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Old Sep 11, 13, 12:47 pm   #1
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Big Plane! Heavy Plane! Short-haul A380s with BA

Big Plane, Heavy Plane! Short-Haul A380s with British Airways
The Introduction




Yes gentle reader. I know you don’t want to read about trains and Norwich. I’ve therefore decided to give you all a bit of a treat (and myself to…) and try out a big plane before it goes into long haul service. Of course, I’m referring to the Airbus A380 and in particular British Airways version of the A380. Told you it would be something different!

Now, small pre-qualifier - I've had to cut down this trip report down a small bit due to me being trigger happy with the camera. You can view this trip report at: http://boardingarea.com/ghettoife/20...itish-airways/ for the full photographic experiance



Big Plane, Heavy Plane!

With much fanfare (and probably more than 787), British Airways received the first of its Airbus A380 superjumbos earlier this year. Since its arrival, the plane has been busy as crews learn their way around the this near aeroplane, serious miles being accrued by the crews as they prepare to take this plane into its planned long-haul duties of Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Johannesburg.

However, crews need to adapt and learn about the plane - and this is where the training at Manston field was needed. Of course, then you have to put that training into practice.

British Airways (without much fanfare) decided to operate the plane between London Heathrow T5 and Frankfurt Am Main International - which if you think about it, is rather a good thing as there is A380 support at both ends (both at LHR and FRA).

Now, part of the reason why BA didn't do the big song and dance can be put simply into "what if the plane went inoperable?” The last thing you want to do is strand a lot people in the wrong place of Europe. As a result, BA sold only the normal amount of seats it’s expecting to sell on a Boeing 767 or an Airbus A319, which it normally expects on the route.

The idea being, that it doesn't guarantee the type, and you are playing with pot-luck to see if you get a seat.

As a Vegas winner (all of $25, but still a winner - I knew when to walk away ), I like a bit of pot luck ... and besides - worse comes to worse, it's a day out.

Which is never a bad thing.

For booking this ticket, I decided to raid the Avios war chest I've built up since my BMI days, and blow the grand total 18,000 Avios, and £50 in fees to fly Club Europe both ways with a Reward Flight Saver ticket.

Not a bad redemption at all - whilst the fees could be lower (blame both the UK and German Government for slapping fees on to break the bank), it's not exactly "breaking the bank" (and still a bucket load of cash saved compared to the economy fares... let alone Club Europe Fares!!!).

The ticket was booked straight into Club Europe (with the hope that both segments would be operated by an A380, and I'd be upgraded to Club World).

In addition, this would be my first ever redemption flight with BA. All done on-line without a problem.

As I'm due in London doing some of my "Normal" (well can be described as normal for me) photography work, I'll also be overnighting in London - which means its back to my usual haunt of the Holiday Inn Ariel, which positions me nicely the shoot in the afternoon.

Originally, I was going to take the coach to London, and then catch the plane - but it seems National Express are in the mood to make heavy profits, charging the full whack of £38 for a single to Heathrow. Considering that the Ariel is £42.50 a night on a 2 for 1 rate, I’m going to stay in a hotel and be comfy before travelling, rather than being bleary eyed all day.

So the German finance capital for a day, the home of the European Bank... and maybe a currywurst or two.

And Haribo Goldbears. Mustn't forget the Goldbears.

Well, it is Frankfurt after all.

So here's a map (simple as it is...)

[img]http://www.gcmap.com/map?P=lHR-FRA&MS=bm&MR=60&MX=720x360&PM=*[/img]

Image - Great Circle Mapper - www.gcmap.com

Of course, all never flows simply in the land of GhettoIFE. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and prepare to laugh multiple times at my expense…

Last edited by Kevincm; Sep 11, 13 at 1:21 pm Reason: Added pre-introduction...
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Old Sep 11, 13, 12:54 pm   #2
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The day before

As National Express were deciding to charge stupid amounts for a coach ticket (I’m sorry, £36.70 + £1 booking fee isn’t great value when I can get the Holiday Inn Ariel for £42.50 a night all in), it was a case of exit work on Thursday evening, and heading straight from work to London.

As usual, I’m taking the Chiltern Main Line (as I’m cost conscious, and I have a spare return segment in my pocket)... but first I have to leave West Bromwich. This for me, means heading to the Midland Metro and changing at The Hawthorns for a real train to Birmingham Moor Street, and then the connection onto London.

Midland Metro

(Covered by Transit Pass)



Opening Trash shot. Yes, I’ve got a shoot on the way home. That’s why I have the fawn bag…

The Metro is my go-to service when I need to get to and from work. It’s clean, reasonably well timed (if annoying at times when the tram pulls out and I’m heading down the stairs for the station). Still, for an effective £2.51 a day for public transport in the West Midlands - including Tram, Buses and some trains, it’s a no brainer (considering it’s quicker than bus by a long shot, and even driving the 5 miles through city traffic 50 minutes vs 15 minutes).

The tram dropped me off at Snow Hill Station, where my train to London had already pulled in.

Chiltern Railways Birmingham Snow Hill to London Marylebone
Class 168/2, Chiltern Clubman

A bit different from last time, as we’re into commuter-land timings - and the train was busy enough to show it - with a good loading to London Marylebone (and the train taking a leisurely 2 hours thanks to all the stops that had to be made on the way).

Normally there are no issues on this service - but today, there was a bug in the WiFi. It worked after Bicester North (where the train packed out as all the shoppers heading to London were coming back from Bicester village), but was just refusing point blank to connect on the way.



Passing the evening countryside.

Still, the train was pootling along to London - and let’s be honest - it’s not as if I had any pressing engagements when I arrived in the City.

The train made good time, and soon it crossed the M25 and into London.

The train speed through, only slowing for the final approach into London Marylebone, and soon enough it pulled into the platform, ending this segment.

From there, it was straight down to the Underground, as the next stop along would take me to the next terminus I need to get to: London Paddington



Bakerloo Line service approaching.

Soon enough, I surfaced into one of my favourite terminals in London: Paddington Station. Whilst I’m not a fan of some of the prices of destinations of the services that depart from there (HINT: Heathrow Express), it is a great sight for Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway’s terminus



Paddington Station.

And of course, it’s home to a certain famous bear.



Those of a certain age, head to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eMZPEUR9As. You all know the theme tune.

But enough of looking at bears. It’s time to head of too the Holiday Inn Ariel. This hotel is near the 27R Threshold at Heathrow. But rather than pay the full £9.50 to go to Heathrow, I’m going to use my Oyster Card to get to Hayes and Harlington, and bus 140 - which would cost the princely sum of £4.40. And yes, I took a Heathrow Connect train to do it (Remember, Heathrow Connect is the stopping service, Heathrow Express is the real rip-off service).

As a local service, it was unsurprisingly busy - even at half eight in the evening.

A short ride, and I was at Hayes and Harlington, with dusk settling.



Within minutes of me exiting the station, a 140 Bus had turned up. It was then a quick ride through the village of Harlington, to the boundaries of the Northern Perimeter of Heathrow… and the Holiday Inn Ariel Heathrow Airport.

Holiday Inn Ariel
Hotel: Holiday Inn Ariel
Price Paid £85.50 (2 nights for 1 - IDEX1 Rate)



The Holiday Inn Ariel is... a timeless property. By which I mean some of the world has moved on, whilst some of it stays still.



Reception

I was welcomed in, and I was confirmed that I had a room reserved for two nights. I was processed as an elite member, with only a signature required to check in.

I was upgraded from my cheap single room to an Executive Room (don't get too excited kids - this is the Ariel)

Keys were issued, and I was offered an elite choice - a drink from the bar or 500 Priority Club Points. I think we all know what I chose (and those who don't know... my Priority Club Balance grew another 500 points).



Route the hallway. The building is circular after all…

I then headed up to my room on the 3rd Floor - and for once, I actually got an upgrade on a room that faced OUTWARDS as opposed to the single rooms facing inwards.

Wonders will never cease.

The room itself... is a typical refreshed Holiday Inn room. And that's no bad thing. This one featured a king bed in a reasonably large room (room to swing multiple cats), and a view over the maintenance pad/threshold of 27R



Bed



TV




Documents




Magazines


Well, not much of a view at night…

Moving onto the bathroom, and it's the usual compact bathroom... but hang on, there's NEW BATHROOM AMENITIES!





Sorry. I got over excited there. Yes, there are new bathroom amenities that 1) smell reasonable and 2) actually are effective.

Additional scouting indicate there was a safe in the room (good to fit a MacBook Pro in), Kettle with Tea/Coffee/Hot Chocolate… and a MiniBar.



Ah. Hotel MiniBar. A sign of something expensive? Oh yes.





A quick examination of the minibar indicated it was a weighted trigger unit - so I would not be stowing anything in it.

However, there was a welcome amenity. Two bottles of water (One sparkling, one still), and a KitKat Chunky Bar!



Welcome amenity for Premium Members.

It may be a small thing, but it is a well thought out thing. It's also interesting to note that the welcome amenity was restocked the days I was there. Which is nice.

After decanting the bags for travel purposes the next day - as well as putting all my batteries back on full charge (I swear this Canon 6D chews through battery power compared to my old 40D), it was time to get some rest before the excitement of the day

Little did I know HOW exciting things were going to turn later…

Overall: This Holiday Inn has gone through a few changes each time I've been there, and its mostly for the better. IDEX1 helps make any Heathrow Holiday Inn a lot more bearable in terms of cost though…

So 4:30 comes round, and I fall out of bed... quite literally. After nursing a small bump, I headed down to reception. Now, had I done my homework, I would I caught a Transport for London Red Bus.

But no, I decided to catch a Heathrow Hoppa. What a mistake to make.....
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Old Sep 11, 13, 12:56 pm   #3
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Getting to Heathrow, I decided to a choose the Hoppa from the Ariel to T5. We'll come onto how much a mistake that was in a moment.



Now there are two options: either buy at a ticket machine, or buy at a bus. And the pricing unsurprisingly varies between con and ripoff.
Code:
Method             Single     Return
Ticket Machine:     £4         £7
Bus Driver:         £4.50      £8
I honestly give up some days - when it comes to rip off Britain, Heathrow seems to be the first place to exposed to it.

Still, the bus turned up on schedule, and begun a long trip. And I mean LONG.




From the Holiday Inn Ariel (what the return bus driver called "The Bermuda Triangle" - Barry Manilow had it right sadly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWOS9ffvltQ and not safe for listening... ), it was then to the Ibis, the DoubleTree, then the Premier Inn... before heading off to the Jurys Inn, taking the Western and Southern Approaches to Heathrow T4 and finally T5.



BA Maintenance Hangars


How long did this privilege take? That's right kids - 35 MINUTES. This isn't a shuttle speed - it's a very bad joke.



Finally!

With time ticking, I headed into the terminal (as the Hoppa drops you off at arrivals...) and headed up to departures.





And crashed departure screens too - notice the Blue Screen of Death Kernel Panic

I got some paper boarding passes and headed to North Security to be processed quickly (with a half opened bottle water in my bag, but I'll let that slide Heathrow Security...)

I decided a quick visit to the lounge was needed for breakfast before the adventure.

Heading up to the lounges

Lounge stop - BA Galleries First Lounge

Looking at the food, things have seemed to have improved a bit since the darker days earlier in April and May, with food hot and fresh



Hot Breakfast selection



Cold Breakfast selection



lounge area



A380 advert

I also kept an eye on the departures board, and at 6:10, headed over to C Gates.



The terminal train took its time, but eventually one turned up to take me forward.

Eventually, I arrived at the C Gates and popped up into the morning sun



I headed to what I thought was the gate… and saw what would be my chariot of the morning....







At the gate I was at, I thought it was a delayed boarding. Lots of people around, lots of excitement…. and no announcements.

And then I started looking a bit more carefully… and to my horror… well.





Notice these image. What's up with that? Yes, the airbridges are retracting.... and I'm in the terminal.

For the 2nd time in my flying career, I had missed a flight. Yet I heard no final call to the podium. So the 06:50 to Frankfurt went without me.

The words I was uttering to myself at that point are not repeatable.

I headed to the gate next door - where the plane was departing from. I was greeted by name, and the agent set to work to put me on a flight to Frankfurt. She couldn’t, so I started to hunt for redemption space myself.

I therefore did a walk + type as I hunted for space. Thankfully, there was space on the final A380 flight of the day, so it was possible to try to recover this trip… if I could.





And off she goes… sans muggins.

I went to the customer services counter at T5C - and was sent to ticketing at T5B to sort out what could be done, if anything.

As I headed down the bowels of T5 - and sort of cheated and took the tunnel as opposed to the train.

Heading into T5B, I headed up to the lounge - and was directed to the ticketing counter. As I did this, I checked what redemption opportunities were available - and lo and behold – the latter flight (BA910) had space available to redeem in. As such, I was filling in the booking form, and getting close to the final booking command, when the agent called me forward.

The agent listened sympathetically… and i started pawing around for my passport. Yes - the OH CRAP OH CRAP OH CRAP moment when I discovered my passport was missing.

The agent took charge of the situation - 1) get me on a flight to Frankfurt and 2) reunite me with my passport. She found space, and moved me onto BA910 - checking if it was ok or not. After the boarding pass spat out for the outbound segment, she managed to un-cancel my inbound ticket, and issue a boarding pass for BA911.

With the fun part of boarding passes activated and issued, now came the sticky part of where my passport was. A quick call to T5C confirmed that the passport was with customer services. A sigh of relief, and I was sent back to T5C to pick up my passport, where I managed to recover the passport.

With that, I was sent to the transit station (how I missed that last time, I don’t know), and caught the train back to T5A.

I cleared FastTack compliance, and went to empty my bag of liquids. And my passport and boarding passes decided to stay there.

You know, some days the world is trying to tell you to give up on everything? Today is that day.

The two items were delivered to me by security, and I was set on my way through security.



With an advert for planes too.

So, lets review:
  • I missed a plane, resulting now in a straight turnaround at FRA
  • I lost my passport twice
  • BA fished me out of the brown stuff when they didn’t need to, and could had insisted I brought a new ticket.
Three bad things and one good thing. Things can only get better from here.

Can they?

Last edited by Kevincm; Sep 11, 13 at 1:02 pm
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:01 pm   #4
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Once through security, I made a beeline back to the lounge… but not before releasing the battery in the phone wouldn’t make it through the day. So I took matters into my own hands - and get a charger for the phone… and yes, I paid £97 for a charger.

It also had a HP Slate 7 with it, but that is besides the point (Truth be known, I’ve needed a replacement tablet for a bit since my olde one that I picked up in Hong Kong acted oddly… and then the screen cracked).

So I had technology, and I was ready to face the lounge again.

I was welcomed into the lounge, and found a nice window spot... and some bubbles. After the morning I’ve had so far, something to calm my nerves would be appreciated.

Now for those who enjoy watching planes… it isn’t that easy (even in the T5 F lounge). So this was a case of a big lens, ducking and diving the metal struts that Terminal 5 likes a lot of.

In my case, this was pairing up the 6D with a 70-200L f4 with no tripod. Oh well. who wants a controlled lens anyway?

I therefore sat down, recharged the phone, powered up the Tablet and made sure everything worked… whilst sipping a glass of the bubbly stuff.

But anyway: Pretty photos time.


British Airways Airbus A319 "Dove"



Qatar Airways Airbus A330



Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner


Now this spotting is hard work. So drink is needed:



Well... It's the BA First Lounge - what else am I meant to drink?



With a spot of Breakfast - The British Breakfast sandwich.

The sandwich was nicely done, with the egg not overly runny, and the bacon nicely done. A nice breakfast snack. It seems that the food has finally improved since the dark days of May when the quality of the food in the T5 First Class lounge wasn't exactly brilliant.

Of course, my camera needed a break too...


The Canon 6D with a 70-200L f4 resting between duties. Yes, that is a battery grip attached. Yes, this day drained the cheap batteries I popped in it.




G-VFAB - "Lady Penelope" taxiing. When I saw her last, I was off to Denver and things went well... this could only be a good omen...



Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380


Singapore Airlines Airbus A380


Of course, as time ticked on, it was time for lunch... and being in the BA lounge, there was only one option really - the BA Burger.



The BA Burger

The Chibatta bread top wasn't bad, and the contents were nicely well done. The potato wedges were flavoursome... and the combo was quite filling.

Checking out the food situation at lunch, things are improving, with an interesting selection at lunch:



Cold items



Hot Items

However, this time I wasn't going to miss my flight. I therefore headed off out the lounge and off to the gate.



But it seems Heathrow Airport seems to have captured a new market... Not just flights. But an airline that offers journeys in Time and Space:



Well the leg room is bigger on the inside obviously.



Although how this Supreme Dalek got past Heathrow Security is concerning... hang on.. does that mean Heathrow Security are now servants of the Daleks?

Anyway, I headed for the third time that day back to the transit system, and headed back to T5C once again... and this time I couldn't miss the damn gate... or plane.



But of course, I needed to go through the transit system. And a bit of long exposure photography too.



Yarrhh. There she blows!


G-XLEA resting between duties




Two big birds...

A boarding call was made, and this time - I was at the right gate. My boarding pass was zapped... and I was let aboard.

At long last...
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:04 pm   #5
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I was welcomed aboard the plane, and directed to my seat in Club World. But - what is the rest of the plane like on the lower deck? (the upper deck was not being used this training run).


BA have split their seating across both decks - rather than just have one deck of club, and the lower deck with First, World Traveller and World Traveller Plus. Whilst some have questioned this, it does break up the plane an awful lot - so you don't feel like you are in a big big plane, rather a big plane with small components.


First


Admittedly, I didn't get a good look at this until I got off the plane at Heathrow. For those who want to know, it's an improved version of the PRIME seat that is featured aboard the 777-300ERs, and the refurbished 777-200s/747-400s. As this was a training flight, this was out of use - however, I suspect there was quite of lot of oogling as door M1L was used as the exit at Heathrow.





The seat (best I could do whllst everyone was trying to get off the plane!)





Side bin


Or what I'd call "Oops".
There are 14 suites in FIRST, in an open suite style as opposed to Singapore Airlines/Emirates style closed suites. If you like closed or open suites is a personal preference - I can see arguments for both, and it really depends if you're travelling alone or with a partner.


Club World


The seat is akin to the current Club World seat - and the lower deck, it's arranged in a 2-4-2 layout (what some would consider a flying dormitory) in a ying-yang seating style, with window seats in reverse.





Club World - Main deck





The centre seats could be good for couples...





On the lower deck, there are 44 Club World Seats - directly behind FIRST and in front of World Traveller (economy). As usual, these are fully flat seats that convert into a Club World bed. They have AV input, USB Power, Mains Power as well as a PTV. I'd say if you're broad shouldered, these could be a squeeze, but they compare well to the product installed in the BA 747s.
If it was me paying for a long haul flight, I'd be looking at the back of the cabin or the upper deck, as the noise from the galley was audible from Row 10.


World Traveller


World traveller occupies a lot of the main deck, with 199 seats filling the back of the bus here. Seating here is again from the 777-300ER style - which means they are slimline. Simline seats offer lower weight and reduced padding, and not a firm favourite of mine (especially if I put my back out or my hips are aching from a long day walking) as I tend to find these sort of seats rather firm for a long flight (which is what these aircraft will be doing). The seats themselves aren't that bad, with good neck support, but are a bit firm on the posterior for hours on end.














Bulkhead/SkyCot seating


The seating isn't that bad, in a 747-esque 3-4-3 down the back with 31" leg room. All have power at seat, USB Power (something that's becoming more essential than mains power these days I think due to people needing to charge tablets and phones on the way).





Whilst these new birds have the great Thales IFE system installed, I can't help think BA skimmed over the integration costs and could had gone for a slimline unit at the base. Those things are going to impede on leg room.





Note the IFE unit on the side bolted to the seat. That's BIG. Same IFE system as the 777-300ER's


Seat 25D has a LOT of extra leg room due to the escape hatch. Handy!

Still, I can think of plenty worse seats in the skies.

After a look around, I went back into Club World, and took my own seat for the short hop over to Frankfurt.
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:07 pm   #6
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BA910 London Heathrow T5 to Frankfurt Main T2
British Airways, Airbus A380
Club World, Seat 11A. 9,000 Avios spent + Taxes

Eventually I took my seat and settled into the Club World seat in 11A. The captain greeted us aboard the new plane, and gave a flight time of an hour, and to listen to the safety briefing Doors were closed early, and pushback commenced.

As this was a short-haul service, no pre-flight departure beverages were offered.

As the plane's IFE system would be only showing a speedmarque or announcement in progress (no tailcamera for me ) the safety demonstration was completed manually.

With that bit of administration done, the plane taxied to the threshold of 07R, and commenced what I'd call an "undramatic takeoff". Whilst there was power, it didn't feel as much as a 777-300ER taking to the air - rather a gradual rise into the air.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZQ5Ncbbpns[/youtube]
As the flight was only an hour or so, I had a little time to explore my surroundings



Directly down the side



Speedmarque in the cabin.




Cabin View



More than adequate leg room



Table released




PTV and Table released

First up, the view from 11A is… mostly the wing unless you angle yourself appropriately.



Twickenham Stadium



Wing



Mood Lighting - note one of the mood lights has failed already…

A hot towel service was completed at a reasonable speed, refreshing me for the journey ahead.

Lets look at the seat - and as I pointed earlier in the cabin examination, this is a Club World seat - meaning it can do the fullly flat trick:



Takeoff




Relax




Deep Relax




Bed

As I stated, those with broader shoulders may find the room a bit limited in the window and may wish to head to the aisle seats. Couples will love the centre seats.

An afternoon tea service was carried out, with a plate of sandwiches and scones.



Plate




With a Scone (plain for me)



and a bottle of Mini-Pommery.

The sandwiches that were served were nothing special, but were plated up well, and tasted fresh. There was a Ham, Chicken Tika and a Cheese and Pickle Sandwich. This was supplied with a slice of lemon cake - and this being afternoon, a hot scone from the oven (with the crew offering 2nds of scones if needed).

Whilst there was limited time, the service didn’t feel rushed at all.

Looking at the IFE controller, this is a typical Thayles controller with a navigation function on the pad, and a keyboard on the back.



As this was a short-haul flight, the IFE was not functional sadly.

Service was cleared down quickly, as was duty free. The crew then rushed to the 10 minute to landing marker - indicating we were on final approach to Frankfurt am Main Airport

The crew seemed happy to be doing this flight, and were happy to show off bits of their brand new plane - of which they’re very happy to be aboard.

Soon enough, the approach to Frankfurt came into view, as the giant plane vectored in.



Quickly, enough the plane completed its short hop to Frankfurt, with a not overly bumpy landing in Frankfurt - even if the exit off the runway roll was a bit long….

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-PtA2nvWMo[/youtube]


After we landed, there was a short wait as the A380 had to cross an active takeoff runway. After a couple of planes passed, our A380 trundled along the Frankfurt taxiways until it lined up for Gate E2 - where the plane docked after the short journey.
I thanked the crew - to warn them I’ll be on the return leg - and headed off into the terminal.

Overall: Whilst the Club Europe Service may be lacking in the afternoon, the surroundings it was delivered in were excellent. The hard product seems solid, and well put together, with the seat being comfortable to relax in. The crew delivered a great service - even on such a short flight.
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:08 pm   #7
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Frankfurt Airport

As I wasn’t stopping in Germany very long, I decided to skip clearing immigration, and head straight to the lounge, relax a bit, then head to the duty-free to pick up some Goldbears.

Well, I am in Germany all, and they do taste a bit different (My coworkers note the taste of the German Harbio Goldbears is a bit stronger than the UK ones).





A sunny afternoon

I therefore found a lounge on my walking around - the Cathay Pacific Lounge… and thought it was a good idea to go in



Lounge stop: Cathay Pacific Lounge

I was welcomed into the lounge, and my Boarding Pass details were noted.

And as I went in… the term “Oh dear” came to mind. What a disappointment. From the high of T5F, straight down to earth with a rather bare lounge for both Cathay Business and First Passengers.



One part of the lounge.

The staff were welcoming at least – always a good thing.

Looking at the food options, that wasn’t overly impressive either… better than nothing though…



Cold snacks



Drinks



Crisps and nuts



Alcohol on top




View of the main lounge area

Free WiFi was provided in the lounge - always a boon, whilst phone calls were discouraged to make it a quiet place.



(With not a great view admittedly).

If anything, the lounge felt contracted out like a Servisair lounge and not like a lounge of a leading airline.

I completed what admin I needed to carry out, and then headed back to the gate area. I missed one flight today - I was damned if I was going to miss another!

Passing along the way, I noted with a tinge of regret, that Frankfurt airport has gone cheap - and is charging for liquid bags now.



Cheap.... not what I'd expect Fraport.




Flight listed - gate open!




Heading back to the gate area

Security is conducted at sets of gates at Frankfurt T2 - so I was processed through the business class line that seemed to crawl. The downside of this set up is that you can’t bring drinks into the gate area - rather you have to be held to ransom if you want liquid refreshment



Thankfully, the archway scanners - which are normally turned up to 11 when I pass through a German security checkpoint - didn’t beep, and I was let on my way.

This was on the side as I was heading to the gate:



So Heathrow has a Tardis, whilst Frankfurt has a rocket… There used to be a rocket that departed from Heathrow daily…

I took the opportunity to stock up on some Haribo for my friends as well in Duty Free, as actual boarding was soon to begin.

I spotted this sign that was put up, explaining that an Airbus A380 would operate this flight.



So at least a couple of customers might read it, whilst the rest go “ooooh”.

Boarding was called, and it was time to leave Germany.



Hidden behind the gate
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:11 pm   #8
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BA910 London Heathrow T5 to Frankfurt Main T2
British Airways, Airbus A380
Club World, Seat 10F. 9,000 Avios spent + Taxes


I was welcomed back aboard, and some of the crew recognised me (sparking some minor interest in the days events), and I took my seat at the opposite side of the plane that I was in before.



Over head bin - pivot style

I took my seat, and again, I’m in the reserve position as before.

Lets look around the seat. For those who need power, there’s USB sockets aplenty, as well as normal power





Seat controls



Overhead light



IFE and additional USB Power port






Privacy divider

I settled in as passengers filed aboard this plane - again an A319’s worth of passengers in an A380 is rather like a coupe of tic-tacs in a box rattling around.

The Captain gave a welcome speech (pretty similar to the one he gave on the way out) and soon, the plane was pushing back.







Safety card.. so those who pilfer them don’t have to take one now.

Soon we begun the journey, with a long taxi past T2, T1, the cargo pad and finally, to runway 18 for departure. Of course, this is filled with photographic opportunities…



Insert classic Frankfurt shot here.




JAL 777 waiting



Insert classic Frankfurt shot (2) here.




Clearing the cargo pad.

After a short wait for traffic, our A380 turned, and begun another climb into the sky:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLXDwQ4NeXY[/youtube]

Climbing out, it was a wonderful evening for flying.





The mood lighting went a wonderful purple too…



Though it would help if I don’t accidentally rotate my images

Outside, though the view from 10F is a lot better than 11A



Once again, the crew sprang into action for this short 1 hour 15 minute flight. As the flight attendant came to me, she said “Don’t worry - it’s not sandwiches again - it’s a cold plate”

Ah, they know me so well. A choice of bread was also offered.

I was offered a drink, and the male flight attendant offered another bottle of bubbles. I tried to resist, stating I had drunk my fair share earlier… but to quote the flight attendant.

“That was morning and afternoon. This is evening. Time to start again!”

I love BA crew.





The meats were cold, and actually had flavour - something some meats miss in flight. It was presented well.
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:12 pm   #9
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More Pommery. One of the long haul crewmembers tried to remove the foil… not realising it was a screw top…




Speedmarques on the cutlery




Coffee... and yes in the background - that is my passport. It’s still with me thankfully.

In the interests of research, I also paid a visit to the toilet. And yes, it’s as small as any toilet in the air. The things I do for my you, my readers...





Missing a flower here I suspect.



Elemis Spa amenities



Water controls

The service was cleared down quick and the plane settled into to an approach at Heathrow Airport



Speedmarque lit up.

As decent began, the light of the day started to fade.





[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU5Bb5HZxwM[/youtube]

The plane touched down on 27L utilising pretty much the full runway. From there it was a slow taxi. Bear in mind the bottom of 27L/09R is the British Airways/Virgin Atlantic maintenance pads, which is the opposite end to where we need to be at T5. So it was off on a very long taxi around Heathrow airport, going round the back of T1, past the in-build T2, pass the row of A380’s at T3 and finally docking at T5C, ending an adventurous day.



T2 in progress. And air bridges that haven’t got HSBC branding… yet.



T2 Main building I think




Qantas A380



Singapore Airlines A380




Emirates A380



The cabin during taxiing - notice the green glow indicators from the seats

As the plane came into T5C, bongs went off indicating that the journey was over. I gathered my stuff together, and waiting for the exit commence - which normally would be through M2L. Today, we were going through M1L - or right through FIRST.



A big thank you to the crew, and I was off back into the United Kingdom

Overall: The Club world product is very very solid. Whilst some would expect an evolutionary change or a complete massive change, Club world when delivered in the 747s and 777s works. And it works aboard this plane too. The evening service was a lot better than the afternoon sandwich service and felt like a meal as opposed to a snack. As for the crew… it was a polished long haul crew who want to do their best aboard a plane - The best sort of crew.

Now back in the UK, I followed the signs to the elevators, and down to the transit system, back to T5A

From the exit, I approached the UK Border… which was ram packed for a Friday evening. Normally I would had gone through the Biometric Passport lane, but this way full to the brim, whilst manual inspections seemed to get going at a fair rate. I therefore plumped to the EU Passport queue, and was seen to within 5 minutes - and on my way out of the airport after 10 minutes.

I made the mistake again of catching a Heathrow Hoppa back to the hotel (I wasn’t in the mood to mess around with busses and trains), and 45 minutes later after landing, I was at my hotel room, reflecting back on a very different day out.
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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:13 pm   #10
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Note: This actually has very little to do with flying, but more of a vinaigrette into my life when I'm not working, writing or flying. Some of you might enjoy this... otherwise wait for the conclusions which will be live later...


Now most of you know that in what remains of my spare time, as well as writing this blog, I'm also a photographer (as well as a few other things... such as a qualified Indian Head Massage therapist.... seriously!). The other reason why I timed my trip was so that I had a pro-shoot in Limehouse the next day... and it seemed silly travelling up and down the Chilterns two days in a row - rather it was easier to base myself near Heathrow and travel around.



But not without some early morning spotting first. Shame the weather had closed in...

After finishing up at the Holiday Inn Ariel, I checked out - with no further charges added to the bill.

It was then a case of crossing the road, and waiting for a 140 back to Hayes and Harlington. Thankfully, the bus came quickly enough - a good thing as the weather was turning for the worse by the time I got outside.

The bus dropped me off outside the station and quickly enough, I was under the canopies of Hayes and Harlington.

Normally, I'd grab the first train to London, but the first train was a 3-Car Thames Turbo Networker Unit - which was crammed to the gills. Rather than put myself through the pain of a 20 minute ride crammed up against a train door, I waiting for the next train... that happened to be a Heathrow Connect to London Paddington. This being a five car train, and having just departed Heathrow was empty, and provided a relaxing ride towards Paddington.



A wet CrossRail site



Nasty.

Once at Paddington, I had some minor business to attend to (as well as a wakeup coffee), so it was off to Central London for a bit. With the business I needed concluded, it was time to negotiate the Underground and Docklands Light Rail to the Studio in the back of Limehouse.

Once again, the grey skies menaced as changed trains at Poplar, with the skyline of Canary Wharf looking imposing as usual.


Clouds over the Wharf...


After another switch of rail unit, I was at my destination. Now, the studio was a short walk away from where I was going to be doing my photography. Alas - the heavens opened.


Two words: Oh Crap (Polite version)....

To put it into context, I was 5 minutes walk away, and the weather was not letting up. I decided to run for it… and promptly got soaked.

Thankfully, the studio was dry, and I took the time to dry off before preparing for the chaos ahead.

When it comes to studio work, I tend to be the technical one in the studio - able to implement ideas (as well as shooting the photos), so it’s muggins who is there with a light meter, balancing lights, putting softboxes and barn doors on things, moving lights, adjusting power as needed and modifying lights so photographer can shoot away (or myself when I get a few minutes).




All set up.

In addition (what seemingly is normal for me) my “processing laboratory” is in the kitchen. Because that’s where you find lots of plugs isn’t it? It’s important to me I have a “lab” so I can review my work with the models I’m working with.


Kitchen=Photographers working area....

And it’s time to shoot, working in different locations in the studio as I get the work I need for my portfolio.

Danger - Photographer at work!!!


Working with the 50mm f1.4


Working with the 70-200L (because that’s the ideal studio lens… with a full frame sensor)

(Images by my co-tog James)

As for the photos… sorry! Not safe for work ... so they're not appearing here!



I’m sure they’ll appear in a portfolio of work some time. Give me the time to process the images though.... (for me... I've got the best part of 1500 images to sort from this shoot...)

I tend not to hold back when shooting, and work with the models to get the images I’m after. Similarly, it’s muggins here who fiddles with the lighting and the legalities side (I handle the model releases for the appropriate needs and ensure everyone is compliant).

With the shoot done (both successful for the models, my co-tog and myself), it was a taxi back to Stratford station for the models, and for me a taxi towards Canary Wharf where my co-tog was going to have dinner… and where I was going to dive into the Jubilee Line for a tube to Baker Street and onto Marylebone.

Upon exiting, I queued up for a ticket, and was watching the minutes tick away as a train was due to depart. Thankfully I got a discounted ticket, and raced up the platform to my train

London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street
Chiltern Clubman

I’m not going to write much about this leg for two simple reasons:
  1. I’ve written lots about the Chilterns railway service recently
  2. The train got me home
  3. I was exhausted at this point - and my laptop wasn’t looking the best after the best part of 3500 images had been dumped on it over the past two days.
But the train got me to Moor Street station, where I exited the train, went through the ticket barriers and across the road, where there was a short wait for a bus.



Back on the buses... no taxies for me!

The 82 came along, and soon I was back at the flat, after three eventful days... and a hard disk groaning full of data.

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Old Sep 11, 13, 1:15 pm   #11
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A Bright New Future?

The British Airways A380 is in lots of ways very conventional - and that can be a good thing as the products themselves are good
  • - World Traveller and World Traveller Plus are good products - even with the new slimline seating
  • - Club World isn’t a bad product as well. I suspect it will be better on the upper deck compared to the lower deck.
  • - First as always looks good.
Whilst it looks conventional, I kind of like it. I’m not one for gold and fake wood everywhere; sometimes, the sober colours are what needed. Some may see the A380 as an excuse to go wild, but BA has gone for evolution rather than revolution (On the main deck at least - I sadly didn’t go up the staircase to the upper deck to see what evolution there are up there).

I also like whatever product that’s in the air - be in Club, Premium or Economy to be delivered well. The crew I had there and back to Frankfurt delivered the product with a well-conducted service - a good sign for the future of the A380s when they spread their wings to Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Johannesburg.

As the crews grow into this plane, I have no doubt that the service will improve as they get used to such a big aircraft in the sky.

As for the ground service, things have seemingly improved from the disasters of May - with great and understanding customer service at all levels - from check-in, lounge (where the food has improved considerably), to the rebooking service that salvaged this trip from a possible disaster. .

My only concern is that with these new products, the good quality of service and continue. There will be dips and troughs - there always is - but if the staff of BA really embrace “To Fly, To Serve” then they must build on each improvement and keep slippage to a minimum.

Let’s hope they can do that.

For now, BA gets a two thumbs up for a very enjoyable and well handled trip.

Ooh. There were other things too weren't there? The Holiday Inn Ariel appears to improve each time I go there... which is only a good thing. Chiltern Railways were as good as usual in getting me home.... and oh yes... Heathrow Hoppa was worse than useless.

And that’s your lot for this trip. Never let it be said that I don’t ever have adventures.

Speaking of adventures, please join me later this month for another trip - again in Europe as I head to “Europe’s most interesting city” as I go to TravelMagic in “Making Brussels Interesting - with TravelMagic and Brussels Airlines”.

Oh yes, the beginnings of another Chicago trip is in the making… and trust me, if I’ve gone made before, this one will really push my boundaries of madness.

Even by my standards.

Tootle pip!
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Old Sep 11, 13, 3:03 pm   #12
  
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Just a thought.... stroll to the car-park and get on the free bus? Might be quicker?

Thanks for posting, a good day out!
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Old Sep 11, 13, 3:16 pm   #13
  
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Great trip report, glad you enjoyed it once you finally got on the plane!

Just to point out though, you could have used the JAL lounge at FRA - which is much better!
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Old Sep 11, 13, 3:46 pm   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skipcool3 View Post
Just a thought.... stroll to the car-park and get on the free bus? Might be quicker?

Thanks for posting, a good day out!
Thanks Skipcool3... It never occurred to me at the time (and at 5am in the morning, less things were in my mind to be honest...)

Glad you enjoyed

Quote:
Originally Posted by darthlemsip View Post
Great trip report, glad you enjoyed it once you finally got on the plane!

Just to point out though, you could have used the JAL lounge at FRA - which is much better!
Thanks darthlemsip. There's always another trip.

Frankfurt is one of those cities I tend to go in and out of more often than not... and I have a feeling I'll be back there ... later rather than sooner I suspect though
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Old Sep 12, 13, 11:04 am   #15
  
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Great TR, good photos. What a relief you got on the later flight
Overall happy with the product or?
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