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Ba first: London to new york on ba177 july 09

Ba first: London to new york on ba177 july 09

Old Dec 24, 09, 2:18 pm
  #1  
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Ba first: London to new york on ba177 july 09

After a fun filled evening in London and a very convenient stay at the London Hilton Paddington, where for a change I was granted my upgrade and lounge access without needing to pull out documentation from Hilton Honors gold benefits, I headed for LHR quite early. I wanted enough time to explore T5 before boarding my 13:40 departure to JFK. I arrived at LHR via HEX at around 10:15, proceeded to the First check in which was quite a walk being at the other end of the terminal and handed over my luggage (I was given an LHR-JFK boarding pass at BOM). The agent was extremely courteous, but not as aware of the First product (I was directed to the First lounge, and I responded “what about the concorde room”, at which point she looked up her manual and apologized). This seems to be an ongoing problem with disbanding of the Concorde / First team, that at Terminal 4 was in charge of lounges, and the First check-in. They have now all been made customer service agents, and do rotations varying from gates to lounges to check-in. Honestly what made T4 CCR special was being welcomed in by name with a familiar face whom one had seen just days ago and made to feel right at home. While no doubt T5 lounges are excellent, this is one aspect of T4 that I miss (probably the only one).

I went up to the quintessentially desk to enquire about a Cabana for my return flight, which I had changed within minute of being at the T5 lounge to allow me a whole day there, and was handled wonderfully and even offered one to use now till I left for my flight since they were all empty. I put my stuff in Cabana number 1 and proceeded to walk around. Not a fan of the new elemis treatments over the previous full back massage offered by Molton Brown, I opted to explore the other lounges in the hopes of catching a familiar face. Galleries first was nice, a huge step up from the dungeon that was the T4 first lounge, as was the Galleries Club. On arrival at the club lounge I noticed a very dear dear lady who had saved me from many a misconnection, had my bags follow me a day later and just simply take wonderful care of me every time through LHR. I decided to join the line where she was scanning boarding cards and said hello. She was shocked to see me, delighted no less and was about to go on her tea break. I took a quick look around the galleries club, and then we had a nice long chat and she accompanied me to the CCR where I found my Business cards and we said our adieus. While there, she introduced me to the formerly surly CCR staff as one of her “residents” at the T4 CCR. It was remarkable how the attitude of the staff member changed towards me after this encounter.

I decided to relax on the balcony, and enjoy the views of the terminal and have some wonderful clotted cream with custard and summer berries. Shortly thereafter I went into the Cabana for a shower and came back out ready to head towards my gate. The staff member on duty whom I was introduced to earlier came up to me and said “Mr. avm2806, your flight is scheduled to depart out of gate A, so you need not leave yet, and there is a slight technical delay so we will make an announcement for this flight.”
The screens were then updated to show an ETD of 14:15, and I was a little anxious as we had a scheduled arrival of 16:25 and I had a connection on United P.S. to SFO at 18:55, which was also the last flight of the day. This was on a separate mileage redemption ticket, which would mean I’d be on my own in case of a missed connection.

I went to the special services desk where I was greeted again my a familiar face, and she assured me that a message would be sent out to JFK to clear me as quickly as possible on arrival so I would make my connection, but she wasn’t concerned given the amount time I had. She also noted that published flying time was 7h45, but our flight would be 7h15minutes, so we were still showing an on time arrival. 14:15 came and went, and I was met at the balcony where I had opted to relax and the same wonderful lady from Special service informed me that the flight would be boarding soon and we were expected to arrive JFK with the new slots close to 17:15pm and that special services in JFK would be on stand by to assist me on arrival. She also went up to Bill Nighy who was on the same flight and briefed him about the delay. At 14:20 boarding was announced and a short walk through the CCR, down the main Galleries escalator and I was at my gate in no time. The fast track line was moving slowly, but one of the supervisors noticed this and started boarding premium pax through the computer at the gate, which meant I was at the door in 7-8 minutes.

I was greeted by a member of the cabin crew by name and walked to the first class cabin where I was handed to a wonderful crew member, Nikki, who led me to my seat. I was then offered a drink, wash bag, a sleep suit and a pair of slippers within minutes of having settled down at my seat. I opted for my usual pre-take off glass of sparkling water with ice and lemon, which came with a bowl of macadamia nuts. Having already indulged in the lounge I passed on the Macadamias and waited anxiously for push back.

The captain came over the horn explaining that there was a small technical issue that they had resolved and given that it was not “peak” time, we should be able to push back and get an alternate slot shortly. He also informed us that they would try and make up as much time to get us at JFK as close to our arrival slot as possible. At around 14:45, an hour late, we pushed back and were airborne by around 15:00. The MAP was showing an arrival time of 17:40, which did concern me, given that immigration and customs at T7 can take a while at times.

Shortly after take off and the customary announcements introducing the service on board the flight and the pursers in charge of each cabin, the CSD came by to welcome us on board in First and hand out landing cards. He was a wonderful gentleman, and I enjoyed speaking with him about my holiday plans, the tennis program in Florida that I was heading for (he was a fellow tennis player), and the current state of affairs at BA. I informed him about my connection, and he assured me that he would send out a message to special services so that I could get past immigration quickly and make my connection to SF.

The purser on this flight was good – not excellent like some, but good. I often find in BA first there is mixed quality of crew – 1 excellent, 1 good and 1 downright mediocre. Usually the latter are relegated to the galley and spend their time involved in food prep, which is great as they have minimal customer interaction, other than during breaks. In this case, the galley person was a Finnish lady, rather surly – I felt like she belonged more on the likes of AY economy then in BA first, but during the flight my “kill her with kindness” approach worked wonderfully and she warmed up eventually. I find that one has to exercise different tactics with different airlines when it comes to handling poor service in the premium cabins. On the European airlines, especially BA – most times the “kill with kindness” approach works best. On SQ, I find a polite conversation with the IFS and clear description of faulty service works best, because they are not used to receiving any negative feedback and are very keen on rectifying the situation before you leave that particular aircraft.

Anyway, enough digression, back to the flight – after perusing the menu orders were taken. The menu was as follows:

Menu

Welcome on board

Dining in First offers the ultimate in quality, style and flexibility – a combination of the best seasonal food, skillfully prepared and elegantly presented.

Just let your crew member know when you are ready to dine and your meal will be served at a time to suite you.

For British Airways nothing is too much trouble.


Lunch

Starters

Shaun Hill’s English asparagus with pea and basil dressing and shaved pecorino

Smoked chicken and mushroom mille-feuille

Cream of parsley soup with pink fir potato crisps

Fresh summer salad with your choice of balsamic dressing or Caesar dressing



Main

Seared filet steak with Choron sauce, matchstick chips, watercress and herb-crusted field mushroom

Catch of the Day – Lemon sole served with sweet pepper and ginger sauce, potatoes fondants and sautéed French beans with shallots

Loch Fyne fisheries offer a selection of wild fish from sustainable stocks. They supply us with the freshest prime daily.

Chicken filled with sun-dried tomato and mozzarella served with pesto polenta chips and creamed baby spinach

Greek-style roasted vegetable salad with grilled Haloumi cheese and yogurt and mint dressing


Desert

Pineapple upside-down cake served with pineapple and mango compote

Banana and toffee delice with pecan and toffee sauce


Cheese Plate

A selection of cheese

A basket of Fresh Fruit


Snacks

Thai green vegetable curry with bok-choy and fragrant rice

Smoked haddock kedgeree cakes with celeriac remoulade

A selection of biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit


Drink orders were taken and thankfully they were serving the Bollinger Grand Anee and not the Pol Roger (it was listed as either or on the winelist). I started with a couple of glasses of bubbly with my canapés and appetizer of the Chicken and Mushroom mille-feuille which was excellent. The soup was also outstanding, very summery and fresh with a wonderful yet not overbearing taste of parsley. The salad was as always simple, fresh and exquisite. I asked for the Caesar’s dressing on the side as I don’t like my salad doused in too much dressing. Bread was offered multiple times and I decided to try the wonderful red (the Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir) that was offered on the wine list. My main course was good but not the best as I found the sauce a little salty – nevertheless the steak was well prepared. For desert I opted for the Banana and toffee delice which was good, but the toffee was a little burnt.

I spent some time in the galley chatting with Nikki who was a delight to fly with. Unfortunately I can not say the same for the rest of our cabin – the passengers were some of the most obnoxious fellow travelers I’ve had. To start with during boarding 1A wanted to switch seats with 5A so he could be off the plane first and when 5A refused, Nikki had to bare the brunt of 1A’s anger (she handled it wonderfully saying he was the most important person on the plane etc etc.). 2A refused to switch his phone off till well into taxi, scolding his spouse for not calling him in a horrendously loud and rude manager, using all sorts of colorful language that could be heard I’m sure as far as the first few rows of club and 3K had an incident which I will share shortly.

While I was chatting in the galley a crew member came from WT to enquire about 2K’s connecting flight since the CSD was putting a message through to JFK ground. Nikki laughed and said “2K, or Mr. avm2806 as we like to call him is right here.” We shared a chuckle and I went to get my UA flight number for her. When I came back, Nikki had a pen and paper ready for me to write it down, and we continued chatting about BA, WW and our mutual love for London. This was flight one of their back to back so everyone was quite fresh and looking forward to the summer weather.

I went back to my seat with an espresso in hand and a bottle of water since Nikki insisted I stayed hydrated with all the bugs that were going around and settled down to watch some TV episodes followed by a film. I checked the airshow MAP in between programs and noted that we were now estimated to arrive at 17:10, which did give me some relief, as even an hour in customs/immigration would allow me to make my flight comfortably.

With around 4 hours to go I was feeling peckish (ok indulgent is more like it given the lunch I had just had), so I ordered a diet coke and a snack of Thai Vegetable curry. Since I had skipped the cheese course, I justified to myself that this was ok. This was when I managed to ply politeness onto the surly Finnish lady in the galley while she prepared my snack as Nikki was on break. I enjoyed this and the rest of my film and was quite satisfied – the curry was spicy, light and fresh – served in a big bowl – the perfect snack (maybe second only to noodle soup on CX).

About 2 hours prior to arrival, I heard some noises coming from 3K behind me. I turned around and removed my headset to notice poor Nikki flustered as ever as she tried to recline this gentleman’s seat as he was swearing the background. His seat was malfunctioning and he wasn’t happy and decided to take this out on poor Nikki. I noticed that his hand baggage under the ottoman might be blocking the seat from sliding forward and suggested they tried moving it out. This didn’t work and since the CSD was on break, Nikki got one of the Pursers to help reset the seat manually. Now while I agree that after paying F class fares it can be very frustrating when things go wrong – there is no need to use 4 letter words in front of any staff, let alone ladies (sorry I am a little old fashioned and believe in basic manners when a man is speaking in front of or to a woman, no matter the circumstance).


Since there were only two hours left to go and I had no intention of sleeping, I offered my seat as a swap (the flight was full). This was accepted by 3K and within 5 minutes the Purser from club managed to get 3k working, after we had swapped. Nikki and the Purser both thanked me and also informed the CSD of this later, who filled out a form and got my EC details from me. I was given 25k miles a week later automatically as an apology for the inconvenience (it’s the standard form that crew fill out, had one on a flight with no IFE once from BLR-LHR). This was of course an added bonus, but being thanked and looked after for the next two hours as the crew hero was good enough.

My favourite BA meal began around an hour before landing, and still full from the lunch I skipped the sandwiches and headed straight for the goodies – the orange and passion fruit tart and of course the all time favourite – scones, jam and clotted cream – with a pot of English breakfast tea.

The CSD came by to thank me for my kindness after the captain had made the 40 minutes announcement and we chatted about how obnoxious people can be. I made sure to make comments loud enough for the now 2K to have heard them. He also confirmed the Special services would be there to assist with my transfer and we would probably be deplaning by 17:15 so I should be fine.

At this point, 2A who was asleep for most the flight stirred and started screaming at the F class Purser for not waking him up for meal service. He had at no point expressed that he wanted to be woken and since he was sleeping he was left undisturbed. He went on about how “you guys go all out when it comes to selling me the F***ing ticket but don’t take care of your passengers at all.” The purser was patient and came back with a plate of sandwiches and scones and asked if he would have liked something to drink.

By now I had settled and was all ready for touchdown – goodies put away, seat back upright etc etc. The seat belt sign went on, and I asked for a bottle of water which was brought promptly and the cabin was prepared for landing. As the landing gear was activated, while we were still mid air, 2A decided to turn his cell phone on and starts trying to make calls. Normally I don’t bother making a noise, but given the way he behaved with the crew I felt like this was an opportunity so I loudly announced “sir, we are still in flight and my life is valuable to me so turn the damn phone off”. He ignored me and pretended like he didn’t know whom I was talking to. Upon touchdown and during taxi I pressed my call bell. As soon as seat belt signs were off the CSD came rushing to see if I was ok and I explained what happened and told him given the way the guy behaved with the purser, they should hold him back. Anyway, by now doors were about to open and I decided to rush out since I saw a bunch of longhaul planes and was worried about immigration queues. An announcement was made paging for me along with Bill Nighy and a couple of other F cl pax. Geraldine from special service, a wonderful JFK based agent, was waiting at the plane. She smiled and told me to rush – immigration was empty, and that she would meet me at baggage claim. I was the first one at immigration by a long shot thanks to my speed. I turned back to notice the CSD having a word with 2A – I am guessing all he got was a warning, because he was at baggage claim not too much later.

Immigration was a breeze, and just as my bags were arriving Geraldine came by and asked if everything was ok. I told her I was fine and that it was nice to see her again and she said she would walk me out and up to United check-in. This took about 5 minutes and she even wheeled one of my bags the sweetheart that she is. I did some repacking before checking in (liquids out and into checked luggage etc etc) and told her I would swing by the CCR to say hi once I was back through security.

United was a rude shock – a machine, no face, no name nothing. I was offered the $450 upgrade to First that I fell for the last time, but decided against it since I actually prefer the C class seats on P.S. compared to the F spacebeds they use and the meal is identical and with open doors I have access to the BA lounge which is superior to even the UA IFL at T7 JFK IMHO. When the agent came by to tag my bags she was about to make mention of my 65 lb bag when I quickly highlighted my *G card to her. Soon I was on my way through security and heading for the gates with a box of chocolates for one of my fav JFK supervisors who I have known for years (She was a ticketing GURU who helped with many an AONE3/4 reissue at EWR). I found her at the gate of the flight she was working and handed them to her with a big hug and left her to close the flight. I then went to thank Geraldine in the CCR where she insisted I stay for dinner – I told her I was too full to eat a morsel but would not leave her lounge for the terraces.

I checked some e-mails, called the LH senator desk to try and change my SFO-CLT redemption flight for Sunday since I had a 5 hour wait in CLT before my SRQ connection, but had no luck, made some calls and sipped some coffee. Shortly it was time to leave the wonderful world of BA and head into the so-so world of United (thankfully P.S. was ease my transition into domestic US flying).

Minus the unpleasantness of my fellow passengers I would say it was a great flight. Among the top few full first class flights I have had on any airline. BA did a great job.

Last edited by avm2806; Dec 24, 09 at 2:41 pm
avm2806 is offline  
Old Dec 24, 09, 3:31 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
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Excellent report. Thank you.
The_Rockaway_Kid is offline  
Old Dec 24, 09, 3:44 pm
  #3  
 
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Sounds like you had a great flight! Kudos to you for being a decent bloke.
ThatJohn is offline  
Old Dec 24, 09, 4:18 pm
  #4  
 
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Thanks for a great TR.
And all the "colourful" behaviour from your fellow F pax were almost as good as one of PUCCI's TFTG!
mattm199 is offline  

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