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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:48 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: A few airline and car rental companies
Posts: 4,474
Further Tales of First Class Decadence as Experienced On British Airways

“Good evening, Sir. May I offer you something to drink? A glass of Champagne, perhaps?”

It’s been two years since I’ve been greeted in such a fashion, and I must say it’s a salutation I wish I could hear more often. It represents a warm welcome to a world of refined elegance, a world offering the promise of comfort and ease, where you’ll be well looked after as an honored guest.

Welcome to the world of International First Class travel as practiced by British Airways.


* * * * * * * * *

I’ve written about First Class travel before in this forum. Indeed, I’ve reported on British Airways’ First Class service five years previously. Why do it again? Call it an update. With all the attention being given to the next generation of First Class suites and services as offered by airlines like Singapore, Emirates and India’s Jet Airways, how does BA’s service rate? Is it still worth paying the big bucks for? I’ll report on my recent experience and let you be the judge.

Although BA has made some noteworthy improvements to its Club World Business Class product, the First Class cabin remains for the most part unchanged. The FIRST suites, introduced amidst much fanfare as the pinnacle of First Class accommodations in 1996, are now twelve years older and have long since been surpassed in both comfort and privacy by the next generation of suites such as those found on Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific. Rumor has it however that BA has made slight improvements to its First Class onboard service and has plans for major improvements to both the hard and soft product to be implemented beginning in 2009. Regardless, I am thrilled to return to First Class international travel aboard British Airways and look forward to experiencing the current improvements, however slight they may be.


* * * * * * * * *

Once again, I’m cashing in a large block of award mileage for a First Class seat to Australia. Truth be known, I really wanted to travel to South Africa this spring but there were no First Class award seats to be found via Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan on either British Airways or Cathay Pacific. Business Class seats were available into either Johannesburg or Capetown but over the years I’ve established a standard for my personal award travel aboard three cabin aircraft and Business Class simply doesn’t make the grade.

Now before any of you dismiss me as an irredeemable snob, please understand that I’ve logged literally millions of miles all over the globe while sat in Economy Class seats. I’m not a rich man and when I’m paying out of pocket for my own flights, the back of the plane is where you’ll find me. I’m perfectly comfortable with both Economy Class seats and Economy Class passengers.

Many would argue that a Business Class seat is perfectly acceptable for long distance travel. Without a doubt, the comfort and amenities offered in Business Class are far superior to those found in Economy Class. Indeed, some airlines have enhanced their Business classes to such an extent that the distinction between travelling in Business Class and First Class has become increasingly blurred.

Consider, too, that most people focus on the destination rather than the transportation. Even when traveling on award mileage, their practical approach to travel tells them that the Business Class seat and service is more than acceptable and that the additional space and amenities of First Class are not worth spending the extra money or miles for.

The main difference between myself and most other people is that I love to fly. And, just as those who truly love to drive won’t settle for anything less than a high performance automobile, I won’t settle for anything less than a First Class Suite when it comes to long distance international travel. At least, not when I have the award miles to afford it.

I had no problem finding First Class accommodations to Sydney aboard British Airways. It's worth noting however that I enjoy a greater degree of flexibility than most people. Aside from the fact that I only require one seat, I also have the flexibility to travel any time between February and April. Alaska Airlines connects to British Airways at ten different North American gateway cities, so getting to London is rarely a problem. Finding a seat between London and Sydney is generally more challenging however as there are only two daily departures. Again, if you are flexible and persistent enough to check back every so often, you stand an excellent chance of success.

I’d like to take a moment here to thank the friendly and capable folks working the Partner Desk at Alaska Airlines. Thanks to all of them for patiently searching out seats to both South Africa and Australia aboard both British Airways and Cathay Pacific. I also appreciate their patiently dealing with my many follow up phone calls to see if certain more preferable dates had opened up. As an added bonus, they even found me a seat aboard BA 9, the 747 departure from London to Sydney via Bangkok as opposed to BA 15, the 777 via Singapore. Not only do I prefer a First Class seat in the nose of a 747, but the LHR-BKK-SYD routing represented 10,610 miles of hitherto unflown routes for me.

Now then, why travel from Alaska to Australia via British Airways when Qantas will get you to Australia much faster? Flying aboard an international First Class the caliber of British Airways’ is for me a rare and cherished treat. I want to get the most value for my miles and BA’s First Class award to Australia allows me to do just that. BA’s longer routing via London and Bangkok will allow me to enjoy just over 16000 miles and 30 hours of First Class luxury as opposed to less than half that amount were I to fly the more direct route across the Pacific with Qantas. Additionally, there’s just not that much service offered aboard those late night nonstops between North America and Australia. You’re served a late supper (at a time when most people really don’t care to eat) followed by a full breakfast prior to arrival in Australia. That’s it. Your international First Class experience to Australia is over after only fourteen hours, much of which you probably slept through.

For me, the highlight of any trip in First Class is the meal service and over the course of this trip with British Airways I’ll be served three dinners and three breakfasts. As an added bonus, I’ll have plenty of time to indulge in the comfort and amenities of three different First Class lounges, including BA’s Concorde Room at Heathrow’s Terminal 4.

By the way, I don’t mean to make Australia sound like a consolation prize. I do truly enjoy visiting there. As well, I can take some consolation in the fact that by going to Australia, I’m getting the very most out of my award mileage in the form of an extra full service flight between Asia and Australia, i.e three full service flights to get to Oz as opposed to only two to get to Africa.

Alright then, following my 280th flight aboard an Alaska Airlines 737-400 from Seattle to San Francisco, let’s pick this journey up at San Francisco International where I faced a six hour layover before my departure to London at 8:30pm.

By the way, although I will be imbedding some pictures in this report, the entire lot of them may be viewed HERE.


Following are a couple of pictures from my flights between Fairbanks and San Francisco:




On descent into Anchorage over icy ponds



Last edited by Seat 2A; Mar 29, 08 at 6:22 am..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:48 pm   #2
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: A few airline and car rental companies
Posts: 4,474
March 10, 2008
San Francisco – London
British Airways First Class
Boeing 747-400


I like San Francisco International Airport, so the prospect of a six hour layover was a pleasant rather than daunting proposition. The airport is conveniently located just a couple of miles from the attractive downtown district of Burlingame, easily reached via a 10 minute ride on the city transit bus. And, now that BART trains come right to the airport terminal, I could speed into San Francisco for a late lunch and a bit of last minute shopping should I so choose. I did.

But first, I wanted to check-in with British Airways and rid myself of a 40 pound backpack. In addition to the 8:30 flight to London on which I was booked, BA also has a 5:30pm departure, so I knew the check-in counter would be open. The International Terminal is a short walk from Alaska’s facilities in Terminal 1, so I gathered my gear and headed on over.

Upon entering the International Terminal, I checked a TV monitor to see where BA’s check-in was located. The 5:30 departure was listed so I naturally continued on down the flight listings just to verify the 8:30 departure and see that it was operating on time. Oh no! BA 286 was showing CANCELLED. I checked the inbound flight from London. It too showed CANCELLED. On a positive note, it was only 3:00pm, so I continued on to the check-in counter to determine my new flights. I wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of being switched to the 5:30pm departure because it leaves so early in the evening. By my body clock, I wouldn’t even begin to get tired until we were only 2-3 hours out of London. When it comes to flying between North America and Europe, I say the later the better.

The good news was that BA 284, the 5:30pm departure, was sold out in First. I was instead offered an Upper Class seat on Virgin Atlantic’s 7:30pm nonstop. Hmm… It was tempting as I’d never flown Virgin before. However, Virgin’s Upper Class is a Business Class product. Admittedly it’s a very good Business Class product, but at the end of the day it’s still Business Class.

“Is there anything available on BA’s 9:40pm departure out of Los Angeles?” I asked.

This was the flight I’d wanted when I originally booked this trip but Alaska’s Partner Desk was unable to procure it for me. Although I generally prefer flying out of SFO over LAX, I had wanted to check out the new First Class lounge at TBIT. Now that opportunity presented itself rather nicely.

“Why, yes” replied the agent, “We do have a seat in First aboard that flight.”

“Book it, Danno! How will I get down to LA?”

Tap-Tap-Tap Click-Click Tap-Tappity-Tap-Tap-Tap

“There’s space on American’s 6:15pm departure, arriving LAX at 7:35pm.”

“Excellent! Thank you.”


March 10, 2008
San Francisco – Los Angeles
American Airlines First Class
McDonnell-Douglas DC-9-80 N969TW


Despite having logged over 180 flights on American since 2001, I hadn’t flown First Class on an American domestic flight since 1983. That flight was between Dallas and Chicago aboard a DC-10 equipped with a round table designed to seat four in its First Class cabin. The First Class seats were large and deep and the two hour DFW-ORD flight offered a nicer service than you’ll find on many longer flights these days. Salad was served from the trolley, as was dessert. Between meals the table served as an excellent lounge area. We played cards and drank beer after lunch. Of course, the cards were complimentary back then.

Today’s one hour flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles was hardly an eye-popper in terms of inflight service but the seat was comfortable and the beer was cold. Interestingly, the wonderful aroma of chocolate chip cookies permeated the cabin though no cookies were ever offered. Instead I munched on the deluxe snack mix and enjoyed the setting sun as we sped down to Los Angeles in just 57 minutes.



Climbing out of SFO through early evening clouds



Sunset off the California coast while flying between SFO and LAX

Last edited by Seat 2A; Dec 14, 10 at 2:19 pm..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:50 pm   #3
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: East Ester, Alaska
Programs: A few airline and car rental companies
Posts: 4,474
Question

March 10, 2008
Los Angeles – London
British Airways First Class
Boeing 747-400 G-BYGF


Check-in at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (henceforth referred to as TBIT) was surprisingly hectic. I’ve read many complaints about this facility though from my experience it’s never been all that bad. Tonight it was chaotic – at least around the BA counters. The procedure at TBIT is that after you’ve checked in and received your boarding passes, etc., you must take your baggage to a TSA checkpoint. Unfortunately the only convenient egress from BA’s check-in counter was through the First Class lane. Amazingly there was no other aisle available for simple passage away from the counters. I tried to stay out of the way as best I could as people pushed unwieldy and occasionally overloaded baggage trolleys while trying to get past. Thankfully, once I’d completed the post check-in gauntlet to drop my pack with the TSA, I enjoyed smooth sailing through the security checkpoint and was soon on my way to the OneWorld Lounge. Our departure had been delayed until 10:00pm, so I was looking forward to using the extra time to enjoy the new First Class Lounge.

Most of the original airline lounges in TBIT were considered small and stuffy, so last year a major lounge reconstruction effort was undertaken. With the advent of large airline alliances, the new lounge scheme has many of the original sixteen lounges consolidated into single Alliance Lounges. Located up on the fifth floor of the TBIT and accessed by elevator, the OneWorld Lounge I visited served British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific. At least, those were the logos posted prominently outside the entrance. Perhaps there’s another lounge for OneWorld members like JAL and LAN that also serve LAX. An attendant wearing a Cathay Pacific uniform checked my credentials and welcomed me into the First Class side of the lounge.

I should mention here that I was expecting or at least hoping that this new lounge would be modeled along the lines of the Qantas Clubs in Melbourne or Sydney – not in terms of providing a dining room or a big spread of food but rather in being a comfortable, stylish and spacious lounge. Alas, the First Class lounge I entered would best be described as functional rather than comfortable, utilitarian rather than stylish, long and narrow rather than wide and spacious. Along one wall were sets of tables and chairs or small couches separated every twenty feet or so by wooden partitions. Centered along the other wall was a buffet area offering a nice variety of food stuffs and a serviceable selection of spirits, beers and wines. At the entrance was a decent collection of newspapers and magazines while at the far end of the room was a dedicated TV lounge. Food offerings included fresh fruit, salad, meats, cheeses, breads, miniature pizzas, salmon, sushi and a hot offering of Lamb Rogan Josh with steamed rice with potato leek soup. No complaints here. I put together a nice plate of finger foods, selected a Sam Adams beer and took a seat at one of the plain white tables set down the center of the lounge.












Overall, what this lounge lacked in ambience it more than made up for with the good selection of food and beverages. The staff were plentiful and did a nice job of clearing away dirty dishes while wiping down tables and service areas. Even so, the bland décor and narrow room made it a lounge I’d not care to spend much time in. After a couple of phone calls and another beer, I headed down to gate 104 about 9:15.

Despite a separate lane for First and Club World passengers, my arrival in the middle of the boarding process meant the jetway was jam packed. This flight was full in no small measure due to the re-accommodation of passengers from BA’s cancelled SFO departure. As we ever so slowly made our way down the jetway, I remembered with longing the days when First Class passengers rated their own private jetway. Or, even better, stairway. Continental used to lay a golden carpet to the stairway leading up to its Golden Jet 707s. United laid a red carpet out for First Class passengers boarding its DC-8 Jet Mainliners. The carpet in the jetway this evening was charcoal grey.

Despite having flown over 120 flights aboard 747s, I still feel a surge of excitement as I approach the doorway. Entering a 747 is like entering an airborne house. It’s so large compared to the tube-like confines of single aisle aircraft. Interestingly, the aircraft operating tonight’s flight, G-BYGF, is one I’ve flown four times previously. After tonight’s flight I’ll have logged 26,460 miles aboard this aircraft making it number one amongst individual aircraft that I’ve been on in terms of mileage flown. Of BA’s fifty-six 747s, I’ve flown just seventeen however. Hopefully I can someday collect them all.

An attractive young flight attendant with the most beautiful auburn hair inspected my boarding pass and directed me to cross the cabin and turn left. This aircraft had not yet been reconfigured in the new seating layout so I passed through the old style Club World cabin before entering the plush confines of the First Class cabin. Making my way forward to seat 1K (I’ve sat in this seat before, too. Look, there’s the initials I carved on the wall panel – no, no – just kidding!) I slipped off my shoes and began to get settled in for the flight. Already at my seat were two pillows, a duvet, a blanket and a set of headphones. Moments later a flight attendant approached bearing a navy blue sleep suit and an amenities kit.

“Good evening, Sir. May I offer you something to drink? A glass of Champagne, perhaps?”

“Champagne would be marvelous, thanks.”

Moments later, another flight attendant arrived to hang my jacket and help me stow my daypack. I hadn’t even been on the plane two minutes and already I was well on my way to a comfortable and relaxing flight. Soon after taking my seat, I was presented with the Champagne and a small dish of mixed Macadamia nuts and cashews. Ah… it sure is nice to be back in a proper First Class again!





As I sipped my Champagne and munched on the tasty roasted nuts, I considered that I’ve flown 29 flights and just over 153,000 miles aboard British Airways 747s and never once have I not been in First Class. Now that’s a streak I’d like to keep alive as long as possible.


THE AMENITY KIT

BA’s amenity kits or BAgs seem to get refreshed and/or redesigned every year or so. This year’s version was presented in a small blue velvet suitcase designed by that ever trendy handbag designer, Anya Hindmarch. Inside the BAg were a variety of products from Kiehl’s, producer of classic skin and hair care products since 1851. An insert described the BAg and its assorted ingredients:

Welcome to the latest collection of the BAg, our beautiful and practically designed washbags developed exclusively for FIRST by award-winning British designer Anya Hindmarch. This collection is our most luxurious yet, featuring plush velvet eyeshades, cosy cotton socks and much more.

When you dip into your BAg, you’ll now discover generously sized uniquely efficacious skincare formulations from Kiehl’s Since 1851, the original New York pharmacy – all made with the finest natural ingredients. Elgydium toothpaste and alcohol free mouthwash from France are also included to freshen you up at any time during your journey.

As well as your BAg, feel free to freshen up with a selection of Kiehl’s hand and body products available in the FIRST bathrooms.



SOFT SKIN
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer, 30ml
A light yet effective lotion that softens and conditions. Suitable for all skin types, includes vitamins A and E. Apply this iconic moisturizer to your face at the beginning of your flight and re-apply as frequently as needed; it is readily absorbed into the facial skin, leaving the surface area soft and nurtured.

SMOOTH LIPS
Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, 15ml
This famous lip balm will keep from drying during your flight as well as helping to relieve chapped or cracked lips. Lip Balm #1 with an added SPF 4 sunscreen protects lips from the effects of sun, wind and the elements once you arrive at your destination. Dab onto lips regularly during your flight.

BRIGHT EYES
Light Nourishing Eye Cream, 5ml
This easily absorbed light cream is enriched with anti-oxidants and moisturizing oils to sooth and protect the delicate skin of the eye area. The lightweight formula will not exacerbate puffiness in the eye area and is ideal for inflight use. Gently dab around the eye area at the start of your flight and re-apply as desired.

SHINY TEETH, SWEET BREATH
Elgydium Anti-Plaque Toothpaste and Fluoride Mouthwash
To give your teeth a professional cleaning, brush for two to three minutes after each meal, moving from the gum towards the tooth and follow with a rinse of fluoride mouthwash, swishing for thirty seconds.

RAZOR SHARP
Please ask a member of the crew if you would like a shave kit containing razor and shaving cream

AND SO TO BED
Aroma Therapeutics Sleep Enhancer
Now that sleep beckons, here’s something to bring blissful rest that little bit closer. A blend of the highest quality essential oils, Sleep Enhancer uses the finest natural ingredients to help you drift off to a wonderful night’s sleep. Just spray a little on your pillow before slipping into bed.






It’s hard to imagine an amenity kit being any nicer or more comprehensive than this one. It’s certainly nicer than anything I’ve received on International trips with American, Cathay Pacific or LAN Chile over the past three years. Unfortunately, all of these fancy creams and gels are wasted on me. Neither I nor any of my peers have ever been the least bit concerned with keeping our facial skin soft and nurtured, be it inflight or on the ground. I rarely suffer from chapped lips, and so far as I know my lips have never gotten chapped due to being in an airplane for an extended period. As for eye cream, what can I say? That’s so far from my realm of existence that I really don’t know what to say. I’ve known guys to use hand lotions for dry hands, usually related to work, but I’ve never known any guys to be concerned enough about their facial and eye skin to apply creams unless they’re suffering from some ghastly medical condition. Do a lot of men actually use these products in other parts of the world? Or only men that travel in International First Class? Either way, a leathery skinned, flinty-eyed old dude like me has no use for these items so I will donate them to a couple of gals back home who just might.

Surprisingly, there were three empty suites in the forward cabin this evening. Perhaps some of the First Class passengers off the cancelled SFO departure had opted for the convenience of the Virgin Atlantic nonstop. As I sipped Champagne and gazed out my window at the attractive Thai A340-500 parked next door, the Captain came on over the PA to welcome us aboard, apologize for the brief delay and promise to make up as much time as possible enroute to Heathrow. Interestingly, no flight time was given though he did mention that conditions in and around London had been quite windy of late. Might those winds affect our approach into Heathrow? I sipped Champagne and hoped for as long a flight as possible.

Moments later, the aircraft shuddered slightly as the powerful tractor beneath us revved its engine and pushed us back from the gate. Soon afterwards our four big Rolls Royce engines spooled up and we headed off to Runway 24L under our own power. A long 52 second take off roll ensued, followed by brilliant views of the southern California coastline as we climbed westward out over the Pacific. A long sweeping turn to the south provided passengers seated on the left side of the aircraft with stunning views of the brightly illuminated communities to the south of Los Angeles. Eventually we completed our U-turn and adopted a northeasterly heading towards Las Vegas and points east. I couldn’t help but consider just how wide the turn radius must be for a fully loaded 747 flying at over 250mph.

Twelve minutes into the flight, menus and wine lists were presented. Shortly thereafter, the flight attendant returned to take our drink and meal orders. BA’s First Class menus have changed a bit since I last flew with them in 2006. Specifically, the once flat grey menu is now embossed with a frilly silvery pattern throughout and the pearl colored wine list is presented in a separate booklet from the menu. It’s a classier presentation that invites immediate inspection:






WINE LIST

Champagne

Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1999

White Wines
Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2005, William Fevre
Château de Fesles, Anjou Blanc Sec “La Chapelle” 2004
Beringer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2006


Red Wines
Château Nenin 1996, Pomerol
Gevrey-Chambertin 2001, Domaine Taupenot-Merme
Baileyana Syrah 2005, Grand Firepeak Cuvée, Edna Valley


Dessert Wines
Saussignac Cuvée Flavie, Chateau des Eyssards 2005
Warre’s 1988 Colheita Port



Spirits, Digestifs and Liqueurs
We offer a complete range of classic and timeless spirits, digestifs and liqueurs featuring:

Gonzalez Byass Sherries
Smirnoff Black Label Vodka
Tanqueray No. Ten Gin
Johnny Walker Blue Label Scotch Whiskey
The Glenlivet 18-year-old Single Malt Whiskey
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Whiskey
Camus XO Cognac



* * * * * * * * *





DINNER

STARTERS


Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat’s Thai Crab Cakes with Fresh Lime

Oven-Roasted Tomato Salad with Endive and Braised Fennel

Mushroom and Brie Cheese Bisque

Fresh Salad Leaves with your choice of Balsamic Vinaigrette or Garlic and Sour Cream Dressing



MAIN COURSE

Grilled Filet of Beef

With carrots, broccolini and potatoes Normande

Mark Edward’s Sake-Braised Guinea Fowl
With sansho pepper pineapple chutney

Seared Sea Bass
With sautéed spinach and château potatoes

Italian Antipasto Salad
Prosciutto, Mozzarella cheese and grilled vegetables with extra virgin olive oil


DESSERT

Caramel Cheese Cake

Warm Peach Crisp with vanilla ice cream



CHEESE PLATE

Guinness Cheddar
~ A full flavor and buttery texture are hallmarks of this classic cheese that has been lined with Guinness Stout beer to give it an incredible marbled look.

Stilton ~ Stilton is an English, cow’s milk, semi-hard, blue, unpressed cheese with a natural brushed rind.

Brie ~ This soft unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese is one of the world’s most popular cheeses.


SNACKS

Porcini mushroom Agnolotti pasta or asparagus risotto topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Duchy of Cornwall biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit



BEVERAGES

Twinings Teas
~ Traditional English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Earl Grey or Pure Green

Twinings Fruit and Herb Infusions ~ Pure Chamomile, Pure Peppermint, Lemon and Ginger or Blackcurrant, Ginsing and Vanilla

Coffee ~ Freshly roasted and ground, decaffeinated, espresso or cappuccino





Although the menu has undergone a few reductions since I first flew with BA back in 2002, it still offers an impressive variety of foods and is certainly superior to anything offered by American or United in their respective First Classes. Additionally, BA allows its First Class passengers to dine at their leisure, i.e. whatever they want whenever they want it. Being as we didn’t become airborne until 10:20pm, I was well and truly famished and so was more than ready to enjoy an immediate dinner service. The two ladies and one gentleman who comprised BA’s First Class cabin crew this evening were only too happy to comply.

My beverage selection, a glass of the 1996 Pomerol, was delivered with a plate of canapés and shortly thereafter my dinner choices were taken. I decided to start with the Thai crab cakes followed by a dinner salad topped with BA’s delicious vinaigrette. I don’t know if the flight kitchen makes that dressing itself or if it’s a store bought brand but by my tastes it’s one of the finer vinaigrettes I’ve ever had. For the main course I selected the sake-braised guinea fowl, an exotic sounding dish that the flight attendant informed me had been quite popular with BA’s First Class clientele.

Once again, for the purposes of a more thorough accounting of BA’s First Class service, I decided to time the delivery of each segment of the meal service. The idea here is to demonstrate how relaxed and unhurried a proper International caliber service is. Whereas back in Economy and even in many Business Classes the meals are served all at once on a tray, in the best First Class cabins the meals are served course by course with the pace dictated by the passenger, not the airline. Following is the breakdown of tonight’s beverage and meal presentation:


:12 Menu and Wine List presented

:14 Drink order taken

:17 Wine and Canapés delivered

:25 Dinner order taken

:47 Table set

:52 Appetizer served

1:01 Salad served

1:17 Entrée presented

1:39 Cheese and Port served


I really enjoyed the new canapé presentation and offerings. Whereas in the past we were presented a 4” wide plate with three tiny tidbits served atop toast rounds, the new canapés are larger, more creative in design and are presented on a rectangular serving dish. Tonight’s assortment included beef stuffed with mushrooms presented on a skewer, a portion of salami, cheese and cilantro nicely rolled together, asparagus and pâté de fois gras on toast and finally a slice of bacon wrapped around something very tasty, the likes of which I simply can’t remember.





The crab cake appetizer was quite nice both in presentation and taste. A large slice of lime was provided though I found I preferred the flavor without. Actually, a spicy sauce to accompany it might have been nice.






The salad, far from being the predominantly mesclun leaf arrangement that other airlines consider a salad, included crunchy carrot slivers, asparagus, purple cabbage slivers, onions and delicious sun-dried tomatoes. With the addition of BA’s zesty vinaigrette, it became a small masterpiece.





A nice variety of warmed breads including wholesome multigrain rolls, flaky croissants and scrumptious slices of garlic bread were offered early and often throughout the meal service.

My entrée was simply superb. It is so easy to overcook a small bird like Guinea Fowl in an airline oven but BA’s galley crew prepared me a plate that would have made Chef Mark Edwards beam with pride. I was presented a thigh and leg topped with a plump red jalapeno pepper and accompanied by pineapple chutney, asparagus and brown rice artfully packaged in a lightly baked crust. The meat was moist and tender, accented sharply by the spicy jalapeno and the flavorful pineapple chutney. A glass of ice water is recommended with this meal if you choose to eat the pepper.





Not surprisingly, when the time came to consider dessert, I found that I was simply too full. Instead, I opted for a portion of the Stilton and Guinness Cheddar cheeses, accompanied by a glass of port. I was presented a plate bearing a fairly sizeable portion of each cheese, accompanied by a slice of olive bread, a small bunch of grapes and a dried apricot. Although I’m a huge fan of English Stilton cheese, I really enjoyed the Guinness Cheddar as well. It had a luxurious chocolate aftertaste that will have me looking to buy some of it for my ground based enjoyment when I return home. Warre’s 1988 Colheita port is, per the wine list description, an “admirable after dinner glass” but I still yearn for another glass of the magnificent Warre’s 1986 Reserve Tawny Port served on BA up until 2005.





By the time the last of the dinner plates were cleared, it was after midnight local time. A glance at the Sky Map indicated that we were speeding along at 583mph, 33,000 feet over northeastern Nebraska. Early on in the flight, we’d battled 80mph headwinds over Nevada and Utah – a rare occurrence for an eastbound flight over the continental United States.

Flight time between Los Angeles and London usually clocks out at about nine and a half hours. While this may seem a long time to be aloft, it passes by surprisingly quickly when your seat converts into a 6’ 6” fully flat bed. For many passengers, this bed represents the single most important benefit of their First Class flight. A restful sleep enroute makes a huge difference to your overall well being upon arrival at your destination. The gentleman across from me in 1A converted his seat into a bed almost immediately after takeoff. Although he missed the excellent dinner service and the many entertainment options available via BA’s much improved AVOD inflight entertainment system, for the bed alone he likely got all he bargained for from the extra cost of his First Class ticket.

While I can certainly appreciate the benefits of a good sleep, I hate to waste any of my rare and cherished time in an international caliber First Class asleep. The meals, the inflight entertainment, a nice glass of wine, whiskey or water any time on request, reclining in the spacious seat with a good book while occasionally enjoying the view out my window... just living life in First Class is something best enjoyed while conscious.

On the other hand, I had a full afternoon ahead of me in London that included meeting an old friend for a late lunch. Since we’d be meeting at the equivalent of about 7:00am Alaska time, I needed to get some sleep. Equally important was being up for breakfast and catching a view of Ireland as it passed beneath us. On a bright sunny day, the lovely green coast of Ireland contrasts beautifully with the dazzling deep indigo of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a strikingly pretty sight from above and one that I always look forward to on these Atlantic crossings. So, with only about seven and a half hours left in the flight, I figured if I could knock off five hours of sleep I’d be in pretty good shape.

I thought I had read somewhere that as part of BA’s recent enhancements to its First Class service, a turndown service was available, with the cabin crew laying out bedding that included Egyptian cotton sheets. However, no mention of this was ever made before or during the flight and I never thought to ask as it would’ve been a bit awkward if no such service were available. As it were I had no problem lowering the seat, laying down a duvet and selecting from a choice of three different pillows. BA’s fine wool blanket provided more than enough warmth. A cable mounted reading light extended from behind my right shoulder and I used it to read for a bit before calling it a day and heading off to slumber.

Despite having attempted sleep so soon after a large meal, I slept surprising well. The best sleep I’ve ever had on an airplane came aboard a United 747SP enroute from Los Angeles to Sydney back in 1986. Although the First Class seats did not go flat back then, they were wide and nicely cushioned with more than adequate recline. Following a nice dinner and a good read, I slept quite soundly until the Captain awoke us to announce that strong headwinds had resulted in insufficient fuel reserves to make it all the way to Sydney. I loved the way he paused for a long moment after that initial announcement, causing some of the passengers to fear for the worst. I could hear a number of hushed conversations behind me, steeped with concern. But not to worry, he finally said. Nadi, Fiji is right on the way so we’ll just pull in there for a quick pit stop. Sighs of relief could be heard throughout the plane. We were only about a half hour out of Nadi at that point and with a flight time of 10:55, I reckon I’d slept undisturbed for almost eight hours.

Today I awoke about an hour and twenty minutes out of London. The Sky Map indicated that we were just a few miles off the Irish coast, so I headed off to the lavatory to freshen up and have a look. BA has two lavs serving the First Class cabin and one of them has a full sized window. At home, the first thing I do upon waking up is open all the curtains and welcome in the day with as much light as possible. As much as I’d have liked to open all three of the windows alongside my suite, doing so would have been counter to long established First Class etiquette. Many passengers like to sleep for as long as possible and opening a window shade even a small amount creates a light effect not unlike the UFO opening its door in the movie Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.

Unfortunately, scattered clouds limited my view of the Emerald Isle so I returned to my seat to find that one of the crew had thoughtfully returned it to its upright position and had put away all my bedding. Soon one of them approached to inquire if I’d care for breakfast. Yes, indeed. Let’s have a quick look at that breakfast menu:


BREAKFAST

STARTERS


Chilled fruit juice
An energizing fruit smoothie
A selection of yogurts
A selection of cereals featuring Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat’s muesli
Fresh seasonal fruit plate


BAKERY

A warm selection of warm bread and breakfast pastries
Warm bacon roll served with tomato ketchup


MAIN COURSE

Full English Breakfast

Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash brown potatoes

Tomato Omelette
Accompanied with your choice of grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash brown potatoes

American Pancakes
Offered with maple syrup or blueberry compote




Hmm… I’ll start with a smoothie, a cup of coffee and a fruit plate.





For the main course I’ll go with… the tomato omelette, please. Moments later my table was set with crisp white linen and I was savoring a delicious honey laced smoothie whilst tucking into a plate of grapes, strawberries, mango and pineapple. A basket of breakfast breads was brought round and I selected a croissant and an almond Danish. My omelette arrived in short order, perfectly cooked and accompanied by mushrooms, tomatoes and a rasher of bacon. Breakfast could hardly have been any finer on the ground!





Apparently, the same winds that had bedeviled London the day before were still causing problems for incoming flights today. The Captain informed us that we’d been ordered into a holding pattern but estimated that after three circuits we’d be cleared to approach Heathrow. Well sir, you’ll get no complaints from me. Everyone up front had awakened by now, so I was sitting there comfortably reclined while savoring a cup of BA’s rather tasty coffee and enjoying the view out all three of my windows. Another hour or two up here would be most welcome, thanks.

As it were, we did indeed make three circuits around the holding pattern before commencing a fairly bumpy descent through scattered clouds. By the time we landed at 3:45pm local time, we’d been aloft for ten hours and twenty minutes of which I enjoyed every minute! Although BA may no longer have the finest seat in the air, the crew, the meals and the overall service were all first rate. The old seat was pretty comfortable, too.

Last edited by Seat 2A; May 3, 12 at 9:08 am..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:51 pm   #4
 
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Heathrow’s cherished Fast Track service through immigration closes at noon each day. We didn’t arrive until almost 4:00pm. Thankfully, the cabin crew – true professionals that they are – held the teeming masses at bay until the privileged few from the front of the plane were able to safely disembark. Although a couple of power walkers from Club World managed to speed past me during the long walk to immigration, I arrived to an almost empty immigration hall and, since my baggage had been checked through to Sydney, I was soon on my way through customs and into the arrivals hall.

With a five hour layover until my next flight, I had plenty of time to meet up with an old friend from years past. We were dorm mates in a California hostel some ten years ago and have kept in touch since. Keith couldn’t remember exactly where he’d parked his ancient Mazda, so we spent the first twenty minutes wandering about one of Heathrow’s parking garages. Eventually, we motored off to the nearby Sheraton Skyline for a couple of beers. Keith works as a courier delivering packages everywhere from London to Glasgow and somehow he’d gotten this idea that the Sheraton bar was a pretty nice place. It may well have been but since it didn’t open until 6:00pm, we instead settled on what appeared to be a service type bar off the main lobby. There we enjoyed two beers and a tiny bottle of coke for the budget busting price of $25.73. Since I paid the bill with my credit card, I also incurred an additional Foreign Transaction Fee of $0.77. Prior to today, the most I’d ever paid for a single beer was $8.00 which netted me a big glass of Tuborg in the Copenhagen airport. These bottles of Whitbread’s Ale came in at £5.50 each, or slightly more than $11.00 a bottle. I’d like to think I defrayed some of the expenses by snatching a complimentary Time magazine on the way out.

Later, we had dinner at a much more moderately priced restaurant (Just an order of hot wings for me as I still had a First Class feast to look forward to enroute to Bangkok) before I was dropped off in front of Terminal 4 at 8:15pm. Keith has friends in Regina, Saskatchewan and is also a fan of the current champions of the Canadian Football League, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. We agreed to attempt a rendezvous in Canada perhaps as soon as next year and Keith offered to pay for all beers consumed at the game. Yer on, buddy!

Last edited by Seat 2A; Mar 27, 08 at 6:34 am..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:51 pm   #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
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March 11, 2008
London – Bangkok
British Airways First Class
Boeing 747-400 G-BNLW


The flight departures board showed BA9 to Bangkok and Sydney had been delayed until 10:30pm. On a positive note, this allowed that much more time to enjoy a leisurely shower at the Elemis Spa, located downstairs from the Concorde Room. This I did, reveling in the multiple torrents from the fabulous Pharo-Hansrohe Hydrotherapy Shower. Later, I retired to the Concorde Room to savor a glass of Johnny Walker Blue Label while using the internet terminal to check on the progress of the Iditarod dog sled race back home in Alaska.

Once the premier lounge at Heathrow, the Concorde Room is beginning to show its age. The furniture looks well used and even the staff seemed a bit… tired. Although it is still a very nice lounge, I’ll look forward to visiting BA’s lounges including the new Concorde Room at the new Terminal 5 next month.

Down at gate 2, an orderly crowd waited patiently for boarding to be announced. When that finally happened at 10:30pm, I wasted no time in making my way down the labyrinthine jetway to the waiting 747-400, a sixteen year old bird registered G-BNLW. This time I was greeted at the door and immediately handed off to another flight attendant who escorted me to my seat at 1K.

Despite its relatively advanced age, this aircraft had been configured with BA’s new generation Club World seating. The arrangement is interesting to say the least, with eight across World Traveller Plus seating located immediately behind First Class, followed by Club World and then World Traveller or Economy Class. Of course, Club World is also available on the upper deck. It’s an unusual layout and were I travelling in Club World I’d endeavor to get a seat upstairs where it would certainly be quieter and likely quite a bit less crowded around the lavs and galley.

But enough of the drawbacks faced by those travelling in Club World. Up in First Class the Champagne was flowing and the mood was light and relaxed as I hung my jacket and settled in for the long flight ahead. Interestingly, seats 1A and K are normally held for BA Executive Club elites along with other garden variety VIPs and are not released to the general public until just a day or so before departure. I’ve been fortunate to procure these seats on a number of occasions. They offer more privacy than any other First Class seat and, given the extreme curvature of the forward cabin, offer three windows that allow for a more forward view than that attainable anywhere else on the airplane.








Following the usual preflight formalities, I sat down and checked out the electronic seat controls to ensure that they were in proper working order. With nearly nineteen hours of flying to look forward to on this aircraft, now rather than somewhere over Turkey is the time to find any potential problems. The seat offers a variety of adjustable functions ranging from lumbar support to leg rest to full recline. Push buttons controlled two different lights above my seat, while a third cable mounted light snaked out from the seatback behind my right shoulder. The TV and video controls were in the armrest beside me and the unit used for those controls doubles as a telephone. Eh? Wot’s this? I‘ve no bloody overhead lights! A member of the crew stopped by to inform me that someone was working on rebooting the system to repair the lights. As things turned out however, they never were able to fix my lights and so it was promised that someone would look into it once we’d reached Bangkok. In the meantime, the offer was made to see if anyone who’d planned on sleeping most of the trip might be interested in switching seats with me. No thanks, said I. I’ll tough it out until Bangkok.

I’ve read in other reports where passengers have gotten quite upset at what I would consider trivial little problems like this. I mean, it’s a couple of lights. It’s not as if the seat wouldn’t recline. Yeah, yeah – I know that thousands of dollars or miles have been spent for the privilege of First Class travel and that everything should work. From my experience with BA and over 120 other airlines, the vast majority of the time everything does work but sometimes something doesn’t. It’s not a perfect world we live in. In this case a proper fix may well have involved calling in maintenance, further delaying this already delayed flight and possibly inconveniencing some of its nearly 250 passengers. I still had my cable light and overall I felt that the cabin crew did all that they reasonably could to remedy the situation. So, overall, I didn’t feel that put out. Certainly nothing that couldn’t be assuaged with another couple of glasses of Chablis.

So - soon after takeoff, I reclined my seat an enjoyed a second glass of the deliciously chilled Grand Cru Bougros Chablis whilst munching on a plate of tasty canapés and perusing the menu for tonight’s flight.





Flight time to Bangkok was announced at ten hours and twenty-seven minutes so there’ll be plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely dinner and maybe take in a movie afterwards. Following are the wine listings and the dinner service between London and Bangkok. What would you select?


WINE LIST

Champagne

Lanson Noble Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 1999

White Wines
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2006, Domaine William Fevre
Soave Classico Vigneti di Foscarino 2006, Azienda Agricola Inama
Grossett Piccadilly Chardonnay 2005, Adelaide Hills


Red Wines
Château Batailley 1996, Grand Cru Classé Pauillac
Babaresco 2005, Bruno Roca
Mitchelton Print Shiraz 1999, Victoria


Dessert Wines
Saussignac Cuvée Flavie, Chateau des Eyssards 2005
Warre’s 1988 Colheita Port



Spirits, Digestifs and Liqueurs
We offer a complete range of classic and timeless spirits, digestifs and liqueurs featuring:

Gonzalez Byass Sherries
Smirnoff Black Label Vodka
Tanqueray No. Ten Gin
Johnny Walker Blue Label Scotch Whiskey
The Glenlivet 18-year-old Single Malt Whiskey
Woodford Reserve Kentucky Whiskey
Camus XO Cognac



* * * * * * * * *


DINNER

STARTERS


Lobster, mango and pink grapefruit salad with honey and coriander dressing

Roast tomato and vegetable frittata with rocket leaves, basil and tomato dressing

White bean and oregano soup with truffle oil and fresh herb croutons

Fresh salad leaves with your choice of Roquefort cheese and pine nut dressing or spiced lemon and soy dressing



MAIN COURSE

Grilled Filet of Beef

With grilled marinated courgettes, fois gras crouton and Anna potatoes

Catch of The Day
Please ask your crew for details of today’s fresh fish selection served with your choice of watercress sauce or red pepper citrus coulis, seasonal vegetables and parsley potatoes

Vineet Bhatia’s Green Masala Chicken
With green pea and cumin rice with stir-fried asparagus and enoki mushrooms

Main Course Greek Salad
With herb dressing


DESSERT

Michel Roux’s blancmange with roast pineapple

Warm treacle tart with vanilla ice cream



CHEESE PLATE

Montgomery Cheddar
~ An award winning straw-coloured unpasteurized cheese that is rich in flavor with a hint of fruit; this variety is made from the legendary Jersey cow’s milk and is a British Airways exclusive

Cropwell Organic Stilton ~ Produced by the award-winning Cropwell Bishop Creamery, this is a well balanced and creamy blue Stilton made from pasteurized milk

Tornegus ~ This semi-hard unpasteurized cheese is made from cow’s milk and herbs


SNACKS

Warm olive oil bread filled with mesquite chicken and tomato relish

Penne pasta with your choice of char-grilled red pepper sauce or porcini mushroom and Parmesan cheese sauce served with garlic herb croute

Duchy of Cornwall biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit



BEVERAGES

Twinings Teas
~ Traditional English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Earl Grey or Pure Green

Twinings Fruit and Herb Infusions ~ Pure Chamomile, Pure Peppermint, Lemon and Ginger or Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla

Coffee ~ Freshly roasted and ground, decaffeinated, espresso or cappuccino




Interestingly, despite this flight passing through the Thai capital city of Bangkok enroute to Sydney, there were no dishes from BA’s Thai food consultants Paisarn Cheewinsiriwat or Chiva Som Spa. Oh well – there were plenty of other appealing selections and I had no problem putting together an enticing assortment of appetizer, soup and main course that would be worthy of positive review at most any ground based restaurant.

The lobster, mango and pink grapefruit salad may well be the finest appetizer I’ve ever been served on an airplane. It’s presentation was every bit as attractive as its flavor and the portion of lobster included was surprisingly generous.





White bean and oregano soup with truffle oil and fresh herb croutons… I must say the descriptive title rolls rather nicely off the tongue, so much so that it sounds quite delicious just saying it. As expected, this soup was very tasty indeed. My only regret is that it won’t be available on the flight between Bangkok and Sydney.





The catch of the day was described simply as Cod, so I elected to go with the more exotic sounding Green Masala Chicken from Vineet Bhatia. I’ve enjoyed Chef Bhatia’s creations on a number of other British Airways flights and I’m pleased to inform that tonight’s dish did nothing to detract from my appreciation of Vineet Bhatia’s culinary prowess. The chicken was more flavorful than spicy and yet piquant enough to take pause. The seasoned rice and peas made for a delicious accompaniment and the asparagus – well, there’s no bad way to prepare asparagus in my book.





Hats off to the crew as well for the attractive presentation of all courses and the attentive service throughout. Michel Roux’s blancmange with roast pineapple brought this repast to a delicious conclusion, after which I enjoyed a glass of port with an after dinner chocolate.





I’ve eaten hundreds of First Class meals and this meal was as fine as they come. Well done, BA!

Although I’d intended to check out one of the fifty or so movies on BA’s new AVOD inflight entertainment system, I could tell even before the meal service started that I needed sleep more than entertainment. I’d slept maybe five hours on the flight into London and, following a busy afternoon around Heathrow along with a couple more beers, a scotch and the wine onboard, it’s a wonder I wasn’t in somewhat worse shape. Truth be known, I felt quite sober but otherwise tired. So, off to bed went I.

Wow! I slept really well this time. When I awoke, we were over Bangladesh and there were only about two hours left in the flight. I had hoped to be up a bit earlier so that I might put in some serious writing on this trip report. Alas, breakfast was less than an hour away. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. The smells and sounds coming from the galley promised a delicious welcome to the new day. As I freshened up in the lavatory and checked out the view outside, it was clear to see that far from being new, the day in this part of the world was more than half way over. Local time was approaching 4:00pm. That’s just weird! Regardless of the situation, I’ve never liked waking up after noon. I feel like I’ve missed half the day – the best part of the day. Oh well – breakfast was soon to be served and it sure smelled good. Back at my seat I savored a smoothie and a cup of coffee while perusing this afternoon’s breakfast selections:


BREAKFAST

STARTERS


Chilled fruit juice
An energizing fruit smoothie
A selection of yogurts
A selection of cereals
Fresh seasonal fruit plate


BAKERY

A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls


MAIN COURSE

Full English Breakfast

Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato and hash brown potatoes

Sharp Cheese Frittata
Topped with Mornay sauce

Buttermilk and Sultana Pancakes
with maple syrup or blueberry compote


Hmm... which is higher in cholesterol… the Full English Breakfast or the Sharp Cheese Frittata topped with Mornay sauce? Who cares? I'm in First Class! It’s true – I don’t get to enjoy service like this on a regular basis, so I figured what the hell – go for it! When the time came to place my order, I said “I’ll have the Full English Breakfast with a fruit plate starter and a Danish.”

My fruit plate was everything a fruit plate ought to be. A nice variety of colorful fruit tastefully arranged. It was accompanied by a visit from the bread basket and I selected both a croissant as well as a tasty almond Danish.





As for the full English breakfast – what can I say? It’s got it all in both abundance and flavor. I particularly enjoyed the hash brown potatoes which seemed quite a bit less greasy than previous versions I’ve been served on BA. And the toast! How come American and United can’t serve toast with their breakfasts?





In any event, I enjoyed every last bite of this meal and took a moment afterwards to express my appreciation to the flight attendants for their excellent service and attention to detail. With the exception of the non-functioning overhead lights, this flight was just about perfect. Once again, Well Done, BA!

We landed in Bangkok at 6:20pm local time, with departure to Sydney re-scheduled for 8:00pm. The new departure time, two and a half hours later than our originally scheduled 5:30pm departure, meant that I would very likely miss my connecting flight between Sydney and Launceston. I wasn’t overly concerned. There are plenty of connections available via Melbourne and besides, I’d purchased the $9.00 insurance option in anticipation of just such an event.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Mar 27, 08 at 6:47 am..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:52 pm   #6
 
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The last time I flew through Bangkok was in 1987. Even back then, Bangkok’s old Don Muang airport looked to be showing its age. Like this trip, I did so in style arriving in First Class aboard a Thai International 747-200 from Singapore and departing aboard a Cathay Pacific 747-200 to Hong Kong. I stayed at the Hotel Miramar which for $35.00 per night provided the largest bed I’ve ever slept upon. The hotel restaurant chipped in with the hottest Thai soup I’d ever had.

This being my first visit to Bangkok’s new Suvarnabhumi Airport, I was looking forward to a good walk around along with a visit to the First Class lounge. However, by the time I’d gotten off the airplane and factored in re-boarding time, there wouldn’t be a lot of time to spend in the First Class lounge. In particular I was looking forward to a cool shower so I headed straight for the lounge.

Steel, glass and concrete. Those three materials overwhelmingly comprised my main impression of this new airport. Clean and uncluttered? Yes. Warm and inviting like Singapore’s Changi? No. Regardless, it is a big improvement over musty old Don Muang and I found myself duly impressed.

Operated jointly by BA and Qantas, the First Class lounge is warm and inviting. Large picture windows all around provide superb views of both the tarmac and the airport interior.





I headed straight for the showers, then returned to the main lounge to check out the food and drink offerings. A small but nicely stocked buffet area provided hot and tasty tidbits along with a choice of cold beers. Had there’d been a tureen of spicy Tom Yum Gai Soup, I might have been tempted to miss my flight. Instead, I settled for a small plate of hors d’oeuvres with a cold Singha Beer before relocating to business centre to fire off a couple of emails.





Boarding was announced at 7:30pm. My journey back to the gate included passing through two separate security checkpoints. So far as I could tell, I’d never left a secure area during my initial transit from the plane to the lounge but I suppose they were just being careful.

Last edited by Seat 2A; Mar 26, 08 at 4:39 am..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:53 pm   #7
 
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March 12, 2008
Bangkok - Sydney
British Airways First Class
Boeing 747-400 G-BNLW


Boarding proceeded smoothly down the modern glass and steel jetway. So taken was I with this stylish new jetway that I missed a separate jetway leading straight to First Class. Oh well. I nodded politely to the World Traveller Plus passengers as I made my way through their cabin. Back when BA offered those wonderful $20.00 fares between the western U.S. and western Europe, I remember how nice it felt to be travelling in the wide and spacious (8 across) World Traveller Plus seats as opposed to the comparatively cramped 10 across seating found back in World Traveller Class. I didn’t reminisce long, though. A big wide suite and a nice chilled glass of lemon water awaited me in the comfortable confines of the First Class cabin.

There’d been a crew change in Bangkok and this new crew, though a bit older than their counterparts from the inbound flight, appeared upbeat and cheerful for the eight and a half hour flight down to Sydney. Drinks, amenity kits, pajamas and hot towels were dispensed in short order. I savored my water, then exchanged it for a glass of Champagne. After all, this would be my last flight in First Class for a while. Here’s to a great flight!





Our takeoff roll was a surprisingly short 34 seconds and as we soared into the evening sky I took a moment to enjoy all the lights spread out beneath us. Bangkok is a large city and its lights cover a huge area.



Climbing away from Bangkok, southbound to Sydney

As we passed through 23000 feet, the First Class cabin crew swung into service. A nicely chilled glass of Australian Chardonnay was delivered, along with two lonely canapés. What?! Only two?! Ah well, I’d had a couple in the Bangkok lounge and with yet another fine dinner to look forward to, I wasn’t overly put out. Now then, let’s see what’s for dinner…


DINNER

STARTERS


Centre cut Scottish smoked salmon

Prawn kebab and mushroom crab cake with a sweet chilli dip

Porcini mushroom consommé

Fresh salad leaves with your choice of balsamic vinaigrette or roast garlic dressing



MAIN COURSE

Breast of Chicken filled with Garlic and Herb Cream Cheese

With fresh vegetables and new potatoes

Parmesan Cheese Veal Schnitzel
With broccoli florets and Anna potatoes

Seared Garoupa with Thai Red Curry Sauce
With bok-choy and steamed rice

Salad of Spicy Roast Pumpkin, Feta Cheese and Olives
Topped with grilled prawns


DESSERT

Mango and lychee terrine

Warm sponge pudding with a passion fruit coulis



CHEESE PLATE

Emmenthal
~ A traditional unpasteurized hard cheese made from cow’s milk

Blue Brie ~ Unpasteurized, this soft ripened cheese with blue mould has a delightfully subtle flavour and a soft creamy texture

Peppered Goat’s Cheese ~ Classic goat’s cheese sprinkled with fresh ground pepper


SNACKS

Toasted club sandwich

Bacon roll served with tomato ketchup

Penne pasta tossed with your choice of alfredo or fire roasted red pepper sauce

Vanilla Ice Cream

Duchy of Cornwall biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit




“Both appetizers look so good! May I start with both the salmon and the prawn kebab?”

The flight attendant replied that she’d have to wait until all the dinner orders had been taken before she’d know if both appetizers would be available. In the meantime, did I have a preference? Yes. The salmon, please.

Appetizers and canapés are perhaps my favorite part of the meal. They’re generally small, delicate and intricately constructed. They’re also a great tease for the rest of the meal to come. Culinary foreplay as it were. Over the years I’ve been treated to wonderful caviar presentations, scrumptious shrimp creations and fabulous logs of pate de fois gras just to name a few. You can imagine my delight when the flight attendant returned to inform me that yes, both appetizers would be available.

I’ve had good success with the local cuisine when flying out of Asian airports, so I ordered the Garoupa for my main course. I’m not sure what kind of fish garoupa is but if it’s anything like what we call a grouper in my part of the world, I’m sure it will be good. Especially with the addition of the Thai red curry sauce.

Once again, the caterers and crew of British Airways delivered a delicious meal. The appetizers were as tasty as they were attractive and the garoupa proved to be a lightly flavored fish made that much nicer by the red curry sauce.











For dessert I ordered the mango and lychee terrine, primarily because I didn’t know what a terrine was. It was an agreeable though hardly memorable dessert. In retrospect I wish I’d sampled a portion of the blue brie and the peppered goats cheese.





This and BA’s flight from Singapore are both flights where sleep is important due to the early morning arrival in Sydney. I really dislike those early morning arrivals where I’ve been on a plane all night and have hardly gotten any sleep. The entire day is pretty much ruined. My immediate problem was that I’d just woken up from a six hour nap only six hours earlier. I wasn’t all that tired. I decided to remedy this by depressing the flight attendant call button and asking that a bottle of Glenlivet be delivered to my seat forthwith. Yeah, right! That’s all I need is to present myself to Australian Immigration hung over and reeking of 18 year old scotch.

Instead, I delved into the depths of my daypack and came up with my favorite inflight sleep inducer. A 2mg tablet of melatonin. Melatonin is naturally produced by the body, though production diminishes as we age. It is a much gentler alternative to the chemically induced slumber afforded those who use prescription tranquilizers. Though I enjoyed my share of pot, acid and mushrooms in my younger years, these days I quite enjoy a clear mind. Mind you, I’m not and never have been “rehabilitated”. I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with all the aforementioned substances. I’ve just moved on. As such, I’d no sooner take an Ambien or any other tranquilizer than I’d drink myself to sleep with a bottle of whiskey.

Melatonin worked just fine, thanks, and after another five hour nap I awoke about forty minutes out of Sydney. Or was I woken? Honestly, for not having an alarm clock along, my timing has been pretty good on these flights. Maybe it’s just the sounds and scents of the breakfast service that rouse me from slumber.

A lighter continental breakfast is offered on these early morning arrivals into Sydney. I was more than satisfied with a fruit plate and a bowl of muesli. Here’s the menu transcript:


CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST

STARTERS


Chilled fruit juice
An energizing fruit smoothie
A selection of yogurts
A selection of cereals
Fresh seasonal fruit plate


BAKERY

A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls







It was a gorgeous morning as we descended over Botany Bay towards Sydney’s Kingsford Smith International Airport. Botany Bay was the site of James Cook's first landing of the HMS Endeavour on Australian soil. What would Cook have thought if he could see how we’re arriving these days?!

Despite the appearance of many open gates, we parked remotely and had to wait another fifteen minutes before busses and/or staff were gathered in sufficient quantities to transport us to the terminal. It was a rather ignominious ending to a truly spectacular flight, at least from a First Class perspective.

In closing my report of the outbound portion of my British Airways odyssey to Australia, I like to say that although BA now lags behind some of its Asian competitors in terms of seating comfort and first rate inflight entertainment systems, the meal service and especially the service from the cabin crew are totally first class. The meals were well prepared and nicely presented by cabin staff that were unfailingly polite. The old First Class suites, though showing their age, are still plenty comfortable and allowed me to get a decent amount of sleep enroute. Based upon all of this, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend BA to anyone desiring a top notch First Class experience.

Next Up: A trio of Australian discount carriers

Last edited by Seat 2A; Dec 14, 10 at 2:24 pm..
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Old Mar 21, 08, 11:54 pm   #8
 
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I must say it has proven extremely difficult to motivate myself to write about flights on three airlines that operate single class aircraft and have no complimentary service. Everything's for sale. Even water. As such, I think I'll let BA's flights be the star of this report.

Soon I start my return to the US via Qantas 738, BA 777 and BA 744 along with a couple of AA MD-80s. That will be written as a separate report and will include possible trials and tribulations at BA's new Terminal 5 at Heathrow - you know, the one that's been in the news so much this week. Hope they get it all sussed out by the time I pass through there. As of today, 15-20,000 bags backed up. I wonder how many of those were from passengers traveling in international First Class?




Again, thanks for hanging in there through the somewhat stuttered start to this trip report. As Kiwi Flyer notes below, the first couple of posts were more of a tease than the real deal. Now that it's posted, I hope you enjoy the report.

Happy Contrails!

Last edited by Seat 2A; May 3, 12 at 9:14 am..
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Old Mar 22, 08, 1:12 am   #9
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oh Seat 2A you tease
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Old Mar 22, 08, 3:18 am   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi Flyer View Post
oh Seat 2A you tease
You said it!

Really, Seat2A, keeping us all in suspenders like this

Wonderful pics already, btw
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Old Mar 22, 08, 5:47 am   #11
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Spot the location!

- Post #5 is BKK flounge!

More here: Qantas First Lounge BKK
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Old Mar 22, 08, 6:54 am   #12
 
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Wow. It looks as impressive as ever.
Mats.
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Old Mar 22, 08, 2:52 pm   #13
 
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How could you!

I saw your moniker and thought, AHA! A grand adventure awaits! I immediately went to my liquor cabinet, poured myself a glass of The McCallan 18yr, got a good cigar and sat down to enjoy.....a tease!

Well, I guess I'm going to have to finish the scotch and cigar. But this does give me a good excuse to do it again. I thank you for that.

And hurry up with the report. Your public anxiously awaits!
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Old Mar 22, 08, 7:51 pm   #14
 
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You have taken some excellent pictures in some bad lighting conditions on the plane! Very difficult - well done! They usually don't turn up quite as well!
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Old Mar 22, 08, 8:28 pm   #15
 
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ROTFLOL!

Hey now - thanks for your patience and sorry (sort of) for the tease! Really though ~ I'm quite taken by your collective responses and will endeavour to have the first portion of this report out later this evening (South Australia time). Hang in there, gang!
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