19 do BA in Y

Old Feb 7, 16, 6:39 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
19 do BA in Y

I hope this may offer something of a difference – not only are the flights in WT but there are 19 of us travelling in a group!

Introduction

I have very few opportunities to travel for work – 8 flights in total over 17 years. So last year, using a specialist group tour operator, I booked to take a group of students to New York. We had a great time but it was somewhat expensive, with the tour operator taking a hefty slice despite not actually doing a great deal. This year to reduce costs I decided to forego the specialist and to book everything myself. And who else would I turn to but BA – well it would give me some TPs and extra avios. There has to be something of a perk for anybody prepared to take a group of teenagers abroad.

The Booking Process

I began by pricing up a group booking for flights. These were fairly reasonable compared to the same flights individually. There would be advantages to this such as not needing to provide names until closer to departure date. Ideal if your group is not confirmed. However, I was keen to make this into a package, but BA do not do packages for groups of 10 or more. Given that there were some cracking BA Holiday deals at the time, I went for this, securing the flights and accommodation (Hilton New York Fashion District) whilst saving abour £250 per person from the previous year. A package was also a decent saving on the flight only price.

Booking via the gold line was relatively painless. I worked it through with the agent and provided all the details as he priced it up across three separate PNRs. This is where I made my first error. I put myself in the last group of only 3 passengers. This was the cheapest booking and may mean less avios for a BA Holiday booking. Ideally I would have done this online but didn’t know if the booking would stick at the same price whilst completing each separate booking. I think in future I would do this and just accept I may need to call and cancel if the prices were to shoot up during the process.

Following booking, I did notice an error on one of the names which BA quickly corrected. We then had a member of the group withdraw. This was a bit of a problem as they were the lead name on one of the hotel rooms. The only way around this was to cancel the room and rebook which was a cost of over £400. This was error number 2. If I’d paid slightly more at the time of booking the accommodation would have been flexible and I could have made this change for free. Although saying that, the cost of the increased flexibility would have been about £400 in any case.

Seat Allocation

The only problem I have had in the whole process is in getting seats allocated. As a gold card holder I am allowed to request seats for all members of my group when travelling in the same cabin. This perk saved the group around £1500 if we decided to pay for this – which we wouldn’t have done. However, the allocation of seats never matched what I wanted/requested and required numerous calls as each time they had to go off to be processed. They often moved some seats but not others. Eventually I made do with more of less something that allowed the group to be mainly together on the long haul with the intention of making some changes later at OLCI.

A t-24 I was online and completed check in, holding back from printing boarding passes so I could adjust seats where possible. Availability on the domestic and throughout the Y cabin was good so this was useful when I got the hang of not trying to just swap one person for another – not so easy when doing this on three separate devices at once due to having three separate PNRs.

The prospect of it all going wrong…

As I write this, I really should be getting some much needed sleep. However, it eludes me. The forecast for LHR is looking windy throughout the day and although there are no cancellation showing at the moment, that could all change come the morning – and the first to be hit when cancellation are needed are the domestic flights. Never mind, we are leaving for the airport at 4am, and expect to arrive at MAN around 6am, despite a full closure planned on the M6. We don’t depart until 9:55am so have plenty of time! If we are lucky they may even get us on an earlier flight it ours does get panned.
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 6:40 pm
  #2  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
MAN/LHR on BA1389

The journey to MAN was somewhat uneventful and we arrived around 6am although it was already clear to see the traffic was building on the surrounding motorways. We were told we would be able to check in at 7.10am after closing an earlier flight. I did ask about the weather to be told, 'We never cancel flights here.'

Once again everyone was briefed about security before heading through with only a few minor snags. I was 'prevented' by my colleague from using fast track. We were split across various lanes and I sailed through. My colleague, on the other hand was stopped for secondary. Turns out she had took her ipad out of her bag and then put it under her coat. Amateurs!

By 8am we were through airside which was not too bad all things considered. I left the group to explore the terminal whilst we enjoyed a quick visit to the lounge. Nothing new to report here. Boarding was announced and we preceded to gate 18 around 9.20am. I insisted on using priority boarding on the basis that I could then supervisor easier on board. The flight itself was not full and given that around 15% was made up of our party who did not have copious amounts of hand baggage there were no issues with the overhead lockers. Doors were closed and we awaited pushback around 9.50 only for the captain to inform us that we were being held by ATC until half past. In any event we did get away sooner and were airborne around 10.10am.

The flight was uneventful bar the crying child and loud snores (good practise for LH in Y) until we approached LHR. There were a few bumps and a bit of swaying due to the strength of the wind but we landed just after eleven and made our way to the domestic gates. This was when trouble struck. Another plane was blocking our gate and was awaiting a tug which duly arrived. As it pushed back the tug then broke down blocking the gate completely. Eventually, after waiting around 20 minute, we were given a new gate. A11. Thanks to Karfa's guide I knew what was coming, perhaps more than the crew or at least what they were letting on. Despite the unexpected problems leading up to this, what happened next was not good. Although we were parked at the gate we waited a further twenty minutes or so for steps, which arrived at the rear of the aircraft and we had to disembark from there onto buses. So much for deliberately choosing the front. We eventually made it through domestic connections/boardingpass check which had a large queue just after midday, about an hour after we landed. Our connecting flight was from C55 and so any hopes of a quick visit to the flounge were dashed. For many this was their first visit to LHR and they had been looking forward to the shops!

LHR to JFK on BA177

A quick loo stop and we made our way to T5C via the transit. I was tempted by the walkways but taking a group down there would double the daily numbers. Gate C55 was right outside the lifts from the transit and opposite Starbucks. There was plenty of seating and priority boarding started around 25 minutes before scheduled departure, followed by general boarding. No problems here and the CSM greeted everybody kindly at the door. We were soon in our seats on the 773. I had managed to get 28A-28F followed by most of the rest of A-C in the forward Y cabin. Everybody seemed impressed with their seats and space. Row 28, which is a bassinet row and can only be reserved at t-72 offered really good leg room. The following photo from later with my case to indicate the legroom. However, a word of caution here. The tray table is in the armrest and IFE screen underneath. This makes for a slightly narrower seat, and no gate to gate IFE as the screen has to be stored. However, this was the newer version of the system so not too bad overall. Row 28 is inline with the wing and there are three windows so possibility of some views if you focus on looking down.


We pushed back more or less on time, helped by the fairly light loading throughout Y. Perhaps only 40-50% full. A long queue on departures meant we were not airborne until about 1.50pm. We were warned to expect some bumps but it was a fairly smooth departure. The same cannot be said of the flight as a whole. There was some pretty significant turbulence around Newfoundland that lasted a good half hour. Fortunately there were no sign of sickness… I draw the line at vomit and the little blighters would be dealing with this themselves.

A drinks service was offered followed by meals. Service of drinks went from the PE cabin in front of us towards the back. However, after special meals the service preceded from back to front meaning I was the last to be served. Seems like we were all offered either chicken casserole of pasta. No beef! Being all served on a single tray did make for something of a juggling act. The starter was a prawn (x2) potato salad with some type of beans. The chicken casserole had a decent amount of chicken and came with mash. No veg. The dessert – a salted caramel and chocolate pot was vile. But then I don’t like salted caramel but tried it for the team. One girl ate three of them!


We also had two special meals catered for. The first a fairly standard lacto ovo which was the same pasta as the veggie option. The other was a low lactose meal. This consisted of tilapia with pasta. Probably looked better than the chicken casserole. They said it tasted nice.




Later on a snack pack was served. This was a simple round of sandwhiches and a kitkat. A bit disappointing and both options included tomato. I was told I could have ordered a ‘bland’ meal. No thanks. For two reasons, who is to say tomatoes would not be classed a bland. As for the other reason… if BA want to move me forward, I know where my priorities lie! 

Throughout the flight the cabin crew were fairly non existent with the exception of the CSM. She was up and down the cabin and was always clearing rubbish and spent a lot of time engaging with the group. She was a real asset and frankly showed what the other crew should have been doing. I particularly like her line when taxing at LHR. ‘Cabin crew, seats for landing.’ Followed by, ‘That was a bit premature. Cabin crew seats for take-off.’ That would have been some fast flight!

We landed in JFK around 10 minutes late and by the time we got to immigration the queue was snaking up the ramps passed the toilets. All told it took about an hour to clear immigration and customs with one of the group held up by an over-officious CBP officer. He wanted every single detail about the visit. We also had a message to contact BA about a missing bag but this was on the belt in any case. An email I received said it was left at LHR and would be on the following flight. As this landed as we were still queuing in immigration I wonder if they just put it straight on the belt?

I’d prebooked transfers using hoppa.com who were offering a good price. These were waiting for our arrival using a company called mysedan. The two minibuses were large and comfortable, and I would certainly recommend.

The next few days…

I won’t bore you with the details, but the usual touristy things in New York will be covered….

Last edited by madfish; Feb 9, 16 at 5:54 am
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 6:40 pm
  #3  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
Returning to JFK

One of the advantages of using an agent last year was that they sorted out the transfers from JFK to Manhattan. I struggled to find a reasonable priced option so decided that we would do a transfer one way and then use the subway and air train for the return. It would all add to the adventure, as well as keeping costs low.

So, after three very busy days in the city, we collected our luggage from the hotel and headed off to the subway which was just a couple of blocks away. As you can imagine getting all those cases onto the subway was fun. However, we all made it onto the subway and set off to Sutphin Blvd. The subway was quite busy and seemed to take an age but we soon made it and on to the air train. However, as we were boarding one of the students managed to drop their purse scattering money everywhere meaning that we had to leave her on the platform (along with my colleague) as we were already on board. Fortunately they were able to get the next air train and meet us at Terminal 7.

Checking in at the BA counters was straightforward, even though we were around 4 hours early for the flight. Security was a bit more of a crush as they were slow in processing through the single line that was open. Once airside and the students were free to amuse themselves whilst I found sanctuary in the flounge.

JFK/LHR on BA182

A couple of weeks previously the planned 772 had been switched to a 744 and I was really pleased with this. I’d even managed to get 29K which would mean no seat in front as 28 only runs to 28H and 28K. However, I was soon to regret the change in aircraft. I had been keeping a close eye on the seat map and it seemed fairly lightly loaded in the back, and so was surprised by how busy it actually was when it came to boarding. Anyway, we were soon safely ensconced in our seats and ready for the flight home.

Seat 29K was not as I was expecting. Yes, there was a good deal of legroom through to the exit row. However, the IFE screen came from under the seat and the arm protruded well into the seat itself. As well as the screen being significantly smaller than on the outbound, the moving map was not as good, and the overall seat seemed more narrow. In addition there was no in seat power, much to the regret of the students.





Prior to take off I was greeted as a gold by somebody who introduced himself as the purser. All very friendly. I’d previously spoken with the CSM at the door. Later in the flight the CSM herself came and spoke to me, and at the end of the flight the purser again proffering an additional bottle of water. A larger one so perhaps stolen from CW!

After take off a drinks service was completed followed by the meal. Again the choice was chicken or pasta. I opted for the chicken, again! This was a creamy sauce with gnocchi. I thought this was very tasty and much better than the outbound. However, some of the students disagreed, but this may be because they were really not sure what gnocchi is. The desert was a little bland. Sorry, but no photos of the vegetarian or low lactose meal. Will try to find out what these were. In the morning a breakfast box was served.





We landed at LHR around 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Progress to flight connections was slow, but more due to being part of a group and having to keep stopping and waiting. Due to having under 18s in the group the option of using the e-gates and re-entering security from landside was not an option. There was no queuing up the escalators, so all looked good. However, the system of processing was dire as I was sent along to the far end (I know I could have used fast track). As the first one through the border you would expect me to be first one through security. Alas, I was not and many of the group were waiting for me due to the fact that there was little real co-ordination of the lines at the start of security. They were just sending people wherever they felt like.

LHR/MAN on BA1394

We still had a couple of hours before our flight to MAN so the rugrats were allowed to check out the shops. When it came time to board the final flight I was surprised by just how many people were in the priority boarding queue. It seemed like at least half the plane. I made no rush to board, opting to stick with general boarding. The flight was full and overhead space was at a premium. It was somewhat annoying to see some people boarding with a couple of hefty piece of hand luggage as well as a laptop case. Never mind, we were soon all aboard and ready to set off for MAN.

The flight was uneventful and we were soon on the ground again, although there was a bit of a wait for luggage. We passed through the terminal and made our way to where our coach should have been waiting ready for the final leg of the journey home. We made it back some 110 hours after we had set off.

Last edited by madfish; Feb 14, 16 at 2:21 pm
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 6:41 pm
  #4  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
[b]Final Comments[b]

Some people will think it is crazy even attempting to travel in Y Some will think it even crazier doing this with 19 people

However, travelling in Y is what thousands of BA passengers do every day, but the experience is so far removed from what is offered in J and F that I think it should be compulsory for all to experience it from time to time to realise just how good it is in the premium seats.

The Good and Bad

The booking progress
Good - being able to call the gold line. Usually answered very quickly and most problems and issues easily resolved. also, getting free seat allocation for all 19 in the party.
Bad - not thinking it through and putting myself in cheapest booking so less avios from BA Holidays; and not always getting the seat allocation right.

At the airports
Good - check in was smooth and efficient. Security at Manchester.
Bad - immigration and security at JFK. Ground problems on arrival at LHR from MAN

The flights
Good - the drinks. CSM on both TATL. (mixed reaction to food!) IFE on 773.
Bad - seat on 744. General cabin crew on TATL. Didn't go out of their way to make it special - in J they are much, much better.

Would I do it again?
Yes - it is the only chance some of these students may ever get of flying long haul, whether that is in economy or not!

Last edited by madfish; Feb 14, 16 at 2:32 pm
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 7:23 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: London
Programs: BA GGL (98% to Lifetime Gold), SPG convert from IHG (and Marriott fan now!)
Posts: 4,780
Good luck - on all counts!
lorcancoyle is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 8:08 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2010
Programs: AA
Posts: 9,934
Good luck. Traveling with 19 teenagers = better person than I (memories of my own group travel as a teenager are going through my head).
wrp96 is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 8:12 pm
  #7  
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: 40,697
It was difficult enough with shepherding a single 31 year old teenager. Nineteen of them? Goodness. At least we have another wacky, only in the BA forum, thread to keep us going. Best of British to you!

[PS I do hope you will be repacking all their bags before they hit security....]
corporate-wage-slave is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 8:41 pm
  #8  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
Originally Posted by corporate-wage-slave
[PS I do hope you will be repacking all their bags before they hit security....]
I was thinking of leaving my colleague to do that while I go through fast track!

You can imagine their reaction when I suggested HBO.
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 10:57 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Dec 2014
Location: EDI, HKG
Programs: British Airways Executive Club Gold
Posts: 1,057
Will you ditch them all and get glasses of champagne then a shower followed by an Elemis Spa just to show off your status while they are waiting on the seats?

Also will you all use priority biarding at once and calm themselves down by leading them through the underground walkway?

cysyuen is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 11:10 pm
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: Anywhere I need to be.
Programs: OW Emerald, *A Gold, NEXUS, GE, ABTC/APEC, South Korea SES, eIACS, PP, Hyatt Diamond
Posts: 16,043
Originally Posted by corporate-wage-slave View Post
It was difficult enough with shepherding a single 31 year old teenager. Nineteen of them? Goodness. At least we have another wacky, only in the BA forum, thread to keep us going. Best of British to you!

[PS I do hope you will be repacking all their bags before they hit security....]
Not really-for some savings on flights I was going to take anyways, it may be worth putting up with them...
AA_EXP09 is offline  
Old Feb 7, 16, 11:44 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Programs: Top Tier with all 3 alliances
Posts: 3,612
Aren't you gonna ask us how to get them all in the F lounge?
nk15 is offline  
Old Feb 8, 16, 12:29 am
  #12  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
Originally Posted by cysyuen View Post
Will you ditch them all and get glasses of champagne then a shower followed by an Elemis Spa just to show off your status while they are waiting on the seats?

Also will you all use priority biarding at once and calm themselves down by leading them through the underground walkway?

Did you read my planning notes by any chance? Was also hoping to nab a few BA burgers in the flounge!

Originally Posted by nk15 View Post
Aren't you gonna ask us how to get them all in the F lounge?
Do you think they will let me guest them all in? Surely this should be acceptable after all they cannot be allowed to wander around the terminal by themselves. i am ready for a DYKWWA on a teenage scale.

*Do You Know Who We Are?
madfish is offline  
Old Feb 8, 16, 1:01 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Seattle, Wash. USA
Posts: 1,427
19 students in Manhattan? Make sure someone sound is carrying the bail money. Although I understand the NY courts will give you a group rate on that, too.
chucko is offline  
Old Feb 8, 16, 1:17 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: US/Europe
Programs: BA Gold
Posts: 1,045
Good luck with the trip - I'm sure it'll be fine!

I used to take about 30 students LGW/LHR to LIS on BA: we used to use a TA until we arrived at LHR only to discover that the tickets that the TA issued didn't match the BA booking - BA were good about it and rebooked us on the next flights, although half of us and to travel LGW-OPO-LIS. After that it was BA group bookings done direct - very competitive prices!
CKBA is offline  
Old Feb 8, 16, 2:37 am
  #15  
Original Poster
Hilton Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Sep 2014
Location: Cumbria
Programs: BAEC GGL/CCR, Hilton Diamond, Starbucks Gold
Posts: 4,357
Managed to get a quick photo of the luggage... Don't have kittens!
Attached Images  
madfish is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread