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Trip Report: BA CW PHX-LHR-ZRH//FCO-LHR-PHX, with family and IRROPS

Trip Report: BA CW PHX-LHR-ZRH//FCO-LHR-PHX, with family and IRROPS

Old Aug 9, 14, 7:27 am
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Trip Report: BA CW PHX-LHR-ZRH//FCO-LHR-PHX, with family and IRROPS

This is going to be a fairly detailed trip report, with most of the focus on our experience on our recent BA flights. It hopefully has some interesting elements (traveling in CW with kids and a baby, major IRROPS, etc.).

Overview, PHX airport, Club at PHX
PHX-LHR
Galleries Club south lounge
LHR-ZRH
Zurich, Switzerland and nearby
Pfänder, Austria
Augsburg and München, Germany
Firenze, Italy
Roma, Italy
FCO-LHR
LHR lounges
LHR-PHX and IRROPS

Overview

On our longhaul trips over the past few years, the wife and I have left our daughters, ages 9 and 6, at home. We welcomed a baby boy into the world this January, and decided that we would take the family this year, before our boy was old enough to be too mobile (e.g. before we are truly outnumbered). I don't see very many family trip reports on here, so I thought this one might be interesting.

I had a week of work near Zurich, and we have good friends in Southern Germany that we wanted to visit as well. We decided to then spend a couple of weeks in Italy to introduce our daughters to the art of Michaelangelo and Italian cuisine, to conclude our nearly 5 week holiday. With a family of 5, we avoided hotels and found nice apartments on AirBnB.

We found reasonably priced CW tickets on BA in April, about 75 days prior to departure. The tickets were not available at a lower price after this date, and by flying ex-EU, we saved about USD $2500 total compared to the same dates to and from LHR only. For those that are curious, an infant costs about 10% of the fare of an adult, whereas a child far was somewhere around 70-80% of the adult (both percentages include taxes and fees).

This trip report will focus mostly on the flights and journey, though I'll include one brief post about each of the areas we went to, and what it was like traveling with the kids.

This was our itinerary, traveling class and aircraft types:

24 June
BA0288 - PHX-LHR (CW 747 midJ, G-BNLV)
25 June
BA0718 - LHR-ZRH (CE A320, G-EUUK)
Apartment in Switzerland through 6 July
Drive to Germany
Stay with friends through 14 July
Drive to Firenze
Apartment in Firenze through 23 July
Train to Roma
Apartment in Roma through 26 July
26 July
BA0571 - FCO-LHR (CE A3xx, I think it was an ex-BMI plane)
26 (27, due to delay) July
BA0289 - LHR-PHX (CW 747, G-CIVN replaced with G-CIVT)

Seat selection and checkin

To be kind to our fellow passengers, we did not choose upper deck seats, and instead chose the last row of Club World in the middle, 20 DEFG. The wife, baby and I took the middle seats, with our daughters on either side. For the shorthaul flights, we chose row 1 to have a bit more space with the baby.

We had decided not to print our boarding passes at home, as BA's interface for traveling with a family does not make it efficient. You need to choose each person and print separately, far slower than flying solo. BA's system intentionally does not allow you to add advanced passenger information for infants, so you need to wait until check-in to add these details.

We were amused by BA's offer to allow us to check a total of 17 pieces of luggage, plus 10 carry-on bags. I'm sure some people do this, but unless you're moving, that would be a rather painful way to travel. Traveling with a baby and kids does add quite a bit to the luggage pile.



While we secretly hoped for an op-up to be able to use the F lounge at LHR, we were not surprised when this did not happen for either direction of the journey. Both longhaul flights were completely full in J and F, though very few seats were filled in F prior to check-in time.

We took the Execucar service to PHX, a 30 minute drive from our home. We arrived at PHX about 2.75 hours prior to departure. It takes a lot more time to get through everything in airports with 3 kids, so we tried to find a balance between having plenty of time, and not having bored children.

At the ticket counter, the agent was amazingly efficient printing out 20 boarding passes and luggage tags, and has us checked in to Zurich quickly. It sounds simple enough, but I've never seen an agent handle so many boarding passes and bag tags so quickly. I wish I had a video to share.

Security in the premium lane at PHX was fast. While we could not use PreCheck, when traveling with small children you do not have to opt-out of the body scanners.

The Club at PHX

The BA lounges in Phoenix have changed operations since my last flight, changing from Executive Club lounges to the Club at PHX. They retained the staff, so it had the same friendly feel, and the furniture is exactly the same. The main differences were the change in food selection, arguably for the worse (though this lounge has never been known for its food), and the distribution of cookies slightly before boarding time.

The staff were very friendly with our kids and the baby, and they were apologetic in preemptively letting us know we would need to use the Club lounge (as expected, we didn't ask or expect to use the F lounge with 3 kids). They asked if we wanted to be notified when it was time to pre-board, or to wait until after most passengers have boarded. We chose the former to give the kids more time to acclimate to the plane. PHX does have a nice setup normally, where they encourage staying in the lounge as long as possible so you can board much closer to departure time, after all of the economy passengers have boarded.

I did take a quick peak into the F lounge, and it is basically the same as it was previously.

Sitting in a small lounge with two kids and a baby definitely received a few glances of dread from fellow passengers. The kids and baby were well behaved, much to the surprise of those around us. Our kids asked why people were talking so loudly on their phones, when they were supposed to use their "library voices".

There was some minor confusion in the boarding area as they tried to direct us to the preboarding lane, while they boarded premium passengers first, but once that was resolved, we boarded and found our seats. I'm guessing they don't have many families of 5 traveling in Club World.

Up next: PHX-LHR
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Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:28 am Reason: Add links
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Old Aug 9, 14, 7:44 am
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Phx-lhr, ba0288

Flight crew

Once onboard, the customer service was pretty incredible. This flight and the next were frankly the best service we've ever had on BA, and I have to assume it was due in part to traveling with children. From taking photos of us with the baby, to helping out with setting up the cot, to being more flexible in how they served the meal when the baby was awake, to being very patient with the kids, and asking us before serving the kids. All around just a great job by BA, and we sent in a well done.



Flying with kids

Sleeping with a baby on a plane is a challenge, but he slept most of the flight... this was his first flight ever. Our daughters slept well also. You have way less time on the plane for anything, because you spend so much time taking care of the kids, getting things setup for them, keeping them from abusing the raising and lowering of the divider between seats (they need a parent lock for the seats!). That said, our kids did very well on the flights.





Meals

After hearing mixed reviews about the kids menu, we decided to go with the adult options for our kids. Our youngest daughter struggled a bit with finding something she would like, so in hindsight, we should have ordered her a kids meal. With our hands rather full, we didn't find time to take photos of any of the meals, but they were not particularly remarkable. I'm determined to never have beef on a BA flight again, but the fish my wife ordered, and the pasta that I had were equally marginal. Our daughters ordered the beef and it was overcooked as normal. Desert was fine (airlines in general do fine in this area), and I enjoyed a cheese course. Breakfast was fine, probably better than dinner relative to the normal meal on BA in Club World.

Amenity kits/Wash bags

This was our first time flying since BA changed the amenity kits with a larger bag and with the useless razor. I cannot imagine anyone flying in any class trusting this razor on their face. They gave our younger daughter the male version of the kit (they had run out of the female version). Eye masks were not provided, but were offered upon request.

Baby cot

The baby cot is really small, really only intended for a baby 3 months or younger. They also have a car seat option, but we chose the cot and he slept in it for a short amount of time. In general, he slept better on top of one of us though. For our return flight, we skipped the cot option on the day flight, as having the cot in place really makes it more challenging to leave your seat.



Arrival

Our flight was early, but circled London for about 15 minutes, and we arrived roughly on-time at T5B. We thanked the flight crew, and were on our way.

Up next: LHR T5 transit and Club lounge south

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:28 am
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Old Aug 9, 14, 10:53 am
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I hope your nanny didn't get put in WTP!
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Old Aug 9, 14, 11:15 am
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Enjoying your TR so far - thanks for sharing!

You have a beautiful family. Reminds me of mine about 15 years ago
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Old Aug 9, 14, 11:36 am
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IME BA crews tend to absolutely excel when you are travelling F/J with kids.

We recently flew MIA-LHR with our two kids (8/9) in F and they were really well looked after throughout. They were given a (discrete) tour of the galleys & upper deck while their dinner was cooking and then when they woke in the morning they crew offered to bring them up to the flight deck when we landed and took lots of photos for them on our ipad. A golden ticket gladly issued to the three ladies looking after us so well.

As someone who is lucky enough to travel so frequently in LH F that it becomes routine - seeing the whole experience again through my kids eyes really recharges my BA batteries and reminds me of the strengths of BA (i.e. their crews) every time the kids travel.

I've had a whole range of BA crews from mediocre to exceptional, but the average is definitely closer to being exceptional when the kids are with me.

As an aside, I would recommend the one of the parents visit the galley before meals time so they can "de-sugar" the kids special meals before they are brought out. The meals were fine but had multiple snacks / treats that were donated to the Club Kitchen as a kid with a sugar high is the last thing you need on an overnight flight at bedtime!
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Old Aug 9, 14, 11:58 am
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I am sure this report will be very useful to those travelling with kids who have maybe not flown as a family

I am also sure that you will receive useful tips from others
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Old Aug 9, 14, 5:12 pm
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Please follow this trip report in its new home, the Trip Reports forum.

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Moderator: BA forum
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Old Aug 10, 14, 6:24 am
  #8  
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Thanks for the great feedback so far!

Originally Posted by msm2000uk View Post
I hope your nanny didn't get put in WTP!
Ha, we were brave enough to travel with 3 kids for 5 weeks without help!

Originally Posted by zafiragirl View Post
Enjoying your TR so far - thanks for sharing!

You have a beautiful family. Reminds me of mine about 15 years ago
Thanks!

Originally Posted by Aztec_Flyer View Post
IME BA crews tend to absolutely excel when you are travelling F/J with kids.

We recently flew MIA-LHR with our two kids (8/9) in F and they were really well looked after throughout. They were given a (discrete) tour of the galleys & upper deck while their dinner was cooking and then when they woke in the morning they crew offered to bring them up to the flight deck when we landed and took lots of photos for them on our ipad. A golden ticket gladly issued to the three ladies looking after us so well.

As someone who is lucky enough to travel so frequently in LH F that it becomes routine - seeing the whole experience again through my kids eyes really recharges my BA batteries and reminds me of the strengths of BA (i.e. their crews) every time the kids travel.

I've had a whole range of BA crews from mediocre to exceptional, but the average is definitely closer to being exceptional when the kids are with me.

As an aside, I would recommend the one of the parents visit the galley before meals time so they can "de-sugar" the kids special meals before they are brought out. The meals were fine but had multiple snacks / treats that were donated to the Club Kitchen as a kid with a sugar high is the last thing you need on an overnight flight at bedtime!
Wow, that sounds like a pretty incredible experience for your kids!

The BA staff were nice enough to ask us before bringing any food to the kids to make sure anything with sugar or potential food allergies was ok for them. That's great advice for anyone ordering a kids meal.

Originally Posted by jacobitetraveller View Post
I am sure this report will be very useful to those travelling with kids who have maybe not flown as a family

I am also sure that you will receive useful tips from others
Indeed...
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Old Aug 10, 14, 6:38 am
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LHR T5 transit and south lounge

T5 transit

We arrived at T5B, at one of the gates at the very end of the pier. I had never really noticed this being very far from the transit train, but with a 6 year old, I learned that it was a really long walk, and thankfully there was a toilet along the way!

We took about 4 times as long to get to the transit train as I would have on my own. Upon arrival at T5A, we were very thankful that we had fast track, as the queue to clear transfer security was backed up almost to the top of the escalator from the train. It was by far the longest queue I've seen at T5.

This was likely caused by the France ATC strike, which had delayed or canceled many shorthaul flights.

Fast track took about 40 minutes, with half the time waiting for them to search a bag. The culprit: kid's rounded edge scissors.

BA Executive Club lounge south

As T5 was packed, we proceeded to the south club lounge which was packed full. We stayed in the kids zone, as we couldn't find a group of seats large enough for our family anywhere else in the lounge.





Hot food was available mid-afternoon, though it wasn't very good. We tried a mix of chili, pasta, baked potato, etc. Compared to the food at CX lounges in Hong Kong, it was bad. It was comparable to the old OW lounge at LAX, and still better that what you would find at the flagship AA lounges, or the Club at PHX. But it is definitely not something I would be happy paying for in any restaurant at the airport.

The shower facility had no wait, and was fine, though BA definitely needs a renovation. Our layover was too brief (2.5 hours) for their to be a massage appointment available.

I briefly popped into the F lounge, which was much quieter, though the food selection at the buffet wasn't much better than in the club lounge.

About 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure, gate A9 was announced and we proceeded to our gate. We were quickly pre-boarded, and then sat and waited for them to start the boarding procedure. Pre-boarding seems to mean they scan your boarding passes, and then have you wait on chairs near the lift or escalator down to the gate.

Up Next: LHR-ZRH

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:29 am
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Old Aug 10, 14, 7:11 am
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LHR-ZRH

LHR-ZRH, BA0718 (CE A320, G-EUUK), 25 June 2014

French ATC strike

Our flight was said to be on-time, but then we sat on the plane for 45-60 minutes before they allowed us to take off. We then proceeded to take a route around France air space, and we then circled around Zurich for around 20 minutes. The result: a 1:30 min flight took more than 3 hours. The crew cheekily reminded us to thank France ATC.

Crew service

We were seated in row 1, and traveling with our baby boy. They did a human safety presentation, and our boy thought it was the most exciting show ever, especially with the life jacket and the oxygen mask. The flight attendant said it was her most enjoyable safety presentation ever, because no one ever pays attention, and when they do, they're certainly not a smiling baby that is super excited about it. The crew was incredibly friendly and helpful throughout the flight.

Afternoon tea meal service

The afternoon tea service on BA shorthaul flights has very mixed reviews. As I've never found the BA meals on shorthaul to be all that great, I actually enjoy the afternoon tea service simply because of the scones, clotted cream, and jam. The rest of the food was forgettable, but not bad.

Shorthaul with kids

The bulkhead seats provided us with a fair amount of space for the short flight. Our daughters sat in 1A and 1C, while the wife and I sat in 1D and 1F. The girls were entertained by keeping our boy entertained.



Approach

The approach to ZRH is rather scenic, and passes near where we would be staying in Rekingen.





Arrival

We made our way through the terminal to the transit train. The ZRH train is rather entertaining for kids, with various effects in the tunnel, as well as the sound of cows mooing.

Immigration was a breeze, as was luggage retrieval. Our boy has a very German first and last name, which gave the agent a good laugh. We were from the plane to the rental car facility in less than 40 minutes.

Up next: A quick summary of a 30 day holiday.

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:29 am
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Old Aug 10, 14, 8:35 am
  #11  
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Switzerland

Switzerland

We rented/hired a minivan from Sixt. Seat belts and baby seat systems are not the same in Europe as they are in the US, at least not for our first van. Our first vehicle ended up smoking, so it was replaced the next day with one that also had a compatible safety latch system.

We spent 11 nights in Rekingen, near the Germany border.







We found a great apartment on Airbnb. We really enjoyed the scenery in Northern Switzerland. I had a week of work in Brugg, the world cup was still in the first round and Switzerland and the USA were both still active.













The food in Northern Switzerland is somewhat hit or miss, primarily with a mix of Bavarian and Italian restaurants. It's not an area that has much in the way of recommendations from Rick Steves, though we did find a few nice places to dine. Our friends also invited us over for dinner one evening and treated us to Raclette which was excellent.



We made a day trip to Zurich and enjoyed a picnic in a local park. Due to weather and the greater amount of time it takes to get kids going, I would say we saw about 1/10th of the sights I would have seen if I had traveled on my own. Overall, it was very rewarding to see the excitement in their eyes as they experienced many new things. When traveling with kids, you just really need to plan for a very relaxed pace.











We also took a day trip to Rheinfall, Europe's largest waterfall, and quite a bit less commercial than Niagara Falls.









Up next: Pfänder, Austria

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:31 am
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Old Aug 10, 14, 12:58 pm
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so cool to see a TR with kids! hopefully I get to take the ones I have on trips like this, and expose them to flying and the world

But for right now, this will probally be traveling a bit with us (atleast I hope, moving her and my other from BOS to ORD will be the test) : https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.n...98746981_n.jpg
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Old Aug 11, 14, 5:06 am
  #13  
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Pfänder, Austria

After 11 days in Switzerland, we drove to Augsburg, Germany, to visit our friends. The view from Pfänder was highly recommended as very scenic, with a nice view of Bodensee (Lake Constance) as well as the Alps. The gondola ride to the top and the food were very touristy, but the views were worth it.







Up next: Augsburg, München, and Bavaria

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:31 am
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Old Aug 11, 14, 5:21 am
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Augsburg, München, and Bavaria

We visited with our good friends in Augsburg for a week. Rain and unseasonably cold weather disrupted most of our outdoor plans. We explored many sights in Augsburg, a town about an hour northwest of München. We ate our fill of schnitzel and pretzels, and enjoyed watching Germany finish off Brazil and Argentina to win the world cup.







We took a day trip to München, and spent time near the Marienplatz. It was great to show my family various sights in Germany that were familiar to me and new to them.















We concluded our stay in Germany with a visit to the famous Neuschwanstein castle. Especially in the summer months, advance ticket reservations our highly recommended.

































Up next: Driving to Firenze

Last edited by dylanks; Jul 14, 16 at 1:33 am
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Old Aug 11, 14, 5:24 am
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Originally Posted by thetravelingRedhead View Post
so cool to see a TR with kids! hopefully I get to take the ones I have on trips like this, and expose them to flying and the world

But for right now, this will probally be traveling a bit with us (atleast I hope, moving her and my other from BOS to ORD will be the test) : https://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.n...98746981_n.jpg
Thanks! Most dogs love road trips.
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