This report will mark the beginning of my new relationship with BA as my preferred frequent flyer program. Some of you know that I have decided to leave AA after being a loyal customer for quite some time. Part of the reason for my switch has been the constant deterioration of the AA product both in terms of service and frequent flyer program. It was disheartening to see how AA has transformed itself from a legacy carrier with a focus on quality to this new entity with a LCC mentality right after the merger with US. I looked forward to flying BA for the first time and give it a try, at least for 1 year to test the waters. One thing that annoys the hell out of me with BA is that you cannot pre-reserve seats if you don't have status. What is even more irritating is that part of my ticket was booked in J and I couldn't even reserve for that long haul segment either, just the short CDG-LHR hop. My schedule is as follows:
A few months ago I planned this trip to Paris with my mother and sister. They would fly on the AF nonstop while I took a less direct route via LHR. I love this last flight of the day that BA has out of SFO because it would allow me to fly right after work without having to request the day off and give me an early start to my vacation.
I live very close to the airport and took the local bus from my place. The trip lasted about 10 min. and soon I arrived at the BA counter with a little less than 2 hrs. before dept. The area was amazingly empty and I was checked in by an efficient agent who just asked me if I had luggage to check. She did not bothered to even look at the carry on or weight it, which made for an encouraging start with BA.
My boarding cards.
I went through security and presented my boarding pass. As a boarding pass collector I hate it when the agent disfigures it by writing all over. Security was the usual stripping of shoes and belts with everything out of your pockets. Why can't this process be more dignified as in other countries?
Once inside I went to my assigned gate and surprisingly it was not too crowded for being a full flight according to the agents who said that it was overbooked by about 15 people and were requesting volunteers to depart on a later flight the next day. I tried to inquire about an upgrade to Y+ using Avios or money, but was not successful.
My plane at the gate.
There were about 4 agents working at the gate and boarding commenced in an orderly fashion with seniors, family with children, premium passengers and elite members boarding. The Y cabin was called by rows from back to front.
There were 2 male FA's welcoming passengers onboard.
I proceeded all the way to the last row where a FA was positioned and placed my bags in the overhead bin. There was a metal box in front of my seat that restricted my leg room.
Once everyone settled we took off 23 min. behind schedule. In the seat pockets there were inflight and duty free magazines, a safety card and a package with headphones and toothbrush. Eye masks and socks were available on request according to the note on the toothbrush. Interesting that on BA a toothbrush set is offered while on AF only an eye mask with a cold napkin is given.
The seat in front titled when reclined, making it nearly impossible to stow the tray table once it was released.
There were 4 WC's in the back in addition to a secured door to the crew rest area. The WC that was right behind my seat has a flaw in its design - everytime the door opens the light hits me on the side. One thing that I noticed with BA is that sanitizing wipes are installed inside all WC's which is a nice feature.
There is also ample supply of toilet papers.
That is one big CALL button.
The water pressure on BA WC's is a bit strong and if you are not careful you can get splattered all over.
The FA made an announcement welcoming everyone onboard and you hardly heard any announcements from the cockpit. Dinner started after we reached cruising altitude with a beverage/cocktail service. Sadly nothing was offered along with the drinks and not even the napkin was branded.
Having read horrible reviews and seen pictures about the sad breakfast offered on these long hauls, I decided to order a special Hindu meal in hopes of getting something salty for the 2nd meal. Unfortunately I was disappointed regardless of my precautionary measures.
However, the dinner was nice and the main dish was satisfying. There was salad with a lemon vinaigrette that was sweet and sour in taste, a pack of savory mix and I sprinkled on top of the rice to add some texture and a dessert that seemed like sweet paneer (strained yogurt cheese).
After the dinner service FA's walked around with metal pots in their hands offering coffee or tea.
The image quality of the screen was not the best resolution and I had some trouble understanding what was said on the audio. Film choices were somewhat limited. In that sense I liked AF and KL entertainment programs better.
After the dinner service I took a stroll to the galley and this was the set up with some snacks.
At around 2 hrs. before arrival we encountered strong turbulence for about 30 minutes. Once it subsided breakfast was served. The cabin was still dark and the FA opened the windows from the rear doors and eventually turned on the cabin lights subtly to wake up the cabin.
Disappointing special meal breakfast.
I closed the box after a quick look and politely asked for the regular offer which was equally disappointing but marginally better with a croissant. Even the U.S. carriers can offer a big hot croissant instead of a wrapped one. Why can't BA do better?
Arrival in LHR.
One positive point was the polite crew and at one point when I approached one for some logo items and she couldn't find anything, she returned towards the end of the trip and offered me a BA sack that she found.
Overall I have mixed feelings about BA so far. Catering is not a strong point and if flying in Y - TK, KL and AF provides better meals on the same route. Another negative issue is the inability to secure pre-reserved seats for free for those without status and charging for this service which no other airline follows. On a positive note, I found the staff to be accommodating, professional and polite - both on the ground and in the air. Perhaps once I reach elite status with BA I shall see things in a different light.
San Francisco - SFO
London - LHR
Overall I have mixed feelings about BA so far. Catering is not a strong point and if flying in Y - TK, KL and AF provide better meals on the same route. Another negative issue is the inability to secure pre-reserved seats for free for those without status and charging for this service which no other airline follows. On a positive note, I found the staff to be accommodating, professional and polite - both on the ground and in the air. Perhaps once I reach elite status with BA I shall see things in a different light.
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