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Hello and welcome to this short 2-part series of flights taking us from the US West Coast to France for baby's first Christmas ??
Living in northern San Diego county (aka "North County"), it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to get to SAN and 1.5-2 hours to get to LAX. Since moving to the West Coast last year, we've often found ourselves flying out of LAX as prices can be significantly lower than SAN due to the much larger market and the increased options on competing carriers that this entails.
For our dates of travel, Premium Economy from LAX was pricing out at about half the price of Premium Economy from SAN. To add to the appeal, the flight from LAX was operated by an A380, whereas BA run older non-retrofitted 747s from SAN. Flying out of LAX was therefore a no-brainer.
Tickets were easily bought directly though BA.com where infants-in-lap can be booked online, unlike some airlines–including oneworld partner American–where lap infants must be booked separately over the phone.
Another bit of important information for parents travelling with infants–British Airways do not offer baby meals (BBML) for pre-order. However, they do carry a limited number of baby food jars on-board long-haul flights.
I was able to confirm this, with the cabin crew on-board; however, we did not need it, as we'd brought out own.
As we were travelling with an infant, we were able to book seats together in the bulkhead, which are by far the best seats in World Traveller Plus on the A380.
Seats 61A/K and 60D/F are designated "Bassinet seats" and blocked for assignment until check-in for anyone who isn't travelling with an infant. From my experience, even with oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status, bassinet seats are blocked for assignment until check-in.
Viewing a random BA A380 W seat map will show the bassinet seats in rows 60 and 61 blocked out.
As you can see the BA A380 Premium Economy cabin is huge with 55 seats. It's one of the largest Premium Economy cabins around after the ANA A380 (76 seats) and newly refurbished Qantas A380s (60 seats), I believe.
With the Holiday rush, traffic to LAX was a little slow that day, though not nearly as bad as previous days, where it was taking upwards of an hour to reach the terminals from the Century Boulevard exit off the 405…over an hour to do about 2 miles ?
Luckily I was prepared for back-ups thanks to @FlyLAXstats on Twitter. There are hourly updates on traffic conditions with drive times from the major freeway interchanges, Parking conditions with number of open spots in each parking garage, and average wait times as TSA checkpoints. I definitely recommend giving @FlyLAXstats a follow if you fly out of LAX regularly.
I will say that the actual terminal access road itself has been a lot less congested since the LAWA's controversial moving of rideshares (Uber, Lyft, etc) to the new "LAX-It" offsite location.
That being said, it was still pretty busy. Ah Holiday travel…never quite a relaxing experience.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal–or TBIT for short–was bustling with the evening rush of transatlantic and transpacific departures.
Luckily there was no wait at the Business class/Priority counter, to which we had access with our oneworld status. Note that World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) tickets do not come with Priority check-in, security, or boarding. WTP tickets do benefit from a more generous baggage allowance, however.
Though we'd always been light packers in the past, the combination of Travelling with a baby over the Christmas Holiday meant we made good use of the extra baggage allowance. The BA agent was super nice and efficient and had us checked in in no time despite 7 checked pieces (Yes, I know how embarrassing). Granted two of the pieces were the baby's pushchair (stroller) and car-seat.
The Fiji Airways ticket counters next to us were celebrating the launch of A350 service.
The TSA Pre-check lanes were completely empty…a very nice surprise! We chatted with one of the TSA agents who said that the queues were literally stretching out of the terminal the previous day. Lucky us we avoided that mess!
Once airside we hung a right and headed directly to the oneworld lounge.
The LAX oneworld lounge is run by Qantas but serves all oneworld carriers.
The lounge is expansive, much bigger than the Korean Air/SkyTeam lounge in the same Terminal. I believe the Star Alliance lounge is even larger, and has tarmac views, though I've never been.
No tarmac views from the oneworld lounge, unfortunately, but there are lots of cosy areas and it was pleasantly uncrowded that day.
We found a nice quiet corner to settle in for a bit.
At 11 months old, the baby was just beginning to walk around, so it was nice to find a quiet area where he could run around and not bother other.
Had a quick bit to eat. Didn't get a chance to take photos of the buffet, but it was pretty decent with several hot options including curry–options I've often seen in BA lounges.
Walking to the buffet area to grab some water, I discovered there was a children's playroom. It wasn't obvious from the outside as there is a curtain separating it from the rest of the lounge.
It was a large area and even quieter than the regular lounge, with only one other family in the playroom.
There are comfortable sofas for those who don't want to sit on the floor playing with blocks.
Of course, the play area is super messy and probably covered in germs…
But as a parent of a young child, I really appreciate a space like this where my kid can enjoy playing and running around without my having to worry too much. The closed off open space makes it easy to keep an eye on kids.
Nothing wrong with a glass of bubbly as the children play ?
The playroom looks over the landside check-in area.
The boarding gate was pretty close to the lounge so we only left a few minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time.
We said goodbye to the lounge Christmas Kangaroo
And took the lift down to the main level.
The gate area is huge–definitely well suited for an A380 with almost 500 seats.
The gate agents were wearing festive Holiday gear. One of them was the awesome agent from the ticket counter. As soon as she saw us, she grabbed us and told us we'd be in the first group to board.
Our boarding passes were scanned and we were invited to wait in a small priority waiting area just behind the gate podiums.
A few minutes later, boarding began and we were invited to head up the escalators where we found the jet bridge to the upper deck.
Tonight we'll be flying G-XLEC, the third A380 (of 12), delivered to BA in September 2013.
Passing through the Club World cabin
The World Traveller Plus cabin feels huge to me since Premium Economy cabins on most aircraft types small with only 3-4 rows.
One of the best features of the A380 upper deck is the storage bins along the side walls. It makes the already spacious cabin feel even more spacious as it gives extra shoulder room and is very convenient.
In non-bulkhead rows, seat pitch is a standard 38 inches.
Pre-placed on the seats were a pillow and blanket, as well as a small wash bag/amenity kit and noise cancelling headphones.
The legroom in the bulkhead is great. At 1.78m (5'10") my feet barely reached the wall with my legs stretched out.
Looking across the aisle give another view of the additional room in the first row.
This is where the baby bassinet will go later.
Each seat in Premium Economy has a universal power outlet.
I love basically everything about the A380 except the windows which are too thick and make you feed like you're looking out of a tunnel.
Oh look, it's raining in LA…a rare occurrence.
I will say, travelling with a baby isn't easy, but I love the extra time that pre-boarding affords, because anyone who's travelled with younger kids knows, you need it.
As we were putting away out bags and organising ourselves, a member of the cabin crew greeted us with a baby seat belt and life-jacket as is customary on European carriers–though not on US carriers in my experience, at least not on domestic flights.
And of course, being an 11-month-old and doing what 11-month-olds do…the first thing he does is try to eat the seat belt, which I proceeded to hide in the side storage bin…so convenient!
The cabin slowly began filling up.
Shortly after settling in, one of the lovely cabin crew offered welcome drinks. Choices were water or juice. In my experience, sparkling wine is also offered, but only on departures from London.
Menus were distributed a short time later by another very friendly member of the cabin crew who introduced herself, asked if we needed anything for the baby and told us not to hesitate to use the call button should we need anything. She also told us one of the cabin crew will bring the baby bassinet just as soon as we're off the ground. What a fantastic welcome on board. I couldn't have asked for a better welcome had I been in First!
Let's have a look at the menu, which features 3 hot options for dinner and 2 hot options for breakfast. Not bad.
A decent selection of cocktails, spirits, beer and wine.
The IFE on BA A380s is available gate-to-gate, which is nice. Moana kept my son entertained as boarding continued.
The flight had originally been delayed about 20 minutes due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft; however, we were expected to arrive in London on time thanks to favourable winds. No big deal!
Boarding was surprisingly fast and we were all set to depart close to on time…
But then reasons…
First, the ground crew had trouble closing one of the cargo doors, which required a call to maintenance. We were kept well informed by the flight deck who made several announcements on progress. The issue should be quickly resolved and we'll be on our way. With almost 2 hours to make our connection to Paris at LHR, we would still be ok. Again, no big deal!
But then more reasons…
So after a short 20 minutes or so, the issue with the bin door was indeed resolved, yay! But then the flight deck informed us that the ground staff were having trouble connecting the push-back tractor to the aircraft.
This then took more time to resolve than the cargo door issue. I'm not sure if the actual issue was with the tractor or the tow bar to which it connects, but it was a good 30 minutes before we pushed back from the gate.
When all was said and done, we ended up departing over an hour late. The connection in London would be tight, but should be manageable.
And we're off! Finally…
Minutes after takeoff, one of the cabin crew came by to let us know they'd be coming to set up the baby's cot shortly. And sure enough, after a few minutes, a colleague set up the bassinet for us.
Her timing was impeccable as the baby had fallen asleep during takeoff.
He's big for an 11-month-old, but was able to get a good night's sleep in the cot. He ended up sleeping almost 9 hours, waking only around breakfast time. I can't stress enough how happy I was that he was able to sleep basically the whole flight. What a difference the cot makes!
Unfortunately, I don't think he'll be able to fit in the cot much longer as the weight limit is 27.5 lbs (12.5 kg) and he was 23 lbs (10.5 kg) at the time. Note that BA have child seats available for older infants under 2 who no longer fit in the carrycot. According to BA, the seat is adjustable to multiple recline positions.
Again, I have to say I really appreciate these cots and child seats on long-hauls as they make a huge difference in comfort for both baby and parents. With the baby sleeping so well, we were able to get some solid sleep after dinner.
The first service began with pre-dinner drinks and snack about an hour into the flight. I went for sparkling wine, of which our lovely cabin crew offered 2 bottles each ?
I usually like to have the airshow on during meals.
Still almost 9 hours to go.
Plenty of time for another glass.
As mentioned earlier, Premium Economy passengers are provided with a set of noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy the in-flight entertainment, along with a basic amenity kit containing toothbrush/toothpaste, eye mask, and socks.
The BA "High Life" IFE content is expansive, with something for every taste, young and old.
Starter - Caesar Salad
Main - Roasted Chicken Suprême, haricots verts, crispy pancetta, maple sweet potato mousseline, rosemary jus
Dessert - Toffee, apple and pecan slice
Overall, it was a tasty meal. In terms of quality, it was definitely an upgrade from Economy class and was served in china. The main was similar to what would be served in Club World, while the rest was closer to Economy–a good balance for this intermediate cabin.
After the meal, we were able to get a solid 6-7 hours of sleep. ZZzzz Heaven zzzZZ
Having flown BA Premium Economy many times, as well as Premium Economy on other carriers, I would say that compared to AA, AF, and VS, the BA World Traveller Plus seats are the best for sleeping. The recline is noticeably deeper than other Premium Economy products I've tried, and the leg/calf-rests in the first row come up enough to get a very comfortable cradle position.
As the cabin lights came on for breakfast, I cracked a window to find a cold low-lit winter day. Being more used to shorter East Coast transatlantic flights, I would think this is dawn breaking, but nope…it's sunset!
As the baby had woken up just before breakfast, we were going to have to take turns eating while the other held the baby. Cabin crew were very understanding and accommodating–they made sure we each got our first choice of breakfast and kept the 2nd breakfast warm while the first ate.
Traditional English Breakfast with pork sausage, back bacon, mushrooms, rosti potatoes, over-roasted vine-on cherry tomatoes.
Always appreciate a hot breakfast. I found this English breakfast to be of similar quality to one I've had in Club Europe before.
We began our descent shortly after breakfast trays were collected. So odd to be arriving in Europe as the sun is setting!
As is typical for arrivals into Heathrow, we were put in a holding pattern for a bit, so in the end we didn't make up any of the delay in flight and arrived over an hour late.
A very nice flight in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) on the British Airways A380. The absolutely fantastic cabin crew truly made it special. Travelling with a baby can be stressful and tiring, but the lovely cabin crew working the WTP cabin went out of their way to make it a pleasant experience. Being able to put the baby to sleep in the cot was also a big help in enhancing the experience.
IFE content is very good, as always with BA, and 11 of 12 A380s now have WiFi. Free WiFi would make for a perfect 10.
Meals are a nice upgrade from Economy, but of course not on the level of Club World.
The lounge is quite nice and expansive, though it would be even nicer with tarmac views. I really appreciated that there was a children's play area.