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LONDON - VS Upper Class / CO BusinessFirst; Claridge’s Hotel (Lots of Pics)

LONDON - VS Upper Class / CO BusinessFirst; Claridge’s Hotel (Lots of Pics)

Old Mar 7, 10, 1:28 pm
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LONDON - VS Upper Class / CO BusinessFirst; Claridge’s Hotel (Lots of Pics)

I enjoy reading everyone else’s trip reports and have finally decided to post my own. Although a basic route and airlines, I thought this may come in handy to some and it was a fun experience documenting each part of the journey. Enjoy and feel free to PM me with any questions.


JFK to London-Heathrow
Virgin Atlantic

Upper Class
Seat 10A

Plane: A340-600
Plane Name: Miss Behavin
Depart JFK: 10:25pm / Arrive London Heathrow: 10:25am



Check-in:

Usually flying Continental’s basic BusinessFirst, I was very excited to try Virgin’s Upper Class on the outbound segment of this trip. Lately, I have been getting extremely disappointed with Continental’s service and lack of friendliness, especially on the ground. Given this Virgin flight left closer to bedtime, I jumped on the chance to try it.

I arrived with plenty of time before the flight, mainly to enjoy the Virgin Clubhouse Lounge in JFK. Check-in was seamless, although nothing memorable, waiting only about 1 minute for one of three Upper Class agents. It is interesting that no priority label is put on the luggage tag, just a separate Upper Class label on your bag’s handle. Nonetheless, my bag was one of the first to arrive on the baggage claim in London.

Check-in:



Clubhouse Lounge – JFK:

I made my way to the Clubhouse Lounge, which is just opposite the check-in area and before security. The lounge was not very crowded and I surveyed my many various seating options. I decided to sit at one of the 2-top dining tables to have dinner and was immediately approached by a waitress with a menu and a drink order. In fact, over the next few minutes while I was perusing the menu, at least 2 people came over to see if I needed anything. I ordered an appetizer, entrée, and dessert (see photos below). Overall, the food was decent and above average, with the service being very attentive. There is also a well stocked snack area with various drinks, chips, cookies, etc. I then relaxed a bit in one of the lounger chairs and decided to take a shower before my flight. The bathrooms/showers are basic, yet modern, however lacked any stocked amenities (toothbrushes, razors, etc). I headed out towards the gate before boarding was called in the lounge and used the Premium security line and was through in a matter of minutes. Once at the gate, I waited until they started boarding Upper Class (after a bit of a delay compared to the anticipated board time of 9:35pm. Many fellow Upper Class travelers followed, as this premium cabin has quite a few seats.

Clubhouse Entrance:


Clubhouse Interior:




Dinner Menu and Food in Clubhouse:











Flight:

After boarding, everyone was busy settling into their seat and the flight was fairly full. At first impression, I did not think I’d like the slanted aisle facing seats, but they proved to be comfortable and provided the requisite sleep. Once seated, it is fairly private and you cannot really notice your neighbors in front of and behind you. I purposely booked row 10, as the seats in the middle row in this section face the other side of the plane, so I didn’t have anyone facing me (be sure to take a look at the seat map, as the middle section switches the way it faces about halfway down). Everyone was rushing to use one of the three bathrooms in Upper Class in order to get ready for bed, so they were quite crowded. Sleep suits were distributed to each passenger and attendants came around to introduce themselves. My attendant, JJ, was extremely friendly and saw I was a “virgin” to Upper Class, so took the liberty to introduce me to the seat and its features. I must say all the flight attendants seemed genuinely friendly and caring – and they seemed to be having fun and enjoying their jobs. I had a glass of champagne and some water before take-off and we were soon on our way to London. Having already eaten in the Clubhouse, I declined any dinner service, but did have a nightcap and then had JJ prepare my seat into the bed. The seats fold forward to make a bed with the ottoman and a thin mattress pad is put on the bottom and a duvet and pillow are placed on the bed. The bed, although slightly hard, was comfortable enough, although I must say the area where your feet are near the ottoman is a bit cramped. I filled out my order for breakfast and started to watch a movie on the individual TVs, but my screen froze twice. At this point, I was getting pretty drowsy so decided to call it a night and not bother with the movie. After waking up and reading for a bit, breakfast was brought out. I have to say the food was not their strong point, but I ate anyway. After landing, I made my way through customs (Upper Class passengers are given vouchers for Fast Track) and claimed my baggage, which was one of the first on the carousel. Now on to the Revivals Lounge for a shower…

Upper Class Cabin, Seat, and Bathroom:










Upper Class Onboard Menu:







Revivals Lounge – Heathrow

As this trip was for pleasure (my wife was arriving the next day in London from northern England where she had been for work), I basically had one day to relax on my own and was in no rush to get into London or to the hotel, so I figured I would try the Virgin Revivals Lounge. As previously mentioned on some posts, the Revivals Lounge is after baggage claim and customs and past the Virgin limo desk (if you already prearranged car transportation), basically near the exit area/meeting area and one level up via elevators or stairs near the parking deck. The receptionist cross-referenced my name against a passenger list for the flight and quickly gave me an assigned shower/bathroom. The individual bathrooms/showers are spacious enough to move around with your luggage and there are quite a few shower rooms on both sides of the hallway. There were hardly any customers in the lounge from my flight, but perhaps the lounge is more crowded on the flights that arrive earlier in the morning. Digital individual music control panels and an emergency button are located within each bathroom, along with plenty of body and face towels. Once again, no toiletries here (toothpaste, razors, etc), but having my luggage with me, I preferred to use my own anyway. After a nice hot shower, I got dressed and headed to the dining area where I was given a menu for breakfast/brunch, making a quick pit stop at the shoe shine machine. I was a bit hungry as it was approximately 12:30pm and had some fruit, pastries, and tea. Note the lounge closes at 1:30pm, so I wrapped up and made my way back downstairs. This Revivals lounge is not as modern as some might be used to with the Clubhouses, but it still serves the purpose and is efficient. I did notice one of the other passengers waiting to get a massage, but I did not check out the Cowshead Spa area. One nit – I was never offered any pressing of my clothes, although I do know it is available. Unfortunately, I must have been a bit out of sorts after the flight, as I forgot to take any pictures of the lounge or showers. Sorry!


Heathrow Express Train into London:

Given no rush to get into town and knowing we were already taking a car service on the return trip to Heathrow, I was curious to try the Heathrow Express train and also did not mind saving a few Pounds (especially given the exchange rate to the Dollar!). Taking the elevator back down from the Arrivals lounge to the exit/meeting area, it is a bit of a long walk to get to the ticket area and platform for the Heathrow Express, so beware. I bought my ticket in a matter of seconds and a train was scheduled to arrive within a few minutes (the train runs 4 times during the hour, I believe, so is quite convenient). I opted to spend the 10 extra Pounds and purchase a First Class train ticket for 26 Pounds, but honestly it is unnecessary as the journey into London is only about 15 minutes. Our First Class train car was empty, except for 2 other gentlemen and myself. The train is fairly new and comfortable, with TVs, ample luggage storage, and the train exit doors are on the same level as the station platforms, making it easy to roll your luggage off the train. Within 15 minutes, we arrived nonstop into Paddington Station in London and from there I took a taxi to Claridge’s Hotel for approximately 9 Pounds (read on for my hotel review). All in, it was approximately 35 Pounds and 40 minutes from Heathrow door to door and definitely a worthwhile option in lieu of a car service.

Heathrow Express Train:







Claridge’s Hotel
48 Brook Street (corner of Davies Street)
In Mayfair section of London

Please see my hotel trip report posted on Flyertalk in the “Luxury Hotels” section (link below).

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/luxur...-w-photos.html


(Report continued below...keep reading)
ray1022 is offline  
Old Mar 7, 10, 1:42 pm
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London-Heathrow to EWR
Continental

Business First
Seat 3B

Plane: 757
Depart London-Heathrow: 3:40pm / Arrive EWR: 7:15pm (early arrival at 6:20pm)



Car to Airport:

I typically like to research car service companies in the city which we are visiting, as I always find that the hotels markup this service greatly and usually outsource it anyway. After narrowing it down to 2-3 companies, I chose to book with ichauffeur and they proved to be very professional during the entire booking process and our driver was very friendly and courteous. I was told cars are all late-model and clean and ours was stocked with magazines, newspapers, and water/soft drinks in the vehicle. See below for a shot of our extremely comfortable ride , with reclining rear seats. Needless to say, my wife slept the entire ride!

S-Class to Airport:





Check-in:

Upon driving up to Terminal 4, where our Continental flight was scheduled to depart, the road/drop off is about 50 ft in front of the terminal entrance, so there is a little bit of a walk to get in, which can be unpleasant if it’s raining slightly as it was on our day of departure. Upon entering, we looked at the monitors to see where the Continental desk is located and proceeded to the Continental BusinessFirst check-in area. The friendly concierge greeted us and gave us our pass for the lounge (he explained even though CO is not part of Skyteam any longer, we would still be using the Skyteam lounge). We then stepped up to another man who asked us the obligatory security questions, and then on to the check-in agent, who was efficient. She quickly noticed that my wife and I were not seated next to each other and offered to contact the concierge (who had just stepped away) to ask one of the other passengers to switch aisle seats with me. I thought to myself that this probably wouldn’t get carried out but, to my surprise and once on board, it did – they had asked the other passenger to switch aisle seats with me when he checked-in. She then provided directions to the lounge and we were on our way to security. Once at security, there is a separate line for Business Class passengers which was empty. The security woman at the desk took our boarding passes and cross-referenced it against a list she had which detailed exactly which fare classes on particular airlines were eligible to use this security line. She waived us through and security was a breeze and we were in the Terminal concourse. There are plenty of duty-free shopping options, mainly designer outposts from Harrod’s (Cartier, Ferragamo, etc). The VAT refund desk is also nearby, but be sure to remember that you must physically present any items purchased along with the VAT refund form. Given we were a bit hungry, we made our way to the lounge….


Skyteam Lounge – Heathrow:

I was a bit surprised that we were using the Skyteam Lounge, as I briefly searched before leaving and I saw some posts mention that we would use the older Holideck lounge operated by KLM. Perhaps these were older posts or I just didn’t pay much attention when searching, but the Skyteam lounge was a pleasant surprise. The lounge is located opposite Gate 10. As you can tell from the pictures, it is a very modern lounge with various sections, all spread over 2 floors – the 2nd floor is almost identical to the 1st floor, but much quieter and not as crowded. There are various seating sections, a video gaming section, a food buffet area, a bar area with self-serve wines, and a computer section. There is also a separate shower section, an oxygen bar, and massage chair section, all empty during our visit! Probably not as unique as some other international First Class lounges I’ve experienced, but much, much better than the traditional Continental President’s Club lounges, particularly in EWR. CO – like I said, you have quite a bit of catching up to do with your ground services! Upstairs, in addition to many of the same sections as the 1st floor, there were sleeping compartment rooms and also 2 empty VIP rooms that were roped off. Overall the lounge was a nice, modern surprise to what I was expecting. Bathrooms were also of high quality finishes, with egg-shaped toilets and nice contemporary decor. The windows of the lounge face the runway, so you are able to watch the various planes landing. I took many pictures here, so enjoy.

Skyteam Lounge - Heathrow Terminal 4:


























Bathroom:






Sleeping Rooms:


Shower:



(Report Continued...keep reading)
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Old Mar 7, 10, 1:53 pm
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Skyteam Lounge - Heathrow (Continued):

Massage Chairs:


Oxygen Bar:


VIP Area:



Flight:

We made our way to Gate 2 about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time, but boarding had already begun when we arrived. Note it was quite a far walk from the Skyteam Lounge (about 10-12 minutes). There were 2 steps to the boarding process – a gentleman was checking passports for each person and then a Continental rep checked boarding passes. Note there is a separate line for BusinessFirst at the passport check, so it was quite quick and we were on board within 2 minutes of arriving at the gate.

By some small miracle, I was hoping our plane would get swapped out and we would get to experience the new Business First flat-bed seats, but no luck. The cabin crew on this flight was extremely pleasant and I knew we were in for a nice flight home. This smaller 757 BusinessFirst cabin had 14 out of the 16 seats occupied on today’s flight. Our main flight attendant, as well as the person preparing the food in the galley, were extremely pleasant throughout the whole flight and I made sure to submit a compliment on continental.com. After some champagne before take-off, we taxied for some time, which allowed me to get nice pics of some 747s preparing for departure. Once in the air, meal service began and the food was better than usual in BusinessFirst or perhaps due to friendly service, which is always a hit or miss to Continental. We had appetizers, entrée, cheese course, and dessert. For my entrée, I ordered the Chef’s selection – beef cooked medium, and the attendant was genuinely caring and hoping that it was cooked to my liking and even offered to heat it longer if I wanted. It was cooked nicely and I asked her how they usually do this as I was on a BF flight to Milan and the very rude attendant said they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) heat the meat to my liking. She said some attendants are not as good or it may have been a different plane setup where they did not have the same convection oven capability. Personally, I think it was the former. In any case, my wife and I enjoyed all courses but were overwhelmed and extremely full by the end of it. We reclined back and watched movies and shows, although the individual touch screen TVs were quite temperamental and you really have to push hard to make your selections. Before we knew it, we were about an hour from landing. We were served our arrival meal, although I think they started service a bit late, as the 2 attendants were scrambling to prepare and serve all the passengers. Shortly thereafter, we landed and taxied to our gate C121 and our quick trip was almost over. As we taxied into the gate, we got a nice view looking into the full glass windows of the larger CO President’s Club in Terminal C. After deplaning, there was an extremely long line at immigration as many flights must have arrived at this time. It was right there that I wished I had applied for the Global Entry program before departure! And now back to the grind of slogging through EWR. I didn’t take too many pics as I think we are all aware of the offerings, but here are a few shots nonetheless. Thanks for reading.

BusinessFirst Cabin:






Beef Entree:


Halibut Entree:


Dessert:


Some shots before takeoff and in the air:








ray1022 is offline  
Old Mar 7, 10, 2:08 pm
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Well done!
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Old Mar 7, 10, 2:44 pm
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Thanks for the TR and pics. Looks like the VS looked like the better seat to me, but a better comparison would have been to the new CO seat.
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Old Mar 7, 10, 4:09 pm
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That was a great report. Thanks!
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Old Mar 7, 10, 4:21 pm
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nice trip report!
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Old Mar 7, 10, 6:53 pm
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Thanks for the report, ray.

Enjoyed it.
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Old Mar 7, 10, 8:06 pm
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Great report!

Although I'm not sure what you mean by "especially given the exchange rate to the Dollar". Two years ago a GB Pound cost $2 but lately it's fallen to $1.50. These are good times.
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Old Mar 7, 10, 8:27 pm
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Thanks for that... as a regular NZ flyer it was interesting to see the original version of the C seats I like so much on NZ! I travel alone so the configuration suits me. Think I like the NZ colour scheme better... but that may just be the lure of the "familiar"...

The CO seats look very much like the OLD seats I always seem to get on TG... (Intra asia usually) Large, comfortable, great pitch... but simply outclassed these days...

Excellent TR... Thanks again.
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Old Mar 7, 10, 8:41 pm
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Great TR thanks for posting.

Cheers Larry
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Old Mar 7, 10, 8:53 pm
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great TR!
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Old Mar 7, 10, 10:32 pm
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Excellent thread ray1022, I really enjoyed reading your experiences. Good amount of photos and detailed report.

Especially regarding Claridges, Im still trying to decide if we will stay there on our upcoming London visit. Unfortunately your report hasnt helped me make up my mind.

Thanks anyway!
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Old Mar 12, 10, 11:48 am
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Great TR

Could you tell us what you paid for the car to the airport?
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Old Mar 12, 10, 12:40 pm
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Originally Posted by AuroraBorealis View Post
Great TR

Could you tell us what you paid for the car to the airport?
Typically, I've seen it run from 40GBP to 60GBP from London to Heathrow...really depends on where you're at in London.

robin
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