Alaska to Australia via British Airways First Class

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13 years 6 months

Posts: 38

British Airways' First Class Award to Australia, as offered per Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan, is one of the great air travel bargains available today. It requires the redemption of only 150,000 miles and from North America to Australia routes through London and Singapore, both of which are excellent hubs for inexpensive travel into either Europe or Asia. With one stopover allowed on this award, a stopover in either London or Singapore allows one to also visit either Asia or Europe in addition to Australia. No doubt, the more pragmatic amongst us would consider BA’s marathon routing to Australia unthinkable for travel originating in North America. Certainly, I could have taken Qantas First Class for only 135,000 miles, but on those rare instances when I get to travel in International First Class, I get every bit as excited about getting there as I am about being there. From a service standpoint, there’s just not that much offered aboard those late night nonstops to New Zealand or Australia. For me, the highlight of any trip in First Class is the meal service and on those late night trans-Pacific nonstops you get a late supper and a full breakfast. That’s it. Your international First Class experience to Australia is over after only fourteen hours, much of which you slept through anyway. I want more. Over the course of the trip I’ll be served three dinners and three breakfasts. As an added bonus, I’ll have plenty of time to indulge in the comfort and amenities of three different First Class lounges, including BA’s superlative Concorde Room at Heathrow’s Terminal 4. Flying British Airways between North America and Australia allows me to enjoy almost 32,000 miles and 60 hours of a First Class product that has earned a reputation as one of the finest services aloft. No doubt it’s lost a bit of its luster over the past five years, but it remains ranked amongst the top ten in the world and is still light years ahead of anything offered by US carriers. Indeed, most cognoscenti also rate BA’s FIRST ahead of Qantas. So then, enough of this lengthy preamble. Let’s head on out to the airport and get this trip underway. We’ve got over 20,000 miles to travel across twenty-two time zones. Food service will be minimal between Fairbanks and Phoenix, so you might want to grab a sandwich and a beer now. Save some room though, because canapés and cocktails will be served out of Phoenix, followed by a six-course dinner. Bon apetite! By the way, pictures of the food can be found HERE.
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Member for

13 years 6 months

Posts: 38

February 6, 2006 Alaska Airlines First Class Fairbanks to Anchorage to Seattle to Phoenix 6:00am to 5:05pm Normally the prospect of getting up at 4:00am would be quite daunting, but having just returned from two weeks of mileage running between Seattle and the East Coast, I was still quite comfortable with Eastern Standard Time. 4:00am in Alaska was the equivalent of 8:00am in Boston or Tampa, and I’d been getting up at 5:30am in those cities. Despite my 4:00am wake up call, I still felt as if I’d gotten to sleep in. I just couldn’t bring myself to ask any of my friends to take me to the airport at 5:00am. None of them are even awake until at least 6:30am, so I made arrangements for a taxi and arrived at Fairbanks International at 5:15am. The terminal was surprisingly busy for such an early hour and as a result I had to wait almost three minutes before an agent became available to check me in. Although the offer was made to check my pack all the way through to Melbourne, I didn’t want to take any chances with an interline baggage tag routed FAI-ANC-SEA-PHX-LHR-SIN-MEL, so I asked that my pack be checked only as far as Phoenix. Once upon a time, I’d have devoted substantially more print to describing the inflight service on Alaska Airlines. It wasn’t that many years ago that Alaska’s Gold Coast Service was, in my opinion, the finest short to medium haul inflight service in America. Three course meals with a choice of entrees were once the rule on flights as short as the 540 mile Juneau – Anchorage run and Alaska’s old 727-200s offered wide, comfortable seats with ample leg room. Alas, the realities of operating profitably in today’s environment have given Alaska’s management cause to trim back the First Class inflight product to the point where it no longer has any business being called “First Class”. Alaska is hardly the only airline to slash its First Class product, but its cuts appear to be deeper than those affected by most other airlines. Then again, perhaps it just seems that way because of how good Alaska’s First Class service once was. As an example, on a 7:00pm departure from Los Angeles to Seattle last week, a 950 mile sector with a scheduled flight time of two hours and forty minutes, First Class passengers received only a drink and a packet of snack mix. Yes, there were complimentary refills on both if one so desired, but for a 7:00pm departure it would seem reasonable to expect at least some food. Just two days ago on my early evening departure between Seattle and Anchorage, a distance of 1,450 miles covered in about three hours, First Class was offered only a salad or a warm chicken and cheese sandwich. Gone is the pasta or corn salad that used to accompany the sandwich. In its place were three canned mushrooms lying forlornly on one side of the plate. Dessert was a piece of candy. Back in Economy Class, the offerings were a barbecued pork sandwich and an entire cookie. Having eaten both sandwiches, I give the nod to the Economy Class offering in both quality and quantity. Mind you, I’m not really unhappy with Alaska Airlines over these cutbacks. Yes, I miss the once fine service, but times have changed and Alaska’s management is obviously giving strong consideration to the fact that as good as its inflight service once was, it rarely ever factored into why passengers chose to fly Alaska Airlines. Add to this the fact that Alaska derives very little extra income from its First Class cabin (it may even be losing money when one considers that the twelve First Class seats on one of Alaska’s forty 737-400s could easily be replaced by eighteen to twenty-four Economy Class seats) and the service cuts seem inevitable, even justified. All things considered however, Alaska really should consider re-branding its forward cabin as Business Class. As First Class goes, it’s pretty much a joke. As a trip reporter, the bottom line here is that Alaska’s inflight service has devolved to such a low standard that it’s no longer worthy of descriptive comment. On a positive note, my flights between Fairbanks and Phoenix were on time and the Flight Attendants were friendly and capable. When it comes to flying around America these days, what more can one ask? It was a beautiful evening as we made our approach into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. The 737-800 taxied briskly to Alaska’s gate at Terminal 2 and I quickly made my way down the long concourse to Baggage Claim. By the time I’d retrieved my pack, it was 5:30pm. My onwards flight to London was scheduled to depart at 7:40pm, just over two hours away. I still had to get over to Terminal 4, change into some nicer cloths for BA’s First Class, and then check in. Hefting both my backpack and my daypack, I headed out into the 70º desert evening and awaited the inter-terminal bus. February 6, 2006 Phoenix to London British Airways First Class Boeing 747-400 G-BYGE Seat 2A 740p-1230p Flight time: 9:37 Check in was non-eventful, as it ought to be. I’ve read other trip reports where writers have devoted numerous paragraphs to their experiences at the check-in counter. Thankfully, over the course of my many flights with British Airways, the only time I’ve only experienced anything worthy of more than the most perfunctory comment was when I was offered a bump off my Los Angeles to London flight and compensated with $1,400.00 and a First Class suite aboard American’s 777 to London. This was my first flight into Phoenix since 1990 and it would have been nice to meet up with a couple of friends in town. However, I decided that given the short connection time along with my still having to change and then check-in, as well as clear security and have a reasonable amount of time to enjoy BA’s First Class lounge, there just wouldn’t be time for anything other than a very quick visit, made all the more hurried if my flight from Seattle were at all late. So, sorry gang, but if it’s any consolation I’ll have two hours at Sky Harbor on an America West connection in early March, so watch for a PM with the details. I’d certainly look forward to a get together. The British Airways First and Executive Class Lounges are located adjacent to BA’s departure gate at B-25. Never having been in PHX’s Terminal 4, I was unaware of just how large and spread out it is. I reckon I walked a good third of a mile assisted by three or four people mover walkways before finally reaching BA’s gate at the end of the most distant of the two B wings. It was almost 6:30pm and general boarding was slated to begin in just thirty minutes. BA’s lounge is located one level above the main concourse. Halfway up the stairway leading to it is a nice display of past and present First and Business Class service items such as amenity kits and pajamas along with dinner place settings from both classes. I paused briefly to admire these before proceeding into the lounge. The receptionist greeted me warmly and directed me towards the First Class side of the lounge. Please help yourself to food and drinks. A boarding announcement will be made at about 7:15pm. Upon entering the First Class section of the lounge, I was immediately impressed by the nice wood trimmed walls, dark green carpet and large windows overlooking the tarmac. Plush sofas and chairs were set around low coffee tables and subdued lighting helped create an ambience that was at once comfortable and inviting. At the far end of the lounge was a nicely stocked bar featuring a decent selection of booze, beer and reception sandwiches. Also available were a collection of pre-packaged cheeses and crackers, along with fruit and potato chips. An attendant appeared and asked if I’d like a glass of Champagne. No thanks, I’ll wait till I board the plane. What kind of beer is available? Fat Tire? Awesome! I’ll have one of those, please. After whipping up a small plate of sandwiches, I took my beer and retired to one of the enclosed telephone cubicles where I spent the next thirty minutes bragging to friends and family about my current lot in life. I also took a moment to have a look at the Business Class side of the lounge. The only difference between it and the First Class side was that it was a bit larger. Otherwise, food and drink selections were exactly the same. I’ve noticed similar situations at a couple of other BA lounge locations in the US and can’t help but wonder, assuming all things are equal in terms of comfort and amenities, why they don’t just drop the charade and combine both lounges? Unless of course the First Class clientele don’t want to mingle with any of the riff raff from Business Class… Boarding was called at 7:15pm and everyone promptly gathered their belongings and headed down to the gate. Everyone that is except for your intrepid Trip Reporter, who hung behind to capture a couple of photos of the lounge and bar area. Unfortunately they turned out horribly or I’d have included them in my photo collection from these flights. Two members of the cabin crew greeted passengers at door 2L, and I was immediately handed off to a waiting crewmember who led me to my suite in the second row of the First Class cabin. That would be seat 2A, generally my favorite seat aboard most aircraft. I was soon relieved of my jacket and presented with pajamas and an amenities kit. These cherished amenity kits, otherwise known as BAgs, are created by trendy fashion designer Anya Hindmarch. An attractive insert describes the basic products: UPLIFT Refresh and hydrate with Aroma Therapeutics Fresh Face. Hold facial mist 15cm from your face, breathing deeply as you spray generously SOFT SKIN Ren Calendula Hydra-Calm Moisturizer for sensitive skin will protect against the harmful effects of pollution and free radicals with the added benefit of calming and healing essential oils. NEW EYES The area surrounding your eyes is the most delicate. Dab on Ren Malachite Soothing Eye Gel to refresh and reduce puffiness SMOOTH LIPS Ren Honey Lip Balm will soften and hydrate dry lips and seal in moisture. Smooth on with fingertip. SHINY TEETH Anti-plaque Elgydium Toothpaste will give your teeth a professional cleaning. SWEET BREATH Ren Peppermint Mouthwash will perk up a dry mouth. Swish and rinse. Each BAg also includes cotton socks, eyeshades and earplugs. Additional items available include a Shave Pack containing razor and shaving cream or a Skincare Pack containing cleanser, moisturizer and a face cloth. Aromatic soap, hand cream and eau de toilet are also stocked in each of the First Class lavatories. Packaged in an attractive brown and grey zippered bag, the BAg represents about as comprehensive a collection of inflight amenities as you will find aloft. It is an excellent amenity kit and I take particular comfort in the knowledge that should pollution or free radicals prove to be a nuisance at any time during the long flight over to London or beyond, I’ll have immediate access to the Ren Calendula Hydra-Calm Moisturizer. Champagne was offered and subsequently delivered along with a plate of delicious Macadamia nuts. The Champagne on offer for tonight’s flight was Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis, a remarkably luxurious deluxe cuvée Champagne produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from exclusively grand cru vineyards. It is rumored to have been a big favorite from the Concorde Cellar. I thought it tasted just fine, especially as a chaser to those equally luxurious Macadamia nuts. As I sipped Champagne and tossed back Macadamia nuts like Hawaiian royalty, soft classical music floated through the cabin, a fitting backdrop to the refined service soon to be rendered. The Captain then came on over the PA, extended a warm welcome to all of us and promised a fairly smooth flight across the Atlantic this evening. There was word of some rough air out over eastern Canada but he and the crew would do their utmost to keep the ride as smooth as possible. Flight time was projected at nine hours and twenty-one minutes, and we could expect an on schedule arrival at Heathrow. Next up, the Cabin Service Director introduced himself and his crew, followed by a brief description of the service to be offered after takeoff. The load was fairly light this evening – only eight of us in the forward cabin, and the all male crew in the forward cabin seemed rested and relaxed, ready to provide an excellent and attentive service. Menus were then presented, along with refills on our drinks. BA’s First Class menus have undergone yet another transformation, though they still look quite nice. Gone are the large white menu covers featuring the old BOAC and Empire Airways travel posters. The new menu covers are a rich gray color, very similar to that of the First Class seat fabric, itself patterned after the interior of a Rolls Royce. The menus measure about 7” X 12” and BA’s stylish FIRST symbol is embossed in silver at the center of the cover. Reclining my seat slightly, I took another sip of my Champagne and opened the menu in anticipation of the culinary pleasures yet to come… Phoenix to London DINNER STARTERS Scottish Smoked Salmon with herb cream cheese Wild Mushroom Risotto Old-fashioned Tomato Soup Fresh Salad leaves with your choice of balsamic vinaigrette or creamy ranch dressing MAIN COURSES Grilled Fillet Steak with Black Peppercorn Butter Presented with green and white beans, roast vine tomatoes and fingerling potatoes Chicken Korma Served with saffron basmati rice, sautéed spinach and pine nuts Offered with Indian bread Braised Lamb Shank Offered with char-grilled courgette, baby aubergine, roast garlic and olive oil mashed potatoes Grilled Salmon Nicoise Salad Accented with balsamic olive oil dressing Please feel free to request an alternative selection of vegetables from the menu SNACKS Penne pasta with your choice of fire roasted red pepper sauce or Alfredo sauce Topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese A selection of sweet biscuits A selection of cheese and fruit CHEESE PLATE A selection of English and Continental cheeses A basket of fresh fruit DESSERT Chocolate Mousse Cake Warm Scottish Fruit Tart with whisky topped with vanilla ice cream The first time I ever flew British Airways was four years ago from Los Angeles to London. The menu for that flight included four main entrées and three “Lighter Options” that included the pasta, a salmon salad and something called a Lamb Lancashire Hotpot. Judging by tonight’s menu, there really haven’t been any substantive cutbacks to First Class dining a la US airlines and overall I thought this menu represented a potentially excellent dining experience. We’ll find out soon enough. A belch of black smoke and the growl of the tractor engine beneath me signaled that pushback was imminent. This is one of my favorite times of the flight as the jetway is retracted, the plane is pushed back onto the tarmac and the engines slowly come to life. That in itself is a wonderful sound, especially as heard from the nose of a 747. In this regard however, my favorite of this type serenade was emitted from the four higher pitched JT3D turbofans that powered most Boeing 707s, 720Bs and DC-8-50s. We made a slow and stately taxi out to what surely must have been the most distant runway at Sky Harbor. Making the turn to line up at the head of the runway, I noticed a band of bright green lights extending across the width of the runway. I’ve seen plenty of airport lights in my time, including green, but never had I seen them bisecting a runway before. I briefly remembered one night when a couple of friends and I grabbed some windowpane and headed out to Denver’s Stapleton International to watch planes land from the parking area beyond the end of the runway out on Havana Street. I gained a new appreciation for runway lights after that night. I was snapped out of my flashback as the Captain gradually brought the four big Rolls Royce engines to full power and we commenced our takeoff roll, becoming airborne after just 39 seconds. The plane shuddered briefly as the nose wheel was noisily retracted, then quieted down admirably as the landing gear doors shut and we became substantially more aerodynamic. At this point, the sound changed to a beautiful harmonic whine set against the deep bass background of the engines powering the aircraft ever higher. I have never noticed this sound anywhere more prominently than I have in the nose of the 747. You’ll not detect it from the leading edge of the wing on back. You’ll definitely not detect it in aircraft other than the 747. As the lights of Phoenix receded beneath and behind us, I reclined my seat as one of the cabin crew stopped by to inquire as to my drink preference. You know, I’m really looking forward to trying out some of those red wines on offer this evening. Let’s have a look at that wine list: WINE LIST CHAMPAGNE Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis A remarkably luxurious deluxe cuvée Champagne produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from, exclusively, grand cru vineyards. This was a big favorite from the Concorde Cellar. WHITE WINES Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 2003, Domaine William Fevre 2003 was an uncharacteristically hot year in Chablis and the wines are richer and more rounded than normal, yet still with a core of lemony freshness Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling 2004, Margaret River A delicate floral aroma leads to a much fuller flavor of lime, elderflower and soft peach – a delightful expression of the noblest white wine grape Renwood Select Series Viognier 2004 The Viognier grape is hand-picked from selected sites to give a rich style with a dominant flavor of fresh white peach RED WINES Chateau Talbot 1995, Grand Cru Classé Saint-Julien Talbot is such a consistent performer and shows all the silky texture and suppleness one has come to expect from the great Saint-Julien Chateaux Beaune 1er Cru Champimonts 2001, Domaine Jacques Prieur 2001 was a fantastic vintage for red Burgundy – this has a great aroma of fresh raspberry and a vibrant, mouth-filling flavour Treana Central Coast Red 2002, Paso Robles A blend of Cabernet, Merloz and Syrah from California’s central coast – ripe and full-bodied with intense blackberry and plum flavours DESSERT WINES Opitz Goldackerl Trockenbeerenauslese 2002, Austria Austria makes some of the finest sweet wines in the world. The effervescent Willi Opitz, from his tiny vineyards in Illmitz near the Hungarian border, produces some of the very best in the country Warre’s 1988 Colheita Port Complex, sweet nutty flavours offer an admirable after dinner glass * * * * * * * * * * * One of the nicer aspects of First Class travel is the opportunity to sample each of the wines. Or spirits, if that’s your thing. For some reason I now find myself thinking of Nicholas Cage’s character in the movie Leaving Las Vegas. Unlike Economy Class where excessive consumption of alcohol may result in the authorities awaiting you at your destination, First Class passengers can simply request wheelchair assistance off the aircraft. It’s so much more civilized. More than a few wine snobs would have us believe that BA’s First Class cellars have experienced a serious drop in quality over the past few years. True oeneophiles will also tell you that a pressurized airplane cabin at 35,000 feet is hardly the optimal environment to bring out the best qualities of a wine. As one who’s never spent more than $27.00 on a bottle of wine, I’m hardly in a position to contest either of these assertions. I must say however that I quite enjoyed my initial glass of the Beaune as well as later glasses of the Talbot. I might also add that none of the wines I’ve had aboard any airlines’ First Class, including that of perennial stalwarts Cathay Pacific and Singapore have ever given me cause to consider spending more than $27.00 on a bottle. The first round of beverages was presented with BA’s traditional plate of canapés. BA style canapés consist of small round pieces of toast topped with savory tidbits. Tonight’s two toppings included marinated pork and a spicy tomato relish, much like a Pico de Gallo. Interestingly, we were only offered two canapés. In the past there’ve been three. Were BA’s bean counters perhaps taking a little nibble out of the First Class meal budget? After all, American Airlines once saved $40,000.00 per year just by removing the single olive from its Economy Class salads. Out my window, the lights of Gallup, New Mexico lit up the northern landscape. We’d been in flight just seventeen minutes. About five years ago, I drove the interstate from Phoenix to Gallup in a little over six hours. Our flight this evening would initially take a southerly route across New Mexico and northern Texas, passing over Albuquerque and Amarillo before adopting a decidedly more northeasterly attitude and passing right over Chicago before continuing on across Michigan and entering Canadian airspace out over the middle of Lake Huron. From there it was pretty much a beeline across the frozen tundra of northern Ontario and Quebec before meeting the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Labrador. By now we’d climbed to almost 40,000 feet and were rocketing along at a sprightly 607-mph. The dinner service began shortly after we’d passed over Albuquerque, New Mexico. Linens were laid, salt and pepper shakers were placed, sparkling clean glasses were filled with water and wine, and surprise! Real silverware was put down. The crew also seemed quite pleased to see its return, for surely it must have been more than a bit embarrassing to blemish BA’s fine place settings with those tacky plastic utensils. I’ve always liked appetizers. They’re sort of like miniature versions of complete meals. BA generally offers one meat and one vegetarian version on its long distance meal services. Most people pick one or the other and then move on to a soup or salad. I’ve generally taken this approach myself, more often than not baring my fangs and choosing the meat based appetizer. Even so, I like vegetables and I particularly like vegetarian food. Based upon the menu descriptions, most of BA’s meatless appetizers sound really good and I’ve often regretted not picking both appetizers in lieu of a standard soup or salad. I was determined not to repeat that mistake this time. Unless of course the soup were really outstanding. Old Fashioned Tomato soup sounded pretty ordinary to me, so I chose both appetizers followed by the Chicken Korma for my main choice. As for cheese and dessert, we’ll see how I’m feeling after the main course. You know, I used to like my salmon grilled or baked – not half-raw like you see in most appetizers or between bagels. It wasn’t until I was on a United flight back in the eighties that the unavailability of any other entrée choice forced me to accept the salmon and cream cheese plate. It was served, of course, with the traditional accompaniments of red onion and capers. It’s a good thing I was hungry or I might have declined it and bought something upon arrival at the airport. As things turned out, I followed my seatmate’s lead and slathered a good dollop of cream cheese on the mini-bagels followed by the salmon, red onion and capers. Oy vey! What a taste sensation! I’ve been a big fan ever since. Tonight’s offering did not disappoint. I received two generous cuts from a salmon and cream cheese log, accompanied by a wedge each of lemon and lime. I’d never had lime on salmon before and it proved to be quite good. Next up was the Wild Mushroom Risotto. The first time I recall ever having eaten a risotto was aboard my inaugural flight with BA between London and Los Angeles four years ago. And what a memorable risotto that was! I’ve since ordered a couple of risottos in earthbound restaurants and found them good, though not as good as that first veggie risotto I had with BA. Tonight’s version was basically thick mushroom gravy atop rice. It tasted alright, but was hardly memorable. One of the cabin crew noticed me photographing the risotto and came over to ask if I’d like a picture taken of myself. Not necessary, I said, but thanks anyway. No doubt photographing airline food is not a common practice amongst most passengers, especially those sat in First Class. The crew always seem a bit taken aback when they see someone doing this, but I always explain to them that I have a friend who’s a Flight Attendant over at United Airlines (which is true) and that I promised her that I’d take some pictures of the meals to show her what a real First Class service looks like. This statement has worked well for me over the years as it not only adds legitimacy what I’m doing but also defuses the FA’s initial concern and caution. They seem to be pleased that someone has recognized their service and product as being worthy of such attention and are happy that it’s going to be shown off to someone working in the industry. They still think I’m weird, though. I know, I know, most of you will never deign to photograph your airline meals and at the end of the day probably think I’m a geek for doing so, but so what? I enjoy having the photos and they definitely add to the overall quality of this report. I also suspect that any of you who read Trip Reports and enjoy the pictures wouldn’t mind snapping off a picture or two yourself if you thought you could get away with it. G’wan, admit it… you really like looking at pictures of premium class airline food, don’t you? You just don’t want to be caught taking pictures of it. Why, if word ever got out in the office or your airline club… well, we don’t even want to go there. That’s alright, I’ll take the photos and if any of you want to pool your resources to send me off to the far corners of the world so that you can view photos of what’s served aboard exotic airlines like Air Seychelles or Royal Brunei, just send me the tickets. I’ll not only take the photos, I may even throw in a Trip Report. Let’s see now… there are over 50,000 FlyerTalk members. If everybody contributed just $5.00… Getting back to the meal, I thought all the main courses looked pretty good but the Chicken Korma sounded down right exotic, especially with the addition of pine nuts and Indian bread. It was good, too. Served in a large bowl with a side of sautéed spinach, it was not only rich in flavor but also well spiced. The pine nuts accented it all quite nicely and overall, I’d have to rate this as one of the better meals I’ve eaten aloft. When the offer came for cheese and dessert, I accepted. Might as well go whole hog – it’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed such a nice inflight service. Rather than eat from a plate of all the cheeses available, I asked for a simple plate of Stilton and some crackers. This I received with some Graham type crackers and a small cluster of green table grapes. A glass of the Warre’s Colheita Port washed it all down admirably. As enjoyable as the cheese service was, I should note here that it’s the one area of BA’s International menus that has been affected most by budget cuts. Not so long ago, BA’s cheese presentation included five or six different cheeses. These were offered with a nice variety of traditional accompaniments such as a full basket of various crackers along with celery and fruit. The grapes were concord or similar – never plain green table grapes. The current service includes three different types of cheese (a sufficient variety, I think) but a vastly limited selection of crackers. I think a good cracker goes a long way towards an enjoyable cheese experience, and those slightly sweet, not so crunchy Graham type crackers should really be relegated to domestic services. And what of dessert? Well, I must admit I was intrigued by the addition of whisky to the Scottish Fruit Tart, so I ordered that. What I was served tasted a lot closer to a southern style pecan pie, but I just so happen to like pecan pie and felt BA’s Scottish Tart compared nicely. Unfortunately, I did not detect even a hint of whisky flavor in the filling, something I think would have complimented the overall flavor nicely. A pot of decaf coffee and a couple of pralines closed out this fine repast. During dinner I’d been watching An Unfinished Life, a nice little gem of a movie with Robert Redford, Jennifer Lopez and Morgan Freeman. As the movie ended and the credits rolled, I switched over to the SkyMap which indicated we were making good time over central Michigan, speeding towards the western shores of Lake Huron at just under 600-mph. The air temperature was a frosty 71º below zero and I was reminded of how cold it had been this past month in Alaska. It sure will be nice to enjoy the late summer weather on New Zealand’s South Island. With that in mind, I decided it was time to get some sleep. Although I’d been up since 4:00am, I really didn’t feel all that tired. Even so, a nine and a half hour flight passes by surprisingly fast when you’re being distracted by the likes of a six-course meal and over thirty different movies. I really needed to get some sleep because I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Much of that would be spent in transit at Heathrow where I’d prefer to remain conscious, especially whilst visiting the Concorde Room. After hanging my shirt and changing into the top half of my pajamas, I converted my seat into a bed, plopped down the big full-sized pillow, unfurled my fluffy white duvet and hopped into bed. Many people have spoken favorably of taking a sleeping medication like Ambien to help them sleep on flights. I’ve never much cared for downers and don’t think I’d want to take something strong enough to require a prescription. As such, I find Melotonin a nicer alternative. It’s produced naturally by the body, though in diminished quantities as we get older. It’s been available as a supplement in health food stores for years and for situations like this, it works just fine for me. When I awoke, we were about ten minutes from the West Coast of Ireland. Perfect timing! Although nobody appeared to be eating yet, I could smell the bacon and eggs being prepared back in the galley. Shortly, one of the cabin crew stopped by to inquire if I’d care for some juice or coffee. It’s really quite uncanny how they always seem to show up within three to five minutes of my waking up. Are they standing back there watching? Some coffee would be marvelous, thanks, along with a smoothie and a Danish. One of my favorite parts of any trans-Atlantic flight into London is that first view of the green shores of Ireland contrasted against the indigo blue of the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, most of the other passengers in First Class are either still sleeping or have no interest. The small, intimate cabin in the nose of the 747 is dark and comfortable and to open even one of the windows just a tiny bit produces a surprising amount of light. I’m always reminded of that scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the door to the spaceship opens. Opening a window shade a crack results in a very similar effect. Thankfully, BA’s got a full sized window in the forward most First Class lavatory and at times like this, it’s the bast place to get a nice view of the day outside. I kept an eye on the SkyMap and timed my visit to the lav so I wouldn’t be in there too long. Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy outside and so I was deprived of the view. Alas, clouds have obscured the view more often than not for me. Perhaps it’s kind of like getting a clear day along Alaska’s southeast coast during the winter months, much less any time of year. I’ll never forget the first time I flew Alaska Airlines’ flight 65, the milk run between Ketchikan and Juneau that made stops in Wrangell, Petersburg and Sitka. It was a sunny day and because all of the flights were of short distance and duration, we climbed to no higher than five to ten thousand feet in altitude and were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding mountains, fiords and glaciers. Returning to my seat, I dug out the menu from amongst the growing collection of newspapers and magazines in my seatback pocket. Let’s see what’s for breakfast: BREAKFAST STARTERS Chilled fruit juice An energizing fruit smoothie A selection of fruit or plain yogurts and cereals Fresh seasonal fruit plate BAKERY A wide selection of warm bread and breakfast pastries Warm bacon roll MAIN Full English Breakfast Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash-brown potatoes Mushroom Omelette American Pancakes Offered with maple syrup or blueberry compote This was quite a nice selection of breakfast items. Which would you choose? I love pancakes, but don’t think I’ve ever heard of them actually being cooked onboard an airliner. That means they were probably cooked yesterday and would have to be reheated onboard. No thanks. I instead settled for my old standby, the Full English Breakfast. Accompanied by toast and a bottomless cup of BA’s quite good coffee, this meal made for a nice start to the day. By the time plates were cleared and the last of the coffee drunk, we were only twenty-five minutes from landing at Heathrow. The Captain made mention at the beginning of the flight that it was quite chilly in London. As we broke through the cloud cover and lined up for our final approach into Heathrow, I must admit things did look fairly bleak down below us. It was windy enough that you could see the tree limbs bending and we experienced a couple of good bumps before making a nice landing and braking to a smooth stop. Although the engines on the 747-400 are capable of generating reverse thrust, the carbon-fiber brakes are usually all that’s necessary to slow the aircraft down. As we taxied into our stand at Gate 4, I caught my first sighting of an Air India 777-200. Other exotic aircraft on display included examples from Kuwait Airways, South African Airways, Iran Air and Aeroflot. I also spotted one of BA’s 737s still adorned in the Whale Rider artwork from the old Colors of the World livery. It may well be the very last one to still wear the old colors.

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LONDON HEATHROW Terminal 4 I’d only slept about five hours on the flight in from Phoenix. While that had seemed sufficient at the time I woke up, I was hit by an almost overwhelming fatigue as I made my way down numerous corridors and through a security checkpoint enroute to the departing passenger level of BA’s Terminal Four. Over the past twenty-four hours I’d flown four flights a total of 8,080 miles and my body was telling me it needed a bit more rest. BA’s Terminal Four is a wonderful place for those who are fully alert and excited to be traveling somewhere. Throughout its brightly lit main concourse are all manner of interesting shops and restaurants, currency exchange kiosks and Internet access points. Anyone with an hour or two to burn between flights should have no problem entertaining themselves in this fine facility. Unfortunately, the very things that make Terminal Four such a fine place for the wide-awake combine to make it a madhouse for those seeking a little peace and quiet. I had hoped to find a place where I might actually lie down for a couple of hours – any dark, out of the way carpeted floor would do – but there were no quiet gate areas or dimly lit alcoves that I could find. Bright lights, masses of humanity and the cacophony of the terminal made sleep impossible for all but the most exhausted. Thankfully, my First Class ticket allowed me access to The Concorde Room, BA’s excellent First Class lounge. Located opposite gate 10 on the departures level of BA’s Lounge Pavilion, the Concorde Room is reserved only for those traveling in International First Class. A collaboration of limestone, marble, walnut, oak and etched glass lend a contemporary elegance to the main lounge area and compared to the bright lights, noise and bustle just outside its doors, the Concorde Room is simply heavenly. I checked my carry-on bag with the receptionist in the baggage storage area and then located a comfy chair in a distant corner of the lounge. While not quite as nice as lying down would have been, the relative peace and quiet allowed me another three hours of undisturbed sleep. By the time I awoke at 4:30pm local time, I was feeling much better. Attached to BA’s Lounge Pavilion is the wonderful Molton-Brown Spa. Located just one floor down from the Concorde Room, the Molton Brown Spa offers a veritable treasure trove of exotic and New Age treatments with far out names and descriptions. Just reading about them gives me a buzz. Here is how a brochure describes the spa: “Move from the travel environment into a sensory well-being zone. The Molton Brown Spa is a dedicated therapy center filled with mood sensitive colours, aromas, sounds and sensations harmonized with soothing textures, lighting and state-of-the-art design.” As one might imagine, the Molton-Brown Spa is extremely popular with BA’s clientele and many of its treatments require advance booking. Thankfully this is not the case for those desiring a simple shower, although one would hardly call the Pharo-Hansrohe Body Jet Hydrotherapy Shower a “simple shower”. “Awaken the senses with the Pharo-Hansrohe hydrotherapy shower: wash off the day and give your muscles and mind the benefits of an intense cleansing and toning aqua-massage. Adjustable body jets pummel you from all angles and combine with the aromatic lather of Molton Brown Travel Reviving Shampoo & Shower Gel to leave you fully revitalized and with a sense of total wellbeing.” Well now, with an introduction like that one could get downright excited about showering! I grabbed a clean shirt from my carry-on and hurried downstairs to the spa and my waiting shower. Afterwards, feeling fully revitalized and with a sense of total wellbeing, I returned to the Concorde Room where a hot cup of coffee, a tray of reception sandwiches and a bowl of tasty cream of broccoli soup awaited me. The Concorde Room has two Internet capable computer terminals available for its guests, though if these are in use – and they were – one need only head right next door to the Business Centre where about a dozen computers with printers and fax machines are also available. I fired off a couple of emails and checked on last night’s scores before returning to the Concorde Room where I plugged in my laptop and put in some work on this report.

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February 7, 2006 London to Singapore British Airways First Class Boeing 747-400 G-BNLT Seat 2A 945p-620p Flight time: 12:07 Boarding had started by the time I reached the departure gate at 9:15pm. The size of the assembled crowd indicated that this would be a fairly full flight. Thankfully, BA maintains an express lane for its premium class passengers and so it was that only minutes later I was stowing my gear, kicking off my shoes and enjoying the first sips of Piper Heidsieck’s tasty Cuvée Rare with a small plate of delicious macadamia nuts. Ah… I love First Class travel… Once again, we had an all male cabin staff in First Class. As ever, the guys did an excellent job of seeing to everyone’s preflight comfort and needs, doling out amenity kits, pajamas and menus along with answering questions about the service ahead and reassuring the couple in 1A/K about their connection time in Singapore. Menus were handed out and I quickly perused the selections for tonight’s dinner: London to Singapore DINNER STARTERS Chiva-Som’s lobster and crayfish with dressing Potato and truffle fritatta with rocket and sherry vinaigrette Spicy butternut squash soup with harissa dressing Fresh salad leaves with your choice of piquillo pepper dressing or Blue cheese and walnut dressing MAIN COURSE Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust Accompanied by buttered potatoes fondantes and a natural jus Chicken in Ginger Sauce Served with bok choy and stir-fried rice Chiva-Som’s Rich Beef Curry Presented with lime and lemon grass brown rice Poached Loch Fyne Salmon Accompanied by asparagus and potato salad with a lemon dressing SNACKS Penne Pasta with your choice of creamy Parmesan cheese and spinach sauce or olive, caper and tomato sauce Tex-Mex Chicken Manoucher Sandwich A selection of sweet biscuits A selection of cheese and fruit CHEESE PLATE Lancashire ~ This cheese continues a long tradition of mild, flavourful English farmhouse cheeses Peyrigoux ~ Hailing from France’s Perigord region, this creamy cheese is made from cow’s milk Gorgonzola ~ Arguably the most famous cheese of Lombardy, Gorgonzola is a blue, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese with an earthy flavour DESSERT Warm Fig Tart with vanilla ice cream Fresh Berries Lasagna with Mascarpone cream A basket of fresh fruit Mmmm… very nice indeed. The rack of lamb and the beef curry looked particularly appealing, and I could hardly wait to reacquaint myself with that delicious lobster and crayfish salad. I’ve had it on one previous BA flight and it was without a doubt one of the finest appetizers I’ve ever eaten aloft. I wonder what Singapore Airlines would be offering on this route by comparison? Many people give the nod to Singapore and Cathay Pacific for superior inflight meal service if only because they still provide a caviar service to begin the meal service. I enjoy caviar but I’m neither here nor there as to its overall contribution to a superior meal service. Aside from costing the airline a lot more money to provide, I have to wonder if a couple of spoonfuls of caviar are really that much tastier and superior to a well prepared and presented appetizer such as the lobster and crayfish? And of course, BA offers not one but two appetizers. What I really miss however is a good pate presentation, complete with trolley and feathers and various breads. Is there a pate shortage or what? I’ll take it over caviar any day! Other than the two appetizers and the basics of a soup and salad course, BA’s long distance First Class menus generally include a choice of three hot entrees - four if you include the pasta dish, a salmon or chicken salad and a choice of two desserts. Then there’s the cheese course and a fairly ordinary Snacks menu. Overall, I feel it’s a good solid meal presentation. Not the most elaborate, but certainly among the better ones. After all, how much food can one eat? I’m capable of eating a pretty good sized meal but after drinks and macadamia nuts, an appetizer, a soup or a salad, and the entrée, I’m usually pretty full. And keep in mind that I haven’t even touched the cheese or dessert yet. It would be nice to see a little more variety on that snack menu, but then after dinner on a flight of this length I usually read or watch a movie, sleep for five or six hours, then look forward to breakfast. Very rarely do I ever take advantage of the snack menu. Inflight service started with the presentation of perfectly prepared hot towels – hot, moist (not wet) and lightly scented. I should imagine any connoisseur of these Japanese treats would have been duly impressed by tonight’s presentation. Drink orders were taken and I once again consulted the menu: WINE LIST CHAMPAGNE Piper Heidsieck Cuvée Rare Piper’s deluxe cuvée, one third Pinot Noir and two thirds Chardonnay, is explosively fresh on the nose with a creamy brioche flavour – simply delicious Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis A remarkably luxurious deluxe cuvée Champagne produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from, exclusively, grand cru vineyards. This was a big favorite from the Concorde Cellar. WHITE WINES Puligny-Montrachet Les Enseigniéres 2003, Domaine Roux Pere et Fils This is a powerful, rich and complex wine from an excellent producer made in one of the world’s greatest sources of dry white wine Three Choirs Estate Reserve Bacchus 2004 Bacchus is an intensely aromatic grape variety admirably suited to England’s cool climate – in this case Gloucestershire. There’s lots of crisp orchard fruit aromas and flavours and good depth and length Tyrrell’s Hunter Semillon Vat 1, 1999 An absolutely benchmark Hunter Semillon, rich and creamy but with great citrus freshness RED WINES Chateau Beychevelle 1995, Grand Cru Classé Saint-Julien Chateau Beychevelle is an architectural gem in the tiny commune of Saint-Julien and the wines are equally stunning! This is elegant with firm tannins, candied fruit and a generous hint of spice Errazuriz Don Maximiano Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Aconcagua Valley This is one of the most stylish wines ever to come out of Chile with a lucious raspberry and blackberry aroma, spicy tannins and a long, silky finish Glaetzer Bishop Shiraz 2001, Barossa Valley Is anywhere better for growing Shiraz than the Barossa Valley? This is full-bodied and multi-layered with a velvety finish DESSERT WINES Opitz Goldackerl Trockenbeerenauslese 2002, Austria Austria makes some of the finest sweet wines in the world. The effervescent Willi Opitz, from his tiny vineyards in Illmitz near the Hungarian border, produces some of the very best in the country Warre’s 1988 Colheita Port Complex, sweet nutty flavours offer an admirable after dinner glass Let’s start things off with a glass of the Chateau Beychevelle, and I’ll check out the others as the meal progresses. The crewmember serving my side of the cabin was named Peter and he did a superb job throughout the flight. Starting with the wines, he brought each bottle to my seat, displayed the label, then poured me a small amount to sample. Following my approval, he then topped up my glass. A plate of delicious and elaborately prepared canapés accompanied our drinks, and I’m pleased to report that we each received the full compliment of three each. I really do love those little canapés and it’s a good thing that only three are offered (though you can always ask for more) or I’d probably fill up on them before the main course. Dinner orders were taken next and, following the trend set earlier in the trip, I decided to pass on the soup and salad in order to sample both of the appetizers. For my main course I chose the Rack of Lamb with Herb Crust, figuring any London flight kitchen worth its salt would have considerable experience in preparing this most English of meats. Peter then returned with a bottle of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for my inspection. Si, señor! If I have any complaint about this flight, it’s that the dinner service didn’t truly begin until an hour and twenty minutes into the flight. Our departure out of Heathrow had been delayed by about half an hour as we took on extra fuel for this longest of BA’s flights, and so by the time tables were set and appetizers made their appearance, it was almost midnight. Late meal notwithstanding, the food proved to be worth the wait. The lobster and crayfish salad was delicious, accented nicely by the addition of a tasty pesto dressing. The Potato and truffle fritatta was good though not memorably so. As for the lamb, well, I just can’t imagine lamb cooked in an aircraft oven turning out any better. Pink and moist off the bone and deliciously herbed, this entrée met all expectations. Just superb! Surprisingly, I still had a tiny bit of room left over for dessert. Truth be told, had the desserts on offer been ordinary sounding, I likely would have passed but Fresh Berries Lasagna with Mascarpone Cream sounded just too good to pass up. And what a fine dessert it was! Check out the picture – this will go down as one of my all time favorite airline desserts. Cheese and port were by now out of the question, though I did accept a cup of BA’s surprisingly good decaf coffee. Honestly, most airline coffee is really hit or miss but for my tastes at least, BA serves up some surprisingly full bodied and flavorful brew. Two small chocolates accompanied my coffee and now, thoroughly sated, I reclined my seat a bit and turned my attention to the inflight entertainment offerings. Compared to the best IFE systems on the market such as AVOD set-ups like Singapore’s Wiseman or Cathay’s Studio CX, BA’s venerable old system is a relative clunker. Even so, it provides a decent variety of movies and programs to choose from, including a list of about twenty-five movies available in cassette format. I settled on North Country, a true story about the trials and abuse women workers had to overcome while toiling in a northern Minnesota iron mine. I missed this movie in the theaters and was happy to get the chance to watch it now. The beautiful Charlize Theron delivered another first rate performance on the heels of her Oscar winning performance in Monster and she definitely lost all 30 pounds she had to gain for that earlier film. By the time the movie ended, we’d flown well past Europe and were now out over eastern Turkey. It was time for bed. Once upon a time, I took the advice of certain FlyerTalkers and placed my duvet atop the seat, then covered myself with one of BA’s fine wool blankets. I’ve since decided that I sleep better on the bare seat with the duvet covering me. And so it was that I spent the next five hours of the flight in blissful slumber, finally awaking off the west coast of Myanmar just a bit north of the Thai border. The SkyMap indicated only two hours and thirty-three minutes of flying time were left before our arrival into Singapore. Up here at 38,000 feet the air temperature was a surprisingly warm –43ºF. Hey! Just like home! A peek out the window showed lush green mountains obscured by a partly cloudy sky. If only I could just open a couple of these windows… Instead, I contented myself with putting in a bit more work on this trip report while savoring coffee and a croissant. Those slackers who complain that they just don’t have enough time to include menu transcripts in their trip reports might be interested to know that I managed to transcribe both the menus and the wine lists from all three BA flights in just over twenty-five minutes. Twenty-five minutes of otherwise sitting around between meals and sleeping on a twelve hour flight. No doubt others might say I need to get a life, but honestly, the best time to do this stuff is on these long flights or while waiting around in airports. Since I was up and ready, my breakfast service commenced about two hours out of Singapore. My table was set, another round of coffee was served, and a fruit plate and smoothie were delivered. Peter then asked what I’d like for my main course. Hmm… BREAKFAST STARTERS Chilled fruit juice An energizing fruit smoothie A selection of fruit or plain yogurts and cereals including Chiva-Som’s muesli Fresh seasonal fruit plate BAKERY A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls MAIN COURSE Full English Breakfast Scrambled eggs, grilled bacon, pork sausages, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and hash-brown potatoes Chiva-Som’s Stuffed Thai Omelette Apples and Sultana Crepes Served with Mascarpone and cinnamon cream Man, that Stuffed Thai Omelette sounds downright exotic. I’ll have that please, along with a spot of potatoes, mushrooms and a piece of sausage. I was expecting a standard sized omelette stuffed with some Thai seasoned ingredients but what I received was a plate bearing three small parcels of Thai type food wrapped in a thin outer layer of eggs. I wish I could be more precise in my description of the stuffing, but I never could figure out exactly what it was. It tasted Asian and slightly fishy. Definitely not my favorite breakfast ever eaten aloft, but an interesting and indeed daring offer from BA’s flight kitchen nonetheless. I applaud their efforts even if by my tastes it might not have been my favorite. Soon enough we began our descent into Singapore. Despite relatively clear skies and little wind, it was a fairly bumpy and unpleasant descent. Once we’d landed, I was actually rather happy to be back on terra firma. Usually I’m good for another few hours of flight. That would soon be addressed however as my connecting flight to Melbourne was parked right next door and I’d shortly be back up in the stratosphere once again.

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13 years 6 months

Posts: 38

February 8, 2006 Singapore to Melbourne British Airways First Class Boeing 747-400 G-BNLM Seat 2A 715p-545a Flight time: 6:55 This short connection in Singapore did not leave me with any time to visit the First Class lounge jointly operated by BA and Qantas. It is a fine facility and I’ve always looked forward to a nice shower and a cold Tiger Beer during the usual hour and a half layover at Changi. This time however, based upon the award seats available, I had to fly into Singapore on the London to Sydney flight that departed Heathrow a half hour later than the Melbourne bound aircraft. Add to that our late departure out of Heathrow and the connection time at Changi was unfortunately quite short. Once again we had a full load in the First Class cabin. This time however, we also had two ladies working up front, one of whom resembled the actress Helen Mirren but even prettier. Drinks and canapés were distributed, more amenity kits and pajamas were handed out, the doors were all closed and cross-checked and off we went to Melbourne. Our 7:15pm departure meant a sunset takeoff and it was indeed a beautiful evening as we climbed out of Singapore and sped towards smoother air at 38,000 feet. Melbourne sits approximately 3,750 miles southeast of Singapore and flight time was projected at six hours and fifty-nine minutes, a bit longer than usual for the southbound flight but then you’ll never hear me complaining about the length of a First Class flight. Given the relatively short flight and the fact that many passengers were also hoping to catch a bit of sleep before the early morning arrival in Melbourne, little time was wasted in getting the dinner service under way. Despite having eaten breakfast just three and a half hours earlier, I hate to pass up a quality inflight meal service and so once again opened my menu and considered the selections: Singapore to Melbourne DINNER STARTERS Smoked salmon with honey mustard dressing Chiva-Som’s asparagus with lime yogurt dressing French onion soup Fresh salad leaves with your choice of black pepper crème fraiche dressing or vinaigrette MAIN COURSES Grilled Fillet Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce Presented with potatoes au gratin and roast red and green peppers Chiva-Som’s Yellow Lobster and Green Papaya Curry Offered with cucumber relish and lemon grass brown rice Braised Spiced Pork Rib Served atop basil fried rice with wok-fried vegetables Quiche Lorraine Served on a chef’s salad with mustard seed dressing SNACKS Linguine Pasta with your choice of tomato and basil sauce or creamy lemon sauce topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese Bacon Roll served with tomato ketchup A selection of reception sandwiches Ice Cream A selection of sweet biscuits A selection of cheese and fruit CHEESE PLATE Port Wine Cheddar ~ A full flavour and buttery texture are hallmarks of this classic cheese Roquefort ~ A crumbly sheep’s milk cheese, Roquefort is characterized by a complex flavour and striking blue veining Double Cream Camembert ~ A classic cow’s milk cheese from the Normandy region, Camembert features a creamy texture with full flavour DESSERT Chestnut and Chocolate Tart Warm Apple Normande with Calvados Custard Following the smoked salmon appetizer and a small salad, I decided to go with the lighter choice of a Quiche Lorraine. Unfortunately it was not available, so the smart choice would have been the Lobster and Green Papaya Curry. For reasons I have yet to comprehend and for which I will forever more chastise myself, I chose the Grilled Fillet Steak over the lobster curry dish. What was I thinking?! Perhaps in the over the forty-two hours since I’d left Fairbanks, I’d not gotten enough sleep. Either way, what’s done is done and hopefully I’ll remember this flight should I find myself with similar choices on another flight. I am happy to report that the smoked salmon with honey mustard dressing was surprisingly good. I was thinking that the salmon flavor mixing with the sweet honey mustard might be a bit risky but it actually worked quite well, especially when accompanied by bites from one of the best multi-grain rolls I’ve ever eaten. As for the fillet, it wasn’t a big cut of meat – perhaps 6 oz. – but unfortunately it had fallen victim to that most common of maladies affecting meats prepared aloft. It was cooked well done. Very well done. Dry gray meat isn’t very appealing except to scavengers, so I managed just two bites of it. On the positive side, this was good since I was pretty full anyway. Remember Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke after he ate those sixty eggs? Well, it wasn’t quite that bad but suffice to say I was in no mood for after-dinner cheese, dessert or coffee. Instead, I reclined my seat about halfway, had another glass of the tasty Shiraz and read for awhile before nodding off to sleep. I awoke a couple of hours later to a dark cabin and the SkyMap indicating we were about three hundred miles into Australia. I was surprised at how comfortable my seat was in the half reclined position, but then the best two sleeps I’ve ever had on airplanes were both aboard United 747SPs outfitted with the old First Class sleeper seats that only reclined about 150º. Nonetheless, I lowered my seat to its fully flat position and continued my nap until we were about forty minutes out of Melbourne. Awaking just in time for the last call for breakfast, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had some uncanny internal alarm clock that wakes me in the nick of time for airline food or if the noise from the breakfast service being provided to others nearby was what woke me. Probably the latter. In any event, here are the menu selections: CONTINENTAL BREAKFAST STARTERS Chilled fruit juice An energizing fruit smoothie A selection of fruit or plain yogurts and cereals including Chiva-Som’s muesli Fresh seasonal fruit plate BAKERY A wide selection of breakfast pastries and rolls * * * * * * * * * * * Chiva-Som’s muesli tasted just like BA’s regular muesli (I was afraid it might be flavored with Thai spices) which is to say it was quite good. A fruit plate and a smoothie completed this early morning culinary triumvirate and I was actually feeling pretty good by the time plates were cleared. The nose wheel was lowered with a mighty rumble as we swept low over the Victorian hills and then straightened out for our final approach into Melbourne International Airport. Moments later the main landing gear kissed the runway and the initial half of my First Class adventure was complete. Once again, British Airways had provided an exemplary First Class service. While I acknowledge that the overall product isn’t what it once was and that occasional service inconsistencies mar the otherwise fine reputation BA’s FIRST has earned, I think it’s still a top flight product and at its best remains amongst the finest in the world. My thanks go out to all of the BA staff and crewmembers that looked after me. Great job, everyone! I can hardly wait for the return trip!

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Return trip link to be posted here.

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16 years 5 months

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Very comprehensive and thorough report, most enjoyable!!

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16 years 4 months

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Well, how do you follow that? Great to hear that we have such a fan. Just one thing to appeal to your obvious sense of detail. The only 737 to have the Whale Rider tail was a -200 series which left the fleet many years ago. What I believe you saw was A320 G-MEDA of our partner airline BMED, which would have been in the hangar area around the time of her withdrawal from the fleet in early February. Enjoy your journey home, 1L.
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14 years 1 month

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Cracking report,thanks for time and effort :D

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14 years 4 months

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Yeah. Lucky Bu**er. :D Just one thing though, why go that way round? Surely there are more direct routes, across the Pacific, from Alaska.

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13 years 6 months

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Why go that way round? Surely there are more direct routes, across the Pacific, from Alaska.
You must've skipped over the first part of this report. Your answer lies right HERE.

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14 years 4 months

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You must've skipped over the first part of this report.
Not at all. ;) It's just, for most anyway, a case of getting from A to B as quickly as possible. I understand the need for a little "Pampering" every now and again. Maybe I should have said... Can you not get a Daytime flight First Class, Alaska to Melbourne?

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13 years 6 months

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The idea behind choosing BA was to get as much bang for my award mileage "buck" as I could. Using the longer BA routing gives me THREE long First Class flights with all the attendant service. Using the Qantas nonstop gives me one flight, late at night, most of which I'd sleep through. My choice of airlines has nothing to do with getting to Australia efficiently. I love to fly, especially in International First Class. My normal lot is back in steerage, so the whole idea is to get as much time in First Class as I possibly can. I'll derive just as much enjoyment (if not more!) being wined and dined in the nose of one of BA's 747s as I will somewhere on the ground in Australia - a country I've traveled to over a dozen times. Bottom line - if there were an airline affiliated with Alaska's Mileage Plan that offered top flight First Class service and took four or five days to get to Australia via say South America, Africa, Europe, and then Asia, I'd be on it.

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I love to fly
I think this little part says it all. ;) All the Best.

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19 years 9 months

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excellent write-up, I'd love to see the journey home......