Old Aug 24, 16, 11:43 am
  #8  
dakaix
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Somewhere around Europe...
Programs: BA Gold; MR Ti; HH Diamond; IHG Spire; RR Gold
Posts: 489
Thanks for your comments so far; apologies for the lull, however here's the next instalment!

Day 2: The Lone Star State
After a pleasant night’s stay at the Sheraton Heathrow it was time to make tracks back to Heathrow. The last time I’d stayed at the Sheraton was back in February, I’d been assigned one of the old rooms, which seemed to be decorated largely with crushed red velvet and stained carpet. This time though they’d assigned me one of their remodelled rooms and I must say it was a substantial improvement.



Now decorated in a neutral white, with grey furnishings, the rooms look a lot less like a flashback to the 80s. The bed was very comfortable and I had a good night’s sleep. Amenities in the bathroom are sparse, with just a basic set of towels, in keeping with much of the Sheraton brand.



After checking out I took the short walk from the hotel to the bus stop opposite. This is the penultimate stop for the local No. 350 bus heading to T5, and takes less than 5 mins. It's just as quick as the Hotel Hoppa, but at half the cost (just 2.20 each way). Be aware though, London buses no longer accept cash, so you must already have a valid ticket, an in-credit Oyster card, Apple Pay or a contactless debit/credit card. In fact the driver on mine was waiving at me to say I needn't pay, though I only established that after swiping my Oyster card...

I arrived at Heathrow around 90 mins prior to departure, giving me enough time to sample the Flounge breakfast. It was even busier around the terminal than it was on Saturday afternoon, with queues on every check-in section at least two deep. Thankfully I could pop through the First check in (an OW Emerald benefit) where there was no queue and I was seen immediately. As I dropped off my suitcase the agent was somewhat surprised by my itinerary, and even more so when he printed two bag tags, with ALL of my sectors on. It took him a couple of moments before he could force FLY to only issue one for my LHR-AUS sector.



All told it only took a few minutes and I was headed for South security where, as usual, the Fast Track queue was substantial. I opted for the regular queue, which was even busier, thankfully though I managed to slip onto a quiet lane (which then closed immediately afterwards). Apparently they were relocating further down the concourse, though even the staff didn't understand why!

Now suitably secured I headed for the Flounge, dodging the myriad of oblivious casual travellers wandering/standing/running about. The Flounge was also fairly busy, however I still had no trouble finding a seat and settling down for Breakfast. I opted for the legendary Eggs Benedict that, dare I say it, is actually better than the one served in Plane Food. Larger egg, crusty bread, shredded ham... yum. Here's hoping it's not "enhanced" anytime soon.




After a spot of people watching I headed for the transit, and satellite C. I didn't have a long wait and was standing at C43 about 30 seconds prior to boarding being First/CW boarding being called. Perfect. Sadly, it did mean I forgot to actually snap a pic of our aircraft especially since the jet bridge on C43 is entirely enclosed, sigh.






Flight 3: BA191 (B789) LHR-AUS J 7A
Boarding was conducted via 2L, at which I was greeted by the CSD who directed me left into the CW mini cabin immediately behind F.

I was seated in one of the few window seats in CW with unobstructed aisle access, 7A. This is a slightly poorer seat than say c-w-s's preferred 7K, in that you're just in front of the bathroom, but you only notice the occasional noises from the sink (and then only when not wearing headphones). It's still a marked improvement over the other CW seats on this aircraft, and as 7K was already occupied I was happy to have secured it.

After depositing my carry-on in the overhead bin, I settled into my seat. The first thing I noticed was how snug it was, even in the upright position. You have no elbow room at all on one side, and if you're larger than average, you'll also notice that the curve in the side of the seat presses into your thigh. It's not actively uncomfortable, but equally you're very aware of that you're restricted it all times. A side effect of this tight layout though is that there is no at seat storage, apart from the 'shoe drawer'. I'm sure this is a result of the relatively narrower fuselage of the 787 than anything else, but for me it would be a factor to consider on any future routings.




The current BA CW seats are organised as alternating forward/rear-facing pairs. This means that when seated, with the dividing screen down, you look directly at the passenger next to you. It can make for an awkward first few mins if you're not travelling with that person. Thankfully my seatmate went to sleep almost as soon as he sat down, thereby allowing me to dodge the awkward "when can I put up the divider without being rude" dilemma.


Once boarding was complete the cabin crew came through distributing customs forms, menus, PDB's and amenity kits.


Just as they were finishing that up in the mini cabin all of the lighting in the cabin suddenly went out, replaced by the emergency lights a moment later. It occurred to me at the time that maybe someone had removed the ground power early/accidentally... and that without the APU the crew would now have to re-enter the flight data into the FMC, and we'd have a delay. Sure enough a few minutes later, the captain came over the PA to announce that they "... have a technical fault with the aircraft systems, and need to reset a few things. We have an engineer on the way to assist with this, but we expect it'll take about 30 mins to resolve". Seemed a long time just to reprogram the FMC, but I gave it no further thought and popped a film on in the meantime.

While we were waiting the CSD asked the CW FA's to start taking lunch orders. According to the menu we had:

The all-new "enhanced" Tomato, Mozzarella and Avocado
---
Seasonal Salad
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Beef Tenderloin, with Dauphinoise Potatoes, Green Beans and Carrots
Chicken Tikka Masala, with Dal Makhani and Pilau Rice
Macaroni Cheese & Cauliflower
---
Strawberry & Mascarpone Torte
Cheddar, Brie and Crackers



About 20 minutes later the captain came back on to apologise again for the delay, "... and also for the high temperatures at the back of the aircraft. I can see its up over 30C at the moment, and this is part of the issue we are trying to fix. We'll hopefully have it running again here shortly". It didn't feel anywhere near as bad up front, but I will admit feeling guilty for those back in WT. It's bad enough BA are starving them, without also seeing fit to boil them alive as well... all good preparation for the Texas heat though!

Shortly after that familiar whistle returned and the engineers deboarded, presumably after playing with the circuit breakers. First time I've ever seen a power outage cause a packs failure, but hey at least it was fixed. Soon after the CSD closed up and announced boarding was complete. Pushback was swift and we taxied out to 27R.





After a few minutes holding we lined up and roared skywards. Climb out was smooth and there were again some lovely views over London and Berkshire.



Service began about 25 minutes after departure with a hot towel; followed by offers of drinks and nuts, not having quite yet been driven to drink I opted for juice.


The lunch service followed on about a half hour later; as usual the first two courses were served together on the same tray along with a choice of warm bread from the basket. I selected the cheese roll, and while on the small side it was quite good. Sadly I can't say the same for the tomato and mozzarella starter, mozzarella itself has very little taste and the pesto dressing didn't improve on that, I also can't fathom BA's decision to use purple tomatoes (style over substance?). I passed on the salad so can't offer comment there! Following behind the meal cart was the second FA working our aisle who was distributing drinks, I opted for a top up on my juice along with a Kir Royale offered by the CSD.



It was quite a while before the main course arrived, around 25 mins, but once it did I was pleasantly surprised. I’d opted for the Macaroni Cheese (based on CIHY’s recommendation), and with a bit of seasoning, it was scrumptious.


There was another half hour gap before the dessert arrived, I took one for the team and ordered both the Torte and the Cheese. Just for the TR, obviously.



With that the service was finished and the cabin lights were turned out; unfortunately they’d forgotten to collect my tray and so I had to return it to the galley myself. Overall the service though was good, but could’ve been a bit quicker (90 mins start to finish).

I passed the time with a few more films from the IFE, Dad’s Army (Rubbish), Money Monster (Excellent), Sing Street (Foot-tappingly Good). It’s probably an indicator of how long its been since I last used the BA IFE, but I had no idea they were now showing compulsory adverts – thankfully you can fast forward through them. iPad FTW.

Midway through my movie marathon I dropped by the Club Kitchen and picked up a few things. Seems that the supply chain preparations for BoB are well underway, with both Waitrose food and fun-size chocolate now present.


Once we were about 90 minutes out the cabin lights were brought up and the FA's started the afternoon tea service. As usual the sandwich selection was pretty poor, it amazes me that BA can actually manage the ratio of bread/filling as they do (~9:1). The warm scones were OK, though lacking in sultanas for my liking!




Before long we started our descent into Austin, the Caprtain came back over the PA to advise that we had been given a slight detour to avoid some weather, which by all accounts had added about 15 mins to our arrival time. All told we touched down in Austin just over an hour late.




The taxi onto the international stands was quick, and before long we were deplaning and on our way to the clearance area (after some confusion over which door the bridge was coming to). Austin is I believe unique in that they only have two stands for international traffic, with a single baggage belt in the CBP area. You first use the APC terminals, then collect your bag from the carousel before exiting via one of the manned desks. As usual since I have GE I spent several times longer waiting for my bag than it took to clear the formalities!


Once out of the terminal I met up with my Wingz driver who sped me onwards to my night stop, the Capitol Hill Sheraton. Overall it was a pleasant flight, bar the delay, and with a decent crew (and excellent CSD). I wouldn't rush to use the 789 J service again with the current CW seat, there are better alternatives, but it's comfortable enough if you're on a promo fare. Would I pay the standard price for it? No, certainly not.
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