Old Aug 17, 14, 9:56 am
Moderator, Iberia Airlines, Airport Lounges, and Ambassador, British Airways Executive Club
Join Date: Feb 2010
Programs: BA Lifetime Gold; Flying Blue Life Platinum; LH Sen.; Hilton Diamond; Kemal Kebabs Prized Customer
Posts: 46,491
A business traveller's week on BA and oneworld

Friday 22 August - no flying today

So no flying today. I took the train down to Washington DC for my meetings there and returned in the afternoon. I tried to do some work on the train but didn't get far. The Washington folks were a bit surprised I had commuted in by rail, but it's actually quite practical, taking 1 hr and 10 minutes, so I thought I'd put a few Any Other Business here.

Why Not Philadelphia?

It's actually very well located for both NYC and Washington. Given that IAD is in the middle of nowhere and poorly connected, has creaking infrastructure and sometimes long queues at passports, PHL plus the fast train is a valid option. It also has fast trains to New York (and then on to Boston). So by staying in a relatively cheap city (for hotels) one is able to get around the area quite effectively. Also it's a bit easier to get Avios redemptions on LHR to PHL, with particularly good availability in First relative to the low number of flights. Set against this, Philadelphia is a relatively poor city and it shows - it's a bit grim in places and some of those places rub up against the tourist spots.

The Americans haven't quite got the hang of train services, so everyone is carefully queued in the concourse and only allowed down on to the platform just after the train has arrived, which means that station stops are long winded affairs, but from 2015 the capacity on this North East Corridor line will be sharply increased. They are also trying to speed up the service, so that PHL to NYC, which is currently around 1 hr 10 minutes will be down to 40 minutes or so. On the other hand the Americans have got the hang of impressive railway stations.

Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn.

This AOB is specifically for layz. This is my raid of the breakfast buffet with a made to order cheese and onion omelette. They also do fried and poached eggs, as well as having a scrambled egg platter on the hot buffet. I could have added bagels, toast, Danish, muffins plus hot oatmeal porridge. Nothing like the choice of a Euro Hilton but still a perfectly good alternative. Waiter service for coffee and orange, free to Diamonds. I left a US$5 tip anyway.

Business and tourism

As mentioned upthread, I do try to combine a bit of sightseeing with my business visits. I tend to plead with my hosts to bring meetings to an early conclusion - which is a good idea anyway in terms of focusing on the essentials - in order that I have time to "see your fabulous city". Works every time, even when the city concerned was actually not theirs. So having read online that tickets for Liberty Hall were tricky to obtain on spec, but that the Liberty Bell was generally easy, I gave them both a go and got in pretty much as a walk-up.

This is our bell, by the way. OK, the workmanship left something to be desired, but it was originally cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is still in business to this day. Over the road is Independence Hall, there are essentially two rooms you get to see, the Supreme Court room and the Assembly room.

Air conditioning

I’ve had a bit of problem with with the a/c in the room. My usual policy is never to sleep with air conditioning running no matter where I am in the world. I have enough problems with sore throats without adding to it, also I live in a rural area so night time noise is a bit of a nuisance for me. I wake up if I hear the sheep making too much noise. The a/c in the room is somewhat old fashioned under the window wall unit, very noisy but very effective, so I turn it up to maximum before sleep, with a view to having it off all night long.

However at bed time, while I can get the unit to run quietly, it doesn’t appear to switch off fully. I get down on the floor, unscrew the lower panel and locate the unit’s fuse (don't try this at home, folks), and I am just about to remove it, when I realise what I am hearing is the massive airconditioning unit on the roof of the next building (the Convention Center) 50 metres away…..

Saturday 23 August - Philadelphia to Charlotte to....

Another day, and it feels like it was a long time since I was last on an aircraft. That will be fixed fairly shortly. I am up early, spend a little while participating in various FT threads, and then at 07:00 hrs off to breakfast at my hotel, as the restaurant opens at that time at weekends. I get a similar spread to yesterday, then ask for some tomato sauce for the sausages. It takes them a while and then they proudly present me with a lovely glass of iced tomato juice. Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup….

I check out of the hotel at 08:00 hrs, I checked the train times and there is a suitable service at 08:25, for arrival at 08:53.

The fare is US$6.50, and I get an old fashioned ticket, and in due course, some old fashioned clips.

I get chatting to a Californian lady, who proudly tells me that today is her second ever trip on a train (the first being yesterday from the airport). She dropped her daughter off at college this weekend, and is quite the chatterbox, presumably as a distraction technique from “losing” her daughter to the education process.

US2054 - Philadelphia to Charlotte 23 Aug 2014.
Embraer 190 N950UW
1 Captain (flying) one First Officer, 2 cabin crew

Scheduled departure 10:15 Eastern
Actual departure 10:47 – pushback, airborne 11:01
Scheduled arrival: 12:08 Eastern
Actual arrival 12:17 – doors open
Time needed to clear security at PHL PreCheck: 2 minutes 42 seconds.

Security for Philadelphia C terminal is just at the top of the platform. I am blessed by being TSA precheck, so no removal of items from baggage, belt stays on, shoes stay on. I am through security in 2 minutes 42 seconds and airside at 09:00 hrs for my 10:15 flight. It would have been quicker except that the young family in front of me has a conceptual block at the idea of not taking things out of luggage. I ask if I may go ahead of them - the TSA agent is waving me through - she replies "OK, if you must", presumably she'd prefer to see me watch her flap around.

Off to the US Club lounge, which is big and straddles much of the area between the B and C concourses, quite a cricket pitch. US also operate from A, and there are several Clubs for US in PHL. They are being rebraded into AA's Admirals, which is a bit of a pity since there is a bit more sustenance in US Clubs. At breakfast there is a toaster with bread, bagels and croissants, plus jam, honey and elsewhere oatmeal. So not too bad for a lounge in the USA.

Those clouds turn into rain.

And indirectly lead to my first SNAFU of the entire week. Another aircraft gets delayed and so my flight is moved to another gate, C26, which is near the end of the pier, C18 being at the start. Now there are 6 wheelchair passengers for an Embraer, and amazingly the staff get us all boarded and doors shut at 10:17, so more or less on time. Then we discover that no one told the baggage handlers: our aircraft has the wrong cargo and the bags from the aircraft now sat on C18, and that aircraft has our bags. They only noticed when they offered to gate check hand luggage for free "since it's a full flight".

So we wait 30 minutes, get the bags all swapped around, and push back at 10:47, so half an hour late basically. I notice 10 aircraft waiting to depart and groan inwardly, only to see us go straight to the front and jump the queue!

View from the air, of Philadelphia city centre, lower right area, and the pesky rain clouds.

On US Embraers, the First seating is 1 + 2, Coach is 2+2. Though the First seats are wider than BA CityFlyer, the leg room seems a bit more cramped mainly since the seats are just a lot bulkier. The service is similar to BA domestic, drinks from the bar (no trolley) and passing around a snack basket with about 6 different mini snacks, sweet and savoury. I take coffee and a mini biscuit pack. Wifi is technically offered, but the box is kaput and the staff appologise for that in advance.

The captain was quite unlike any other I've experienced on US: he came out to talk to passengers while on the ground, the door was left open until the very last moment, and he kept us as fully informed as a BA captain would do. You're lucky to get much information from most US / AA crews unless the delay is very substantial.

Arrival into CLT - Queen City - is expedited, so we are not too badly late on arrival, the aircraft having a continuing service to RDU.

Charlotte Douglas Airport CLT
This is a lovely airport, it doesn't get much headroom among BA travellers, but now that US - who have a big hub at CLT- are part of oneworld, I think it is worth consideration, for the connections that it provides. The Tier Point side is a bit more nuanced, CLT is not 2000 miles from PHX, so that relatively long sector won't provide the longer haul stash that travellers would get from PHL to PHX. One of CLT's well known features is a pianist in the atrium:

I dash into Bodyshop to stock up on their deo stick (non liquid), which thanks to the dollar is now cheaper than in the UK. Then I grab some fresh milk since I know I won't easily find it near my hotel this evening. Then off to the US Club in CLT, I think my first ever visit there.

I have a 2 hour layover so I post my previous update and check all the fun and games in the BAEC forum. There are three large seating areas, this is the smallest and quietest of the three (less than 10% of seats taken), and there are various alcoves with meeting rooms and a business centre.

I also grab a coffee - they have a vastly better selection than AA, using those Flavia sachets for all sorts of flavours and option. Food is a bit on the thin side, but still better than AA.

My flight is at 14:59 (yes, really, this is how US Airways likes to operate), so boarding is at 14:29, so I decide to leave to lounge at 14:29 hrs.

US749 - Charlotte to San Francisco 23 Aug 2014.
Airbus 321 - N192UW
1 Captain (flying) one First Officer, 4 cabin crew, 1 solely for First

Scheduled departure 14:59 Eastern
Actual departure 14:59 – pushback, airborne 15:11
Scheduled arrival: 17:38 Pacific
Actual arrival 17:07 – doors open, touchdown at 16:59
No security, domestic connection

Boarding was efficient and for the first time this week, there's a passenger in front of me! I'm in 2A on one of US Airways A321. This is a good seat for US First, not so good for AA. It hasn't got IFE or in seat power, but there are much worse US First seats out there!

We had an on time departure and we are soon in the cruise. WiFi evidently does work on this service, since I'm typing this 29,974 feet over Springfield, Missourri. Lunch was a choice of Asian chicken or cheese pasta, I chose the latter:

And here's the relevant screen grab of roughly where I am right now.

We have a good run over the US, and end up arriving over 30 minutes early. I presume there's no jetstream and there is a 15 minute contingency in there no doubt. It's reasonably comfortable in terms of food, drink, seating, but still cramped: when the passenger in front reclines it make it difficult to use my computer unless I recline too.

Hilton SFO Bayfront - Burlingame

Booked: Deluxe king Bay view.
Received: Deluxe king Bay view. No upgrade but I'm on the Hhonors floor and I do get Executive lounge access.

Now SFO are part of a hotel shuttle quad for me, along with MIA, LAX and to a lesser extent JFK. MIA and LAX have great shuttles to the Hilton, I don't have to wait long, the trip doesn't take long. SFO is different. There are a variety of Hilton properties in the vicinity, all with different shuttles and I always seem to find myself waiting a long time. The trip is too short for an airport taxi. I've looked around about trying to find a hotel on the first few BART stations but they look decidedly low-rent. Anyway I can't complain today, I'm outside waiting for a mini-van at 17:12, and one comes along at 17:22. It takes 20 minutes to get to the hotel, and though I don't get much of an upgrade (or even a fridge), the room has a good view.

And that, my fellow FTers is the end of the road for this traveller's week. I'll add something at the end of the thread by way of conclusions, I just need to think what they may be. For now, from the Hilton SFO Executive Lounge, I give you my thanks for your support.

Last edited by corporate-wage-slave; Aug 23, 14 at 8:39 pm
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