BA84 Vancouver Intl (YVR) - London Heathrow (LHR)
We arrived at the airport about 2 hours before departure. I was aware that there was nothing much special on offer at YVR as far as a FIRST lounge was concerned, so I decided to spend as much of the last few hours of my holiday as I could in downtown Vancouver.
Check-in queues were fairly long in economy, a couple of people in Club and no-one at all in FIRST. Indeed the check-in agent looked fairly bored. Why she wasn't serving those few in the Club queue I have no idea. But it further added to my theory that there isn't much of a F market on this route.
Check-in was again completed in no time at all. My friend and I had bagged 2A and 2K in Manage My Booking (this is the part of the BA site where you can pre-request seats). I enquired about 1A & K, but although one was free, the other had already been taken. Still 2A & K are OK for two people. Whilst not as close together as the front row or indeed 4E & F and 5E & F, you can still have a reasonable (short) conversation without disturbing your fellow pax too much.
Once check-in had been completed, we were issued with lounge and fast-track security passes. The latter of these was not needed as there were virtually no queues at security. I remember the last time I left YVR we departed about the same time as two Asian flights and the security lines were horrible. This time we were through within 5 mins of turning up for security.
We wondered around the departure area for a while, doing some last minute shopping for the folks at home and determining which gate we'd be flying from. Once the obligatory Maple Syrup had been purchased, we went off in search of the lounge. In YVR, this is situated in a slightly bizarre location. After you pass through security, there is a non-descript lift on the left hand side which takes you up (or down, I can't remember now!!!) to a long corridor, at the end of which is a reasonably nice Terraces lounge.
We entered and were greeted in the standard manner. There was no mention of any special facilities/services available to F passengers, so we just proceeded into the lounge and found a seat. At this time before the flight, the lounge was starting to fill up, but there were still plenty of seats available.
The lounge was a very standard Terraces format. Nothing special at all, although I will say that the lounge attendants (both of Asian origin) were extremely courteous and attentive, removing empty bottles, glasses, plates etc. as soon as they were finished. I find this typical of Asian hospitality . I enjoyed a couple of my favourite Canadian beers (Kokanee - made from glacier water apparently) and some nuts. Yep, nuts. Got to get back into UK pub snack food mentality after my brief Canadian sojourn!
After about an hour, a boarding call was made and the lounge emptied fairly quickly. Knowing that there would be an inevitable bottleneck at the lift, we waited for ten minutes or so, knowing that there was no rush as the plane was hardly likely to leave without its F passengers . Once we did leave, there was no wait at the lift and we got to the gate within 5 mins.
Once at the gate, there was still a reasonable queue to get on the plane. There was unfortunately no evidence of any kind of priority boarding, just a big queue at the gate area. Normally this would seriously p*ss me off, but to be honest, I had had a fantastic holiday, I was totally chilled out and there was no danger of not being able to stow our luggage somewhere near us (my usual concern), so we just tagged on the back of the line and waited the 10-15 mins or so until boarding.
Anyway we were soon on our way down the jetway and were greeted at the door by a cheery FA (I would be cheery if my job brought me to Vancouver - one of the nicest cities in the world). Once he saw my seat assignment and that of my friend, it was straight into surname addresses and another FA was instructed to accompany us to our seats. Now this is more like it!
Again we were the last to arrive in the F cabin and again the cabin was full. Of course this is of no particular annoyance when you've got your own little cocoon to snuggle up in Pushback and taxi out to the runway were on time and this time we took off in an easterly direction, which meant no big turn in the air was necessary. We climbed out quietly over the Rockies and homeward bound!
It was at some point during taxi and/or takeoff that I noticed that the old gentleman in 3A (behind my friend's seat) was talking to himself in a rather loud voice! This seemed very odd and, to be perfectly honest, somewhat disconcerting. Ever since 9/11, I have seemed to get very nervous by strange behaviour on board aircraft. And this guy was strange! It later transpired that he was Russian and he couldn't speak much English. Unfortunately there were no Russian speakers amongst the cabin crew. At one point he started shouting "SALMON", "SALMON". Unfortunately there was no Salmon on the menu, although the CSD was having a very hard time trying to tell him this, or placate him in any way. Eventually he calmed down a bit, but I got a little worried at some points. It did spoil the whole F experience in the beginning of the flight, you're not supposed to get this kind of behaviour in F don't you know!
Anyway, talking of food, here is the menu for the flight:
Well, from this sumptuous lot I had the potato and bacon soup to start, which was good. The chicken supreme was simply amazing. Tasty, tender, the works! After the nuts in the lounge and canapés just after take-off and two delicious courses, I didn't feel that much like a dessert. So when the FA came to ask me, I just said "no, thanks". About a nano-second later, I went through a thought process which went something like "YOU ARE TURNING DOWN FREE DESSERT ... YOU IDIOT" and then I quickly said: "Actually, I'll have the triple chocolate terrine". The FA almost burst out laughing and said something like, "That's a change of mind and a half!". The FA's on this flight were excellent and in very good humour throughout the flight. Oh and the chocolate was great!
Wine wise, I decided to go for a white as I was having chicken and opted for the Chassagne-Montrachet (after a few glasses of pre- and post-take off champagne of course!). It was excellent. I was more drawn to it due to it having the word "Montrachet" in the title, which in my little world denotes quality wine wherever I see it. I was glad that I was not disappointed!
After this meal, with the time in Vancouver having reached 11pm, I was getting quite tired. I had already changed into my pyjamas before take-off, so I simply lowered my seat into the flat position, collected my pillow and duvet, donned my eye shades and ear plugs and snuggled down to get some well-earned kip! I must say that it was not the best night's sleep I've had on an aeroplane. I don't think that had anything to do with the ambience in FIRST, which is the most conducive to sleeping I have ever experienced (quiet, comfortable etc.) Must have been the food or the feeling of dread that one gets on the way back from a superb holiday.
I woke up properly somewhere over Northern Ireland as breakfast was being served. I was not massively hungry after my triple chocolate terrine over-indulgence so really played around with my food rather than ate it. The energising smoothie was fantastic however, although I've had it before as it is available in Club World.
Once breakfast was cleared away, we made a relatively quick descent into a sunny autumn Heathrow. Maybe its something about Saturday afternoons, but LHR was not busy at all (either ATC clearance on the way in, or on the ground). So, we quickly docked at T4 and again deplaned through door 2L, which meant that Club World on the lower deck got out first. Immigration was quick, and the delay came. Yep, you guessed it. Luggage. Our bags came out after about 30 mins of waiting at the belt. Simply unacceptable. And they came out about half way through everyone else's, despite having FIRST tags on them. I despair about T4 sometimes, the situation there is really pathetic.
So, having emerged from Luggage reclaim at about 2:10pm, we headed promptly to the Arrivals Lounge. I wanted to get a shower and some more food, as I was now feeling hungry again after not really eating breakfast. Shock Horror. The lounge was closed. It closes at 2pm. So both the BA website (4pm) and the on-board staff (2:30pm) had been wrong! I was deeply unimpressed, especially as we were waved away by a cleaner and told "Shut, mate!". So much for being premium pax, what a disappointing end to an otherwise superb journey.
Well there was nothing more for it, other than to hop on the Tube and make my way back home. It had been a wonderful holiday bordered at either end by two wonderful flight experiences.
(Sorry, no photos on this flight. The camera was taking a well earned break after two weeks of continuous usage!)