Sweet Home Chicago
British Airways BA296 Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 to London Heathrow Terminal 5 (World Traveller Plus/Premium Economy)
- Well, it’s been a long two years, hasn’t it?
- Testing, Testing, Swab 1-2-3…
- Off to Heathrow (Take the coach they say. It’s fun they say)
- Cathay Pacific T3 lounge, Heathrow Airport
- AA87 London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International (Main Cabin Extra)
- Into the USA, Crown Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Airplane Art from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Fooding around Chicago… Badly
- Starbucks Reserve Rosterary, North Michigan Avenue
- Exploring Chicago with a smartphone
- Back to O’Hare, British Airways Lounge
- BA296 Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow (World Traveller Plus – Premium Economy)
- Welcome back to the UK, or how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
- To the Journey
British Airways BA296 Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow
British Airways BA296
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Seat 17J, World Traveller Plus
3953 miles flown, 90 Tier points earned, 5,930 Avios Earned
I headed down the jetway and was greeted at the door.
I was directed down the right-hand side of the aircraft and to the premium economy cabin.
Club World seemed busy, with all seats claimed by boarding. In Business class, the seating is the old generation ying-yang business class seat in a 2-3-2 formation (as opposed to Club Suite which is currently rolling out – the seat with the door on it)
Moving onto my cabin of premium economy, seating is a little tighter in a 2-4-2 configuration. I chose a seat just behind the bulkhead seats.
17J wasn’t a bad home, with a Recaro seat to help me across the pond.
If Club World was packing out, World Traveller Plus was equally packed, with every seat claimed, with the seat next to me claimed.
At the seat, there was a blanket, noise-cancelling headphones and an amenity kit.
Even with the delay, the aircraft filled up quickly, and only 10 minutes after our stated departure time, the doors went to close.
The safety demonstration was carried out manually, with specific mandates for masks (both wearing and masks from the overhead cabin).
With that done, our Boeing 787-9 began its taxi around Orchard field.
With departures this evening heading to the city, as opposed to westwards and looping out, there was a long taxi from the gate M12 to the other end of the field.
Eventually, the engines of the Dreamliner spooled up and powered us into the sky from the 7 hour trip to London.
With the aircraft in the air, the IFE system magically reset itself and allowed for touch navigation. The variant installed appears to be a Thales System of some sort – nothing special, but sluggish to touch reactions.
There was the usual mixture of TV programmes and films – I found myself settling into The Big Bang Theory for entertainment.
And I had a very close view, as the person behind me decided that reclining their seat after take-off would be a nice thing for them.
The power outlet was accessible at the seat side, whilst two USB-A outlets were present. These are the classic “500mha” slow charge units – so don’t expect to fill up a modern phone with them quickly.
Internet provisioned by Intelsat (nee Gogo 2KU). Various browsing packages were offered aboard.
For a night flight, I tend to skip the “Wi-Fi in the air thing”, as there are some points in life that I don’t mind being disconnected from the Internet and enjoying the world for a while. That didn’t stop my seatmate, who was desperately trying to access the Wi-Fi via the free option… for First Class passengers.
Oh dearie me. We’re more than a couple of classes to access the Internet for free. I guess they didn’t feel the urge to pay £4.99 for an hour’s connectivity.
How much that connectivity is worth to you, is a different matter.
The snack service kicked off first, with drinks and snacks. I went bubbly, with a bottle of prosecco, water and of course Penn State Pretzels.
I’m used to these in slightly larger bags from Costco.
Shortly after, the meal service came down. World Traveller plus has suffered some cuts (for example, no meal cards), so todays would be a surprise. It was a choice of a Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice or Pasta in a Sauce (the exact contents of which I didn’t overhear).
I went for the Chicken Tikka.
I’ll also note the person in front of me learned how to un-recline their seat when the crew told them. I guess people forget the impact of seat domino and that more space for you might mean that there’s less space for the people behind them.
Let us look around the tray.
On the left, we have a salad and dressing hidden from the photo. Glassware and tableware (as this is premium economy), the main dish, a laughable excuse for a role and a desert thing.
As well as the tiniest pot of butter ever.
The curry itself won’t be challenging any local curry house in Birmingham in terms of quality or quantity (as I reminded myself recently), but for a meal at 35,000ft, it was passable.
I’m just glad they did put kidney beans in it.
The salad was fresh at least and the cake… it was almondy. But a bit stodgy.
This was all paired with a bottle of Chardonnay. Not because I’m an older Bridget Jones at all.
With the meal cleared down, an offer of coffee or tea was made – I passed on both and decided to recline the seat after the person behind me had their tray cleared (and the seat in front of me decided to anyway.
With idiots in cars playing away (Commonly known as Top Gear), I fell asleep, getting the best part of 3 hours of snooze across the pond. With a block time of 6 hours 50 – I’ll take what I can get.
With me waking up, I looked out the window – it seemed the world was being shielded by the electrochromism-based smart glass – however, some light was sneaking through, for some colours you just don’t get in the real world.
Eventually, as the plane had 1 and a half hours to go, the interior lighting went into the sunrise mode, with the crew readying to commence their second service.
The second service across the pond has always been a “weak thing”, so I was not holding out hope for a service that would blow my socks off.
There was a choice again – a turkey and cheese croissant or a cheese croissant. I went with Turkey and cheese expecting to be mostly unimpressed with it.
I was right.
Firstly, I love the brown bag delivery. That’ screams premium, doesn’t it?
Inside the bag was the pre-packaged croissant, which wasn’t too bad – just dry and mostly had its life sucked out of it. A carton of the bacterial fermentation of milk was supplied, along with a fresh small water bottle).
Tea and coffee were offered too – nothing like brown liquid at 35,000ft to attempt to wake up.
Our aircraft continued to make good progress, crossing into the United Kingdom over Wales, and dropping past Birmingham on the way home – with the aircraft due to make a Windsor approach to London, as opposed to a river approach.
The crew cleaned up the aircraft, as well as started to remind people how to return their seats to their original positions. It took time, but they managed to clear the premium economy cabin down at some speed.
With the cabin cleared down and it descending, Wi-Fi was switched off (much to my seatmate’s annoyance who was still trying to connect the “free for first-class” option), with the electrochromic glass now set to clear and letting daylight into the cabin.
Our aircraft did a loop to the northwest of London, with us being held in the Bovington stack.
With only a loop done, our aircraft powered its way to Heathrow Airport, landing on 9 Left.
With the aircraft on the ground, our aircraft began its taxi to the terminal. It made it as far as the Terminal 5 fuel farm (or even before that), where the aircraft came to a stop.
Guess which airline and terminal had no space for us? It seems that the aircraft in front was just as stuck as we were.
It took the best part of 40 minutes to begin moving again. Almost as if this airline couldn’t organise itself at its home base.
Eventually, the aircraft taxied between the hardstands and T5C. There was some more hesitation about which way were would go, but eventually, the aircraft turned right and towards a gate at T5C.
Arriving at the gate the engines powered down. However, people were asked to stay in their seats, as they would be disembarking by row numbers.
With First Class and Club World clear of passengers, our cabin was ready to disembark. People hurriedly got up, and I took my chance to go – as I wanted one thing more than anything else in the world.
With my stuff gathered, I thanked the crew and headed into the Heathrow Complex.
Overall: A perfectly reasonable flight with British Airways, with a good crew and a reasonable enough service onboard, with a good premium economy seat for a snooze I (even if the brown bag breakfast did not strike me as premium).
It was just ruined by an awful arrivals process. A 40-minute wait for a gate at the airline’s home base, with passengers climbing the walls after a long-haul flight is simply unforgivable.
We all know that airlines have cut back hard since the beginning of 2020 – however as they are finding to their cost – when passengers come back, they are expecting the same level of service and speed (And that includes a timely arrivals process).
And it seems that finesse to the details is what is going to hurt British Airways a lot over the next few months as it scrambles to find staff for the summer season.
It is something that British Airways, unfortunately, does well – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
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