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TonyHancock

Diary of a DYKWIA - March 2012 Part Two

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by , 1st April 2012 at 10:15 PM (1013 Views)
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April is here already so it is time to reflect on the second half of March and look ahead to a very hectic month of travel.

March was an unusual month for me, I might even call it odd, it saw two milestones reached. The first, QF P1 and more importantly the second - the retention of VA/DJ Platinum for 2012/2013. I still need another 35 SC’s to be a genuine platinum in my mind though.

My return from Brazil was to be swiftly followed by a trip to Blighty......and not flying oneworld. The VA/DJ August Status match had left me in need of platinum retention and the quickest route to this was via a VA J codeshare to LHR. (560 SC’s - I already had 325 SC’s from my domestic travels)

I have been oneworld through and through for a long time so the switch to VA....EY really, was not an easy move to make. I was, at best, a little uncertain as what to expect. As a creature of habit 12E was “my” seat on the QF 380’s servicing the kangaroo route. I knew what to expect, F lounge chips to start with.

The check in process was the first deviation from the norm. “Do you have any cabin luggage” the lady at the J check in desk asked. “Errr yes, just these” I replied pointing to my two carry on items. The cold sweats began, I knew I was well over the EY weight limits for carry on.......but thankfully this did not pose a problem. (Phew!) Quite why I needed tags for my carry on I’ll never know, but at least I didn’t have to check luggage.

I never thought I would miss the QF MEL F lounge, but I did. I sit in the same seat and order the same club sandwich...with F lounge chips, and enjoy a glass or two of shiraz. I know what to expect and where to find things. Th NZ “Koru” lounge was OK, but a bit dingy, and the food was, not the QF F lounge food. It was also pretty full of what I thought were passengers on the EY flight to AUH. I later discovered that the majority of passengers were on the NZ flight scheduled for that evening. Who’d have thought it Air NZ passengers in the Air NZ lounge!!

Armed only with haydensydney’s EY trip report, and a couple of visits to Seatguru I struggled through seat selection. I had picked 11A on the MEL-AUH leg and 6C on the AUH-LHR leg. I was unable to get an A or K seat on the latter. The actual selection had to be done with a phone call. This needs fixing. I rather hijacked hahdensydney’s thread and my report of the MEL-AUH-LHR journey can be found here (Etihad J (SYD-LHR-SYD)).

At GBP85 I think I got a half decent deal at the Hilton LHR T4. Thanks to the VA/DJ WP offer Diamond status gave me an upgrade to the Exec floor, Exec lounge access, free internet and a free breakfast. The 13:30 arrival and 5 minute walk, along a covered walkway, to the Hilton was one of the more pleasant arrivals into LHR I have experienced.

I skipped breakfast at the Hilton the next day in favour of sampling the BA F lounge fayre at T5. I had not flown through T5 before so this was to be a new experience. (Yes I know I don’t buy into the whole flying malarkey but I figured I would like to try T5 once in my life!!) My destination was MJV in Spain and I could have achieved this with an Easyjet sojourn from some godforsaken “other” London airport - STN or LTN. I didn’t fancy Easyjet in the same way I really don’t fancy Jetstar. OK flying Easyjet would have saved me about four hours but what the hell.

LHR T5 proved a little baffling at first. I wandered around the departure level trying to find the F check in desks. If only I had looked at the signs! There seemed, probably unsurprisingly, a big emphasis on electronic check in and bag drop. The F check in area, over to the right when you enter the departure level, was a wondrous place of tranquility. Real check in staff who were wonderfully polite and helpful!!!!

The BA F lounge was impressive, although quite why there is a life size statue of a horse inside I have no idea. The oldy worldy theme is a bit naff but I fitted in with that! Overall I think it does rival the QF F lounges in MEL & SYD for pleasant surrounds.

My journey was to begin with BA to MAD. I was flying in Euro Traveller the fancy BA name for Y. Priority boarding was executed to perfection, please take note QF, and I headed back towards 9C. The J section, as has been reported here, is Y with the middle seat empty. Thus with 9B empty I felt I had “won”!!!! This was a two hour flight and the “refreshment” service consisted of a bag of chips and a drink. QF and VA/DJ don’t do a bad job in Australia.

MAD appeared to have been designed by architects who, how can I put it, mmmm, yes, had no idea what the function of an airports is. Signage was poor and at every opportunity bottlenecks have been created to ensure passengers are frustrated and bamboozled. The BA/IB Goya lounge, if you can find it, is OK. The food offerings aren’t bad which is more that can be said for the internet offering - non existent.

It had been over 12 years since I had flown on a Canadair RJ200....which is probably why I had not included it in the list of awful aircraft to be avoided. My mind had simply blocked it from my memory. This one had a J class....”how’s that work then” I thought. Well the seats were the same as Y but it appeared those in “J” got better food and drink. Not really liking this European “J” stuff, not that I had the opportunity to sample it. The RJ200 was just as cramped and noisy as I remember it.

Europcar delivered yet again. 100% success rate on delivering the car I had booked. So much for the 1 car upgrade. Anyway I didn’t mind the Golf. After a 20 minute battle with the sat nav, and that was just to change the language to English. (My incompetence knows no bounds, and shouting at it in English seemed to have little effect.) I pride myself on my sense of direction, I consider it well honed after many years of international swanning about, so I chose to ignore the sat nav once I entered the destined resort. That was a pity really because had I chosen to follow the sat nav I wouldn’t have spent half an hour driving aimlessly around the villas and spas that made up the complex.

The three day conference went well, or at least I think it did, the 770 Euro bar bill suggested things went well but my memory is a touch hazy.

The return journey was almost a mirror of the journey out, The lounge at MAD T4S was significantly better than the one at T4 but MAD remained poorly signed cesspit.... and still no free internet!

MMMM the trend continued I got exactly the car type I booked from Europcar. May have to think about going back to AVIS!

A night at the Hilton in Watford (Not Bad) was followed by a night at the Hilton in Milton Keynes. This was terrible. It was akin to being in the David Lynch movie Eraserhead, the constant noise, it sounded like a pump, made sleep intermittent at best. The hotel management also appeared to have created it’s own interpretation of rewards for status members.........that were at a lower level that the published benefits. Made sure I cancelled future stay there!

A shorter board meeting than expected meant I was able to maximise my time in the Hilton LHR T4’s Exec lounge and drink at least GBP70 of alcohol to make up for the GBP172 per night room rate. So it was with a somewhat fuzzy head I set out to check in for my return journey to MEL. My seat had changed on my LHR-MEL journey, so 2 out of 4 seats had changed from my initial selection for the whole journey. (Something that rarely happens with QF) Admittedly the seat selection had gone from 11K to 11A but it still concerns me.

Check in was pleasant enough. I had a bit of a shock when I turned a corner to see the ScaryTeam lounge, but fortunately a flight of stairs to the right took me to the EY combined F & J lounge. As lounges go this was pretty damned fine. I put it up there with the QF F lounges in SYD and MEL. Excellent service, Spa treatments available and, whilst I didn’t partake the dining looked particularly good.

I like amenity kits, actually that is not true, I like the bags amenity kits come in. In recent years these have become poorer and poorer. The current QF F offering is my favourite, the J offering not so much. I probably just need to clarify my interest here. I use the bags to store my various computer bits and pieces and electrical cables. EY does not provide an amenity “kit” as such. One gets to choose amenities from a tray. Pretty poor really.

The return journey was made better by the purchase of the necessary cables to hook up my iPad to the IFE. (I already had such cables but left them in my office in Australia so had to buy a new set in the UK.) The food was very good and in my opinion much better than the Fred Perry, or whatever his name is, offerings in QF J.

I have already committed to another EY flight later in the year and I have to say it is not bad. If you can snag an A or K seat in J it offers more privacy that the QF J seats, but be aware if you are over 6 feet tall it might be a bit cramped for you.

With April now upon us my travel plans just got a little more hectic. NTL, PVG, SYD, AKL, and LHR all beckon this month so I will be sure to bore you with the details!

If you missed part three of Diary of a DYKWIA and are particularly masochistic you can read it here.

Updated 1st April 2012 at 10:28 PM by TonyHancock

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Trip Reports , Travel Insights , Recommended Strategies , General Rambling

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