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British Airways (BA) HEL-LHR-BOS in J: Cancellations, delays drama and snow! (pics)

British Airways (BA) HEL-LHR-BOS in J: Cancellations, delays drama and snow! (pics)

Old Feb 22, 09, 9:23 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: HEL (and regularly BOS & PWM)
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Posts: 247
British Airways (BA) HEL-LHR-BOS in J: Cancellations, delays drama and snow! (pics)

*** UPDATE: BOS-LHR-HEL Inbound trip report added ***

HEL-LHR-BOS Outbound report below:



Here's some background about me and why I did this trip report:

I live and work in Finland, but thanks to a client in United States, I get to fly there four times a year. Lately getting to fly has felt more like being forced to fly, though... I love flying and being on airplanes, but after some 18 long haul TATL in the back of the plane flying has become less enjoyable. I guess the novelty has finally worn out! I have usually flown in economy class apart from the odd WT+ and AY business class flights (to JFK) and I'm a light sleeper, so flying back home has always been an ordeal. I'm envious of people who can sleep practically in any position while I struggle even if I can go horizontal across 3 economy seats.

In the past I have been fairly uninterested in doing serious research on how to get the best flights available, but ever since becoming addicted to FT I lost my soul to the airline companies and wanted to experience flying outside cattle class. This is also why I wanted to write this trip report – to share experiences of flying in J from a regular whY passenger’s point of view. Since I'm a Finnair Plus member, I've always flown with OW, which basically means that I can choose from AY, AA and BA when flying from HEL to BOS (via LHR, CDG or JFK). AIRLINE ALLIANCE: CHECK.

I've already experienced AY's business class and while I find it to be comfortable enough, Finnair's J is usually quite pricey. AA's new J seats have received mixed reviews, so I didn't want to try my luck with them, either. That left only one choice for me - BA CW. I'd get to experience T5 and the spankin' new lounges and with any luck, I'd also be flying in NGCW. And thanks to a tip from a fellow FTer, getting a BAEC membership and flying in BA CE & CW would result in 320 TPs, just 80 short of BAEC Silver. That's equivalent to OW Sapphire compared to AY Plus Silver, which is equivalent to OW Ruby only and is almost worthless. I could already see myself getting sucked into the never ending - and ridiculous, if you ask some - status race, but I didn't care and I still don't. Since I was in a lucky enough position to book a business class flight, I didn't want to start thinking what else I could've done with that money. And since flying in J will not become a regular habit for me, one time in J and another trip in full fare WT or WT+ will be sufficient to gain Silver status with BAEC. Even if I flew in economy, I'd soon enjoy at least the lounges, priority Check-In and Slo... err, Fast Track. So, AIRLINE AND FF MEMBERSHIP: CHECK.

I booked my flights, spent hours and hours here looking for information on CW, whether I will experience the NGCW, what the T5 lounges are like, etc. I was told that I'm obsessive, but that really didn't slow me down. The day of departure seemed to be years away and I thought that it would never arrive. Patience of a 5 year old, I guess. Apart from my first TATL flight years ago, I had never been so excited to get into a metal tube that magically stayed up in the air. MAXIMUM EXCITEMENT LEVEL: CHECK.

The last couple of days prior to departure put me on the edge. First of all, because I had bought a discounted J ticket, I wasn't able to choose my seat until 24 hours before departure. Being as impatient as a 5 year old, minutes felt like hours while I was waiting for the OLCI to open. Second, mother nature had decided that London and the whole southern England was in need of some snow, and by some she meant the heaviest snowfall in two decades. Not good. But I didn't know what was ahead, so I grabbed my luggage and took a taxi to the airport early Monday morning.

HEL-LHR 07:45-9:00 02FEB
AY 5905 / BA795 OPERATED BY BA 757-200
Club Europe Seat 3C



HEL Terminal 2 check-in hall. Still very quiet at 6 in the morning.

Terminal 2 in Helsinki was quiet at 6:00 in the morning. I found my way to BA's CE check-in desk and because there was no line, I was able to check myself in quickly. I asked about possible weather delays in LHR but the check-in lady had no idea what I was talking about. Her colleague serving ET pax knew that it was snowing in London, but didn't really know more. Oh well. I got my boarding passes (for both HEL-LHR and LHR-BOS), thanked her and proceeded to security.

I'm sure that the metal detectors in HEL are of the most sensitive kind or then they just hate me, as I barely wore anything metallic apart from the buttons on my trousers, and I still made the gate beep. My bag was also searched because it's a big camera backpack with a DSLR camera and several lenses, including a mammoth telephoto lens that can be mistaken for a portable bazooka. The backpack also has a compartment for a laptop and while I could have kept it in the bag because of the new laptop-stays-in-the-bag rule, I took it out and explained to the security goon that I already have suspiciously shaped items in the bag (not with those words, though!) and didn't want the bag to be scanned back and forth. Travelling with lots of camera equipment and a laptop with a zillion accessories usually guarantees plenty of attention when going through security.






Terminal 2, airside. Schengen side of the international terminal was quiet, too.

I walked through almost deserted Schengen Terminal 2 to passport security check to reach the non-Schengen part of the terminal. Finnish Border Guards are known for their Finnish candor, i.e. skipping pleasantries and going straight tot the point - suspecting that you're up to no good, that is. I hear that they grill especially pax coming from the Far East. My Finnish passport seemed to be fine and the mean looking guy let me through and said even thank you. I was shocked.


Terminal 2, non-Schengen. No people here, either. Off to the lounge...



AY long haul J lounge, clean, quiet and boring. More pics further down...

Even though it was an early morning, a few pax had found their way to the long haul lounge. J pax and those with lesser status go to the left, premium pax go to the right. The lounge dragon looked at my boarding pass and let me in after her computer said yes. I already saw on the monitors that an AY flight to LHR had been cancelled, but that the BA flight was still on schedule. I decided to have breakfast and wait for a while. 30 minutes before the departure we heard an announcement asking pax flying to LHR to contact the transfers desk nearby. It was obvious that our flight was cancelled, too, but they didn't bother putting it on the screen early on. I queued to the desk for ages and later found out that BA's computer system was having a bad day. Some pax took the cancellations seriously and vented their anger to the BA and AY representatives, which was, in my opinion, pointless and rather annoying. Sometimes it's sunny and everything goes smoothly, sometimes it snows and flights get cancelled. When you travel, you pretty much give up your control over how things go and there's no point in getting all worked up about it. You might as well go with the flow and accept things as they come - at least if you're at the airport in Helsinki where it's quiet and calm. (More about the mess in LHR later...)

When I finally got to talk to the same BA lady that knew about the snow at check-in, I was given two choices: rerouted flights, or flying the next day. Actually I asked for flights for the next day, as I wanted to fly with BA (would've otherwise ended up flying with SAS or KLM). Nothing wrong with them, but at that time I thought I'd get downgraded to Y and loose my TPs and miles at worst. Later I was told here that I would've kept my TPs and miles, and I might have had an opportunity to double dip with SK/KL had I been a member of their FF programs. I'm not, and I just wanted my BA flights. She printed me a new e-ticket and told that my luggage would be soon on the belt in baggage claim. I thanked her, went through passport control and onward to the baggage claim area. Grabbed my suitcase, was relieved that I wasn't stuck at LHR but also cursed the 40 Euros that I paid in vain for the taxi. A ride back home would be on a bus for sure!

A new day, a new opportunity.

HEL-LHR 07:45-9:00 03FEB
AY 5905 / BA795 OPERATED BY BA 757-200
Club Europe Seat 4A


I arrived at the airport around 6 in the morning again. This time a friend gave me a ride to the airport, otherwise I would’ve had to take a bus. A 40 EUR taxi ride was out of the question! The BA CE check-in lady remembered me from the previous day and she was very chatty. She even remembered to type in my BA EC number which at the moment is printed on a piece of paper only. I asked her about cancelled flights the previous day and she said that only one late evening AY flight had been able to depart to LHR on Monday, and that the BA 795 plane stayed overnight in HEL. She went on printing boarding passes and this time I was assigned to seat 4A. 3C bulkhead seat would've been soooo nice, but it was already taken when OLCI opened. Went through security (lots of beeping again, but no bag search), passport control (nicer gorilla this time), and to the lounge again. The dragon let me in almost without looking at my boarding pass as she was in the middle of preparing the brekkie. In fact, I was the first one to arrive there! Had breakfast again and while it was healthy for sure, it didn't feel special.


Self service kitchen.


Smoking area with the best AC and ethernet connectivity I've ever seen! I haven't seen too many smoking areas at airports recently, even LHR got rid of theirs.

I asked for free wi-fi vouchers and decided to see what's going on on FT. I also decided try try some white wine despite of my "no booze before noon" rule. My random choice was Vina Plata Chenin Blanc Chardonnay which was rather bland. But because it was “free”, didn’t feel bad about it!


Browsing FT.

Boarding was announced more or less on time. No separate lines for J/Y as there was a wait area after the BPs were scanned. Finally the gate doors opened and we entered the plane. Flight seemed to be quite full, with packed Y cabin and luckily only 1/3 full J cabin. 2DEF were free and I should’ve moved, because Mr. 4C slept for most of the flight and my visits to the loo seemed to bother him. I greeted him when he sat next to me for the first time, but never really figured out whether he’s Finnish or not as he preferred to say nothing. Annoying. Luckily a friendly crew made up for that. Seat was also faily comfortable for a short haul flight, and definitely better than what AY has to offer.


Row 4 in 757-200 CE

The FAs handed out hot towels and collected coats. As I’m not used to that on whY, I had already put my coat in the overhead bin. At 7:45, around scheduled departure, the captain announced that the engines are being heated to get rid of any ice that had formed overnight. He went on saying that the flight to London shouldn’t be too bumpy, thanked pax for boarding on time, and that LHR should be back to whatever is normal operation for LHR.


Engines being heated, de-icing truck standing by.

8:05 – Captain again: De-icing took longer than anticipated, we’ll leave shortly.

Finally we took off at 8:15. Captain kept the brakes on in the beginning of the runway while revving up the engines which made the whole fuselage shake quite a bit. Maybe he wanted to check that the engines were working properly? Liftoff was quick and powerful. We didn’t wait for a time slot for LHR, which was curious – usually the AY flight 15 minutes later never leaves on time because it’s waiting for a slot from LHR, especially if LHR is congested. I guess the BA flight gets priority over AY?



Taxing in HEL.


It was a bit cloudy...


...but it got better over downtown Helsinki.

Breakfast was served at 8:40: ham, sausage, scambled eggs, potatoes, mushrooms. Tasted just like that. Didn’t feel like starting the flight with alcohol...


Gotta love English breakfast.

But who were I fooling? I finally gave in at 10:00 when a FA asked if I wanted anything to drink. I opted for champagne and got Pommery Brut Royal. It was very dry indeed and I liked it.


Ahh....

Closer to London the sky turned a lot more interesting. It was clear that the snow flurries were far from over in England...


Ominous clouds



As we approached LHR, descending started slowly around 8:30 (UK time / 10:30 HEL time), or 30 minutes prior to scheduled arrival. There were some bumps in the beginning, but otherwise it was a smooth ride. According to the captain, only one runway was in use while the other one was being de-iced. Temperature in London was –3C.



Snowy England


Windsor castle



Snowy runway - way more fuss for less snow than in HEL, but then again, the weather at LHR is rarely the same as in HEL...


Cyprus Airways plane that slid off the taxiway the previous day.

We landed at 9:15 local time, or 15 minutes late. Not bad! At this point I thought that I’d make it to my connecting flight to BOS at 10:45. I would probably miss the T5 lounges, but at least I’d be on my way to BOS instead of being stuck at LHR. Or so I thought. Captain announced that snow is being removed from the gate areas and we needed to wait for a free gate for a while.

And we waited, waited, and waited... Finally after waiting for an hour and 20 minutes, we were given a gate and were able to disembark at 10:35. I grabbed my belongings and ran to the T5 bus, which left immediately. Because BA flights to HEL leave from Terminal 1 instead of T5, changing terminals didn’t really make my short layover easy. I was sure that I’d miss my flight, even though the FAs on the BA flight said that many flights out of LHR were delayed.

Upon arriving to T5 flight connections I showed my boarding pass to a BA person who, after confirming it with another person, said that I had missed my flight. I believed her and I didn’t bother looking at the monitors even though I should have. I went to the First/CW queue which seemed to move slowly. WT queue didn’t move any quicker and was twice as long. Finally after 30 minutes of queuing I reached the desk and the rather confused lady on the other side of the desk. BA’s computer system was having yet another bad day it whatever they tried to do, took ages. I later found out that the Amadeus(?) system received a major upgrade the previous day or that day, but it didn’t go smoothly. Great timing! Anyway, the lady behind the desk said that I had not missed my flight because it was delayed. I was slightly relieved, even though in my mind I was punching myself in the face for not checking the monitors first. But I guess I would’ve had to queue at the transfers desk anyway, and that 30 minutes was nothing compared to what some other pax had gone through the previous night while stuck at LHR.


T5 was packed (and my point and shoot camera sucks).


One last glance before heading to the lounge.

New departure time for the delayed 10:45 flight was now at 13:30. That gave me enough time to visit the T5 Galleries South and relax for a bit. After all, experiencing the T5 lounges was one of the reasons I chose to fly with BA in J! I took the escalators to the lounge area, went past an “ever-changing thing” as someone has described the funky and cool-looking piece of modern art hanging from the ceiling next to the escalators. Friendly lounge dragon scanned my BP and let me in.

The lounge is HUGE. For a T5 newbie it looks like the size of a smaller airport alone. And not only it is huge, but it was also packed. I was a bit disoriented and wanted to do some scouting first before settling down and finding my own space. But finding that space was tough as there were very few seats free. I finally decided to sit next to the computer area and charge my laptop’s battery.


Again on FT in the T5 Galleries South


Chairs next to the computer area.


Private loos!

After a few glasses of L’ecole N 41, some food and constant staring at the monitors, I decided to move to the southern end of the lounge and go easy on the wine for now. Departure was finally moved from 13:30 until 16:00, so I wasn’t in a hurry and was able to enjoy the lounge properly. I couldn’t relax, though, as I wanted to remember every bit of the lounge, and was too alert for most of the time. I didn’t take too many pics because several other travellers have way better pics from the T5 lounges, but in general, I found the lounge to be well beyond of what I’d consider acceptable. It also made waiting for the delayed flight really easy and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to wait at the gate or somewhere else in the terminal.

Some photos from the southern end of the lounge:






Didn't realize until later that the lamp is identical to the ones on board BA's 777 CW...

Around 15:20 I found out that the gate had been announced – it was in T5B. Thinking that the flight was going to leave in 40 minutes, I almost panicked and fleed the lounge. Arriving in T5B took no longer than 10 minutes, but I had ran for my dear life in vain. Nothing was going on at the gate due to catering delay, so the departure was pushed back to 17:00. No worries, I’d have time to check out the T5B lounge!


T5B Galleries was almost deserted and it was a lot quieter lounge than T5 Galleries South.


T5A from T5B


777-200 to BOS

Boarding started at 16:50. Pax were notified of the separate First/CW and WT lines but it fell on deaf ears. In fact, most pax were on the First/CW queue and WT queue was way faster! Staff didn’t seem to care and neither did I, as I was able to get onboard in 1 minute through the cattle class queue.

LHR-BOS 10:45-13:10 03FEB (“slightly delayed”)
BA 214 777-200
Club World Seat 11A

First observation: Next Generation Club World!!! Ahhh. I had secretly hoped for NGCW but that being hit-or-miss with the 777, I didn’t really expect it. My TATL trip was already off to a good start! Chose champers for pre-flight drink and asked for The Times.


My seat, 11A


Very few pax in CW.






There's that lamp again!


Champers and The Times


Storage drawer. It really isn't big enough for laptops even though BA says so.


Privacy screen. Button for operating the screen is on top of the divider wall, took some time to figure that out.

Some random notes I did while waiting for the departure:
Cabin looks tidy and clean. Staff is very friendly. Amenity kit looks a bit cheap. Plane looks empty but that might be due to pax being rerouted through other airports and airlines. Cabin crew is from the morning flight, two services? Twice the staff???? (NOTE: Can’t remember what I meant by those notes. They had twice the staff on board, but half of them slept in CW on our way to BOS. Maybe they were going to work on the inbound flight back to LHR, but I honestly don’t know.) Captain announces at 17:18 that we’re leaving in 15 minutes. Armrests are wobbly and clickety. Tray table is leaning on the right. Hmm. Otherwise seat is nice. We’re still at the gate at 17:38, last few bags are being loaded in the aircraft. Taxing at 18:00. Takeoff felt weird sitting backwards, also you can’t feel that steep climbing at all when sitting backwards.

Amenity kit:





After the seat belt sign had been switched off, cabin crew started their stellar service. As a CW newbie I asked if they had Kir Royale as one of my friends had recommended it. I had to admit to the male FA that it was my first time in CW, thus the question. He smiled and said that I don't need to worry.

CW was almost empty, maybe 13 or so pax. I received my first Kir Royale soon and my glass was topped up all the time. Cheers! They sure know how to turn pax into alcoholics... Dinner itself was a mixed bag – salad and salmon starters were ok and good, in that order. Main course chicken salad was tasty apart from way too dry chicken. Two salads in a row... what was I thinking?! Cheese and oatmeal bisquits were delicious and I watered them down with Baileys. At this point I had had so many Kir Royales that I decided to switch to water altogether.

The menu and dinner pics:










One of many Kir Royales.


That salmon was really good.





I worked for a while and while the in-seat power that required no adapter was great, the tray table made working hard. I didn’t let that bother, though, and decided to watch Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death. It was hilarious and brilliant. The seat is very comfortable when watching movies (no AVOD, though) and even better when sleeping. I can't sleep in whY, but this seat made falling asleep effortless. I just can’t understand why the arm rests are so flimsy... luckily they get out of the way when the seat goes down. Later on one FA brought some ice cream. How could she read my thoughts? Lights were dimmed and it almost felt like an overnight flight.


Club kitchen wasn’t looted because of few pax on board.



Snack service started at 6:35 EST / Boston time. Sandwich looked boring but the taste was a pleasant surprise. The tart? Naah. I still regret that I forgot to ask for scones! An hour before arrival the flight map showed head wind of 115mph / 185kmph at worst, so our arrival was delayed even more. On top of that, it was snowing in Boston and we had to circle above the airport while a runway was being cleaned. We arrived at 20:30, or seven hours late. Immigration queues were short and I got though without too much grilling. I found out that my luggage didn’t make it to the flight and I would get it the next day. That has happened to me before, so I was expecting that and had emergency socks and underpants with me. But how come my bag never made to the plane if the flight was delayed for 7 hours? I’m still puzzled. ( I was told that BA would compensate for necessities for up to $200, but I got the bag the next day and never bought anything.)

My final destination was Portland, Maine, so I waited until the the 21:25 bus arrived at Boston Logan. Back home the time was 4:25 in the morning, and never before has sleeping on a bus been so easy! Bus arrived in Portland at 00:10 and I was finally in bed at 01:00. That was just 27 hours after I had woken up at home before the trip! I was exhausted, but also well aware that had I flown in whY, I'd be dead by now. Being able to relax in the lounges and further on board helped in tolerating the long journey and delays. So far my BA CW experience had been great, and I was already looking forward to the return flight!

Click here for inbound trip report

Last edited by speedymac; Mar 3, 09 at 5:33 pm Reason: Typos. I bet I still haven't found all of them! Edit 2: Link to inbound trip report added.
speedymac is offline  
Old Feb 22, 09, 9:48 am
  #2  
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nice report and pics ^
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Old Feb 22, 09, 10:00 am
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Wow...great report and nice reading ! Will be looking forward to more.
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Old Feb 22, 09, 10:24 am
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I love your BA J amenity kit with Elemis products ! Did you get to try it out yet ? I think Elemis is a notch above what BA used before, Molton Brown. Even CX only use Elemis in F rather than J.
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Old Feb 22, 09, 2:40 pm
  #5  
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Thanks for your comments, elitetraveler, cph_flyer and ORDnHKG!

Originally Posted by ORDnHKG View Post
I love your BA J amenity kit with Elemis products ! Did you get to try it out yet ? I think Elemis is a notch above what BA used before, Molton Brown. Even CX only use Elemis in F rather than J.
I tried out the ear plugs, skin lotion and toothbrush (especially the toothpaste is great when travelling - not too big, but big enough to last for maybe a week).
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Old Feb 22, 09, 3:35 pm
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Loved reading your report . Sorry to hear about the delays you had to put up with, but at least you had the relative comfort of the T5 Galleries Club lounge to wait in, and then NGCW to pass the time - i can think on worse ways to spend delays! Great pics too.

Efin
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Old Feb 22, 09, 5:20 pm
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Great TR, thanks for taking the time to write it. I love Vantaa and am lucky enough to go through there 4-5 times a year, one of my favorite European airports. ^
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Old Feb 22, 09, 5:34 pm
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What am excellently written detailed report thank you!

So what did you think of the T5B lounge? For me, I much prefer it over the crowded T5A Galleries lounge, it is a haven of peace and quiet and it has better views too.

Glad that you enjoyed the on-board meal, but you missed a trick by not having a score or two. They are heavenly. Along with the ice-cream, scones are something that I always look forward to when I fly to JFK each month.

I'm looking forward to hearing about the return trip.
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Old Feb 22, 09, 8:48 pm
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wow those are some nice pics! thanks!
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Old Feb 22, 09, 10:28 pm
  #10  
 
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Great TR! Thanks!
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Old Feb 22, 09, 10:45 pm
  #11  
 
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A terrific report. Am eagerly awaiting your tale of the return segment.
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Old Feb 22, 09, 11:30 pm
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Thanks for the pics and report.
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Old Feb 23, 09, 3:07 am
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speedymac, this is an excellent report! I am planning a BA trip HEL-LHR-NYC or YYZ later this year, so now I know what I can look forward to. I'll also try to travel in discounted business.

Looking forward to reading about your return trip!
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Old Feb 23, 09, 5:05 am
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Whoa, as I'm a relatively new member and this is my first trip report, I really didn't expect this many responses. Thank you, efincomputer, UCBeau, matthandy, aaron1262, faithwins, hoyateach, chanp and vulle! ^

Originally Posted by efincomputer View Post
at least you had the relative comfort of the T5 Galleries Club lounge to wait in
The only problem I had with the T5 Galleries Lounge was that the computer desks were a bit too close to drinks and wines section, making it too easy to get yet another glass as I could se my computer and belongings all the time...

Originally Posted by UCBeau View Post
Great TR, thanks for taking the time to write it. I love Vantaa and am lucky enough to go through there 4-5 times a year, one of my favorite European airports. ^
Helsinki-Vantaa lacks some of the finer elements of bigger airports such as fancier lounges, but it's straightforward, clean and manageable. If I weren't Finnish, I'd say that Copenhagen is even nicer, but I won't!

Originally Posted by matthandy View Post
So what did you think of the T5B lounge? For me, I much prefer it over the crowded T5A Galleries lounge, it is a haven of peace and quiet and it has better views too.
Had I known that the flight will leave from T5B, I would've gone straight to the T5B Galleries Lounge! I don't understand why they can't announce the gate, especially if the flight is delayed and the plane is at the gate already. Anyway, loved the peace and quiet for the 20 minutes that I was there... it's a shame I couldn't stay there longer.

Originally Posted by vulle View Post
I am planning a BA trip HEL-LHR-NYC or YYZ later this year, so now I know what I can look forward to. I'll also try to travel in discounted business.
You'll enjoy BA NGCW a lot, and even more on a 747. Unfortunately discounted J means that you can't choose your seat in advance, and might not be able to experience the upper deck, but that is pretty much the only drawback!
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Old Feb 23, 09, 7:34 am
  #15  
mag
 
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thanks for taking the time and effort to write this! it's great to see your enthusiasm... and i would share it.
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