OSL – LHR – PHX and return, a tale from FirstBack to Forum
Anonymous11 Apr 2013
As it has been popular lately to share ones experiences with Avios and BA First, I thought I should share ours.
I have been flying BA for many years, been a long standing Gold member of BAEC as well as accrued a pile of Avios. A couple of years ago, I got a new job and the frequency of travelling has degraded gradually, last year was my last with Gold status, this regardless of the new requirements following Avios.
With the decrease in professional flying my interest for my Avios grew, and the last year I made more investigation at how to spend them. As fellow posters have experienced, so have I, redeeming Avios have not been an easy accomplishment. When I started out, I had in mind to book CW trips, but as I saw how difficult it was, I started aiming at a First trip for me and my beloved to get rid of a huge pile as soon as possible, e.g. before I lost my Gold level, assuming this would further complicate getting at things.
Mind you, I fly out of Norway, and I strongly suspect that the booking system struggles with this fact, I never got any opening in First when I had Oslo as starting point. The odd opportunity I saw, were always from London. So, in the end we booked a First from London to Phoenix and added a separate booking ourselves from OSL to LHR and return.
Since we wanted to enjoy the Concorde room in full and avoid possible issues caused by delays, we left from Oslo one day early on Saturday March 23rd.
When it was two weeks before departure I tried to get in touch with the right forces to book spa and cabana. Unfortunately, I was not aware of the YouFirst and messed around a bit. All I spoke to were very polite an helpful, but did not know of YouFirst, the information about this I got in this forum. Priceless! As BA is otherwise very helpful with emails spamming my mailbox, I was a bit puzzled I did not get an email about this, and I think it would have made sense to have this on the ticket in the IPhone app as well.
Anyways, YouFirst managed to book spa for my beloved wife, unfortunately there were no availability for the cabana upon our return.
On the day of departure from Oslo I received an email from BA, warning that due to the holidays, we could risk long lines in security @ Oslo. We were eager to get going and had the lounge @ OSL which I find to be very good, so we didn’t mind leave a bit early. Funny thing was, BA had asked us to arrive at the airport early, we were, but check in did still not open until 2 hours before departure, so much for being there early. This being a Saturday evening, last flight out of Oslo (BA769) there were hardly people in security at all, so worries were wasted. Still, I think it was a good thing that BA sent out notification about possible consequences of Easter traffic.
With check in open, we checked in, and were welcomed by a friendly, polite and efficient gentleman in the CE check in.
As I said before, I think the 3rd party lounge BA uses in Oslo is really great, and we did enjoy ourselves there.
Boarding and departing the flight on time, I was looking forward to the pre-dinner drink and snack, but they never came. Instead we had to wait a while and we finally got dinner. Is this new? I have always got a pre-dinner drink and a snack before and it is one small thing that I find precious.
The crew on board, albeit friendly and working with a smile, gave an impression of being tired, I figured they probably have had a long day behind them. This conclusion as I were twice “served” rolls into my lap. No big deal, but still.
When we got our suitcase in London (yes it was tagged priority and no, it was not among the first to arrive) we found it to be broken. In one of the corners it had ripped open and I was in fact a bit surprised, this being a 1.5 years old 31” Samsonite in polycarbonate with 10 years warranty should really take some to “kill”.
Anyways, we went to the BA baggage service and were met by a very service minded gentleman, he apologized, wrote a report and explained us the further procedure. Despite the unfortunate incident it was a most pleasant experience of service. I was a bit worried though, that we could not have a replacement suitcase as we were going on. I figured we could perhaps get some strong tape at the check in the day after to reinforce the corner.
After a good night’s sleep with a phenomenal breakfast at the Sofitel Heathrow we went to the 1st check in. As we entered the area we were greeted and asked to please wait for the next available counter. We didn’t wait long before we were guided to a counter. This lady that checked us in was a real disappointment. While we had been treated very nice in Oslo, onboard the flight and at the luggage service, we now got the sensation that we should have been somewhere else. I have flown quite a bit with BA, and never, at any class check in, have I ever met such a grumpy person, and this being 1st check in??? When I explained the issue without suitcase and if she perhaps would have some tape to reinforce the corner, she barked no and stared at me like if I had been proposing to throw something unspeakable of at her. After some discussion she said I could check with the oversize luggage drop next door if they had some. The guy there had apparently been eating the same thing for breakfast as the check in lady, and the answer were no. So, we just had to check in the luggage and hope for the best.
I must say, after having experienced the sensation of being the most important person in the world at the Thai 1st check in at BKK, this was a very disappointing experience.
Security was smooth and we were on the other side before we knew it. I had in mind to try the famous Concorde door right away, but Mrs Roadking had other plans, so we went to do some shopping first. With the shopping done, we were ready for the CCR.
Following the proposal from the forum, we went straight for the balcony an enjoyed our life only interrupted by the Mrs Roadking having a facial at the spa. I was a bit surprised of how loaded the CRR were, no question lots of high flyers were on the move, I dare say I have never seen the First lounge that busy as this one was. Which of course also put a toll on the staff, I felt a bit sorry for the waiters, which clearly had had a busy day, and still did their best @ servicing, quite a contrast to the grumpy woman @ check in.
A good hour before boarding, we decided to dine. Given the busy lounge, it was no surprise the CCR restaurant was busy as well. Fortunately, with a service minded waiter and other guests having to leave for their plane, we managed to have a two course before we had to leave. It was kind of strange to have such fine dining and not pay a penny for it.
At the gate we arrived just on time for priority boarding to start, we were boarded efficiently and polite. Getting on the plane we were given directions but not lead to our seats. We had the middle two seats, together of course.
The purser came and introduced herself and took the time to smile and joke. Generous with champagne, as well as with her mood, her crew was no less. To make a long story short, we had a fantastic crew on our trip to Phoenix with BA289 that day. The service level more than compensated for the fact that it was old First. Also, I was not disappointed with old First as I had expected it. I did not use the entertainment system so I cannot tell whether the selection were good. I am no wine expert so I cannot tell whether the wines were good. But as a Norwegian, I do eat fish, and I can tell you that the salmon I had was excellent! This is not the first time I experience great fish dinners in the air, and I wonder if perhaps fish is a better food to serve at high altitudes.
We arrived on time in Phoenix and after a good night’s sleep. We were off into the sunrise on the rented Harley Davidson, to explore the state of Arizona, a fantastic week ahead.
Unfortunately, it did not last long, so already the week after (Easter Sunday) we were back @ the airport to be flying home with BA288.
@ the 1st check in, we met another that BA should be proud to have on their payroll. Serviceminded, a big smile and ‘no task too big or small’ attitude. Top it off in that he did check our luggage through to Oslo despite that we had two separate tickets. He did so on his own initiative (I approved of course) and went through a lot of hassle to get it. I have heard of, and myself experienced that this is a no no issue, so I did not even bother to ask in the first place. I was very pleased that we thus did not have to exit the terminal with our luggage to re check in.
Security was not as smooth as in Oslo and London, but okay. After check in we went to the lounge, of which I was not expecting much based on reports I have read in the forum, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I don’t really understand what you other guys have disliked with the lounge, I liked it very much. Besides, again we got excellent service from a very positive staff.
While seated there, I was suddenly called to the reception, where I was told I could not have the seat next to my beloved wife. Unfortunately, the seat was broken. They said they were working to see if someone could switch with us, but this could only be arranged by the crew onboard. I thought it was great they tried, although I had no high expectations. This was not a big deal though, unforeseen things happen. In the end, we sat separate.
When we got onboard, the same thing happened as in London, we were directed to our seats, but no guiding. I mention this just because it has been a part of many other reports, me I don’t care. Other things are more important.
The purser did not come along and introduce him/her –self. I say this this way, because I really am not sure who was the purser.
It turned out the reason I had to switch seat was because the table of my seat was broken. I requested to have my pre-dinner drink with my wife and return to my own seat for dinner. After a bit back and forth, this was granted. Not sure why this was so difficult.
As you certainly understand, this was also old First. But, it was much worse than old First on the flight to Phoenix. To lay down my seat to sleeping position, I first had to get out of it, run it down, and then I could get into it. On the trip back I wanted to watch the flight map, which was not so easy, as the touch screen were not as touchy as it should be. For both things I managed, but even great service could not hide the feeling of being on a piece of junk. BA must be dying to get their A380’s to replace this. I have to say that if I had paid hard currency for this, I would have demanded compensation.
I once again had fish, trout this time. Again it was delicious. A funny note was that the name in the menu did not reflect that it was trout. When I asked the FA she told me it was salmon, when I got the fish I saw it was trout and let her know.
There is more, albeit the flight to Phoenix was on worn and tired metal as well, the crew there excelled to the extent that you could close your eyes. The crew of the return flight was very much not so. They did their stuff, were polite, but you never felt welcome. The worst were yet to come. Upon arrival @ LHR, we had to get our coats ourselves. I have never experienced that before, not in 1st and not in CW/Biz on any carrier. When we walked back to reach the exit, we could not make it at first. Why? Because the 1st crew themselves were lined up to exit with their suitcases on the floor. I have to say, I found it unheard of. As I understand it, crew should not leave the airplane before the passengers have disembarked? In the end the crew did stand back so we could leave the aircraft, but their placing suitcases in the floor in the galley made it somewhat a challenge.
This time we entered the CCR through the direct door, funny enough, when I did this for once, there were no receptionist, she came running when we were almost at the bar to check on our boarding cards.
Boarding the last leg to Oslo, BA768 made us sit on the Tarmac for just short of an hour, despite we left the gate almost on time. Not sure why that was. Crew here too appeared a bit tired, albeit not as much as the crew on the flight from Oslo to London. I ditched food, had some cheese though. Which remind me of something I have experienced a couple of times. Being on a BA flight, I think the British must have port with their cheese, but quite a few flights lately, they have not had port. Including 3 of these 4 flights.
BA has some great staff on their payroll, make sure you keep them as they can turn an otherwise miserable experience into a memory for life. These 747’s BA operate with the old First may be sufficient for WT, WT+ and perhaps CW. But this is just not good enough for someone paying as much as they do on First. I would have considered shutting down the First class on this hardware. It may be that the price of keeping it will be too high, in that people that fly First regularly will avoid BA permanently after such an experience.
Considering the trip as a whole, I would say it was okay, some pulled it up and some down, so it evened out. But that is just because I used Avios that I suspect I would otherwise never used. I would never have accepted to pay full First price for this, possibly not even half First.11 Apr 2013
Road king thank you for you’re great trip report
It is a disgrace that Ba still have aircraft with old first, if you are lucky you can get old first in good condition, but a lot of the cabins are old tatty and dirty
I am very loyal to BA but even my loyalty is stretched to the limit with this
Willie Walsh should take a look at some of the aircraft he puts his customers on11 Apr 2013
I have just read your review sitting on the balcony without a hat and scarf for the first time this year.
I don’t wish to start a heated debate on BA, but I would just like to say that your English is superb….but no great surprise given that you are Norwegian.
Well done, and I will read it more thoroughly tomorrow on the laptop without straining my eyes 🙂11 Apr 2013
Thanks for a superb trip report.
It seems to summarise my experiences with BA over the past few years
-Good groundstaff at outstations, grumpy/unhelpful groundstaff at London
-Great crew, poor crew
-Aircraft in varying states of repair
-Service standard failure (in this case, missing port)
And in line with my theory (expressed on here a few times) the perceived value varies depending on whether one pays cash or Avios.12 Apr 2013
RoadKing – 11/04/2013 20:38 GMT
Considering the trip as a whole, I would say it was okay, some pulled it up and some down, so it evened out. But that is just because I used Avios that I suspect I would otherwise never used. I would never have accepted to pay full First price for this, possibly not even half First.
Terrific report and sounds very much like a common theme on a BA thread about incompetent staff with bad attitudes. Almost every recent trip report on a long-haul BA flight cites considerable failing in levels of service.
I agree entirely that it would be folly to pay for a 1st seat with BA, even in their ‘new first’ when you are treated with such contempt.
Excellent reading though,thanks.
AOTG.12 Apr 2013
My fellow Norwegian has written an excellent, and fair assessment of BA from my own experience. When it is good; it is exceptional. When it is bad; downright dreadful.
I recently travelled ARN-LHR-JFK and EWR-LHR-ARN on BA in CW. The outbound flight was on a refurbished B777-200 and the return on an older, tatty B777-200 with old F I noticed. I did however, have exceptional staff on both long-haul flights working on my side of the aircraft (seat 10B).
I also learned that BAEC cannot upgrade when issued on AA stock (001) and not BA stock (125). Then again, considering the old F on the return I am guess that I didn’t miss something.
Despite all of this, I find BA to offer me exceptional value when I compare it to LH Group; specially after the changes to the Miles & More programme. I can afford to buy Club/Business class tickets a few times a year for leisure on the sales offered. My fare ARN-BGI on AA/BA was £1,700 in Club and it is upgradeable for the same amount of Avios (roughly) as I earn on the trip in CW. LH now required “D” class and above for full earning and upgrades. Whilst I find the E2E experience superior on other carriers, the value on BA is significantly higher all things considered.12 Apr 2013
I always go to CPT in 2K! I think I am the only one on here who actually prefers the old First….like an old pair of slippers. A comfy seat, a nice big table, a nice big storage area, light and airy, no lumps in the floor to trip over, no lights on at night, no gimmicky blue window blinds that make the cabin seem so small, a nice leg rest, easy electrics, no falling over backwards when you try to access the overhead bins at 3A/K and nice big windows to see Table Mountain……
I doubt whether there will be anybody who agrees. 🙁12 Apr 2013
i dont mind it as long as its not falling to pieces and dirty like some of the aircraft are
agree best seat in the house when coming into land at cape town12 Apr 2013
@openfly….. I have fond memories of old F… I have not been in it for any of my last 7-8 journeys in F but I quite liked the walnut decor.
Only downside of it compared to NEw F is the IFE.
Also on 747, new F avoids having to use the coat closet at the front since you have your own closet. This is of major benefit to those in 1a and 1k12 Apr 2013