27th May 2014 at 02:18 #570913
Anonymous27th May 2014 at 02:18 #570914
I flew BA2037 from LGW to MCO on a three-class 777.
Having spent the night at the Sofitel, I got to LGW departures in the North Terminal at about 08:30 for the 11:20 flight. I made my way to the BA area on the left side of the terminal, stopping en route at some weighing machines because I was carrying a load of presents for a wedding and wanted to make sure I wasn’t above the 23kg suitcase limit. (For those interested, the machines charge £1 per bag and are very easy to use). Discovering I was just under, I headed for check-in.
The whole check-in area was heaving due to the fact that many families were taking advantage of the half-term holidays and I passed long queues at the ET/WT desks as I headed for the CW/First check-in at the far end. Although there were a couple of people ahead of me in the CW queue, the check-in agents were processing people very quickly and after I couple of minutes I was called forward. The check-in agent was friendly and courteous, putting a priority tag on my suitcase and checking that I knew about priority security and the location of the BA lounge. She finished by wishing me a pleasant flight.
I headed to the nearby priority security channel where a very friendly member of Gatwick’s security team checked my boarding pass, asked me if I’d been to Orlando before and wished me a pleasant holiday. Unfortunately the moment I walked past him I discovered a fairly long queue caused by a combination of the following:
– LGW security was only operating one of the x-ray machines and security gates;
– the majority of people in line were leisure travellers with babies or very small children who weren’t used to the security process and had buggies and a lot of bags that needed to be checked;
– there was limited signage to tell people what they needed to put through the machine and whether they needed to remove shoes, belts etc and no one from LGW security was taking the time to tell people at the end of the queue what the procedure was so that they could make sure they were prepared for it.
As a result there was a lot of delay as people tried to go through the security gate while wearing boots or belts or coats etc and then got sent back to check those items through the machine. As a result it took a good 30 minutes for me to get through and while that isn’t the longest period I’ve spent in a security line, it was certainly the most needlessly drawn out process and could have all been avoided had LGW security shown a bit of common sense and forethought. The only thing I can say in their defence is that they were courteous and thorough, patting down people who set off the gate and taking several people aside for further checks.
I didn’t need anything from LGW’s shops so went straight to the Galleries Lounge (which is clearly signposted) where a welcoming lounge dragon checked my boarding pass. Although busy (several Caribbean flights also have morning departure slots), there was still plenty of space within the lounge and I easily found a table with a good view of the runway.
Whilst the Galleries Lounge is perfectly fine for short-haul flights, I do think that it’s a red-haired step-child where long-haul flights are concerned with a noticeable lack of parity with facilities for CW flights departing from LHR. This is most obviously demonstrated by the lack of any spa facilities (the Elemis spa being a big part of the advertised CW offering) but it’s also evident when you consider the breakfast offering as unlike LHR, there are no bacon (or vegetarian) rolls on offer. Instead passengers have to make do with porridge (which was fine but slow to be replenished when it ran out), toast (which was cold), fruit and yoghurt, cereals and ham and cheese (which had seen better days). About the only good thing about it is the drinks selection with a variety of soft drinks, wines and liquor and champagne available on request (although I didn’t partake). The toilets were also clean and well stocked with Elemis products.
I ended up helping myself to porridge and toast and got myself a latte from one of the machines while I sat quietly and read my book. The gate popped up on the departure screens at around 10:15 and seeing no reason to dally I decided to make my way over. The gate was on the other side of the terminal and took about 15 minutes to walk to (the walk made longer by the fact that airside was by now heaving with people, making the walkways difficult to get through). I got to the gate to find additional security checks were being carried out, which had created another queue. It took about 10 minutes for me to reach the front where a G4S agent checked my boarding card and passport and asked me how long I was planning to spend in the USA and whether I had a return ticket.
The gate area was very busy, but there was still plenty of seats and at around 10:35 boarding began with elderly passengers and passengers with mobility issues, passengers with infants in baby carriers only, CW passengers, BAEC gold, silver and gold card holders and One World emerald, sapphire and ruby card holders. It was announced that because the flight was full, all other passengers would be boarded by row. I was one of the first through the gate and onto the airbridge. I was greeted by a member of the cabin crew at the aircraft door but while she checked by boarding pass, she didn’t tell me where to find my seat. Fortunately I’ve done this flight route before so knew where to go.
I’d pre-selected 4K at the time of booking, which is a window seat with direct aisle access in the front section of the CW cabin. The direct aisle access makes it desirable but you should be aware that it’s right next to the galley – this is fine for day time flights but might result in being too noisy for night time flights.
The seat was clean but a little tired and the arm rests were quite rickety. The storage was adequate and being one of the first on the plane, I was able to grab the small overhead locker right over my seat for my belongings, meaning I didn’t have to share. A blanket and pillow had been left out on the seat, which I also put into the overhead locker.
Once I sat down a member of cabin crew offered me a choice of water, orange juice or champagne. I plumped for champagne and sipped it in a suitably refined manner as I watched my fellow passengers board. Cabin crew were friendly and proactive in taking people’s jackets and offering newspapers. I wanted to flick through the High Life magazine but there wasn’t a copy for my seat (instead the pocket contained 2 copies of the shopping magazine). Fortunately the guy in the seat next to me wasn’t reading his so gave me his copy. CW was completely full and there were a number of kids in the cabin, although I didn’t hear a peep out of any of them during the whole flight.
At 11:15 the captain announced the route and gave an estimated flight time of 8 hours 40 minutes. We pushed back at 11:20 on the dot but there was a long queue for the runway and I saw the Virgin MCO flight (which leaves shortly before the BA flight) take off so mentally prepared myself for a long wait at MCO immigration. We took off at 11:40 and the seatbelt signs went off at 11:55, at which point cabin crew brought around menus, amenity bags, hot towels and customs forms (which I immediately completed to save myself a job later on). It was the first chance I’ve had to check out the new CW amenity bags and I wasn’t impressed. I actually preferred the old little bags as I found them useful to store things in – the new shoe bags are too big and flimsy. However, I liked the swap from the liquid lip balm to a stick (less likely to leak now) and I also liked the apricot face cloth.
The cabin crew did a drinks run from the front of the cabin at 12:05. I opted for my customary ginger ale, which came with a packet of nuts and checked out the IFE. I was a bit disappointed that the IFE on this plane was the older version so there was no boxed sets available and the TV show offering only included a couple of episodes of the series on offer (which I found really irritating). The movie selection was all recent releases but there wasn’t anything that really appealed to me so I ended up checking out the 3 episodes available of Brooklyn 99 and Louis.
Lunch service started at 12:15 with service again starting from the front. The menu choices were:
– Hebridean peat-smoked salmon pate with baked ciabatta croute; or
– Buffalo mozzarella with tomato petals and wild rocket pesto salad.
– Thai chicken curry with basmati rice and sugarsnap peas;
– Pan-seared fillet of British beef with spring herbed green peppercorn crust and English cider jus;
– Four cheese ravioli with tomato, olive and caper sauce; or
– Roasted Thyme peppered Loch Fyne salmon with a dill, potato, pea and bean salad.
– Lemon cheese cake with raspberry basil compote; or
– Thomas Hope Red Leicester and Channel Island Brie served with fig relish.
A selection of fruit
Tea, coffee and chocolates.
The wine and champagne on offer was:
– Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV
– Chablis 2012 Domaine Louis Moreau Burgundy, France; or
– Tiki Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand
– Barbera d’Asti DOCG 2011, ‘Cursus Vitae’, Carlin de Paolo, Piemonte, Italy
– Meiomi Pinot Noir 2012, Santa Barvara/Sonoma/Monteray, California, USA
I started with the salmon, which was very nice and absolutely the right size for a starter and opted for the rose champagne and the Cursus Vitae wine. The champagne was very pleasant – fruity and not dry and the red wine went down a treat with my main course. The cabin crew offered me a bread roll with the starter, which was lovely and warm. For the main I opted for the ravioli, which was a little salty but well cooked and which came with a second bread roll, which was good for mopping up the tomato sauce. I finished up with the cheese, which was fine although the brie had to warm up a bit and I really didn’t like the charcoal biscuits that came with it. Although we were supposed to get chocolates at the end of the meal, these were never delivered but I was so full by then that it was probably a good thing. The whole service took about 75 minutes from starter to plates being cleared away – unsurprising given the full cabin.
After lunch water bottles were brought around and I amused myself by listening to the audio channels – particularly impressed by Ronnie Wood’s show and I also enjoyed the Angie Greaves soul, rhythm and blues show but wished there’d been a better comedy offering.
We hit a couple of spots of turbulence, resulting in the seatbelt signs being pinged on but this didn’t last long and once they went off, I decided that I was peckish enough to check out the CW kitchen. I was quite disappointed with the choice on offer – there was no ice cream (despite being advertised) so I settled for a mini Twix, some honey cashew nuts and salted caramel popcorn.
Afternoon tea didn’t get served until 19:10, which I thought was quite late given that there was only an hour or so to go before we were due to land. In addition to a warm plain scone, we were given three finger sandwiches served in a plastic wrapper (chicken and slow roasted tomato mayonnaise, salmon with lemon and dill and wensleydale and chutney). The salmon and chicken sandwiches were fine but the packet seemed to have been mislabelled as I didn’t have a cheese sandwich at all – in fact, I’m not sure what it was and ended up not eating it because I couldn’t tell.
As the cabin crew were clearing the plates away, the pilot made an announcement that we had 50 minutes until landing and were ahead of schedule. The seatbelt sign then we on at 20:00 and cabin crew came around to check that seats were up and baggage stowed away.
We landed at 20:15 (10 minutes earlier than scheduled) and were off the plane by 20:25. Unfortunately a number of planes had landed at the same time (including the Virgin flight I’d seen departing earlier) so the queue at immigration was horrendous. Fortunately, after about 15 minutes an official came down the line asking for single travellers with ESTAs and electronic passports so I immediately volunteered and was directed past the long line to an electronic passport reader (similar to the e-gates at LHR). I was through in 2 minutes and after a very quick secondary check by an immigration official I was at the baggage carousel by 21:00, leaving a very long queue behind me. In a massive stoke of further luck, my bag emerged the moment I reached the carousel so I grabbed it and with a skip in my step joined a short queue for a further immigration check and then got on the monorail towards ground transportation.
To sum up, although the flight was perfectly fine and the fact that you don’t get the full CW experience from LGW is reflected in the slightly lower price for those departures, I’ve now flown enough CW from LHR to feel a little irritated by the poor relation ground service and the fact that you don’t get a decent IFE experience. As such, I’ve got to say that if I was going to fly to MCO again, I’d look at going via JFK or MIA from LHR to make sure I’m getting the full bang for my buck (not least because LHR is easier for me to get to than LGW).27th May 2014 at 04:03 #570915
Excellent review the only information missing was the name of the check in person at LGW and the colour of their eyes 🙂 I travel LGW-KIN regularly and it appears the service as you state is exactly the same when travelling from LGW! Again thank you for the review27th May 2014 at 12:56 #570916
Great review, although saddened to see BA still get things wrong; Thai curry with “basmati”rice?27th May 2014 at 13:17 #570917
One of the strange points about the Gatwick BA lounge is the First lounge has such a poor outlook compared to the wonderful views from the Galleries lounge.
Good to hear MCO are finally tackling the immigration Q’s.
Great report 1nfrequent.. any new places to recommend to eat in Orlando??27th May 2014 at 20:31 #570918
Thank you all – appreciate the kind comments.
K1ngston – I did try to get crew measurements but they looked at me funny when I got my tape measure out and told me they’d call the police. 🙂
esselle – yes, I did think that too when I saw it.
Martyn – I’m afraid I was a prisoner of the Mouse House so I ate on the Disney properties. If you’re planning a visit there though then I’d recommend the Tepan Edo in EPCOT (Japan-land), which had a great performance from the chef, the Tutto Italia also in EPCOT (Italy-land) which had the best service of anywhere I went to and Yak & Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which had simple food well prepared and really friendly staff.
Incidentally – don’t know how I ended up with 2 reviews for the same flight as I only posted one but apologies anyway.
1F27th May 2014 at 21:47 #570919
Have you tried “be our guest” in the Magic Kingdom? It’s a relatively new restaurant, and the food is a cut above the usual theme park fare, but the decor is simply amazing.
Well worth a visit next time you’re in Orlando.27th May 2014 at 21:53 #570920
I am not a Disney person, only theme park I go to (once a year is Epcot).
One of the places I rarely, if ever venture to, is down town Orlando which I think is in the midst of a modernisation. I used to eat a the top of the B of A building before they closed the restaurant..
Any down town Orlando recs… would be appreciated..27th May 2014 at 22:27 #570921
Pat – I wanted to go there but couldn’t get a reservation. Ah well. Just another reason to see about going next year … LOL.
1F28th May 2014 at 00:37 #570922
1F I think you need to take lessons in the art of eye measurement for your next in-depth review 🙂28th May 2014 at 05:28 #570923
Excellent review, thank you!
However – and I hate to be the one to break it to you – you completely wasted a pound. The weight limit in CW is 3 bags of 32kg each, so your hovering-around-23kg bag was never going to be a problem28th May 2014 at 11:12 #570924
Ian – knickers. Hadn’t realised that. Ah well. At least I know for future.
1F29th May 2014 at 02:32 #570925
Hahaha. Yes, sorry about that.
Perhaps you should invest in some portable scales. I keep a tiny electronic set in my hand luggage. Smaller than a fag packet
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