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Hungary Man. Spring Break in Budapest with the return in British Airways First Class

Hungary Man. Spring Break in Budapest with the return in British Airways First Class

Old Mar 20, 14, 8:11 am
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Hungary Man. Spring Break in Budapest with the return in British Airways First Class

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Khrushchev
- Billy Joel

I am a law student, this is my life:

But, I am still a student which means…SPRING BREAK! I only recently started school again so this is my first Spring Break in eight years. The idea of a week of from school AND work was almost too amazing to contemplate, but they don’t let people who can’t brainstorm into law school. So the question was begged…what to do and where to go? As recently as last year when looking at my list of countries I realized I didn’t have one starting with H. The list of H countries is not the best:

- Haiti
- Honduras
- Hungary

I think that choice is obvious. Plus, I’d loved Prague when I was there a few years ago and I wouldn’t say no to a little more Eastern Europe. That settled the where, but what about the how, as in, how do I get there? Thankfully, last year I’d earned quite a set of AA miles and I decided to do a BA First redemption on the way back. Now, this ended up annoying me because so many people acted like I said I was going to inner tube back with their comments of “eurrrrhhh fuel surcharge” and “it’s an inferior product”. Well thanks, I usually fly RJs between RDU and JFK, I think I’ll be pretty impressed with my first ever Trans-Atlantic First. And $400 is a fair price to pay for it. And of course being me, I had to tack on a bunch of extra flights, including one to try the new AA A-319.

As for the way out, this is where being a Flyertalker pays off yet again. I was short a few UA miles for the award I wanted and so I contacted my good friend Jackal asking if he’d transfer me a few thousand. When he saw the fee associated ($150) he said he’d just get me the award and I could get him back later. What a guy, especially as he’s a 1K this meant I inherited his status for the trip which made for a much better experience.

I’d also been stockpiling Hilton points for a few years for something “aspirational”. I figured this had to qualify so I got two nights at the Hilton Budapest WestEnd (now called Budapest City). Annoyingly, I had to get back for work so I’d only get 51 hours or so in Budapest but I’m adept doing more with less. So the final plan was:

Monday March 10

Thursday March 13

Friday March 14

US 3508 RDU-PIT ERJ-145 0639-0800
I ain’t going to lie, it was a long week. Five midterms in one week (including two in one day thanks to a snow day) not to mention 54 hours working my nighttime delivery job. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I worked 12 PM to 12 AM Sunday and got a mere three hours sleep before heading off for this flight. And to be honest, I could have gone RDU-EWR at 11:30 AM or even 1 PM but would that add new lines to my FlightMemory?

No it wouldn’t!

What a relief seeing all those on time flights after the winter we’ve had. I also got through security quickly thanks to being a Brevet Star Gold (thanks to Jackal #1 of the day). Being early, I decided on a little breakfast.

Oh yeah!

Now for some lounging. Annoyingly, the US kiosk acknowledged all my flights but didn’t tell me it hadn’t taken my APIS (passport) info. I only had BPs for RDU-PIT and PIT-EWR (though my bag was checked all the way). I got into the lounge and showed the US BP which said “Star Gold” and the itinerary which said “Star Gold” and acted like I forgot my card at home. They let me in (thanks to Jackal #2).

I like the RDU US Club even though it feels a bit sterile as you can see. Though the bathrooms (one cubicle for the men, one for the women) is annoying.

Breakfast options, made me glad I went with the biscuits and gravy option.

I have absolutely no idea why this route still exists (and doubt it will last) but hey, I love a good old fashioned new route.

I see the US Airways Magazine has already started thinking post-merger!

Nice easy flight this morning. I was one of the few people who was awake on the flight and I even got a refill on my Diet Coke. Plus, it was Monday and I got to enjoy “Metropolitan Diary” in the New York Times.

A nice approach over very hazy Pittsburgh this morning.

Welcome to Pittsburgh in 2014, this is considered rush hour for US Airways.

UA 3839 PIT-EWR ERJ-145 0953-1129

This is PIT, maggot! DROP AND GIVE ME 20!

I hadn’t been to PIT since 2001 and wow was it different back then. The US gates especially feel tired and old and the “we have shops you can shop at!” doesn’t quite have the same appeal as it did in the late 1990’s.

Wow, both good choices. Think I’ll go with number two this time. This lounge was easier to get into than RDU though after seeing it, I can see why.

It was like being in some crappy, 1980’s era bank. Finding an outlet was a task worthy of Indiana Jones, as was finding non-scuffed furniture. But, it beats the gate (thanks Jackal #3!) and the wifi worked pretty well.

Now that’s just depressing, especially as so many were one-stops.

Plane’s here! Time to walk to the gate.

Trying to board ended up being an issue because US had never gotten my APIS info earlier. Even though I’d gone to the UA gate when I first got to PIT to get a UA BP, the machine rejected me. Two UA agents had to work for 15 minutes to figure out what to do. They eventually un-checked me in, then re-checked me in (which briefly cost me my exit row) and finally let me board. The upshot was I now had LH BPs.

Good to be on board after that frustration!

Another short and easy and very forgettable flight. I drank more Diet Coke, ate some snacks I brought (including a bag of DL pretzels, that’s showing United!) and started a new book. Then we descended into also hazy Newark (which is NOT New York/Newark, but that’s another rant) and I breathed a sigh of relief as this was the airport I was the most worried about getting to.

United 93 Gate.

Last edited by CMK10; Mar 20, 14 at 9:04 am
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Old Mar 20, 14, 8:12 am
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LH 409 EWR-DUS A-340-300 1745-0610 (+1)

I hate this concourse. It’s so dated and crowded and noisy and there’s only one place to eat and it’s really overpriced. Thankfully, I could at least get partial refuge in the United Club.

As you can see, the lounge was if anything, MORE crowded than the gate! Thankfully, I found a seat, and got my first free beer of the day.

If you can call that “beer”.

After an hour I figured I’d head for greener (for EWR anyway) pastures and rode the bus to Terminal C. This was one of the highlights of the visit as it meant fun tarmac spotting.

This is better, right?

At least I was able to grab a decent lunch. This plate of vomit-looking stuff was a fairly decent open faced turkey sandwich. Service at the restaurant was really good and I got the sandwich, a salad and a soda plus tip for under $20 which ain’t bad.

I hadn’t been to this lounge (the one above Gate 74) in a while and I probably should have kept it that way. Not only did the theme of the lounge being crowded continue, but this is not a good lounge. They layout is very strange and confusing and my other theme of the day (playing the Hunt for the Working Outlet) continued. But hey, I got to look down at a food court, right?


Riding on the Airtrain over to Terminal B, you can see the tail of my LH A340 behind the much better looking Star Livery.

I picked up some LH BPs which listed me as a “UAP” instead of UA*G so I decided the fun party was probably over. This meant a long trip through security too but I’d of course left myself lots of time just in case.

While walking to the gate I saw the SEN Lounge and figured I was in the most advantageous position of nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I walked in, showed my US BP with “STAR GOLD” on it and my itinerary and said I couldn’t understand why the LH BPs didn’t say *G and I didn’t have my card. The agent went ahead and typed for awhile, then printed me out two new BPs with *G on them and welcomed me in. JACKPOT!

While I was glad I got in, I was more glad I’d stuck around the United Clubs for most of the afternoon, this lounge was small and crowded. I did manage to find a seat but I had to wander awhile and it felt like I was sitting in two people’s laps.

Good spread though, sure beat the United Club (have I thanked Jackal enough yet?).

Quick glance inside the Business Lounge, it seemed emptier but the snacks were mainly of the packaged variety. I started off to the gate but I didn’t quite make it because on the way I saw the SAS Lounge. Well, why not have a visit?

I liked the layout here as it was big and open but it was just as crowded.

Food was a step down, but the cold cuts and rolls were delicious.

Alright now I really need to head to the gate!

I joined the massive crowd of people hanging around the priority boarding line which naturally included a bunch of non-eligible people. When they finally announced boarding, the agent did a great job turning people away by saying “it’s not your time yet”.

This was my first ever A-340 and also my first Lufthansa trans-atlantic flight in over 15 years. It was nice to be back though, the f/as were all over the aisles and very friendly and the aircraft felt well maintained and comfortable. Plus, unlike in the early 2000s, there were PTVs for all!

By the time we went to push back we were less than 50% full. This meant anyone who wanted it had a seat next to them empty. Who needs Business Class at that point?

And we’re off!

The AVOD was decent, not the greatest I’ve seen and a little dated, but I’d needed to see Blue Jasmine anyway so I was set.

Meal choices were a teriyaki chicken or pasta with red sauce. This was all pretty decent and the fact that there was good beer was a major plus.

After diner the f/as came around offering after dinner drinks. Brandy? In Coach?! Gotta love non-US Airlines. I’d like to take a moment to say I was very impressed with LH on this flight. The flight attendants were friendly and non-rushed and they provided a lot of service. Even the meal service went drinks, another round of drinks, dinner, after dinner drinks. Not bad for coach, not bad at all. Plus, between the two seats and all that liquor I slept easily and for almost five hours!

Okay, maybe my praise was a little premature. In the words of The Simpsons: “pretty lame, Millhouse”.

Connecting gate info on the PTVs, nice touch.

Flight Over! An on time arrival is always appreciated, but doubly so when your connection is a mere 70 minutes.

LH 3062 DUB-BUD A-319 0720-0905

I’d been a little worried about this connection as, 70 minutes? That’s short. But FT reassured me it would be easy and doable and oh wow were the posters in the LH Forum right. I walked off the plane at 0615 and was in the lounge at 0625. I think I’ve had longer trips from plane to lounge at CVG…in 2012! Even passport control was a breeze, AND I got a stamp!

It seemed like a nice enough airport too, the entrance to the lounge is up that staircase.

Another day, another crowded lounge. Also, I was wearing a shirt and tie and slacks and here I was one of the LEAST dressed up people. Very impressive, Europe!

Not fast enough! Gimme gimme!

An okay spread I guess, but some more hot options would have been nice. I made do with a croissant and some yogurt. And as I said above, my connection was short so after 20 minutes during which I realized the power adaptor I’d brought didn’t work, I headed to my friendly neighborhood bus gate.

Boarding was a “all passengers going to Budapest” affair but when you’re boarding a bus, what’s the point of boarding by class/status/row number anyway?

At least buses = tarmac views. You can see the A-340 I flew in on all the way on the right.

Logo jet! Big line to board! Yay?

My first time in the slim-line seats. They seemed alright, a little lacking support in the butt/lower back area, but thankfully the flight was only 1hr35 AND I had another empty seat next to me. In the aisle was a business type who snacked on pepper slices the whole way. A smell I can’t stand, ick.

Ugly day in Germany, note the awesome Fokker-70 landing though.

Much better.

Another lame meal, made me glad I’d already eaten. Another great crew though, I asked for a Coke and was offered coffee or tea with it. When I declined, the f/a said “how about another Coke then?” So I got to double fist…in coach! Anyway, after that alleged meal, I went to sleep until we were descending into BUD.

Euro Spotting!

I’m still disappointed that flying into a European Airport feels like flying into a US Airport but I know it’s easier. Incidentally, this seems like a good time to say “if you don’t care about what I did in Hungary, feel free to skip down to the next aeroplanes part".
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Old Mar 20, 14, 8:14 am
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Budapest – Day 1
Still reading? Good, between you and me I don’t like those “I only read the flight part” guys. Don’t tell anyone though. So anyway, where was I? Oh right, getting to Budapest! Well luckily this was Europe so I knew there would be public transit. In this case, the 200E bus to the M3 terminals at Kőbánya–Kispest (say that one five times fast). The bus ride was 25 minutes and the Metro another 20 or so to my hotel. Incidentally, the fare card machines didn’t work, but there’s a staffed office near the Terminal 2A baggage claim which sells tickets and fare cards. The 24 hour pass for 1650 HUF (about $7.25. It’s 227 HUF : 1 USD) was my friend. You can also get a single ticket for 350 HUF or a transfer ticket for 530. I found the transit system to be a bit amusing. The trams were an honor system, but the buses you showed your ticket to the driver, and any time you went into the Metro three employees were standing by the escalators to check your ticket. The latter seemed really expensive and outdated but what do I know? I’m from the land of the turnstile. Anyway, getting back to Budapest.

The Metro transfer was seamless and I enjoyed being on the Russian made trainsets. Plus, they made announcements for the major stations in English which is always appreciated.

Twelve stops later and here I am near my hotel. I was staying at the Hilton Budapest WestEnd which put me a little bit away from the Danube and major tourist attractions (and also the other big hotels like the Marriott, Four Seasons and IC) but it was near a lot of transit which is always a plus.

I decided to try and check in (mainly because I was willing to trade any number of my family members for a hot shower) even though it was only 1030. Right away I knew I’d chosen the right hotel. They said my room wasn’t ready yet but would be shortly and I was invited to wait in the executive lounge until it was. Even though it was after breakfast hours, as soon as I got to the lounge I was offered coffee. I only had to wait ten minutes until I got my room. The hotel was off to a great start with me!

My Deluxe Room. I paid a little bit more for the deluxe room and I was glad I did. Not only were those chairs really comfortable, but I liked the extra space. Booking a deluxe room also comes with a coupon for a free beer, wine or coffee at the lobby bar and while this is redundant for lounge access patrons, it’s a nice touch for others.

Two welcome letters! Two!

Another nice touch, they updated these every day. Anyway, as tempting as it was to crawl into that big bed and sleep until Thursday, I had sights to see and experiences to have etc. etc. so after a shower and clothing change I was off to explore.

I’d been told that riding the Metro was “confusing” but for me it was as easy a system as one could take. They even had English directions and major stations and the aforementioned announcements.

Stop One, the Great Synagogue as part of the Jewish Quarter Walking Tour. Oh and the guidebook of the trip would be Rick Steeve’s. My first time using one of his.

Now THAT is a Jewish house of worship! I might add I put the Reform in Reform Jew but I really felt in touch with my faith here. My Grandparents were Holocaust survivors and I know they’re proud of me for spending time here reflecting and thinking about them.

This will be a theme of the morning.

The ticket to the synagogue (about $11) also granted admission to the upstairs museum and the gardens. It’s well worth it for anyone who wants to learn more about Judaism or the Holocaust. Specifically, the awful fate of the Hungarian Jews. For a nice intro now read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews_in...#The_Holocaust.

The museum was quite good, a mix of Jewish artifacts and a pull no punches room on the Holocaust.

Next up, the gardens. That’s a mass grave of 2,100 victims.

The Tree of Life. The “leaves” contain the names of the victims of the Holocaust.

They have a guide so you can find people too.

Feeling as connected to my faith as I have in a long, long while, I left to go do some walking. Speaking of which, Budapest is everything I like in a European city. Very walkable, but not dirty and while there was a beggar or two (where isn’t there?) it wasn’t too a frustrating degree. Plus, shops and cafes and restaurants for days!

I popped in here for a cup of coffee, it was a really fun spot as it’s a clothing shop-cum-coffee bar.

Back on the move!

My plan was to cross the Chain Bridge to head up to Castle Hill. Sure, I was tired, but I love walking and where I live now I don’t get much chance to do it. Plus, crossing the Danube on a beautiful day? Sign me up!

I decided to go up via funicular. It’s really expensive at $6 and lasts about a minute, but sometimes stupidly touristy is stupidly enjoyable.

The Legitimate Tourist Attraction Seal of Approval!

Well, I could take such pictures all day but I have a walking tour to walk and a day to do it!

The Hungarian Art Museum is housed here inside the Michigan State Capitol (not sure how they got it all the way from Lansing though).

It wasn’t too bad, the big attraction is these 14th Century Altar Pieces which somewhat contrasted with my earlier Jewish day.

The Buda side, not quite as panoramic, but I didn’t want them to feel left out.

Note the former War Ministry still covered in bullet holes from WWII and the 1956 Revolution.

Hmm, maybe I should just declare today Religion Day. That church was definitely worth popping inside even though it was a few bucks. Frankly, if you’re in Europe and you see a giant church, it’s unlikely that going inside will be a waste of time or money.

I love seeing military museums and never miss a chance when I’m overseas. Unfortunately, this one was not very good. It was fairly small and the WWII sections were, and there’s no nice way to say this, a bit pro-Nazi. They didn’t caption in English but you could get a copy of all translations and they were not flattering. Basically, the Russians were worse.

Thanks Castle Hill, you were great!

As I mentioned earlier, I’d brought the wrong power adaptor so I swung by the WestEnd Mall. It’s a really really good mall actually, one of the best I’ve been to outside the US. I got my adaptor too so all was well that ends well. And I was back at the lounge in time for afternoon tea! For the record, the lounge’s hours are:

Breakfast: 0600-1000
Tea: 1500-1700
Happy Hour (Drinks/Apps): 1800-2000

Nice attached balcony for the smokers.

They also had two refrigerators full of soda and juices.

When I got back to my room I found this waiting for me, another nice touch by this excellent hotel. I also then went down for a well deserved nap. So well deserved that when I awoke 90 minutes later it was nearly impossible to drag myself out of bed but hey, I came here to EAT and I hadn’t had dinner yet! Speaking of dinner, what about pre-dinner at the lounge? Let’s see what they have.

The hot options changed the next day to another meat and a vegetable. The rolls were also really good.

Off to diner at Halakas Halbistro, a little seafood joint.

Spicy Lemon Surgeon Steak and coleslaw which was excellent and a local beer which was awful. Frankly, I think as a whole Hungarian Beer is as weak as American beer! After finishing that I headed back to the hotel, used my drink coupon, did some FT (naturally) then went to sleep. It would be another long day tomorrow after all.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 8:16 am
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Budapest – Day 2

Any good day starts with complimentary lounge breakfast.

Everything was really good, especially the croissants. And as always with this hotel, service was impeccable. The next day the hot options were similar, eggs and meat etc.

Step one on my long journey today, a little governmental action. It was the most expensive activity I’d be doing ($16) so I had high hopes.

Unfortunately, you’re stuck on a large guided tour, but at least you get sharply dressed guardsmen. The tour guide was pretty good too.

Great Hall


Parliament Chamber. Unfortunately, that’s about all you get to see. While the tour lasts 40 minutes (which includes going through security), between the jostling for position to take pictures and the little you get to see (you do see the Hungarian Crown Jewels too but you can’t get close or take pictures) I don’t think it ended up being worth it. Oh well, no time to dwell, next up was a walk down the Danube Promenade to see:

The Shoes on the Danube memorial. Very, very moving. History here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoes_o...nube_Promenade

The memorial was right next to the T-2 tram line and as I love old fashioned European trams and consider them a great way to see a city, I took a little ride.

After hopping off, I headed onto the M1 which built in 1896 was Europe’s first subway. It’s actually a UNESCO World Heritage site (yes, the whole line!).

Quaint, isn’t it? It’s really shallow too unlike the M2 and M3 which are really deep.

Hope you didn’t think I was done with the God Tour! This is the biggest church in Budapest and is 96 Meters tall (1896 was Budapest’s 1000th Anniversary so a lot of things involve the number 96). It’s allegedly free but there’s a “suggested donation box” guarded by a priest so I chipped in a buck.

Worth it!

Next up, the Hungarian State Opera House. I chose not to take the tour but you can see the lobby and gift shop for free which was worth a gander.

Lunch time! This café was a little pricy but the food I had was delicious.

Beef neck in a red wine sauce. Incidentally, I hate how in Europe they bring you the bread basket but the bread isn’t free. It’s so hard for me to resist eating it. Now that my Charles Tank was refilled, time for more walking!

Up at Heroes Square and their soldier’s memorial.

The adjacent Fine Arts Museum is a worse version of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (it even has the same layout) but it was worth a walkthrough. They had some big names like Rodin and Monet and after a long walk I enjoy sitting on a bench around some beautiful works of art.

There’s a good view of the square from the steps too. Anyway, enough sitting and feeding the senses, more walking more photos time!

This was built when Hungary entered the EU. The sand trickles down until the new year.

Memorial to the 1956 Revolution. I’m not sure what it’s supposed to represent but it was moving enough I guess. Next up, City Park.

The famous bathhouse, apparently it’s a big thing to do around here but I’m not much into swimming so I passed on it. Maybe I’d go in the summer.

Where else can you relax and read a book and watch people in front of a castle? But anyway, enough good times, how about a punch in the gut?

This will do. This building was the headquarters of the Arrow Cross under the Nazis, then the secret police under the Russians.

What a fancy audio guide! I definitely suggest the extra expense as it told stories and gave context to the exhibits.

You’re not supposed to take photography but I snuck a few. It’s a really impressive museum and the hour and a half I spent there was not enough time. I only wish there hadn’t been some French student tour groups who were laughing and being loud. The highlight was an elderly British pensioner coming up to me, pointing at my audio guide, and saying “oy, you have a computah, did the Hungarians fight for the Nazis? No one will tell me!”. We ended up having a really interesting talk about his experiences growing up in Britain in the 50’s.

The last room you see is a room of the torturers where they put on blast (as the kids say today) people who were known to torture. That was a surprise and it kept you thinking on the way out.

I came out right around dinner time (for me at least) but I guess 1830 is too early in Hungary as I had the restaurant to myself.

Venison Stew at the Bor La Bor Winebar. Absolutely excellent, as were the Hungarian potatoes. Finishing that, I figured a nighttime stroll along the Danube was in order.

And with that, I called it a night!

Budapest – Day 3

I had a 1255 flight today and while I considered sleeping in and breakfasting at the hotel, this was too nice a city not to spend a last bit of time in.

First, the train station by my hotel. Want to film something set in the Soviet Union? This might be a good start.

I rode the T-6 Tram over to the Buda side where I’d found a restaurant I wanted to try. The trams are great, some are newer (though I find them less fun than the old ones) but they give you a chance to see a bit more of the city. Don’t get me wrong, the Metro is great too (I have zero complaints about public transit at all in Budapest) but these trams won my heart and my mind.

I felt I’d neglected the Buda part of the city on my trip but at least I could make it up to them a little with breakfast at the Villa Bagatelle.

Nice way to close out my trip I think. After consuming that, I headed back to the hotel and packed up and heading for BUD.

Last edited by CMK10; Mar 20, 14 at 9:26 am
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Old Mar 20, 14, 8:18 am
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BA 869 BUD-LHR A-320 1255-1435

First off, a big welcome back to our skip ahead to the airplane parts readers!

Slight delay this afternoon due to late inbound aircraft (fog in LHR that morning) but I got checked in quickly and easily by the contract employee. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the fast track security line as “BA doesn’t pay us” as the person guarding it said but I was early so this didn’t matter for much more than a quick eye roll.

It’s not Europe until you’re dumped into a duty free shop after security!

The airside parts were actually quite nice and I was able to enjoyably dump the last of my Forint on some souvenirs before a quick trip through passport control (hello, new stamp!) on my way to the lounge.

Empty gate area on the Schengen side.

BA uses the Platinum lounge which is small with weak wifi and no bathroom, but palatable enough for a one hour stay.

Plus, there were tarmac views and I could watch our plane come in. As soon as it did, a bunch of people immediately went to the gate while the gentleman sitting across from me and I laughed at this notion of instant boarding after arrival of the inbound aircraft.

A thing of beauty! And yes, I know my name and AA FFP are posted, you don’t have to make any comments or message me saying this.

The boarding process here was a bit odd. There were three lines, priority, high row numbers and low row numbers. They did have roving agents who checked to make sure everyone was in the right line. Then, they simultaneously boarded the high numbers and the priority line. It worked fairly well which was good as I was hoping to not lose too much of my connection (read: CCR time) at LHR.

Ahhhh, luxurious Club Europe. As bad as we have it in the US, at least our domestic premium cabins are a little more comfortable. Plus, no pre-departure drink on this flight and I had to hang my own coat

Classy. Also, the plane is not nearly old enough for the seat to already look so ratty. Oh and it was a pretty empty flight in CE today, 5 rows with only 13 passengers so I got the entire row 3 to myself.

Goodbye, Hungary! I miss you already!

Wish I’d sat on the ABC side so I could have seen Budapest from the air. This is the northern most bridge over the Danube in the area I believe.

BA’s idea of IFE. And please don’t get me wrong, while I keep knocking them, I had a great experience this trip and do enjoy traveling with them. The crew on this flight was stellar, led by a bubbly CSD who I think may have found me a little attractive hehehe

I was on the right side of the plane to see Prague though!

Now that was a good combo, seemed pretty British too.

Options were chicken with polenta or prawn salad. As I had already eaten a lot today and had much more to eat ahead of me, I took the lighter option. It was actually quite tasty (minus the apple crumble dessert which was like eating cardboard) but I wish there had been just one more shrimp. Following that, I finished my paper and started on my book.

Luckily, only 10 minutes of holding today. We did a great approach to LHR which gave me a wonderful view of London, just wish it hadn’t been so hazy.

Welcome to London, here’s your bus gate. And no, there was no Club bus today.

This guy seems REALLY mad about the bus gate. I can understand it though, we came into stand 186 right by Terminal 1 and had to ride a bus to Terminal 3. So I rode a bus, to go ride a bus…ugh.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 8:19 am
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BA 297 LHR-IAD 777-200 1735-2110

Here began my marathon. Up some stairs, down some hall, down some escalator, down another hall. Every time I figured I had to be where I was going, there was another turn, another corridor, another door, another flight of stairs. Finally, I found the bus.

The trip across the tarmac did provide some good spotting, I’ll give it that.

Finally, I have arrived. Of course I still had to go through a lengthy wait at security with which Fast Track did not do much good. But such tribulations mean you have truly earned your next drink.

The Concorde Room was an experience. While hard product wise it’s kind of strange (imagine if your dimly lit living room and an antique store had a baby and that baby became a lounge), it was certainly the nicest lounge I’ve been to. What sets it apart is that no food is left out. There isn’t a bite to be found, you either eat at the restaurant or order food from a menu. Plus, their bar is well stocked and I mean well stocked . After getting my bearings I ordered a Glenlivet 18 Year and an entrée and headed to the balcony to find me a 19th Century-esque armchair.

I ordered the pork belly, it’s a big time favorite of mine.

Cheers, Flyertalk.

My first ever Treacle Tart. I’ve been reading about it in British books since I was a kid and had always wanted to try it. The wait staff were great I might add, very friendly and always roving around so I was able to order dessert quickly.

The little tea carts were everywhere in the lounge, which was good because I figured I had a long night of drinking to look forward to so water would be a good idea.

I thought the washrooms were a little sterile but it was nice that you had a private room instead of sharing with everyone and hey, how many lounges can you say you used a bidet in?

Making it official, and yes, I have terrible handwriting.

I didn’t mention this earlier but this was my first time using Terminal 5. In fact, it wasn’t built yet the last time I was at Heathrow (2006). I was very impressed with it, the midfield concourses were a bit annoying, but the terminal struck me as the kind of place you didn’t mind so much not having lounge access in. Lots of restaurants and shops and the like.

I was actually hoping we’d get delayed as I had nowhere to be and I was very much enjoying the lounge but sadly, they decided to get us out on time, .......s! Still, I made sure to leave the lounge with a couple minutes so I could checkout/photograph the South Galleries First lounge.

Nice, but definitely crowded, I preferred the CCR for that reason alone.

I was tempted, but I couldn’t find the Clotted Cream so I passed.

Alright, enough lounging, to the gate! Thankfully, I only had to go to B today.

Still an impressive terminal.

My plane today in all its glory.

I got to the gate just as they announced they were still cleaning the catering the plane. You know what that means…time to check out ANOTHER LOUNGE!

The Galleries Club Concourse B lounge was actually quite decent, even if the booze selections were two steps down. They had finger sandwiches and nibbles as well as hot soup and some friendly attendants. I couldn’t find any champagne but I knew I’d get plenty on the plane.

Anyway, when I got back to the gate they announced boarding for First/Club World/Emerald and BA Gold all at once. I was the third person on the plane and the experience got started off right when one f/a said to the other “Show Mr. Kunz to 2K, please”. Once we got there, I was asked if I wanted a newspaper or magazine and then what I wanted to drink. When I said “champagne” I got a list of three different ones. Being in the $30,000-$49,000 a year income bracket I had no idea which to pick so I just repeated one back figuring the more I drank, the less I’d care anway.

Yes, this looks worth 56,250 miles and $400. The load factor was only 3/12 today so I had no problems taking a million or so pictures.

Headphones and a small blanket were on the foot rest. I was asked if I wanted slippers and an amenity kit and I said “I’ll take whatever’s coming to me”. One of the three flight attendnats working first responded “I’d better get you some pyjamas (there, I used the English spelling) too”.

Some people on the BA board consider this a bad amenity kit but I was okay with it. But again, what do I know? My idea of a good time is flying American coach to DCA and being excited if they give me the whole can of Diet Coke.

More seat exploration. I liked the controls which I found easy enough to operate and the recessed magazine panel and USB ports (very helpful for inflight charging).

We finally got the delay I wanted when two passengers didn’t show up and their bags had to be located and removed, but that was fine by me as the flight crew was great and they kept my glass full. Besides, what’s the rush? This might be a good time to explain why I flew home in First and not to Europe. My Mom likes to joke that when I was a baby all I did was sleep and eat and nothing has changed. Frankly, I like to think I can you know, SPOUT AN OCCASIONAL SENTENCE but she is right in the sense that sleep comes very easily for me. Therefore, I don’t need a flat bed to get some Zs. What I want out of a redemption is the most awake hours possible. I want the food, the drinks, the attention (all the attention!) and the experience. So the delay didn’t bother me as it just meant more time on board.

Besides, more time to try and figure out how to be sophisticated.

Obligatory on board shot, wish I’d fixed my damn tie though.

Eventually, we pushed back and I got to experience the only negative about flying First which is you can’t really see out the windows. But I guess I’d see plenty of planes tomorrow so who cared?

Best I could do for a takeoff shot.

Once up in the air it was time for the main event, eating for the next several hours.

Now, I’m not sure if it was supposed to work like this, but when I’d flown CX I was allowed to ask for as much as I wanted, so I just did the same here, especially as I represented one third of the First passengers on board.

Being on board a plane drinking Glenlivet 18 Year (my favorite scotch) is worth any YQ B.S.

Amouse bouche (which my computer wanted to autocorrect to “arouse”) of mozzarella and sundried tomato salad. After hearing the f/a say “to-MAH-to” I asked her “what was it again?” to hear her do it again. Childish, but at least I didn’t clap.

Smoked salmon with caviar. They came around offering rolls and allowed us to pick as many as we wanted. I prefer the CX practice of leaving you your own basket, especially as they never offered refills.

Cauliflower soup with cheese and onions, absolutely delicious. I paired it with a pretty decent Boudreaux.

Salad with honey mustard dressing, actually pretty good for a bowl full of grass.

My main event, the steak. The last time I flew BA across the ocean I had a steak in Club Europe and it was awful. This one was sadly, not much better. It was definitely overcooked and a bit tasteless. However, the vegetables and the mini steak and ale pie was delicious enough to make up for it. Plus, it was the only negative part of the meal so I’d call it a success overall.

Cheese course, with Port of course. I still don’t really understand the concept of cheese as a meal by itself (for this uncultured American swine cheese is a topping) but some of the cheeses were pretty good.

Date and toffee pudding. The flight attendant said “would you like the ice cream with it too?”. Come on, you think I got this gut from eating fruit? DO YOU EVEN HAVE TO ASK?

The meal was nicely spaced out so it took the entire length of my 2.25 hour movie. Nothing like not feeling rushed or being served from the cart. It was like being in a very private restaurant but where it was okay to take off my shoes and put my feet up an watch a Tom Hanks movie.

With the meal done I settled down to just watch a bunch of TV while flopping around in my seat for the next five hours. I will give the crew a lot of credit, they somehow managed to balance being there when I needed them, but not bothering me too much. Every hour or so, I’d stand up and stretch or go to the bathroom and as soon as I did, one of them would be at my side with a “another bottle of water, Mr. Kunz?”. I cannot say enough superlatives about this crew or frankly, this flight.

BA also had a nice feature on their IFE where they had the entire seasons of some shows. I watched a movie, two Family Guys and three Boardwalk Empires. Don’t judge me! I have so much homework usually I just get to veg out like this.

I did also take a 45 minute nap, mainly to try the bed out in flat mode. I was pretty impressed with it but I did find it a trifle narrow. When I awoke, it was time for the last hurrah of food. Frankly, I was still pretty full but I needed to get $400’s worth so I crammed more food in my ingestion port.

A little on the light side, but it was pushing 8:30 PM on the east coast and well after Midnight in the Old Empire so I understand the short limited foodstuffs. Sadly, as I finished up the flight finished up. This was one leg I wanted to go on for a very long time. Especially as, coming into IAD means the dreaded:

Mobile lounge! And as if that wasn’t bad enough, we ended up in a half hour late and at 10 PM, almost every CBP officer went home. I waited in line over a half hour and an Avianca flight had just come in which meant a ton of Permanent Residents with Green Cards in my line. I don’t mind them, I mind that they had to answer 700 questions with their agent.

Oh I was happy to see that sign let me tell you.

Ashburn, VA

Short break from the airplanes, they’ll be back soon!

So at this point I began to wait for the shuttle to the Hilton Garden Inn – Dulles North. And I waited, and waited, and waited some more. After a half hour I called back and asked where it was and to confirm I was looking for a HGI Shuttle as I’d seen every shuttle in the known universe except that one. The agent said “oh yes, it’s not our sister property tonight”. Well guess what, it was. After another 15 minutes the shuttle driver called me. He was parked right in front of me…in an Aloft van. I was livid, not only because it was cold but because my wait was so unnecessary. Once I got to the hotel, I told the agent checking me in who seemed really panicked by my report. Thankfully, a manager showed up and I ended up getting $45 off the rate (wish I always earned a dollar a minute) so that made things right.

The hotel was still fairly meh, it’s Dulles in name only (about a 15 minute drive away down the Toll Road) and there were a lot of little issues like used Q-Tips in my trash can and the alarm clock not having been reset for daylight savings time. Plus, they’d changed me from a high floor room to one on the first floor right by the parking lot which I hate and I had to ask for a breakfast voucher. The agent seemed really flummoxed by that request.

They did have a full bar and offer dinner though. Breakfast was a buffet for cold items and all hot items were cooked to order which is how I prefer it. Annoyingly, I had to leave early as the shuttle was loading and then we sat on the shuttle for 5 minutes waiting for some late passenger. I could’ve been eating more food!
CMK10 is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 8:20 am
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US 4543 IAD-CLT CRJ-700 0916-1036

Sure, I could have flown IAD-CLT-RDU or DCA-RDU today but is that American A-319 going to fly itself? Will these meal pictures magically appear in my hard drive? NO! So it’s time for another exhausting day!

One final insult from the hotel, the driver (now in an HGI van, of course) forgot to stop at US Airways like I’d asked, twice. When I mentioned this, he said “oh, well it’s just a short walk”. And there goes your tip, buddy.

Security took awhile today as they didn’t have a First Class line, I mean why bother? It’s just a major airport on a weekday. I had left a lot of extra time just in case which meant I got to use the United Club! Hoo-ray!

The best thing about the IAD Clubs. Actually, I was glad to have the access as my flight ended up delayed a few minutes so I got a little extra wifi and comfy chair time. Isn’t it sad that this is probably the best of the three IAD Clubs? I can never decide if I prefer C17 or D7 more.

Time to ride the monorail back. All these airlines and I’m flying on probably the worst one.

I guess they’d unloaded the previous plane faster than I expected them to as when I got back they were on Zone 3. Note the cool South African livery I spotted through the open jetway service door.

Now this is a step down from the previous flight!

I’ve found that CRJs have the most scratched and dirty windows and today was no exception. Service was good today, even with my late boarding I still got a pre-departure drink as did the whole F cabin. Proof that the “delayed flight, full flight, boarding through the front door” excuse is crap.

Service today, the snack mix is actually quite good. I was lost in my book and was pleased that at one point I looked up and the f/a had brought me another drink without me even asking. No complaints on this flight either. Thankfully, it was a short flight today so we got in early even with the delay. Good thing too as I had a 58 minute connection and a delightful walk of E7 to A9 to look forward to.

Thanks, N708PS!

AA 1343 CLT-DFW A-319 1145-1335

Spotting at CLT isn’t the best, but that logo jet is still my favorite, notice how it even says “VistaJet” on the front? That’s some A+ Nostalgia!

This is the first time I’d flown a “bold aircraft” (what I call an aircraft I’m flying for the first time with that airline) with American since 2005.

Now THAT’S an out of the way connection!

Very impressive gate staff this morning, our flight was going to be full and there were numerous standbys including one who was a US Non-Rev with a screwed up ticket. I gave one of the agents an AAplause cert for how hard she worked with him.

You know, if you’re not even going to try to have separate boarding lines, don’t even bother.

This ain’t your granddad’s American! After decades of MD-80s and ratty 757s, it was such a relief to be on a new, modern, forward thinking plane. Though the 8 seat F cabin is an insult.

Plethora of power ports

So hip! So modern!

Good crew today, once again a full flight with a single aisle and boarding through the front and a drink. I waited until after 11 for my first drink so I’m not an alcoholic, right?

PTVs on an AA domestic narrowbody? Never thought I’d see the day! The AVOD was good, really good in fact. Lots of movies and they kept them on gate to gate. Plus, a good moving map.

Old paint!


Not sure you want to watch the movie? They have a trailer! Right after it starts, a disclaimer comes on saying it contains graphic content, sure beats having to watch a heavily edited film.

Dual electronic devices? It’s like being at home!

I always make my own moving map.

Lunch time! I’ll just put my laptop away. The IFE is either touch screen or remote controlled, that’s actually the same remote they have on BA.

Options today were the pictured beef teriyaki or chicken salad with quinoa (which I might add is pronounced really strangely). The chicken was cold so I went with the beef. I had pre-selected my entrée on AA.com but they didn’t seem to tell the f/a this. What really amazed me was there were three choices of rolls (pretzel pictured, wheat and cheese). Not bad for a 2hr22 mid-con lunch.

Sadly, after choice of chocolate chip or macadamia nut cookies, the crew made like Houdini and did a magical disappearing act to the galley. Shame too, I was going to hand out a worthless AAplause cert because they’d been great up til then. Thankfully, there was only an hour or so to go and I had all my electronic gadgets to keep me happy.

During my movie a little popup box showed up saying “Connecting Gate Info now available under “My Flight”. This was a nice touch, even though for some reason RDU didn’t show up!

Never thought I’d see the day where the old DL Connection gates were put back in use.

AA 1049 DFW-RDU MD-80 1735-2110

Another day, another long connection. I thought about going over to Terminal D and using the United Club (via Amtrak Select Plus status) but I figured I’d at least try the nearby Admirals Club first.

Continuing Terminal A construction. When I got to the Admirals Club, I tried showing my BA F BP from the day before and explaining how I was on a OW F ticket. The BP didn’t scan. However, when the agent tried my AA BP it said I was granted access as my qualifying flight had been within 24 hours. I’d heard that access was only given if you were on the first flight of the next day after an Intl Premium Flight so I was glad to get in. The agent gave me a drink coupon, and when I said I’d be there four hours she said “better take another coupon”. She knows me so well!

I’ve never been a big fan of this lounge. I find the layout strange and confusing but at least they have great showers and if you like cigarettes, you can smoke them here. A nice 20th Century touch.

First premium drink, a 10 Cane and Soda.

Killing time and happy to have Netflix Instant back. I got a turkey and spinach Panini that wasn’t terrible, though probably not worth $10. And the only free beers I could partner it with were Bud or Bud Light. Blech. After finishing that, I got a Ketel One martini, downed it like a champ, then headed to the gate.

We had a late crew so I settled down to wait for them to come in, others, however, did not.


See, this is an AA cabin I recognize! Oh and I don’t know if you care about these things, but I track my tail numbers and this one, which I’d flown in 2006, ruined my streak of first time registrations on the trip.

No pre-departure drink today which after the previous two flights was what we’d call in Contracts class an non-excused breach. In fact, this crew clearly was told customer service jobs didn’t mean customers and now they were bitter about being lied to.

Beautiful views today. I was glad I’d waited around for the dinner flight as between the sunset and FT on my laptop (awful Gogo speed though) I was a very happy flyer.

Meal choices today were either lentil chili (blurrrrrrrrrgh) or this beef bolognaise. The F/A did stop her cart (carts in First? Treason!) at 5EF and say to my seatmate and I “you two pre-ordered the beef, do you still want it?” When I said “beef? Isn’t it pasta?” she gave me the eyeroll of the decade and said “beef bolognaise” like I was the stupidest passenger on the plane. I also noted mine seemed upside down (my seatmate’s had the sauce on top) which only irritated her further. Speaking of my seatmate, he gets an assist award, when he saw I was taking meal pictures he asked me if I wanted to get a shot of his normal looking one. At least he was cool and the wine was good, that redeemed the flight.

Oatmeal raisin or chocolate chip cookies for dessert. Frankly, this dinner flight was almost indistinguishable from the lunch flight preceding it except we only got two roll choices and we had a second hot entrée. I wish they still had a slice of cake or something for dessert.

After that I just watched the sunset until the tiredness caught up with me and I fell asleep. I woke up and found the f/a had left me a mint on the center armrest which was nice and then I dozed off again until we bounced into NC.

At this point I’d taken out my laptop to charge my phone with it and check Facebook and had about a minute before my bag came out. Guess the Star Priority tag US had put on it at IAD had worked. That’s always a nice way to end the trip. And the offsite parking shuttle van was waiting! Shoulda bought me a lottery ticket.

Hello, my bed. What say you and I get reacquainted?


In short, what a trip. If the worst thing you can say is that you had a few 30 minute delays, the RDU US Club coffee was terrible and you somehow managed to lose your 24 hour fare card and had to buy a new one, I think you had a great trip. I really liked Budapest and would love to come back, I want to bike around Margaret Island and check out Monument Park out in the suburbs and BA impressed me. I’d had a fairly sour trip with them in 2006 on a OW Business Redemption and I’m glad they redeemed (pun intended) themselves in my eyes.

So in short:
- Miles well spent
- Money well spent
- Time well spent

Anyway, if you made it this far, thank you. I always appreciate comments and questions unless they’re of the “I CAN SEE YOUR NAME AND FREQUENT FLYER NUMBER!” ones. Those I don’t need.

Last edited by CMK10; Mar 20, 14 at 9:45 am
CMK10 is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 8:51 am
Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Kansas City
Posts: 248
This is an excellent report. It has the perfect mix of writing and pictures. Thanks for taking us along for the ride.
isaifan is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 12:00 pm
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Canterbury
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Thanks for a great TR. I'd really like to visit Budapest someday. I also enjoyed reliving my recent BA F experience as well.
Spymon is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 2:04 pm
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As usual, a quality report. Great job!
sky303 is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 2:12 pm
Join Date: Jan 2005
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Excellent report - really enjoyed reading all the way through. On my last trip in F from LHR I deliberately booked a 1830 flight and arrived at lunch to maximise my CCR room time. To me 1830 is a perfect flight time from the UK (to Asia) as you get on, have dinner, watch a movie, get mildly sloshed if not already from the CCR then still get 6/7 hours sleep...

Can I just point out a small technical inaccuracy.... The London Underground last year celebrated its 150 year anniversary so the following statement is a little inaccurate...

"I headed onto the M1 which built in 1896 was Europe’s first subway"

ant_west is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 2:51 pm
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Wow! What a thrill to read...you definitely painted an amazing picture. Drooling over the CCR, I can't wait to experience that!
jdjay is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 2:57 pm
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Originally Posted by ant_west View Post
Excellent report - really enjoyed reading all the way through. On my last trip in F from LHR I deliberately booked a 1830 flight and arrived at lunch to maximise my CCR room time. To me 1830 is a perfect flight time from the UK (to Asia) as you get on, have dinner, watch a movie, get mildly sloshed if not already from the CCR then still get 6/7 hours sleep...

Can I just point out a small technical inaccuracy.... The London Underground last year celebrated its 150 year anniversary so the following statement is a little inaccurate...

"I headed onto the M1 which built in 1896 was Europe’s first subway"

Ah you're absolutely right! I misread the word "continent" in the description I was reading so I went on Continental Europe's oldest subway.

Thank you to everyone else too!
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Old Mar 20, 14, 3:15 pm
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I really enjoyed your collection of Budapest pictures. What a beautiful old city! I definitely would like to see more of eastern Europe someday, and reports such as this one will only serve to hasten my efforts to do so. Thanks!

As one who feels - no doubt inappropriately amongst 98% of Flyertalk's membership - that wearing apparel such as shorts and/or a t-shirt into a classy lounge such as BA's Concorde Room only serves to denigrate the overall ambience the airline works so hard to project for its premium travelers - I must say you're looking quite well turned out, Mr. K. ^^
Seat 2A is offline  
Old Mar 20, 14, 3:41 pm
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: ATL/LAX
Posts: 4,876
Great trip report! And guess what, I've taken to your role of "dressing up" in First. Okay, maybe no tie, but I did wear a sport coat and dress shirt on my SQ Suites flight instead of a t-shirt .

Really enjoyed your BA F parts, especially coming from a first-timer.
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