I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Run over

Think I'm gonna pass out. When I got off the plane I actually felt legimitately like I could pull through a day's work but, now, post-shower and sat on my sofa, I am very much on the verge of sleep. Let's see if I can knock out a wrap-up post in one sitting...

I was in a pretty bad mood in the lounge, a bit Moscow-in-April as I hadn't eaten anything since about, I dunno, 5am. Plus sleep deprivation, exhaustion, tiredness, effects of altitude, and dehydration were all in full force and I'd been annoyed at the lack of pub visit in Joburg and my needless skipping of two interesting museums. As good as the apartheid museum was, I ended up with less time out of the airport on the longer of my two weekends, plus - I admit it - I was not really looking forward to 11 hours in economy on a clapped out 747.

Ah well, never mind. I spent a few hours getting frustrated with the BA lounge wifi repeatedly kicking me off.

(No, I can't write this in one sitting. I did pass out, and have just possibly given myself jetlag by taking 3.5hrs sleep in the middle of the day. Go Darren!)

As well as the wifi issues, I largely spent my time in the lounge necking free booze (Castle lager, LOTS of Gordons gin) and partaking of almost every kind of free food they had. Chicken curry, pasta, sweet potato gratin, cheese plate, trifle, carrot cake, some salad. Oh, and some diet coke. I was fucking ravenous, though none of it did much to improve my mood.

A few announcements came but again, my name wasn't called. A very loud and angry announcement was made for some one couple by name, with large chunks of the airport being informed that they had missed their flight and their luggage was being offloaded. Bad people. I've always wondered how people go missing between check-in and departure, despite being perilously close to it myself on Saturday at Heathrow on a connection. At Joburg it's a much smaller operation where it seems to me you'd have to make a real effort not to get to your gate.

I left the lounge before the flight was called, we were departing from the very last gate at the end of the terminal and en route I managed to spend most of my remaining metal rand on another diet coke. I'm sure all this caffeine must be really bad for me but whatever.

The boarding regime at gate A16 is one of the best I've seen - boarding directly from a lounge notwithstanding - for fast track boarding. The gate is split in two, A16 and A17, and you can only enter gate A16 if you are allowed through fast track. The woman guarding entry there gave me a thoroughly disapproving look and barked "ARE YOU TRAVELLING BUSINESS OR FIRST CLASS?" at me when I got within about 10 feet. I mumbled "no, but I have a sapphire card" and she grudgingly let me in.

At this point, I stared at my boarding pass (hoping it would beep at the desk, for an upgrade) and my jaw fell open. There was no frequent flyer number on it. My BA number. The whole fucking point of this trip is to earn miles cheaply. OK so I like flying and got a new passport stamp as well, but, it's a mileage run. You can't be telling me I might not earn miles for one of the long hauls? Fucking hell. (I later discovered it's possible to retro claim in cases like this, phew, though I dunno if the fact it was a code share might make it tricky).

Boarding started pretty soon after, and my pass didn't beep. Seat 29k in economy it is. It's an exit row seat with unlimited legroom but jesus christ, the reviews saying it's a bit narrower due to the table + TV being in the arm rest are not wrong. It's a very snug fit. I dumped my passport, iPad and pad into the side pocket with the sick bag, magazines, etc. I love reading the inflight magazines, but this being my 9th BA flight in September there really was no point. The plane filled up. I never seem to get empty services, where are all these "after take-off I got a row to myself" routes?

The flight was pretty nondescript. Drinks came, a meal came, I watched BBC Knowledge's Secret Life of Cats and thought, y'know, I should get me a cat. Cats are awesome. Started on the film A Long Way Down but realised actually that I was finally going to get some sleep, so turned off the screen, reclined just a bit, and stretched out. And lo, I do believe I managed an uninterrupted 4hrs sleep with no bizarre dreams or anything. Woke up feeling actually quite refreshed, and watched that there film. It was OK.

Basically nothing else happened from then on. It was dark and noisy, I watched, erm, some other film, I forget what. Oh, Two Faces Of January. It was OK, nothing special. And 3 episodes of Episodes.

As we came in for final descent, I stowed my tray table and returned my screen to its original position. I made sure my seat was in its upright position and that the floor area around me was completely clear. I continued to use my handheld electronic devices, ensuring they were being held firmly. And I put my passport and pad back in my pocket. Except, oh, for fucks sake, why is my passport stuck to something?

It's stuck to a sick bag. Because there's some fucking chewing gum on it. So now my passport front has a massive chunk of chewing gum on it. Fucking hell, gross, and what the fuck? How did the cleaners - who had 12 whole hours to fix up this plane on the ground in JNB - not see and remove that? I scraped a bunch of it off using the sick bag but it wasn't too useful, so then tried to remove some more with the sticky luggage stickers. I got most of it off but, bloody hell, how disgusting to have someone's used chewing gum all over my passport. Everyone was sat down and I couldn't get sight of the cabin crew, so just screwed up the sick bag and left it next to an empty bottle, to make sure the next cleaners would get it. As I did that I saw that the inflight magazine in my pocket also had a huge load of gum on it too. What kind of wanker chews gum on a plane and doesn't get rid of it properly, but just leaves it stuck to the outside of a sick bag, or a magazine? Fucking animals.

We landed early but then taxied for about 35 minutes, having had our original gate (at T5B) stolen from us so we got moved to T5C. Thank fuck I wasn't on a tight connection today, and woe to those that were

Skipped the first monorail as it was heaving, and a second one was only a minute behind. The UK border at T5 main was rammed worse than Joburg's border yesterday morning - the "fast track" queue seemed to have over 50 people in it, the non-EU/UK citizens line was backed up pretty much to the top of the escalators from the arrivals corridors/monorail, the UK citizens line I estimate had 150 or so people in it. I joined the Oyster-esque ePassport gates line which itself had probably 50 people in it, but was (obviously) the fastest moving line.

Through, down, past carousels, and out. I seem to have developed a particular routine for arriving at T5 which involves going to the same loo each time, the one landside next to M&S and WH Smith, after which I buy a diet coke in the latter before getting the tube to Hatton Cross. So I did all that, and emerged at Hatton Cross to find an X26 "express" bus to Kingston at the stand. I was the last but one person to board and we completely failed to speed our way through Monday morning SW London rush hour traffic. Got home at just after 9am, which is earlier than I normally leave for work. Honestly I briefly considered going in, to claim my day off back for use elsewhere, but instead though, no, bollocks, I'm going to watch wrestling.

And then I passed out. During my sleep a shiny new Bronze card from BA Executive club came through my door. #timing And I've woken up too late to reach Heathrow and catch the final leg back to Paris Orly. Never mind.

So, that's my first ever pure mileage run done. Overall I should bank exactly 41,000 Avios from the whole shebang, including the 10,000 I was given for complaining about the broken entertainment system a couple of weeks ago. The mistake ticket cost me £328 and I spent ~£300 on the other flights (more than it needed to be, I booked them too late). For comparison, you can purchase a maximum of 27,000 Avios in one year direct from BA and that costs £447 if bought in one go, more otherwise (there's a transaction fee). So 41k, bronze status for the next year, plus two very fun weekends of flying and a new passport stamp, for ~£630, paid in 3 instalments over 9 months? A fucking result. Not to mention the value I'll get when I spunk them on a business or first class flight somewhere...

But that's not for a while. I believe I'm staying on the ground until after Christmas now. I've flown 77,703 miles so far in 2014. A mere 5567 to go. Roll on 2015 ;)

1 comment:

Phil said...

Seen this? https://medium.com/travel-adventure/what-its-like-to-fly-the-23-000-singapore-airlines-suites-class-17d9f3fee0d