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UK to South Africa at 7 hours notice and my First BA First

UK to South Africa at 7 hours notice and my First BA First

Old May 31, 07, 8:57 am
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: San Diego
Posts: 2,456
UK to South Africa at 7 hours notice and my First BA First

Last Tuesday I completed my second year of University here in Leeds. I still have one more year to go, so it was hardly a time for major celebrations, but nevertheless I felt like treating myself. That night I got to work looking for any decent midweek fares available for a departure in the next few days. Miami and San Francisco were pricing out well for a next day departure, but as midnight passed the fares doubled, and it was impossible to get them back down again.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of flying with AA, and my mileage balance was sufficiently bloated to get me to most places in the world in reasonable comfort. Although a bit of a long shot, I headed over to ba.com and started playing around with their mileage redemption program to see if anything was available. Surprisingly three realistic looking options presented themselves to me:

South Africa

India had appealed to me for some time, but a cursory glance at visa requirements ruled me out of that instantly. I had been in South America just the previous month, so decided I would investigate South Africa in the morning. I headed to bed at around 1am, dreaming of the exciting possibilities that perhaps lay ahead for tomorrow.

My alarm went off at 7am, the time that AA’s excellent European call centre opens in Dublin. Firing up my PC, I got on the phone to them, and after two rings a friendly German chap answered, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I was wondering if you could check some award availability for me please.
Dublin: Sure thing…
Me: OK, from Manchester to either Johannesburg or Cape Town. Leaving tonight.
Dublin: (With an incredulous “There’s no way on earth you will get that” tone of voice) Mmmmm OK then…wow, there is availability in Economy.
Me: What about First?
Dublin (In an even more incredulous tone of voice) Mmmmmm, wow, yes, there is!

We built up a quick itinerary, routing MAN-LHR-JNB that night, returning CPT-LHR-MAN on the last available flight in May, the following Tuesday night, and he agreed to put this on hold for me until midday so I could make up my mind.

I chatted to a few mates, and took a quick look at what I could get done out there in a week, and decided that there was more than enough. I rang Dublin back at around 0830, got the same chap again, and we confirmed the reservation. A steep £128.40 ($260) in taxes accompanied by 100,000 AAdvantage miles. Bargain!

I had 2.5 hours until my train left, not much time to pack, book accommodation, and of course annoy all my friends by sending jealousy inducing text messages informing them of my impending departure.

On the way out I informed my housemates, who, still convinced I am a spy with the amount of unexplained time I spend away from the house, shrugged it off and made me pay the gas bill before I went! For the first time since moving to Leeds the train from my local station was delayed half an hour, so I resolved to walk to the central station.

An uneventful train journey followed, and I power walked the marathon length trek from Manchester Airport’s railway station to Terminal Three. I normally check in with BA at the supervisor position rather than queuing, but today there was a large gaggle of people there, and no-one on the self service machines. With no bags I decided just to use these for a change. My reservation was too fresh to show on ba.com, and I was pleasantly surprised for it to be recognised by the machine. Seat 4F on the A319 to LHR was selected, and I then went into my JNB flight details to see where I had been stuck.

Despite there being only one free seat in First on tonight’s flight, there were plenty of unassigned seats on the map (Pre departure seat assignment obviously isn’t that big a deal to the average non-FTer!). I had been placed in 2A (awesome!) but unusually 1K was still available. This is only available for pre-selection by BA Gold Card holders, so naturally I grabbed it straight away. 2 itineraries were printed, followed by my Shuttle boarding pass, and finally, something I never thought I’d see, certainly not at my age, a First Class boarding pass, with seat 1K emblazoned across it. Only then did it really sink in what I was doing…

Two minutes later and I was through the empty security checkpoint and into the lounge. I asked the lounge dragon if she could assign my seats for the return journey. She said I was in 2K from Cape Town (excellent) but couldn’t do anything with the Shuttle as my AAdvantage number could not be inserted to the booking enabling pre-selection, but as I was in First she’d look into it and come find me.

The Terraces lounge at Manchester is definitely one of the nicer ones, particularly in what has now become something of a backwater outstation. I took a deck chair by the window, and looked out over the movements on the runway with a can of Boddingtons and a couple of sandwiches. More phone calls followed to bewildered and confused friends, family, and lovers who were all slightly put out by my extravagant whim, and after listening to the latter swallow a fly whilst talking to me, the dragon came and sat down next to me and said that 2K was confirmed for my CPT flight, and that I had been assigned a forward window seat for the return Shuttle.

1530 soon arrived, and a mere seven hours after making my reservation I was boarding the BA A319 for the short hop down to LHR. The flirty purser informed the gentleman in front of me he was in a “cheeky” window seat, and again let me know I was also in a “cheeky” window seat. Looking around I could see no obvious signs of cheekiness, but I kept a good look out just in case.

I refused the sandwich, preferring to save as much room as possible for later. The flight was over in record time, after an unusually late turn onto final approach for the north runway at Heathrow, and before I knew it I was taking the long walk between T1 Domestic and the FCC. No queuing for security this way thankfully and I headed to WH Smith to buy a Lonely Planet guide for the place I knew absolutely nothing about, but was going to be stuck in for the next week.

The last time I was in T1 International was to Tokyo back at the start of February whilst still a mere AA Gold, so I had not experienced the lounges here for some time. Despite this the T1 Terraces was actually the first airport lounge I ever visited, when my Dad’s Gold Card got our entire family of six in on a flight to Nice back in 2001.

I got a nice big smile from the Lounge Dragon when she saw my First boarding pass, although a confused one when I asked her to try an “experiment”. Again however it was not possible to add my AAdvantage number to the booking. Seeing as I WAS in First, it didn’t really make a great deal of difference anyhow.

After this I was a bit disorientated, and wandered to the right into the Terraces lounge. Recognising it as such I headed back the way I had come from, and round the corner here was the Molton Brown Spa, and beyond that the First lounge. I had heard there was virtually no chance of securing a space in the Spa these days, but I needed a shower after my long sprint to the railway station, so popped in anyway and enquired on the availability of treatments. Once again that day I was pleasantly surprised to get a spot at 1800, just over an hour’s time.

I grabbed a quick shower, and then wandered over to the Champagne Bar. Now I’m not the biggest connoisseur on Champagne, but I knew well enough to avoid the Monopole, and asked for something other than that, as well as what I understand to be a compulsory Bacon Butty (sorry, Baguette).

I never quite grasped exactly what I ended up drinking, but it was very pleasant indeed. The First lounge isn’t actually very big, and it was quite difficult to find a seat. I eventually found one right at the back and took the plunge, deciding to call home and inform my parents. I normally don’t bother; whenever I do this there are usually violent threats to cut off financial support. It is far easier to explain the perma-tan with a trip to a tanning salon rather than three trips to Miami in two months. But my Sister had taken her driving test and South Africa has something of a dangerous reputation, so I thought it best to let them know.

Thankfully my little sis had passed her driving test with zero minors, something I didn’t think possible, so the rents were in a good mood and I haven’t had too much grief yet. I’m not looking forward to going home again though, as this will inevitably come back to bite me in the ... at some point over the summer. I had to break off the conversation with the excuse that my massage was due, and sauntered down to the Spa to greet my masseuse, the same lady who had taken my request several hours previous.

She asked me if I had been here before, and I informed her that not only had I not been here before, I had actually never had a massage of any form at all! It was a very pleasant experience, although I get the impression that my stress levels are maybe not anywhere near as high as the average First lounge customer.

As I left, I heard some passengers being told the Johannesburg flight was starting boarding, and I confirmed this with the dragon. I picked up my bags, and briefly rang home again. In the previous call I had spoken to all four of my family but not my Dad, and I knew he’d be feeling put out. Thankfully he knows LHR very well, and laughed when I asked him where Gate 56 was. Naturally, it was the furthest one away from the lounge, and I chatted to him on the walk out there.

Boarding was well underway, and the majority of people were in the Fast Track line after having arrived from the lounge. I waited for about 30 seconds, and the reality hit again. I was boarding a 747, for an 11 hour flight in First Class, to South Africa. If someone had told me this 24 hours previously, they would have got a slap round the head for their stupidity!

We boarded via door 1L, and there were just two crew members checking boarding passes at the door, which meant no personal escort to my seat. I was given detailed instructions however, and 1K isn’t exactly difficult to find! There is no overhead bin above 1K, so I made use of both the closet and the space above 2K, and during this process was asked by the incredibly good looking female crew member if I fancied a drink.

I enquired if it was possible to be a bit naughty and get a glass of champagne, and she let me know I could be as naughty as I wanted. Fantastic!

The First seat is a little uncomfortable in the fully upright position, but a short delay was announced, so I reclined just a little. What a world of difference, I could have fallen asleep right there. That would have been a bit of a waste however, so I just sat back and savoured the view out over the runway. Soon enough we were on our way and blasting off out of the southerly runway.

We used up much of 27L, and as we climbed away, passing T5, looking out over the sun descending over south east England, I took a sip of my champagne and thought to myself “Does it really get any better than this?”. If someone asked me now if they could put me into any imaginable position, location, or situation, I would quite honestly ask to be back in 1K climbing away from Heathrow into the sunset.

As the sun disappeared somewhere over the English Channel, I once again reclined my seat and extended the footrest. This was easily the most comfortable seat I’d ever been in and as soon as I’d thought this my glass was topped up, and a tray of Canapés placed alongside it. Already the food was standing up to First Class expectations, the Canapés were absolutely stunning. I still have no idea what I was eating, but the flavours just danced all over the tongue until washed down with the champagne. I was seriously looking forward to dinner now!

Right on cue my glass was again topped up and the menus were handed out. Straight after this the CSD came around. He was the spitting image of Ian Duncan Smith, sounded like him too, handed me my movie selection card, and asked if everything was OK. When I said it was he looked most surprised, and explained that they’d been having problems with all sorts of things around the aircraft, even in the First cabin. Looking around, things were hardly on the tatty side, but noticeably my reading light had lost all flexibility and was hanging loose over my shoulder.

I thanked the CSD for his introduction, and headed to the bathroom to change into my PJs before dinner. I then set upon the decidedly pleasurable task of deciding what to have:



Mark Edward’s foie gras and duck confit with plum wine jelly and brioche croutons

Grilled Asparagus with black truffle butter

Pea and mint soup with crème fraiche

Fresh salad leaves with your choice of sweet pepper or roast garlic and tarragon dressing


Beef fillet with cep reduction, Anna potatoes and green beans

Catch of the Day – Please ask your crew for details of today’s fish selection served with your choice of sauce vierge or caper butter sauce, seasonal vegetables and new potatoes

Richard Corrigan’s roast breast of chicken and stuffed ravioli with garlic and thyme sauce

Poached Loch Duart salmon salad with lemon dressing


Shaun Hill’s rhubarb tart with ginger sauce and vanilla ice cream

Chocolate espresso delice with Mascarpone cream and fresh raspberries

Cheese Plate

Montgomery Cheddar – An award winning straw-coloured unpasteurised cheese that is rich in flavour with a hint of fruit; this variety is made from the legendary Jersey cow’s milk and is a British Airways exclusive.

Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue – Shropshire Blue contains an underlying hint of rich, buttery caramel while maintaining a smooth blue taste.

Chabis – Made from goat’s milk this is a soft cheese with a fresh, mild flavour.

A basket of fresh fruit


Bacon roll served with tomato ketchup

Penne pasta with your choice of tomato and olive sauce or Stilton cheese sauce served with grated Parmesan cheese and herb croute

Duchy of Cornwall biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit

A basket containing a selection of sweet and savoury treats is available between meals.


Twinings Teas – Traditional English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Earl Grey or Pure Green

Twinings Fruit and Herb Infusions – Pure Camomile, Pure Peppermint, Lemon and Ginger or Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla

Coffee – Freshly roasted and ground decaffeinated, espresso or cappuccino

This menu offered food that was far beyond anything I could ever recall seeing on a menu anywhere before, and certainly beyond the average student fare I have to survive on most days, so I was slightly overwhelmed by it all!

I decided to try the foie gras seeing as I had only ever read about it before, let alone seen it. I really wanted to photograph all the meals, but I’m afraid I couldn’t. I was far too embarrassed with the guy in 1A clearly being able to watch my every move, and wimped out. Sorry!

I kept going with the champers, and this washed down the amazing foie gras nicely. For my main course I enquired on the Catch of the Day, and was informed by our lovely purser that it was Brill. I could not recall ever having eaten Brill before either, so decided to go for that, and on her recommendation, I chose the caper butter sauce.

She asked me if I wanted some wine with the main course, and breaking with tradition I thought that might be a nice idea. I asked what would go well with the Brill, and she very diplomatically stated that it was never a matter of what went well; it was very much personal taste. In response I perused the well stocked wine menu:


Champagne Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 1999


Chablis Grand Cru Bougros, Cote Bouguerots, 2004, Domaine William Fevre

Sancerre La Chapelle des Augustins 2005, Henri Bourgeois

Jordan Winery Chardonnay 2004, Stellenbosch


Chateau Beychevelle 1996, Grand Cru Classe Saint-Julien

Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir 2005, Santa Lucia Highlands

Simonsig Tiara 2000, Stellenbosch


Bonnezeaux 2003, Chateau de Fesles, Loire Valley

Warre’s 1988 Colheita Port

Spirits, Digestifs, and Liqueurs

Gonzalez Byass Sherries

Smirnoff Black Label Vodka

Tanqueray No. Ten Gin

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch Whisky

The Glenlivet 18-year-old Single Malt Whisky

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Whiskey

Camus XO Cognac

Soft Drinks

A selection of traditional and modern drinks

Highland Spring still or sparkling mineral water

The Chateau sounded especially nice: “Chateau Beychevelle is an architectural gem in the tiny commune of Saint-Julien – the smallest of the four main communes of the Medoc region of Bordeaux. The wines are equally stunning! It’s a classic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc grapes and is elegant with firm tannins, candied fruit and a generous hint of spice. 1996 was a lovely vintage in the Mendoc”

I concurred; it was a stunning glass of wine. The purser had agreed to let me try a bit first, and happily agreed to top my glass up to half way. “Whoops my hand must have slipped” she said, as the glass was topped up to the brim. “Are you trying to get me drunk?” was responded to with a twinkle in the eye. Dear me!

The Brill was absolutely exquisite, and the purser complimented me on what she said looked to be a fine combination. I thanked her for providing it, and savoured the fish and the wine as long as possible.

I was asked if I fancied dessert, and said that I did, but was rather torn between the two. Once again the excellent purser came to my rescue and recommended the chocolate espresso delice. It was obviously fantastic, and accompanied by the similarly delightful dessert wine.

My table was cleared as soon as I finished, and after declining anything further, headed to the bathroom to get ready for bed. On my way I asked one of the crew if it would be possible to get my bed turned down, and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. In the bathroom I managed to explode my tube of toothpaste all over my Pyjama top.

Exiting the bathroom topless, I was confronted by the Purser with a look of amusement, horror, and thankfully a good deal of restraint. I explained my predicament, and she laughed and said “You couldn’t make it up!” whilst handing me a fresh pair of PJs!

During this minor debacle my seat had been turned down, and it was quite difficult to tell it had once been a seat. I snuggled into bed, and selected one of the albums to listen to. Mika and Kaiser Chiefs on channel 10. Perfect! Unlike AA, BA actually has something I want to listen to, and on a non-AVOD plane too!

Now the BA First Class seat is not the best in the world, but it is certainly up there. Unfortunately, for sleeping it just did not do it for me. I am a healthy 6’4, and despite being a 6’6 bed, the foot area is exceptionally narrow at the end, making it rather difficult for me to get really comfortable. For short periods of time it was fine, but I was unable to get into a position where I was truly comfortable enough to get to sleep.

This in no way denigrates the BA product; I have experienced this on every J and F seat I have used on AA. But sadly I was expecting something I could get really comfortable in, and I’m now not exactly convinced this is going to ever be possible for me, my height, and my sleeping habits.

Nevertheless I was able to snooze and rest a little, even if I never actually got any real sleep. Halfway through the night I went to the galley and asked for one of the Smoothies, and this was presented to me when I exited the bathroom. Back to bed, but before I knew it the mood lighting was being switched on, and a friendly face popped round the side of my suite to see if I was awake, and if I fancied any breakfast.

I took a quick look at the menu:


Chilled fruit juice

An energising fruit smoothie

A selection of yoghurts

A selection of cereals

Fresh Seasonal fruit plate


A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls


Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomato and hash-brown potatoes

Creamy wild mushroom omelette

Apple and sultana crepes with Mascarpone and cinnamon cream

I opted for an orange juice and the fruit plate, and after completing them went for the English breakfast when assured that nobody would mind if I didn’t finish it! The scrambled egg wasn’t that great, but I managed to devour a great deal of the rest, and soon wished I hadn’t… I grabbed a cup of tea as well, and sat back watching the sunrise out of 1A’s window.

Soon we were on our descent into Johannesburg, and I retracted my seat back into its upright position. I then got memories of trying to sleep in upright economy seats, and ignored my minor discomforts of that night.

Despite the delay out of Heathrow we touched down only a few minutes late, and taxied into our gate. One thing about sitting this far forward on the 747 is how far in front of the nose wheel you are. You taxi well past an adjoining taxiway, and then suddenly start turning when you think you have no chance of making it. Takes a little while to get used to!

We parked onto a remote stand, the first time I had ever done this in a wide body and had a few minutes to wait for the stairs. The crew were keeping back the thronging masses from the Club cabin, and I got many envious looks as I thanked the crew, and descended the steps onto the tarmac of a freezing cold Johannesburg.

The bus filled up with the Club passengers, and off we went to immigration. Even though we were late the immigration staff had clearly only just arrived, and we waited for a good few minutes for them to log in and process all us First Class passengers. After this it was out into the big bad airport, and I enquired about the whereabouts of the BA arrivals lounge.

BA doesn’t actually operate their own lounge here, but instead contract to the Intercontinental airport hotel that runs an arrivals lounge over the road. They had a list of all the F and J passengers on the flight, and welcomed me in and showed me to the showers. After a nice long, sadly lukewarm wash I grabbed an orange juice, and set about the task of working out what on earth I was going to do now I was here!

Last edited by spanishflea; May 31, 07 at 9:11 am
spanishflea is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 9:15 am
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Hopefully I'll be able to get the rest of the trip written up today, and also the return journey too.
spanishflea is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 9:42 am
Join Date: Aug 2003
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Nice report spanishflea! Great to hear you had such luck in getting late award availability and glad you enjoyed the product, despite not finding the bed to be all that comfortable.
PhilH is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 10:32 am
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Home airports:SRQ,TPA,RSW
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Posts: 2,689
Great report. Thanks for writing it. The topless part reminds me of one of PUCCI's TFTG!
MACH81 is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 11:09 am
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Johannesburg was, sadly, an unmitigated disaster. During the flight I realised what an idiot I had been, and that instead of open jawing my itinerary like I had, I easily could have got my flight between Joburg and Cape Town included as a stopover or even a layover.

Anyway, the damage was done, and I headed up to the BA counter in the domestic terminal at JNB. BA weren’t able to sell me a ticket online or over the phone, and wanted £150 for it at the ticket desk at Manchester, so I’d decided to do something else I never thought I’d do: Buy a ticket at the airport!

The friendly BA staff were able to sell me a ticket on tomorrow’s 1030 flight to Cape Town for just £50. I paid in cash, and headed downstairs to get a taxi to the hostel I had hastily booked the night before.

It took over an hour to get there, and when I arrived I was instantly regretting it. It was essentially a shed with some beds, located in someone’s back yard. I was pretty knackered so not overly bothered, and decided to get some sleep. The presence later in the day of what I could only assume to be South African drifters smoking away in the room increased my resolve to just sleep through the night. We seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, and there was little information on anything to do.

The next morning one of my room mates offered to take me to the airport for half the cost of the taxi, and I agreed. Helpfully his local knowledge meant we were stuck in traffic, and the journey took over an hour and a half. Arriving at JNB by 1010 for a 1030 flight was not good news, and I stupidly headed over to an empty Traveller desk rather than queuing for a potentially more cooperative Club desk.

I was told I was “very late” and to go to the ticket desk. They were very nice about it, and I was recognised from the day before as well. It would cost another £50 to get onto the next flight (Friday afternoon now, so getting busy/expensive) and I enquired how much more it would be to get into Club. After being told it was likely to be “very expensive” it only turned out to be another £50. As I was half prepared to pay £150 for the discount economy fare in the UK anyway, I decided to treat myself, and splurged for the Club ticket for what worked out as the same price.

Security was really busy, with only two operative scanners out of a total of I think eight. As is always the way, as soon as I got to the front two more were opened up! Never mind, I had a few hours to kill in the Terraces lounge, and I was pleasantly surprised by the facilities on offer.

Half way through browsing FT all the PCs switched off, something to do with the chronic power outages that were extending over the city I assumed, although it was strange that nothing else seemed affected.

Annoyingly the 1030 flight was called at about 1100, maybe if I had gone to that Club desk and flashed my AA card I would have got put onto this flight for free. Again, I shrugged this off, and went back to the front desk to clear up some confusion over my AA number. It was not printed on my BP despite being told that it definitely was in the booking. There were 6 staff members on the front desk which seemed overkill, but they were able to get my number on. The fact that I had my Platinum card on me but was showing as an Emerald on their system confused them, but delighted me, as it was the first time BA’s IT had recognised any AA status other than Gold for me.

Having had a pretty rough experience in South Africa so far, I asked them to check if there was any availability for me to change my flight potentially to an earlier one home from CPT, and was told I still had several options open for changing. I went back into the lounge and had a few sandwiches. These seem universally prepared all over the world, one of those nice items of BA consistency!

Soon 1245 was upon us and we were boarding through the downstairs bus gates. Our 737-300 was parked next to a beautiful Ilyushin 76, and that Soviet attitude was clearly extending to the staff who insisted that I “gate check” my bag. Being sat in Club did not convince them one bit.

Boarding the Comair operated BA aircraft was just like boarding a 733 out of Gatwick, with the exception of having cloth seats rather than leather. We had a bit of a slot delay due to ATC shortages, but the seats were more than comfortable. Being South Africa, local Sparkling Wine was offered, and advertised as such rather than Champagne, and sadly it wasn’t especially palatable.

Soon we were up and away on our path towards Cape Town. The Comair in flight magazine is called Horizons, and is infinitely better than BA’s own High Life publication. The Club advert in the back stated that among other things we would get a printed menu, which sadly was not the case.

Nevertheless the food was very good, first off a fresh salad, followed by the cart with a choice of three main courses, veggie, chicken, or fish. I enquired as to what exactly the fish was, but the crew didn’t know. I went for it anyway, and despite being very pleasant I still don’t know what it was! Dessert was a small tub of Haagen Dazs, again with several different choices.

To drink was the same Sparkling Wine, and four different choices of regular stuff. I went for the Shiraz, which was very pleasant, although it held nothing on the superb Chateau I enjoyed on the way to JNB. I opted for a cup of tea to follow, and before I knew it we were descending into Cape Town with an amazing view of Table Mountain and the city below.

Arrival was quick and easy, and I jumped into a taxi to my next Hostel, praying it was going to be better than my previous establishment.

Thankfully it was, warm, friendly rooms, with lots of international travellers from all over the world. Best of all, the place had an amazing bar and restaurant, with some quite amazing food for a backpackers hostel!

The next four days were great fun, I went out on a day tour of the Cape Peninsula, driving, walking and cycling across the nature reserve and to all the notable features. The next day I took a tour of some of the Townships, which despite being reasonably obviously staged in some of the “interactive” parts was still a huge eye opener. Later that day we took a tour of Robben Island, and the following day I spent wandering round the waterfront and the city bowl.

I was really disappointed not to go on a tour of the wine country, as well as to visit one of the game reserves further out into the country. I was so glad I did not change my flight in the end, I had far too little time in South Africa, and especially Cape Town before heading back to the airport that night.

I will try and get some pictures up of the Comair flight, as well as a few of me on the tours if anyone is interested!
spanishflea is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 11:18 am
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Originally Posted by MACH81 View Post
Great report. Thanks for writing it. The topless part reminds me of one of PUCCI's TFTG!
Funny you should say that! From the moment we started talking the purser was instantly reminding me of Pucci! I’m quite sure it wasn’t her, but she was certainly everything I imagine Pucci to be based on my short time of reading her postings on FT (and the constant admiration of her supporters!).

Warm, charming, extremely personable but not chatty, and whilst far too professional to be deemed “sexy” a devilish sense of humour with more than a touch of innuendo.

You are right though, appearing topless out of the bathroom probably didn’t help…
spanishflea is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 1:03 pm
Join Date: Sep 2005
Programs: BA GGL & CCRC, TK*G, FB G, HHH D, SPG P.
Posts: 3,877
Absolutely cracking story and trip report!

I'd love to wake up one morning, and think "Humm, what shall I do today?... I know, I'll go to South Africa on BA First Class!!!!!!!!!!"

^^ spanishflea
More Champagne Sir? is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 1:33 pm
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Cheers MCS! Here is the not quite as exciting return...

Having spent all of Tuesday in the waterfront area of Cape Town I decided to head to the airport earlier than usual, and took a 4pm shuttle for an 8pm flight. The traffic was fine at this time of day, and we arrived at the airport well over three hours before departure. Despite this the queue for check in was rather large, but the Club desks, and single First desk were both quiet. I enquired about changing to a later shuttle at the First desk, and was redirected back to the ticket desk.

Explaining that I was concerned that my 1h45m connection in LHR was potentially not long enough for me to transfer, get a shower, and breakfast, all without giving myself a heart attack, the friendly chap on the desk did some tapping. The fact that I had OLCI’d the night before was a bit of a problem, but he was able to offload and rebook me without too much hassle.

I was redirected over to the First desk, and checked in uneventfully for both flights, securing 2K on the flight to London. I was directed to the lounge on the 2nd floor, pointing upstairs, and I enquired if it was landside. Yes was the response, so I set about trying to find it in the small space between the escalator and security. It clearly wasn’t there, so I passed through security and up another escalator, and sure enough there was the Terraces lounge!

I was pleasantly surprised with how big it was considering BA has just one flight a day in this terminal, and had a shower in one of two available units. There was still some time before departure, so I grabbed a couple of sandwiches, and, avoiding the South African fizz, grabbed another glass of Shiraz.

Everyone was giving me very funny looks in the lounge, I get this a bit sometimes because as a fresh faced 20 year old in jeans and a t-shirt some people obviously feel I am bringing down the tone or suchlike, but seriously, the vast majority of people were giving me funny looks!

I couldn’t noticeably work out anything else unusual about me at that time, so just shrugged it off and sat back with my glass of wine. Alas, a fly had beaten me to it and was drunkenly swimming around to its death. Lovely.

Before too long boarding was being called outside the lounge, and a few people wandered off. I followed a few minutes later, and as I walked out the lounge staff announced boarding to the rest of the lounge.

The gate had no noticeable fast track line, just one very very long snaking main line. After a couple of seconds I noticed a BA staff member standing by the tensa barrier and I went up to her and asked if I really had to wait in this long line whilst flashing my First boarding pass. She informed me that I did not, and let me through to the gate.

The boarding pass reader took a shine to my BP, and swallowed it whole. After some wrestling with the machine my mangled BP was returned to me, and I joined the much faster moving queue on board our 747.

I was greeted by name, and escorted through the small Club cabin into the First cabin, and introduced to seat 2A. I was asked straight away if I wanted a drink, and again requested the champagne. I adjusted my seat to the comfy position, and was soon back in that fantastic situation, a glass of champagne and a BA First Class seat. Wonderful!

Once more I changed into my PJs, but this time before we departed. There were meant to be five of us in First tonight, however two couples were upgraded onboard into the vacant middle seats. Soon enough we were airborne after boarding quicker than expected, and the Captain thanked us all for allowing a speedy departure.

The menus were handed out as we got underway, and my champagne glass was topped up on several occasions while I perused our options:


Balsamic roasted salmon served with a Creole salad and chilli dressing

Roasted pepper with tomato, anchovy and garlic

Green pea and avocado soup

Fresh salad leaves with your choice of balsamic vinaigrette or ranch dressing


Grilled fillet steak with sumo chips, broccoli, roasted vegetables and green peppercorn sauce

Breast of chicken with garlic and cream cheese on pesto rice, spinach timbale and roast pepper sauce

Seafood au Gratin served with roast vegetables, courgette and herb butter

Warm lamb kofta served on fresh tabouleh with lemon and mint and flat bread


Warm chocolate coffee fondant

Blackberry ripple cheese cake

Cheese Plate

A selection of cheese

A basket of fresh fruit


Fresh pasta with your choice of tomato and olive or blue cheese sauce

Bacon roll served with tomato ketchup

Duchy of Cornwall biscuits

A basket containing a selection of sweet and savoury treats is available between meals

I was slightly under whelmed with the options available compared with the ex London flight, and was even more so when I requested the Salmon to start and the Lamb to follow, and was told that both were unavailable!

I double checked that orders were taken from the front, and expressed my surprise that being in 2K I was unable to get either of my choices! The purser was very apologetic, and when I asked about what exactly constituted “Seafood au Gratin” went off to find out.

At this stage the CSD came round, a very pleasant chap from Newcastle, who shook my hand, and asked if everything was OK. I told him about being unable to secure my meal choices, and he was even more apologetic than the purser, telling me the situation was not good enough. I joked that I was just going to have to make do with something else, and we agreed that I was unlikely to be disappointed.

The explanation of the Seafood was certainly to my satisfaction, Squid and Lobster spread over a puff pastry base. I joked that had it been labelled as such on the menu, everyone would have gone for “the lobster” rather than what looked to be the most appealing in “the Lamb”!

I decided on something different to start and went for the pepper, with the offer of soup to accompany it declined. I kept going with the champagne, but was not offered a top up, or a switch to wine to accompany my main course. However this did not disappoint as the Seafood au Gratin was very good indeed!

I enquired as to which dessert was looking best tonight, and the purser admitted he hadn’t seen them yet, but brought me both out to take a look at and decide, offering me both if I fancied. I declined that offer, and went for the chocolate coffee fondant, and a glass of the Port.

Being a 1988 bottle, it was almost as old as I was (1987!) and was absolutely incredible. I got a top up and snuggled down into my deeply reclined seat feeling all warm and fuzzy.

During the meal I was trying to get good old channel 10 back on again, having been quite looking forward to listening to both Mika and Kaiser Chiefs albums once more. However a whole raft of audio channels were not functioning, and I raised this with the purser who in turn raised it with the CSD.

Simon came to my seat and asked what the problem was, and I told him about the non functional audio channels. He disappeared for quite some time, but came back to tell me that he’d fiddled around and that indeed several of the audio channels were indeed not working, and there was nothing he could do to remedy it. He listed the channels that weren’t working, and I said that, yes, channel 10 was the one I wanted to listen to. He looked in High Life, and said ah yes, Kaiser Chiefs, apologised profusely for letting me down again, and wandered off.

A few minutes later he was back, and said that he’d been able to take the CD off the functioning audio channel 16, and had moved the Mika/Kaiser Chiefs albums onto that channel. I tuned into 16, and sure enough, these were indeed playing. I thanked him and hoped he didn’t get too many complaints for taking wellbeing in the air off!

Soon though I was feeling tired, and went to the bathroom to get ready for bed. Again I asked the crew for my bed to be turned down, and after first thinking I was asking for the temperature to be turned down, they agreed. I returned uneventful from the bathroom, PJs unsoiled, and snuggled down into bed.

Despite still feeling far from adequate, I was able to get a few hours of sleep, and once again that annoying mood lighting was being switched on, signifying the beginning of the end for my trip.

I dozed a little longer, and soon had my breakfast order taken:


Chilled fruit juice

An energising fruit smoothie

A selection of yoghurts

A selection of cereals

Fresh Seasonal fruit plate


A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls


Scrambled eggs, bacon, mushrooms, sausage and tomato

Roast pepper frittata

Bacon club sandwich

Once more this seemed slightly less than what we had on the way out, but in any case I ate far too much then, and the bacon club sandwich sounded far more to my liking.

I had the fruit salad and smoothie first though, and washed it all down with a nice pot of tea.

The bakery was never offered, but before I knew it we had started our descent, and I headed to the bathroom to change back into my offending jeans and t-shirt. Simon was eating his brekkie as I came out, and I went over to him and expressed my gratitude for his efforts once again, before taking my seat for landing.

We only broke through the clouds as we were turning over London, and as ever got a picture postcard view of the capital. Sitting in 2K afforded a great view forward as well as to the side, and I could see the lights of the northerly runway from quite some way out, meaning that we were landing on the southerly. Great, no long taxi for us!

A smooth touchdown followed, and we parked up at our gate on the main pier without delay, and a good few minutes early. The bridge was immediately attached, and I sadly disembarked, shaking Simon’s hand at the door as we parted.

No long walks from the Victor pier today, and I was following the FCC signs, and onto the bus in minutes. There was one there waiting for us, and it left seconds after I got on. The drive through the tunnels was over in minutes also, and the longest part of the whole process was queuing for security. My First BP got me into the Fast Track line which seemed to be moving just as fast as the main line, and I was through and into the lounge less than half an hour from touching down.

Transiting LHR CAN be stressful, but having done it around ten times this year alone, I can honestly say its never taken me any longer than half an hour. I’m not a firm believer in karma, but mine is so blatantly stacked against me its ridiculous!

Once more the lounge “dragon” did not live up to her name. I arrived at the lounge just after seven, and after explaining that I had changed flights last night as a precaution, she agreed to put me back onto my original 0845 departure, rather than my new 1055 flight. On the phone she then tried to get me onto the still open 0740 departure, but I vigorously shook my head. After confirming the 0845 I thanked her very much for her proactiveness, but didn’t think my fellow passengers on the shuttle and indeed on the train would thank her if I didn’t have a shower. She assured me I didn’t smell that bad!

After my customary shower I grabbed a bowl of cereal and yoghurt, and watched the movements over the northern runway from the deckchairs by the window.

The shuttle was a real non event after the last flight, and I chatted to an Australian couple who had just flown Club from Sydney and were visiting relatives in Doncaster. Surprisingly half the crew from the CPT flight were also positioning back to Manchester, but they didn’t seem to notice me hidden away in 1A.

All too soon the entire trip was over, and after a record two hour transfer I was back in my box room, located on a cobbled terraced street in the student ghettos of Leeds.

What a come down!

Now I have three months of nothingness to look forward to. If anyone has any jobs going, please let me know! Otherwise this time will be spent entirely on FT, whilst not exactly a bad thing, it might become slightly monotonous after a while. There are still 70,000 AAdvantage miles in my account tempting me though...
spanishflea is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 2:54 pm
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Sorry to hear about the disaster in JNB. I've heard it's a really cool city once people open up to it.

Awesome report. Amazing that you got seats with pretty much 8 hrs notice! Wish I could be so lucky
civicmon is offline  
Old May 31, 07, 3:40 pm
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Originally Posted by civicmon View Post
Awesome report. Amazing that you got seats with pretty much 8 hrs notice! Wish I could be so lucky
Well it's low season in SA, so it's way easier to find awards; less so when I plan to go there...

And sometimes seats are released at the very last minute for upgrades (I'm not sure if it is the same fare bucket on BA) and those crazy enough to check for availability! When they know they can't sell them why not have people burn tons of miles.
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Old May 31, 07, 9:16 pm
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Thanks for a great flight report!
I go to South Africa often for business purposes and can well imagine what you went through at JNB airport.
It can be a nightmare.
You feel almost like royalty, the way they pamper you on board and then, upon deplaning, it's really back-to-reality with the busing, the waiting at immigration (it can take more than an hour in the morning peak), the waiting at overcrowded baggage carrousels etc etc.
CPT is much more intimate and thus efficient.

Next time spend some more money on accomodation mate - if you're splashing out in mileage for a FIRST award then it seems a bit odd to stay in a HOSTEL in a country like South Africa where decent hotels (or even B/B's) are affordable...?
jetfan is offline  
Old Jun 1, 07, 1:30 am
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Nice report spanishflea.

Where are the pictures?
Moomba is offline  
Old Jun 1, 07, 2:54 am
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Originally Posted by jetfan View Post
Next time spend some more money on accomodation mate - if you're splashing out in mileage for a FIRST award then it seems a bit odd to stay in a HOSTEL in a country like South Africa where decent hotels (or even B/B's) are affordable...?
When I'm on my own I much prefer staying in a hostel than a hotel, you are forced together with other people in similar situations to you, and 9 times out of 10 the people you meet make the trip much more enjoyable.

Originally Posted by Moomba View Post
Nice report spanishflea.

Where are the pictures?
Thanks Moomba. I am actualy usually quite a big picture taker, but on these flights it just felt wrong! I do have one or two of interest, but not realy any great value to the trip report...

Descending into Cape Town

Drinking "traditional" beer in a "traditional" pub

Being ambushed by kindergarten children

Sat at Cape Point

The only photo I took of the cabin!

Descending into London
spanishflea is offline  
Old Jun 1, 07, 4:21 am
Join Date: Jun 2005
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Originally Posted by jetfan View Post
Thanks for a great flight report!
I go to South Africa often for business purposes and can well imagine what you went through at JNB airport.
It can be a nightmare.
You feel almost like royalty, the way they pamper you on board and then, upon deplaning, it's really back-to-reality with the busing, the waiting at immigration (it can take more than an hour in the morning peak), the waiting at overcrowded baggage carrousels etc etc.
CPT is much more intimate and thus efficient.

Next time spend some more money on accomodation mate - if you're splashing out in mileage for a FIRST award then it seems a bit odd to stay in a HOSTEL in a country like South Africa where decent hotels (or even B/B's) are affordable...?
I have to say I disagree. When I travelled for a year between school and uni, during uni summer holidays and also in the year after university, I found it far more beneficial staying in guesthouses and hostels. You meet people your age, you spend less money (something important for whentravelling long term) and you hear about the most student orientated things. Also it is rather easy to find a job (if the country you're in allows that sort of thing). Money being the key factor here. When I was 16-23 I was miles rich and cash poor (admittedly not that poor due to my language skills and finding holiday work in Europe for a well known Qatari bank). Miles rich because from year dot I was brought up in HKG, SYD and SFO (not at the same time). Went to boarding school at 8, uni at 19, so trotted home 6 times a year (for 14 years) . Cash poor because my parents would never want me throwing champagne bottles at the wall of Annabel's in London
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Old Jun 1, 07, 10:42 am
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Great report, spanishflea ^

I missed you by a day, having been in F on the BA55 on Tuesday 22 May, when presumably the plan was hatching inside your head! If it had happened one day sooner, you'd have had two FTers and Desmond Tutu for company on your outbound!
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