Ex-OSL to Australia in BA and CX J and around Australia in QF EconomyBack to Forum
Last year I took advantage of a very good ex-OSL fare to Australia to do a bucket-list trip to Sydney, Melbourne, Ayers Rock and Cairns with my sister (who was travelling ex-BSL). I’ve put more detailed reviews on Seatplans but thought some posters here might be interested as it’s definitely changed my perspective on BA.
I booked OSL-LHR-HKG-SYD-SIN-LHR-OSL for about NOK26,700 (which worked out at the time of booking as just over £2,100). Equivalent ex-UK fares on BA were over £3,800 at the time and my sister’s ex-BSL itinerary was the equivalent of £3,200. Even factoring in the £350 that I paid for my positioning flights to and from OSL and a night at a hotel in OSL, I saved over £1,000.
I’ve split it up so each flight is in a different post and then I’ve done a final concluding post. Hope that’s okay with the Mods (seemed to me a more user friendly way of doing it then shoving it all in one post).
1F1 Apr 2017
I booked my positioning flight from LHR to OSL in Club Europe for about £345. Ordinarily I wouldn’t pay that much for a CE flight but I worked out that the Tier Points from this return flight would take me over the threshold for Gold, so I figured it was ultimately worthwhile.
BA766 was a A319.
I’d checked in on-line the day before and printed out my boarding pass. Got to Terminal 5 at around 9am to find it heaving. Because there were queues at all the economy bag drop desks and the sign displaying the security queues indicated that the south end was quieter than the north, I opted to head up to the business class check-in area and join the line there. The queue moved pretty quickly and I was soon called forward by a grim-faced check-in agent who asked for my boarding pass with all the joy of someone announcing that it was raining. She put a priority tag on my suitcase and added a heavy warning tag to it (entirely justified as the suitcase weighed 28kg – very happy to have the 32kg limit for Club Europe/BAEC silver card holders). She made no attempt to tell me about fast track security or the lounge but I knew about them already and frankly her sour disposition was harshing my holiday squee to such an extent that I was glad to get away from her.
There was a queue at fast track security but the staff were courteous and doing their best to process people quickly. The only curiosity was that they insisted on my scanning my boarding pass before going to the x-ray machine – first time that’s ever been a requirement so don’t know if it’s a new process or not. I managed to avoid having to go through the body scanner of shame and was airside by about 9.30am.
I made my way to the Galleries South Lounge (which is my favourite because it’s the biggest space). I got a friendly greeting from the receptionist and although the lounge was busy I easily found a chair for my belongings. Breakfast was still being served with a mix of pastries, fruit, yoghurt, porridge, bacon rolls, omelette and cheese rolls and toast. I thought it was best to sample everything in the interests of science and my only comment was that the omelette and cheese roll was a bit bland. It was too early for alcohol for me but I had my usual ginger ale and cappuccinos to keep body and soul together. I tried out the wi-fi, which was easy to connect to and had a good signal. The staff were proactive about replenishing food and picking up abandoned crockery, cups and classes.
I headed to gate A8 at about noon to hear the gate staff making a call for people to check in hand baggage due to the flight being full and offering pre-boarding as an incentive and the staff were proactive in walking around the gate to try and get volunteers. Although I understood why they needed to make the call, I still found it a bit irritating as they were invited to board before those in Club Europe or with status and it seems to me to be a reward for bad behaviour – especially as some of those passengers taking advantage of it had more than the permitted hand baggage requirement anyway. Passengers with mobility issues and/or small children were then invited to board and finally at about 12.10pm boarding was called for Club Europe passengers and then BAEC gold card holders and One World emerald card holders (which indicated to me that BA was finally trying to sort out its normal boarding chaos). Boarding was via air bridge and there was a friendly greeting from cabin crew.
At the time of booking I’d only been able to get a seat in the third row but the day before check-in seat 1A opened up so I grabbed it because I knew the legroom would be better. The seats were the new style slim-line black leather seats in BA’s normal 3×3 configuration with the middle seat blocked out. The seats were clean and in good condition and there was plenty of room in the overhead lockers. Club Europe consisted of 6 rows on the flight with only 2 seats being empty.
Boarding completed early at about 12.25pm. Hot towels were brought around and we pushed back at 12.30pm. The video safety briefing played as we taxied and we were airborne at 1pm. An announcement was made about buy on board for those in Euro Traveller but I didn’t pay much attention as food is (for the time being) free in Club Europe.
Lunch was served from the front at about 1.15pm. There was a choice of jerk chicken skewers with couscous or cod and celeriac mash with red pepper, aubergine and broccoli. I opted for the cod, which was a little salty and slightly overcooked but still tasty. The bread rolls were served cold but it didn’t really bother me. There was a drinks run after the food went through so I went for a coke. Trays were cleared away at 1.50pm.
I switched to OSL time so the rest of the post refers to that. I didn’t bother reading the BA magazines and just stuck with my book. The rest of the flight was uneventful and at 3.25pm we got a 15 minute warning for landing.
We ended up landing at 3.40pm and I was off the plane via an air bridge at 3.45pm. There was no queue at passport control although the egates had some trouble reading my passport. There are building works going on at OSL at the moment and it was a bit of a walk to baggage reclaim. The bags didn’t come off until just after 4pm but the priority tags worked and my suitcase was one of the first off so I was out of the airport by 4.15pm.
All in all I thought this was a perfectly acceptable flight and although I don’t think BA is showing any signs of getting to meaningful grips with hand baggage abusers, I didn’t really have any complaints.1 Apr 2017
I flew from OSL to LHR in Club Europe on BA763 in an A319.
I’d spent the night at the Radisson Blu across the road from the airport (a perfectly pleasant hotel and I got a complimentary upgrade to a junior suite, which was unexpected and lovely) and rocked up to Departures at about 9.10am. BA’s check-in desks are in zone 1 on the left-hand side of Departures, which was very easy to find.
There was no queue at the Club Europe check-in and I got a courteous greeting from the check-in agent who was happy to help when I explained that I was on my way to SYD and needed to change the seat I’d been allocated on the CX segment (CX wouldn’t let me choose my own seat at all and simply allocate you one on the day of departure). The check-in agent pulled my booking up on her screen and offered me a choice of seats (I ended up picking a window seat behind my sister). She also checked that I was happy with my seat assignments on the other segments, which I confirmed I was. She put a heavy luggage tag on my suitcase (silver card holders get 32kgs and having rearranged my luggage from the day before I’d managed to redistribute 1kg from that into my hand baggage). After asking to see my Australian visa waiver (which I had available in case I had to produce it and was happy to show her), she also printed off the boarding passes for the remaining segments and told me how to find the lounge. After tapping on her computer she also warned me that there was a 1 hour delay for my flight to London due to late arriving aircraft. That was fine as I’d factored a delay into my itinerary and had allowed several hours between flights.
Although OSL does have a fast-track security offering I couldn’t see anything that indicated that it was open to BA passengers and given that the check-in agent hadn’t said anything about it and the normal security line was showing a wait time of only 5 minutes, I joined the back of it. The OSL security staff were cheerful and efficient and I was through to airside without incident by 9.30am.
OSL is having some construction work done at the moment and I didn’t really need anything from the shops, but from what I did see the Duty Free shop was a good size and seemed to have a wide variety of products. Following the check-in agent’s directions, I soon found the lounge. OSL has 2 lounges – one for SAS passengers (which I think is also open to Star Alliance passengers) and the OSL Lounge, which is for everyone else.
I received a friendly greeting from the OSL Lounge receptionist. The lounge itself was a reasonable size with plenty of seating. The food offering was basic but not bad – the offering consisted of waffles, boiled eggs, turkey meatballs, turkey slices, cheese, pasta salad and green salad with bread, rye crackers and fruit. Later in the morning chicken tandoori soup was put out together with some kind of cake. The drinks offering was very basic – wine and beer with soft drinks (including from a soda fountain) and fruit juice. I didn’t see any spirits out while I was there but it may have been because I was too early. The staff were proactive in taking away used crockery and replenishing food.
My biggest issue was the lounge was that it was difficult to find a seat next to a power socket, although I did eventually manage to claim one. The lounge also has its own toilets, which were clean and well stocked. I used the free wi-fi, which was very good – a strong signal and it stayed connected.
At 11.30am the screens in the lounge flashed that passengers on BA763 should go to the gate. Gate F16 is about a 5 minute walk from the OSL Lounge and to reach it you need to go through passport control (which only had a short queue while I was there, but which you should make an allowance for). It was quite busy at the gate but there were still plenty of seats available. Just as I was sitting down the gate agents made an announcement that the flight was delayed but said that boarding would begin at 12:05pm for a 12.20pm departure (this was about 50 minutes later than scheduled).
At noon gate lice started to gather around the gate. A boarding call was made at 12:05pm as per the earlier announcement with a call for First Class passengers, Club Europe passengers, BAEC gold and silver card holders and One World emerald and sapphire card holders plus passengers with infants. And then boarding promptly descended into a farce. The gate agents made no attempt to push back those passengers who didn’t meet these criteria (of which I counted at least five) and passengers were jostling each other as they tried to move forward. When I did go through the gate, I found that we were all being kept on the airbridge because the plane wasn’t ready. Although we were only there for about 5 minutes, the temperature outside was circa -5 degrees Celsius and most people weren’t dressed for that temperature.
When we were finally allowed onto the plane, we received a pleasant greeting from the cabin crew. I’d only been able to get sea 3A at the time of booking but 1F opened up 24 hours before check-in so I grabbed it because of the extra legroom. The seats were in the normal 3×3 configuration with the middle seat blocked out and in the now familiar slim line, black leather style. For that flight there were 4 rows in Club Europe and it was about 75% full. My seat was clean and in good condition and because I was one of the first to board I managed to claim the small overhead locker above my row.
Boarding completed at about 12.30pm with push back at 12.35pm – this was 65 minutes later than scheduled and the pilot explained in his announcement that it was due to earlier bad weather at LHR. The safety video played while we taxied and there was a brief pause to allow the plane to be de-iced. I took the opportunity to switch my watch back to UK time so the rest of my report will refer to the same.
We were airborne by noon and hot towels were brought around. A late breakfast was served from the front shortly after take-off. I opted for the continental option rather than the cooked English breakfast (which I thought would be too greasy), which consisted of a slice of ham, a slice of salami, a cherry tomato, 2 slices of cucumber, a slice of brie, a dollop of cream cheese and a third of a boiled egg together with a bread roll and a fruit plate. As food went, it was fine but unimaginative.
The rest of the flight passed quietly and I read my book. About half an hour out from LHR a video was played to describe the transfer process at LHR and then at 1.50pm we got a 10 minute warning to land, only to then get told that we’d been put back into a holding pattern. We ended up landing at 2.15pm and I was off the plane by 2.20pm. Unfortunately we’d been put on a remote stand so had to board a bus to the terminal and because the flight had not been a full one, BA decided to put us all on the same bus even though there were 3 buses waiting at the stairs. It was a short drive to the terminal and I was inside by 2.30pm and on my way to flight connections for the LHR to HKG leg.
In conclusion, overall this flight wasn’t as good as it could have been. In particular the boarding process was a shambles (and I really don’t understand how or why BA is so bad at what should be a very simple matter of control and logistics) and so was the deplaning exercise (I’m not a travel snob by any means, but if you’re paying for a premium product then it should extend to a faster bus shuttle, especially when your flight is already late). However the cabin crew were fine, the food on the plane was fine and the pilot did his best to keep us informed. I should also say that I was taking this flight during the Mixed Fleet flight but experienced no kind of disruption (beyond the weather delay) and would not have known BA was having any industrial issues had I not been following the news.1 Apr 2017
The second leg was LHR to HKG in Club World on BA31 in an A380.
I made the short walk to Flight Connections where Security was operating slowly and there were a number of very agitated passengers in the queue who only had about 10 minutes to get to the next flight. After several minutes’ argument, a security officer finally agreed to allow a few of them to go to the front of the line but only after two of her colleagues had told those passengers that they wouldn’t miss their flight and should just stay in the queue. I thought that this was very shoddy behaviour – a quick look at the flight screens would have showed them that the flight the affected passengers were on was showing up as ‘flight closing’ and it would have been no big deal for them to allow them through. One security officer tried to tell the passengers that the reason the queue was running slowly was because other passengers didn’t have their items out and ready for scanning (e.g. laptops and liquids) but in fact the reason for the delay (as far as I could see) was because they weren’t using all of the machines, were short of trays and were insisting that everyone who went through do a secondary screening on the body scanner. Anyone new to LHR would have no doubt been put off by this bad show and I wouldn’t blame them for opting to use another airport. In the end it took my about 20 minutes to get through but only because by the time I reached the security gate the security officers had stopped using the body scanner.
Once airside I headed to the Elemis Spa near BA’s Galleries South Lounge to see if there were any appointments left (given the delay in getting to LHR and the fact that it was now the afternoon, I was acting more in hope than in expectation). Fortunately my luck was in and the spa had a slot at 5.15pm for a facial. I celebrated my good fortune by heading back down to Duty Free as I wanted a bottle of perfume. For once I didn’t have to queue at the Duty Free tills but I did run the gamut of shop walkers trying to hard sell me things I didn’t want and the till workers seem to have it written into their terms of employment that they must be surly at all times.
Perfume duly purchased I headed back to the BA Galleries South lounge and was treated to a show at the reception desks. A couple with three children and a nanny were arguing with a male lounge dragon to be allowed into the lounge. The parents were each BAEC silver but neither the kids nor the nanny had status and it emerged through the argument that none of them were travelling in business class. The lounge dragon – politely and firmly – stuck to the rules and said that the parents could each guest one person in but the rest wouldn’t be admitted. The parents were incredibly rude to the lounge dragon, trying to beat him down (despite one of the children and the nanny both saying they were happy to remain downstairs) and culminating in the woman telling him (and this is an exact quote because I found it so hilarious I wrote it down): “I don’t know what’s happened to BA recently. It used to be a world class airline but you’re really gone downhill and I’ll be telling Willie Walsh that the next time I see him at an evening soiree!”
I got called forward by a female lounge dragon and told her that I thought her colleague had handled the unpleasantness really well and that some people were just fundamentally nasty. The dragon smiled, thanked me and wished me a pleasant journey.
The lounge was quite busy (I think due to the knock-on effect of numerous flight delays as I was travelling during the first bout of BA mixed fleet strikes, which had been further enhanced due to bad weather in the morning) but I found a seat near the children’s play area and went to check out the food offering. Afternoon tea was out and the sandwich choices were egg mayonnaise, tuna mayonnaise or coronation chicken with toffee and pecan cake and gluten-free chocolate cake. The soup was a choice of carrot and coriander or pea and mint. I didn’t fancy the sandwiches (which all looked like they’d been out for a while) or the soup but did have some of the toffee and pecan cake (which was very good) and grabbed myself a glass of white wine (can’t remember what but I suspect it may have been a Riesling) and began to relax. The BA wi-fi was very good and there was no problem in connecting to it and the toilets were clean and, for once, I never had to queue for one.
I sat back, relaxed, read my book and drank alcohol until my facial came around at 5.15pm. I though the treatment was very good, the therapist was very pleasant and friendly and I got some free samples afterwards (although I am sadly of an age where the samples I get are anti-wrinkles, anti-aging and pro-collagen so that was a blow to my pride …)
I checked the flight screens once I came out of the spa at 5.45pm expecting to see an instruction to go to the gate (as my boarding pass said the gate would close at 6.10pm), only to find that there was a delay on my flight of about 20 minutes. I had originally planned to wait in the lounge to have a quick meet up with my sister, who was coming in from BSL but the BSL flight had been severely delayed and even allowing for the delay on my flight, she wasn’t expecting to get in until about 15 minutes after my departure.
Given that the A380 leaves from the C gates, I therefore figured that it was worthwhile heading over. There was no problem in using the transit train to get there (it had pulled in just as I got there) but I arrive to find the C gates in complete chaos. The seating around Gate 62 was way too small given the passenger numbers for the flight so people were bunched up around the barrier. The gate crew did not attempt to make any announcements until around 6.25pm when they said that they were hoping to begin boarding at 6.30pm. That should have been the signal they needed to start moving people away from the gate but they decided not to, which meant that the crowding got even worse as people surged towards it.
At 6.30pm a call was made for First Class passengers, Club World Passengers and any BAEC gold card holders or One World emerald card holders. This triggered pandemonium. None of the gate lice moved, which meant that people had to push past them, which in turn led to some very bad tempered exchanges and some serious shoving. The gate staff showed zero initiative at controlling or stopping this and actually seemed to be incredibly flustered by the whole thing. It was bad enough experiencing this poor showing when I’d paid a lot of money for my seat but if I had been a paying First Class passenger, I would have been seriously hacked off as it was about as far from a premium experience as you could dread to get.
Boarding took place via three air bridges and there was a friendly greeting from the cabin crew at the door. I had preselected seat 53K at the time of booking (a privilege of being a BAEC silver card holder), which is on the upper deck and is a window seat with aisle access that doesn’t involve playing hopscotch over your neighbouring passenger’s legs. I like the A380 upper deck because the window seats have the benefit of 3 side bins, which offer considerably more storage space than other BA CW flights (excluding the upper deck of the 747s). Unfortunately, my rucksack was too big to fit in the side lockers, but there was plenty of space in the overhead locker and my 12 inch laptop easily fit into the laptop tray.
The seat itself was clean and in good condition but there was a noticeable build-up of grime in the nooks of the partition separating my seat from the aisle seat. A shrink-wrapped blanket had been left on the seat together with a pillow and I popped those into a side bin until I needed them.
The cabin crew were friendly and proactive. Pre-flight drinks were brought around (the normal choice of orange juice, water or champagne) and I opted for a champagne, which was perfectly drinkable. Newspapers and amenity bags were also brought around.
Boarding completed at 7.05pm and the captain made an announcement apologising for the delay, which he explained was due to the plane having been put in the wrong part of the airfield, which meant that it had to then be moved to the gate. The safety video played and we ended up pushing back at 7.15pm (which was 50 minutes later than schedule). Any hope that we’d be off was tempered by a long wait in the taxi queue, however, and we didn’t get airborne until around 7.50pm.
Cabin crew were again proactive, promptly bringing around Hong Kong landing forms once the seat belt signs went off and then bringing around hot towels and taking food orders. The dinner menu for the flight was as follows:
– Seared tiger prawns with Thermidor mayonnaise and chive and new potato salad; or
– Bocconcini with basil sponge, slow-roasted cherry tomatoes and pine nut and fennel salad.
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
– Seared fillet of British beef with Port wine sauce, cauliflower and potato frittata, rosemary roasted carrots and herbed sugar snap pears; or
– Chicken in XO sauce with stir-fried kai-lan in soy sauce and egg-fried rice; or
– English vegetable hotpot with herb dumplings; or
– Chilled main course salad of basil marinated Scottish smoked salmon with sun-dried tomato and potato salad, char-grilled aubergine, courgette and rocket pesto dressing
– Toffee apple and pecan slice with mascarpone cream; or
– Barber’s Cheddar and Cropwell Stilton served with fig relish and biscuits.
A selection of whole fresh fruit.
Tea, coffee and chocolates.
The wine and champagne choices were:
– Macon-Law Roche-Vineuse 2015, “Cuvee Prestige”, Domaine Chene, Burgundy, France; or
– Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pioneer Block 20, The Cash Block, Marlborough, New Zealand.
– Chateau de Malleret 2011, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France; or
– Simon Hackett “Hills View” Shiraz 2013, McLaren Vale, South Australia
– Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Reserve NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV
The LHR-HKG flight offers passengers the ability to pre-order their main course 28 days before flying and I had already chosen the vegetable hotpot on the basis that I didn’t fancy the chicken and I never eat beef on a British Airways flight because it’s usually overcooked. The cabin crew confirmed that I still wanted the hotpot and I ordered the tiger prawn starter.
The food run started at 8.20pm with drinks – I’d had enough alcohol and just went for a ginger ale. The food followed shortly afterwards. The tiger prawn starter was tasty but the Thermidor mayonnaise had walked through on stilts and hardly featured at all. For the first time ever on a British Airways long haul flight there was the option of garlic bread in the bread basket but I found it disappointingly tasteless – there was hardly any garlic in it at all. As is usual for me, I didn’t touch the side salad because I don’t like leaves.
There was a 40 minute wait between having the starter plates taken away and getting the main course, which I thought was too long. I thought that the vegetable hotpot was very good – the dumplings were surprisingly light but herby and the squash, carrot and French beans were all well-cooked. My only criticism of the dish was that it had half a baby onion on it, which I thought was overpowering.
It took about 10 minutes between the main course plate being taken away and desert being brought out. I’d opted for the cheese, which was fine (I mean, it’s basically two chunks of cheese so it’s pretty easy) but BA are really stingy on the biscuits – 3 biscuits aren’t enough. The chocolates were very nice but I declined the offered tea and coffee afterwards.
The tray was finally taken away at around 10.20pm, which was 2 hours after the meal service started – I thought that was far too long for the flight, but that’s mainly due to the fact there are so many people in the Club World cabin that I think the crew are overwhelmed by the numbers. This wasn’t helped by the delay in departure (which meant that the dinner service started later than planned in the first place) but all in all it isn’t great given that this is one of those flights where most people really want to be able to get to sleep.
I checked out the entertainment system after dinner, which was okay but I couldn’t find anything in the music or radio selection that took my fancy and I preferred to read my book rather than check out any of the films or TV offerings.
One thing I did notice on the flight was that there was always a queue for the toilets – there simply aren’t enough on the A380 for the passenger numbers and when people decide to use the toilets to freshen up, it did give rise to some bitten back comments.
Before going to sleep I switched my watch to HKG time so the rest of my report refers to that.
It was easy to turn the seat into a flat bed and the cabin temperature was such that the blanket was fine (if it had been colder, then I think it would have been different as the blanket really isn’t very thick) and the pillow was okay. I slept well enough to feel rested when I woke up around 1.50pm but seat 53K is right next to the galley and I was aware of a certain amount of cabin crew noise from the galley – they certainly weren’t careful about keeping their voices down or not banging things.
I was actually woken up by the breakfast service, which was just starting. The breakfast menu for the flight was:
– Chilled fruit juice;
– Fresh fruit; or
– Fruit Muesli with apple compote and vanilla yoghurt.
A selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries
– Traditional English breakfast of scrambled eggs, Suffolk sweet-cured back bacon, free-range Cumberland pork sausage, tomato and hash-brown potatoes;
– Shrimp congee;
– Continental breakfast featuring Wiltshire ham, sliced ventricina, rolled pancetta, Emmental and Double Gloucester cheese; or
– Toasted sandwich of smoked tomato and cheese with scrambled egg, garlic and herb-roasted tomatoes.
By the time the cabin crew got to me the yoghurt had run out but I wasn’t too bothered by that as I was still pretty full from the dinner. I had 2 brioche rolls (which were very nice) and went for the continental breakfast, which was fine although the Gloucester cheese was a bit too heavy for that early in the morning.
I read my book for the rest of the flight and at 2.30pm we got a 40 minute warning to landing, followed by a 20 minute warning at 2.50pm, only for the captain to then say that we were waiting for a landing slot. In the event we had a very smooth landing at 3.25pm, were off the plane via an air bridge at 3.35pm and I followed the signs to Transfer.
In conclusion, this flight experience was a bit of a mixed bag. The LHR security operation was pretty poor – I don’t know if I had just hit a bad day, whether this is true of many hub airports or whether it’s typical of LHR as I don’t do many flights. I do know that as a first impression of LHR, it’s a bad one and quite off-putting. I also thought that the boarding was an absolute disaster – there was no attempt at controlling it or policing it so the effects of a delay were grossly exacerbated. I think any First Class paying passengers going through that would be well within their rights to make a complaint because you’d get less of a crush on a Ryanair flight. I do however like the BAEC Galleries lounge and while some dismiss the spa as a gimmick, if you can get a treatment (and that can be a big ‘if’) then it makes for a nice start to the trip. (I say that as my sister did not manage to get a treatment because her BSL flight got in so late that there wasn’t enough time for her to make her HKG flight and she was a little disappointed by it).
Flight-wise I thought that the cabin crew were good – friendly and proactive – but they’re overwhelmed by the size of the Club World cabin, which is too big for efficient food service and is further degraded by the fact that there aren’t enough toilets for everyone.1 Apr 2017
The third leg was HKG to SYD in business class on CX161 in an A330-300.
I reached HKG security at about 3.40pm and found a bit of a queue but the security staff were efficient and I was airside by 3.50pm. HKG is massive and as a first-time visitor I found that the signposting was quite confusing (especially when you’re already suffering a little from jet lag) and couldn’t see where to go for the CX lounges. I ended up stopping at an information desk where a very pleasant woman gave me directions to both CX’s The Wing and The Cabin.
I had already arranged to meet my sister at The Wing when her own flight to HKG got in, so I headed there. The lounge dragons were perfectly friendly and made sure to tell me where the showers were (which I hope was not a discrete judgment on how I smelt). The lounge is huge and split into a number of areas over two floors so I opted to head upstairs where there was lounge space, a café and a noodle bar. I ended up taking a seat in the café where I easily found a table and treated myself to a very good slice of New York cheesecake and a latte while I read my book. There seemed to be a lot of announcements in the airport about delayed flights – I don’t know if that was normal or whether they’d had some bad weather.
I was there for a few hours when my sister phoned me to let me know her plane had landed so I told her where to find me. We opted to go and get some food from the noodle bar, which was great – I really enjoyed the won ton noodles and the dim sum on offer and I probably ate my body weight. We each then went to use the showers and were lucky as neither of us had to wait for an appointment. We both thought that the showers were very good – like being in a decent spa with good quality Jurlique shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and fluffy towels that were a good size and the hairdryers had some oomph to them. Cathay even has little amenity kits with cotton pads and cotton buds, which is a nice touch.
Afterwards, we met up upstairs for a drink. I’ve got to say that I didn’t notice any wine or spirits but to be honest I wasn’t really looking for any as I was happy with water and coke.
At about 8pm the gate for our flight to SYD flashed on the television screens. We weren’t sure how long it would take to get to gate 70 from the lounge so decided to amble along. It turned out to take about 20 minutes and involved taking a transit train and a bit of a long walk. By the time we arrived the gate agents were just starting to ask passengers to line up in their appropriate queue: one for business and first class passengers (even though this was only a three-class flight without First) and one for premium economy and economy passengers. British Airways could learn a lesson from Cathay Pacific because the gate staff then went along each queue checking passports and boarding passes and the queues were enforced, with wrong doers being politely ejected into the right line.
The business class line was then sent down towards the plane first where we were stopped for a second boarding pass and security bag check (where I had a bottle of water confiscated). There was a brief wait at the aircraft door and we were then allowed on board at around 8.55pm.
The OSL check in agent and switched me from the aisle seat (20B) that CX had allocated to a window seat (15K), which turned out to be behind my sister who was in 14K.
The business class seats were in a 1-2-1 configuration, which immediately meant that the cabin felt more spacious when compared with the BA CW flight I’d taken to HKG. The flight was in three classes (Business, Premium Economy and Economy) so the business class cabin was at the front of the plane and business class was about 80% full.
My first impression of the Cathay Pacific business class seat was that there was better seat storage than in BA CW but although I could put away my medication, phone and book so that they were in handy reach of my chair, there was no drawer or equivalent space for my laptop, which was no big deal because there was plenty of space in the overhead locker. I had hung my coat on a coat hook but a member of the cabin crew immediately offered to hang it for me (contrast that with British Airways where I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times someone has offered to hang my coat and none of those occasions was on a Club World flight).
The seat itself had seen a lot of wear – the ottoman was battered and some of the plastic casing was coming away but the seat itself was clean and comfortable. The table was a lot firmer than the equivalent BA version (although it couldn’t be positioned) and the TV screen was pretty big. Cabin crew came around to offer a choice of water, champagne or orange juice (I had a champagne, which was perfectly acceptable). This was followed by hot towels, landing cards and amenity kits. I really liked the amenity kit, which came in a small but handy grey material pouch designed by Seventy Eight Percent (perfect for storing laptop cables) and included some socks (with handy grips on the soles), a blindfold, good quality ear plugs (better than the foam ones given out by British Airways), a decent sized toothbrush and 25g of Colgate toothpaste (again, bigger than the British Airways handout), Jurlique anti-aging serum, Jurlique rosewater balancing mist, Jurlique lip care balm, and mouthwash. I much preferred the Cathay amenity kit to the British Airways one – the smaller size meant that it felt less cheap and that there was more in it.
The safety video played while we were still at the gate and there was an announcement (with an apology) that due to congestion at the airport pushback had been delayed. In the end we ended up pushing back at 9.35pm and were airborne by 10pm.
Menus were brought around shortly after the seatbelt sign went off. The cabin crew member for our side of the plane introduced herself and addressed every passenger by name, which I thought was a classy touch. She also took the trouble to have a quick chat with every passenger and I found her personable and caring. I know that the size of the Club World cabin means that this isn’t really possible on BA, but it makes such a difference – you immediately feel looked after and cared about, which is part of what you’re paying for.
The menu for the flight was as follows:
– Parma ham and melon; or
– Seasonal mixed salad and balsamic vinaigrette.
– Wok fried halibut, spring onion, choy sum, carrot and steamed jasmine rice; or
– Braised lamb shoulder rack, French beans, ratatouille and garlic parsnip mash; or
– Chicken makhanwala, jalfreezi vegetables and cumin basmati rice; or
– Roasted pepper and ricotta ravioli, spinach, tomato and Café de Paris sauce.
CHEESE AND FRUITS
– Fourme d’Ambert, Reblochon, Tomme crackers, apple and rosemary paste;
– Fresh seasonal fruit
– Lychee mousse with raspberry compote; or
– Salted caramel tart
The wine choice was:
– Champagne Deutz, Brut Classic
– The Olive Grove Chardonnay McLaren Vale 2015
– Lauren V. Friendly Gruner Veltliner 2014
– Fleurie Les Saprolites Loron Et Fils 2015
– Rockbare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2014
– Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011
At about 10.30pm a table cloth was put on my table and a drinks and dinner service started from the front, presented on a proper trolley with all service again made by name. It was great to be able to see what food was on offer before being asked to make a choice (again, I know that simply isn’t possible on BA). I went with the parma ham starter, which was fine although a bit unimaginative. I was more excited when the bread basket was offered to me and I was told it was perfectly okay to take a bread roll and a piece of garlic bread (the garlic bread was lovely and – unlike BA – actually tasted of garlic).
I opted for the lamb as my main course, again after being given the opportunity to see it first. It was genuinely one of the best meals I’ve had on a plane – the lamb was tender and fell off the bone, the vegetables were perfect and I was very sorry to finish it.
I love the fact that on Cathay you get to have both cheese and desert. Again, you’re shown the cheese on the trolley and can select whatever you wanted and Cathay make sure that you get enough crackers as well (BA take note!).
The highlight of the meal though was the salted caramel tart, which was absolutely delicious.
I then took up the offer of a cup of tea (which was made exactly how I liked it with the cabin crew making sure to ask me how much milk I took) and then as if all that wasn’t enough, the crew came around with a box of chocolates and you were encouraged to take as many as you wanted. I may have made an absolute pig of myself but I regret nothing – no matter what my clogged up arteries tell you.
The dinner service was completed by 11.40pm (so that was about an hour and 10 minutes from start to finish) and frankly there is no comparison with BA. I know the BA crew have more passengers to deal with and the configuration on CX isn’t as dense but this felt like a real business class service with business class dining and BA simply doesn’t compete. It was a real eye-opener.
Water bottles were brought around and I decided to make up my seat into a bed, which was very straightforward. I found the bed perfectly fine – the pillow and duvet (which was much thicker than the BA blanket) were good and I was comfortable. I got about 3 hours sleep and only woke up because an economy class passenger had taken ill and was moved up to the spare business class seat next to mine. I thought that the cabin crew handled the situation very well – they were calm and reassuring to the unwell passenger and very solicitous of her. I slept off and on for another hour or so, but I was hampered by some turbulence and ended up giving up and going back to my book. I ended up being so into the book that I didn’t bother trying the entertainment system, although my sister said that she found enough films and TV programmes to keep her occupied.
The lights came on about 2 hours before we were due to land and I switched my watch to SYD time so the rest of the report refers to that.
The breakfast service started from the front at about 8.10am (again served from a trolley) and the breakfast menu was:
Orange or apple juice
Mango and passion fruit smoothie
Fresh seasonal fruit
Greek yoghurt, apricot compote and granola
– Scrambled egg, streaky bacon, pork sausage, vine ripened tomato, bubble and squeak; or
– Dim sum selection – beef siu mai, har gow, vegetarian fun gor and glutinous rice dumpling; or
– Minced pork and Chinese spinach congee, pan fried turnip cake and preserved meats.
I ended up opting for the dim sum, which was delicious and I washed it down with another cup of perfectly made tea.
The service was handled quite quickly and after it ended the pilot made an announcement that we would be delayed in disembarking at SYD because quarantine wanted to check on the unwell passenger.
We got a 30 minute warning at 9.10am with the pilot again warning passengers that we would not be immediately disembarking. The cabin crew member looking after my side of the plane came and thanked me for using Cathay Pacific and when I mentioned what a great flight I’d had and how it was my first time on the airline, she gave me a complimentary packet of playing cards and thanked me for my custom. I know that doesn’t sound like much but you know, it just went to show how she went the extra mile and I was genuinely touched and impressed.
We landed at 9.50am and were told to stay in our seats as quarantine checked on the sick passenger. Most of the passengers did as they were told (although I did notice that no one spoke to the 2 or 3 in business class who decided they could get their luggage down). Being next to the sick passenger I was able to eavesdrop on the quarantine officer who said he didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong with the passenger but they did make sure to get her off the plane first.
We ended up disembarking at 10.10am and made for the egate passport immigration check, which was easy to use and my sister and I had a bit of welcoming banter with a friendly immigration officer. We got to the baggage carousel just as the bags were coming off and our suitcases were among the first ones off. My sister then went off through the green customs channel but I queued in the depressingly long queue for the red channel as I’d brought some biscuits in for a friend I was meeting up with in Sydney and was declaring it as a precaution (the Australian customs form is a bit confusing but it says that if you’re not sure then you should declare and I didn’t want to get fined). I’d only been in line for about 10 minutes though when a customs agent came along, checked my form and asked me what I had. When I explained that it was commercially bought biscuits he told me to get out of the line and head to the green channel and if anyone asked to say he’d told me it was okay. I did as I was told and was through and out of the airport by 10.30am without any further hassle.
This was my first time in Cathay business class and – in fact – my first time experiencing a non-BA long-haul business class product. It’s been a massive eye opener. There simply isn’t any comparison for me between the Cathay hard and soft product and BA’s. Cathay was far and away better in every respect and I say that even though it was clearly an old and worn out plane – the service elevated it and when I think about the flights I’ve taken on BA’s equally clapped out 777-200s out of Gatwick, it makes me quite annoyed. Of course, you do generally pay more for a Cathay flight than for a BA one but my experience here has made me keen to check out ex-EU pricing and having spoken to my sister afterwards, we figure that unless BA is substantially cheaper, it’s not worth taking them for our next trip out east when there are such better alternatives.1 Apr 2017
Having spent 4 very pleasant nights in SYD I flew from SYD to MEL in economy class on QF437 in an A330-200.
This was the first flight in an internal tour of Australia (SYD-MEL-ASP-AYQ-ASP-CNS-SYD), which I’d booked with Qantas for about AUS$1050 (which at the time of booking worked out at about £660). I did look at booking business class but I couldn’t get a price for this trip of less than AUS$4,000, which for the short duration of the flights really didn’t seem worth it.
Be aware that if you are keen to get tier points/Avios from a QF economy fare booking then don’t do it online as you won’t find out the fare bucket until after you have made the booking and not all QF economy fares attract tier points and Avios with some fare codes only carrying a nominal Avios/tier point award. (Note that this is not the case if you book a business class fare). For the purposes of this trip, neither my sister or I were bothered about tier points or Avios because the international segments were going to take us across our qualification thresholds (gold for me, silver for my sister). In fact we had considered booking Virgin Australia but decided not to because price wise, they were comparable with Qantas and because at least we could get lounge access with Qantas care of our BAEC silver cards even if we were flying down the back.
We got to the SYD domestic terminal at around 10.30am and followed the signs up to Departures. I had checked us in on-line the day before but had not been able to print out the boarding passes or bag tags. I tried to use one of the Qantas machines to do so but it couldn’t read my passport and I ended up having to ask a member of Qantas’s staff to help me (which she did very cheerfully).
Having got our boarding passes and put the baggage tags on our cases, we went over to the bag drop belts where I hit on a problem. The economy checked baggage allowance on Qantas is 23kgs but, having read the One World rules, I thought that as the equivalent of a One World sapphire, I was entitled to an extra 10kgs when flying Qantas domestic economy. When I put my bag on the belt though (which showed my suitcase as weighing about 26kgs), the machine told me that I needed to pay an excess baggage fee of AUS$50.
I asked a member of Qantas’s staff for assistance about this and she went to check with a colleague whether I was entitled to more weight for free. After conferring with a colleague, she told me that unfortunately I was not because I was only flying economy on a basic fare so I would either have to pay the additional charge or redistribute the items in my baggage, although she did tell me that there was leeway to go up to 24kgs without any charge being made. In the end, I moved some items from my suitcase into my hand luggage (Qantas allow you to take two pieces up to 15kgs) and brought the weight to under 23kgs, which the baggage machine was happy with.
Suitcases duly despatched, we headed for security, which was very quick. The security staff were cheerful and helpful with one directing my sister and I to a machine that had just opened up. As a result we were through by 10.50am and headed for the Qantas Club lounge. I was a bit worried based on my suitcase experience that flying economy meant we wouldn’t be allowed in but that wasn’t the case and we got a courteous welcome. I thought that the lounge was a very good size with plenty of room and included a computer area, a bar and a food serving area. There’s also a self-contained little shop in the lounge offering books, magazines and other travel items, which I thought was a nifty idea.
We found two seats with a good view of the airstrip and went to check out the breakfast offering. I thought that the food was perfectly acceptable with continental breakfast, cereals and a toasted sandwich machine all on offer but having eaten at the hotel, I ended up only taking a coffee and a ginger ale. Accessing the wi-fi was easy and there was a good connection. Staff were proactive about cleaning up cups and crockery and were also proactive at replenishing food. The toilets were clean and well stocked and I didn’t have to queue.
At about 12.55pm the screens in the lounge showed that our flight was ready for boarding so we moseyed along to gate 11, which is only a short walk from the lounge. The gate was busy but we found somewhere to sit and at 1.10pm the gate agents called for people with small children to commence boarding. Afterwards boarding was by row number with priority boarding for One World emerald and sapphire card holders (or equivalent) in a separate line, which we joined the back of. We picked up a pair of complimentary headphones each as we went through the gate. Boarding was via an air bridge and we got a warm greeting from the cabin crew.
I noticed that the business class cabin seemed to have lie flat seats, which seemed extravagant for such a short hop and I did look a little enviously at the passengers settling into them as I walked towards the back. I’d pre-selected 44K at the time of booking because it was in an exit row and so I figured it would have more leg room. I was not disappointed. The seats in economy were in a 2 x 4 x 2 configuration and the seats were clean and in good condition, albeit in the narrow format familiar to BA short-haul passengers. The passenger sitting next to me was a little large so there was some elbow jostling (albeit not intentional on the part of either of us as he was a perfectly nice bloke). There was plenty of space in the overhead locker for my bags and when I looked around, the economy cabin seemed to be about 85% full.
Boarding completed at 1.20pm and we pushed back at 1.30pm. A security video then played, which highlighted a bit of a hitch. None of us in the exit row realised that we needed to pull out a TV screen from the arm to follow the video and even though cabin crew could see this, none of them showed us how to do it. It wasn’t an issue for the other passengers because there were seatback screens throughout the rest of economy but even allowing for the fact that I’m clearly an idiot, from a safety point of view I think someone in cabin crew should have picked up on it. There was a short taxi to the runway and we were airborne by 1.45pm.
Food was served from the front shortly after take-off from the front. I hadn’t been expecting much from the food offering and so was pleasantly surprised to be given a hot pumpkin, feta and pinenut tart, which was very tasty although a little stodgy. I washed it down with a ginger beer, which had a real kick to it. I should mention that I thought the cabin crew were very good on the flight other than the security briefing point – relaxed, cheerful and helpful.
I had a book with me so didn’t use the entertainment system, but a film was shown on the flight (Keeping Up With The Jones’s, which ended up showing on every flight I took) and there were some music channels as well that were played on a loop. I can see that for regular travellers this wouldn’t be sufficient but compare it with the zero entertainment you’d get on a BA flight of equivalent duration and it was pretty decent.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and we landed at MEL at 3pm and were off the plane via an air bridge by 3.10pm. It was a short walk to baggage reclaim, with the cases coming off quickly and we were out of the airport by 3.35pm.
This was my first time flying Qantas and having gone in with low expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. I certainly hadn’t expected an entertainment system for such a short flight and nor had I expected hot food to be served. Apart from the safety video blip, I thought it was a pleasant flight, all of the Qantas staff I interacted with were friendly and helpful and I was satisfied with the product. The flight didn’t carry any tier points or Avios but that was not an issue for me.1 Apr 2017
Having spent 5 really good nights in Melbourne, we flew from MEL to ASP in economy class on QF796 in a 737-800. Again, this flight was booked into a code that did not attract Tier Points or Avios.
We got to MEL Terminal 1 at about 6.45am and went up to Departures where we easily found the self-check-in machines. Having been unable to check in on-line, we printed off our boarding passes and luggage tags (which through-checked our luggage to the final destination of AYQ) without any issue and then went up to the self-bag-drop area where a very helpful QF staff member helped us to send the suitcases off on the conveyor belt without any problem. (There were no issues with suitcase weight on this flight as we had already distributed our items so that both were under the 23kg limit).
The priority security lane is open to One World emerald and sapphire equivalent card holders so we headed over to it where a security agent checked that we were eligible. There was no queue at all and the security staff seemed cheerful and friendly, which meant that we were through in a couple of minutes. We headed up to the Qantas business class lounge, which is open to One World sapphire equivalent card holders and had no problems finding seats with a view over the apron.
The breakfast offering was perfectly acceptable offering a selection of cereal, bread, ham, eggs and pancakes. The layout was a little weird for getting drinks (you had to walk over to the bar area where there was a coffee machine and soda fountain) but I suppose that the walk helped to burn off the calories. There were areas of the lounge with dedicated charging points for phones, laptops etc and a working area with a printer. I had no issues with connecting to the wi-fi, which was stable. The toilets were clean and there were frequent announcements about boarding.
The TV screens flashed that our flight was ready for boarding at about 9am so we headed down to Gate 24, which is only about a 5 minute walk from the lounge. We didn’t bother looking for a seat as the gate seemed quite crowded and the gate agents were clearly about to start making announcements. Sure enough boarding started at 9.10am with business class and One World emerald and sapphire cardholders being called first.
We boarded via an air bridge, picking up some complimentary headphones en route as it was a 2.5 hour flight. I’d pre-selected seat 13F at the time of booking because it’s an exit row with better legroom (the gate agent reminded me of this as I was passing through and confirmed that I was happy to act in an emergency and knew that my hand baggage had to go in the overhead locker). We passed through 3 rows of business class in a 2×2 configuration. The economy seats are in a 3×3 configuration with the seats covered in blue fabric with a leather headrest and although they were clearly well used, they were also clean and in a reasonable condition. An exit row safety briefing card was waiting on the seat and the cabin crew came by to make sure that everyone in the exit row was aware of what to do in the event of an emergency and confirm again that we were happy to act. Economy seemed to be about 70% full and the middle seat in my row was free.
We pushed back at 9.30am. A video safety briefing played via an overhead screen (no seatback screens on this old bird) and we had a brief taxi before coming to a halt, at which point the pilot told us that there would be a slight delay because of high winds, which meant that only one runway was in operation. It wasn’t long before we resumed taxiing and we were airborne by 9.55am.
The film on the overhead monitor was Keeping Up With The Jones’s (the same film that had played on the SYD-MEL flight) and because it looked awful, I opted instead to listen to the radio and read my book. The radio offering wasn’t bad and seemed to cater to most tastes but it is looped.
Breakfast was served from the front at about 10.15am. There was no choice – you either had the Spanish style chicken and chorizo wrap or you went hungry. I didn’t fancy the wrap (mainly because I’d eaten a lot in the lounge) but I did have a ginger beer. The rubbish was cleared away from the front at about 11am.
I switched to ASP time for the rest of the flight so the rest of this report refers to that.
There were only two toilets serving economy, which meant that there was always a queue but the toilets seemed to be clean and kept well stocked. The cabin crew did do a run handing out water bottles but missed me out for some reason – not that I was bothered as I wasn’t thirsty.
At 10.30am we got a 20 minute warning and landed at 10.50am. We were off the plane via stairs at 10.55am. There was a short walk to the terminal building (which, although shaded, must be a nightmare at the height of summer when the temperature tops 40 degrees Celsius) and were inside by 11am.
My second ever Qantas flight was another pleasant surprise. The fact that there’s a hot food offering and an entertainment system on offer (albeit one with limited options) made for a pleasant flight on what’s really a short hop (and it’s a real eye opener compared with BA’s economy offerings on domestic and European hops). The Qantas staff were perfectly fine and although it was an old bird we were on, it was comfortable enough and perfectly acceptable for the price we paid.1 Apr 2017
We were connecting through Ayers Rock and flew ASP to AYQ in economy class on QF1941 (a Qantas flight operated by Qantaslink) in a 717-200. Again, this flight was booked into a code that did not attract Tier Points or Avios.
All we had to do on entering the ASP terminal was turn left to find the Qantas lounge. ASP is a single-terminal airport and the Qantas lounge and gates are on one side and everyone else seems to be on the other.
We got a friendly greeting from the Qantas lounge dragon who on taking a look at our boarding passes confirmed that our suitcases were checked through to AYQ. The lounge itself is pretty small but we found a table. The food offering is basis and boiled down to salad or toasted sandwiches and although the spirits on offer were limited, I thought that the soft drink selection was fine and you could also have beer and/or wine. The wi-fi connection wasn’t great and I found it kept dropping (mainly due to the number of people trying to use it). The toilets were clean but well stocked and there’s even a small shower for anyone who needs to use it.
Our gate was called at 1pm and was literally outside the lounge. Boarding was via steps and because there was so few people on the flight and it’s a single-class economy flight, the gate agents didn’t bother doing a priority boarding announcement, which was sensible. Again, although the route to the steps is shaded it must be unpleasant to do in the full summer heat – it was about 35 degrees Celsius when we were there and that was plenty hot enough!
I’d preselected seats 15A and 16A at the time of booking as both my sister and I wanted window seats so we could try and get an aerial view of Uluru. These are both exit row seats that benefit from the extra legroom. There were exit row safety briefing cards waiting on the seats and cabin crew specifically came round to make sure that everyone in an exit row knew what to do and was prepared to act in the case of an emergency. As I’ve said this is a one-class flight due to it being such a short flight and the seats are in a 2 x 3 configuration. My seat was clean and in good condition but was clearly worn. The plane ended up only being about 25% full.
The crew did a manual safety demonstration and then we pushed back at 1.25pm and were airborne by 1.30pm. Bottled water was brought around but due to the short hop there’s no other catering and no entertainment, which was fine as I’d brought a book anyway and was keeping an eye out for Uluru, getting some pretty decent photos of it as we neared AYQ.
We got a 15 minute warning at about 1.50pm and landed at 2.10pm. We deplaned by stairs at 2.15pm and headed into the Terminal. AYQ is another single terminal building and you literally get inside and find the baggage belt right in front of you. Bags started coming out at about 2.20pm and ours were some of the first off so we were out of the airport and onto the transport to Ayers Rock resort by 2.25pm
In conclusion, I don’t have much to say about this flight as it was such a short hop. Service and the hard product were fine for such a short duration and I thought that the ASP Qantas lounge was a lot better than I’d expected for an outpost.1 Apr 2017
We spent two excellent but very packed days at Uluru (which is amazing – definitely worth a trip) before flying AYQ to ASP in economy class on QF1940 (a Qantas flight operated by Qantaslink) in a 717-200. This flight was booked into a restricted code that carried only 5 Tier Points and 56 Avios.
The Ayers Rock Resort hotels have a complimentary transfer bus to the airport and we arrived at around 8.45am. We hadn’t been able to check in on-line but the check-in queue at the airport was very short and we were seen quickly. Because AYQ is such a small single terminal airport there’s no priority security but the queue was short and the security staff very pleasant. My sister got stopped for a secondary check for explosives but the officer was pleasant, explained what he was doing and we were both airside by 8.50am.
There are no lounges at AYQ and only three airlines operate there – Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar. My personal advice is that unless you need Tier Points/airmiles then go with the cheapest option because the majority of the flights to and from involve a connection through ASP, which means you’re looking at short flights.
We got seats in the viewing area (which is right next to the gate) and I bought a packet of crisps and a coffee from the single cafeteria and checked out the single shop (which was fine if you wanted some last minute Uluru items).
Boarding started at 9.20am with a call for passengers with mobility issues. This was followed a few minutes later with a call for passengers with One World emerald status (or equivalent) and then everyone else was called forward at 9.30am. We boarded via steps and there was a friendly greeting from the cabin crew.
I’d preselected seats 15A and 16A at the time of booking as both my sister and I wanted window seats. These are both exit row seats that benefit from the extra legroom. There were exit row safety briefing cards waiting on the seats and cabin crew specifically came around to make sure that everyone in an exit row knew what to do and was prepared to act in the case of an emergency. As on the way out, this is a one-class flight due to it being such a short flight and the seats are in a 2 x 3 configuration. My seat was clean and in good condition but was clearly worn. The plane was fuller than on the way out though – about 75% full, although there was plenty of space in the overhead lockers.
We pushed back at 9.45am and the cabin crew did a manual safety demonstration. We were airborne by 9.55am.
Bottled water was brought around but as on the way out, this is a short hop with no other catering and no entertainment. As before, I’d brought a book anyway and enjoyed the view of the Australian Outback.
We got a 15 minute warning at about 10.15am and landed at 10.30am. As with our previous trip to ASP, we deplaned via steps at 10.35am and made the short (shaded) walk to the terminal.
In conclusion, the service and the hard product were fine for such a short duration and I had no complaints.1 Apr 2017
This time we were connecting through ASP to CNS, which we were flying in economy class on QF1948 (a Qantas flight operated by Qantaslink) in a 717-200. This flight was booked into a restricted code that carried only 5 Tier Points and 226 Avios.
Once in the terminal building we again turned left into the Qantas lounge. The breakfast offering was still out when we got there and included a pancake machine and continental breakfast items, plus cheese, ham etc for making toasted sandwiches.
ASP doesn’t operate flights in the early afternoon because the temperatures outside are too hot so we knew that we were looking at a 7 hour layover. We had considered dumping our hand baggage and using the time to check out Alice Springs but we couldn’t find a way of getting there that cost less than AUS$80 each return but the kicker was that we looked into what Alice Springs had to offer, we couldn’t find anything there that we were particularly keen to see. We therefore opted to stay in the lounge and make the best of it.
When the staff realised that we were staying there until our flight, someone came over to explain that they usually close the lounge between 1.30pm and 2pm to give them a chance to give it a clean. We immediately said that we were happy to leave so as not to be in the way, but he said that there was no problem with us being there but we should be aware that there would be noise from the vacuum cleaners and the food/drinks would be closed. We thought that was very fair in the circumstances and made sure to thank them for the kindness.
At 2pm a new food offering was brought around – mostly items for making toasted sandwiches, a chickpea salad and a brie and cheddar cheese plate. I wasn’t feeling very hungry so decided to leave the lounge and stretch my legs for a bit by seeing what ASP had to offer. Although it’s a small single terminal airport, it has a shop offering souvenirs and a general shop that sells snacks, drinks, books and magazines. There’s also a small café and plenty of seating but otherwise nothing to really write home about and I soon returned to the lounge.
Our gate was announced by the lounge dragon at 5pm and was right outside the lounge. Boarding began with a call for One World emerald and sapphire card holders (and equivalent) at 5.05pm. There was a short, shaded walk to the plane and we boarded via steps. The cabin crew gave a friendly greeting.
I’d preselected seats 15A and 15E at the time of booking as both my sister and I wanted window seats. These are both exit row seats that benefit from the extra legroom. There were exit row safety briefing cards waiting on the seats and cabin crew specifically came around to make sure that everyone in an exit row knew what to do and was prepared to act in the case of an emergency. The seats were in a 2 x 3 configuration and although my seat was clean, it was clearly worn. The plane was pretty full – about 85% – but there was still plenty of space in the overhead lockers. I don’t remember seeing a business class on the flight and think it was a single class economy affair but can’t swear to it.
The cabin crew did a manual safety briefing and then we pushed back at 5.30pm and after a very short taxi, were airborne by 5.35pm.
There was no entertainment on this flight but a hot snack was brought around, served from the front at about 5.50pm. The only option was a lamb and minted pea pie, which I thought was very good – hot and well flavoured but I was a bit surprised that it was served without any cutlery so you had to eat it like a sandwich. A drinks run was done from the front afterwards and I opted for a coke. The rubbish was all cleared away by 6.30pm.
I read my book for most of the flight and switched my watch to CNS time so the rest of this report refers to that.
At 7.45pm we got a 15 minute warning to landing, eventually landing at around 8.05pm. We were off the plane by steps at 8.10pm and had a short walk to baggage reclaim. Our bags were out by 8.15pm and we were out of the airport by 8.25pm.
In conclusion, I didn’t think this was a bad flight although it was a little disappointing to not have any entertainment on a 2 hour duration – mainly because we’d had it on the other longer hops. However the on-board catering was good (absence of cutlery aside). If you’re planning to connect through ASP then make sure that you take into account the early afternoon shut down because there is nothing really to do in the airport and although the Qantas lounge is fine for an outpost, after the first few hours it does get a little wearing.1 Apr 2017
We spent 4 days in Cairns, which included a slightly disappointing trip to the Great Barrier Reef before flying from CNS to SYD in economy class on QF927 in a 737-800. This flight was booked into a restricted code that carried only 5 Tier Points and 306 Avios.
We got to the airport at around 2.20pm and once again, having been unable to check-in on-line the day before, we headed for the self-check-in machine. Unfortunately, although the machine spat out one boarding pass and an accompanying baggage tag, it decided that it was unable to print off the other one. Fortunately, there was no queue at bag drop, so we went over and explained what had happened. The agent happily printed out the remaining board pass and baggage tag, but I thought it was a little strange that she didn’t ask to see any ID before doing so.
There was no queue at security and we were through quickly, following the signs to reach the Qantas Business Lounge at about 2.30pm. The lounge was a good-sized space with a great view of the apron. There was plenty of seating plus 3 computers, tables and workbenches and there was also a small children’s play area and specific spots set up to recharge your mobile.
The food offering was okay – pumpkin soup, bread rolls and cold cuts but we both noted that the salami looked like it had been out for a while and the pasta had congealed. We ended up settling on just getting something to drink – the lounge had a good soft drink selection and win (including a decent sparkling wine) was available. The wi-fi was easy to connect to and had a strong signal. The lounge also features its own toilets and shower area – both seemed clean and well stocked.
The in-lounge screens flashed as boarding at about 3.40pm and we got to gate 20 (which is just below the lounge) just as boarding had already started. There was no queue in the priority boarding lane (which was identified as being available to One World emerald and silver card holders or equivalent) and the agent checking our boarding passes made sure we were aware we were in an exit row and were happy to act in an emergency.
I’d pre-selected 13F at the time of booking because the exit row meant more leg room. There was an exit row briefing card waiting on the seat. The seats were in a 3 x 3 configuration and my seat was clean and in good condition. I’m afraid I didn’t notice whether the flight was operating a business class but I did see that the plane was very full (I was lucky that the middle seat in my section was free), although there was still plenty of space in the overhead locker when I got there. The cabin crew came around after everyone in the exit row had sat down to make sure we had read the briefing and were happy to act in an emergency.
We pushed back at 4.10pm and there was a video safety briefing. We were airborne by 4.20pm.
The cabin crew made an announcement that alcohol was available to be purchased on the flight – beer and wine cost AUS$6 – but soft drinks were free. It was the first Qantas flight I’d been on during the trip that had said alcohol was purchase only – I don’t know if that’s a new policy or if alcohol just hadn’t been available on the previous flights.
The food service started from the front at about 4.40pm. There was a choice of spaghetti in mushroom sauce or falafel and couscous. I went for the spaghetti, which tasted better than it looked and had a ginger beer with it. The cabin crew were pretty quick at clearing away the rubbish, starting from the front about an hour later.
The flight had a fair bit of turbulence with the seatbelt sign constantly going on and off. There was an entertainment system on this flight but the choices were exactly the same as per my previous Qantas flights. It’s amazing how awful Keeping Up With The Joneses still looks after the 3rd time of mutely viewing it on a screen. I did have the radio channels on as background noise while I read my book and even though I’d heard the shows before, they were still fine on such a short flight.
I switched my watch to SYD time to the rest of my report refers to that.
We got a 15 minute warning at 7.40pm and landed at 8pm. We were off the plane by 8.15pm via an airbridge and it was a short walk to baggage reclaim where our bags were some of the first off so we were out of the airport by 8.30pm
In conclusion, I thought this was a perfectly acceptable flight with no drama. As my last flight with Qantas of this trip, I’ve been very impressed with the way the airline takes the exit row seriously and cabin crew check to make sure everyone knows what to do. The fact that you get something hot to eat in economy without having to pay for it is genuinely nice, as is the fact that you don’t have to pay for soft drinks. I don’t know if that policy is changing for alcohol, but to be honest I have less of an issue with airlines charging for booze given the disruption it can cause. If BA had gone for BOB alcohol but left soft drinks alone, I’d be a much happier camper. It’s also nice that you usually seem to get an entertainment option even on short flights, which is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen on European airlines. I’ve been generally impressed with the Qantas lounges and with the crew both on the ground and in the air. I’d have no hesitation in flying Qantas again and would really like to try them on a long-haul route to see how it measures up.2 Apr 2017
After an amazing final 4 nights in Sydney it was time to start the long journey home, which began with a flight from SYD to SIN in Club World on BA16 in a 777-300.
We reached the airport terminal on the metro at about 1.30pm and followed the signs up to Departures. The BA check-in desks are in Zone B and were easy to find. There are separate check-in desks for Club World and First class passengers and because there was no queue, we were seen straight away. We’d checked in on-line the day before but been unable to print out our boarding passes. The check-in agent printed out my boarding passes all the way to OSL (and my sister to BSL) and put priority tags on our luggage. We were then given a pass to use the express security and told how to access the lounge. However, although my sister was then given an exit card to complete, I was not. I ended up having to go back and get one.
There was a short queue for the passport egates, but we were through quickly (although I was confused that no one apparently wanted to check the exit card) and went to security. Again, the queue there was short and the security staff friendly and efficient. My sister got selected to go through the body scanner of shame but I escaped with just having to go through the normal gate.
We followed the signs up to the Club Lounge, getting there at about 1.45pm where we received a surly greeting from the lounge dragon. I was surprised at how large the lounge was – there were plenty of places to sit down, but there was a dearth of power points and we had to wander around a bit before we found a spot next to a plug we could use. Although you can see the planes coming in to land from the lounge, there wasn’t really much of a view of the apron.
The lunch offering was disappointing: carrot and coconut soup, pasta with pesto or curry and rice. There was also salad, cheese and bread rolls. The drinks selection was better with the lounge featuring a proper coffee machine operated by a barrista, an ice cream station and a bar with a good alcohol selection with a small array of premium spirits, beer, cider and a mix of red and white wines (although I ended up settling for my normal ginger beer). Although the food offering itself wasn’t great, the staff do bring around random food items during the day, which included chips, caramel donuts (which were very good) and iced coffee. It all seemed a bit weird because it was so random but we weren’t complaining. We ended up having some gelato (which was very good) and I got a hot chocolate from the barrista, which was very pleasant.
The toilets were clean and well stocked with products and there was no queue. There’s also a shower available in the lounge, although I didn’t go inside.
The in-lounge screens flashed that boarding for our flight had started at 3.45pm so we headed to gate 24, which is only a couple of minutes’ walk from the lounge. It was utter chaos when we got there. There were people lining up in different queues but no one seemed to know if this was because boarding had begun and it wasn’t clear whether any of the lines were for priority boarding. The situation was compounded by a lack of any type of announcement from the gate staff, who seemed to be doing a whole lot of nothing. After several minutes, it appeared that the staff had decided to board passengers with young children or with mobility issues first but there was no announcement to this effect so it was difficult to be sure. When an announcement was finally made, it was impossible to hear it – partly because the volume wasn’t loud enough and partly because the gate agent garbled it so quickly that you couldn’t make out the words. However, what turned out to be the priority line started to move forward so my sister and I opted to join it. Once we got to the gate desks we discovered that there were actually separate desks for First Class and Club World passengers and First Class also had its own airbridge. Unfortunately, the whole thing was such a shambles that I doubt anyone in First Class felt that they were getting a premium experience. It was genuinely shocking how badly managed it was.
We finally made it to the plane to get a friendly greeting from the cabin crew. I had pre-selected 16K at the time of booking because it’s a window seat with direct aisle access. The seat was clean and in an okay but clearly worn condition. Having now experienced a CX business class seat, I was also struck by how cramped the seating area felt (although there was more privacy). A pillow and blanket were waiting on the seat. The overhead locker had been taken up by 16J’s rollerboard suitcase (which she’s opted to put in horizontally). Once I’d moved that so it was vertical, I could fit my own bags overhead without any trouble.
Pre-flight drinks of water, orange juice or champagne were brought around. I opted for the champagne, which was perfectly drinkable. We ended up pushing back at 4.25pm. Menus were brought around as we taxied, then the safety video played. The crew had to rush around collecting glasses and do their final checks as the taxi wasn’t as long as they’d anticipated and we were airborne by 4.40pm.
I immediately switched my watch to Singapore time, so the rest of my report refers to that.
Once we were airborne amenity kits and hot towels were handed out. Unfortunately, we then hit a spot of turbulence, which stopped the crew from doing anything else. Once the seatbelt signs went off again, a drinks run was done from the front and dinner orders were taken.
The dinner service started from the front at about 3.05pm. The dinner menu for the flight was as follows:
– Tasmanian smoked salmon with fresh fennel and rocket salad; or
– Asparagus, tomato and feta cheese salad with a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
– Char-grilled Australian grass-fed beef with Diane sauce, roasted kipfler potatoes and sautéed green beans and artichoke; or
– Seared fillet of perch with black bean sauce, jasmine steamed rice and sautéed spinach; or
– Spinach tortellini with tomato basil sauce and Parmesan; or
– Chilled main course salad of grilled Moroccan-style chicken breast, herb couscous and tahini dressing.
– Baked cherry cheesecake with mixed berry compote; or
– A selection of cheese served with crackers.
A selection of whole fresh fruit.
Tea, coffee and chocolates.
The wine and champagne choices were:
– Macon-Law Roche-Vineuse 2015, “Cuvee Prestige”, Domaine Chene, Burgundy, France (this was the same white wine as offered on my LHR-HKG leg); or
– Yalumba Viognier 2015, Eden Valley, South Autralia.
– Chateau de Malleret 2011, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France (this was the same red wine as offered on my LHR-HKG leg); or
– Grant Burge “5th Generation” Shiraz 2015, Barossa, South Australia.
– Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Reserve NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV
I had the smoked salmon starter, which tasted fine but the presentation was decidedly lack-lustre. As it was being served and I was handed a (cold) bread roll the cabin crew asked me what I would like to drink so I asked for a ginger ale (because I’m nothing if not predictable) and then … nothing. The cabin crew really didn’t seem to be confident in what they were doing and I didn’t get to ask them about my drink until they came to take away the starter plates (at which point I did get an apology and an explanation that they hadn’t had any on the cart when I asked for one – that’s fine but it doesn’t explain why I had to ask again for it).
I had the perch as my main course because I don’t do beef on planes if I can help it. The fish was a little dry and had been in the oven for slightly too long but the sauce was tasty and the rice and vegetables perfectly cooked. I would have liked a second bread roll for the sauce but none materialised. Again, the cabin crew just seemed rushed and completely unsure about what they were doing, which didn’t inspire much confidence.
For dessert I opted for the cheese (which turned out to be a cheddar and stilton of some description), which were okay but I hate how stingy BA are with the crackers. The chocolate was okay but then it’s not difficult to get chocolate right. I didn’t have a hot drink when they offered tea or coffee.
The service was finished and plates cleared away by 4.05pm (so the service was done in half the time it took on the A380 to Hong Kong). My plan was to stay awake for the duration of this flight but sleep on the SIN – LHR leg so I settled down to watch the in-flight entertainment, making my way through the loaded episodes of Family Guy and Modern Family as there were no movies that really caught my interest. I tried finding something on the music offering but it was surprisingly poor and I couldn’t really find anything that suited my tastes (and I don’t have particularly narrow music tastes). I will say that having three items dedicated to David Bowie seemed like overkill.
To keep my sugar levels up I did go and check out the Club Kitchen and picked up some crisps and a coke but there really wasn’t a lot in there. I don’t know if that was because it had been raided before I got there or there hadn’t been much loaded.
Afternoon tea was served from the front at 7.45pm. The menu was:
– An individual selection of sandwiches featuring Cheddar with red onion jam, ham with tomato and grain mustard and smoked salmon with cucumber; or
– Vegetarian antipasti salad with cherry tomato, bocconcini mozzarella, grilled artichoke, Kalamata olives and balsamic dressing.
– Raspberry tartlet; and
– Opera cake.
I don’t think I was actually offered a choice as the cabin crew just put the sandwiches down in front of me. I barely touched any of the food though as the sandwiches were all dry and I didn’t fancy either of the cakes. The trays were cleared away by 8.10pm and I read my book for the rest of the flight.
At 8.35pm the pilot gave us a 40 minute warning (which caused a stampede for the toilets) and we were then all forced to watch a BA charity video, which really irritated me.
We landed at 9.20pm and were off the plane by 9.30pm.
In conclusion, this flight was okay. The BA lounge at SYD is a bit strange and disjointed but acceptable enough for an outstation. Boarding was yet another BA shambles and I simply don’t understand why BA can’t get this right when it’s so basic. Once again, I think First passengers would have good grounds for a complaint after the chaos at SYD – there was no control and no communication from the gate agents and I felt like cattle are better treated. The flight crew did not inspire confidence – they were rushed and seemed unsure of what they were doing, but they were faster at getting the food services done. Catering was so-so – I miss the scones from the afternoon tea and the sandwiches are awful but the dinner service was okay. My main takeaway though was how cramped the CW seat feels if you’ve experienced another airline’s J product. There is more privacy in a CW window seat but it’s all very snug so you’re looking at a trade-off.2 Apr 2017
The next stage was SIN to LHR in Club World on BA12 in an A380.
On deplaning, my sister and I followed the signs to the BA lounge (I think that if we’d been a little less jet lagged then these would have been easier to follow but in my confused state I managed to send us down the wrong direction). We reached the lounge at about 9.45pm and got a courteous greeting from the lounge dragon who gave us the wi-fi password and told us that the boarding for our flight to LHR would be announced over the PA system so we didn’t need to worry about checking the screens.
The lounge itself was much smaller than I’d expected – especially when you consider that an BA runs an A380 into and out of SIN, which means there are more business and first passengers. As a result, it was also incredibly busy – in part because there were a lot of people here waiting to re-board BA16 (the flight we had just come in on). In fact it was so crowded that we couldn’t find two seats together, which is not a premium feel. Even when the passengers for the BA16 left the lounge still felt crowded.
The food offering was okay and I took some Singapore fried noodles (which were tasty). There was also vegetables and rice, kung pao chicken, pumpkin soup and a range of sandwiches and pastries (which all looked like they’d been freshly put out). There were plenty of soft drinks and premium spirits were definitely available as I had a number of Baileys decaf lattes (probably too many as my note went into a serious decline). The wi-fi signal was fine and easy to connect to and the toilets were clean and well stocked. The lounge also offers showers but I didn’t go inside to check them out. Staff were pleasant and proactive at clearing away crockery and cutlery and replenishing the food offering.
At 10.40pm the lounge dragon announced that boarding for our fight would be starting at gate D46. It took about 5 minutes to walk there from the lounge and you have to go through another security check, which is a bit irritating but a sign of the times that we live in. Boarding had already begun when we arrived and just as we got there the gate agent announced economy passengers could come forward, which promoted a mad rush. Annoyingly there was no attempt to maintain the priority line and once we were through we face a long queue down the airbridge. When we finally got to the plane I got an officious greeting from a female member of cabin crew who insisted on seeing my boarding pass and then sent me in the wrong direction for my seat. Fortunately, this wasn’t my first time on an A380 so I knew where I should be going and ignored what she told me but had I not known that, it would not have been a good first impression.
As for my flight from LHR to HKG, I’d selected 53K at the time of booking because it’s a window seat with direct aisle access on the top deck and once again, having now experienced the CX J product, I was struck by how cramped it was (although the storage on the A380 top deck is far superior to the CX J seat as it offers large side bins). The seat was clean and in good condition and there was a pillow and blanket on the seat. My ruck sack was too full to fit into the side bins but there was plenty of space in the overhead locker.
Pre-flight drinks were brought around (the normal selection of water, orange juice or champagne) but having overindulged on Baileys in the lounge, I made do with a water this time. Menus and amenity kits were also given out.
We pushed back at 11.10pm and a safety video played while we taxied. There weren’t many planes ahead of us in the queue and we were airborne by 11.30pm. At this point I switched to UK time so the rest of this report refers to that.
Hot towels were brought around and as soon as they were collected, I turned the seat into a flat bed and went to sleep. As a result, I didn’t sample the dinner menu, which was as follows:
– Vegetarian rice paper roll with sweet chilli sauce; or
– Vegetarian Nicoise salad with olice tapenade.
Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
– Bacon and sage-stuffed chicken breast with roasted rosemary potatoes and braised red cabbage; or
– Indonesian-style baked fish in a banana leaf with jasmine rice and mixed vegetables; or
– Whole wheat penne pasta with roasted red pepper coulis; or
– Chilled main course salad of Vietnamese beef with roasted cashews and chilli padi dressing.
– Duo of chocolate and Griottine gateau and almond and orange cake; or
– Blue kikorangi and Gruyere cheese served with crackers.
A selection of whole fresh fruit.
Tea, coffee and chocolates.
The wine and champagne choices were:
– Macon-Law Roche-Vineuse 2015, “Cuvee Prestige”, Domaine Chene, Burgundy, France (this was the same white wine as offered on my LHR-HKG and SYD–SIN legs); or
– Yalumba Viognier 2015, Eden Valley, South Australia (this was the same white wine as offered on my incoming SYD – SIN leg)..
– Chateau de Malleret 2011, Cru Bourgeois, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France (this was the same red wine as offered on my LHR-HKG and SYD–SIN legs); or
– Grant Burge “5th Generation” Shiraz 2015, Barossa, South Australia (this was the same red wine as offered on my incoming SYD – SIN leg).
– Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Reserve NV; or
– Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV
I find the CW sleep perfectly fine to sleep on and the temperature in the cabin was just right, but I did wake up at around 2am due to crew noise in the galley. That is the main disadvantage of seat 53K – you’re right next to the galleys and the toilets so if people decide to be inconsiderate (and this was a theme of the BA crew for this flight), there’s not an awful lot you can do other than use the ear plugs in the BA amenity kit. I did try to drop off again and I think I dozed for a while but the BA cabin crew’s chatter and loud laughter (especially when one member of cabin crew dropped the f-word) made it impossible to get any meaningful sleep and I ended up giving up at about 3.00am when the crew starting banging around to get the breakfast service ready.
Unfortunately, the crew had to delay the breakfast service due to turbulence (with the seatbelt sign going on for about 30 minutes). It eventually started from the front at about 3.55am. The cabin crew apologised for this and explained that they had lost 25 minutes and were having to rush. I’m not unsympathetic to that but it did mean that rather than ask people what they wanted from the breakfast menu, they just tried to put things in front of people and make them take it.
The breakfast menu was as follows:
– Chilled fruit juice; or
– An energising fruit smoothie; or
– Fresh seasonal fruit; or
– Bircher muesli with strawberry.
A selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries.
– Traditional English breakfast of omelette with back bacon, pork sausage, Lyonnaise potatoes and baked tomato; or
– Mixed bell pepper frittata with sautéed mushrooms, tomato, red pepper coulis and Lyonnaise potatoes; or
– Continental breakfast featuring smoked salmon and cream cheese; or
– Scrambled eggs, gammon ham, mozzarella cheese and onion jam on ciabatta bread.
By the time the crew reached me they were out of the muesli and smoothies (which didn’t bother me because I don’t eat either). I declined the offer of an orange juice but did ask for a croissant. I never got it (and indeed I think they completely forgot to offer a bread basket round).
The cabin crew then tried to put a frittata down in front of me without asking so I declined and asked instead for the scrambled eggs. The female member of cabin crew serving my side clearly wasn’t happy at having to go back to the trolley (and again, I know that the delay and the need to rush was not their fault, but equally that’s no excuse for the way they behaved). I was glad that I stuck to my guns because actually the scrambled egg ciabatta was hot and tasty – not as greasy as the English breakfast and more filling than the continental – I’d recommend it if it comes up as an option on your flight.
The pilot gave a 40 minute warning at 4.30am and the cabin crew were rushing to clear away the breakfast things at the same time as everyone surged to use the toilets. The A380 is really woeful on the toilet front – there are only 4 for CW and 2 of those ended up being used by the WT+ passengers. The two toilets at the front of the CW upper deck cabin have a lot of dead space in them.
Landing cards were brought around and then at 4.45am we got a 20 minute warning and the seatbelt signs went back on.
We landed at 5.05am and were off the plane at 5.15am by airbridge. I couldn’t help but notice that the crew were at their friendliest when saying goodbye.
I think that of the 3 long haul BA flights I did on this trip, this flight was the most disappointing. The BA lounge at SIN isn’t big enough to cope with the number of passengers in it, which means that it’s far too crowded and not particularly premium, although I did think the staff were good. Boarding wasn’t great – not quite the usual BA shambles but still not a good experience for premium paying passengers to be subjected to an economy stampede. The flight crew were not on top of their game – the one thing you want to do on this flight is sleep and they showed no regard at all to the need to keep noise down – and while I’m definitely no prude and have a potty mouth myself it is not acceptable to overhead a member of cabin crew drop the f-word mid-flight. I was also unimpressed with the way they tried to cut corners during the breakfast service. Having done two BA A380 flights during this trip, I have to say that while the storage on the upper deck is great, I wouldn’t actually rush to book another BA flight on them. I think that there are too many CW seats to get anything like a decent service and there aren’t enough toilets to serve the cabin properly.2 Apr 2017
The final leg of the ex-OSL flight was LHR to OSL in Club Europe on BA766 in an A320.
Our incoming flight had arrived at the C Gates at 5.15am, so we took the train to Flight Connections where there was no queue but the security team were more interested in talking about the shrimp platter at a dinner that they had recently attended than in helping passengers who were having problems with understanding what needed to come out. My sister once again got selected for the body scanner of shame but I got away with the normal security gate and ended up waiting for security to finish with her.
We made our way to the Galleries South lounge and went to book a shower. We were told that there was a 15 minute wait and were each handed a buzzer, which was fine so we headed up to the lounge. The breakfast offering was already out so we each grabbed a couple of bacon rolls and I washed it down with a cranberry juice. My sister’s shower buzzer went off at about 5.50am (we agreed to meet back up in the lounge afterwards).
Mine went off at about 6am so I headed back down. It was the first time I’d ever used the BA showers and compared to the CX showers in HKG it was a bit of a disappointment. It was clean and there was both a face towel and a bath towel provided and the actual shower was quite high spec with its dual rainfall and normal shower head but the overall design (including a cheap lino floor) made me feel like I was in a Travelodge with pretentions and I noticed that although BA supplied Elemis shower gel and shampoo, it doesn’t offer conditioner while the hair dryer is like something out of the 1970s.
I was done and out by 6.15am and went back up to the lounge to find my sister, who’d grabbed a pair of seats overlooking the apron. The lounge was still pretty quiet. The Elemis spa opened at 7am and because we’d both arrived on a long-haul flight, we were able to book facials. Weirdly though, my sister was offered a later appointment than I was (despite the fact that I made my booking after her and was on a later flight), so I ended up asking the receptionist if I could swap with her as the timing of her appointment was pretty close to her BSL departure time. The receptionist confirmed that this was fine but you have to wonder why they’d arranged it like that in the first place.
I checked with the staff in the ticketing area of the lounge whether it was possible for me to move to an earlier return flight from OSL as I was looking at a wait of several hours. The BA staff were very helpful and while it would have been possible to move to an earlier flight for a small fee, that earlier flight didn’t leave me much time to do a turnaround – especially as my flight out was showing as having a 20 minute delay – so I ended up staying as I was rather than risking it.
After my sister left for her flight to BSL, I hung around in the lounge by myself, reading my book and drinking vast quantities of coffee and Coke to try and stay awake.
My spa appointment was at 11am. The beautician who did my facial was very good and I found the massage chair very relaxing. I also returned to the lounge with a load of samples – although sadly I am of the age where I get samples that are anti-aging and pro-collagen.
The in-lounge screens showed my flight as being ready to board just after noon so I headed down to gate A17 where the flight was now showing as being due to depart at its original time of 12.40pm.
Boarding actually began at 12.25pm with a call for Club Europe, BAEC gold cardholders and One World emerald cardholders, which was – as a miracle – actually policed. Boarding was via an airbridge and there was a friendly greeting from the cabin crew. At the time of booking I’d had to take seat 3A because the cabin was almost full and it stayed like that. I discovered that this was because the Club Europe cabin was filled with Norwegian dignitaries (no idea who but there was a large black limo waiting for them when we got into OSL). There were only 4 rows in Club Europe (all of which were full) in the normal 3×3 configuration with the middle seat blocked. The seats were in the narrow black leather style and my seat was clean and in good condition but the 30” legroom is really tight – even for someone like me.
How towels were brought around and we were told that there would be a short delay before pushback because someone hadn’t made the flight and their bags had to be offloaded. In the end we pushed back 20 minutes late at 1pm and the safety video played. There was a bit of a wait in the taxi queue and we didn’t get airborne until 1.30pm.
I then switched to OSL time so the rest of my report refers to that.
Lunch was served from the front at about 2.45pm. There was a choice of chicken salad or salmon linguine. The salad ended up being very popular and had run out by the time cabin crew got to me, but I had wanted the linguine anyway (the 4 passengers in the last row were not happy that the salad had run out). The salmon was overcooked and a little dry but the sauce was very good and had a pleasant hint of lemon. The linguine came with a warm bread roll and I washed it down with my normal ginger ale. The trays were cleared away by 3.15pm and I quietly dozed for a while.
At 3.50pm the pilot’s 15 minute warning woke me up. We landed at 4.10pm and I was off the plane via an airbridge at 4.15pm but only after the Norwegian VIPs had barged their way past everyone to get to the front of the cabin where they were met by a black limo.
There was no queue at security or at the egate and I was in baggage reclaim by 4.25pm. The bags came off at 4.35pm and mine was one of the first out so that I was out of Arrivals and heading back up to Departures at around 4.40pm.
I like the fact that BA allows long-haul passengers connecting through LHR to use its spa as it’s a nice selling point. However the showers are bargain basement facilities at the end of the day and not particularly impressive and I can’t believe it would dent BA’s bottom line if they offered conditioner. I like the Galleries Lounge at LHR and think it’s perfectly acceptable. I am also heartened that at least for shortfall flights, BA seems to be getting a grip on its boarding issues – although I wish they could get it under control overseas as well. The catering on the final leg was fine and perfectly edible. BA has now “enhanced” the CE food offering on this route so the hot food option is no more and I think that’s a mistake, especially if you’re on a flight time that means you miss any chance of hot food (even if it is slop) in the lounge before hand.2 Apr 2017
The final flight in this long, long trip was my positioning flight home from OSL to LHR in Club Europe on BA769 in an A319.
Having left Arrivals at about 4.40pm I headed straight up to Departures and made for the BA check-in desks (which are on the far side of the terminal). Unfortunately, I discovered that check-in for my flight didn’t open until 6pm (something I should have checked ahead of time but simply hadn’t considered as a possible issue – rookie error!). It wasn’t the end of the world and I easily found a seat nearby and quietly sat down to read my book for the next hour or so. Check-in ended up opening before 6pm and when I finally noticed that a small queue had already formed at the Club Europe desk. The wait was longer than I’d have normally expected because the check-in agent had to help a passenger who had oversized luggage but the Euro Traveller check-in agents were being proactive in calling Club Europe passengers to their desk ahead of economy passengers (which got a few evil looks from those in the Euro Traveller queue).
I had checked in that morning using the BA App but been unable to print out my boarding pass. The check-in agent happily did that for me and put priority tags on my luggage. I’d meant to ask for directions to the lounge again but stupidly forgot (which I put down to the jet lag) and the check-in agent didn’t tell me. I also forgot to ask if priority security was available to BA passengers – in my defence I was absolutely exhausted by this point – and again, the check-in agent made no mention of it.
In the event there was only a short queue at security so I joined the back of it and was through by 6.20pm. OSL has electronic information stations where you can search for information so I used it to look up where the lounge was (it’s in the E gate section for those interested). It was a bit of a walk to get there and I had to go past the on-going construction works in the terminal, but I arrived at 6.40pm where I had to wait for entry due to a couple of chancers ahead of me who were trying to blag their way in. They failed and were dismissed in a courteous but final manner by the lounge dragon, who gave me a courteous greeting.
I easily found a seat but didn’t bother sampling the food offering (which was offering Indian curry soup, biscuits and salad items). Instead I grabbed my umpteenth coffee of the day and a water and used the wi-fi (which offered a good signal and was easy to connect to). Annoyingly, the ladies’ toilet was out of order while I was there so there was a queue for the alternative disabled toilet.
At 8pm the screens in the lounge flashed that passengers should go to gate F20. From my previous experience at OSL I knew that the gate was a short walk away but was worried that there would be a queue at passport control so I decided to head down there. In the event though, I needn’t have been concerned as the passport line moved quickly and I was at F20 within about 5 minutes and I got there just as the gate agents were calling for Club Europe passengers and passengers with small children to board.
Any pleasure I may have had at such a fast boarding call instantly evaporated when I stepped into the back of a line on the airbridge. It transpired that the gate agents had not checked with cabin crew if the plane was actually ready for us and we weren’t being allowed on because the cleaners were still going through the cabin. Ordinarily that wouldn’t have been a problem but the airbridge wasn’t heated and it was -5 degrees Celsius outside, so people started to get a little antsy – myself included because this was exactly what had happened on my previous OSL to LHR flight so it looks like a pattern.
After about 5 minutes the cleaners departed and we were allowed on. I’d pre-selected 2F at the time of booking and unfortunately, nothing had opened up in row 1 in the interim. The seats were in the normal 3×3 configuration with the middle seat blocked out and in the now familiar slim line, black leather style. For this flight there were 6 rows in Club Europe and it was almost full with the only empty seat being the one next to me (which was good because it gave me a little extra room to stretch my legs). I had no problems getting space in the overhead locker.
At 8.30pm the captain announced that due to strong winds at LHR we wouldn’t be leaving OSL until about 9pm. In the event though, we pushed back at 8.40pm and a video safety briefing was shown as we taxied until we eventually took off at 8.50pm so I have no idea whether the winds suddenly died out or what was going on. By that time though I was so exhausted that I really didn’t care as I just wanted to get home and get into bed.
I switched my watch to UK time so the rest of the report refers to that.
Hot towels were brought around and a drinks run was done from the front. I have to say that the cabin crew were good on this trip – I was always addressed by name, which is always a nice touch and the crew seemed efficient and confident.
The dinner run started from the front at about 8.05pm. There was a choice of warm breaded chicken salad or pork belly with cabbage. I’d eaten so much during the day and had way too much coffee to be able to stomach any food but I did ask for a bottle of mineral water. The cabin crew member looked apologetic and said that he could give me a glass of mineral water but if I wanted a bottle then I’d have to pay £1.50 for it. To be honest, I was flabbergasted that anyone in CE would have to pay for a bottle of poxy water, so I took a couple of free ginger ales instead. Utter insanity and a further devaluing of the Club Europe product.
I dozed for the rest of the flight, waking up when the captain gave a 10 minute warning at 9.30pm. We landed at 9.40pm and were off the plane via an airbridge at 9.45pm.
Although there was a long queue at immigration’s passport egates, it was moving quickly and I was through by 9.50pm. Unfortunately although baggage was out remarkably quickly for LHR at 9.55pm, the priority tags didn’t work and my suitcase wasn’t out until 10.05pm.
In conclusion, the flight was okay but I was very concerned at being told you had to pay in Club Europe for a bottle of water and I’m concerned that now BA has “enhanced” the food offering on the route, you won’t get a hot meal on the OSL-LHR route (something you’ll feel all the more given that the OSL lounge doesn’t have a great food offering either). For once LHR’s immigration and baggage operation was slick, even if the priority tags didn’t work and I thought the cabin crew were particularly good on this hop.2 Apr 2017