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A month and a bit on the road – 50K miles on BA, AA, CX and 9W (mostly in J)

A month and a bit on the road – 50K miles on BA, AA, CX and 9W (mostly in J)

Old Feb 27, 07, 7:47 pm
  #1  
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A month and a bit on the road – 50K miles on BA, AA, CX and 9W (mostly in J)

Having managed to be holed up in London for a good 6 weeks (save a couple of European hops), March has turned in to a rather busy month. As a record for posterity, I thought I would write a trip report ‘as it happens’.

Sunday 25th February London to Hong Kong

I’d really enjoyed spending 6 weeks at home, and frankly wasn’t at all looking forward to heading off. When I first started business travel 7 years ago, every trip came with a big dollop of anticipation. Now they more often start with lingering thoughts of jet leg and long nights hunched over a lap top in a hotel room. Having just cooked lunch for some friends (rack of lamb, sweet potato dauphinoise, followed by a cheeseboard and washed down with Nuits St. George since you asked) I left them with the missus making inroads into another bottle as I headed off in a cab to Paddington for the Heathrow Express to LHR T1. The Hex was as crowded as usual with the Sunday night hordes heading home after the weekend or away on business.

BA25 Heathrow to Hong Kong
747-400 Club World 14A


The Zone R check in for OW elites/BA premium passengers is one of the few bits of London Heathrow I like. Most of the airport is a hell hole, but this bit works. I had a brief visit to the ticket desk for a re-issue and was then checked in and in the short security queue in less than 10 minutes. Security took less than 5, despite the fools in front of me being unable to comprehend the need to take off shoes and coats. Talking of shoes, I was once again left pondering why shoes are a risk at LHR, but not at LGW or LCY.

The First Lounge (access courtesy of BA Gold) was not too busy for once, with a reasonable choice of seats. A few delays were being announced, thanks to some heavy rain and low cloud that was passing over the London area. Thankfully the 25 looked to be on time. I had an exciting glass of water and apple to pass the time, and caught up on emails until we were called. Stopping only to get my AA number added to the BP instead of BA, I headed off to the gate. We were using 25 – more often used by SA and BD long hauls. Irritatingly, there is another security check between the lounge and the gate, so it was the whole shoes off, coat off, laptop out rigmarole all over again. This took another 20 mins to get through, by which point I was being paged by name.

On board I was pleased to find BA’s New Generation Club World. There is a detailed report on the BA board here - http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=664754. Suffice to say it is better in a number of respects, but still has a few flaws. Once onboard we got caught with an hour ATC delay (typical for Heathrow really) and sat at the gate for most of this time. Finally at about 19:30 we trundled out to 27R and took off.

After exploring the seat, I ate, read, did a little work then grabbed 6 hours sleep. Waking up over China I indulged in breakfast (a grease laden but somehow satisfying full English) and spent some time musing how much more pleasant J class travel is with the advent of proper flat beds. I first flew BA Club with the old cradle seats which I found very tough to sleep in – 2-3 hours maximum. The BA bed, along with the VS Suite has made a huge difference to me.

We landed 40mins late in HKG, and after an unusual 15 min wait for bags I was on my way by train and cab to Le Meriden Cyberport.

Monday 26th January

The aforementioned hotel is a personal favourite in Hong Kong. I like the style of the place, and especially the lovely Ocean Review rooms that SPG Plats get upgraded to. Hong Kong is a fantastically buzzy place, but the quiet Oceanside location helps you get away from it all, while still being a 15 minute HKD100 cab ride from Soho.

I had a quiet evening – email, getting ready for the following day and a nice dinner at Cru on Staunton Road (calamari, chilli perch salad and a glass of Cloudy Bay).

Sleep came fairly quickly that night. The early BA25 arrival time into HK (14:40 scheduled) really help me manage my jet lag quite well as I can have a fairly productive longish day and get some normal unchemical assisted sleep.
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Old Mar 2, 07, 11:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Swanhunter View Post
Having just cooked lunch for some friends (rack of lamb, sweet potato dauphinoise, followed by a cheeseboard and washed down with Nuits St. George since you asked) I left them with the missus making inroads into another bottle as I headed off in a cab to Paddington for the Heathrow Express to LHR T1.
Lucky friends indeed. Sweet potato dauphinoise sounds a bit daring but interesting. That would give me an idea for my next dinner. It looks like you are quite a proficient chef. Thanks for an interesting report so far and I will be eagerly anticipating your future postings.
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Old Mar 4, 07, 5:32 am
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Tuesday 27th February

The mundane reality of business travel. A Hotel breakfast eaten while browsing the South China Morning Post and chuckling at Jake van der Kamp’s business column. A series of meetings, dim sum lunch at the Tang Court (very tasty, freezing cold ac), more meetings and a trip to the ATL building, which is the world’s largest industrial building! Back to the hotel for emails, a conference call, room service dinner, more calls until 10pm and bed. When non-travelling colleagues go on about how lucky I am, explaining a day like that helps them understand there is a rough with the smooth.

Browsing FT is actually one of the things that helps break things up; otherwise you end up doing a series of 16 hour days on the bounce without let up

Wednesday 28th February

Off to Taipei this evening. As this morning’s meeting is in Tsimshatsui, it is easier to check out of the hotel and then head straight to the airport from the office. Another HKD140 cab ride takes me from the calm of Cyberport on Hong Kong Island to the urban franticness of ‘the darkside’ – people, cars, buses, the fug of pollution and the usual touts offering ‘copy watch, Rolex, you want suit?’!

Still, a stolen glimpse of the HK skyline down out of the meeting room window brightens an otherwise overcast and cloudy day.

Off to CLK at about 3pm, in plenty of time for the 17:35 to Taipei on CX. My one of little treats is sneak the occasional paid upgrade to First when hopping around Asia. HKG-TPE is great value – HKD460 from J to F – and gets you a bit more space on board, plus some decent champagne and a nice meal. Normally this is a straightforward processing of paying the difference at the ticketing counter and having the e-ticket reissued. However for this flight the F cabin was ‘full’ so I had to go standby. Odd, when I looked on Expertflyer the previous evening it looked far from full.

Back at the standby counter 1 hour before departure I had cleared. I paid my money, checked in at the ever civilised F counters (picking up a BP to 1K on the way) and made my way to Gate 60 via a quick pit stop in the Pier

CX470 Hong Kong to Taipei
747-400 First 1K


Boarding had just started when I got to the gate. One of the ever alert CX ground staff spotted my Red F boarding pass and took me past the short queue of J pax. Walking up to door 1 I was greeted in true CX fashion – warm and very happy to see you. I was the first one in the F cabin, and as I soon found out I would be the only one! I assume that the full comment at the standby desk was while they decided whether to cater the flight.

I downed a couple of glasses of the very pleasant Cuvee Deutz 1998 before take off, and then really upset the crew by not wanting any dinner. They seemed really rather upset, even after explaining that I had a getting to know dinner with some people in Taipei. Still, the champagne kept flowing and they did manage to tempt me into a tasty piece of chocolate cake. It seems the ultimate in decadence to fly First and eat nothing, let alone the moral position of the flight being catered, just to be thrown away.

We landed on time, but I then got stuck in an enormous 40 minute queue at immigration which rather delayed my arrival at the Sherwood. We use the Sherwood as our preferred hotel in Taipei, and I rather like. It is much more classical in style than the Le Meridien in HK but the service is excellent and the beds super comfortable. Plus they offer a complimentary overnight pressing service.

Dinner (and drinks after) was very enjoyable. Some excellent Sichuanese specialities and a fabulous piece of lime and garlic steamed fish. I arrived back at the hotel just as Placido Domingo made his VIP arrival. The staff didn’t seem to mind me walking up the red carpet after him. Much nicer than being jostled by Vladimir Putin’s security staff at the Sheraton in Delhi.
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Old Mar 5, 07, 3:47 am
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Originally Posted by Swanhunter View Post
When I first started business travel 7 years ago, every trip came with a big dollop of anticipation. Now they more often start with lingering thoughts of jet leg and long nights hunched over a lap top in a hotel room.
I sympathise with this! I have been checking back here for 'as it happens' updates - an insight in to the 'real life, warts and all' of someone else's travelling escapades is excellent ^ If only so I feel less guilty when I too get holed up working with room service rather than 'going out on the town' like my friends expect when I visit the same place for the umpteenth time!

Great stuff, Swanhunter, look forward to more...
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Old Mar 5, 07, 5:16 am
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Excellent TR,

just wondering is the 460HKD difference based on full J or a DONE4?

It seems quite a waste not to indulge on the F class meal, but I admire you for your discipline!
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Old Mar 5, 07, 8:45 am
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Originally Posted by Swanhunter View Post
Having just cooked lunch for some friends (rack of lamb, sweet potato dauphinoise, followed by a cheeseboard and washed down with Nuits St. George since you asked) I left them with the missus making inroads into another bottle as I headed off in a cab to Paddington for the Heathrow Express to LHR T1.

Anytime you have the need to fill a seat at your table - I am only a short stroll away.

Originally Posted by Swanhunter View Post
Talking of shoes, I was once again left pondering why shoes are a risk at LHR, but not at LGW or LCY.
Was shoes off at one of the three lanes open Saturday week ago at LGW so it is not just a LHR thing. If that makes you feel better


Originally Posted by Swanhunter View Post
The mundane reality of business travel. A Hotel breakfast eaten while browsing the South China Morning Post and chuckling at Jake van der Kamp’s business column. A series of meetings, dim sum lunch at the Tang Court (very tasty, freezing cold ac), more meetings and a trip to the ATL building, which is the world’s largest industrial building! Back to the hotel for emails, a conference call, room service dinner, more calls until 10pm and bed. When non-travelling colleagues go on about how lucky I am, explaining a day like that helps them understand there is a rough with the smooth.

Browsing FT is actually one of the things that helps break things up; otherwise you end up doing a series of 16 hour days on the bounce without let up
I used to do the mundane business traveller thing. But it was even more mundane that yours. The same route month after month after month; and all in whY

Now all of my travelling is for my enjoyment only which is quite a pleasant change.

I look forward to your next musings on the life of a business traveller.
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Old Mar 7, 07, 1:55 am
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Thursday 1st March

A day of meetings and brainstorming, followed by another dinner and a couple of hours emailing to finish.

Friday 2nd March

Another busy day, enlivened by a visit to Taiwanese institution Din Tai Fung for some fabulous hot, soup filled dumplings. I thought the crab and pork were best! Eating that lunch with our new formed team was one of the better biz travel moments. Some fantastic food, really keen, eager people who were good company and very happy to talk about Taiwan, politics and the mainland. Food for the stomach and the brain!

Back to the newly renamed Taipei Taoyuan airport for the flight back to Taipei and on to London

CX451 Taipei to Hong Kong
747-400 First 1A

Check in was deserted, as was immigration and – despite the introduction of new liquid phobic regulations – so was security. Kerbside to lounge in 10 minutes is always a winner. I am juggling FFP’s on this trip to push me over BA Gold renewal this year and give me a kick start on the road to EXP too. Oddly I showed up as a General Member status with my BA card (actually Emerald) but got AA right as Sapphire.

The CX First lounge was busy despite the empty terminal. A few free seats on a Friday night, but I guess not that surprising with 3 widebody flights in 1 hour to HKG. Despite this I was still only 1 of 2 in the F cabin. Tonight’s service surpassed CX’s normally high standards. It was impossible for me to even twitch without being offered something. I managed more champagne than I really should have before take off, then some more after take off and with the slightly disappointing prawn and salmon starter. I moved on to a very nice St Julien ’98 with the steak which was first for me in being actually cooked to order (medium rare). The ‘chef’ got really embarrassed when I complimented her cooking as her husband thinks she is a bad cook! A double espresso with a praline finished things off nicely before we began our descent into Hong Kong.

I walked off the plane with a smile on my face and as happy as ever with CX.

I had a 4 hour layover until the BA28 departed at 1:10am. Off first to the Wing to sample some more CX hospitality. In reality this was a few glasses or water and a large comfortable leather armchair while I did a little more work and wrote up my notes from the week. At about 11:30 I popped out into the terminal to buy something to read for the flight home and headed over to the less impressive but still perfectly adequate BA/QF F lounge. A couple of calls later I decided that the working week was over for me (well it was just past midnight) and curled up with a biography of Tamurlaine.

BA028 Hong Kong to London
747-400 Club World 14K

Boarding was called just after 12:30, and after swopping my BA number for AA I wandered down to Gate 15. Hong Kong operate the most civilised boarding policy of any airport, with clearly marked and enforced lines for Y and J/F. A stress free process, though I am always amazed that a flight at Heathrow would be boarded with 4 people has a team of 10 in HKG.

I was on the main deck again for this flight. I drank some more water, explained politely to the crew that I didn’t want dinner at 2am, read a little than rolled the bed down for 9 hours sleep and woke up over the Netherlands. One of the reasons why am I very grateful to have a J over 4 hours policy. The purser was very keen that I ate something, so I wolfed down a banana! This crew were far better than on the way out – even 40 mins out of Heathrow they were happy to serve my seat opponent a cooked breakfast when others would have long since packed away.

Heathrow is never a pleasant experience, especially so at just after 6am. Despite there being only 1 other arrival at this time (BA56 from JNB) it still took almost 30 minutes for the bags to arrive on the belt. Still, they did come off in priority order for once. After this I head off to the arrivals lounge for a slap up English breakfast of bacon, sausage and kippers. Delicious.

Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th

Sundry family and domestic tasks, some socialising, trying to shake off jet lag and lunch at a friends (roast chicken this time, very nice indeed). The nearest to travel was popping down to my mother, a simply 120 mile round trip in the train. A nice weekend, but far too short with the loss of Friday night and the fun of laundry and packing on Sunday. Still, think of the miles.
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Old Mar 7, 07, 6:17 am
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Excellent reading ^ Swanhunter.
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Old Mar 7, 07, 6:25 am
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I think that your attention to detail is absolutely superb., especially your description of the short CX flights.....
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Old Mar 7, 07, 6:53 am
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Fantastic Trip Report.
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Old Mar 7, 07, 10:32 pm
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Monday 5th March.

Here we go again! I was booked on the 21:30 BA flight to Mumbai. I woke very early (jet lag is truly one of the curses of the modern age) which left me fairly grumpy for the rest of the day. My office is not far from Paddington so I was able to put a full day in at the office, get changed and take the 19:25 Hex back to Heathrow.

Once again BA’s cutbacks were evident in a 20 person queue for the F check in desks at T4. The line was much shorter at the Club desks, so that is where I check in. My bags were tagged through to Pune, but the agent wasn’t able to do my boarding pass. I was travelling with a colleague on this trip who did get his!

We meet up in the rather crowded F Lounge in T4 – more commonly known as the Gold/Emerald lounge as all the real F pax were upstairs in the Concorde Room. We managed to bag a table and flag down a waitress, no mean feat as the staff there seem to deliberately avoid going anywhere near customers. A bowel of half decent pasta was washed down with – yes you guessed – more water. Dehydration is one of those things that I find really debilitating when travelling so I try to drink a little, often to keep myself topped up.

BA199 London to Mumbai
747-400 Club World 64K


The flight was completely full in F and J (as is every BA plane I fly on currently) so no chance of an op-up. After shuffling cards once more we wandered to Gate 11, just a short walk from the lounge complex. Boarding gave an interesting insight into how BA view OW members. My colleague (Silver card) went first and was greeted with a nice to see you back again Mr X. Me with AA Sapphire got an ‘up the stairs please’. Charming. If only they knew there was Gold lurking in my wallet.

The flight was again Old New Club world. However I had managed to bag one of the best seats in Club, being both on the quieter upper deck and with a couple of extra inches sleeping room between the footrest and the bulkhead. The plan for this flight looked something like:

Drink water
Take Off
Seatbelt sign off
Make up bed and go to sleep straight away
Wake up 40mins from Mumbai
Grab some fruit and water
Land
Get off

And that is exactly what I did. Judging from the noise most of the cabin dinned before sleeping, but the wise minority could be heard winding their beds down to snatch 7 hours sleep. I much prefer overnight flights on routes like this. The old day flight schedule to India is so boring – 8 hours on board and a struggle with jet leg for the next 2 nights. This way you get a decent sleep, a full-ish day and avoid the worst of the time change.

Astonishingly we landed early and were through immigration in seconds. Our bags took a little longer, in fact about 30 minutes longer despite Priority tags, Club tags and checking in at the nominally premium counter.

Our connection on to Pune was due to leave at 16:25, giving us 4.5 hours to idle away. Rather than take the shuttle bus over to the Domestic terminal and fester in the underwhelming ‘lounge’ we took a prepay cab to the Sheraton for a light lunch and a decent coffee, before taking another cab over to the domestic terminal.
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