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- BT Plus
- Tried & Tested
- Plan & book
- Tried & Tested
Having spent years memorising the BA Heathrow to JFK timetables (test me, I’m better than OAG) I now find I am entering new waters, or at least air space. My business has stayed the same, but the places I am expected to go to have changed. Now it’s central Europe and the Middle East, and it’s proving to be a steep learning curve.
My week started with a civilised early flight from London City to Switzerland. Getting north of the Thames for me means heading through the Blackwall tunnel along with the rest of Kent and the south-east of England. The Blackwall tunnel is in fact two tunnels, each two lanes wide, one running north, one running south. The authorities recently decided it was safer to close the morning tidal-flow system, which had been in operation for many years. The cynical view is that this new measure increases northbound queues and pushes traffic westwards over Tower Bridge, triggering the congestion charge (apt title as you pay to drive very slowly across central London) or eastward through the Dartford tunnel for a fee.
At City airport, security screening is smart and efficient, with multiple lines filtering through two scanners, and once in the lounge you are no more than a five-minute walk from your gate. I am a big fan of City, but though I don’t travel to shop, it might be nice to be able to buy a present for the wife, kids, or even to treat myself while I am there.
Then again, that’s the thin end of a very big wedge that can turn an airport into a shopping mall, so perhaps not. What would be a big treat would be a scheduled transatlantic flight from City but I can’t see that happening in my lifetime.
I was in Scandinavia in the middle of the week, which seems to me to be like the cul-de-sac of air travel, since going from there to anywhere always means connecting via somewhere else. I was then heading to the Middle East and so had a two-hour layover in Frankfurt. We landed at one end of Terminal A and were checked through from Terminal B.
This involved a 40-minute saga including a couple of trips through security because of belts, shoes, laptops, mobile phone, Blackberry, fillings etc. It was just like landing in Düsseldorf for a Frankfurt connection.
I had some time until the next flight boarded, so used my Star Alliance reciprocal membership (as I was flying Lufthansa) and learned something new. Lufthansa Gold/Elite status gets access to Continental first lounges across the US, but this is not reciprocated. So despite being super-deluxe-premier-elite-black-belt-zen-warrior with oak-leaf cluster status with Continental, I was politely pointed from Lufthansa first to the business class lounge.
Lufthansa business lounge at Terminal B in Frankfurt is like London’s Victoria coach station, except they have nasty beer on draft and frankfurters (what else?) with guaranteed 20 per cent more snout and udder than any other lounge food. I won’t be returning.
After landing in the Middle East, I discovered the local office had set up a VIP welcome service for me. If this was available to the paying public it would be very popular, I think. So why isn’t it? I would love to be rich, famous or important enough to have the mythical BA black card, which apparently affords you this all the time, or so my boss tells me.
On the final leg home, the Heathrow immigration queues for EU were so long I risked using IRIS again. I had registered at Terminal 4 airside (down by Gate 6 on the way out) long ago, but had been rejected twice by the machine on the way in. So like a many-times rejected lover, I was shy of it happening again. Thankfully, the machine liked me this time (I had heard from the editor that it is sensitive to people dragging bags behind them as it thinks someone is trying to sneak in by tail-gating). I was really blessed that day, since there were no hold-ups on the M25, allowing me to get home in good time and reintroduce myself to the family ready for the weekend.