BA283 London Heathrow (LHR) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Despite being in a meeting and having missed the 24 hour deadline for online check-in, I was still able to select what many regard as the best seat in the house, namely 62K, upstairs on the 747. This would be my first "proper" time upstairs. My only previous occasion was returning from Dubai in March 2004, but with a departure time of 2:40am, I was far too zonked to really take it in (and slept most of the way back in any case).
Proper check-in at Terminal 1 was a treat, as ever in BA's premium check-in zone. Although I did have to ask for the £10 refreshment voucher that BA were giving out to ensure people had enough food during the problems with their caterer, Gate Gourmet (GG). I spent this voucher in Pret A Manger, just stocking up on sandwiches, although I had been assured that there was a full meal service on board.
The lounge also had a much higher level of food provision compared to normal, with extra plates of sandwiches, cold meats, coleslaw, salad etc. I enjoyed an hour and a half in the Lounge Pavilion before heading to the gate and boarding pretty much immediately.
It was a great pleasure to climb the stairs to the upper deck of the BA 747, where I was met with a friendly smile by the purser. There were only 10 people out of 20 seats in this section, so nicely half full. I did not have a seat mate, which is always a bonus and I could open the privacy dividers. And one of the best things about the upper deck was the side storage bins, which meant my bag was within easy reach at all times during the flight, without having to get up .
Despite how many times I do it, I still find taking off facing backwards an unnerving experience. Maybe in the future when the cabin is so empty, I'll move to a forward facing seat for this part of the flight. Anyway, we took off in an easterly direction and did a big loop round to the left and initially headed up the middle of the country, turning out over Manchester, over Ireland and then took on a very southerly loop, passing far to the south of Iceland and only just touching the southern tip of Greenland and Hudson Bay (in fact we flew across James Bay). The captain had warned us that it would be a longer flight than normal due to strong headwinds.
An initial drinks round was made, although no champagne was available due to the GG dispute. Other options were standard economy selection of beers, wines and spirits and I opted for a Grolsch and was offered another about 15 mins later.
The meal service consisted of supposedly "premium quality" food served on a World Traveller (economy) tray. There was no printed menu, so I can't reproduce it here. The starter of king prawns in chilli lemon sauce was excellent. The main course (there was a beef, chicken or pasta option) was a fairly plain and economy-like chicken breast in gravy with new potatoes and vegetables. It was perfectly satisfactory, but nothing special. There was a custard pie thing and cheese and biscuits for dessert (a rare treat to get both). And a bar of Green & Black's Organic chocolate! Delicious.
The film options weren't so hot, but I did want to watch Mr and Mrs Smith (OK, OK, I only have a small thing for Angelina Jolie, honest ). Afterwards, I decided to test out my new Kensington air adapter and got my laptop working (well, it worked OK after I took the battery out!) In fact, I am writing this on board right now! I also watched one of the DVD's I had brought with me, Michael Palin's Hemingway Adventure , managing to get through all four episodes!
As we got nearer to LAX, a deli box was handed out. But I had already eaten my Pret sandwiches (which were always going to be much nicer frankly) so didn't touch it.
The views on approach to LAX were superb. Firstly we directly overflew Las Vegas, allowing me to get some excellent pictures of the Strip (see below) and then after what I think was Death Valley, we came in over central Los Angeles, enabling a great view of the downtown area and the Hollywood Hills, where you could see the famous Hollywood sign up on the hill. The most disconcerting aspect was the filthy yellowish smog that was hovering over the city that I had heard so much about .
LAX was not too bad, although there was a bizarre manoeuvre whereby the engines were shut down only yards from the gate and a tug towed us the last few feet. There was about a 10-15 min wait at immigration and then little wait for baggage and customs.
This was actually my best ever Club World experience by far. The upper deck was great and being only half full was even better. The service was fantastic, and I've definitely got that warm fuzzy feel back about premium travel on BA!
Las Vegas and Death Valley (?)