The conference in Kuwait has gone well and our host, the Kuwaiti Directorate General of Civil Aviation has been very generous and hospitable. But now it is time for me to move on. I am not quite going home yet, but near enough. Today I am flying to Amsterdam via London’s Heathrow airport on British Airways, to attend a meeting in Amsterdam. On this occasion, British Airways offered the best schedule for my needs, mainly because they are one of the few airlines that depart Kuwait for Europe during the daylight hours of the morning and not at some ungodly hour, as for example KLM and Lufthansa do. Admittedly, the opportunity to get another flight on the mighty Boeing B 747-400 helped too.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time: Roughly 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
My flight leaves Kuwait at 08h45, so I have arranged to have a car collect me at the Hilton at 06h00, which should be enough time to make the journey to the airport. The traffic in Kuwait can be rather bad, despite the very good and wide roads.
Location: Check-in area 4 on the first floor.
Facilities: Online and web check-in are available.
Counters: There is one counter for First Class passengers, two counters for Business Class passengers and four counters for Economy Class.
The driver drops me off in front of check-in area 4, which apparently is where British Airways checks in, although from what I can tell there is no signage to enlighten you to the fact. The departure concourse is only accessible to passengers, although by the looks of it there is nobody checking to make sure that this policy is enforced.
The two Business Class counters are occupied when I arrive, so I am ushered to one of the free Economy Class counters instead. The agent labels my bags with a priority and short connection tag and then I am on my way.
Behind check-in the bad signage continues. There is a dedicated security check for First and Business Class passengers, but it takes me a moment to locate where the entrance is. I am not sure what the point of this check is, given that the alarm goes off as I pass through the gate and nobody in particular seems to care. In fact, the guy doing the check is not even looking at the screen as my hand luggage goes through. I am hoping there will be a more thorough check before the gate.
Behind security is immigration and then, finally I am airside.
Location: As you exit from immigration, turn left.
Type of Lounge: Pearl contractor lounge.
Facilities: Hot and cold buffet, toilets are available but not shower.
Internet: Free wifi is provided throughout the terminal.
The lounge is nothing special. It is large enough, but other than that the décor is rather bland and boring. The seats are covered is fake leather. There are a few waiters in the lounge, so you can either help yourself from the buffet or have them serve you at your table. Incidentally, the food in the lounge is absolutely atrocious.
Priority Boarding: Yes.
About an hour before departure I have had enough of the boring lounge, and so I decide to head to the gate and hopefully take some pictures of the aircraft carrying me away to London. Kuwait airport has closed gates and I am happy to see that there is a proper security check at the entrance to the gate. The staff are polite but meticulous. There is a separate queue for Business Class and First Class passengers to enter the lounge.
It is only just gone eight in the morning when boarding for the flight already starts. I am still collecting my stuff after the security check. So I attempt to take a few decent pictures of the aircraft, which is not an easy task given the general grubbiness of the windows. And then I step aboard the mighty Boeing 747-400 and head for my seat on the upper deck.
Configuration: 2 + 2 on the upper deck, 2 + 4 + 2 on the main deck, there are 72 seats in total in Business Class.
Seat: 63J, aisle seat. The British Airways cabin configuration in Business Class has seats arranged in pairs, with the aisle seats on the upper deck facing forward and the window seats facing towards the rear. There is a privacy screen which can be raised after take-off, so you will not have to look at your seat companion’s face for the duration of the flight.
If you are seated by the window, keep in mind that you will have to climb over the person sitting on the aisle seat, which can be a tad awkward given that the space is really tight and you have to be quite agile to get a leg over. The nice thing about 63J, is that it is an emergency exit, which provides extra leg space and means you will not have a complete stranger clambering over you during the flight.
To be honest, the BA seat has never truly convinced me. Obviously the idea with this seat had been to recreate the feeling of being at home in your own comfortable armchair. And if that was the objective, then I think it is safe to say it was met. However, the seat is fairly low above the ground and there are quite a few elderly passengers on my flight who struggle getting in and out of the seat. It is also a bit inconvenient for eating in the seat.
Pitch: 72 inches.
Width: 20 inches.
Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand, touch screen.
Facilities: A 110 ac power outlet is available at every seat.
There are two cabin crew serving the upper deck. The service begins with a choice of still water or orange juice.
After take-off, the crew distribute the menus, vanity kits and a flimsy scented hot towel. The vanity kit contains the usual creams by Elemis. There are also eyeshades, socks, a pen and a toothbrush with Colgate toothpaste.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Choice: There are two choices for the starter and four choices for the main course.
Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal: Breakfast.
- Strawberry and mango smoothie.
- Seasonal fruit.
- Bircher Müsli with strawberries, kiwi and walnuts.
- Selection from the breadbasket.
- Omelette, turkey bacon, Swiss cheese, vegetables, Rösti, and oven roasted tomato.
The meal is delivered at a good tempo. There is no rush, but there are no long waits in between the courses either. Once everything has been cleared away, the lights go out and passengers are expected to pretend it is night time, despite the fact that the flight left Kuwait just before nine in the morning.
About fifty minutes out of Heathrow, the second service begins, which is a kind of slimmed down afternoon tea.
Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal: Snack.
- Turkey pastrami with Dijon mustard and gherkin sandwich.
- Gherkin and roasted vegetables sandwich with cream cheese.
- A hot leek and potato twist.
- Trio of mango cheesecake, cherry Bakewell and chocolate and black cherry roulade.
TRANSFER IN HEATHROW
Eventually the mighty Jumbo dips its nose and we start on our descent into Heathrow. We are running twenty minutes early, and no delays are foreseen for our arrival. We disembark at the C satellite of Terminal 5.
Transferring in Heathrow can be rather cumbersome. From the C satellite I head downstairs into the basement to catch the automated people mover to satellite B and the terminal. At the terminal you have to go through a passport check and then through security again. The process is very efficient. But with all the passengers currently using Terminal 5, it will still take you about fifteen minutes to get processed.
Once I am through security, I check the departure screen, only to find that my flight to Amsterdam will be departing from the B satellite. Which means I shall have to go down into the basement again to catch another train taking me back in the direction which I originally came from.
Location: One floor up from the departures concourse, the stairs are near the Harrods store.
Type of Lounge: British Airways Galleries lounge.
Facilities: Hot and cold buffet with a large selection of food items, bar, toilets and showers, workstations, newspapers.
Internet: Wifi is available, the password is indicated on the screens.
CONNECTION TO AMSTERDAM
I only have a short stay in the lounge before my flight shows up on the departure screen as ‘boarding’. It is going to be a full flight today. There are five rows of Business Class with a total of twenty seats, all of which are occupied.
I will spare you all the details of the flight to Amsterdam, and will limit myself to the meal service.
Hot towel before the meal: Yes.
Delivery: Trolley service.
Type of meal: Afternoon tea.
- Selection of finger sandwiches: egg, cheddar and chicken.
- A selection of plain scones and lemon and date scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.
- Orange and hazelnut cake.
I just love BA’s European afternoon tea service, honestly. It is just so refined, especially when you are enjoying it above the clouds. And I must say, I really am impressed that Ba will even offer such a service, given that the flight time today is only 45 minutes.
Eventually we land at 16h39 and my long journey comes to an end, at least for the time being.
British Airways is an airline I tend to forget about. I suspect a lot of that has to do with their hub at Heathrow airport. Heathrow is always fun and impressive to see, but the number of passengers moving through Terminal 5 is just too much. The facility is crowded, and moving from the main concourse to the satellites takes seemingly forever.
But apart from all that, the on board experience was rather nice. The food on both flights was very good and the crews were very professional. The only thing I think I really will never get used to, is the Business Class seat.