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

Friday, February 27, 2009

Oh baby on board

"Would you like some fizzy?"

That's how Ruth was greeted when we flew in business class to Sydney last year. Her jaw had only just come back from the floor and her eyes were still pretty wide; she'd only two minutes previous asked me in hushed tones "am I allowed to be here?" after we'd gone upstairs on a BA 747. She was outwardly expressing how I feel every time I've been lucky enough to fly that way. Business class rocks.

For our first time in First class, by contrast, we were a little more circumspect. We knew in advance it wasn't a huge leap from business class, the main difference being the privacy of the seats and cabin, and the better service which comes from a similar level of staffing over 14 passengers (tops) as there are over 38 or so further back. But we were still offered fizzy, and we accepted.

(I actually accepted a bit too much. Other than during take-off itself, my glass wasn't empty for the first 3 hours or so of the flight -- and this came back to haunt me in San Francisco)

That's not to say there's no difference in the seat, mind. It is a little wider, and a fair bit longer. Where in business there's a footrest with a "NOT TO BE USED AS A SEAT" sign on it, in First it's explicitly meant to be so used. They refer to it as a "buddy seat", and you can get someone from elsewhere to come up and join you for a drink mid-flight. Like sending back for your PA or whatever, I guess. You can also ask, if travelling as a couple (or presumably if you pull onboard) to have 2 meals served on one table, the two of you sitting facing each other. We did this on the way back.

That being possible should make obvious the fact that the table is also bigger. And they lay it properly: out comes the tablecloth, the metal cutlery, the proper plates, the starter, the main, the dessert, the wine, the cheese, the biscuits... it's just consumption of epic proportions. You can have it whenever you want, as another benefit of First over all the other cabins is precisely that: instead of have the food service when you're told, they let you pick a time that suits you. Perfect if you've already overindulged in the lounge beforehand and want to wait. Alternatively, if you've overindulged beforehand but are a fat greedy scoffer such as me, you can have it at the start of the flight. Ahem.

Prior to the food service I went through my normal onboard routine, which basically consists of skim-reading every magazine and looking at all the entertainment listings. I didn't know that First class had its own magazine, so I started there. As with the business class magazines it was full of stuff I can't afford, am not interested in, and probably wouldn't care about even if I was minted. I was amused to discover the ads for discreet addiction treatment clinics though. These fat cats and celebs just don't know when enough's enough, do they? And as for the special 'luxury collection' stuff at the back of the shopping magazine -- who the hell spends £140 on a fucking pencil???

Lunch arrived and I have no recollection as to what it was, even though I'd pored over the menu beforehand. I blame the fizzy. Oh, it turns out from checking Flickr that I had the sea bass. And then there was a posh dessert, and cheese and biscuits. YUM.

The rest of the flight was actually pretty uneventful, with nothing being particularly first class or notable about it that I haven't already mentioned. The movies and other entertainment options are the same in all cabins, and the service wasn't monstrously attentive. Most people just want to relax with their headphones on, or sleep (even on a day flight) and the staff weren't buzzing round much. I watched a few comedy episodes, plus Righteous Kill and Dog Day Afternoon, both pretty good. I like Al Pacino, which helps.

At some point we were handed our kits of stuff. They're a different design to the business class ones but as far as I could tell the contents are just from someone else rather than Elemis. So you get eye wakening cream, lip balm, some flight socks, etc etc. They also hand out sleeper suits/pyjamas, though I didn't bother unwrapping mine. And there was more champagne.

San Francisco is an awesome airport to arrive into. Immigration is a breeze and the luggage seems to come off much quicker than most other airports I've been to. Previously when travelling for Yahoo! I had managed to get to my hotel room in central San Francisco about 75 minutes from being allowed to turn my phone on (still on the plane), and we managed it in about the same speed this time. However, staying one block further north from my old haunt meant I arrived sweaty and out of breath, because that one block is a bastard hill. They laughed at me when we checked in!

We were given room 911. And we thought: God help anyone in another room that, in an emergency, panics and leaves off the 9 for an outside line before calling for help.

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