Tag: British Airways

Slow Heathrow

We’re up at 5:30am to make the short trek back to Heathrow. Although the bathroom in the Thistle is quite well maintained, the shower is rubbish which is not the best start to the day.

At checkout I’m charged the full £12 for our Pod fare which is fair enough seeing as were got the inbound trip for free. The Pod station is deserted and we make it to the check-in desks less than 10 minutes after leaving the hotel. Nice.

Having reached Executive Club Silver status as frequent flyers with British Airways we get Fast Track security access. There is one man in front of us at the scanners and the process is astonishingly quick. 

Once through it’s on to the South Galleries Lounge to grab a snack and a drink. Another perk of Executive Club Silver status – we could get used to this. It also comes in handy when our flight is delayed. Our 9:35am departure has become an 11am departure. Definitely not cool.

Equally uncool is the boarding process. At the last minute the gate staff decide to abandon the boarding groups and allow an Easyjet-style free-for-all. Thankfully we are near the front and manage to avoid the worst of the elbowing behind us.

We’ve chosen seats 52 J and K which are located right at the back of the Boeing 777 we are flying on. Although it’s a long way to the back, we like this section because there are only two seats – which means there’s no Billy Nomates weirdo to fight for elbow space with. Some people do complain about being close to the toilets and the galley, but this wasn’t a problem for us. Being able to choose our own seats in advance at no additional charge is an important benefit of Executive Club Silver status.

Top Tip: Sitting at the back of the 777 ensures you won’t sit next to a stranger (unless you are travelling alone). However, there is a risk that the more popular food choices run out before the steward reaches you. 

The flight is uneventful – which is always a good thing. Lunch is chicken chausseur which could have been great – but it was ruined with mushrooms. Afternoon snack is a chicken or vegetable pastry. Unless you sit in the back row where they run out of chicken so you have to have the vegetable. Not having to fight with a stranger’s elbows beats chicken pastry for me though (it probably had mushrooms in it anyway).

Top tip: Linda wanted to use her AirPods Max on the plane to watch movies on the in flight entertainment (IFE) system. However, the lightning port on the headphones is incompatible with the dual audio jack setup on aeroplanes. The solution? A cheap Bluetooth adapter that plugs into the IFE socket and streams audio wirelessly to the headphones. Pairing the devices tales a bit of patience, but the device does work eventually.

Kingdom Bluetooth transmitter

Simply plug this unit into the headphone ports in your seat and enjoy wireless audio streaming to your Apple AirPod Max or AirPod Pro devices.
It can also be used with the newer, single port seats like those found on BA’s A380.

Once at JFK there is an hour-long queue to clear immigration (bloody Brexit) and then it’s on to the Airtrain heading towards Howard Beach. At the subway station we get in a faff trying to buy Metrocards, but finally we manage to get a ticket and reach the platform just after the Manhattan-bound subway leaves. We “enjoy” a 20 minute sit in the cold and damp waiting for the next one.

Eventually we get on the train and make it into the city, disembarking at Fulton Street. A very wet nine-minute walk gets us to our hotel for the night – the Wall Street Inn. The hotel is a little dated, but the location is perfect for our transfer to the ship tomorrow. 

We’re assigned a sizeable corner room on the sixth floor which has windows in two walls. This is great but… like most of New York, the hotel is surrounded by scaffolding – so there isn’t much of a view to enjoy. The bed is comfy and the bathroom is adequate however, so we’re both happy.

Top tip: I managed to book a corner room at The Wall Street Inn for ~£140 through booking.com. This is considerably cheaper than booking direct – and it may have been a mistake rate. It is worth checking and refreshing search results periodically as you may occasionally find a gem like this. And as always, you can earn Avios points by visiting booking.com or ebookers through the BA Executive Club shopping portal.

As the jet lag begins to kick in we head over to the World Trade Center district to try Chick-fil-A. It’s pretty good. Then back to the hotel for an early evening.

Tomorrow – we board the Sky Princess at the Red Hook Cruise Terminal.

British Airways A380 MIA -> LHR

The British Airways A380 is a wondrous beast, even in economy. We watch in awe as the huge bird lumbers along the runway, straining all four engines to lift its enormous bulk into the night sky.

What’s good about the BA A380

The A380 has some great features:

  • The seat-side storage compartment is brilliant.
  • Seat 83J is actually comfortable and I do manage to nap for a while.
  • Despite being full, the economy World Traveller cabin does not run out of overhead locker space.

What’s wrong with BA’s A380

Despite being an engineering marvel, there are a few problems with BA’s A380 economy World Traveller offering:

  • The armrests in seats 83J and 83K cannot be raised. This is a massive issue for Linda who cannot edge sideways – especially once the seats in front have been reclined.
  • The headphone sockets in seats 83J and 83K have both been damaged, rendering the inflight entertainment (IFE) system borderline unusable.
  • There are no adjustable air vents on the plane, so you have one temperature for the whole cabin – unlucky if you’re stressed and sweaty when you board (me).
  • The food is pretty pants – particularly the cheese, ham and egg bagel we are served for breakfast.

In the middle of the night Linda and I have to trade seats because she cannot get back into 83J – there’s simply not enough room to move (and she hurt herself getting out in the first place). Other than that, the flight is pretty good – as is usually the case when we fly British Airways.

What the hell Heathrow?

Arriving at Heathrow and we’re straight back into airport hell. Rather than fight with the masses, we hold back until everyone has disembarked and then make our way to the door expecting to find Linda’s scooter waiting for us as promised in Miami. But it’s not there.

Instead, a porter collects Linda in a wheelchair and takes her down the ramp, desperately running behind in an attempt to not lose control. At the bottom he sends me back to collect her scooter. Which is not there.

After waiting a few minutes he’s had enough and loads us into a golf buggy-style vehicle. It’s very narrow and cramped as the porter steers us through various lifts and tunnels below the Heathrow Airport taxiways. We get to use a dedicated passport control lane which is nice – and much, much faster than the dreaded ePassport gates that never work properly.

Reaching the porters’ station, Linda is decanted into another wheelchair and a female helper wheels her to the luggage collection belts. We wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

A full hour after we landed, suitcases finally begin to circulate along the conveyor belt. It takes an age before a luggage handler appears with Linda’s scooter. And another age for our bags to emerge between the plastic flaps that hide the inner workings of the airport. We are among the last to leave the carousel and one woman is still waiting for her scooter to reappear.

It feels like Heathrow is in a race to the bottom with Luton and Stansted.

Fortunately we have time to kill; our National Express coach doesn’t leave until 14:40. Luggage secured, we have to kill some more time sat in the Arrivals lobby of Heathrow Terminal 5.

5.5 hours of Express

At the appointed hour we spot our coach at the same time the driver spots us. By some miracle, National Express has delivered on their promise. They have actually informed him that a lady with a scooter will be boarding – and he’s ready and able to help load luggage. Then it’s off into central London to catch a second bus to our final destination and waiting lift – Braintree.

Again, both legs of the coach journey are pretty good and almost on time. Our route takes us through the centre of the City of London, so we get to see some more familiar sights, including Parliament, Whitehall and the Bank of England. We have interim stops at Stratford (where the driver is involved in a row with a random man who demands access without a valid ticket) and Stansted Airport (where he enters a heated discussion with a passenger about Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s policies).

The downside of the journey is that by the time we finally get home, we’ve been travelling for nearly 24 hours – and it feels like it too.

Final thoughts on the MIA-LHR journey

  • National Express coaches are a feasible transfer option for both cruise terminals and airports – just make sure to pay for extras in advance. Linda says she would definitely use National Express again.
  • The British Airways A380 is an amazing plane – but it has some serious design flaws for mobility-impaired passengers.
  • Airports have absolutely no idea what they are doing in terms of security or transport of mobility aids.

British Airways Executive Club Changes Tier Point Earning Period

An email from British Airways this morning announces a genuinely useful change to the Executive Club frequent flyer program. From 1st April 2025 all club members will operate according to the same tier point earning period dates.

So what?

With British Airways, frequent flyer status is earned by collecting ‘Tier Points’ (not to be confused with Avios). Tier Points are awarded based on the flights flown with British Airways and essentially, the more you spend on your flight, the more points you earn. Flying long haul first class from London to Sydney earns more Tier Points than a short haul economy hop from London to Paris for instance.

If you earn enough Tier Points during your annual collection period, you qualify for frequent flyer status and all the benefits that brings.

Simple enough, right? The only problem is that the Tier Point earning period varies wildly depending on when you joined the BA Executive Club. Currently my earning period begins and ends on the 8th September whereas Linda’s runs until June.

Having failed to complete enough flights during my Tier Point earning period, I have been bumped down to Bronze status. Linda on the other is still sitting pretty in Silver, despite having flown no more times than I – she just got lucky with the timing of our trips, meeting the earnings threshold at a more opportune time than I did.

BA simplifies the Tier Point Earning Period

The news that the Tier Point Earning Period is being standardised is good news for travellers like us. Previously, achieving and retaining status meant carefully calculating when to fly to maximise Tier Point earning potential – and to ensure we got full value from our frequent flyer status. In future we know that our collection periods are the same – and our membership levels.

Usually an email from an airline about changes to the frequent flyer program contains bad news (such as the value of miles being downgraded again). However, this is one change I think will benefit us – especially as the Executive Club will apply ‘Tier Point adjustments’ to address the shortening of the collection window.

You can learn more about the changes in BA’s FAQs.

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