My very first long-haul trip ever was in 1994, in the gap year before I started university. I flew from Zürich to Hong Kong in Economy Class aboard a Cathay Pacific B 747-400. Back in those days Cathay Pacific had a flight that operated from Manchester via Zürich to Hong Kong. Later on the service was downgraded to an A 340 until eventually it was abandoned altogether. I had always wanted to go to Hong Kong and I suspect much of that had to do with my fascination for aviation and the wish to do the famous checkerboard approach at least once in my life.
At the time I was mightily impressed by Cathay Pacific – even in Economy Class – and ever since I took that flight, I’ve been meaning to try them again. And now, finally, 18 years later I’m sitting in the lounge at Basel airport waiting to catch a flight to London with British Airways, from where I will continue my journey via Hong Kong to Bangkok with Cathay Pacific Airways.
So you see, this trip report is long overdue!
Date: 26. November 2012
To: London Heathrow
Airline: British Airways
Aircraft: A 319
Cabin Class: Business Class
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
It’s always the same routine really. I leave my flat at 10h00 and head across the square to the railway station to purchase some Thai Baht. And then I catch the bus line 50, which stops right outside the main entrance of the station. It’s a dark and dreary day today. It started raining yesterday evening and it hasn’t stopped since.
Eventually the bus leaves for the airport with only a handful of passengers on it. Most of them get off again at one of the four stops before we reach the airport. The journey takes about 15 minutes to complete.
The airport is quiet too. There are a few flights leaving but even so, the place is deserted. I walk up to the BA check-in counter, where I am attended to immediately. The check-in agent informs me that she can only issue my boarding pass for the first leg and that I will have to contact Cathay Pacific once I get to Heathrow to get the boarding passes for my onward connections.
Security does not take long to complete and once I am airside, I head straight for the lounge. And I must say, I am rather pleasantly surprised. This is the first time I’ve been to the lounge since Swiss International Air Lines gave it up and Swissport turned it into the Skyview lounge. It’s a vast improvement me thinks. First of all the wifi no longer requires a password, I also think the connection is faster. And secondly they’ve improved the food offerings in the lounge, which now also include a hot buffet. So I help myself to some scrambled eggs, sausage and beans, get myself a coffee and settle down by the window.
When the time comes, I leave the lounge and head through passport control to reach my gate in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. From the number of people waiting at the gate I would say there are probably only about seventy to eighty people on the flight.
There are seven rows of Business class, which makes for a total of 28 seats. It turns out that luck is on my side and by the looks of it I am the only passenger with a whole row of seats to himself.
Until BMI was taken over by BA, both carriers used to operate to Basel with the A 319. As a result, since the take over Basel has seen a mix of ex-BMI and BA birds operating to Heathrow. But this is clearly a BA bird. The aircraft looks quite old-fashioned and still has the old style overhead bins and panels. But apart from that it looks quite as though BA has taken good care of the aircraft.
Take-off is towards the south and the city of Basel. Once we’re airborne we bank right to the west towards France and then a short while later we bank right again to point us in the direction of Paris and the Channel beyond.
As soon as the seatbelt sign goes off, the cabin crew begin their service with the distribution of warm towels. It’s a nice touch but they’re not scented. In fact they have rather a strange smell of chemicals and chlorine about them.
And after that the meal is served.
The meal consists of a light salad served with three slices of chorizo sausage with a soft goat’s cheese on a bed of green leaves, beetroot and grilled bell peppers. It’s not bad actually. With that there is a selection of warm buns from the breadbasket. I am also delighted to see that BA has finally decided to introduce dessert. And what an excellent job they make of it: it’s a triple layered chocolate mouse made by the infamous do&co and it is absolutely divine! The top layer is a really thick and rich dark chocolate fondant. Beneath that is a layer of velvety milk chocolate mouse and under that is another layer with a darker chocolate with small, crunchy chunks of chocolate in it.
To drink I have a diet coke – I know, how imaginative – and then later on a cup of coffee.
We reach the greater London area way too early and as a result we’re sent into a holding pattern for about 10 minutes.
Eventually we land at Heathrow a full 20 minutes ahead of schedule. But by the time the previous aircraft vacates our gate and we are able to disembark, we’re bang on time again.
I leave you in this first part with a few pictures I took in Heathrow as we taxied in. In the next part I fly to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific on the mighty triple seven.