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corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:49 am

A business traveller's week on BA and oneworld
 
Sunday

This isn't a trip report, well not of the normal variety. No LPGS perished in this saga, no knee shots, no hotel bathrooms and definitely no synchronised spoons. What's the purpose? Well an insight I guess into one of BA's frequent business travellers, and maybe some readers will find some of the timings useful in terms of their own plans - such as how long it takes to get from one form of transport to another. I can see many BAEC members mainly fly for leisure purposes, this is to show how the other half live. Well, I guess we're all different and don't segregate neatly into categories. Also I've got some connections and jumping around to do, so hopefully you will find some of this interesting. And I hope this shows something different than trip reports, which seem to focus on the hedonistic side of travel - and there's no harm in that, this is just something different.

Let's see how we go. We start with this one:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...537/dVgooB.png

this lounge:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...538/ed67I6.jpg

and this aircraft:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...540/CvF6Fp.jpg

BA1333 - Newcastle to Heathrow T5 17 Aug 2014.
Airbus A320 G-EUYJ
2 Captains, 5 cabin crew, senior cabin crew level: purser.

Scheduled departure 15:50
Actual departure 15:53 – pushback
Scheduled arrival: 17:05
Actual arrival 17:05 – doors open
Time needed to clear security at NCL Fast Track: 37 seconds.

I am not sure I really have a typical week, but this one is as good as any. It is certainly a typical number of flights and flying time, though there is a new service for me later in the week…. I logically should have started this trip in Edinburgh, for reasons that will become apparent, but unfortunately my car is on a prebooked servicing in Newcastle. Naturally this is a hand luggage only week.

Now I live 36 miles from the airport, and it takes be 40-45 minutes to drive there on empty roads. So I’m in the position of not leaving the house until the outbound service has left Heathrow. Today there was a delay there, it left Heathrow at 13:53, 13 minutes late, was presumably stuck on the apron for a bit, and therefore arrive in to Newcastle at 15:12, which is 22 minutes late.

I therefore left home at 14:14 for my 15:50 flight, I got parked and handed over the keys for servicing, and into the airport terminal for 15:10. No delays in security, which took just 37 seconds to clear, so I was in the BA lounge in NCL at 15:16. One coffee and a slice of walnut and toffee cake. Boarding started at 15:35, I prefer to board last, so I boarded just before they closed the doors at 15:47. Thanks to slick operations at Newcastle the excellent ground staff managed to get what was effectively an on time departure, despite the late arrival, and we were airborne at 16:02.

The aircraft was only about two thirds full, I was in 1D and the middle seat 1E was empty, as they were for many other rows. 1E wasn’t available for me to select at OLCI. Friendly and bubbly staff, no special welcome but two rounds of tea, and some others got a double drinks round too – G&T seems the favourite today. I declined the biscuit/crisp/spicy mix basket. The crew had suffered the 7:30 am fire alarm at their hotel, which gave them something to talk about. At my student hall of residence some wags used to try this, to see who emerged from which room....

We had a manual safety demonstration since the video system wasn’t working, which also meant no Moving Map unfortunately. Once round in the hold over Aylesbury, then the usual approach via the City and along the Thames to Heathrow. It was a bit choppy in this approach today, thanks to the lumpy clouds, and the captain gave us advance warning of this.

We touched down at 16:57, get to Gate A6 at 17:03, doors open at 17:05. So I was in Marks and Spencers in Arrival for 17:10, and on the tube platform at 17:17. I got water, milk and a salad for tea. The Piccadilly tube left LHR at 17:26 and I am now en route for South Quay, Isle of Dogs…..

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Tube to South Quay
Leave LHR T5 Tube station: 17:26
Arrive South Quay DLR station: 18:48
Piccadilly line to South Ken / Circle Line to Monument / DLR from Bank to South Quay.
Oyster Fare: £3

This is one of the more difficult trips to do from LHR, and though Heathrow Express may be a little quicker, there's so little in it that I went tube the whole way. Those who live in London will probably pick up on the fact that I changed at South Kensington rather than Barons Court, but I saw a lot of people waiting at Hammersmith - so I thought I would do the more awkward interchange at South Ken in the successful attempt to get a Circle line service. Tube's busy but I got a seat most of the way.

Nightstop: Hilton London Canary Wharf

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Booked: Double Hilton Guestroom (standard room in other words)
Received:Junior Suite, plus 2 x 330ml still water bottles (Diamond benefit).
Arrived at hotel at 18:53, in room by 18:58.

I have stayed here a few times before but normally this is one of the more expensive Hiltons in London, so I don't get to come here very often. However on an August Sunday they had some very good rates and it gives me an extra 30 minutes in bed (clue for Monday's travel!). I got a hefty room upgrade, which while not entirely unusual is still not something I always get. I'd normally stay in the Metropole, more out of habit than anything. Now at this stage of pre-season training I should be heading to the gym, then something to eat, Flyertalk, music, book and bed. However it appears my shorts are still in the washing machine, they're not in my bag at any rate, so part one is on hold tonight at least. As a Diamond I get free wifi, Executive lounge and breakfast.

I've added a few extra comments at the start as to my intentions with this post. With that, here ends today's installment.

corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:50 am

Monday
 
Monday morning - London City to Granada, then Madrid

I had a good night's sleep at the Hilton. One strange thing about me travelling is that though I always set the alarm, I always seem to wake a few minutes before it goes off. Almost all Hiltons worldwide have exactly the same radio / alarm clock so its easy for me to set. Up a bit before 6 am, and I am online at 06:20. There's someone in Asia I could do with speaking to today, but because of my travels I'll be "offline" (as we say) for the morning, which is the main time overlaps between Asia and Europe.

I also start the process of packing, which given one bag isn't a big chore. This is my technique: I put everything I left out in the room on to the bed, so I sweep through the room accumulating stuff, paying particular attention to adapters, belts and ties (things which often get forgotten). Then on the bed I rearrange it into heaps according to where in the bag it needs to go, bearing in mind electronics and liquids need to be accessible at the top of the bag. Then I go off to breakfast, knowing I can come back, clean my teeth and be out the room in 5 minutes. Favourite bug bear with other business travellers: those that bring there bags to breakfast for immediate departure afterwards. Apart from cluttering the breakfast area they presumably spend their morning, after a big breakfast, in close confines to other office staff, with teeth uncleaned!

Anyway it's a bit early to be hungry and so the breakfast buffet is good even by Hilton's high standards n Europe, I make do with fresh fruit+muesli mix, orange juice and a coffee, I'll get more options later. 20 minutes later at 07:38 I'm heading to check out and off to the tube. I follow the advice given by DDDC, walk over the footbridge, through the office building (so unBritish!) and into the Bank Street entrance of the Jubilee line.

Tube: Canary Wharf to London City
Leave Canary Wharf: 07:46
Arrive London City: 08:01
Jubilee line to Canning Town, then DLR.

That was easy enough. Seats all the way.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...538/cdKTuW.png

BA3289 - London City LCY to Granada GRX - 18 Aug 2014.
Embraer 190RS G-LCYN
1 Captain, 1 First Officer, 2 cabin crew, senior cabin crew level: BACF purser.

Scheduled departure 09:10 BST
Actual departure 09:16 – roll forward
Scheduled arrival: 12:50 CET
Actual arrival: 12:59 CET - doors open
Time needed to clear security at LCY: 13 minutes 22 seconds!!!

Unfortunately the App only has a part photo for Granada, it's odd which places have the full photo on the main page, in this case we just get a photo of the whale jet. Mind you, an A380 service from LCY to GRX would be very interesting. Anyway the security queue at LCY was as bad as I've ever seen it, the actual scan stage was very fast, but only 4 of the 6 channels were operating and the queues stretched out the back of the gates. They opened a 5th channel while I was there and things moved more quickly then. I'd probably saved time arriving later....

So I have a meeting in Granada, I've been there before but never with BA. My contact there is "technically" on holiday but he's probably looking forward to escaping wife and 8 (!) children for a few hours. So I have chosen not to wear tie and jacket today, and LCY is so hot I'm glad of that. No nanny jokes today I think.

We are airborne at 09:25, LCY has a unique set of operations that I’ve not seen at any other airport, including departing and arriving aircraft working the same runway simultaneously. For passengers leaving from gate 21 (which for some reason is located between gate 22 and 24) it includes a walk through the hustle and bustle of ground operations, including the nearby A318 being prepared for its trip to SNN and JFK. Boarding starts at 09:03, doors closed at 09:09. No issue with hand luggage as far as I can make out, a few passengers gate check larger items. An agent passed the queue by the gate giving yellow tags for under seat storage to those with 2 bags and gently persuading those with larger items into gate checking. I have only one bag, so no tag for me.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...537/7JTsdf.jpg

LCY is now quite congested though they cope fairly well with it. There is no lounge, which doesn’t bother me, I try not to spend too long there and wifi is free and easy to use. The boarding process involves going to pen areas, which do not have enough seats for everyone, so it’s best to hang back a bit in the main building until about 10 minutes before “gate closing” time on the boarding pass. But there again best not to leave it too late, there is a wooden gate which is physically closed at the appointed time.

I am in seat 2D which has a huge amount of leg room in front – 60 inches/150 cm I guess, and I’m the only passenger in Club Europe, yes the curtain is pulled to keep me and 5 empty seats from the glares of ET.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...908/TQYRXg.jpg

I’m handed a 500ml bottle of water on boarding. After take off I’m offered bucks fizz or champagne, good grief no! A cup of tea is swiftly presented instead. The 2 crew members start the fairly substantial ET hot breakfast, similar to the domestic Scottish/Northern Irish breakfasts with a few extra bits such as yoghurt added.

This is the CE breakfast to GRX:
http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...908/rWNQe5.jpg

To be honest if I was not doing this report diary I’d probably not bothered with this, there again I’m thinking that this may be all I get before evening time, so maybe it is better to have this now, I still have a NCL lounge apple in my bag somewhere. The Edinburgh purser tries hard, but fails, to persuade me to have the solitary waffle they loaded specially for me – note the maple syrup on the tray, which I guess was made over the road from LCY. The purser is very attentive, always “Sir” rather than my name, but I’m checked every 20 minutes or so. I guzzle 3 teas in that time.

After breakfast I work on my Powerpoint presentation for later in the week. I could do with getting at least a draft off to someone today for a second opinion before the meeting. Getting started is always the hardest bit, but on an aircraft without other distractions it’s not so difficult. In the end the words flow and I finish the draft in under an hour. I’ve got 2 other presentations that I need to sort out today too, so that will probably need a few hours this evening.

The aircraft looks 80% full, so that bodes well for this relatively new route. Mostly couples and families, I didn’t see any other laptops! The captain inflight update suggested that we were late in departing and that thanks to the strong head winds we would not be able to make up time either.

However we land fairly close to on time, a short walk to passports, no bag to collect, and I'm in a taxi within 3 minutes of doors open. Now I'm not a fan of taxi travel, but I'm only in Granada for a few hours and it gives me a chance to get emails off, this Flyertalk diary update and that Powerpoint slide off. I only occasionally peep up to the dashboard to see my usual suspicions about Spanish taxi drivers is confirmed: unless there's a compelling reason not to (e.g. a few nano-seconds off certain death), speed limits must be exceed by a minimum of 50% at all times.

Granada

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...673/jMCwcj.jpg

So I get to central Granada within 15 minutes and my host is also early. The meeting, at a hotel restaurant in near Granada's mega baroque cathedral, goes well, my host is from Morocco but his Arabic is quite heavily accented and he gently laughs at my attempts to converse with him – “and which school taught you that rubbish, my friend?”. It breaks the ice at least. We settle on using French, and strategic use of the sugar pot. No time for food, just coffee.

The meeting ends around 15 hrs, so that gave me an hour or so before I need to return to the hotel. So I left my bag at the hotel, and belted up the hill to see the Alhambra, the truly remarkable triumph of Islamic civilisation in Europe, photo above. I also managed to pop into the Cathedral, before jumping into another taxi back to Granada Airport. This taxi driver had the standard approach to speed limits, and an unfortunate taste for the 18 greatest hits of Modern Talking. I am unable to dodge Brother Louie.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...673/qbLTH3.png


IB8015 - Granada GRX to Madrid MAD - 18 Aug 2014
Bombardier CRJ200 - EC-JNX
2 pilots (presumably) and 1 cabin crew

Scheduled departure 17:45 CET
Actual departure 17:37 – roll forward
Scheduled arrival: 18:50 CET
Actual arrival: 18:44 CET - doors open
Time needed to clear security at GRX: 21 seconds.

Granada airport is very small indeed. One big room for security and a café, another room for the 4 gates and the inevitable duty free shop linking the two. There was a room marked VIP in the corner, with an entry code door, but by the time I had sent off some emails it was time to board and I didn't investigate further- there were certainly no Iberia or other airline markings on it. Boarding consisted of leaving the gate, walking on to the apron and being invited to find our own way to the aircraft unsupervised! There was only one aircraft to choose from, though the airport information system suggested there were 2 IB flights leaving for Madrid within 5 minutes of each other, I didn't get to the bottom of that.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...537/PnNK2K.jpg

So this is an Air Nostrum service operated for Iberia Regional. It had its own in flight magazine, Aladierno, proudly stating they were part of oneworld, which is a generous interpretation.

The aircraft was a clapped out, no livery Bombardier aircraft. Some of the trolleys had TAP markings on them suggesting its long lost history. Again I was the only person in Business, and again it was me and 5 empty seats separated by a curtain. Quite the most uncomfortable service this week, even though it was quite a short flight. Here is the business class offering. The cabin crew member brought around a plate and a tray with 3 wrapped sandwiches and invited me to choose one of them, the other 2 being turkey and seafood sandwiches. I went for the chicken curry, which frankly tasted of neither, we are a long way from BaxterStorey's Coronation Chicken. But it was my first bite to eat after the CE breakfast (which now seems something of a luxury, with the benefit of hindsight). I did get an offer of another drink, but I think it was on the basis I wasn't supposed to accept the offer.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...908/Ea4xB8.jpg

When we landed at T4 Madrid Barajas, it was to the very furthest gate on the building so it was a long, long walk - worse than Gatwick - to the bus to my hotel:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...674/U23uTu.png

Nightstop: Hilton Madrid Airport

Booked: King Hilton Guestroom (entry level room with King Bed)
Received: Executive Relaxation Room, plus 2 x 330ml still water bottles (Diamond benefit).

Some wag on the Hilton forum said that if Hilton wanted to open any more properties in London they would have to turn Buckingham Palace into a Doubletree (or was it a Waldorf Astoria?). Well in Madrid it is the opposite, the Hilton Madrid Airport Hotel is the sole representative of the chain in the Spanish capital. This is actually my first stay in this hotel, despite being a Hilton fanboy, since the public transport options from the airport are so good, and the hotel options in central Madrid are vast, that it makes no sense to stay at the airport. So at 18:55 I turned up at the bus stance at T4 (it's just to the left of the main bus drive-ins) and low and behold there a shuttle bus waiting. It left just at 19:03, went to T3, then T1 and finally T2, not picking up anyone else. I got to the hotel at 19:25 and I found my room at 19:30. So with a similar timeframe I could have been spending the night in central Madrid. However my 08:00 meeting tomorrow is at this hotel.....

And there was another mistake I made here: At check in they said that I had 30 minutes or so before the Executive lounge closed. Having never been there before I dropped my bags in my "Executive Relaxation Room" and went to this lounge, got some snacks and water - all fine there, nothing special, not as good as the Metropole or Canary Wharf lounges. I also printed out my boarding passes for the next set of flights. However in doing this run for the lounge, I didn't notice that my double upgrade was in fact not really an upgrade at all: the hotel's outdoor swimming pool is 4 metres in front of the main window, on the same level, and there is some noise from the gym next door too, though I imagine that will stop in an hour or two. So this is a situation where I should have asked for a normal room, it would have met my needs and I really don't need a triangular jacuzzi bath. One shouldn't complain, the room is spacious and comfortable, if a bit heavy on Iberian white leather on parquet chic.

I'm not going to do too much tonight except flick through Flyertalk and read my Kindle, so that's it for one day.

corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:51 am

Madrid workshop and then some more flying to LHR and then....

Thank Heavens for smokers!

Up at 06:00 hrs, and after ablutions I quickly check my overnight emails, not much to look at there, other than an automated reminder to get my expenses submitted. One thing about modern business email life is that we also get "spam" mail internally: charity sponsorship round robins, networking events for working parents or young graduates, pleas from schools to do mock interviews, giveaway theatre tickets and the like. I get probably a dozen such missives every day.

I'm down at breakfast around 06:45, and my opinion of this Hilton has gone upwards. The breakfast range isn't as wide as UK ones, but has a strong local character to it, with jamón ibérico and serrano, two full sized tortillas sliced up, one plain, the other with spinach, galletas. And, er, churros covered in hot chocolate. I give that a wide berth at this hour of the morning. This photo was taken from the 4th floor looking down on the breakfast area, with the tables neatly lined up, and the food at the top of the photo.

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Then I return to the room, part pack, and clean my teeth(!), but I don't need to check out just yet since we have a workshop in the hotel.

Now a workshop has evolved to mean a meeting with multiple sessions in it, and implies a bit of two way reaction between the presenter and the audience. There are 10 of us at the meeting, 5 Spaniards, 3 Portuguese, 1 from Gibraltar and me - I am chairing the morning session and not attending the afternoon session. Now we all totally into diversity training so I best pass the next observation without comment: For the 08:00 start, only one Spaniard has made it on time, and he jokes that is only because he is from the Canary Islands. The Portuguese contingent don't think it's a joke. I go through the safety rules of the meeting, always the first topic, and the Spanish girls all come in, either looking like impossibly glamorous models or having stepped out of some Pedro Almodóvar car crash. So the safety rules get a second hearing. My presentation is on first, the meeting is in English, one of the Spanish ladies hisses in my ear that this was at the insistence of the Portuguese participants, who all speak vastly better Spanish than me. As soon as I finish several hands go up requesting a smoke break, so off they all go, except for the grizzled older guy from the Canary Islands, who I know to be a virtual chain smoker. Why aren't you going outside, I ask? "You see those skinny girls, they don't really smoke, it's just breakfast for them, but they never buy their own cigarettes and I get fed up of them stealing mine".

Flight back to London

The morning session ends and I return to my room, collect my bag, and get to reception at midday. Now I had allowed 30 minutes for the bus ride, 15 minutes for getting through security to the Sala Dalí Iberia lounge in T4 in preparation for my next flight. Then 15 minutes contingency, so an hour in all. So what happens? The shuttle bus leaves the hotel at 12:05 and I'm in Sala Dalí by 12:25! The shuttle went straight to T4, again I was the only passenger, and I was the only person in Acceso VIP Fast Track. Had I known, I would not have wanted to spend so long in the lounge, but anyway. Sala Dalí is the weaker of the two Iberia lounges, Sala Velázquez in T4S, the satellite terminal - used by BA metal - is much better, but I'm not schlepping over there.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...674/bSaWzp.jpg

IB3172 - Madrid MAD T4 to London Heathrow T5- 19 Aug 2014
Airbus 321 – EC-JNI
1 captain, 1 co-pilot, 5 crew, senior cabin crew member:

Scheduled departure 14:40 CET
Actual departure: 14:41 - push back
Scheduled arrival: 16:10 BST
Actual arrival: 16:10 - doors open
Time needed to clear Acceso VIP Fast Track security at MAD T4: 87 seconds (includes pat down).

Iberia’s departures leave from the end of zone H. This is right at the end of the building, the opposite end from the domestic gates I used yesterday. There is a passport control for the non Schengen flights to the UK and Ireland. Boarding at gate H8 (also known as 372) started at 14:09 for a 14:40 flight, with priority boarding enforced. However it was not much of an advantage since we were left to wait on the airbridge until the aircraft was ready, and I didn’t get to sit down until 14:18. It would have been far better to have boarded last. Doors closed at 14:37, pushback was at 14:41, and we were airborne at 14:52.

There were seven rows for Business Class, so 28 seats with the middle seat blocked. and 10 passengers. The rest of the A321 was fairly full, most of the middle seats were used. Row 1 was empty apart from me. Service was fairly swift when airborne, pillows were handed out first then menus.
Starters: Dried fruit with a touch of fennel.

Main courses: Veal burger with a foie and truffle sauce served with paprika and artichoke, spiced potatoes (al pimentón). Alternatively: Fresh cheese and apple stuffed pasta in a creamy piquillo pepper and thyme sauce.
Desserts: Smoked cheese from Pría, and raspberry sponge cake

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...661/Ppmws3.jpg

I went for the veal and though not quite as flavoursome as the menu suggested it was certainly very edible. Having had breakfast at 7 am I was ready for this late lunch. The service was correct rather than friendly but the crew were approachable. The purser clearly ruled the roost, he had a certain charisma about him.

I got through some more work on the laptop after lunch, as well as drafting this update. Approach into London was a bit bumpy, sunshine and clouds, but we arrive onto gate A21 at 16:08

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...905/go0Xwh.jpg

BA1336 - London Heathrow T5 to Newcastle - 19 Aug 2014
Airbus 319 G-EUOD
1 Captain, 1 Senior First Officer (flying), 2 Pursers and 2 other cabin crew. SCCM: Purser.

Scheduled departure 18:30 CET
Actual departure: - 18:52 push back
Scheduled arrival: 19:40 BST
Actual arrival: - 19:55 doors open
Time needed to clear Fast Track security at LHR T5 South: 5 minutes 42 seconds.

It's another poor day at UK Flight Connections so I go out via e-passports, landside and up to South Security. The reason being that though there are no fewer than 4 UKBF on UK connections, all of them have been sucked into problem cases, leaving a growing queue. It's not entirely clear cut for me to swap to the main e-passport queue since that's longer than normal, though in the end I decide to do that and itonly takes 5 minutes to clear. Still I'm in CCR at 16:29 so I can't complain too much. And in the CCR, Ann has something to cheer me up:

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After a bowl of pea soup, I head for the gate. Of course one unadvertised benefit of those with stratospheric CIVs is the ability to select which gate your aircraft departs from so naturally I select A19, which is the most handy for CCR, even if the less frequent flyers have a whinge at it being too far from the pub. I arrive at the gate at 18:08, and boarding starts a few minutes later.

All goes well, until we get to the departure time of 18:30 and the Turn Round Manager has an extended discussion on the flight deck. The captain then explains that some late arriving passengers have failed the iris confirmation at the gate (mandatory for domestic passengers and relates to immigration controls) and they are sorting it out. That's all the details I get, but when the 3 female passengers finally board it is completely obvious that there are Geordies, I could probably accurately place their home to within 2 miles from accent alone. I'm guessing they had a load of holiday luggage sitting in the hold so it's not as easy as getting the passengers offloaded. Never mind, we push back 22 minutes late.

Not much to report other than that the purser had a fat finger moment and we got this version of the safety moment:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...633/3BesD6.jpg

The other purser finds this very amusing, and later on, when handed my cup of tea I thank him by say "danke schön". Without hesitating he replies "bitte schön". I'm first off to leave so naturally I say my auf Wiedersehen and hit the road for home. I'm back for 20:45, so still day light on these Northern hills.

corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:52 am

Wednesday - Early start back down to London

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...661/Pgl936.jpg

BA1321 - Newcastle to London Heathrow T5 - 20 Aug 2014
Airbus 320 G-EUUF
1 Captain (flying), 1 First Officer, 2 Pursers and 2 other cabin crew. SCCM: Purser.

Scheduled departure 06:05 BST
Actual departure: 05:59 - push back
Scheduled arrival: 07:20 BST
Actual arrival: 07:11 - doors open
Time needed to clear Fast Track security at NCL: 41 seconds.

Boredom alert: this is not going to be the most exciting diary day!

I'm not exactly a fan of these early starts, but at least the roads are even emptier than normal at this hour. I only encounter a few timber trucks until I get within a mile or so of the airport. The main nuisance at dawn is deer, I've had a number of close calls but they just dart across the road. They can cause horrific accidents in my area. Today the animal kingdom is in bed, thankfully.

I arrive at Newcastle 05:10, and find both the BA and a Thomson air crew in front of me at Fast Track. An airport worker recognises me and sends me down a non congested channel and I'm in the lounge at 05:15. Though the flight isn't until 06:05, they will try to get away early if they can so I don't want to be any later than this really. I see one of my nearish neighbours in the lounge, as well as NCL's other CCR cardholder, who has been following this thread in lurker mode.

Quick update for now since I'm heading for a meeting: service was fine, staff friendly, well as friendly as you can get at that how in the morning. Arrived 9 minutes early, on the 07:27 HEX and in Paddington for 07:50, which isn't bad from rural Northumberland. to the bustle of the metropolis in 3 hours or so. Got another meeting in 9 minutes, I'll try and update a bit later today...

BA1336 - London Heathrow T5 to Newcastle - 20 Aug 2014
Airbus 319 G-EUOI
Captain, Senior First Officer, 2 pursers (again!) and 2 cabin crew.

Scheduled departure 18:30 BST
Actual departure: 18:34- push back
Scheduled arrival: 19:40 BST
Actual arrival: 19:43 - doors open
Time needed to clear Fast Track security at LHR T5 South: 4 minutes 58 seconds.

My meetings are over so I left Westminster at 16:00 hrs, walked to Charing Cross, tube to Paddington, HEX, and got to T5 South Security just before 17 hrs. No thanks to those stupid lifts that went HEX, Arrivals, HEX, Departures..... I'm in CCR within a few minutes. The scones have been censored.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...742/G5AE63.jpg

However I know have to eat the scones before Ann tells me off again. Overheard in CCR (in the style of Overheard in Waitrose): CCR Staff Member: "I only work Tuesdays in August, you know. Otherwise it's my yoga classes, but obviously they don't run them in the school holidays so I may as well come in".

Incidentally yesterday in the South landside lifts I noticed the new Regus lounge being advertised. I didn't really want to check it out, but I will do so when I get a moment:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...674/rJ0eFu.jpg

As you will see I've been row 1 all the way through this week, and it seems that continues tomorrow. Today, being a day trip, I only had 1 laptop, a notepad, MP3 player, a few credit cards (not the whole wallet), the CCR card of course, a ten quid note, which I don't actually use, a pen and car keys. Note no passport or other form of ID. And that all goes into a small rucksack which makes security checks fairly painless. I was going to take a jacket but the weather forecast was reasonable, so with only a short walk from the tube to the meeting venue there didn't seem much point in taking my jacket, though I did have shirt and tie on. So this means I had no problem today getting space in the overheads. There again I didn't have a problem with my normal hand luggage back (a Skypak London carry-on, which goes over the shoulder. I even managed to squeze it on to the CRJ 200. The Iberian A321 had their aircraft equipment in odd places (by BA standards) so there was an overhead bin forwards of row 1 on the port side.

Anyway we push off from A19 (again) with two different pursers (again), and all goes well to 27L until we hit a bit of congestion, so we don't get airborne until 18:53, nearly 20 minutes after leaving the gate. This isn't at all unusual during the evening time, aircraft seem to be queued back all over the joint. I listen to music via my Shure 535 headphones. It's been a somewhat frazzling day on FT, so when this track came on I had to smile:
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The flight goes well, not much to report, and we arrive just a few minutes late.

Nightstop: home.

corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:55 am

A business traveller's week on BA and oneworld
 
Thursday 21 August – Edinburgh to Philadelphia

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US785 - Edinburgh to Philadelphia 21 Aug 2014.

Boeing 757-200 N-201UU
Not sure about crewing levels, other than that Business had 1 cabin crew member serving 10 passengers.
Scheduled departure 10:40
Actual departure 10:26 – pushback
Scheduled arrival: 13:25 (7 hour 45 minutes)
Actual arrival: 13:17 – doors open
Time needed to clear EDI fast track security: 3 minutes 27 seconds.
Time needed to clear Passports and Customs in PHL: 3 minutes (if that)

This morning was a bit of a rush, the key element of which was clearing EDI security at 10:10, for a 10:40 departure, except of course we push back at 10:26, and we’re airborne at 10:37. Which is a bit too close to “just in time” even for my own tastes.

So a visit to the BA lounge in EDI was not on the cards, I only just got time to visit the WC before departure. This isn’t such a long flight so I can normally avoid using the aircraft facilities altogether, one minor advantage of being teetotal. All of which explains the lack of content earlier today. I left home a bit later than I would have liked and there were 2 road accidents to negotiate around, including one on the Edinburgh Bypass. Annoying but I didn’t allow myself to get stressed about it, I knew I would make it.

Preboarding formalities were necessarly fairly swift, the additional screening for USA flights had just packed up as I arrived so I dived around that one, and I was in the last half dozen passengers to board.

I had OLCI the previous day and got my boarding passes both printed and App’d. I don’t tend to focus too much on seating generally (there are exceptions such as on 747s obviously) and on this service there weren’t many options, but the whole of row 1 was available to me so I went for 1F. I knew from previous experiences on US Airways that this was not going to be a flat bed seat, which wasn’t a big issue given the relatively short flight with a morning departure, late lunch arrival.

Now this is one of three US Airways Scotland to Philadelphia flights on my schedule this summer, though this one was booked at fairly short notice. The first one, from Glasgow, was delayed beyond my connection, so I ended up going with BA from T5 anyway, and I have another one in a few weeks. Today I’m staying in Philadelphia, with meetings today in Philadelphia and tomorrow in Washington DC. Unlike IAD, PHL is well connected for transport around the DC / NYC areas, and the direct US Airways services are also time and cost effective for someone based in the north of England. Today I am travelling on a BA ticket, checked in via BA.com, though I don't think this service is a codeshare yet (they are being cascaded through the network). My next flight, same PNR, is a BA codeshare.

On the other hand there’s no point pretending this is up to the standards of comfort or service of BA, or even the more updated US First services. The seats are actually fairly similar to the pre-CW cradle seats , 2 + 2 seating in Business (US doesn’t offer First on Trans Atlantic services), and on a 757 there are only 10 or 11 seats in the cabin. It’s probably somewhere between WTP and CW, and probably nearer WTP on the whole. The lack of a privacy screen was a real nuisance today since I was sat to someone who really wanted to chat about his family vacation in Scotland, whereas I was needing to get some work done on the laptop, without being too discourteous about it.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...674/wAns38.jpg

Lunch arrives within an hour,which I’m grateful since breakfast got totally enhanced on the CWS Estate. The options were:
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
  • [*]
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  • [*]
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And some photos of the starter, cod and ice cream:
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IFE was Samsung Galaxy Tabs (tablets) and Bose headphones, an arrangement familiar to AA First travellers. I give the hardware handout a miss. The Business cabin crew member tried to persuade me to lower the blinds but I was also able to persuade her that this wasn’t going to happen. 6 passengers sleep, 3 use the tablets, and I’m on the laptop. 500ml bottles of purified water are handed out.

It’s a fairly cloudy routing all the way after leaving the Hebrides, so I don’t get to see Greenland, which I visited a few weeks ago, which was somewhat disappointing. The clouds only cleared over a small part of Canada and New Hampshire, until we got down to Long Island.

I clear down 80 or so emails, and get 14 emails lined up for dispatch once I return to connectivity.

About an hour before landing we are offered:

  • Turkey burger sliders (served with a chopped Greek salad) OR
  • Entrée salad (fresh mixed greens with a curried chicken stewer and served with a tomato Tarragon dressing)
  • Border’s Oat Crumble Cookies

And this is the turkey sliders option:

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Arrival into Philadelphia and the trip to the hotel

We were 20 minutes in the hold off the coast of the USA waiting for a landing slot into PHL, the captain did inform us which isn't always the case on US/AA. We land in Terminal A West, which is right at the end of the runway, so from touch down to gates open is under 4 minutes. I was in 1F, and doors opened at 2L, so I have to go down the cabin - the cabin crew position themselves so that Business travellers can get out first.

I quickly out-stride the other passengers and get to Passport control, 200 metres away with various steps and escalators to navigate, in 4 minutes. The queues are all empty, the CBP officers are in huddles talking to each other.

I am Global Entry so I whizz off to the machine, it recognises my passports and my finger prints immediately. You then get the same questions as on the familiar blue forrm on a screen. There's a helpful "No to all" button for the Moral Turpitude questions and Customs declaration. This then prints out a wide slip, a bit like a bus ticket on scratchy paper, which includes a grey scale photo of me, and passport information. I wave it vaguely in the direction of a CBP officer, he nods me through without interupting his chat to his colleague and I stride round to the dedicated Global Entry line in Customs. They are also standing around chatting, an officer comes over takes the slip and looks briefly at my passport and says "Only one bag? Welcome home". Overwhelmingly, alien Global Entry holders have Green Cards, though I no longer have one.

Then I stride another 218 metres to the SEPTA train platform, which is handily placed on floor level just outside the terminal building, just a taxi roadway to cross. From doors open to SEPTA platform takes me a highly impressive 9 minutes, 42.7 seconds. Very stress free, very easy, puts me in a good frame of mind to both re-use PHL and indeed to recommend PHL on any social media sites that I may frequent. Along the way I take a photo of this as I enter landside:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...674/tPsQjX.jpg

At the SEPTA station I then have to wait 15 minutes or so for the next train, the service is every half hour, but then goes right to my hotel. I buy an US$8 cash ticket from a nice lad on the train, it's terribly old school:

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I think we stopped this sort of thing in the UK sometime in the 1970s. Anyway it takes about 25 minutes to get to Market East, and my hotel is part of the station complex. I am there basically an hour after landing, after "adjusting" to the average walking speed of our cousins in the USA.....

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This is a Hilton Garden Inn, which are a bit thin on the ground in the UK (though the old Jurys in Hatton Cross is going HGI) but are all over America. They are lower service than a full Hilton but have good business traveller facilities, including microwaves in rooms and a self service laundry. I actually travel with some of those compact wash tablets so I can deal with washing on the road. They take little space, I leave them in my clean clothes bag so they can impart their scent while I travel. HGIs have pantries where you can buy mini packs of detergent. From the pantry I can also collect 2 bottles of water, as part of my Diamond status with Hilton, as well as free breakfast vouchers

Ah, and this being America, I arrive at reception to see this:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...907/aDNFVF.jpg

"Oh you're our guest of the day, congratulations! GUEST OF THE DAY!". Her colleague working next to her picks up a little bell (this is Philadelphia, remember), rings it and rejoins "Guest of the day". What it amounts to is some more drinks vouchers and an 1000 extra Hilton points. Plus the manager escorting me to the room and giving me 2 cookies. Oh well, you just have to smile and go along with it.

corporate-wage-slave Aug 17, 14 9:56 am

A business traveller's week on BA and oneworld
 
Friday 22 August - no flying today

So no flying today. I took the train down to Washington DC for my meetings there and returned in the afternoon. I tried to do some work on the train but didn't get far. The Washington folks were a bit surprised I had commuted in by rail, but it's actually quite practical, taking 1 hr and 10 minutes, so I thought I'd put a few Any Other Business here.

Why Not Philadelphia?

It's actually very well located for both NYC and Washington. Given that IAD is in the middle of nowhere and poorly connected, has creaking infrastructure and sometimes long queues at passports, PHL plus the fast train is a valid option. It also has fast trains to New York (and then on to Boston). So by staying in a relatively cheap city (for hotels) one is able to get around the area quite effectively. Also it's a bit easier to get Avios redemptions on LHR to PHL, with particularly good availability in First relative to the low number of flights. Set against this, Philadelphia is a relatively poor city and it shows - it's a bit grim in places and some of those places rub up against the tourist spots.

The Americans haven't quite got the hang of train services, so everyone is carefully queued in the concourse and only allowed down on to the platform just after the train has arrived, which means that station stops are long winded affairs, but from 2015 the capacity on this North East Corridor line will be sharply increased. They are also trying to speed up the service, so that PHL to NYC, which is currently around 1 hr 10 minutes will be down to 40 minutes or so. On the other hand the Americans have got the hang of impressive railway stations.

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http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...540/FL8Jxc.jpg

Breakfast at Hilton Garden Inn.

This AOB is specifically for layz. This is my raid of the breakfast buffet with a made to order cheese and onion omelette. They also do fried and poached eggs, as well as having a scrambled egg platter on the hot buffet. I could have added bagels, toast, Danish, muffins plus hot oatmeal porridge. Nothing like the choice of a Euro Hilton but still a perfectly good alternative. Waiter service for coffee and orange, free to Diamonds. I left a US$5 tip anyway.

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Business and tourism

As mentioned upthread, I do try to combine a bit of sightseeing with my business visits. I tend to plead with my hosts to bring meetings to an early conclusion - which is a good idea anyway in terms of focusing on the essentials - in order that I have time to "see your fabulous city". Works every time, even when the city concerned was actually not theirs. So having read online that tickets for Liberty Hall were tricky to obtain on spec, but that the Liberty Bell was generally easy, I gave them both a go and got in pretty much as a walk-up.

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This is our bell, by the way. OK, the workmanship left something to be desired, but it was originally cast by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is still in business to this day. Over the road is Independence Hall, there are essentially two rooms you get to see, the Supreme Court room and the Assembly room.

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Air conditioning

I’ve had a bit of problem with with the a/c in the room. My usual policy is never to sleep with air conditioning running no matter where I am in the world. I have enough problems with sore throats without adding to it, also I live in a rural area so night time noise is a bit of a nuisance for me. I wake up if I hear the sheep making too much noise. The a/c in the room is somewhat old fashioned under the window wall unit, very noisy but very effective, so I turn it up to maximum before sleep, with a view to having it off all night long.

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...661/RREVsW.jpg

However at bed time, while I can get the unit to run quietly, it doesn’t appear to switch off fully. I get down on the floor, unscrew the lower panel and locate the unit’s fuse (don't try this at home, folks), and I am just about to remove it, when I realise what I am hearing is the massive airconditioning unit on the roof of the next building (the Convention Center) 50 metres away…..

Saturday 23 August - Philadelphia to Charlotte to....

Another day, and it feels like it was a long time since I was last on an aircraft. That will be fixed fairly shortly. I am up early, spend a little while participating in various FT threads, and then at 07:00 hrs off to breakfast at my hotel, as the restaurant opens at that time at weekends. I get a similar spread to yesterday, then ask for some tomato sauce for the sausages. It takes them a while and then they proudly present me with a lovely glass of iced tomato juice. Ketchup, ketchup, ketchup….

I check out of the hotel at 08:00 hrs, I checked the train times and there is a suitable service at 08:25, for arrival at 08:53.

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The fare is US$6.50, and I get an old fashioned ticket, and in due course, some old fashioned clips.

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I get chatting to a Californian lady, who proudly tells me that today is her second ever trip on a train (the first being yesterday from the airport). She dropped her daughter off at college this weekend, and is quite the chatterbox, presumably as a distraction technique from “losing” her daughter to the education process.


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US2054 - Philadelphia to Charlotte 23 Aug 2014.
Embraer 190 N950UW
1 Captain (flying) one First Officer, 2 cabin crew

Scheduled departure 10:15 Eastern
Actual departure 10:47 – pushback, airborne 11:01
Scheduled arrival: 12:08 Eastern
Actual arrival 12:17 – doors open
Time needed to clear security at PHL PreCheck: 2 minutes 42 seconds.

Security for Philadelphia C terminal is just at the top of the platform. I am blessed by being TSA precheck, so no removal of items from baggage, belt stays on, shoes stay on. I am through security in 2 minutes 42 seconds and airside at 09:00 hrs for my 10:15 flight. It would have been quicker except that the young family in front of me has a conceptual block at the idea of not taking things out of luggage. I ask if I may go ahead of them - the TSA agent is waving me through - she replies "OK, if you must", presumably she'd prefer to see me watch her flap around.

Off to the US Club lounge, which is big and straddles much of the area between the B and C concourses, quite a cricket pitch. US also operate from A, and there are several Clubs for US in PHL. They are being rebraded into AA's Admirals, which is a bit of a pity since there is a bit more sustenance in US Clubs. At breakfast there is a toaster with bread, bagels and croissants, plus jam, honey and elsewhere oatmeal. So not too bad for a lounge in the USA.

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Those clouds turn into rain.

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And indirectly lead to my first SNAFU of the entire week. Another aircraft gets delayed and so my flight is moved to another gate, C26, which is near the end of the pier, C18 being at the start. Now there are 6 wheelchair passengers for an Embraer, and amazingly the staff get us all boarded and doors shut at 10:17, so more or less on time. Then we discover that no one told the baggage handlers: our aircraft has the wrong cargo and the bags from the aircraft now sat on C18, and that aircraft has our bags. They only noticed when they offered to gate check hand luggage for free "since it's a full flight".

So we wait 30 minutes, get the bags all swapped around, and push back at 10:47, so half an hour late basically. I notice 10 aircraft waiting to depart and groan inwardly, only to see us go straight to the front and jump the queue!

View from the air, of Philadelphia city centre, lower right area, and the pesky rain clouds.

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On US Embraers, the First seating is 1 + 2, Coach is 2+2. Though the First seats are wider than BA CityFlyer, the leg room seems a bit more cramped mainly since the seats are just a lot bulkier. The service is similar to BA domestic, drinks from the bar (no trolley) and passing around a snack basket with about 6 different mini snacks, sweet and savoury. I take coffee and a mini biscuit pack. Wifi is technically offered, but the box is kaput and the staff appologise for that in advance.

The captain was quite unlike any other I've experienced on US: he came out to talk to passengers while on the ground, the door was left open until the very last moment, and he kept us as fully informed as a BA captain would do. You're lucky to get much information from most US / AA crews unless the delay is very substantial.

Arrival into CLT - Queen City - is expedited, so we are not too badly late on arrival, the aircraft having a continuing service to RDU.

Charlotte Douglas Airport CLT
This is a lovely airport, it doesn't get much headroom among BA travellers, but now that US - who have a big hub at CLT- are part of oneworld, I think it is worth consideration, for the connections that it provides. The Tier Point side is a bit more nuanced, CLT is not 2000 miles from PHX, so that relatively long sector won't provide the longer haul stash that travellers would get from PHL to PHX. One of CLT's well known features is a pianist in the atrium:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...661/zhxUE3.jpg

I dash into Bodyshop to stock up on their deo stick (non liquid), which thanks to the dollar is now cheaper than in the UK. Then I grab some fresh milk since I know I won't easily find it near my hotel this evening. Then off to the US Club in CLT, I think my first ever visit there.

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I have a 2 hour layover so I post my previous update and check all the fun and games in the BAEC forum. There are three large seating areas, this is the smallest and quietest of the three (less than 10% of seats taken), and there are various alcoves with meeting rooms and a business centre.

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I also grab a coffee - they have a vastly better selection than AA, using those Flavia sachets for all sorts of flavours and option. Food is a bit on the thin side, but still better than AA.

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My flight is at 14:59 (yes, really, this is how US Airways likes to operate), so boarding is at 14:29, so I decide to leave to lounge at 14:29 hrs.


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US749 - Charlotte to San Francisco 23 Aug 2014.
Airbus 321 - N192UW
1 Captain (flying) one First Officer, 4 cabin crew, 1 solely for First

Scheduled departure 14:59 Eastern
Actual departure 14:59 – pushback, airborne 15:11
Scheduled arrival: 17:38 Pacific
Actual arrival 17:07 – doors open, touchdown at 16:59
No security, domestic connection

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...537/9Ty2MV.jpg

Boarding was efficient and for the first time this week, there's a passenger in front of me! I'm in 2A on one of US Airways A321. This is a good seat for US First, not so good for AA. It hasn't got IFE or in seat power, but there are much worse US First seats out there!

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...745/DoSQ5H.jpg

We had an on time departure and we are soon in the cruise. WiFi evidently does work on this service, since I'm typing this 29,974 feet over Springfield, Missourri. Lunch was a choice of Asian chicken or cheese pasta, I chose the latter:

http://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/800...901/z0KsJb.jpg

And here's the relevant screen grab of roughly where I am right now.

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We have a good run over the US, and end up arriving over 30 minutes early. I presume there's no jetstream and there is a 15 minute contingency in there no doubt. It's reasonably comfortable in terms of food, drink, seating, but still cramped: when the passenger in front reclines it make it difficult to use my computer unless I recline too.


Hilton SFO Bayfront - Burlingame

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Booked: Deluxe king Bay view.
Received: Deluxe king Bay view. No upgrade but I'm on the Hhonors floor and I do get Executive lounge access.

Now SFO are part of a hotel shuttle quad for me, along with MIA, LAX and to a lesser extent JFK. MIA and LAX have great shuttles to the Hilton, I don't have to wait long, the trip doesn't take long. SFO is different. There are a variety of Hilton properties in the vicinity, all with different shuttles and I always seem to find myself waiting a long time. The trip is too short for an airport taxi. I've looked around about trying to find a hotel on the first few BART stations but they look decidedly low-rent. Anyway I can't complain today, I'm outside waiting for a mini-van at 17:12, and one comes along at 17:22. It takes 20 minutes to get to the hotel, and though I don't get much of an upgrade (or even a fridge), the room has a good view.

And that, my fellow FTers is the end of the road for this traveller's week. I'll add something at the end of the thread by way of conclusions, I just need to think what they may be. For now, from the Hilton SFO Executive Lounge, I give you my thanks for your support.

BahrainLad Aug 17, 14 9:59 am

My Monday Trip to Frankfurt

000 Aug 17, 14 10:04 am

Ooh... FT royalty pseudo TR! I'm sure we'll all learn something new!

Looking forward to the rest.

As always, thanks c-w-s!

Yahillwe Aug 17, 14 10:06 am

So, cws, you will be spending the whole week in London?

If I manage to convince BotB to change his ticket and join me to Greece at a fellow fter's hotel, then HE could write the TR. :p

Stez Aug 17, 14 10:09 am

Only 1D? I'm disappointed in you CWS. :p

KARFA Aug 17, 14 10:13 am


Originally Posted by Stez (Post 23377388)
Only 1D? I'm disappointed in you CWS. :p

I thought 1C or 1D were cws's prefered seats on domestics?

Stez Aug 17, 14 10:20 am


Originally Posted by KARFA (Post 23377403)
I thought 1C or 1D were cws's prefered seats on domestics?

I was led to believe he liked 1C the most.

secretplantofightinflation Aug 17, 14 10:35 am

CWS, you seem to spend your entire life in the air! Just what is it that you do for a living?

csdavidson Aug 17, 14 10:42 am


Originally Posted by Stez (Post 23377432)
I was led to believe he liked 1C the most.

1C is certainly my favourite!

TRVLUPGD Aug 17, 14 10:47 am


Originally Posted by secretplantofightinflation (Post 23377500)
CWS, you seem to spend your entire life in the air! Just what is it that you do for a living?

I wonder too . Maybe we need to get the "Up in Air" and "Terminal" to figure it out you think ?


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