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DTW to London the long way, CO BusinessFirst and Waldorf Hilton

DTW to London the long way, CO BusinessFirst and Waldorf Hilton

Old Jun 2, 07, 6:16 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Ann Arbor
Programs: *wood Gold, HHonors Gold , National Emerald Exec, Delta Silver
Posts: 2,603
DTW to London the long way, CO BusinessFirst and Waldorf Hilton

It took my wife and I 22 hours to get to London from Ann Arbor. I spend more time thinking about how long it will take to get there than I used to. If I had no disposable income, the decision would be easy. Take the long way and earn some miles. Even if I was traveling alone, this would be an easy decision. But I am traveling with my wife, and she likes to fly direct. To make matters worse, her Silver status lapsed last year and I have this almost unhealthy desire to help her get her status back, whether she realizes she needs it or not. Plus, I need some EQMs for a Plat requal, which are certainly easier to earn on a Y fare.

Anyway, here's the deal. I bought 2 MSP-LGW Y fares on CO for my wife and me when the mistake occurred for $600 each. The fare itself wasn't that good, but the ability to upgrade for 10K each way and the 50% EQM bonus made the ticket special.
The first challenge was getting to MSP relatively cheaply. After researching several options, I decided on NW DTW-ORD-MSP for $150 each. This worked out well, as my wife was companion upgraded with me on both flights. As a bonus, I noticed our arrival gate was the same as our departure gate, so we wouldn't miss our ORD-MSP, as it was the same plane.
This ended up being really lucky for us, as ATC in ORD had us delay 40 minutes before takeoff from DTW, due to weather. It would have been a scramble to make a different plane, as we landed 20 minutes before our scheduled departure.

There is a real freedom to leaving your carry-on luggage on the plane. No rushing to get back and find space. My wife went to Starbucks ( You do realize St. Arbucks is the patron saint of good coffee, don’t you?) and we were in the last half of the people to board. It's been a long time since I had to wait behind 50 people on a crowded jetway. Definately diminishes from the flying experience.

Wow, what great luck my wife and I just experienced while at MSP. We are on separate tickets from MSP-LGW, with a routing of MSP-DFW-IAH-LGW. All my flights were upgraded to F, including IAH-LGW on a triple 7 in BusinessFirst, but none of my wife's were.

While waiting for the MSP-DFW flight to board, which is a NW codeshare, the GA announces that there is weather in DFW and they are looking for volunteers. I'm the second to volunteer, and say I'll do it if my wife and I get upgraded to F on the direct flight. The GA agrees, and two $300 vouchers are issued, along with two F boarding passes. The crazy thing is I had tried to get this direct MSP-IAH flight by calling CO customer service, but all I got was attitude.
Plus, this will get us into IAH 45 minutes earlier, which will give me time to talk to the Presidents Club BF concierge about possibly getting my wife upgraded.

When we get to the Presidents Club, the concierge says that revenue management made a mistake and allowed 56 BF tickets to be booked, while only 48 seats exist. He offers me 2 $400 vouchers good on NW or CO and 10K CO miles to give up my BF seat for a Y seat if necessary. I agree to. This could be a banner day for bumps for me, with $1400 in vouchers being collected in 6 hours, and I still get to my destination on time.
With 25 minutes before the 1 hour check in deadline, there are only 39 checked in though. The concierge states that check in will be cut off promptly at 59 minutes for BF, as allowed by the rules.
With 5 minutes before the cutoff, there are 46 people checked in and I head down to the gate to see if they need my seat.

I get to the gate and ask if they are over in BF. The BF concierge at the gate vaguely states they are not looking for volunteers. He later stated there was a misunderstanding by the BF concierge in the E terminal PC, and that they were never over by 8. I didn't feel comfortable pursuing a deeper understanding with more questions, as he appeared to be fairly busy. So, "only" $600 in vouchers for the day will have to do.
I never got bumped before this year. Anytime it’s been offered, I was not in a position to take it. But, since the start of this year, I’ve already collected $1000 in vouchers. I like the collecting of the vouchers much better than the dry spells.

Link to pictures here

Last edited by Bikeguy; Jun 2, 07 at 7:48 pm Reason: Added link for pictures
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Old Jun 2, 07, 6:16 pm
  #2  
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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I'll need to wait for the return flight to experience BF, as I gave my wife seat 9D. I thought it was the right thing to do, although one of the FAs said that isn't always what happens, and implied it was more 50/50.
My wife's seat was 32A, a great exit row seat with a big exit door in front of it, allowing about 6 feet of leg room.
When I went to visit my wife during boarding in 9D, the gentleman in 9E offered to swap seats with me. I thanked him, but explained he probably didn't want 32A. After he found out I was in Y, he didn't repeat the offer.
The CO Y seats were great and more contoured than I'm used to on NW. As such, I knew the pressure points in my butt that normally wake me up on redeyes probably wouldn't be a problem. I was right. Plus, I left my 15 inch tall computer bag on the floor in front of me and propped my feet up on it, then covered my legs and the bag with a blanket. That worked great.

The deal I made with my wife was maybe we'd switch half way through the flight, if I had problems sleeping. My wife has much worse problems sleeping on a plane than I do. As I only woke up with a little over an hour left in the flight, I never made her move. I probably should have though, especially when she stated she turned down the omelet offered in the morning.

LGW customs was horribly backed up. It took us over an hour in a hot sweaty line to make it through. I don’t know if this is typical of a Saturday 10AM arrival. Plus, there was a bank holiday on Monday. I will get my iris scanned for free upon departure so I don't need to wait in that line again. They certainly aren't putting the $40 extra in tax a BF passenger pays versus a Y passenger to any use to help the BF passenger.

Bostonbali advised to hit the CO BF passenger showers before leaving the airport. How wonderful that shower felt, especially after the one hour in line. Although only I had a BF seat, the concierge said it would be fine for my wife to get a shower there as well. In the end, the desk agent just asked for a BP showing one of us has sat in BF. The shower was very refreshing and really changed my attitude for the rest of the day until check in at the hotel could be accomplished. I’m usually one to rush right into town, but this short diversion hit the spot.

Took the Southern train to Victoria station, a much more reasonably priced option than the Gatwick Express. Paid one pound more for unlimited tube and bus access for the day.
Took a cab to The Waldorf, as last time in London I insisted on taking our bags to the hotel on the tube from LHR, and 3 years later I still remember the chilly reception that exercise got from my wife.
It didn't help that several years ago we came up the final several flights of stairs on the wrong side of the street as the hotel, and there was a fence to prevent crossing at the street. There was quite a battle that followed, with my wife insisting we hail a cab to take us literally directly across the street and me saying" We are less than 200 feet away, don't give up."

The Waldorf was wonderful. 125K HHonors points for four nights using an AXON award. I don't have much (one night in Presidential Suite at Tapatio Cliffs Hilton in PHX and a week in Hilton Hawaiian Village Executive Double) experience in really nice hotels, but the room, service and little touches were very impressive.
Didn't get an upgraded room as a Hilton Gold the first night, but was promised they'd look into it tomorrow. As this trip is a belated 10th anniversary trip, I had the CSR note that fact in the reservation and the guest relations manager had a really delicious chocolate mousse cake with a happy anniversary message on it delivered to our room. Plus, when I requested the bags in storage to be brought to the room, they were there in less than 5 minutes. Normally I wouldn't care, but I wanted to take a nap and the speed was appreciated. Every room has a plasma TV, which I think is really cool.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 6:17 pm
  #3  
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We went to eat dinner the first night at Porters, an English restaurant. I can recommend the Shepard’s pie and the chicken and broccoli pie. Then we took the Jack the Ripper walking tour. It was fine, but I kept getting distracted by the absolutely wonderful architecture that I am really getting into now. If you don't like crowds, don't go on the Jack the Ripper tour. Despite rain, there were still 60-70 people that showed up to take it. Thankfully, there were two guides and the group was split.
My best tip on London is to try and take the buses instead of the Tube. The bus stops have very easy to read maps, and if you have a remote clue about a few of the stops near your final destination and what general direction the bus should be going, you'll do just fine. The real treat of using the buses is going to the second floor and finding the front seats open. Plus, you get to see how the city connects together, instead of popping out of the Underground at your destination. Totally worth the extra effort, IMHO.

When we got back to the Waldorf, our bed was turned down, there was a chocolate and water for both of us and the room had been picked up. I could get used to this level of service.

Our first three days in London can only be described as wet. The Waldorf acknowledges this by providing an umbrella with every room. Sunday we got up late and took a guided walk entitled The London Walk, where my wife and I met up with cruisr. I always enjoy meeting other FTers. Our guide was very knowledgeable and despite the rain an enjoyable experience.

We ended up walking back to the hotel for a rest, and our room had been upgraded. In this case, not a good thing as it faced the main road and was above a bus stop. Luckily, the last two nights our room was switched to a nice upgraded room overlooking the center of the hotel. I really enjoyed our first non upgraded room and our third room. IMHO, after having experienced both executive and regular rooms, as well as the executive lounge supplied breakfast versus the restaurant supplied continental breakfast, I prefer the regular room and a far superior breakfast experience. My understanding is that the Waldorf tries to upgrade everyone that they can, so as not to pay for you to eat in the restaurant. You must try the homemade Bircher muesli, which is offered in the restaurant only, if you get the chance. It consists of muesli soaked overnight in milk, cream, and maple syrup, or so I was told. The executive lounge was severely understaffed at all times. There was never, and I am not exaggerating, all the items that should have been offered at the same time.
Went to a singing service at St. Brites on Sunday at 6:30. As most plays don’t offer performances on Sundays, we had a late dinner and strolled around.

On Monday, my wife wanted to work out, which gave me time to purchase some theater tickets for the next two days. I ended up getting tickets for We Will Rock You at the half price ticket booth and Wicked at the theater. Both my wife and I didn't care for WWRY, with both of us thinking the first 45 minutes were slow and our rating of Wicked, although much better than WWRY, wasn't as good as we expected. We both thought Mama Mia, which we saw a few years ago in London, was much better than these two.

Monday afternoon was spent taking a bus to the Millennium Bridge and walking across it to the Tate Modern. Enjoyed a free guided tour there (available at 2 and 3 PM from the 5th floor) and then walked the south bank of the Thames back to our hotel. The views were fabulous. I was surprised at the amount of construction cranes on the north side of the river. I counted over 30.


On Tuesday we took the Greenwich tour provided by Walk London, which we'd recommend. You end up taking a boat to Greenwich and then the tour begins. We enjoyed lounging in our room relaxing for the last half of the afternoon. We were originally going to try the millennium eye, the huge Ferris wheel, but chose the rest instead. As we have three kids, ages 7, 5 and 1, the rest was much appreciated. We saw Wicked that night.

The other tip for people staying at the Waldorf is because we had to leave before any breakfast was available our last day, the food price of room service was waived. So, it ended up being just the delivery charge (5pounds) and the tip. I ordered two bowls of the beloved Bircher muesli.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 6:17 pm
  #4  
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We flew through security at LGW. We could have used FastTrack, but somehow I missed it and we ended up in the regular line, which only took ten minutes.

BF is great. This was my second experience in a business seat, and I loved the two hour service of the meal. I really wished our 777 had AVOD, as I was watching a movie and would have liked to pause it when the FAs came by during the service. I really can't see paying that much more for the BF seat, meal, and service though.
I'd do it again for the 10K and $70 each way (10K and $30 each way now). But I can't see spending more than $200 of my own money each way. There are just too many decent elite seats in Y.
Spent the first part of the trip watching Apocalypto and eating, then a nice two hour nap, followed by some reading.

My choices for my meal on the return were as follows:

Warm roasted nuts

Appetizers:
A demitasse of creamy scallop soup
Chicken Breast Skewer, offered with Asian-style dipping sauce

Salad
Mesclun salad mixed tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, orange segments, mozzarella cheese and walnuts, with tropical fruit dressing

Main Course
Seared fillets of veal and beef enhanced with porcini mushroom sauce, presented with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, buttered carrot batons and sugar snap peas Rosemary potatoes.

Fruit and Cheese:
Select European cheeses accompanied by seasonal fresh fruit, assorted gourmet crackers and rolls, served with Port wine

Dessert Cart:
Vanilla ice cream offered with hot chocolate sauce

Everything about the meal was spectacular, except the main course where the veal was dry and the pea pods were actually wrinkled, they were so dry.

I finished Seat 2A's latest trip report in BF. He talks about how much he enjoys printing out trip reports and reading them while enroute. I have read two of his TRs while traveling, and really consider his reports real FT treasures, that many members don't know about.

I've typed the vast majority of this report on my Treo, which is quite a feat, and am finishing it up on a CO 735, with two rows of F, of which my wife and I have two of the eight seats.

I have to say CO’s service is vastly superior to NW’s, who I normally fly. We boarded the 735 EWR-DTW late, and queued on the elite carpet. The GA took us next, which shouldn’t be a surprise except of people that normally fly NW and don’t get the regular boarding lines stopped for them until the GA feels like it. Plus, our bags had Priority tags on them and came out first at EWR and DTW. I was really impressed.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 6:22 pm
  #5  
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I'm planning on posting some photos of the trip and some links to some of the items referenced, but wanted to get the report published.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 6:41 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Excellent report, though you're right: photos would definitely add some dimension to it.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 7:49 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by hoyateach View Post
Excellent report, though you're right: photos would definitely add some dimension to it.
Thanks.

Link added at bottom of post 1 now.
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Old Jun 2, 07, 8:07 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
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Excellent report! And great pictures. Was that actually a bowl of soup? Wow - it looks like one of the ramekins for the nuts!
You are a true gentleman for sitting in Y and having your wife in C. Alot of other "men" wouldn't do this for their spouse.
The picture of the two of you is probably the best "portrait" I've seen on a plane!
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Old Jun 3, 07, 6:08 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Flyingfox View Post
Excellent report! And great pictures. Was that actually a bowl of soup? Wow - it looks like one of the ramekins for the nuts!
You are a true gentleman for sitting in Y and having your wife in C. Alot of other "men" wouldn't do this for their spouse.
The picture of the two of you is probably the best "portrait" I've seen on a plane!
Indeed, the thimble in the appetizer picture is the bowl of soup. I can only hope CO was looking out for my best interests and didn't want me to fill up too early with all the other courses coming.

As for me sitting in Y while my wife sat in C, one of my favorite quotes from FT was a man justifying why he sat in C and his wife in Y, stating "my wife fits nicely in a Y seat".
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Old Jun 3, 07, 6:29 am
  #10  
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The other thing I forgot to mention was the only other time my wife has been to London, about 3 1/2 years ago, I had purchased a cheap package from the back of Frommer's Budget Travel with air and hotel included. While a great value, our room was so small that one of us would need to sit on the bed to let the other pass to use the toilet. And everything was many, many tube stops away.

For not much more money, but using the knowledge gained on FT, this vacation was put together.

As such, I am grateful to this community.

Last edited by Bikeguy; Jun 3, 07 at 2:34 pm
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Old Jun 3, 07, 2:04 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Great report - talk about a luxurious vacation together, huh? Sorry to hear the BF downgrade (along with the $400 didn't go through, glad to hear everything else worked out!
Bostonbali
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Old Jun 3, 07, 2:59 pm
  #12  
 
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Bikeguy
Great report -- I flew the good fare last weekend also -- flew over on Thursday night and back on Memorial day. Same menu as you list on the return. I guess they don't change it every day.
Glad you enjoyed the London Walks. I try to take one every time I go over. This time, there was a new, occasional walk -- Hitchcock's London on Sunday morning. One of the best I've ever taken; I hope it gets added to the regular rotation.
LGW immigration on Friday was similar to Thursday -- miserable. I've not flown to Europe in the summer for a long time and forgotten how bad it can be. Once I got to the immigration officer, it took ten seconds.
And glad to hear others discovering the good deal of the Southern trains to Victoria instead of the overpriced Gatwick Express. Depending on where in London you are staying, you can also get the 10 pound Gatwick to London and all day travel card to Kensington Olympia if you are staying very far west or using Thameslink if you want to be in the City or east.
tom
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Old Jun 3, 07, 3:45 pm
  #13  
 
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Excellent trip report Bikeguy!

Glad you enjoyed London!
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Old Jun 6, 07, 6:01 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
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Originally Posted by Bikeguy View Post
When I went to visit my wife during boarding in 9D, the gentleman in 9E offered to swap seats with me. I thanked him, but explained he probably didn't want 32A. After he found out I was in Y, he didn't repeat the offer.


Awesome report! Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you and your wife had a great time--- the Waldorf plus the BF flight sounds like a great combo.

See you both in a few weeks!
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Old Jun 7, 07, 7:14 am
  #15  
 
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Excellent trip report + pictures.
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