24th May 2016 at 17:00 #575328
Anonymous24th May 2016 at 17:00 #575329
I flew from MCO to LGW on BA2038 in CW on a 777-200.
This was the fifth leg of a DUB-LHR-LAS-CHS-MCO-LGW-DUB trip that I was taking with my parents. The cost of the ex-DUB ticket worked out at around EURO1400 per person (but the LAS-CHS-MCO bookings were made separately for about £740 per person).
We arrived at MCO Terminal B at around 4pm thanks to little traffic on the freeway. There was no queue at the BA check-in desks (which were easy to find). As had been the case throughout the trip, I’d checked-in on-line the evening before but been unable to print out the boarding passes. Unfortunately, a combination of the fact that:
(a) the last leg of our trip (LHR to DUB) was going from a different airport to that which we were flying to; and
(b) while I had checked in myself for the LHR to DUB flight but not my parents (who had decided to ditch the final leg),
confused the check-in agent, who spent a good 5 minutes trying to work out why we were checking in 3 bags to LGW but only 1 bag to LHR. When I explained to him that we were changing the airports, a second check-in agent came over to see what was happening and then told me that regardless of the change in airports, our luggage must be checked through to DUB. I politely explained that I didn’t think this was possible on BA flights due to the change in airport at which point she apparently understood the problem and very grudgingly told our check in agent to print out labels to LGW so we could pick up our bags then. She then made a point of telling him quite loudly that what we were doing was a known loophole on the BA system and she told us that BA would be stopping this in future on its website by preventing the airport swap. I took this with the pinch of salt that it deserved but made a note for future reference that the issue could probably have been avoided had I not checked myself in for DUB.
The original check-in agent (who had remained much friendlier than his surly colleague) put priority tags on our suitcases and we were given instructions on how to get to the BA lounge and told that we could use the TSA pre-check line at security.
We duly headed over to security and joined the pre-check line only for the very rude TSA agent to refuse to look at our boarding passes and instead tell us to join the general line. The general line was an absolute shambles. I have honestly never seen something so chaotic in an American airport before and was pretty shocked by it. Given the number of international flights coming in and out of MCO, I’d thought that TSA would have got this down to a fine art. Instead no one seemed to know what was going on and when a large group booking decided to join several different lines rather than go through together, it threw the TSA agents into an absolute tizzy where the left hand had no idea what the right was doing.
Having waited about 10 minutes to get to the first TSA agent to check our boarding passes and passports, we then found ourselves held in a non-moving line because some TSA agent – in his/her infinite wisdom – decided that instead of sending us straight to the body scanners and x-ray machines, they’d get a K-9 unit to come and sniff us. We waited 15 minutes for the K-9 unit to show up and all the time more and more people were joining the queue, making for a hellish press of people and almost causing some passengers to come to blows as tempers started to fray. When the K-9 unit did arrive we got contradictory instructions from different TSA agents – some told us that once we walked past the dog we could keep our shoes on and would not have to remove laptops, liquids etc from our hand luggage and others telling us that shoes, laptops, liquids etc had to come off as per normal.
All in all, it took 45 minutes to clear security in a needlessly stressful and pathetic experience that the MCO TSA authorities should be downright ashamed of.
Having survived security, we caught the monorail to the gate area where we tried to find the lounge. Unfortunately, the check-in agent’s instructions turned out to be rather vague and I ended up asking a gate agent for directions (which were given with the kind of long-suffering groan that suggested this was a common occurrence).
BA shares the facilities at The Club @ MCO with a number of other airlines, including Emirates. We arrived just as the earlier BA flight was leaving, so the lounge was practically empty. The lounge itself is a fairly large space with a range of seating options, including a children’s play area with a Playstation, a computer terminal with printer, 2 private telephone booths and a separate bar area.
We took a table overlooking the monorail, which was right next to the windows and consequently got very warm in the afternoon sun (not that we were complaining). The food offering was very basic – tomato and basil soup or chicken noodle soup, pitta bread with humus or red pepper dip, salad, cheese and biscuits, fruit, cookies and crisps. There was a decent soft drink selection, including a soda fountain and coffee machine and alcoholic drinks were available from the bar tender serving behind the bar (although we didn’t sample those). The wi-fi connection was fine – easy enough to connect to and it maintained its signal. There were 2 shower rooms and the toilets were clean and stocked with L’Occitane hand lotion. The friendly lounge receptionists made sure to give frequent updates of flight and boarding statuses and there were plenty of screens to check as well.
We decided to leave the lounge early in order to stretch our legs. There are a number of shops in the terminal for anyone wanting last minute souvenirs but I failed to notice what eateries were available. We were leaving from gate 80, which is literally 1 minute’s walk from the lounge. Boarding began at 7.30pm with a call for passengers with mobility issues but we noticed that they didn’t actually get taken to the plane until 7.45pm (instead getting stacked in a line ready for assistants to take them over the air bridge). As the mobility assistance passengers got taken to the plane, the gate staff made a call for passengers with infants and then for Club World passengers.
We were on the plane by 8.05pm and got a polite welcome from the cabin crew who directed us to our seats. I’d pre-selected seats 11A, 10A and 10B at booking, mainly because there hadn’t been a huge amount of choice. Seat 11A is a window seat with direct aisle access without having to climb over the legs of the passenger next to you. Seats 10A and 10B are right next to the galley area (including the CW snack kitchen) and toilet – some people worry about the noise that this could create but having sit in this area before, I knew that it’s actually not too bad because most people just sleep for most of the flight and aren’t moving about. All of our seats were in a mini-CW cabin next to the WT+ cabin but separated by a curtain.
The seats were clean but very worn – a blanket, headphones and a pillow were laid out on it and there was no problem getting my things into the overhead locker and the laptop drawer beneath the TV screen. Cabin crew brought around the normal pre-flight drink of champagne, water or orange juice – my mum and I went for the champagne, which was perfectly drinkable, while my dad had an orange juice. Cabin crew then brought around menus and amenity bags.
We pushed back at 8.15pm. The safety video played as we taxied and we were airborne by 8.30pm.
Cabin crew brought around hot towels about 10 minutes later, followed by a drinks run from the front and then the cabin crew took our food orders. (Note that the main downside of my choice of seats is that we were consistently the last to be served, which means that there’s a greater risk of not getting your first choice on the menu if that’s something that bothers you).
The menu choices were as follows:
– Atlantic cold smoked salmon with Mediterranean tabbouleh and roasted tomato
– Grilled asparagus with sautéed mushrooms and creamy Parmesan.
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
– Fillet of USDA beef with broccolini, horseradish smashed fingerlings and Bordelaise jus
– Pan-fried cod with charred Thumbelina carrots, herb risotto and lemon herb butter
– Tomato and mozzarella ravioli with sautéed spinach, slow-cooked tomato sauce and fresh basil
– Chilled main course salad of herb-roasted organic chicken with caramelised Granny Smith apples, crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese, fresh grapes, toasted walnuts and yoghurt and sour cream dressing
– Chilled chocolate and salted fondant
– Edam and blue cheese with guava paste
A selection of whole fresh fruit.
The champagnes on offer were
– Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Reserve NV
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV.
The white wines on offer were:
– Chablis 2014, Domaine Louis Moreau, Burgundy, France; or
– The Bernard Series Viogenier 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa.
The red wines on offer were:
– Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2012, DOCG “La Luna e I Falo”, Piedmont, Italy; or
– Dona Paula Estate “Black Edition” 2014, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina.
The food service began at the front from about 9.10pm. I had the salmon starter, which was fine but a little bland. There was no butter on the tray when it was put on my table, which I had to draw to the attention of the cabin crew but they were very apologetic and quickly brought me one. The bread rolls on this flight were warm (unlike my flight from LHR to LAS). The cod dish was very good – well seasoned and not overcooked. Unfortunately, I didn’t have room for dessert, so can’t comment on it. My parents shared my meh opinion of the salmon starter and each had the beef, which they said was very well done and they both enjoyed the fondant dessert.
Once the trays had been cleared away (which I think was around 10pm ish), I set up the flat bed and decided to get some sleep. I find the BA flat bed to be good enough to get a few hours of sleep but only if I wear the blindfold and use the ear plugs (due to the drone from the engines). My mum similarly got a couple of hours sleep but my dad wasn’t able to drop off at all, although he said that he generally finds it difficult to do so on planes anyway. Given that the flat bed was one of the main reasons for forking out for CW, I was a bit disappointed that my dad wasn’t able to get the benefit of it but he said he was happy enough with the rest of the BA CW experience to not be bothered by it. Both of my parents commented that they were disappointed by the IFE selection (which was the same old system as was used on the 747 that took us to LAS), especially as the choice of film and TV programmes was virtually the same.
I woke up at around 8.15am UK time (the rest of this review will use UK time) just as cabin crew were starting the breakfast service (again from the front). My parents and I were still feeling full from dinner so didn’t bother, but for those interested, the breakfast menu options were:
– Chilled fruit juice
– An energising fruit smoothie of green apple.
Fresh seasonal fruit
Special K cereal
– Warm bacon roll with tomato ketchup.
– A selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries
At 9am the pilot gave us a 20 minute warning for landing and we ended up landing at 9.25am and were off at 9.30am. There was no queue at passport control (which had to be some kind of miracle for LGW) and we were quickly out at baggage reclaim. In fact, we were out so quickly that the baggage information screens weren’t displaying our flight arrival so we had a 10 minute wait for them to do so. Once the carousel was displayed, the luggage started to emerge at around 9.55am and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that our bags were the first 3 out. As a result, we were out of the airport by 10am – a first for me and LGW.
This was my parents’ second ever CW flight and their view of it was much the same as the opinion they had of our LHR-LAS flight, i.e. it was a lot better than WT (which is how they normally travel) but they were glad they hadn’t paid a lot of money for it (had we bought the flights ex-UK, it would have cost upwards of £2,500 each). They were disappointed by the IFE selection (which I completely agree with) but thought that the food was broadly decent. Although we hadn’t got the newer CW seating, they were pleased with the space available and while my dad didn’t really get the benefit of the lie-flat seat, my mum did and was pleased with it – saying that she got more sleep than she did sitting upright. What the flights have done is turned them into business class and status junkies. They got enough tier points from this trip to take them to Bronze at BAEC (had they taken the next CE trip to DUB to complete the trip, they’d have made silver) and they’ve now worked out some European trips for the next few months that will get them that all important silver status with its corresponding lounge access. Honestly, I’ve created a couple of monsters.
My own view is that this was the typical second-class BA CW experience that’s typical of the LGW operations. It’s not the fault of the cabin crew (who I thought were perfectly fine for the trip) – it’s the lack of willingness by BA to invest in the CW product on the LGW long haul holiday routes. As I have said before, there is absolutely no incentive for BA to improve the seats and birds on these routes because they’re usually packed out, but as I have also said before – you are stark staring bonkers if you pay anything more than £1500 for long-haul in/out of LGW. I will only do those routes on an ex-EUR routing because I don’t want to be ripped off by the fares. I’ll actually go further and say that given the lack of a proper lounge at LGW for BA passengers right now, if I was planning a trip to/from MCO for 2016, I’d be looking at using Aer Lingus from DUB. This is because although you don’t get tier points on an Aer Lingus flight, you do still get Avios points and I’ve heard good things about the hard product and food offering, there’s pre-clearance so you avoid the immigration scrum and perhaps most importantly, the flights are cheaper than the UK equivalent. I’ve gone so far as to advise my friends to do this who are planning a Christmas trip to Disneyworld.24th May 2016 at 18:43 #575330
Another very comprehensive review, I tip my hat to you, sir!
Myself and ‘management’ did MCO-LGW on the BA2038 in WT+ in April and our experience of the TSA at MCO was exactly the same, a bit of a shambles and really something they need to sort out and PDQ.
With no lounge access, or status, I have learnt at MCO to stay landside for as long as possible and we enjoyed a nice meal in an Italian restaurant, since there is very little down at gate 80, other than fast food options.
When BA have 2 flights a day, the later BA2038 is the one to take, since it always seems to be far less busy, in fact, a crew member said to me he always tries to roster this one as the earlier flight normally leaves packed!
Although the old WT+ seating, on our flight the cabin was less than half full and it made for a comfortable flight and some 5+ hours sleep, although the breakfast box should be given a health warning for sugars etc.
We do prefer the direct LGW-MCO-LGW route and if purchased at the right time WT+ is reasonably priced and with the flight time sometimes just 7.5 hours on the return it is acceptable. The new WT+ seating would be a major improvement and it is disappointing that BA feel they can get away with 2nd class seating on these popular holiday routes.
Hope your folks enjoy their new status, I have to chuckle, travelling with the parents is always an experience!25th May 2016 at 20:14 #575331
Thank you, thecartoonman – that’s very kind!
“our experience of the TSA at MCO was exactly the same, a bit of a shambles and really something they need to sort out and PDQ.”
I was genuinely shocked at the MCO TSA operation – partly because of the 3 airports we experienced, it was by far the most awful. I do think that it’s not helped by the airport layout – there simply isn’t space for it within the airport building and short of knocking it down and redoing it, I don’t know the solution. I do know though that the TSA agents don’t help themselves at all – they clearly did not give 2 hoots about the people going through it. Cattle would have been treated more humanely.
“When BA have 2 flights a day, the later BA2038 is the one to take, since it always seems to be far less busy, in fact, a crew member said to me he always tries to roster this one as the earlier flight normally leaves packed!”
Thank you – that’s useful to know. I’d debated booking that earlier flight but we figured we’d find it easier to sleep on the later one and because the arrival time was better for us.
“We do prefer the direct LGW-MCO-LGW route and if purchased at the right time WT+ is reasonably priced and with the flight time sometimes just 7.5 hours on the return it is acceptable. The new WT+ seating would be a major improvement and it is disappointing that BA feel they can get away with 2nd class seating on these popular holiday routes.”
I agree that the route is much more convenient than the hassle of doing a run via DUB but I’ve been doing holidays to Orlando for the last few years flying business (it’s my treat for me) and I’ve just had enough of the poor hard product and having to get in early or at the right time to get a fair price for it. (I am so annoyed that before I knew any better, I was happily paying 2 grand for this route).
If I had any faith that the BA birds were going to get a refurb, I’d stick with it but this trip was just the last straw for me and I think that once Aer Lingus join up fully with Avios, there’ll be more people looking to use their products. (Not that IAG will lose out on that but still …)
“Hope your folks enjoy their new status, I have to chuckle, travelling with the parents is always an experience!”
Oh, you can definitely say that again! 😀 It’s the first time I’ve done a long haul holiday with them for about 15 years and I was a bit apprehensive but it worked out really well – we split up when we wanted to do different things and actually, I would never have gone to Charleston had my parents not wanted to go and I was surprised at how much I liked it.
Of course, my parents are now on the verge of getting silver and my mum’s been looking at the CX J product and wants to see how they compare … 😀
Thank you again
1F31st May 2016 at 12:54 #575332
@ 1nfrequent – 25/05/2016 21:14 BST
I used to travel every six weeks to MCO, using BA, and can only 100% agree with you on the disgrace that this airport is when it comes to security clearance. The airport was never designed with the increased level of international flights coming in, hence the headache regarding luggage collection (although slightly improved versus a few years ago), and of course the enhanced security measures which the TSA simply are inept at handling. There is also a real culture of ‘give them a badge, and they are god’ mentality within the TSA, so complaining will win you no favors. As I sold my home in Ocala and bought in Palm Coast, I moved my flights to Jacksonville connecting via DFW on AA, which even with an additional flight was far more pleasant than enduring MCO, and now that US and AA are one, I have been doing the flights via CLT directly into DAB which is very close to my home. All that said, I did return to MCO last year over Christmas but chose Lufthansa, Boeing 747-400, new Business Class Seating, excellent service, sat upper deck on both sectors, two hot meal services (not some poor Bacon Buttie pawned off as breakfast). I can recommend this service if you plan to do this again.
@ thecartoonman – 24/05/2016 19:43 BST
I have somewhat sworn off BA, and am now in the situation of needing to burn my Avios as well as those of my better half. That said, we have booked redemption seats on BA from BGI to LGW, and then connecting out of LHR to home. No CW or F seats seem to ever be available out of BGI (certainly not in season which I guess I can understand) so will be doing this trip in WT+. From the sounds of it, I can expect the old WT+ cabin as that seems to be what BA thinks LGW deserves? Really poor how LGW always gets the last revamp or refurbished cabins, lounges, service, etc. I guess leisure are second class to BA, even with sky high fares to Bermuda, Barbados and St. Lucia.31st May 2016 at 21:16 #575333
Thank you for the advice, dutchyankee. A number of people on the Disboards have suggested using other airports (I think it’s Sanford they talk about) but you’re the first person to suggest Jacksonville so I shall check it out. I’m not planning another trip to Orlando for a couple of years – waiting for the parks to develop their new rides and lands so there’s something new to see!
Unfortunately, I’m trapped by BA and OW loyalty for the time being flight wise but I know there’s a lot of Lufty love here on BT. If BA “enhance” their scheme then it’ll make it easier for me to spread my J spend.
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