Trip report- Starting in Europe – a travellers talesBack to Forum
Anonymous20 Aug 2011
MXP LHR HKG CGK. August 2011
Club Europe MXP LHR seat 1ACDF
First LHR HKG seats 1AK and 2K 3K.
Cathay Pacific / BA codeshare
Business class. seats 14 AD and 15AD.
Following research and comments on business traveller decided that I would try out a European starting point for the Binman’s annual family holiday. We have started from other points in the past but this was the first time MXP had been used.
I have previously travelled BA First but the fares earlier this year represented a huge increase on the year before and an almost three fold increase on August 2009. BA is a good airline, but it’s well documented shortcomings, combined with an appalling string of personal family travel disasters, meant that First was out of the question.
Club World for the journey to Jakarta was priced at £21,000 earlier this year when planning the trip. This was simply not affordable and I would rather not have gone than spent that.
Using ITA matrix it became clear that BA ex Heathrow fares were as much as 75% higher than someone European options. IST proved the best fare but the logistics of a round trip in a single day and then onto HKG,made that option unworkable on this occasion.
Malpensa offered the best fare combined with shortest journey and so in the end I booked that for a little over €6500 euro in club for 4, saving over 75% on the ex Heathrow fare. Seats 64 ABJK were secured.
I did a check when the BA sale arrived for premium seats but even with that the CGK fare never moved below the £21K. No doubt due to the codeshare with CX. Booking separate tickets LHR HKG in the sale would not have helped as fares ex HKG are even more expensive than BA ex LHR.
As many will know the option to upgrade using miles ex Europe is grayed out on MMB and I thought no more of it till about a week before. In the event no seats were available though the other BA flight to HKG that day had 7 redemption seats available. This got me wondering and so I tried to book 9 first seats and found that I could. This suggested the flight was not busy and so I began to watch the flight carefully for last minute availability. This paid off 4 days out when 8 seats in F were released. I grabbed 4 by calling the gold card line for miles and a further £169. I couldn’t understand the extra fees and still don’t, but did get very irritated by the agents continual reference to taxes. In the end I did ask for clarification and whilst I still do not understand the extra fees they were for BA and not HMRC.
The late release of so many redemption seats I think demonstrates a lack of control and expertise with in the revenue yield management teams. In August you do not get many F sales on any route and indeed club world are few and far between. I subsequently discovered that on the day of release there were 4 F 40 J 30 wt+ and 215 M booked on the flight so just why are redemption seats being held back? 35 upgrades would be required to clear the over sale in M! As I hold a gold card there may have been a chance to be upgraded but BA will not involuntary upgrade kids, so my card, in that respect is worthless when travelling as a family.
Whatever the reasons, I did get 4 seats in F and given what I paid, I was happy. I secured 1 2 3 4 K and booked a cabana via You First telephone number (actually BA gold line who answered and they called You First.)
Checked in on line to get to Milan and the first thing I notice is that my seats have changed. No longer row 1 but now row 4 and 5 splitting the family and two kids. Tried to change but BA staff simply not interested and unable to do anything.
Then noted seats in F also changed from that noted above to 4EF 5F and I was left in 1K. My own view is that someone in flight control does not like kids, especially in premium cabins and so shifted them. Fortunately the flight was not busy and so I was able to change the First seats back.
Day of travel.
Had pre booked valet parking via Clark Kent parking. This involves parking in T5 short term fast track and it certainly lived up to it’s name. The process was smooth and efficient and conducted under cover which is a significant improvement on the kerbside process upstairs. The car was checked and in less than 10 minutes was standing in the First Check-in area.
It was here that things could be interesting, would they check my bags to their final destination? or insist I take them to Milan? The latter was not an option as the transit time was just 75 minutes and I could not make it. The fall back would be left luggage till I got back in the afternoon.
The agent did not comment on the fact we were so early or that we had an inbound flight on the booking. The bags were checked to CGK but they were unable to issue the boarding cards for Cathay. Another example of One world not working in my view,though it was not the end of the world.
Passed conformance using LHR MXP boarding passes and entered Concorde room using First boarding passes for later in the day. The lounge entry dragon did pick up that we had arrived and very politely asked where we had come from. I explained and it was clear this was something he was familiar with.
We walked straight out of the Concorde room and into the First lounge to eat as I feel the kids can be more relaxed eating there rather than on the White table clothed Concorde room.
The First lounge was busy in the eating area but otherwise quite empty, we had breakfast and the kids took themselves off to the kids zone while my wife and I booked spa treatments for later in the day.
Gate 10A was assigned and my heart sank. A coaching departure on a first wave service! Doomed from the start and utterly unacceptable for a flight at 07.50 in the morning. We were not alone however and despite the advent of T5C, the coaching issues does not improve. Given the aircraft had overnighted it is simply bad planning and laziness not have all short haul departures prior to 09.30 on a pier served stand. The aircraft was situated on the T3 stands next to the fuel dumps.
There was a fast track boarding point which was utterly pointless as we then all got on the same bus. You really could not make this up and someone at BA either does not have clue or a warped sense of humour. My money is on not having a clue!
We left 12 minutes late as whilst the passengers had all boarded on time, the bags had not!
Once airborne service was efficient and friendly. A hot breakfast was served which looked appetising but having eaten in the lounge I passed. I did however have coffee and champers, which had been properly chilled.
We arrived in MXP on time and the transit security check was completely painless. Within 5 mins of arrival we were seated in the galleries lounge.
The lounge was a good size but I suspect it must get very busy at peak times. Non-the-less, there was an extensive selection of sandwiches and what little I ate was excellent.
Internet access required ID in the form of a passport and suggested that there would be just 5 minutes of access. My wife and kids occupied 75% of the available PCs and before anyone asks,no one else needed access as if they had, the kids would have been moved.
After a short but pleasant transit we re boarded this time into row 1.
As we entered the jetty we met the Pursar who,it turned out, had seen our names on the manifest and thought it was an error! I explained the rational for the quick turnaround and we boarded.
Service was again efficient and friendly and we started with a drinks round before lunch was served. Again I passed on the food as I intended to eat in the Concorde room, table cloths and all!
We arrived back in T5, on time and on stand A15 just next to security.
The transfer conformance was cleared using our HKG boarding passes but the security set up was not like Malpensa and the BAA have turned a process into an ordeal. Shoes off for some, belts off for all, and then a full bags search when they could not distinguish a battery operated razor on the x ray. The process is wholly inconsistent and haphazard, we had passed through LHR twice in 5 hours. The first time no one set off an alarm and all bags passed without incident. The second time every one set off an alarm and 3 of 4 bags had to be hand checked.
This did not happen in Milan or HKG both of which offered an overall better experience than Heathrow.
I was grateful for the quiet sanity of the Concorde room again and our cabana. This was the first time I have used the cabanas and found them ideal havens for an extended transit time. They provide a day bed and private facilities, complimentary telephone and food can be delivered. If you are travelling alone they would be perfect. For us as a family they were useful and afforded some peace and quiet as well as a tv for the kids.
We ate in the lounge but the food, whilst imaginative,was badly cooked. My chicken was dry and the kids potato wedges over spiced. The wine and service were both excellent.
We boarded and were a little disappointed that we had the old (and frankly very tired) first cabin) The crew were however superb and the service throughout was First Class. They were badly let down by pretty mediocre food,dreadful IFE and a dirty worn aircraft.
The dinner menu was dull but the roasted yellow pepper soup was tasty. The chilli prawns could have come out of any microwave in the country and the presentation was unimaginative and frankly bad for First class.
Desert was.a tasteless White chocolate ice cream with chocolate fondant which I found too sweet and heavy. That is saying something given my love of all things sweet!
There was a very decent Petuluma Reisling and a very welcome return of Lynch Bages ( lunch bags) which I have not seen for some time. Just need the Talbot to come back and the wine will,again be. Excellent.
The wine saved what would would otherwise have been a pretty sad offering.
The kids slept and after the meal the bed was made up and I slept for about 7 hours. When I awoke tea was provided and the energiser drink and then breakfast was served about 1 hour out. This was excellent though the scrambled eggs we’re runny. The black pudding was simply the best I had had anywhere, ever!
This was a good flight with excellent crew but the food is bad and the condition of aircraft poor. The crew were excellent, attentive and engaging and made the flight despite it’s shortcomings. There was nothing however that would have justified BA’s £5000 oneway price tag.
Arrival in HKG was as scheduled and the transit was smooth. It would have been better had we had boardings passes and that delayed our arrival in the lounge. CX staff at the transfer desk were very forthright about access to the First lounge and that I could not take more than 1 guest. So we went to the pier business class which was opposite our gate. The lounge is huge but, and it was a big but, there food offering was simply awful. It was 2pm and for my kids breakfast time. I asked for cereal and you would have thought I had asked for the moon. It was noddles or cake and all unappetising!
I was keen to see the first class lounge so headed there form a shower. It was very calm and peaceful and the shower facilities superb and a huge improvement on the plastic capsule BA has at LHR. My clothes were pressed and I returned to the family fully refreshed.
We boarded CX 719 on time and found the hideously awful coffin/mortuary layout. This represent the forth configuration change in a few short weeks and was disappointing. I had hoped for the old 2×2 layout as I knew the new business class seat would not be on this route. So we settled in to 4 hours of isolation and stiff necks trying to see and communicate with one another.
The cabin service was slick and the first drinks round alone showed why CX have reputation for service excellence. The drinks were serve in real glasses
from real bottles and with style and aplomb, and this was just business class. CX crew have come. A long way since I was based in Asia in the early 90’s and they certainly seem less automaton and far more ready to engage in conversations. They were great but again badly let down by a pretty awful hard product.
There were 3 runs width hot towels! One on departure, one post the meal and again before landing. They were good cloths as well and superior to those used by BA in first.a
The IFE content was almost identical to BA which was just as well as I missed the last 15 minutes of the movie” Limitless ” and I was able to catch up. Their IFE however was on a huge screen and worked perfectly, quite unlike BA in any cabin.
A nice touch is that the remaining flying time is shown on the remote control at all times and the system tells you you select a movie that has a longer running time than you have flying left. Very helpful.
The meal on CX was tasty and well presented and actually better than BA first class out of LHR. A nice touch was the offer of ice cream for dessert.
So aside from the seat, a great flight which would be truly excellent with the new product.
It goes without saying that a 4 hour sector on CX, even with the poor seat, is a world apart from the same length of flight in Europe.
Upon arrival bags were delivered promptly and I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which we passed through CGK arrival processes and in the cleanliness of CGK itself.
This was a lengthy journey, non stop LHR SIN would have been faster but significantly more expensive. For me the route was worth it for the saving and comfort. It would not suit time sensitive individuals but the saving was such that it made this option workable and cost effective for me.
Would certainly do so again.20 Aug 2011
The wonderful Cathay’s new BIZ class seats would have been ideal for your familay of 4 as you can look after on your children at all times without straining your neck while enjoying the excellent CX cabin service!
Happy Asian travel20 Aug 2011
If you fly to Jakarta, always try to fly out of AMS and vice versa, even with BA. When BA have it sales, AMS to CGK via LHR and HKG was around EUR 2450 and BA usual price from CGK to AMS was about USD 4800 both are all inclusive fare in J and return.21 Aug 2011
Binman – from calculation of your trip, it is no wonder that BA didn’t issue you your CX boarding card, as your CX departure was over 24hrs from the point of check in at LHR. It is very standard to not issue boarding cards more than 24hrs in advance.
Side note on the ID requirement in Italy for internet access – sadly, it is part of Italian law that computer terminals for public access (be it wireless codes in hotels or terminals in a BA lounge) require ID check and copy before access. Their version of anti-terrorism law, and a requirement of BA, rather than one made by them.21 Aug 2011
Binman – excellent report of your annual holiday travel. If you are looking to adopt any kids for next years hols, I would gladly volunteer!!
A couple of points:
1. How did you ticket LHR-MXP and then MXP-LHR back end of your trip
2. BA could have refused to accept your checked bags for the LHR-Asia sector on the basis of your LHR-MXP sector (as well as MXP-LHR sector 1), had the agent fully read your reservation.
As the Binman family had intended to leave the airport after check in, the bags should not have been accepted. When I do an ex-Europe departure and have to leave LHR at the start, I tend to have printed my boarding card the night before and use bag drop to leave the cases instead of check in.
Same in the exec lounge for hand baggage. No need to take to Milan, deposit in the exec lounge baggage care, take your ticket and leave it at that.
3. When I do a LHR-Milan sector, generally some (not all) of the CC remain for the return. I always tell the CSD that I will be on the return flight. They all usually know why. I have never been delayed transiting in Milan, but by telling the CC, it provides an addtional safety measure.
4. On the basis that I am doing a straight turn around, I travel on the outbound with as little hand luggage as possible to speed up the transit time in Milan. I have on occasion cut it fine, but up to date, never missed the return flight.
Glad to see you made such a significant saving. I found out about ex-Milan flights from this forum.21 Aug 2011
Jordand…CX check in opens 48 hours prior to departure and not 24 like BA. On this occasion checkin was not the issue getting the boarding pass issued was. I had checked in online but only the MXP LHR pass was issued to my phone. Then point I was trying to make was that BA were unable to print the CX passes at any stage thus increasing the transit time at HKG. As the flight was a BA codeshare this seems odd.
MartynSinclair….I think it was you that putmme on to this and about leaving bags in LHR. Mrs Binman not happy about this and so we took them with us as we have had so many disasters with BA and hand baggage contained change of clothes.
I thought you had perviously posted about checking in bags in T3 and then using transit bus to T5? Not so?
The bags were an issue and normally I would overnight. MXP was just one option but AMS would be the shortest route but was not available.
LHR MXP was a full fare in club as a reissue from BA on a route they no long fly. This too was in club. The return will simply be dumped as BA have introduced a 7 day rule on this ticket type for LHR stopovers plus a €200 fee per person.22 Aug 2011
Not related to starting in Europe but starting in Cairo. I live in London and needed to go to Seattle for a business trip, when checking fares ex London the cheapest BA CW ticket was approx £7k (only BA fly direct and I pay for my own ticket so important I get the best value)) and during the time I was searching for a decent fare I also found out I needed to go to Egypt which then complicated matters. I then found out that I could fly from CAI to SEA on BA in CW for £2050 and snapped it up and as it turned out I needed to go back to Egypt after the Seattle trip anyway so it worked out perfectly especially as got upgraded to First on the LHR-SEA leg. Having done some research it seems that traditionally expensive US W Coast/Vancouver flights are considerably cheaper when flying out of Cairo although you do have the 4hrs45mins journey to and from Cairo plus a nights layover but as its a inter-continental flight I got in total 480 tier points (120 for each sector)22 Aug 2011
Interesting topic but I am still slightly unclear.
If my intended journey was say LHR/HKG/LHR but decided to do a Europe leg eg LHR/AMS/LHR then LHR/HKG/LHR would I have to do another LHR/AMS/LHR sector or just abandon it ?22 Aug 2011
When I check my bags in at T3, I now tend to go to bag drop as I have a boarding pass. I was beginning to get comments from check in about checking bags in for a flight when I was then going to be leaving the country, albeit for a few hours, so now, I just go to bag drop with and show my boarding pass, then the T3 to T5 hop.
With regards to left luggage, there is a secure facility within the the exec lounge which I use. Again, just park the bags, the least said the better.
I am just making use of the system. There is no sign saying you have to stay within the confines of the terminal, but it would I can understand from both BA and BAA’s point of view, they do not want to be holding a bag, when th eowner has gone travelling around Europe.
If you had the mileage, you could have purchased the LHR-MXP via miles in economy, one way.
AZIDANE – that is why I go to Milan, the flight is not so far. The fares you mention ex-Cairo are also worthwhile ex Tel Aviv. But as you point out, one has to justify an additional days travelling .l Perhaps for those that like flying and in need of the tier points it could be worthwhile.
Mind you Cairo or Tel Aviv for the evening, whilst a long way, would make an enjoyable dinner out!22 Aug 2011
When researching ticket prices, rather than having a UK starting point i.e. LHR-HKG-LHR, try various European starting points, i.e. MIL (LIN or MXP) – HKG – MIL and you will note that the flight choices will transit LHR and use BA as well as other airlines.
On the downside, you will need to go to MIL to start your trip
On the positive side, there is potential for massive savings (see Azidane as an example 3 above).22 Aug 2011
Your longhaul will have to be ex-Ams i.e. start and finish in Amsterdam.
You will need to get to Ams on a seperate ticket, i.e. BA/ Ezy/KLM, it doesnt matter.
Be sure to to check ticket conditions. If you do not finish your longahul in Ams, it may casue your ticket to be re priced.
AZIDONE – sounds an interesting opportunity!22 Aug 2011
Easiest way then would be LHR/AMS/LHR in economy at start and end of journey cos both got Silver so could use lounges !
Thanks again although you may have alittle bit of spare time on your retired hands – LOL !22 Aug 2011