The The BA Y+ and Y class Long Haul Experience (LHR-BKK/SIN/SYD and back)>
AKA Thank you England and Australia (Cricket teams!)
Regular readers of my trip reports may go into shock at this juncture – yes – I’m flying a Non Star Alliance Airline, and it ISN’T a United or US Airways Trip report to the USA! Of course, it’s still down the back-ish – some traditions must be maintained .
My usual trip rules apply (Bad humour, odd videos that make no sense, very bad taste in music, the usual moans). Comments and questions are of course always welcome.
But first, anyone for a game of Cricket?
(Yes, it’s the intro!)
In this dark economy, it’s practically any wheeze to get people going and travelling (for example, Air New Zealand’s Grab-It fares, sales here there and everywhere, American, United DEQM’s, Delta’s TEQM’s, BMI Buy The Economist and get 9000 miles… the list goes on).
So when BA and Qantas got together to base the resulting fares and tickets on the first innings of the 2nd Test of The Ashes (a long time Cricket series), you could tell it wasn’t going to be a good idea at first (American readers who don’t understand Cricket should see this little guide )
But onto the from the scores from the first innings.
England scored: 425 (all out)
Australia scored: 215 (all out)
ScreenGrab – BBC Sport – http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport/
So unfortunately for British Airways and Qantas, the formula went as follows
Seats Available: 425
Price per ticket return £215
Now I bet BA and Qantas were not expecting that result…
I don’t care HOW you dress that up, that is one hell of an insane fare – at 1.02p a mile (Which is in “excellent” mileage run territory) . Even if you throw away the points, or ignore the points, that’s still a good value to go somewhere.
Now at 10am on the Sunday I saw this, I had some resistance. By 10am on the Tuesday Morning, the Borg had got me (as resistance is futile), and I was up to see if I could get this fare.
I missed the first set of fares on Qantas (my bad – there’s only so early I can get up in the office), so it was BA or bust!
I was hitting refresh for the fare to load… to find out the fare was being loaded later (it was also interesting watch the fares shoot up from the normal price due to people hitting the BA booking engine).
11am passed… then at 11:15, the fares magically loaded as £195 each way – which priced into the magic £214.90 return fare. At this time I wasn’t exactly worried about the routing – it was getting a seat and getting to the destination that mattered. The credit card details were plugged in – and on the second attempt – I got both outbound and inbound flights secured (plus the £4.50 booking fee for using a credit card).
After the initial euphoria of getting a seat, it was time to work out where I was actually going via on this Kangaroo hop. A tiny bit of Googling lead to me going outbound via Bangkok and returning via Singapore.
Map of course powered by The Great Circle Mapper – http://gc.kls2.com
After a bit of research (thanks to the BA Forum), and working out that the service was indeed fell under the Joint Service Agreement, BA would pay 25% of any miles on this N fare ticket, where as QF would pay 100%. Of course, I swallowed my pride and became a Qantas cardboard class level member.
As the dates got closer to the flight, the messages on the Manage My Booking screen changed from “Fill in your APIS” to “Get discounts Airport parking” (would have been vaguely useful if I had a car…) until one morning I saw the magic words “Upgrade your flight one way for £125”. Whilst the return segment wasn’t showing an upgrade, the outbound was. A quick call to web support, and a £125 lighter – I was booked into World Traveller Plus on the way out.
Now I’m the first to admit I’m not a BA flier nor a OneWorld flier as this alliance doesn’t endear itself to the cheaper flyer or status gaining passenger, and I’ll freely admit I haven’t been aboard a BA flight since the best part of 1990 (LHR -STR and back on an school exchange), so I’ll be doing my usual analysis of the service, food and of course, IFE and keeping my mind and eyes open… but it is hard going back to a status nobody. Ah well – got to start somewhere.
So lets fly the worlds favourite airline (and cue the Flower Duet and Aria please!)
The day before – T minus 24 hours and a few minutes before.
Clickers at the ready as I have no status – I needed to get to the seats pretty much as soon as possible. Looking at the WTP seat map – it’s a very small cabin in comparison to Club Europe or even First (and in the Mid-J configuration, it’s infront of Club World, it was going to be a guess to which would be the best seat as most of the seats had already been secured.
For the outbound part of the journey, my original fear of 3 x 4 x 3 had vanished to a lovely 2 x 4 x 2. In other words – Window Seat in a good configuration – This i could handle being used to being “Brought up” on the A330’s in their 2-4-2 arrangement. OLCI Opened on scheduled, and 13K was picked as the window seat
At that point – I got on with the packing
Part 1 – Get a Move on!!!
After shutting down the flat again, it was time to head onto the 87, and off to London. As I’m in no rush to get to Heathrow (unlike normal), I took the 13:30 train to London
Virgin Trains, Class 221 “Super Voyager” DMU
Birmingham New Street – London Euston
By another amazing coincidence, I secured a £5 cheapie fare from Birmingham to London, which would allow me to stop by a few places before I headed off to LHR. So as oppose to heading to the light that is Moor Street, it was off to home of Birmingham’s own black hole – Mordor Haputbahnhoff (Birmingham New Street).
After negotiating the barriers and the platform, soon enough the 13:30 to Euston pulled in.
Originally booked for a Pendolino, instead Virgin Trains in their wisdom decided to send out a Super Voyager instead.
The Voyager and Super Voyage designs – whilst brand new had a lot of reliability problems – and other problems mainly related to the toilet retention systems – whilst not as “fast” as the Pendolinos, they do make line speed of 125mph – enough for them to operate at speed on the West Coast Main line. However, things have improved, and whilst not. And this super Voyager had a tiny problem.. as no one had uploaded the seat reservation data onto the train – with my window/table seat gone and relegated to a backwards airlines seat style.
Can you tell I got bored on the train?
Sigh. The joy of train travel. However, the at seat power was enabled, and after jettisoning people at BHX, it settled down into a nice, if unremarkable journey – but that’s train travel these days. None of these sentimental journeys you used to have of old.
I was on the one on the left – I should have had one like on the right. Thank you very much Branson/Stagecoach trains….
After topping up my Oyster card (and cursing Mayor Johnson – the prices are starting get expensive to travel on the buses and tubes again) it was quick trip to the camera shop down Tottenham Court Road to pick up some film (yes – I do use the stuff still), as well as a discussion at the Apple Sshop why no Empower adaptors were in stock and getting soaked by Eros
With those done, it was time it was time to wave goodbye to London’s fair city and go underneath Piccadilly Circus, and catch a Piccadilly line to Heathrow T4.
Underground we go!
A different place to the normal place – Terminal 4
A trolley for my trash
Terminal 4 – A changing place these days as it changes from BA’s old home to the SkyTeam London Hub (as well as the league of non-aligned airlines), and since I haven’t had a reason to travel beyond Terminal 1 recently, so a new experience for me.
Originally designed as the Short Haul Terminal, BA had a paddy and got T4 to itself initially – with all the problems that come with it being away from the T1/2/3 complex – in fact within a couple of months of me taking off, the Joint Services will be switched back to the OneWorld Hub in T3, and the rest of BA in T5.
After making my way to check in and confirmed I OLCI’d the previous day, my bag was tagged, I was checked in and it was off to outside baggage, and then security. The staff were friendly and not shouty at all – and I was through in about 5 minutes flat.
After quickly remembering I was “sans status”, I found the Starbucks, and found a window to watch planes take off from. Well it beats looking at northing…
Eventually night fell, and I wandered off to a bit of light retail therapy. Well it happens.
BA Fans may swoon.. now.
Time rolled around again soon enough – and the gate 12 was called. After finding the singular working plug in T4 and charging the devices a bit more, BA009 was called.
The only working plug in T4… and my 747 of the day
I took my time to see how it was going to load, and after packing all the junk away, I joined the main queue, and then directed to fast track (as most of the fast track passengers had been dealt with), and after a queue, I boarded the 747 to Bangkok.
British Airways BA009, 27/08/09, World Traveller Plus, 13K
Boeing 747-400 52J Configuration
BA009 London Heathrow Terminal 4 to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International
After boarding, I was invited to turn left (don’t get excited), as the Mid J/52J configuration was dreamt up in a marketers department, with F in the nosecone, followed by WT+, then CW and the upper deck, then finally, WT.
At the seat, I found the headphone and amenity pack, as well as the blanket and pillow. The seat itself is another Reccaro special, with a footrest that seemed more interested in staying out rather than in. However, a bit of bullying and it went into a suitable take off position. Papers were offered at boarding… and then the magic happened for this sector. The seat next to me – was free.
Pushback was 20 minutes late, with apart from a lone KLM 737, it was one of the last planes of the night from T4.
A short taxi onto 27L, and the four Rolls Royce RB211’s spun up to take off speed, and taking up a lot of the runway we took off into the night sky.
Off we go again!
The evening sky
The plane took a route over Amsterdam, Germany, Ukraine, India and onwards. A drinks service was carried out, and here’s another shocker – I had my usual flight drink – Vodka and Coke. Double minicans and Mini Smirnoffs were offered and accepted.
Soon enough it was the dinner run – a choice of two catering delights – A cottage pie or Lemon and Ginger Chicken. Naturally, I went for the chicken (with some white Chardonnay).
To be honest – it wasn’t that bad – and certainly well cooked, the rice actually looking and tasting like rice. A wine service was also carried out.
Now at this point, you’ll be expecting the usual Ghetto IFE system installed. Well here’s a shocker. I didn’t install it… for the simple reason that there was actually content that I wanted to watch.
The BA AVOD system in WTP is controlled either by touch or by a pull out remote which doubles as a $5 a minute satellite phone. Shame that the Map overly was wobbling a bit – the rest of the content worked fine and was reasonably stocked with some latest releases and classics. In other words – useful content which makes an IFE system. Good marks there!
Soon enough – the night took over and sleep took me until we were flying over the middle east
I again spent time chatting to the crew and successfully NOT raiding the club kitchen. Also to get to the toilet for WTP, one has to go through the galley if on the K side – giving me ample opportunity to have a chat to the crew.
Water refills and water bottles kept aflowing, and after a while, the breakfast service was carried out. I went for a full English.
Full English Breakkie
Again – not much to fault on this service. The hot contents were reasonably tasting, and the non offensive chicken sausage was indeed non offensive. A tea/coffee run went along too.
Soon enough, the cabin was secured, people started lifting their window blinds to see the world below us as the plane begun it’s approach to Bangkok.
Soon enough, the wheels of the plane planted themselves firmly on the tarmac and the plane taxied to F5 for it’s short layover, where the plane was cleared
Thai Airways Boeing 747s in the distance.
Bangkok, Thailand – Now lets not try to get stopped by King Power eh?
A Bangkok Interlude.
Plenty has been written about this airport (least of all recently the little theft incident that wound an English couple in a lot of trouble). But with 2 hours on the ground – and 1 hour 30 to explore – it seemed a waste just to head back to the gate area.
At the centre – always the Royal Family.
Bangkok airport is very much a radial airport – with the hubs of activity and transfer in the centre of the airport and the gate spans to the edges. It proceeded a nice walk and stretch for a bit as the plane was getting stuffy after 10 hours.
It’s amazing what you find many miles from home…
Eventually, I gave in and brought some local tat that I probably could had got at a local market a lot cheaper – but quite frankly a 2 hour layover isn’t enough time to do anything.
Towards the gate
Finnair MD-11 tale
Qantas Boeing 747-400
To the gate!
After re-clearing security and back at the gate, there were free internet consoles to play with. This occupied another 10 minutes, by which time boarding for the second sector was readying.
Again – I boarded in the first door and turned right into WTP.
British Airways BA009, 27/08/09, World Traveller Plus, 13K
Boeing 747-400 Mid J Configuration
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International, to Sydney International Airport T1.
Again – I boarded in the first door and turned right into WTP. After boarding I was offered papers, and then my seat mate came to keep me occupied with stories of late night Bangkok and the.. umm… “Nightlife” with details approaching TMI.
Thai Airways Airbus A330
Thankfully the plane begun its long trundle around BKK and finally, the engines were brought up to speed and we were off into the evening sky – with night falling at BKK
Of course this meant for lovely pics and sights as night fell.
And the skies- more in the photoblog
Soon enough the drinks came (vodka and cola),
Get used to this picture
and the dinner round came with this time which was Spanish Chicken.
Whilst not on a level with United’s “Oh dear”, this was a comparative poor meal to the Lemon and Ginger chicken on the way out.
Whilst the contents were reasonable, there was just something lacking from the meal – be it taste or something I’ve been trying to put my finger on.
For an Asian catering point, I was expecting at least one Asian choice.
The cake was… odd, but not inedible, whilst the mushroom salad was… inspiredly different (that’s as diplomatic as I’m going to get here).
Now here is my biggest moan about the WTP seats – the distance between the window and the actual window seat itself.
Perhaps I’ve done far too many flights in Y, but I do like the window seat to be near the window so I can rest my head on the bulkhead.
The seat whilst providing some support for the head with the winged style headrest doesn’t give the support of a relatively solid bulkhead – thus sleep on both sectors was tough – 5 hours in 24 isn’t good considering I was hoping for a lot more than that – I was a tad disappointed in the seat. The footrest was good when it behaved, but the lumbar support was near enough useless.
After the first flight where I watched what I wanted to watch – it was time to make a GhettoIFE system to keep me amused for this sector.
Yup. I couldn’t resist.
As a result, I was up as we crossed over the land border into Australia, intercepting and the north-east, and taking a route southwards then across to Sydney. The skies were clear as we begun the long trek towards Sydney.
Soon enough the cabin started waking up, and the breakfast service was commenced which for a sector of this length is… the beloved deli box with an almond croissant, yoghurt and a coffee.
Oh dear. Then we get to the part I REALLY want to talk about. The “Orange Juice” which in its loosest term may had seen an orange in some previous life, but was very…. Chemically. More of an orange squash. Not very good at all.
Soon enough, the cabin was cleared down again, IFE systems switched to the map for the approach and after doing a lap or two as we were early, we powered over the Pacific, and turned for SYD, planting the wheels on the ground firmly, and soon enough the gate was reached.
Toto… I’m not sure we’re in England anymore…
Again – where WTP is located on a 747-52J configuration – meant I was off before the business class passengers. Soon enough I fought my way past the Duty Free and finally, to Customs where I was stamped in without a question.
Luggage delivery begun with the SYD Loaders paying approximately no attention to priority tags or any info. About 20 minutes after getting to the belt, mine spat out. It was then off to Quarantine (as I had declared I had food items). With a summary explanation, I was cleared to enter Australia without further inspection (so here’s a hint – be honest on the form!) and before I knew it – I had exited and reached down under. A phone call later – and I was active.
Hotel: A super-exclusive limited invite only one.
Points earned: 0, Family Brownie Points earned: Infinitive. Possible attempts to offend family: Infinitive
I love my family…
(I’m sure some of you will understand where I’m coming from) – but I’ll prevent you that torture except there were some very good eateries, lots of catching up (bearing in mind some have not seen me for about 20 years).
But we’re in Sydney – That’s an excuse to cue the usual pics
The coathanger…. from the ground
Across the ANZAC Bridge
Fast Forward 1st September, The Apple Store – The Strand, Sydney
T-24 of course, I needed to OLCI to stand a reasonable chance of a decent seat on the plane – ideally the bottom seats at the back. Alas at T-24 (Sequence 24), most of the plane was blocked out – leaving but a few spare seats unassigned on what looked to be a full flight. After minor cursing, I chose 36A at is was the only free row on the plane. Of course, I knew it would fill up, but that was to be expected. After being resigned to that seat, I checked in, and left the Apple Shop.
The next day, after a slightly mad morning packing everything together and texting most of the family goodbye, it was time to head for home.
On the way to the terminal – both BA Aircraft ready for a days work
My relations dropped me off and I wandered into T1 Departures.
I remember the ceilings being a bit higher and the lighting a bit better, but it seemed vaguely familiar from the last trip. After bruskly being told where the bag drop was, I queued up and the bag was taken off me (no need to go to oversized bag drop), and it was off to security with me.
Art – I think
Qantas Premium check-in area
After passing though the double doors of no return, I cleared immigration, and then the joy of security… to exit to the duty-free hall from Hades. And so well organised too!
But they do LOVE to give coins away – in other words so you spend more money there – clever – but annoying.
Whilst browsing duty free, some of the camera looked remotely interesting, however, the cost of mobile phones was comparable to how much you were paying downtown – if anything a bit more.
After stocking up some bits for my friend, I made my way through and took a few photos before settling down before boarding. Eventually, the BA 747 and 777 were towed to the gate, with the 777 forming the flight I would be on – BA16 to Singapore then London Heathrow.
The BA747 via Bangkok and Heathrow.
Gate lice… everywhere
British Airways BA016 , 02/09/09, World Traveller, 36A
Boeing 777-200 4 Class Configuration
Sydney International Airport T1 to Singapore T1
Of course, the boarding scrum was its usual self, and soon enough I was aboard, making my way to the last rows of the cabin where I stowed my luggage before the inevitable. And soon it showed up in the form of a mother and a teenager who were well-mannered and were also worried of who they would be sitting with. Everyone at ease makes for an easy flight – good things.
Of course, loading took time, and with headwinds towards SIN, I knew that my shopping time at SIN would be extremely tight. How tight, I didn’t realise until I got there….
Waiting for the off..
Soon enough, we taxied out to the runway and after a while on hold, the engines powered up for the long take off run and the journey ahead to Singapore.
Up we go…
Me and my shadow…
After swinging out to the pacific then back over the land, the drinks service was carried out.
Of course, the following picture may seem familiar to those who haven’t fallen asleep to this trip report:
I am so original in my drinks choices
And so onto the food shortly thereafter. As it was served, it was slightly leaking to the point that the person who had the next one had a load of chicken in white sauce on their foil cover.
Again – not too bad at all in food terms. Reasonably portioned and tasted fine. Even had my 3rd bottle of Chardonnay by this point.. .
I am totally original
Again the GhettoIFE system was installed, and I switched between that and the normal system… which today was in a very bad mood as the touchscreen wasn’t responding – but the armrest controls were. This was to go onto the next sector too.
More Ghetto IFE.
Pretty soon the cabin was cleared down, and after the sun went down, I grabbed a few snoozes. The crew did a few water runs, with requests for a bottle via bingbong met with a smile.
Towards the end of the sector, it was time once again for the deli box, and by some bizarre means, I ended up with a veggie sandwich.
The Magical Deli box
A bit tough and chewy (but not as bad as UA can do), but it filled a small hunger hole. The Crunchie was also quiet edible too. Again, a coffee/tea run was done at this point.
Again, the cabin was cleared down, and soon enough we passed over many blinking lights, over Malaysia, and finally descending into Singapore Airport.
Eventually, we parked up with the rest of the services doing the kangaroo hop back to Europe and docked at C24 for what was going to be a very short layover.
At the gate
A quick Singapore Sling!
With a layover of an hour of that requiring me to get my backside back to the gate, I had little time to waste. I had a mission – Orchids.
The national pastime of Singapore…
As everyone was queuing back up in the gate area it was a case of rushing through to the many different shopping areas in T1 until I found the information desk… only to discover the shop had closed and it was in T2 or T3.
A quick look at the clock and I suddenly realised that boarding would be recommencing soon – so it was a quick dash to pick up some merlions, and then straight to C24 for the final part of this flight.
Security was quick, and I was beep through. After a short wait, boarding recommenced.
At the gate
British Airways BA016, 02/09/09, World Traveller, 36A
Boeing 777-200 4 Class Configuration
Singapore T1 to London Heathrow T4.
For the final time this trip, I boarded the 777 and headed straight back to 36A, and after a short unpack, my seatmates turned up again. Pretty soon, the plane was solid for its 12 hour hop to Heathrow. The plane pushed back on time, and after a sort taxi, it was back into the night sky.
Up and away!
Again, a drinks service was carried out. Any guesses what I was drinking?
Then followed the meal service. Now being catered by SATS out of Singapore I was expecting something quiet nice. Thankfully, I wasn’t wrong for once.
Beef Noodles (Yes I’ve had something other than CHICKEN!).
Now this was all well and good – beef in black bean sauce with noodles and pak choi, with a bottle of Chardonnay (tradition), the coleslaw was fresh… but what the heck was going on with desert? Even I’m still confused at what is was!
However, a reasonable meal, soon enough cleared down and the lights went out… and after watching the pretty lights for a bit, I closed my eyes only to hear a bong go, and then an almighty shudder. The promised turbulence over the Bay of Bengal hit, and it was not pleasant for the next 5 minutes. After that – things calmed down again and I managed to drift back off to sleep for another few hours.
A long way yet…
After some time crammed up, I needed to get up and about – so off to the galley and to the little room. After coming out of the little room, I saw to my delight my spare time form of substance – Noodles in a pot!
Two minutes later – I was at my seat – and my seatmates copying me shortly there after with pots of chicken noodle.
After consuming that, I fell back asleep again – and I don’t know why, but I actually preferred the World Traveller seats – if not for the seat pitch (which is adequate – an extra inch or two wouldn’t hurt) but for the proximity of the wall to the seat making it easier to sleep on.
In addition the headrest is of an odd design – which I quite like allowing you to raise it up and move down comparatively solid bits of seat to act as a neckrest.
As we crossed into Europe, once again I was wide awake, watching whatever was on the iPhone or AVOD (the map mainly) and as we were crossing Poland, breakfast appeared – a choice of pancakes or the Full English.
Well it had to be the full English didn’t it? No odd Singaporean twist to this. Even the orange juice tasted like orange juice. The sausage continued to be inoffensive to all and it was hot from the oven. Not a bad breakfast at all.
However as the flight was coming to an end, it was time to bring the lights on through the cabin and clear it down.
Again there was a bit of turbulence as we coming in, directed over the river approach over London, and finally down to Heathrow, doing a slight adjustment as we landed before the long taxi over to Gate 12 at T4 where this adventure started a mere 6 days and 7 hours ago.
After a walk to immigration (along with the bouncy travellators they have… bounce bounce bounce) I made immigration. All the queues were pretty busy… except IRIS. A walk through that, and I was clear and back in the United Kingdom.
Of course luggage delivery took its own sweet time but soon enough the luggage belt spat out my rucksack – a stroll through customs, and I was ready for the final legs of this journey.
I do try honestly to give the rail network a chance – this time – it was the Heathrow Connect to London. With one just gone, and the next not due for another 25 minutes, in time balance, it was cheaper to pay the £6 peak fare to Marylebone on the tube and be done with it (Damn you Mayor Johnson and your idiot peak fares!). As it was just the beginning of the rush hour, it wasn’t exactly packed to Oxford Circus, and again towards Marylebone.
My timing was however was on the nose – a train was going to Birmingham in the next few minutes. A ticket purchased, and through the barriers onto the homeward leg.
London Marylebone – Birmingham Snow Hill
Class 165 DMU
Sigh. A class 165 – designed for commuter runs, not for midhaul-intercity services (for example – little things like seats that aren’t rock and power through the train). But a train is train. As the train is heading away from London, it’s a comparatively light load to Birmingham.
As usual, the Chiltern service runs like clockwork – and two hours after I got on the train – I was at Moor Street Station, and off the train, wandering through the city centre to the bus stop, to the 87 bus stop and finally….
Yup. The Flat front door. Home again after another adventure.
Epilogue and Thoughts
So what did I take away from the BA Experience? A constant service delivered in a friendly fashion, with edible food, drinkable drinks and reasonable comfort. These are in my opinion some of the best things to have in the sky.
I am defiantly NOT a fan of 3 x 3 x 3 seating configurations and much prefer the 2 x 3 x 2 or 2 x 4 x 2 configurations that are out there. In addition seating policy is to be honest a pain up the rear, and whilst I accept it is something that they wish to keep for their elites, other airlines do allow pre-assignment at booking no matter what your status is with an airline or alliance.
Will it be enough for me to switch my flying from *A to OW? I don’t think so to be honest – OneWorld is defiantly a “premium” alliance and thus, having a premium pocket helps (especially if on expense accounts or corporate travel agents) – except I’m not.
I’m travelling on my own coin so I have to evaluate each alliance and airline as needed – thus restricting me to N fares, and bottom of the bucket earning where I can (except when I can score a cheap upgrade). The fact I’m 22,231 miles up in a program I might never credit to for some time is of course besides the point.
So really – thumbs up to British Airways for the delivered product with good delivery both in front and back, but change the booking policy (although your tier point policy is improving) and I might be back.
Right. Enough cricket (2:1 by the way Australia. Tinnies can be cried to anytime. Please recycle them, and do NOT send them to The Oval) … and enough of me yattering on.
October is coming – so it’ll be time to ponder what catering delights UA will be serving…
Bet you can’t wait
Comments and thoughts welcome