headed into the boarding pen, where a bus turned up quickly and took a full load of us to the AvroJet/Jumbolino/Fokker apron.
After a short wait for the thumbs up, the bus doors opened and I boarded this little Fokker for the final flight home
Leg 8 LX424 Zurich International Airport - Birmingham Airport Operated by OLT Express for Swiss International Air Lines Fokker 100, Seat 11A 125 Miles Earned + 32 Executive Miles
I found my way to my seat, and to my luck, I had lucked out on an exit row. After stuffing my bags in the small overhead lockers, I checked the emergency instructions and waited for the plane to load. Again, this flight left Zurich with a full cabin aboard - seems like Swiss really is packing them in on this route.
In case of emergency - I wonder if the moustache is optional.... I doubt the fuzz on my face would pass...
Late as we were, the plane pushed forward and trundled towards a runway. During this time, the OLT Express crew gave the safety briefing (they did the actions over a pre-recorded announcement). There wasn’t a long wait for take off, allowing us to take off
Even though it’s a little Fokker, those Rolls Royce Tays did a very nice performance, with a nice climb-out into the night.
After settling into the cruise, I took a look around me.
Legroom. I’m not going to say it. Honest.
The seat (post landing)
Cabin with service commenced.
There was a service and I was in for a shock. I WAS OFFERED A CHOICE OF SANDWICH!!! This is a first for Swiss (or in this case OLT Express) - A Ham Baguette or a Cheese Baguette.
Pictured with a glass of water.
Again, nice and fresh - with a reasonable amount of filling.
This being Swiss of course, they do know about wine, so I had a bottle of their darn nice white wine too.
Meanwhile outside, the final bits of red sunlight sun were fading, marking the end of the day
Cleardown was reasonably quick, and shockingly one Swiss service standard was missed. No handing out of chocolates (nor were they handed out on exiting the plane). It’s a small thing, but Swiss do make a point of saying it - even in their adverts.
Decent soon begun, and we dropped down into the murk of an English evening where rain seemed to be the order of the day as we begun our descent into Birmingham airport, landing towards Birmingham City Centre.
From there it was the long taxi back to the terminal, and finally back to Gate 59 where this trip begun. After the bongs went, it was time to grab my trash one more time and head off.
After landing I made my way down the cold jetbridge, and into the warm terminal, following the signs to Immigration. I tried to clear using the ePassport gates, but the system was having none of that, so I had to go to an agent (thankfully the UK queue had 1 person in it). I was cleared quickly, and went down to luggage claim - and through to the baggage claim in the corner as opposed to the big luggage belts.
A short wait (well quicker than the wait times listed in this handy diagram that Birmingham Airport provides), and my little rucksack had made the 45 minute connection at Zurich Airport.
From there, it was through UK Customs and finally out into the “Real World”. Tracking back to the Airport Air-Rail Link I boarded the next available one which took me to Birmingham International Station.
Upon arriving, a state of chaos seems to be active, with a couple of cancellations causing major trouble - and a full Virgin Pendolino for the 15 minute ride to New Street as the signals were on the blink.
Nothing like a sharp jolt of reality to welcome a person back to the UK.
After the train pulled in, I headed up the escalators, to find the ticket inspectors had gone home for the night, and headed for the taxi rank.
Home and don’t spare the horses. Oh. Birmingham traffic. Save the horses.
After 10 more minutes enjoying Birmingham traffic, and 6 days of travel, I was at my front door, ending this adventure.
15627 miles, eight segments, two airlines and one front door.
And I went in, dropped my luggage off and put my feet up... and begun to make odd noises at the computers when all of them moaned about running out of disk space. Again.