What can you do with about three hours and a bit of sleep? Coach and Cathay Pacific lounge anyone?
Doing it for the Tier Points
- And once again, welcome to the Tier Point Enrichment Centre
- What can you do with about three hours and a bit of sleep? (Coach, Heathrow Airport and Cathay Pacific Lounge)
- Finnair AY11332 London Heathrow to Helsinki (Business Class/A350)
- Trains, Boats and Trams – Into Helsinki and slightly beyond.
- Crowne Plaza Helisnki
- A Morning walk
- Back to Helsinki Airport, Finnair Non-Schengen Lounge
- Finnair AY1337 Helsinki to London Heathrow
- Heathrow wows, Euston moans, and Rugby looks pretty
- 320 Tier Points for not a lot of work but a lot of new experiences
What can you do with about three hours and a bit of sleep?
With a busy week in the office done and dusted, I got home and made some packing decisions for what I needed for this trip. This being an overnighter – the answer is not a lot
I skipped most of the lenses I normally carry, threw in a change of clothing, as well as a laptop for some editing and image dumping. I call that “light”. Others may disagree.
With 2 am coming and a doze that left a headache, rather than rest, I reached for something that would resemble human clothing. After checking my bag had the core things (money and passport), I headed out of the flat and ordered an Uber for the ride over to Digbeth Coach station.
Whilst Digbeth is a 35-minute walk from home, I was not in the mood for it at 2 am in the morning. Also, the clubbers are out and dealing with them is something I prefer to avoid.
Of course, departing on a Friday Night/Saturday morning is never a good idea, with most of the nightclubs finishing for the night. Thankfully an Uber picked me up in a reasonable time frame for the quick ride over to Digbeth.
I was dropped off at the main entrance of the coach station, which had been locked, requiring a walk around the station to get in.
The joy of digging up Digbeth High Street.
Once, I found my coach and settled in until boarding.
Coach 423 to London Heathrow
I was one of the first to board the coach – and again it was pretty packed with it coming down from Liverpool. I found a seat, kindly asking the person to move across as they were using both seats to watch their laptop. I don’t think the gentleman was happy to share the space.
In addition, there were people in reserved spaces, that had to move around. I guess the reserved seat thing is getting popular on National Express – it is something to be aware of if you are travelling.
Coach 423 has a very simple stopping pattern, calling at Birmingham Airport, Oxford, Heathrow Central, Earls Court and London Victoria Coach station. It’s a lot easier rest on compared to the 210, which calls at Coventry (for an extended stop), Warwick Parkway, Oxford and HeathroMoreore motorway running, which means fewer turns, which means a chance to get some snooze.
Like the time before, there was no one getting on or off at Oxford, so the coach bypassed that stop, staying on the M4y down to the M25. The driver skipped past the M4 exit for Heathrow, rather than choosing the Heathrow T5 exit instead.
Ah. Heathrow to the right of me. Jokers to the left. Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
At least they didn’t head straight to London Earls Court – although I left a lot of padding in my trip if that happened.
Eventually, the coach pulled into Heathrow Central Bus station, at the farthest possible stand from the entrance.
With no luggage to worry about in the hold of the coach, I headed off and into the wonders of Heathrow Central.
Once more unto the breach dear friends.
On the date I travelled through – there was a rail strike in progress. Which seems to be one of the in-things in the United Kingdom at the moment.
No Heathrow Express for you!
For me, I continued onwards to Terminal 3, a familiar site (and if I check back through my travels this year, I’ve gone through Terminal 3 more often than Terminal 5).
The Oceanic Terminal. Or the pink one.
Where did you come from, where did you go?
Again, I headed through Door B and to the Finnair Check-In desk. There was a small queue in the premium line (with the normal line pretty busy), but I was seen quickly enough.
If frequent flyer status can do one thing, it can through cut queues.
Boarding passes for both the outbound and inbound flights were issued – saving me the trouble of checking in on the way home.
With that, I headed upstairs to the departure zone, and into a busy security area.
I kept an eye on the FastTrack area, as the normal queue was running very slowly.
It was a bit late – but the FastTrack line opened at 5:35 in the morning. I jumped out normal line and into the FastTrack line, where I was processed and through the security control in under 5 minutes flat (compared to the 5 minutes I had been waiting in the normal security queue and found not to be moving that fast).
FastTrack of course drops you way past Duty-Free shops. I did have one thing to pick up on route.
And not Travelex’s currency exchange rates
Don’t look at me like that.
With socks in hand, I headed to the lounge. Now I had a plan to look at a couple of lounges, but honestly, I was tired enough just to head to one place.
You’ve guessed it – the Cathay Pacific lounge.
Cathay Pacific Lounge
If you’ve been here the past few trip reports, you’re probably wondering why I don’t change lounge, or head to the Qantas lounge for some different content. The bottom line is a simple one – with a lack of sleep, the brain only wants to make things simple.
And there’s a minimal chance that I will be using another lounge.
Also, the Qantas lounge opens at 8 am. That involves getting off my ass at a particular time when my mind is not willing. Whilst I could go to the British Airways lounge… yeah. Nah. I will happily take a higher-quality lounge any day of the week.
Making my way into the lounge, I stopped by the noodle bar for my customary noodle order. It’s a little different this time – honest.
I also headed to the “looking out of the window seats”, which today featured an Air France A321 and a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 in the view, with an important difference. This time, I would be watching aircraft taking off as opposed to landing.
Qantas Boeing 787-9 taxiing in, British Airways A320ceo taxiing out.
TAP A321neo taxiing out.
Air France A321
Emirates Airbus A380 taking off.
The aviation nerd didn’t mind – it just gave a chance for different pictures. Meanwhile, the hot food station was the same as last time.
What tea do you desire?
Sausages and bacon.
As I was settling in, the buzzer went off to collect my items.
So, yes, I did have Dandan noodles. But this time, I wanted something a little more refreshing – and Wonton Noodle Soup is always a good shout for this.
The catering options that were there last time were preset again good for those who want a hot English-style breakfast.
Also as I was travelling, bubbles felt appropriate.
Other beverages were available – and of course, I balanced this out with water too.
It gave me time to monitor the aircraft. Interestingly, two passengers who were on the same flight were sitting next to me itching to head to the gate. I double-checked that the aircraft arrived (as it seems the earlier departure to Helsinki was suffering more than a few problems).
It was interesting to watch the behaviour – I was more than mentally checked out, whilst they were on the edge of their seats watching my copy of flightradar24
When they got a gate notification, I swear I have never seen anyone run out of a lounge so fast.
Me? Time for an espresso shot to keep me awake.
If I am honest – I am not blase about travel (I have missed one flight because I indulged in a lounge) – there is a difference between ‘gate open’ and ‘go to gate’ commands. And sometimes it is important to know the difference.
After 20 minutes or so, a gate call was made in the lounge. I, therefore, packed my trash and headed off.
Which way to go?
But something was bugging me in the back of my mind. Gate 24. Now, where had I heard of that gate before?
I headed down familiar parts of the Heathrow infrastructure, and towards the first satellite when heading towards T5. It was then I realised what Gate 24 was.
Or rather, I saw Gate 24a/b/c/d/e.
Lots of gates at once in one place. That can only mean one thing.
Yes – it is the Heathrow Bus Gates for terminal 3 – and there were two Finnair flights clearing at the same time.
The Early flight was a good two hours down, whilst our flight was starting to add to the delay too.
With no priority boarding management and one person managing the boarding process, it took a good 10 minutes to be processed into the gate area.
Of course, boarding a wide-body jet is never a good idea from a bus gate – as you have over 250 people getting grouchy fast.
Some ground handling agents finally appeared with buses. It appeared that our aircraft had issues with the ground handling system and was parked in the wrong place – delaying the arrival of airstairs and other ground handling things.
There are some good window views to watch aircraft taxi around, however.
Delta 767 with a tail that needs a touch-up paint job.
Ameican Airline Boeing 787
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9
British Airways Boeing 787
It was obvious at this point, that an on-time departure would fast be going out of the window. The question would be how long we would be stuck on the ground, and how late we would be into Helsinki.
Eventually, boarding was called. Much to the disappointment of the people who pushed to the front first, they would board in priority order (and people were turned away) during the process.
I made my way through the chaos and onto the bus, with Heathrow transfer buses being used for this purpose. Of course, the urge to play sardines is never far away, with the busses being packed out.
I had found a spot to sit – my lower back had been playing up to the point where I should have purchased a heating pad before I travelled.
The bus conducted a drive around the terminal 3 complex, eventually ending up at the far end of the area underneath the Heathrow control tower.
After a short wait, we were allowed to board the waiting aircraft.
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