Different Airlines – Same Routes – To Chicago with American Airlines and British Airways
Or “Oh Sandy. You came and you gave without thinking….”
- Cheap Flight? In the autumn? Which planet are you on? (The Introduction)
- To London, BA Galleries First, American Airlines FlAAgship Lounge– (THIS SECTION)
- AA99 – London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International
- Crowne Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- One-Time Exception: From Addison to Downtown – Riding the L
- Trials, Tribulations and Sandy
- O’Hare T3 and the American Airlines FlAAgship Lounge
- AA98 - Chicago O’Hare International to London Heathrow
- Homeward Bound
- Oh Sandy, you came and you gave without thinking… (The Wrap-up)
Apologies for the delay – it’s been quite a week in many ways, so I’ve only managed to get back to this today. Anyway… to London!
- Set 1 http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2012/10/22/to-london-heathrow-ba-first-louge-american-airlines-flagship-lounge.html
- Set 2 http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2012/10/23/to-london-heathrow-ba-first-louge-american-airlines-flagship-lounge-2.html
Yes, yes. I may have changed airlines, but I have kept my usual coach schedule – Coach 210 at 02:45 from Birmingham Digbeth Coach Station to Heathrow Central Bus station. Why? Because Heathrow hotels during the weekdays are near enough extortion levels of pricing, and it was £21 for a single on the coach.
Now normally, for a Chicago trip, packing starts a week in advance due to the sheer amount of stuff I need on a trip like this. However, I could only start packing Sunday evening as a lot of my kit was in use elsewhere. So lets just say sleep was low on priority list, and getting everything in the bag was higher. Thankfully, nearly all the stuff was loaded (including a pile of chocolate for my American friends)
UK People – Please don’t give me that look. I’m trying to educate the America’s one step at a time when it comes to Chocolate. This is an improvement to the stuff they call “Hersheys”. In fact.. anything is an improvement over “Hersheys”. Give me time, and I’ll get them onto Belgian or Swiss Chocolate, but for now this is a start…
Thankfully, I made my deadline of 2am to pack and was out of the door at 2:15am, and a taxi rocked up 5 minutes later to take me to the coach station.
My trash at the coach station
There was a short wait as the bus had pulled in from another location, but I was allowed on and my luggage taken from me.
The bus has a very simple stopping pattern – Birmingham Airport, Banbury, Heathrow Central, Heathrow T5, Gatwick South and Gatwick North – forming a connection between the Midlands and the airports of the south.
I boarded the bus, and went for row 2 – the “wheelchair” row which has the most legroom of the bus – something that friends of the bus driver didn’t like (they took the front row – I took the row behind). As a result, I could stretch out for the 2 hour and 30 minute ride to Heathrow. Whilst it’s not great legroom, it’s better than the standard 31” pitch that you have on a plane.
Believe me, this leg room was luxury compared to what was to come….
The coach made its way to BHX, then onto Banbury and Heathrow. I took advantage of the downtime, put some tunes on the phone and slept for most of the journey, only waking up at Banbury and on the approach to Heathrow.
Under Heathrow’s runways
At Heathrow, I bailed out of the coach and collected my items (and seemingly, the last trolley at the Central Bus Station) and begun the great push towards T3. Now considering I’m used to heading to Terminal 1 for United – it’s quite hard changing direction for Terminal 3. The fact is simple however – its a longer push to T3 than T1.
Noticing the changes in lighting from boring white to purple – indicating I was closing in on T3.
To the land of Terminal 3
T3 has been through a major transformation in recent years and has become a bit more “nicer” from the outside. The fact it looks exactly the same as it did in the inside is besides the point.
T3 – External, 5:20 in the morning.
T3 Interior – Nothing has changed really…
I headed for check in, and was interrogated on the way by the security agents. After answering questions I was let through and I checked in. Both of my bags were tagged, and I was given my boarding pass. I was also informed of the lounges I had open to me.
My bags were weighed and taken off me – and I was free to clear security. Thankfully I had Priority AAcess, which granted me access to the fast lane. And fast it was – I was through in 3 minutes flat – and more importantly the Fast Lane exited me beyond the maze that is the Duty Free shop.
Beyond Duty Free.
This is a good thing.
At is was 5:30 in the morning, nothing bar duty free was open. I took that as the opportunity to do a couple of lounge visits.
And having a BA Gold card meant some serious lounge surfing
British Airways Galleries – First Class Lounge
I was welcomed to the lounge, and after my boarding pass and BA Gold Card were accepted. Heading straight into the lounge was the classic Champagne bar.
Now when I get to a lounge, there are priorities – finding somewhere to sit, and food. The first priority was easy as I was the first person in the F lounge that morning.
The empty lounge
Food was a different issue. Now, I should explain here before we go much further that whilst I would love pastry and stuff like that, there is the minor issue of milk inside those items as I’m slowly becoming more intolerant to lactose. This put the pastry items out of touch, and the only items that were around were cold cuts or cereals. No other hot items were around on display. Dissapointing really.
I scared one of my regular readers with this pic
Whilst there was a menu, at 5:40 in the morning there was no-one around to cook it. Because quite frankly a bacon roll was what the doctor could had ordered by that point.
F lounge menu – not that anyone was around to take an order….
After using the net for a bit, there seemed to be more people appearing by 6:15, but I was still hungry – cold cuts do not make a meal (not matter what Lufthansa tries to tell you). I therefore packed my trash and headed to the next lounge
Overall: I’m probably going to get shouted at by BA Frequent Fliers but whilst Champagne may be a necessity to some, decent quality food that is accessible a bigger priority in my book….
After exiting the lounge, I headed back to the main “lounge” corridor in T3 and rocked up to the American Airlines lounges.
Again, I was welcomed, my card taken from me and typed, then I was pointed to the FlAAgship lounge
American Airlines FlAAgship Lounge
This facility is a fair bit smaller than that BA F lounge, but everything was 1) to hand and 2) convenient. I took a seat at a table, and after I had 5 minutes to myself, I was asked if I would like something from the menu. I went for the Eggs Benedict.
The width and lenght of the lounge – not large, but not ontop of each other.
After a short while, something very nice smelling appeared.
Eggs Benedict. Yes, I realise that hollandaise sauce has milk in it now. Thankfully I brought some Lactacid whilst out in the states to control the lactose. Didn’t suffer that much thankfully from it, so there must had been only a tiny bit of milk in it.
The wireless access speed was very acceptable as I managed to get a few more things done before the flight. The staff in the lounge were friendly, but knew how to keep their distance so you could work in peace.
Just after 7am, the call was made, where the lounge began to empty for the Chicago bound flight. I took my leave at that point too.
Overall: A much better and proactive service that the BA F lounge. And they had hot food on my table in 5 minutes after waitng for a few minutes. There’s a little hint there BA. Whilst not a large lounge, the service was top notch.
After exiting the lounge, it was a matter of the long hike down to the 30 gates at T3 – which is a fair olde walk/travellator ride.
Eventually, I found the gate pen, with what was looking like a solid flight. By the time I had got to the gate, initial boarding had commenced, with families boarding first, then First, then Business and OneWorld Emerald. I took this as my cue to board the plane…
Next: Talk about squeezing them in - AA99 – London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International