Home » Caribbean Journal (2011) »St. Lucia

Caribbean Log – Powered by British Airways. The British First Class Experience!

I have accumulated about 900,000 kilometers of plane flying and more than 650 flights. I’ve flown with high-class airlines, but also with airplanes that needed a few well-aimed hammer shots before take-off… I’ve flown high cost and low cost, Business Class (intercontinental routes included), but also sitting on the back row, close to the toilet door… There was one single experience I had missed and really wanted to have: a First Class flight… What is First Class? It’s the supreme airline confort. You can only enjoy it on intercontinental routes and it is better than anything else – including Business Class. Of course, the price increases accordingly: if Business Class is about 3-4 times more expensive than Economy (with the natural variations), First Class is 2-3 times more expensive than Business Class… Makes you really freak out!

Day 6. Star date: September 14, 2011

Well, the day that had brought me my first helicopter flight was brilliantly enhanced by my first First Class flight. How did I get to First Class? Very easy, with the help of Emil Delibashev, who worked his magic during our check-in and managed to upgrade us from Business to First Class. True, Business Class was packed with the players of the West Indies cricket team (coming from Trinidad Tobago), while there were still some available First Class seats. So, to make a long story short, this is how we got to First Class! Wow! And many thanks, Emil !

As the little airport in St. Lucia didn’t have too much to offer in terms of shopping, I simply browsed the Internet in the airport lounge. Time went by really fast, and they called us for boarding.

We used the front stairs and got to our seats on the plane. Now let’s see just how smart this First Class is, as compared to the Business Class thing we tried a few days before. First and foremost, the cabin in really roomy. There are no more than 12 seats, and only 4 lined up on the same row. Upon request, your chair can turn into a genuine bed, which is obviously wider (excellent option for a guy my size) and longer than in business class. We had barely come in when the flight attendant offered us some Laurent Perrier champagne…

After take off, she unfolded the table hidden in the bed’s armrest, and set a snowy-white tablecloth on top of it, with fine cutlery to match… A luxury restaurant at the altitude of 10,000 meters. Of course, she also brought me a wine menu, but I have to say I was dumbfounded by it… Anyway, I am counting on the fact that the wine expert from Financial Times is the head of the committee appointed for the wine selection, so I have great faith in her… I also considered the flight attendant’s suggestions for the seafood in my appetizer and the chicken breast in my main dish… Of course those two requested two different types of wine  .

How about the entertainment? I had a bit of bad luck there. British Airways is currently investing millions into a new multimedia system with countless movies, games, documentaries and so on, and so forth… Unfortunately, the Boeing 777 I was flying with had not been sent yet to the people who install those new gadgets, so I only had a screen with several channels playing various movies. Back in its days, I understood British Airways was the first airliner to introduce a customized entertainment system for its First and Business Class clients… But no problem! Even if the system had not been upgraded yet, I got an iPad loaded with movies, games etc… I’m not really a gadget-kind-of-guy, so this was another first for me: it was the first time I got to ”play” with an iPad J. Anyway, it was late at night, I wanted to sleep, I had a full day waiting for me in London, so I had to be well rested… However, during my dinner, I watched a movie. It so happened the movie offer also included ”Pirates of the Caribbean”, filmed in location St. Lucia, so I had the opportunity to revisit some of the dear places I had just seen from the helicopter, several hours before…

Sleeping? That was really easy. It was the first time when I get a matress on a plane. And a pyjama . I got a pyjama displaying the British Airways logo, plus a small text – “First”… Plus a 2-meter bed and a very smooth flight. How could one not sleep like a baby ? Especially since I can get a pretty good sleep even on the Economy armchair .

 

Day 7. Star date: September 15, 2011

A hand is caressing my head… It’s the flight attendant. I’d be curious to know if this wake-up system was tested by the famous British researchers who come with a brand new breakthrough invention every day. In about one hour we shall get to London, so I need to get moving. I brush my teeth (I got a toothbrush and a toothpaste tube, as mine were in the checked-in luggage), I have breakfast (British and rather heavy, with sausages and bacon), get some juice, “Tea or coffee, Sir ?”… And finally, I see the English coast with the sun shining brightly upon it.

I almost felt sorry we were not flying anymore when the Boeing set its wheels on the Gatwick runway. Next came the usual ritual – passport control, collecting my luggage and looking for the Heathrow shuttle. Unfortunately, as I had to get to the British Airways offices at a given time, I missed my massage, shower and spa session, as well as the ironing of my trousers – all provided for free by British Airways to its Business or First Class clients landing in London. We tried to get to the Heathrow spa, but it was “fully booked”.

Once we got to Heathrow, we tried to get rid of our luggage… Generally speaking, on other airports I could only go for check-in one or two hours before take-off; and I’ve always encountered problems because there was no place where to ’park’ my luggage. On Heathrow, although our flight was taking off in about 7-8 hours, this was not a problem. We got rid of our luggage and rushed to the British Airways offices.

As an employee of various multinational companies, I’ve had my share of visits and offices all across the world…. So I was not expecting too much when I reached the BA offices next to Heathrow Airport. Well, well, was I in for a surprise – as their offices look just like some regular streets with open-air restaurants, shops and trees . Really cool indeed!

However, we were not visiting the BA offices in order to take pictures of their trees or buy a newspaper that was heralding the Apocalypse of the Euro currency in between pictures of topless girls… No. We wanted to visit the British Airways Museum, a fascinating place for people who have a passion for (and know more or less about) aviation.

The history of British Airways begins right after the First World War. Aviation enjoyed a huge momentum during WWI, obviously driven on by military needs, so after the war you could find plenty of skilled, but unemployed pilots, as well as many airplanes that various states had no use for… This was the beginning of civil aviation. The first civil flight, of course, was from London to Paris – and the rest is history!

This has certainly been a story with many ups and downs… At first, the British Government did not grant any subventions to airlines, as opposed to the French or Belgian states, so small aviation companies were soon pushed on the brink of bankruptcy. The state eventually stepped in and started supporting the development of airline operators… but it also took the lion’s share, as it decided to nationalize all companies operating abroad. This was the beginning of Imperial Airways, one of the first transcontinental airlines of the world.

I really liked their printed guides for passengers and pilots. As back then they had no kind of radar or air traffic control, pilots were 100% counting on visual orientation, so those brochures listed the main reference points guiding the pilot into turning right or left… Things were rather simple for European flights – as you could recognize, say, the town of X after its bellfry… But how could pilots find their way across the desert, when flying on the Cairo-Bagdad route? Well, they also had some reference points there, and there were certain areas where they even had special lines drawn on the desert sand, to guide them… Needless to say there were no night flights back then.

Advertising was really cool, too! “You get to Paris while you lunch, and then you have 9 more hours to Budapest”. By 1939, Imperial Airways was already traveling around the world, covering the whole ”Empire where the sun never sets”… They even had code-shares, partnerships with local companies. Some of those names are still familiar to this day – Qantas, South African Airways, Air India.

The post-war period marked the beginning of “jet aviation”. Major nations like the US, Britain or France developed not only airlines, but their own domestic aircrafts production as well. Americans voted for Boeing, McDonell and Douglas. British resorted – rather uselessly – to Comets, while French manufactured the Caraveles… European and American manufacturers gradually merged, leading to the current polarity of Airbus vs Boeing… True, with the Chinese hot on their heels, next to the Brasilians from Embraer, who found their own niches.

I take my picture standing next to a Concorde model, and study the interior of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, as British Airways was one of the world’s first airliners to purchase the iconic humpedback model… Nowadays they tend to be more conservatory, as there is still no Airbus 380 in the British Airways fleet, but they shall buy some models in 2013… As for the American models, it seems they are more vivacious, as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner shall join the BA fleet much sooner… Of course, I also inserted a wicked comment: how come such a big company as BA, a premium airliner with high-class services, still has no A380? “The time has not come yet”, was the tipically British answer I got.

We still had some hours to spend there. It was a sunny day, but I didn’t feel quite like trying a flash-tour of London, so I decided to go back to Heathrow and check the new business lounge (I had read in a magazine that the furniture of the old business lounges had been donated to military airports, in order to provide a ”stylish” departure for British soldiers going to a less than stylish Afganistan).  London has lots of airports: Heathrow – its oldest one and the classic hub of BA – Gatwick, Stansted, City and the new addition of Luton, mostly used by low-cost operators such as Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizz or Blue Air. Unfortunately, unlike the French who turned their Charles de Gaulle into a mega-airport, Londoners do not enjoy the same luxury, as Heathrow can be neither abandoned, nor expanded.  Gatwick cannot expand too much, either… This is why BA operates both on Gatwick and on Heathrow, but they have built their own exclusive terminal in Heathrow. This is Terminal 5 or T5, proudly called “the BA home”. Eventually Iberia shall find its place here, but it will not be an easy task. British Airways has bought Iberia, (following the Air France – KLM model), but for the time being, Iberia is using another terminal, not T5.

I didn’t visit too many stores in T5, but instead decided to chill out in the lounge, reading newspapers and magazines (I even found National Geographic Traveller and the Lonely Planet magazine), enjoying fine drinks and eating my lunch…

My flight home was just as nice and eventless… Although I had thought I would sleep like a baby, this was not the case. We started talking and seemingly got to Bucharest in the blink of an eye. Our plane had arrived sooner, and the Steaua-Schalke game was just beginning…

 

 1. business lounge St. Lucia.JPG

The Business Lounge on the St. Lucia Airport

2. British Airways in St. Lucia.JPG

British Airways ready to take off from St. Lucia Airport

3. first class.JPG

The First Class cabin

4. first class.JPG

5. un Laurent Perrier.JPG

A Laurent Perrier, please

6. sampanie, pijama si altele.JPG

7. in pijama.JPG

Wearing the “First Class” pyjamas

8. cu IPad.JPG

With the Ipad

9. mancare first class.JPG

Bon appetit !

10. noapte buna.JPG

Good night!

11. buna dimineata.JPG

And a few hours later – good morning!

12. mic dejun first class.JPG

Breakfast

13. first class.JPG

14. aterizare Gatwick.JPG

Landing on Gatwick

15. aterizare Gatwick.JPG

Gatwick Airport

16. Heathrow.JPG

Heathrow – T5

17. check in.JPG

Check in

18. sediul British Airways.JPG

The British Airways offices next to Heathrow

19. Welcome to BA !.JPG

20. macheta Concorde.JPG

Pinching the Concorde’s nose

21. sediul BA.JPG

On the “streets” in the BA offices

22. Muzeul British Airways 1.JPG

The British Airways Museum

22. muzeul British Airways.JPG

The beginnings of British civil aviation

23. ghid pasageri Londra - Paris.JPG

A printed guide – the map for passengers of the London-Paris flight

(the Perrier advertising included )

24. ghid pilot Cairo - Bagdad.JPG

25. ghid pilot Cairo - Bagdad.JPG

A pilot’s guide for the Cairo-Bagdad flight

26. harta retea Imperial Airways.JPG

A map with the Imperial Airways network in 1939

27. reclama zbor Paris.JPG

Advertising for the Paris flight

28,. reclama British Airways.JPG

9 hours to Budapest! Get to Paris while you lunch!

29. first class spre SUA.JPG

Or First Class to the US

30. in flight service.JPG

In-flight service many years ago

31. Boeing 747.JPG

With a Boeing 747

32. configuratie Boeing 747.JPG

33. cu ghidul e la muzeul BA.JPG

The guide at the British Airways Museum is a real enthusiast!

34. terminal 5.JPG

Back to the airport – Heathrow T5

35. business lounge.JPG

The Business Lounge

36. business lounge.JPG

37. ziare in business lounge.JPG

Newspapers in the business lounge

38. ziare in business lounge.JPG

A selection of drinks

39,. pe pista Heathrow.JPG

Eventually, we had to leave…

40. mancare cursa Londra - Bucuresti.JPG

The final dinner on the London-Bucharest flight


Până acum există "2 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. six trip says:

    Hi! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my new iphone 4! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

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