Old Mar 25, 12, 12:33 pm
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: BRS
Posts: 406
One Seat, two classes: BA LGW to FCO in ET and CE (first taste of club!)

Part I: The Best Made Plans...

Under the expert guidance of the FlyerTalk forums, I've slowly been wrapping my head around the intricacies of BA's Executive Club programme, and although I fell short in 2011/12, with a bit of extra effort I think I can make a stab at attaining status this year. One of the easier ways to accumulate the oh-so-important tier points is travelling in Club Europe via proactive online upgrade offers, although such offers are not guaranteed to be made. Fortunately for this trip the POUG immediately came into play at a reasonable-sounding price, so I'd be getting my first taste of Club - although only on the way back! As it transpired, I was able to grab the same seat (4A) for both flights, so in scientific fashion I'd be able to control all the other variables and assess just how much difference flying business class makes.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself, as the actual flights are often the simplest part of my travels. As a Bristolian, to fly BA I must first cover the 120 miles or so to London. This time around, I'd have a corresponding challenge at the other end: landing at Rome's Fiumicino airport would put me almost the same distance from my ultimate goal, Assisi in Umbria. Since I don't drive, that meant I'd mostly be spending my time on trains...

Booking for rail in the UK is something I'm entirely familiar with, but I hadn't attempted an international train ticket order for five years or so. A quick consultation of the invaluable man in seat 61 directed me to Trenitalia's site, which is easy enough to get timetable information from, but seemed reluctant to offer me tickets for many journeys. This turned out to be an issue with regional trains only being bookable within 7 days of travel, which felt too risky for me. I had dim memories of using RailEurope before, which is designed for UK purchasers, but (armed with my knowledge from Trenitalia) clearly has a terrible algorithm for journey selection. I'm not entirely sure what it's doing, but presumably in an effort to keep things simple for us clueless tourists, if it can't find identical ticket types for both halves of a return journey, it simply pretends trains don't exist. In my case, for Rome to Assisi it therefore initially insisted on routings with changes at intermediate stations, and at times that were deeply incompatible with BA's flights. It'd also cheerfully take Rome airport as a starting location, but then show tickets starting from Roma Termini - 30 minutes away, by a train that only runs every half hour, which would be more than enough time to unwittingly miss a connection even without flight delays.

However, by making two entirely separate bookings of single tickets I was not only able to get direct trains at reasonable times, but didn't seem to get gouged on price, either. Opting for first class only added a few pounds to fares that were already highly competitive against similar length journeys in the UK. I did end up with quite a lot of slack on the return trip between arriving in Rome and the flight out, but as that leg would be in Club I'd be able to make a thorough inventory of the BA lounge during those hours, which was entirely acceptable to me!

These, then, would be my schedules to cover the innocent-sounding 920 miles or so, clocking in at over 13 and 15 hours respectively:

Outbound (Sunday 18th March)
08:00 Feet: Walk to Bristol Temple Meads (2 miles) (Work boots)
08:45 Train: First Great Western Bristol Temple Meads to Reading (due 09:58) (standard class)
10:24 Train: South West Trains Reading to Clapham Junction (due 11:37) (standard class)
11:53 Train: Southern Clapham Junction to Gatwick Airport (due 12:27) (standard class)
14:20 Plane: British Airways London Gatwick (LGW) to Rome Fiumicino (FCO) (due 17:40 local time) (Euro Traveller)
Unknown Train: Leonardo Express Roma Aeroporto to Roma Termini (1st classs)
19:55 Train: Train Italia Domestic Roma Termini to Assisi (due 21:46) (1st class)
21:46 Feet: Walk to 'La Cittadella', Assisi (1.5 miles) (Work boots)

Inbound (Thursday 22nd March)
10:30 Feet: Walk to Assisi railway station (1.5 miles) (work boots)
11:24 Train: European Train Assisi to Roma Termini (due 13:47) (1st class)
Unknown Train: Leonardo Express Roma Termini to Roma Aeroporto (1st class)
18:25 Plane: British Airways Rome Fiumicino (FCO) to London Gatwick (LGW) (due 20:00 local time) (Club Europe)
21:03 Train: First Great Western Gatwick Airport to Reading (due 22:19) (standard class)
22:49 Train: First Great Western Reading to Bristol Temple Meads (due 00:32) (standard class)
00:32 Taxi: Bristol Temple Meads to home.

Or at least, so I thought...
TheFlyingDoctor is offline