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BA First - US West Coast road trip with a baby

BA First - US West Coast road trip with a baby

Old Mar 16, 09, 6:45 pm
  #1  
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BA First - US West Coast road trip with a baby

This trip report covers a two-week family fly-drive vacation to the US South West. The trip was booked back in June 2008 using BA Miles and an Amex Companion ('241') Voucher. My wife was pregnant at the time so we decided to book a trip for March 2009 (just before expiry of the Amex voucher) when our son would be just over 3 months old.

Flight: LHR-SFO BA287 (F)

I (being BAEC Gold) selected seats 1K and 2K - the cabin seat plan was empty at that time. At booking in June 2008, our child was as yet unborn so he was not added until after his birth in November. At that time (dealing with BAEC over the phone) he was 'attached' to my booking as I was pre-assigned seat 1K with the bassinet shelf.

At T-(30 days), I contacted the BA YouFirst service to book a cabana in the T5 Concorde Room. At T-36, another quick call to YouFirst enabled us to grab seat 1A for my wife (the agent switched our son to attach him to my wife's booking to enable this - this subsequently caused a problem at OLCI because our son was attached to both of us!)

The car picked us up at 09:30 for the 14:25 flight. Arriving at T5 we headed for First check-in, where our stroller was tagged and all checked baggage accepted - we had 3 large suitcases plus 3 cabin bags, a stroller and a infant carrier/car seat. We passed through security relatively slowly (usual two long lines - one of which was 'FastTrack').

Headed to the right to enter the CCR. Girl on the desk recognised that we had booked a cabana and directed us to the Quintessentially desk, when the concierge showed us to the extra large cabana (number 1, at the side) reserved for wheelchair users. Only really suitable for one person - although the footstool is great for a non-crawling baby. We ordered some breakfast sat back and enjoyed a couple of hours to relax, buy some emergency formula from Boots just back outside and read the day's newspapers. Took my time to show my son the view from the balcony - he was more fascinated by the bubbles in the champers!

Boarding was showing around 13:40 -from A10 of all places, the bussing gates. What a pain to have to collapse the stroller, explain that we wanted the stroller to be onboard with us, and carrying the infant carrier all the way to a T3 stand (assume the a/c had fulfilled an inbound BKK or SIN). We were the first F pax into the cabin and the FAs immediately did everything they could to help - stowing the stroller, car seat and baby's bag in the front wardrobe. Settled myself into 1K whilst my wife took baby onto her lap in 1A. More champers for me and water for mum.

Rest of the F residents drifted in - the first being the chap in 2A who smiled when he saw the baby - immediately remarking how cool it was to travel longhaul with a 3-month-old, something he had done 12 months previously. After reaching altitude, the purser brought along a bassinet, which she proceeded to fit transversely on the shelf with the straps crossed.

We had a wonderful flight - baby was awake through lunch after his feed, so we buddied in 1A - I love being tucked up in that enclosed buddy seat. He was asleep by the time we reached cheese and biscuits, so we placed him into the bassinet. He then slept for 8 hours apart from one brief stirring when mum and I had fun trying to change him in the rear bathroom - he wasn't happy with the strange changing arrangement and it took a while to get him settled afterwards. He fed again on descent which prevented any ear pressure problems.

We had a spectacular view of the Bay and Bridges as we circled out over the Pacific to land heading North West. Deplaned in just a few minutes at gate A4 - being able to place the baby straight back in the stroller/carrier was a real benefit. Other passengers thanked us for having such a well-behaved baby.

Drive: Joining the RV set

After a few nights at the new InterContinental on Howard St, we picked up a rented 27 foot RV from RoadBear in Hayward. This was our home for the next 12 days - travelling 1700 miles down Highway 1, along Route 66, to the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Lake Powell and Zion National Park before returning the RV to Las Vegas. We stayed at the old Hilton and actually managed to come away $100 better off!

Flight: LAS-LAX-SFO AA (F)

We travelled separately LAS to SFO - mum and son on UA without luggage whilst I gained a few extra TPs travelling AA via LAX in F with all the luggage checked through to London (even on separate AA and BA bookings). The Flagship lounge in LAX is OK but I prefer the ORD one - better layout and a warmer feeling. We arrived in SFO about 30 minutes apart and met at BA check-in.

PS: UA do not provide lap straps for infants!!

Flight: SFO-LHR BA286 (F)

I had again pre-selected 1K and 2K for this flight. On check-in, we added an extra checked bag (one of the cabin bags was not needed on board). I was surprised there was no pre-flight dining for a 9pm departure - we were hungry and it was only 4:30pm. We were the only occupants of the lounge once we cleared security - BA284 was just boarding at the time. The F lounge is not really separated from Terraces - more side room with better chairs. We occupied the sofa for the few hours we had to kill - baby was happy playing and feeding, but fell asleep about 90 minutes before take-off, which was indicated he may not sleep through the whole flight.

On board, this time the F purser tried to force me to check the stroller in, before the CSD overruled and found space for it in a rear stowage in Club. Mum and son occupied 1K whilst I stowed the cabin bags above 2K - then the CSD came back to us to say the occupant of 1A had boarded the earlier flight so I bagged the seat with pleasure. Junior was fed whilst we climbed and was asleep again before supper was served. This time the bassinet was placed laterally with the straps uncrossed - not sure which way is correct, but this way works better for mum to access the baby and rock the bassinet.

A personal visit and chat from the captain after dinner was a pleasant surprise - first time this has happened in a long time for me.

All three of us slept until about 90 minutes before landing. Both still full from supper, we opted for a fruit breakfast and started to prepare for arrival. Junior had a small crying fit which was settled once he was changed and fed. Arrival was smooth and 15 minutes early. Docking to a B-gate meant a short shuttle ride, but we were in the baggage hall within 15 minutes. Our bags took a while to appear - some of the last on the belt. One had a damaged handle and lock - turns out to have been a TSA inspection in the US, but BA made a MBR anyway and we are now waiting for the bag (a favourite Globetrotter of mine) to be repaired.

All in all a great holiday with a great flying experience to boot!



Outbound BA287 - seats 1A/1K, bassinet transverse



A familiar scene?



RV in Zion Canyon



Inbound BA287 1K/1A - note bassinet lateral

Last edited by astralclouds; Mar 16, 09 at 7:26 pm
astralclouds is offline  
Old Mar 16, 09, 7:34 pm
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Thumbs down What the heck is a baby doing in longhaul F ?

I am sure the OP's baby is a dellghtful, well-mannered, carefully and lovingly-parented child. Nor do I doubt the OP's testimony that on the particular two flights detailed the child only got bumptious once.

HOWEVER

I wonder what BA is doing accepting a potential squawler (and we have all sat through flights in Y and occasionally J where a baby has screamed, cried and done what babies do - not their fault - throughout a long period of time) into its "exclusive" F cabin.

If I have paid perhaps as much as $10,000 to fly a long-haul sector in F, one of the rights I am purchasing is, clearly, peace and quiet. If I buy in Y or Y+, clearly no one in his right mind has such an expectation though airlines generally do try and put families up front so I can try and book in the back. In any event, I should bring earplugs along. If in J, well, I have the right to some moderate expectation of tranquility - and I would expect airlines to segregate babies with their families in one cabin if in fact there are two J cabins, be they upstairs and downstairs in a 747 or otherwise arranged so that there is one "quiet" cabin.

I think it presumptuous of the OP to inflict a baby on the other pax in F, and foolish of BA or any other airline operating long-haul F to accept same. I don't give a fig about bleating about human rights or any other nonsense: the OP has a right to fly with their children, accepted - but not a right to fly in F class (and even J is arguable). My pov is that those having the resources to contemplate what the OP did should either fly Y or hire a nanny or trusted friend or family member to fly in Y with the infant - with of course the right to pass through several sets of "curtains" to visit said child and keeper in Y as desired. That is the sane approach. An airline enforcing same would win my respect.
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Old Mar 16, 09, 7:52 pm
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Originally Posted by Johnlathropa View Post
....I wonder what BA is doing accepting a potential squawler (and we have all sat through flights in Y and occasionally J where a baby has screamed, cried and done what babies do - not their fault - throughout a long period of time) into its "exclusive" F cabin....
hah, gotcha!

I would assume from your opinion (to which you are entitled) that you haven't spent much time on these forums (where this subject has been exhausted) or in longhaul F (where travelling with a baby is a right - it's public transport after all). More parents would travel in F with an infant given the choice and opportunity as the experience is far more relaxing for both parents and therefore baby - and hence fellow passengers.
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Old Mar 16, 09, 8:19 pm
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Couldn't agree with the OP more! Peace and quiet is not a right on an airplane, in any cabin. You can't honestly expect a person who is used to flying in J or F to start flying in Y just because they have an infant. Yes, we have all been on flights where a particular child is having a bad day and spends most of its time crying, but in my experience, the good do heavily outweigh the bad. My wife and I are expecting our first child in October and I can tell you that the three of us will be traveling to Asia in March in J!
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Old Mar 16, 09, 8:28 pm
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As someone who is unlikely to raise children himself, has perhaps a slight fear of children, and usually tries to keep some distance between me and them... my comments are:

To poster #2 - if you find it so essential to avoid children, then it's really quite reckless of you to travel by anything other than private charter (assuming you don't already have your own aircraft, in which case you wouldn't need to charter).

To the OP - if I were to have to manage children, I would be very hard-pressed to consider anything less than First for long-haul. There really is enough stress, strain and bother with travel even without having to look after someone else, and if I had to ensure that I could look responsibly after a small child as well, I think I would feel stretched pretty thin to be able to do so in anything less than First. It sounds like you have figured out a thing or two about how to do this responsibly and effectively... in the unlikely event I find myself needing to travel with a small child, I'll look to you for some guidance!
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Old Mar 16, 09, 8:58 pm
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Johnlathropa - How ridiculous. I've been disturbed on long flights more by noisy adults than I have with babies.

astralclouds - Glad to hear you had a great holiday and two enjoyable flights with the new arrival. ^
Bit of a poor show from the purser though trying to get you to put the stroller in the hold. Strange way to treat a F passenger surely?
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Old Mar 16, 09, 9:15 pm
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I think that Poster #2 is forgetting that airlines are a business!

If the people who want to pay upwards of $10,000 a ticket happen to have a baby, the airline is not going to turn them away.

The same goes for obese travelers in Economy and sick travelers in any cabin class, they pay and they fly!

Would it be better to put a obese person in F, a baby in Y, and deny boarding to someone who is coughing and sneezing, sure it is! But its not going to happen!
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Old Mar 16, 09, 9:41 pm
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Whilst I sympathise with post #2 as I've been in J with a screaming baby for a 11 hour flight and it was miserable. However, I find the assertion of some mythical 'right' to a baby-free F cabin quite offensive. I don't have kids, nor am I ever likely to however I would never be so presumptious to deny the right of a fare paying (or mileage redeeming) passenger to bring their offspring into a premium cabin.

As a F pax (or any other class) you do not have the right to anything but a seat on a plane to take you from A to B. You run the risk of being seated next to a screaming baby, a 'customer of size', a snoring businessman, a noisy overbearing celebrity, a quiet baby, a flatulent food critic or any number of inconveniences. It is after all public transport and no matter the cost, public transport means you have to mix with the public and we come in all shapes and sizes.

I've also endured a 14 hour flight on VS in UC where members of a famous rock band were travelling and they made my trip *far* more miserable than any screaming kid. Besides in F you get a noise cancelling headset, so just turn it on and let the electronics tune them out.

If you are that bothered by the presence of kids on your plane then why not book up the entire F cabin so your privacy can be assured?
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Old Mar 17, 09, 1:27 am
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What heck is that where you took the baby in the J class? I don't think so. Because the reasonable fares are very expensive is over $10,000 for flying into F class. I didn't see anything more pictures that he took inside First Suite on BA for LHR-SFO nonstop. Why he don't take in the premium economy class is much better than in F class. I'm sure if I would like to see more pictures inside of F class cabin view and etc. Next time that I would like to see more photos with mother & the baby inside of F class. Why your baby boy who flying out of LHR-SFO without doctor's permission? Because he isn't ready for flying.
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Old Mar 17, 09, 2:35 am
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What?
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Old Mar 17, 09, 2:36 am
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Originally Posted by N830MH View Post
What heck is that where you took the baby in the J class? I don't think so. Because the reasonable fares are very expensive is over $10,000 for flying into F class. I didn't see anything more pictures that he took inside First Suite on BA for LHR-SFO nonstop. Why he don't take in the premium economy class is much better than in F class. I'm sure if I would like to see more pictures inside of F class cabin view and etc. Next time that I would like to see more photos with mother & the baby inside of F class. Why your baby boy who flying out of LHR-SFO without doctor's permission? Because he isn't ready for flying.
Not sure I quite understand your post - but on your point around infant readiness for flying, I have this response.

We happen to have taken part in a recent medical study at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London where tests on the effects of oxygen depletion at altitude were carried out on some 50 babies at age 3 months. On board a commercial flight, oxygen levels can drop to around 15% above 8000 feet. Adults do not notice any effect from this, but the research was determining whether pre-term or term babies showed any discomfort at these levels. From what I understand (the research has yet to be published), lung development in term infants is sufficient at this stage to see no adverse effects.

Beside which, general medical advice is that term infants are OK to fly at around 7 days after birth (something to do with fluid stabilisation in the ear canals).

Hope that addresses part of your concerns
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Old Mar 17, 09, 3:32 am
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Excellent TR. At last, a pic of 1A and 1K that shows you how close they are together.

Edited: Originally engaged with post 2 but then changed my mind. This is a TR and not yet another fight about kids in F and J
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Old Mar 17, 09, 3:53 am
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Smile

Okay, I know nothing about photography, but man! Those pictures are like high definition or something! They look incredible! Beautiful! ^

And that desert picture instantly took me back to National Lampoon's Vacation by the way! "Audrey, when they close the roads they put up big signs, like this one... AAAAHHHH!"
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Old Mar 17, 09, 4:02 am
  #14  
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Great TR and glad you enjoyed it. Out of interest, what stroller do you have? Just interested at what size would be acceptable to take on board. Also did you have to request the bassinet once on board or did already know to bring it over?
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Old Mar 17, 09, 4:42 am
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I have flown with my kids in J and F class from when they were 6 months old. We have flown long haul (SYD - DXB, JNB-PER), etc. I paid for the flights, and they were well behaved (the dummy dipped in a glass of something works wonders). I belieive it all comes down to how the kids are raised. By having a 3 month old start flying at an early age, hopefully the kids grows up knowing planes, travel, etc and will be well behaved.

The worst I have travelled with have been drunk grown ups.

I say good on the parents for introducing their kid to the finer things in life. Lucky kid.
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