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My first TR: LHR-PEK-NRT-LHR (BA in J) lots of photos, and a surprise!

My first TR: LHR-PEK-NRT-LHR (BA in J) lots of photos, and a surprise!

Old Apr 9, 10, 1:46 am
  #1  
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Join Date: May 2009
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My first TR: LHR-PEK-NRT-LHR (BA in J) lots of photos, and a surprise!

Trip Summary
LHR-PEK (BA39 in J on 24th March)
PEK-NRT (DL634 in Y on 1st April)
NRT-LHR (BA6 in J on 5th APril)
Note- The first few photos were taken with my iPhone and are poor - the later ones were taken with a proper camera.

I'm not a frequent flyer, but I do love to travel. I've never written a trip report before, but decided to on this occasion as my trip was purely for pleasure rather than business. There's another special reason which will be revealed in this very report!

I'm based in London, and I travel a couple of times a year (usually to the USA) and when possible I'll fly British Airways. My employer treats me to business class travel, which has me hooked, and the good people of FlyerTalk have taught me the tricks to be able to enjoy business class travel for lesuire trips. Many thanks to the BA forum regulars for mileage earning techniques, how to apply miles for upgrades (MFUs), and the best seats on the various BA metal.

I have friends who currently live in Beijing who invited myself and my girlfriend to visit during slightly drunken bar crawl in Cambridge in the spring of 2009. We accepted, and decided to include a short stay in Tokyo in addition to the China leg. For this special trip I wanted us both to fly business class as my girlfriend never has before, and south east asia is a long way from London!

Booking process (21st August 2009)
Having checked for reward availability on BA.com I telephoned the BAEC number to book and upgrade for the open-jaw LHR-PEK and NRT-LHR. Currently open-jaw MFUs have to be done over the telephone, but waiting time was only a few minutes. Pretty straight forward, with the cost being 1100GBP per person for the World Traveller Plus tickets, and 40k BA Miles per person for the upgrades to ClubWorld.

Flying Business class was supposed to be a surprise for my girlfriend, and the telephone operator assured me that my partner wouldn't receive any emails relating to the flights. However, minutes after booking the flights a confirmation email was sent, and my girlfriend was informed! Pity, but it allowed us to get excited together about the comfort of the flights on the trip.

All of this booking process was completed before any mention of strike action by BA cabin crew! I had a few worrying moments as strike dates were announced around our planned holiday dates! Ultimately everything worked out alright (almost), but it did leave me checking the small print of my travel insurance to see where I stood!

At a slightly later date I booked flights with NWA for the PEK-NRT leg (soon to become Delta flights!). I had considered booking business seats on this flight, but at only 2.5hours I struggled to justify it, and when I saw ticket prices of 125GBP per person in economy I snapped them up.

Outbound Flight (24th March, LHR-PEK on BA39 in J, 4-class 777)


His and Hers matching luggage!

We arrived at T5-LHR at 1pm for a 4pm'ish flight. I had booked valet parking, and their drop off point is located at the end of the departure level drop off area, immediately next to business check-in. We had checked-in online and PYOBP at home, so we merely dropped the bags off and headed onto 'fast track' security checks. As usual it was anything but fast, but still only took about 15 minutes to get us through.


View out of Galleries South

Immediately off to Galleries South for some lunch - very nice curry on offer today, with the usual toasted sandwiches and pasta options. Having never set foot in an airline lounge before, my girlfriend had to be convinced it was perfectly ok to help yourself to anything, and that our plates would be cleared by staff when we were finished.

Having enjoyed a few glasses of wine we walked to Galleries North for the comparison. Personally I prefer South as I find it slightly more quiet and better seating options. My girlfriend agreed, and left me in North while she had a look in the T5 shops. More wine for me, and I made a few posts on flyertalk to comment on the occupancy of the lounge.

Having found out we were leaving from T5B, we caught the train and sampled the T5B lounge, had another glass of wine and some nibbles. It was approaching 4pm, so this particular lounge was very quiet as the majority of the US flights had long since left.


Our outbound 777

As we prepared to board BA39 we were informed that due to the strike-action (which had ended), we were getting a modified on-board service - specifically a reduced bar service, and only cold food to be served. This was consistent throughout the plane, so I imagine FIRST customers would have been bitterly disappointed. However, seeing this was technically a 'night' flight, and I'd already stocked up on curry and wine in the lounge I wasn't particularly concerned!

We boarded (I think it was gate 42), and settled into 11E and F - that's a middle rear-facing pair for anyone who doesn't know the BA business 2-4-2 configuration. When the divider with the aisle seat is up this EF pair is an extremely private and relaxing cubicle. However, I wouldn't recommend it with someone you don't know, but with your partner it's excellent. Despite the ongoing strike issues this flight was absolutely full in business (although I can't comment on any other cabin as I didn't check).


Legroom shot of 11E - I'm 6foot4 for working out the degree of space!

There were two bar runs prior to dinner - however giving drinks from small bottles rather than 'proper' wine from standard bottles. This wasn't a huge problem for me, and they did have small bottles of champagne for those who wanted. Hot towels were offered, and everyone got an amenity kit (I still miss the Molton Brown kit from a few years back). Dinner was a quiche starter, with a cold chicken salad and cheesecake for dessert - disappointly served at the same time, similar to what happens in economy.



Disappointment aside, the salad was decent and following dinner I watched '2012' before converting my seat to a bed and settling down to sleep.

[As a side point, 2012 was a terrible movie, however it was apparently a huge hit in China given that the plot of this American movie sees China save the human race]

Breakfast was even more of a disappointment with a single sandwich and small strawberry tart on offer. Nevertheless I was on holiday, and wasn't going to let this stop me having fun!

We landed in PEK around 10.30am and quickly departed. First stop was the health check where we were all waved through as they collected our health check cards. Then onto immigration which only took a few minutes with a line of 3 infront of us. A quick train ride to the main terminal and we collected our bags (which were already waiting!) and through to arrivals. I've no idea if PEK has an arrivals lounge - we were being collected by our friends, so went straight to meet them.

A 20 minute cab ride took us into Beijing and to our friends appartment. We spent a week in Beijing and had a fantastic time - seeing all of the usual tourist attractions, and enjoyed an amazing 10k hike along a non-tourist part of the Great Wall. Food was amazing (and cheap!) everywhere we were taken, so I'd really recommend it as a holiday destination.


Our Friend's dog, called Guiness (please no jokes about him being on the menu)


Me on the Great Wall of China


Photo inside the Forbidden City

Onward Flight (1st April, PEK-NRT on DL634 in Y, 2-class A330)
Another 20minute cab ride at 6am took us back to PEK. First stop was outbound customs, followed by kiosk check-in with DL, then onto security and outbound immigration. There was never a line at any of these stops, which amazed me given the size of the airport and the amount of traffic. Perhaps LHR is just doing something horribly wrong.

A coffee at StarBucks before heading to gate 12 (I think) for our flight. Airport was quiet, with very little to do before take-off. I'd selected 17A&B in the first economy cabin of a 2-4-2 configuration. Another rather busy flight, with this plane continuing to SFO after the stop in NRT. We had lunch onboard - a slightly unpleasant quiche offering, with a single soft drink run. The aircraft had AVOD, so I started watching 'Law Abiding Citizen' - rather grizzly thriller, which I didn't catch the end of before it was time to land.

Upon landing we left rather quickly given we were near the front of the economy cabin. Most people appeared to be connecting back onto the same plane, so we hoped the line at immigration would be short. However, having being promised highly efficient Japanese processing we were greeted to a snaking line which took about 30minutes to get through. Several plane loads appeared behind us, so their waiting time could easily have been a couple of hours. After getting through our bags were ready, and we headed to arrivals to catch the Nartia Express into Tokyo.


The Narita express train

I'd never been to Tokyo before, so I took the safe option of travelling into Tokyo on the Express train, and booking a hotel near the Tokyo central JR station. It turned out to be a 5 minute walk, so there was no stress in finding the hotel. The hotel (Yaesu Fujiya) was perfectly adequate - I had booked it on Expedia after reading positive reviews on TripAdvisor - typically Japanese small room, but the bed was a reasonable size. The bathroom was of the prefabricated type made of that nasty plastic stuff. However, everything was clean, and we were paying ~100GBP per night to be in central Tokyo near subways stations to anywhere in the city, and minutes from the bright lights of the Ginza area.


Bright lights of Ginza area

It was only a long weekend in Tokyo, but we had an amazing time. Again we took in the tourist sites, and managed to catch the cherry blossoms, along with about a million other people! Everything here was expensive (compared to China and the UK), and rather disturbingly 10GBP per pint in the bars is pretty normal!


Cherry Blossoms (together with the million other people who went to view them)

On the last day of our holiday I took my partner to gardens of the Imperial Palace, found a quiet corner between the thousands of other people there and asked her if she's do the honour of becoming my wife. Gladly she accepted, and after almost 10 years of dating we'll hopefully be married some point later this year. (Expect a trip report from the honeymoon). I had hoped to surprise her, but she had it all figured out.


The ring! (although no photo will ever do it's sparkle justice)

Last edited by malkie; Apr 9, 10 at 2:22 am
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Old Apr 9, 10, 1:47 am
  #2  
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Return Flight (5th April, NRT-LHR on BA6 in J, 4-class 747)
Back on the Narita Express to NRT, only to find check-in not open yet! Another trip to Starbucks while we waited for it to open and finally checking-in. Off to outbound immigration and security - again there was a long line at immigration, but the security checks were completed without the need to wait.


BA Check-in

We headed immediately to the Delta Sky Lounge above satelite 1. I had feared this wouldn't be a great lounge, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful lounge with a decent breakfast selection. A few cups of coffee, a couple of pastries and some fruit, before jumping onto one of their many Apple PCs to check the football (soccer!) results which I had missed over the past few weeks.


One of the seating areas


Food area

About an hour later we were off to gate 15 (I think!) for our 747 home. Sadly 747s are on their way out - to be replaced be more 777s, then eventually A380s and 787s. The 747 is a beautiful bird and will be very sadly missed by anyone who is an aviation fan.



There was a delay boarding the plane due to it being cleaned, but sadly after boarding it was clear the job wasn't done properly, with crumbs on my seat, and large crumbs in my fiancees storage drawer. However, that aside the return trip home was absolutely outstanding! We were booked into 14J/K, which is at the rear of the front business cabin on the lower deck. 14K has a little extra legroom in bedmode, which I really appreciate seeing as I'm 6foot4.


14K in seat mode


14K in bed mode

Pre-flight champagne, followed by more champagne after takeoff and the usual nuts. We were treated to a full service on this leg and really enjoyed it. Similar to the experience in the T5 lounge my fiancee apologetically asked for some champagne as if she might not be entitled to any! I won't go through the entire menu, but for lunch I enjoyed a cream cheese starter, salad course, steak and mash then chocolate pudding. There was a good selection of wines on offer, and I enjoyed a good Pinot with my lunch. Plenty of hot towels and amenity kits available.


Starter and salad


Steak main course

To try and combat jet lag we both settled down to some sleep after lunch, with my fiancee starting writing a wedding guest list (she's immediately turned into BrideZilla). Got about 5 or 6 hours sleep which almost put me back onto GMT. I watched a couple of movies; 'Armoured', an action film about a heist of an armoured vehicle, then 'The Lovely Bones', the apparently acclaimed Peter Jackson movie. Neither were any good.

Throughout the flight the Club Kitchen remained stocked - plenty of nibbles, drinks and freshly cut sandwiches. There were also a collection of instant noodle dishes, possibly because we departed from Japan. I did try a couple of sandwiches and a chocolate bar.


View from 38,000 feet

We enjoyed lunch before landing - I had blue cheese salad, chicken and leek 'pie', and fruit. Sadly no more wine tasting for me as I had to collect my car from the valet parking. The cabin crew were outstanding, and nothing was too much for them. Again business appeared completely full on this flight.


Salad and fruit


Fruit and chicken 'pie'

Great view over London as we came into land, and a very soft landing (I'm guess because the good conditions allowed them to let the computer land the plane - sorry if my assumption offends flyertalk pilots!).

Very quickly through immigration, but a depressingly long wait for our luggage. However, for once the priority baggage handing seemed to work with our bags coming off first. Through to arrivals, then outside to my waiting car and the drive home.

Overall an absolutely amazing holiday with a proposal included!

Hope you've all enjoyed this report from a non-frequent flyer

Last edited by malkie; Apr 9, 10 at 2:23 am
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Old Apr 9, 10, 2:29 am
  #3  
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great trip report, and congrats on the engagement !!
ikvliegveel is offline  
Old Apr 9, 10, 2:43 am
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I thoroughly enjoyed your trip report and am happy you took the time to share it with us! A TR like this does take a good bit of time to do it right. And Congratulations to you and your future bride - may you have many more exciting journeys!!
wandertheglobe is offline  
Old Apr 9, 10, 4:47 am
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Join Date: Sep 2009
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Thanks for sharing your wonderful TR and congratulations on your engagement!
debonairy is offline  
Old Apr 9, 10, 5:34 am
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Great trip report. Congratulations on getting married. If you haven't already selected a honeymoon destination, there will be a suggestion or twenty here on FT!
baggageinhall is offline  
Old Apr 9, 10, 5:46 am
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Great trip report... seems the NRT-LHR segment had MUCH better service than the LHR-PEK.. thanks so much and good luck...
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Old Apr 9, 10, 5:53 am
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Congrats on the engagement !
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Old Apr 9, 10, 6:22 am
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Great report and congrats!
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Old Apr 9, 10, 6:35 am
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Thanks for the TR, and may I add my congratulations!
But you do realise that to top this trip, you'll need to book the honeymoon travel in F?
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Old Apr 9, 10, 8:16 am
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Nice trip report and great photos! Good to see BA CW back to normal :-)

You chose the perfect setting to propose to your fiancee :-)
QFBoy is offline  
Old Apr 9, 10, 8:28 am
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Enjoyed your Trip Report, very nice pictures! Heartiest congratulations to you both!
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Old Apr 9, 10, 8:42 am
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I thoroughly enjoyed your TR and the pictures were really good as well. Congratulations on your engagement and good luck for the future.
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Old Apr 9, 10, 10:34 am
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Thanks for a great TR and congratulations on your engagement. I thought the surprise was going to be an upgrade to F!
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Old Apr 9, 10, 10:50 am
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congrats on the engagement, though why you waited 10yrs I don't know. Good TR
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