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Winner February 2013

The winning user review for the February 2013 competition for the prize of a one night stay at the Melia White House hotel in London

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cunardqueen flew British Airways Club World, on a B747-400 High J (10/02/2013)

Flight BA 269 LHR TO LAX Upgraded at Boarding Gate from WTP - Club World

Booking my flight via a friend l was able to gain from the BA hotline service. I booked as always WTP. This flight was for the 1500 departure from London Heathrow on Christmas Eve for Los Angeles. This flight was in conjunction with a BA flight down from Aberdeen. For what its worth I saved just over £200.

Checking in on line l was greeted with the message "Sorry we cannot check you in online for this flight as we are unable to offer you a choice of seat at present" this was showing for both flights. I had pre paid for both seats. A quick email to my friend who booked the seat resulted in the information being gleaned that there was only 1 seat in First, 2 in Club and none in WTP or Economy. But there were some 15 staff on standby.

The advice l was given on how to proceed was "Bother them but be gentle if you find that you don't have your booked seats, but let them know your aware the flight is overbooked".

I checked the following day at the BA terminal in Aberdeen and mentioned to the service air member of staff the fact l couldn't check in online. I did say that if this flight to London was full l would be happy to take a later flight to London. He told me that wasn't where the problem is but rather its my next flight. I told him l was aware its overbooked, No response other than check in as normal at the desk in T 5.

Check in for real. It was Christmas Eve. The terminal did seem rather quiet. I noticed a BA customer service rep hovering round the check in desks. My flight wasn't open for check in yet but what the heck the charm offensive starts now! l approached the lady and asked her what time the desk would open for check in for the Flight to LA., she scanned the sheets and l uttered the immortal words "I'm only concerned as my flight is overbooked & 15 of those are staff." She told me the time and pointed out which desks l should go to, and asked how did l know my flight was overbooked.

I regaled my tale of how l booked the flights via a friend in BA using the friends and family discount. Then when l went to checkin online the system told me they were unable to offer me a choice of seat. Even though l had paid her whole manner became more more friendlier (not that she wasn't friendly before) but she re scanned the sheets and said Oh don't worry Sir we will get you onboard. But yes your flight is showing as full, however use that checkin desk over there.

With that l went and waited for the desks to open up, they did shortly afterwards and off l went to check in. I went to the desk the agent pointed at and handed over the passport and engaged in conversation. I regaled yet again my story of how l couldn't check in online and that the flight was overbooked and l did so much hope that the staff can get on this flight, She asked me oh how did l know it was overbooked, I told the other part of my story about how l had booked via a friend in BA and she had told me about the staff being on standby.

She said "oh lets take a look at your ticket" and she looked into the booking on her screen in more detail. I did say that l do hope the staff can get their seats on this Christmas Eve flight as l think to be flying away today is just so exciting, in fact any more excitement and lm liable to burst!" Which l guess is not what they expect a 43 year old man to say, but the camp chat caused her to laugh.

I produced a box of Christmas chocolates and said to her My dear these are for you, its Christmas and May l wish you a very merry Christmas. She was l felt quite stunned by this little act of Christmas spirit and said that in all her years she had never been given such a thing by a passenger, we bantered some more about the USA as she types away on her keyboard and out then came the magical boarding pass. Boarding at B 36 Gate l was still in my same pre booked seat in WTP seat 31 A, Always a good seat and one that l always pay for, no one behind you, and the view is ok in that you can watch the flaps and speed brakes etc on take off.

The 2 suitcases were safely on their way and the agent wished me a very pleasant journey and a Merry Christmas. I thanked her and went on my way re leaved l had a seat. I have flown this route now 4 times return and assumed that oh well no upgrade but it was fun the interaction.

I did have an Amex fast track pass which l had purchased via ebay for 99p so already what small lines there were at security were even less on the fast track side, only one in front. My only minor comment with T 5 is when you go through security you are right away into the pathway of the masses and by the time you collect your various containers there really is no where to put yourself back together without being rushed, and l hate being rushed.

Enjoyed a nice all day breakfast at the Giraffe cafe and a browse through duty free and before long the flight was showing on the departure screen. Took the transit train to B gates (on previous flights it was always C gates) There really isn't much to do at B gates other than chat to fellow passengers.

The boarding process was soon underway and starting with WT the 747 aircraft was filled from the rear. Boarding then for passengers in WTP commenced and l joined the line, handed over the passport and boarding card which was scanned and out spewed a new boarding card, not realising what had happened the agent said Mr ##### British Airways are pleased to upgrade you to Club World, your seat is 19 A have a pleasant flight and Merry Christmas.

For a moment l was stunned and lost for words, it didn't last long. "Thank you so very much British Airways, l really do appreciate this and a Merry Christmas to you indeed" as l went down the steps l punched the air with glee and couldn't believe it. A quick call to those that mattered to share the news and l boarded. An upgrade from Premium to Business.

Showing the new boarding pass to the cabin crew at the door l was welcomed to Club World and directed to my seat 19 A, all the other passengers were already settled. It took a moment to realise that my seat was facing backwards and the whole set up looked strange. Other than passing by on previous flights l hadn't given much notice to club world. The 2 bags were placed in the locker, plenty of space, the steward returned to offer a glass of champagne, naturally l accepted.

19 A is a window seat which is my chosen requirement. But l must say it was strange to be seated facing someone else, the divider was down and l wasn't sure if l liked it. Anyway we took off slightly later. A another drink was offered as l studied how the seat was going to work and limited conversation with the passenger opposite, it was like pulling teeth. Then the divider was raised by the steward, l had no objection and neither did the other passenger, and there l was in my own little world.

The menu came round with a little card advising of the festive nature the menu would reflect this.
A varied choice menu Starters: Grilled tiger prawns or Five mile goats cheese, Salad: Fresh Seasonal salad with vinagrette. Main Course was Seared Angus Beef or Seared Sea Bream, Vietnamese Curry or a chilled main course salad. Dessert was Toffee apple crisp, Cheese and grapes , or a selection of fruit and Chocolates. The festive additions were the Roast Turkey and mince pies..The steward came back to take my order l mentioned that i wasn't keen on the starters but some fruit would be nice, the salad, Turkey and mince pies with Tea. As l work in a hotel there was no need to reel of the whole description the basics is all we need.

It wasn't long before as it happens the Purser appeared with a (chilled) plate of sliced apple and pomegranate seeds, beautiful presentation and he hoped l enjoyed it, I did! the salad was well just a salad but the Roast Turkey again lovely presentation, and didn't look as though it had been turned out onto a plate. Dessert was again very nice and a refreshing mug of tea, i joked that he can leave the tea pot and l can help myself, he noted this as tea refills were very frequent. Along with a frequent top up of drinks its was a delightful dinner service.

The wines were White Le G de Chateau Guiraud 2011/ Reata Chardonnay 2010 and RED Chateauneuf Du Pape 2010 and Byron Pinot Noir 2010 Santa Barbara.
Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve

The menu told me about the club kitchen, which is in effect a mini chilled fridge with various little snacks, shortbread, chocolates, ice cream, pastries, yogurts, and sandwiches and its a space to stretch your legs. I made a few trips there during the flight and enjoyed the camp chat with the crew, mainly the purser and regaled again the story of my booking etc. I asked did all the staff get on that were on standby, they did! and l joked that probably the best party now was in steerage, which he found highly amusing.

Thanked him personally for the great onboard service and how much l appreciated the upgrade, he seemed pleased that someone was appreciative of his and the crew services, and working in the hotel industry i am more aware of the understanding of just how it all works.

Back at my seat the larger in flight entertainment screen was a bonus, and they were playing Christmas tunes, it would have been nicer if they had some festive films showing, but hey life isn't perfect, even in Club World.

A chance to try out the flat bed, and yes it was very comfortable and a nice thick blanket, l did nod off for half an hour or so but what with the moving map and music l was happy to stay wide awake and enjoy this upgrade. High above the clouds this Christmas Eve, a free upgrade, champagne in one hand, Christmas tunes playing in the headphones and the most amazing view out the window, life really doesn't get much better.

Never noticed the duty free going round, but then they are very quick and blink and you miss them.
The Afternoon tea service again was of a high standard, the menu as far as l was concerned only showed that there was one sandwich l would like and that was the Chicken and Basil, Prawn cocktail and cheese and chutney l really didn't care for, l mentioned to the purser that l was only keen on the chicken one, he explained that they are all pre wrapped but to leave it with him, he duly appeared and gave me 3 packs and said oh just leave what you don't like and the comment extra tea again is it, its these small things in customer service that l feel make all the difference and the fact he left me one of each scone (warm!) with cream and strawberry jam just added to it, even though the menu worded it as a choice..again a very regular tea top up.

The purser came round with a questionnaire and asked would l object to completing the survey for this flight. Naturally l didn't mind. They were all given top marks as truthfully the service reflected this. l added some extra comments in view of the crew and customer service and handed it back into the galley, with it opened so that they could see exactly what I had written, well it was only fair that they should see what praise l had heaped upon them. The purser returned shortly afterwards to thank me very much for the very kind comments. As it happened BA followed up the survey 2 weeks later.

I remembered that l had a spare box of chocolates in my bag so l dug these out and as the call had gone out we would be landing shortly l took out a $50 and went to the galley to express my sincere thanks to the Purser and the crew for all they had done to make this flight just so enjoyable and not only that but the upgrade was an magic way to start my holidays. He thanked me very much and expressed that there was no need for such gifts but the crew were going out for Xmas day brunch tomorrow he would ensure that all the onboard crew knew that Mr ***** in 19 A had left them $50 towards the drinks tab. The impression l got was one of sincere gratitude.

The flight into LAX was a beautiful night time landing & we disembarked quickly, one point l did notice the purser extended a handshake and used my name and the comments enjoy the Holidays. One of the younger crew members right at the edge winked and thanked me for buying the drinks..all in all the holiday spirit was in the air, l was nearly sad to be disembarking.

The arrivals and immigration appeared to be understaffed and in no time the officials were swamped with customers as well as another flight that had just landed. A lady immigration official roped and un roped various sections for us to pass through, the couple in front of me took great delight in announcing in a posh voice for all to hear that they were in First Class and where was their section, only to be shot down in flames with the comments "This Sir is the USA , Your not onboard the aircraft any more." Looking around there were a few gentle smiles among the rest of us.

It took half an hour to clear US immigration and a further 20 minutes wait for the luggage to appear and with what seemed like two very longs at Customs it took me only 5 min's to get through.

Christmas Eve in the USA was about to get under way. A further note I was at the Queen Mary for Christmas Day brunch and who did l bump into at the buffet but the Purser and the very same flight crew from the night before..It is indeed a very small world.

As is the case it seems if you get a great crew the service is outstanding, as l felt it was on this flight. Thanks BA You now have this customer for life!

Overall: 10.0/10

Runner Up:

1nfrequent flew American Airlines Business, on a B767-300ER (02/02/2013)

I flew American Airlines domestic First from MCO to JFK.

Thanks to a complete absence of traffic out on the road, I arrived at MCO at 8.45am for a 10.50am flight. I’d checked in on-line the day before and printed out a boarding pass, selecting seat 8B. However if you’re checking in bags then you need to check in for a second time at the airport using their electronic terminals. The American Airline area was very busy but I was able to get to a free terminal where I found that the plane had been swapped out from a 737 to a 767 and there was going to be at least a 30 minute delay to take off due to high winds at JFK with ground staff warning that it could be 60 to 90 minutes depending on the weather. As a result of the plane change, my seat had been moved to the back row seat 10A, but I was able to change it forward to 4B.

The electronic terminal also gave me the option of buying a one day access pass to American’s Admiral’s Club lounge for $50. You don’t get automatic lounge access on domestic first and having been in their lounges before, I hadn’t been planning on using it this time. However the fact that the flight was already delayed and could be delayed for longer persuaded me to dig out my credit card as I figured it was worth the expense. More on this later.

If you fly domestic first on American then you can check in up to 3 pieces of luggage free of charge (basic economy tickets will charge you approximately $25 per bag) and the electronic terminal prints out the luggage tags, which you have to put on yourself. I had a really awkward piece of luggage which a member of AA’s check in staff very kindly helped me with (going so far as to wrap it up in plastic securely and putting the tag on) and he also popped me to the front of the bag drop line so I could drop off both pieces together.

There’s priority security access for AA’s first class passengers, but this wasn’t mentioned to me at baggage drop and I didn’t find it out until I’d already queued up at the normal security line (at which point I was shooed over to the priority line). It took 15 minutes to get through priority security thanks to my being behind a large Brazilian family who’d bought half of Disneyworld. I then took the monorail to get to gate 17.

It was only when I got off the monorail and started looking for the Admiral’s Club lounge that I discovered that there isn’t one at MCO. To say that I was hacked off was an understatement. I don’t see why American should be allowed to get away with offering for sale access to a lounge that doesn’t exist. I raised it with a member of the ground staff who told me that the pass would let me use the lounge at JFK but this wasn’t what I bought it for and given that I wasn’t transiting at JFK and in fact would need to get straight to baggage reclaim to get my luggage) it was no use to me at all.

All the ground staff could do was tell me to seek a refund on the AA website but there isn’t an obvious way of doing this on their website – there is a dedicated refund area on the AA website but it only deals with ticket refunds. As a result, I’ve put in a complaint to AA with details and asking for my money back but as at the date of reviewing, I have yet to receive a response so will need to chase when I get back to the UK.

It’s a shame that American doesn’t have a lounge at MCO because there is very little to do there. The shop choice is poor and the choice of food outlets slightly better. I ended up getting breakfast at the Mexican Grill and Cantina where the apathy of the staff was matched only by their laziness and the food quality was nothing to write home about.

The space around the gates was packed with people owing to American running a schedule of morning flights to LAX, MIA and DFW respectively. I ended up getting a space next to another Brazilian family whose youngest son was auditioning for the job of junior Satan given his proclivity to kick random people on the legs and scream “NO SPEAK ENGLISH” when they objected.

Boarding began at 11.10am with First class, AA Platinum, passengers with disabilities and serving military being given priority. There was a very warm welcome from the flight attendants and I easily found my seat. The configuration in First was a little strange – the first two rows were 2-1-2 and then the next 8 were 2-2-2. Another passenger actually asked a flight attendant about this and she explained that the plane had previously been used for American’s intercontinental flights on a three class basis (i.e. First, Business and Economy) but had been dragooned into today’s service. Interestingly, she went on to say that she thought it would eventually be reconfigured properly for domestic flights as AA was upgrading its intercontinental fleet.

The legroom was incredibly good – I think you could have been 6’4” and still had room to spare. The plane was obviously old and the seats a little worn and battered but mine was comfortable and clean. I had my row to myself because First was only half full and I also had a whole overhead locker to myself. A common complaint on AA flights is that economy passengers sneak their luggage into First lockers.

On my flight the attendants were policing this and it helped that the ground crew had vigorously policed the size of hand luggage prior to boarding and forced some people to check theirs in. The only economy passengers who put their bags in the First lockers did so at the express invitation of the flight attendants and it was purely because they had mobility issues.

The flight attendants were proactive and brought around water and blankets while the captain made an announcement apologising for the delay and explaining that it had been due to strong winds at JFK which he warned may delay the approach in. We eventually pushed back at 11.25am and the security video was played as we taxied to the runway.

We took off at 11.57am and after 20 minutes the flight attendants brought around warm mixed nuts and drinks. Service went from the front and was very friendly, cheerful and polite. I’d barely finished my first drink when they came around for a second offering and shortly after that they came around with lunch, which was a choice of chicken, couscous and goats cheese salad or a turkey salad. I opted for the chicken, which was okay although the chicken was a little dry. What I do love about AA though is that lunch is followed up with warm cookies (choice of oatmeal and cranberry or double chocolate and macadamia) and a choice of tea or coffee.

Entertainment came via overhead monitors showing looped NBC TV shows but to watch you had to buy earphones. I did however pay $10 for wireless internet access so I could catch up on some work.

Due to turbulence the seatbelt signs went on for the last 40 minutes of the flight, which was a bit of a problem for anyone who needed the loo and at least one passenger was made to go back to their seat.

The captain made another announcement about 20 minutes before landing, which was very smooth. We were off the plane quickly and through the terminal to baggage reclaim. Bags did take about another 20 minutes to come off the plane but the priority tags worked as my belongings were the first off the carousel so I was able to quickly leave.

AA cabin crew and ground staff get a lot of criticism on-line but I honestly thought that they did a good job on my trip. The ground crew were welcoming and helpful and cabin crew warm, pleasant and professional. I hope this marks the beginning of a turn around for the airline as it comes out of Chapter 11. I have to fly them anyway if I want Oneworld miles/tier points but I did enjoy the experience.

Overall: 8.0/10

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