0844 hours. 17 minutes since arrival. I was in front of the FIDs. Go to C gates it said for BA143 to New Delhi. The thing with Heathrow is that it doesn’t give the gates well in advance (like the USA at least), which I guess is to force passengers in to the maze that is Concourse A - I had seen several pictures of how busy Concourse A was but given that I was only dealing with Concourses B (arrival on BA116) and C (departure on BA143) I was away from the crowds.
Security was up next - Heathrow T5 has small security checks strewn across all concourses after arrival. This had just the one X-ray scanner and body scanner. With just 3 people in front of me I expected this process to be a quick one. How wrong I was. Unfortunately some passengers on the flight to Lagos had packed some (a lot) medications in ways UK security did not like, so this slowed things down significantly. In fact it took me 15 minutes to get through this tiny line. Oh well, better safe than sorry.
Took an elevator down to the trams taking passengers between concourses. B to C - nice & easy! Making way for the passengers on the Lagos flight because they were boarding soon I took my time to appreciate what is the world’s 2nd busiest international airport - albeit these were mostly British Airways planes. I had over 2 hours to kill.
Onboard the people mover
Heading up towards concourse C
G-VZZA to Riyadh as BA263
Other than the A380s BA have a largely (majority) Boeing wide body fleet
Soon enough I found myself at gate 65. Another beautiful Queen being prepared for the 8hr mission over to the subcontinent. No passengers were at the gate….yet.
Queen or Whale?
Another B747 flight! I was excited - even though I knew the product onboard won't be the same as CIVT….a 747 is a 747!
Empty gate for now
I headed out for some quick planespotting. Once again, mostly British Airways but one enjoys seeing so many Boeing 747s around.
G-YMMH operating BA7 to Tokyo-Haneda
Course C was eerily empty - but this was much before the 1100 hours departure bank even had gates announced. But I knew the crowds were not very far away. What followed next was a true testament to how far global aviation has come: three A380s heading to the Middle East:
And also a Gulf Air A330 for good measure…
Lovely B747s - one on top is G-CIVX to DFW (this landed just after us from JFK), and the one if the bottom is G-CIVZ to LAX as BA283.
787 to Calgary
Simple decoration for the season..
I had to buy a quick snack from the W&H Smith because, well, a malt loaf is not quite enough for breakfast. A decent deal for a bottle of water, tikka wrap (not like I was heading to India or anything…) and a bag of air chips.
Catering loaded, most baggage onboard, the doors on starboard were closed for G-CIVT. Boarding was called at 1026 hours, six minutes after scheduled time. No biggie.
QF A380 will later head to DXB and then onwards to SYD. The DXB stopover is no more for QF..
The ground staff were largely of Indian descent which makes sense given the number of Indian passengers onboard this flight. However - they did make a mistake. “Premium passengers are requested to board first followed by general…er…passenger”. What?! I know a lot of us cannot afford to be up in Club World or First, but are we just general passengers?! :(
Anyway, I was in line for boarding 38min before departure time - this Boeing 747 to India was completely full. However boarding was quite organized regardless. I was onboard within 2min of being in line. Another decent crew to welcome us onboard - and many of them Indian crew members!
The situation at 36K was grim again - the window was quite bad. Scratched, just like G-CIVS. And unlike G-CIVS, this one had some very old seats - about half the B747 fleet haven’t been refurbished and these B747s fly to less premium routes such as Delhi, Accra, Phoenix, Las Vegas & Miami just to name a few.
Can we call this ancient?
Announcements were constantly on going despite boarding: obviously reminding passengers to pretty much get on with it so that we are able to depart on time, and get this: English followed by Hindi. While it does not matter much to me, I quite like how global airlines go above & beyond to make flights to India as close to home as possible - even if one is far away from India itself! I was excited to see what else was in store, but much less so for the rather old IFE - hey, at least it worked so that helped loads!!
GREAT, SOMEONE'S KICKING MY SEAT…
Well, if the old & laggard IFE wasn’t going to make this a long flight - the child behind me was certainly going to. Throw in two parents who unfortunately couldn’t give much of a damn about the child in 37K this kid (Priyansh, as the parents would always call them by) was a lose cannon. And almost literally so - this one would take the liberty to kick the back of my seat. Every 15 or 20 seconds. If I was lucky, I was blessed with a gap of a few minutes. I knew this would last for the rest of the flight, so I had to turn around and tell the parents to control it. It really is pretty annoying not only when they wouldn’t stop, but when they aren’t stopped whatsoever. After take off I’d make the move I decided. However, like I said this kid was not stoppable so I had to wait for the long taxi proceeded by a bit of a delay.
And a delay it was: the Captain announced someone’s luggage had to be offloaded because of them missing the flight. I’m sure it is a lot of fun doing that on a fully loaded B747. It would be a rather smooth 8hr05min flight across Europe & Central Asia to reach New Delhi. Everything was looking really good. Barring the tiny delay. And the IFE. And the kid in 37K. But yeah, just fine otherwise.
SAFETY DEMO…OR SO I THOUGHT?
Director’s Cut - the British Airways safety video that I love did not work on these old IFE systems. Not once, not twice but rather not thrice did this work in the span of 15 minutes that the crew tried to fire it up. One would’ve expected them to figure out after the 2nd misfire that this was not going to work out, but oh well. The crew had to resort to a manual safety demonstration. But even that wasn’t allowed by G-CIVT apparently - the PA system decided it was vacation time - another few minutes before everyone could hear the announcements - oh dear, tough day for the purser it would seem!
We pushed back with a delay of just 23 minutes, not too bad at all. 4 of the Rolls Royce RB211 engines were fired up which brought a smile to my face till Priyansh continued with their kicking act - which instantly took the smile away. Grrr.
A long taxi to 27R - we passed by most (if not all?) terminals at LHR - at the Queen’s T2 were a few Air India B787s - kinda insane to think that AI have quite the strong operation out of LHR to Mumbai, Newark, Ahmedabad and 2 to New Delhi.
Waited in line for a little bit - there’s only so much that an airport handling nearly 80 million people a year can do with just the 2 runways. Lined up on 27R - take off roll @ 1208 hours that was followed by 45 seconds of increasing airspeed before we lifted off at 1209 hours, 49 minutes late. We soon banked for quite some time as South-Easterly course was set for New Delhi. Some lovely shadows as I was sitting on the left:
LOST BUT WON: NO MORE KICKS!
I decided to pounce not too long in our climb: I turned back and told the folks that the little one was kinda getting on my nerves a little bit. A rather bland ‘Priyansh, stop it.’ was followed by some more kicking against the back of the seat. However, as the seatbelt signs went off this situation was neutralized as the mother took the window seat - and that was the end of my problems for the rest of the flight. Props to the folks for keeping the one under control, even though I was under the (wrong) impression that nothing was being done.
Usual announcements happened - unsurprisingly there was no WiFi on this flight :) I decided to sleep as best as possible with some pretty hard alcohol - time to play the waiting game.
These long flights are a great time to catch up on movies I really did not want to spend money on, or I just did not have the time to. Stephen King’s IT was….it, this time around. 12 minutes in to the flight the touchscreen on this one was not too bad - but with not great pixels, resolution, brightness and sound. I would like to blame E-Box, Oryx and ICE for not appreciating air travel from the early 2000s. That being said the content was exactly the same as onboard the refurbished B747s, giving passengers plenty of opportunities to kill time on the long hauls. And on top of that I was very impressed & happy to see information being set to Hindi knowing that this was a flight to India. Small steps like this go a long way!
Some half an hour in to the flight it was time for drinks. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to go hard in to sleep: vodka, ginger ale & water would do till lunch. There were some bouts of heavy turbulence over Germany as we went in to the first hour of this flight.
The crew announced options for lunch on this flight: they would be chicken casserole or Indian okra curry. I am almost always a sucker for protein in the form of meat on flights, in addition to having a pretty strange dislike for okra - but I guess that’s just me. Crew took their time for service and that was just fine with me - more time killed here = a later wake up after sleep. Win win, maybe?
THE CREW - AND LUNCH!
I noticed the crew during the flight and suffice to say they were certainly more enthusiastic than the folks on BA116 - smiles all over, making conversations, helping out passengers - and this goes for both the Indian & English flight crew. They’d do a funny little chicken dance asking for more chicken from back in the galley. A later conversation with a family friend while in New Delhi that this was a mode communication back in 2004 as well! What did worry me though is that we were going through the chicken at a pretty vast pace. Hmm - what if they ran out for me?! I had to wait.
And so it did happen. They ran out of chicken by the time they were at my row. ‘I will go back to the galley and see what I have, but please take your tray in the mean time’.
Alrighty then - the tray had a very interesting spicy+tangy chickpea salad, and some very Indian condiments such as lime pickle, raita (curd based taste enhancer), and mouth freshener in addition to water, bread & butter, and milk for the tea/coffee.
The penny dropped. It was bad news. ‘I am sorry but we have run out of the chicken casserole today’ said the flight attendant. ‘However, I am able to give you chicken in red pepper sauce that is actually gluten free.’ ‘Oh absolutely’, I said taking the warm box from them. Gluten or not, it don't matter to me.
The Indian salad - I am still at a loss as to what it was but my my was it amazing. Likewise the main course - chicken in the sauce went very well, and the remains of the sauce was consumed with the broccoli. The rice was pretty nice, as well.
The strange salad - I loved it!
Main course - not bad at all!
For dessert was a pre-packaged little pot of pudding. Packed neatly and pretty cutely to be honest - the pudding was not too bad, again despite the fact that it was processed.
Nearing quarter way in to the flight I finished my vodka + ginger ale. I managed to sneak out for my bathroom break + cabin walk.
The crew were still in the middle of service so I felt bad but if the seat mates were heading out the opportunity had to be taken. Once again a fairly basic & neatly kept restroom - the crew did not have time to clean it up since they were in the midst of service. Acceptable.
I kept myself awake in to the third hour - the golden hour - of this flight. Nothing better than watching mother nature do her thing…better than IT at least which I had now established to be a pretty appalling movie. The vodka kicked in really well and it was time for a well deserved nap.
Mouth freshener - typical for India bound flights!
And boy was it effective! In to the fifth hour (and more), there was less than 3 hours to go onboard the Queen. Everything seemed very calm & collected onboard as the crew checked on passengers. I decided it was time for Pirates Of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No tales. 2 hours would do watching this.
Seat pocket content:
LATE NIGHT SNACK - OR A FULL DINNER?
Nothing much happened in between - and as we slowly rolled in to the seventh hour it was time for a snack. I was quite excited to see what their offering was. KLM - had a tray with salad & dessert - but the mains turned out to be just a vegetarian wrap. Lufthansa - just a wrap, but one could select between chicken & vegetarian.
British Airways on the other hand: a full meal with option & bread! Well by full I mean there was no dessert or salad - but the chicken hot pot that was served was absolutely delightful. Suffice to say taking in the good and bad of both flights so far I was really enjoying my time on British Airways. I had a tea to go with it.
NEARING THE END OF THE FLIGHT -
Slowly going in from Pakistani in to Indian airspace a very easterly course was set - away from New Delhi. 250km out, 40 minutes to go we had an update from up front - 17C was welcoming us in Delhi, and a bit of a delayed arrival if any thing. Not too much though. The crew sprung in to action with both English & Hindi announcements as the cabin was secure for arrival in to New Delhi.
Lined up with Runway 28 which might explain the slightly easterly course, the gentle giant was brought down back on terra ferma smoothly at 0139 hours, exactly 8 hours in flight. A slightly long taxi to gate 9 followed and so were the arrival announcements. The very first (rather first 20) plane(s) I saw were…IndiGO A320s overnighting by Terminal 1D. An impressive show of dominance by India’s largest airline.
Coming in hot!
A slightly delayed Lufthansa A350-900 to Munich was being prepared for departure - however I realized that BA was the last of 3 EUB3 arrivals (KLM B747 followed by LH A380, and then the BA B747), in addition to the presumably full flights from AMS on 9W, ZRH on LX, KWI on KU. Immigration was going to be fun…a good thing I had plenty of time before my next flight.
Docked @ gate 9, engines out at 0149 hours resulting in a total delay of 34 minutes I took my time to disembark.
I thanked the crew for the flight & headed down to the long lines over at immigration.
Long lines at immigration:
I was at baggage claim by 0244 hours - 55 minutes since docking at the gate. Yup, it was that slow. Oh well - this meant that my next flight was going to be all the more closer.
With customs cleared I wasted no time in heading up to departures for the flight. It was 0322 hours as I headed up to departures. All well & good.
Thanks to AbV for this screen grab!
London - LHR
New Delhi - DEL
Two very different flights with British Airways making an overall rating very difficult. Where one flight did well well, the other lacked: BA116’s wifi & entertainment, and the seat was really good while here the food & cabin crew made the difference. The food especially was the biggest surprise however, and in a good way. A little late, but not too much harm done. I do not think these planes are going to be refurbished any time soon - which means we’re going to be stuck with a 2000 flying experience with the IFE. Little things that airlines do make the flight so much more Indian goes a long way - it was nice to see BA take this a step ahead.
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