Old Sep 7, 10, 7:02 am
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: London
Programs: BA
Posts: 2,359
Boeing 747-400
Seats : 1A and 1K
Part 1 : The Heathrow Experience

After a relatively short journey to Terminal 5 our taxi pulled up at the far end of the building and we made our way towards Zone J, the First Class / BA Gold / OneWorld Sapphire check-in area. We were greeted by a member of staff who bore a broad smile and asked where we were traveling to. I replied and we were directed to a check-in agent who had just finished with another passenger. The friendly agent checked us in noting that we had secured 1A and 1K. There is much discussion on the BA board as to the merits of these seats. Some crave the privacy that they afford; you can't see the rest of the cabin and save for the person in the other seat, people can't really see you. Others are non-plussed by the alleged privacy, citing the cupboard affixed to the front wall between the two seats and how people's access to it spoils any perception of being in your own little bubble! In any case, they can't be pre-allocated unless you are a BA Premier, Gold or OneWorld Sapphire member. As neither of us are, I waited until 3 days before the flight when they became available. We had 2K and 3K reserved for the journey home so I thought it would be worth trying 1A and 1K to see what the fuss was about.

As I put our bags on the belt, I could see something sparkling on the ground. I picked it up and on closer inspection it looked like an engagement ring with a serious diamond on it. I handed it to the check-in agent in the hope that it might make its way back to its owner. With the relatively low footfall through the First check-in area, I hope its owner wasn't too hard to track down.

Checking-in to our left was a Middle-Eastern looking man with a huge number of bags. He had a BA Premier (invitation only level of the BA Executive Club) tag on his briefcase and a lady from BA Special Services attending to his numerous, polite requests.

On handing over our a boarding cards, the check-in agent made sure we knew where the Concorde Room door was and wished us a pleasant flight.

Passing quickly through the conformance check (your boarding pass is scanned to ensure that you have sufficient time to reach your aircraft) we joined the 'Fast Track' security queue reserved for First, Business and OW Elite passengers. Only one of the two 'Fast Track' lanes was staffed and we arrived just as one shift ended and another began. The numerous non-Fast Track queues to our left moved far quicker than we did. We passed through relatively unscathed. I had to be patted down (it always happens) leaving Mrs BiH to scoop up both her possessions and mine.

I pause here to note the terribly surly, condescending attitude of the security staff at Terminal 5. There really is no need.

We joined a queue of people trying to use the Concorde Room door. There are a number of lounges at Terminal 5, on the other side of the building is the Galleries Club North (Business Class lounge) from which you can quickly get from security into the lounge. On this, the South side of the building there is a Galleries Club South, a Galleries First Lounge and the Concorde Room. Here however, unless you have access to the Concorde Room, you have to take an escalator down a floor into the shopping area to then take a different escalator up again back to the lounges. As a result, a number of people who are trying to reach the First or Club lounges try their luck to get through this door, thus avoiding the multiple escalator shenanigans. The first two people were let in, the next two sent away as they only had access to the Club lounge and the final pair taken to one side by another member of staff. It seemed the final pair claim to have been told that all wheelchair passengers were entitled to use the First Class lounge; we left before the conversation got too heated but sentences were already being used that began "Now look here".

The Concorde Room
Stepping over the threshold we had our boarding passes examined by the lady at reception who offered a tour if we were unfamiliar with the lounge. Neither of us had been in before, but the BA website and a predilection for reading BA trip reports here on FT left me with a fairly good idea as to the layout. We headed straight from dining area and were shown to a booth. As we sat down, Mrs BiH had a big grin on her face and acknowledged the same on mine:

Mrs BiH: "I know why you're grinning
Me: "Do you?" (I assumed she did, I always grin before a full English breakfast)
Mrs BiH: "You saw her, you know what I am talking about"
Me: "Saw who?"
Mrs BiH: "You know"

I genuinely didn't. I discovered that we had walked past Liz Hurley as we entered the dining area. I was given permission to go back and take a surreptitious look and returned to tell Mrs BiH that whilst Liz was nice, I preferred her! The eye-rolling was cut short by our waiter who arrived and took our order

I ordered the full English and Mrs BiH took the smoked salmon with scrambled eggs. Both arrived quickly with coffee and juice.

Appetite sated I stored my bag in the cloakroom and wondered over to the Elemis Spa with Mrs BiH. Over breakfast she had changed her mind about the spa and decided that she would like a treatment. We were in luck as there was a massage appointment available just before we would have to head to our gate. In the interim, we decided to take a little wander around the shops (Mrs) and the other lounges at T5 (me).

The other lounges
I walked the length of T5 to the Galleries Club North. The entrance is located on the same level as and adjacent to the north security area. For passengers entitled to use the Club lounge, going through North security means easy access to the lounge rather than the convoluted route at the southern complex. The lounge itself is airy and spacious with a large selection of drinks and snacks. I had a Diet Coke as I ambled around.

I walked back to the south lounge complex via a few shops to browse at pens I don't need, stationary that is unnecessarily expensive and a tablet that does less than my laptop (made by the same manufacturer) that I inexplicably want. I did buy a bottle of Eau de Cologne but that was out of necessity rather than frivolity.

Returning to the south lounge complex I ventured into the Galleries First lounge. The lounge attendant was quick to remind me (as they were at the Galleries North) that I was entitled to use the Concorde Room, I thanked them both and explained that I was just having a look around. The Galleries First Lounge is large and quiet. I helped myself to a glass of Lanson Cuvee 1999 and took a seat by the windows. As I reached the end of my glass, Mrs BiH rang to say she was back in the Concorde Room and so I returned.

Back to the Concorde Room

Mrs BiH and I had arranged to meet on the Concorde Room terrace. Aside from us, there was just one other person sitting outside, whereas most of the sofas inside were occupied. Whilst the terrace might be a little noiser (it overlooks the main terminal area, it was quite cool and breezy compared to the main lounge which felt quite warm and stuffy.

We were quickly approached by a waiter and Mrs BiH ordered a cup of tea from the extensive selection. BA offer a range of silk tea pyramids and Mrs BiH was impressed with the quality of the tea. She received a call from work and quickly indicated that it might be a while so I went for a look around the lounge. My first stop was the 'Board Room' where BA had turned seats from Concorde into swivel chairs.

Originally, two other guests attending the wedding were supposed to be on our flight and had accepted our invitation to join us in the CCR. The day before however, I received a phone call to tell me that they had to delay their flights by 24 hours. I went onto BA97.com to see if there were any names I recognised from the BA FT board whom I could invite instead. There was one, but as he was meeting some friends in the Galleries First lounge he declined my invitation.

After an obligatory look at Flyertalk, I went back into the main lounge area.

It was almost time for Mrs BiH's treatment in the Spa. I gathered our belongings and headed for the champagne bar, agreeing to meet her outside the spa so that we could head for the B gates together. Sitting at the bar, I decided to try the two other champagnes on offer, first up the Lanson Rose.

The first sip was insipid. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I let it warm slightly (it was icy cold) but alas I remained unimpressed. The bartender watched me make some notes and came straight over to suggest I try the Bruno Paillard Rose instead.

This was better. It tasted 'slightly pink' and peachy with a medium finish, so not overly dry. Noticing how quickly I drank it, I made a tactical decision to follow it up with a glass of orange juice rather than a second as I whiled away my final 10 minutes in the lounge. Mrs BiH's appointment in the spa was schedule to finish at just the right time for us to take the shuttle to Terminal 5B. I collected my bag and made my way out to the lobby.

I sat in one of the comfy chairs in the lobby between the lounge entrances and shortly thereafter Mrs BiH joined me. We walked down to the main terminal area and took the shuttle to Terminal 5B. On arrival, I noticed the huge Virgin Atlantic advert that greets passengers on the mezzanine between escalators! On arrival at our gate, we saw a full compliment of passengers ready to board a 747 to Miami. The Fast Track queue was several people deep but very little appeared to be going on save that a couple of pushchairs were being tagged. A few minutes passed before an announcement was made. There was a problem with the aircraft and so departure would be delayed. Above the collective groans, the announcement invited anyone eligible to use the Galleries lounge to return there and await further information.

Galleries Club Terminal 5B

We spent about 45 minutes in the lounge. The departure time kept slipping until finally there was an announcement inviting us to board. A glass of tomato juice was quickly abandoned on the grounds of being stale (a passing member of staff agreed and had the jug removed) and replaced with an espresso and a bag of kettle chips (or perhaps two, I don't like to keep count!) When the boarding announcement was made, the majority of the people in the lounge left. Given the relatively short period of time between a flight being shown as departing from T5B and boarding time, I wonder if the primary use of this Galleries Club lounge is for those on flights that have been delayed?

The Fast Track queue was empty but of course there aren't separate entrances to the aircraft and so you then join the general queue of people trying to get on board. After what seemed like the longest jetbridge I can recall (it was one of the gates on the corner of T5B for those in the know), we reached the door of the aircraft.

Last edited by baggageinhall; Sep 7, 10 at 7:21 am
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