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Emigrating from the UK to Australia with BA in Y and J

Emigrating from the UK to Australia with BA in Y and J

Old Nov 5, 11, 10:05 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: A Pom in Oz
Programs: BA Executive Club Copper, Priority Club Platinum, Not a Mucci of any kind
Posts: 142
Emigrating from the UK to Australia with BA in Y and J

Background and Booking

As a regular reader of Flyertalk, and occasional contributor, I have enjoyed hugely the general mix of banter and useful information to be found in the BA Executive Club forum. I also take great pleasure in sitting down to read an interesting trip report and have been meaning to write one for some time when the opportunity presented itself, to give something back. What you are about to read is my effort, and I apologise in advance that there are no pictures contained herein. I did try taking some in the lounge with my phone’s camera, but the resulting blurs were not suitable for publication. I should also state that the flight times have been taken from ba.com for current flights, as I was unable to find the original booking details. Finally, this has been written from memory, so if something seems awry to someone with a more encyclopedic knowledge of BA than me, then it is likely to be my error.

This trip came about for the simple reason of emigration. The current Mrs. Statusless Person is an Aussie and I am a Brit. Having lived together in the UK since 2003, it was my turn to switch countries. The visa application process took a relatively speedy 5 months and was pretty painless as dealing with bureaucracies goes but the details are outside the scope of this trip report.

The time came to book a one way flight from the UK to Hobart, which is on the island state of Tasmania off the south eastern coast of mainland Australia for those whose geographic skills are worse than mine and to start a new life in Upsidedownland, as it is called by one of my friends. Mrs. Statusless Person was already back in Australia, so I would be undertaking this trip alone.

Being a shiny silver card holder with the BA Executive Club, and the fact that flights (economy only unfortunately) could be expensed as part of a relocation package, it was a relatively simple choice to book with BA. I did look at the Qantas codeshares but all the exit row seats on the QF A380 had been taken by the time I came to book, and I knew I had a decent shot at getting the BA exit row seats at T-minus 14 days for the usual ₤50 fee. I ended up booking a flight that meant I had to change planes and flight numbers in SIN. This gave me a few hours in the lounge before continuing the journey, which was fine by me.

Once the flights were booked, I waited until exactly T-minus 14 days and immediately grabbed seat 29K on the 52-J BA Boeing 747-400. I repeated the trick several hours later for the second leg on a 777-200 to grab seat 26C, another exit row. Prior to booking the flight, I did call the Executive Club to check that some impoverished Gold had not been forced to travel in Y on these flights, and already parked themselves in the seats I wanted. I received the information that the seats were not currently occupied, not many Golds travelled in Y that long distance so the chances were good that things would stay that way, and that I was welcome to call back 14 days out and they would be happy to book them for me if I experienced any problems with booking on-line.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:06 pm
  #2  
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Part 2

BA11 Depart LHR 20:30 17th October Arrive SIN 17:05 18th October
Boeing 747-400 (52-J configuration)
Seat 29K (Exit Row Window)

As we had been unable to sell our house, we had rented it out and for the last 3 weeks before emigration, I had been staying with my parents in Sussex. They kindly agreed to play chauffeur and drive me to Heathrow Terminal 3. To avoid too much emotional spilling of tears, they only dropped me off at the kerb, rather than come into the terminal with me, which was probably best for everyone. I didn’t want to be a blubbing mess in front of the check-in person. The good news is they have been able to use their Amex 2-4-1 voucher and secure some J seats LHR-SYD for next May to come and see us.

I located the BA check-in desks and, thanks to the Silver card, used the Club World counter where I dropped off my bags, which were weighed in at 28 and 26kgs without a fuss, having checked in on-line previously. The lady at check-in wasn’t sure where Hobart or Tasmania actually was, but that didn’t really matter. I had been monitoring the proactively offered upgrade situation pretty much constantly and had been advised to ask at the airport, in case anything opened up last minute, but apparently it was a very full flight, which is typical of those on the “Kangaroo Route”. So I resigned myself to 12 and-a-half hours in seat 29K. There are far worse places to be.

Off I trundled to security, grateful that I was permitted to use Fast Track, again because of the shiny silver card in my wallet. I had my best ever Heathrow security experience as there was only 1 person in front of me when I arrived and I was through within a couple of minutes, including a quick wanding when (presumably) some metal in my shoes set the detector off. Perhaps it is a bit much to expect to be through security so quickly each and every time, but after some of the stories about so-called Fast Track at T5, it was very pleasant.

Next stop was the lounge. Thanks to a poster in the BA Exec Club forum, I knew the showers were out of action, so pretty much the last thing I had done before setting off to the airport, was to have a bath. The T3 lounge was fairly busy by the time I arrived, so I took a seat at one of the computers and surfed the internet, checked Flyertalk (of course) and went to find something to eat.

There was a rapidly diminishing selection of sandwiches, which was not replaced when it ran out, plus the usual salad selection and hot dishes. I selected some sandwiches, some cheese and biscuits, grabbed a sparkling water and went to stare at the computer screen for a while. After eating, I made my usual enquiry at the desk about when boarding would be called, as I like to get out before the general call to the lounge is made, so I can be in front of all the Club/First people for fast track boarding. I continued to while away the time before strolling down to the gate and positioning myself appropriately close to the doors.

When boarding was called, I was in the first 10 people on the plane after the various infants, people in wheelchairs and those travelling with them. Having been greeted by name by the smiling CSD and asked to cross over and turn right, I arrived in a practically empty World Traveller cabin and retrieved my Kindle, noise-cancelling headphones and small pillow from my hand luggage, nabbed the overhead locker space and sat down in my exit row window seat.

For those who are not familiar with Y on the 52-J BA 747, there are 2 seats in the front rows of World Traveller A/B and H/J and the third “exit row” seat is one row further back, so I did actually have a window to look out of in 29K, a wall to lean on to (try to) sleep against, unlimited legroom, plus the fact I could get up at any time I wanted and nobody needed to disturb me. In Y, it doesn’t get much better than this!

I then did my usual people-watching of those boarding the plane after me. It was a fairly typical crowd, including noisy infants in the bassinet seats at the front of World Traveller, with the one exception of the extremely well-dressed older gentleman who seemed to be right down the back of the plane. I don’t know if he generally dressed in a suit and tie for such flights, or whether he had heard that you stood a good chance of an upgrade if you were so attired. If so, it hadn’t worked and was unusual to see in my experience.

We took off about 45 minutes late as the captain explained that 2 people had “decided not to join us this evening” and their bags were being off-loaded, but soon enough we were on our way to SIN. Once the seatbelt signs were off, the crew swung into action to deliver the evening meal service, preceded by drinks from the bar. I ordered the usual gin and tonic was rewarded with two miniature bottles and one can of tonic – a most gratifying ratio. It seems to be luck of the draw as to whether one or two bottles are handed over.

Our dinner choices were chicken or beef, and I was pleased to see that the beef option was the “roast beef dinner” which I have had on a few previous occasions. For Y food, it is a very good meal, served with potatoes, veggies and tiny Yorkshire puddings. The salad and dessert were unmemorable, but certainly edible.

After dinner, I settled down to watch the IFE. As a recent purchaser of an Ipad, I had downloaded some podcasts and a movie, which I was intending to save for the lounge in SYD and intended to use what BA had provided until then. Family Guy, The Simpsons and The Spy Who Loved Me were duly viewed. I was trying to stay awake until as late as possible on the SIN leg as this had worked a treat for me on the same trip earlier in the year and I was hoping for a repeat performance. However, after taking 2 sleeping pills with about 7 hours remaining and propping myself against my pillow and the wall of the cabin and making myself as comfortable as I could, I still couldn’t sleep. This was neither expected, nor desirable and left me feeling rather frazzled by the time we landed in Singapore.

A trip to the galley for some snacks and a drink prior to the second meal service was undertaken and unfortunately I cannot recall what the second meal service actually was, but we landed in Singapore slightly late. In spite of my medicated state, I was able to engage in the run to the lounge to beat the queue for the showers game. I was able to get there quickly enough to have nobody in front of me and went straight in, washing away the remains of BA11 and changing into some fresh clothes that formed part of the contents of my hand luggage. I had another set for SYD.

Clean and relatively fresh, I got a drink and sat in the lounge, feeling tired but not particularly sleepy. The lounge in SIN could probably do with some slightly more substantial food offerings in my opinion, but there were plenty of computers to use, and sufficient reading material to stave off boredom. I checked e-mail and sent updates to various people, to let them know I was on my way. I managed to find a sofa all to myself and lay down for a while, making sure I had set an alarm on my phone just in case I did actually fall asleep. I didn’t. I was hoping that the 2nd leg of the journey would be better.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:07 pm
  #3  
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Join Date: Sep 2009
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Posts: 142
Part 3

BA15 Depart SIN 20:15 18th October Arrive SYD 07:00 19th October
Boeing 777-200
Seat 10B (Club World Aisle seat)

Again, my usual trick of getting out of the lounge ahead of the Club/First passengers was deployed and I wandered down to the gate just before boarding began. The ground handling in SIN appears to be done by non-BA staff and the lady who took my boarding pass and scanned it, crossed out my seat number and wrote something else in a red felt tip pen. The magic number was 10B. In my less than optimal state, it took me a few moments to work out that this was very likely a Club World seat, and that I had been promoted all the way past World Traveller Plus! I still wasn’t 100% sure but there would be champagne available to celebrate with if it was.

As usual, I was amongst the first to board and was welcomed at the door by name and asked to turn right. Mine was the first seat I came to. 10B is indeed a Club World seat on a BA 777. I’m pretty sure I was grinning like an idiot whilst putting my luggage in the locker and retrieving the various items I wanted for the journey. A pre-journey drink of champagne (the Ayala) was selected and I duly toasted the upgrade gods and thanked them for their gracious gift of a 2 class forwards move.

Soon enough we were underway and another 3 glasses of champagne followed as part of the drinks from the bar and dinner. I selected the king prawns, followed by veal schnitzel with vegetables and a crème caramel. The non-selected options were tomato and mozzarella and snapper. There has been a lot of criticism of the food in Club World in the BA forum, but I could find nothing to complain about at all. It was tasty and served at appropriate temperatures. Maybe all food tastes better when you’ve been upgraded!

I was now in a position to take advantage of the flat bed and duly did so, and got about 3-4 hours sleep and felt much more like my usual self upon waking. A breakfast service was offered, along with the video on how to deal with Customs in Australia and advice to declare everything. I was also issued with a fast track card if I was able to answer “no” to all their questions, which unfortunately I was not, as I had brought some PG Tips tea and some Tunnocks Teacakes (which ended up slightly flatter than when they started the journey).

The captain advised us that we would be landing shortly and that there were some flights hot on our heels and we may wish not to be too leisurely in our walk to the Immigration desks lest we get caught up in a mad rush which sometimes occurs at SYD when the early morning international flights land. This duly noted, I used the bathroom for the final time, and settled down until we landed pretty much on time as I recall.

Following the captain’s advice, I hot-footed it to the immigration desks, where I had no more than a 5 minute wait to be processed. The Australian visa system is electronic, certainly for a Partner visa, which is what I hold. So I mentioned that I was a new immigrant to the agent and was told he could see that on his screen, everything was in order and I was cleared to proceed. No other formalities were required. Other countries take note – this is how you welcome people into the country that you wish to be there!

Next stop was baggage reclaim where my bags came out seemingly in the middle of the pack. No orange priority tags for me, so no complaints. I did see one of the roving customs officers who will send you on your way if you have nothing to declare and told him about my tea and teacakes. He duly stamped my form but sent me through the normal channel rather than the quick escape route, but nobody wanted me to open my bags, and I was on my way in no time to make my domestic connection to the Qantas flight to Hobart.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:07 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Sep 2009
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Posts: 142
Part 4

QF1019 Depart SYD 14:15 19th October, Arrive HBA 16:05
Boeing 737-800
Seat 6C (Economy Aisle seat)

Qantas have an excellent system whereby you can take a free bus between the International and Domestic terminals for connecting flights. I checked in at the desks and was charged $30 for an extra bag, which I wasn’t expecting as my ticket was all on BA and my belief was that the “Silver 2 bag allowance and heavy bag fees waived” would apply all the way through, but apparently this was not so. Life is too short to argue over $30 after nigh on 24 hours since take-off, so I paid it and made a note to query it later if I could be bothered. I went through the security in quick time and was selected for an explosives test. I was asked to read some text on a laminated piece of paper and indicate my agreement to the test, which I did. Having verified I wasn’t about to go boom, I was allowed on my way and I queued up for the transfer bus. There was one about to leave as I got there but it was full so I ended up getting the next one.

On arrival at the Domestic terminal I had about 6 hours to kill until the connecting flight to Hobart. Unfortunately, Hobart is nowhere near a significant airport so there are only a few flights a day from SYD – one with JetStar (ugh), one with Qantas (meh) and one with Virgin (unfamiliar to me). I made my way to the Qantas business lounge, found a seat, then went to get a barista-made cappuccino (nice touch) and something to nibble on and settled down to listen to the podcasts I had on the Ipad and then watched In The Loop, which was born out of the British comedy programme, The Thick of It. Very funny indeed, but not for people who can’t cope with words that rhyme with duck, spit and banker. This entertainment helped time not to drag too much, but 6 hours is a lot of waiting around to do. A shower and change into a fresh t-shirt did help make me feel more human prior to the final flight.

At boarding time, I made my way from the lounge to the gate, all of a 1 minute walk, where I saw a stand by the gate which was promoting smaller Australian vineyards. I sampled some shiraz, and listened to the guy giving his spiel about the producers. I just caught in time the fact he was trying to sell me a “receive a case of wine every so often” deal, like they used to with book clubs in the UK and that I didn’t want to have my first purchase on Australian soil being a year’s supply of wine, and politely declined and boarded the plane. It was a 737-800 and was in very good condition, with seat back screens for all, including me in 6C.

We had an on-time departure and I was one of the few people on the flight not to have anyone sitting next to me – an empty middle seat, which was shared between me and the guy in 6A for our various newspapers, headphone containers and so on. I still had some stuff to listen to on the Ipad so did that for as much of the flight as I was able. As part of the onboard service, we were offered a tray containing a sandwich, chocolate and milk for a cup of tea, which was gratefully accepted. The sandwich was cheese and tomato and unremarkable. I don’t like tomatoes so it became even less remarkable as they were removed.

The flight was uneventful and just under 2 hours later we touched down in Hobart, where we had to walk across the tarmac into the arrival hall. This was absolutely heaving for some reason around the one and only baggage reclaim belt. I think the Virgin flight had just landed before us. I saw my wife waiting for me and went over to greet her with a big hug and waited for the scrum to clear a bit before attempting to get my bags. It didn’t clear so I waded in and got them. 5 minutes later we were in the car and heading back to the house to start my new life as a legal alien in the land down under.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:08 pm
  #5  
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Part 5 - The End

Conclusion

Leaving aside the emigration, the flight was a slightly bittersweet experience for me in airline terms. As I mentioned earlier, we were able to claim expenses for the flight if it was World Traveller, so that left me praying for a pro-active upgrade to book myself into Traveller Plus. Unfortunately, this did not happen so I have been left stranded on 530 Tier points, 70 short of retaining Silver for another year. With the changes, I’m not sure whether I will drop to Bronze or Blue because my membership year expires on 8th November, just before the changes. I was willing to give BA some money to switch to Traveller Plus and get some extra points to take me over the threshold and would have swapped this for my Club seat on the second leg if a mechanism existed for me to do so. It was not to be, which means that Qantas won’t be getting much, if any, business from me over the coming year. This is not a complaint, merely a statement of fact.

The overall experience of the flight was very good from start to finish. Every BA employee I interacted with, or saw in action helping others, both in the air and on the ground was absolutely fine. No grumpy crew or poor service in evidence – I couldn’t fault anyone. The aircraft seemed to be in good condition and clean. The food in Y was perfectly fine. The food in J was very pleasant. Perhaps I am too easy-going by nature! I would have preferred a better connection to Hobart, but this was not possible.

My only regret is that there did not appear to be a means for me to give BA a reasonable amount of money to upgrade to Traveller Plus and keep my Silver card for another year. I was able to effectively buy a fully flexible W ticket but they wanted ₤2,000 for that, which I couldn’t justify. I appreciate that they are not a charity and should attempt to maximise revenue, and my willingness to pay a little extra was not something they were interested in when they could potentially have sold that seat to someone else at the full rate, so it would be churlish to call this a criticism.

I hope you enjoyed reading this trip report and apologise again for the lack of pictures.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:40 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: BNE
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Posts: 802
Thanks for your TR, and welcome to Australia.

I guess after all the long haul travel, you wouldn't feel like taking some random QF flights in the next 48 hours for your Tier Points sake?
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Old Nov 5, 11, 10:43 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by Statusless Person View Post
... 5 minutes later we were in the car and heading back to the house to start my new life as a legal alien in the land down under.
Welcome to the land down under ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McsWKczU6wc
Good & balanced TR

Click on my signature for Oz Fest. We even welcome those from Tassie

Last edited by Mwenenzi; Nov 5, 11 at 10:52 pm
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Old Nov 6, 11, 2:09 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Posts: 3,146
I agree everything on BA is great except:

1. Legroom in Y for me at 31" is too tight.
2. Food, crew, entertainment is good. Also their excess luggage fees are "reasonable" capped at $60 compared to UNITED where I paid $140 with no explanation.

Award travel though is a bit of a joke.I paid $600 for a "Free Award" Y ticket from NYC to GVA.

This compares to $300 on AA and about $160 on UA / CO.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 2:35 am
  #9  
 
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Welcome to Australia! Thanks for sharing
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Old Nov 6, 11, 5:23 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Sydney Australia
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Posts: 1,499
Welcome to OZ although Tassie is not the real Oz
Expand your flying experiences and become a convert to Virgin Blue (iconic Aussie humour) now known as Virgin Australia.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 8:05 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Originally Posted by mattm199 View Post
Thanks for your TR, and welcome to Australia.

I guess after all the long haul travel, you wouldn't feel like taking some random QF flights in the next 48 hours for your Tier Points sake?
Quite !!
But that's also my suggestion, go fly QF a little bit, but how many tps did your QF sector credit you with ?

cs
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Old Nov 6, 11, 10:09 pm
  #12  
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Welcome to Aus. Lucky bugger first domestic flight with QF and you get a refit aircraft! Lucky++
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Old Nov 7, 11, 7:50 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: May 2010
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Originally Posted by Statusless Person View Post
I don’t like tomatoes so it became even less remarkable as they were removed.
^ Am I starting a trend in the Trip Report forum?

Great report. I've just made the move the other way (new Zealand to the UK) and I hope it all goes well for your new life down under!
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Old Nov 7, 11, 5:23 pm
  #14  
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Posts: 142
Thank you to all those who have added words of welcome. I'm fortunate that I have been on 4 previous trips, one of which was to get married here, so I am not totally unfamiliar with how things are done here.

@mattm199 - I could take some random Qantas flights now they're flying again, but the cost-benefit ratio is not right, considering we're most likely to be flying to BNE, and Virgin do the only direct flight.

@Brettee - understand on the 31" pitch. Sounds like you need to find someone with more, or buy a seat further forward in the plane. I did once fly on the SQ A380 with 32" pitch but a 19" width, which was the best economy class I've been in from a space point of view. I'm assuimng you've checked out the BA forum about the best use of miles in response to your point about award tickets.

@adampenrith - I think I shall become familiar with Virgin Australia and their work in due course.

@cornishsimon - I believe the SYD-HBA leg gave me 10 points.

@TopofClimb - glad someone else is with me. I hate it when something is described as (for example) a ham sandwich, and it has tomatoes in it too!
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Old Nov 9, 11, 1:32 am
  #15  
Lux
 
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: London, UK
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Contrary to the beliefs of some on the BA board, it is possible to travel in economy and survive! (Although the op-up helps too.). Welcome to Tasmania...
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