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To London & Back - QF J v BA CW with a twist

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Tooner

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A brief trip report of my recent journey from SYD – LHR (via SIN) (QF) and return LHR to HKG (BA), then HKG to SYD (QF) at the end of February, returning mid-March.

This was my first trip in J for some years, as my most recent journeys have been in discount whY with Mrs Tooner and the Junior Tooners with all of us occupying the bassinet rows.

This trip was a business trip though, the result of some work requirements in our London office, and 2 weeks was decided as the duration. As I missed out on visiting the HK office about a year ago (due to lost luggage; another story), a stopover in HK was added – duration then 2.5 weeks.

While our domestic policy is Y for every trip (domestic = all of Australia, New Zealand and Trans-Tasman), for international travel, J is the order of the day (although D is preferred and sought wherever possible).

To the planning: A mid-week departure was selected (maximise availability of D class business fares), however I wanted to be back in Sydney on a Saturday morning, so that meant the overnight flight from HKG – no D available so J it was.

The flight from LHR – HKG was a small problem, as the lone QF flight leaves LHR around midday, getting in at around 7am (or at least early morning). The Tooners flew this flight a year ago and found lobbing in HK early in the morning with a long day ahead was hard to take, and didn’t assist our jet-lag at all. I wanted an afternoon or evening flight to put me in HK later in the day – luckily BA have them, so the 8:25 pm flight to HK, getting in late afternoon was booked.

So, the final itinerary was
QF31 SYD – SIN – LHR (D)
2 weeks London
BA31 LHR – HKG (J)
1 night + 1 Day Hong Kong
QF128 HKG – SYD (J)

Overall I felt it would be a good opportunity to see if I can sleep in the QF J slopey flat beds, versus the BA CW Flat Flat beds. I had experience the CW bed before, but never up against the QF beds, which were not fitted in any aircraft when I last flew J on QF.

Seat allocation prior to the flight seemed a little odd, given my preference was loaded, and normally you are allocated a seat. Given 24K was allocated to me for the HKG – SYD leg, it did seem strange. I hadn’t registered for BA at that stage, so didn’t expect to see a seat allocated, but I had no allocated seat on the SYD – LHR leg. Checkmytrip showed nothing as well. A quick call to QFF resulted in an assurance that I was up for one of the front seats on main or upper deck, but they wouldn’t be allocated until the day.

In the meantime, following the tips in this forum I registered for ba.com, and then with seatguru open, selected 62K, one of the better seats in the upper deck according to seatguru. At this point I have to say, for all the crap sent BA’s way over customer service, the ability to choose your own seat prior to an international flight is simply gold!

A couple of days before my flight, the final itinerary arrives, with nothing unusual except a seat number for the flight to London – aarrggh! 26E. No, not the middle seat! :evil: I will need to get there early!

I didn't consider putting in upgrade requests to F - I was OK with J, and in any event, I have a special meal, so wouldn't be able to experience the full F service with a last minute upgrade. I'll come back to this later!:rolleyes:

This leads me to my strategy for the trip. The Tooners will be dropping me at T1, around 2.5 hours before the flight. After check-in and farewells, head to F lounge for G & T, maybe shower, and final calls / emails before boarding flight. I had my suit-pack with me (given this little pleasure will disappear this weekend, I thought I’d take the opportunity), so resolved to change out of my suit at the lounge, and rest it until London.

On board, I had the old reliable trakky dacks for sleeping, plus change of clothes for later. My Creative Zen + laptop had vision to keep me entertained if the AVOD wasn’t working, and I had plenty of work to do. Sleep not in the frame on this leg.

A quick shower in the Singapore QF F lounge was the mission in Singapore, then back to the plane and attempt to sleep for as long as possible between SIN and LHR.

In London, around 6:45 am head for the BA Arrivals lounge for shower (and pressed trousers), before meeting the car and driver to head into the City and the apartment by the Thames, then to work for a full day.

That was the plan. It didn’t work out that way! :shock: :eek:

More later.
 

Tooner

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The first flight was QF31 to SIN.

Managed to get out of work with enough time to pick up my daughter from pre-school, and then the domestic taxi with Mrs Tooner and the little Tooners to the airport. Dropped off with my Daughter and bags out the front, then off to the F check-in.

Less than 5 minutes later, leaving the check-in area sans passport, then called back with "you might need this Sir". Doh!

No room in the little lounge area to sit and wait for the rest of the family, so went and waited about 5 minutes for my wife and son to emerge. Gotta love the benefits of WP!.

After a quick snack for the kids and a stare at some planes, farewells were said and off to Customs.

A bit of a scrum, but not too bad, then put all the luggage through the scanners and off to the F lounge. Breezed in to the lounge, down the escalators to find the lounge not very busy at all, despite the flights today appearing reasonably full. But then, it is a Tuesday!

The plan was to use the Arrival lounge in LHR at the other end, so off with the suit, on with the casual gear and ready to go.

Eventually we were called and off down the left to the gate, again breeze through the helpful F, J & WP line and straight on.

Now, when my e-ticket came through the seat was listed as 26E. Middle of the row of 3 J seats at the back! Luckily I got a B seat at check-in, so I was thankful for that. Got into the plane, headed to 26B and sat down and started to look at the seat itself. Although the pod in front is big, its not too large but still quite imposing! Anyway, just starting to get settled when confusion! Someone thinks I'm in their seat! Can't be. Oh S*&^! Seat 23B!:oops:

Quickly, with minimal fuss (or to be more accurate, in 2-3 trips, slowly dodging the oncoming passengers heading to whY (not impressed either!)), move to 23B, which is of course, a bulkhead seat (which the nice lady at QFF had assured me I was likely to get).

After getting over the embarrassment, I have to say the bulkhead seats feel a little better than the others, but a real comparison would have to wait until the return trip from HK.

Take-off was relatively on time (for which I should count myself fortunate according to recent posts), and we settled in for the service. Watch adjusted, the AVOD worked perfectly, and managed to watch Mullholland Drive (weird but compelling movie, and totally Lynch) in sections over the trip, after sampling every episode of Top Gear they had.

Amenities kits are now topical, but I didn't know it at the time. My memory of the previous one was that it was more substantial (I used it as my travelling kit for a while until the zip broke, then went back to an old Royal Brunei J kit). The 3 fold one had some reasonable stuff in it, but overall less than whelming.

Special Meals were not a problem (nice chicken, which I had on all Qantas sectors), though the menu and food I saw all looked good. G & T I was given after take-off nearly flattened me for the rest of the sector.

I wasn't planning to sleep on this sector, preferring to save it for the long sector to LHR (thinking this would work better), but tiredness and the stress of getting things together to leave got the better of me, and I dozed for a few hours. The nice lady to my left was fast asleep at this point, although we had a nice chat just after take-off. She was leaving the plane in SIN, so I would gain a new friend after that.

Woke in time for refreshment etc. Although I didn't sleep much, the seat was quite comfortable, but I didn't get the full experience with blankets etc, so couldn't comment on sleepability. That would have to wait for the next sector.

I felt like something the cat dragged in, so as soon as we were off (soon after the lucky folk in F), headed to the F lounge in SIN. The last time I was here was with family Tooner, and we were politely shunted to the J lounge (which was pretty good). Once in to the F lounge I could see why we were turned away! Nice, quiet space, nice view out the glass, and absolutely wonderful showers. After the full body shower I felt vaguely human. Contemplated getting into the trakkie daks for the next sector, but thought better of it. Went out, checked the food (a bit thin on the ground, but it was midnight), grabbed a drink and read for 10 minutes before we were called back.

Slight hold up as everything was scanned again and passports inspected, but the F/J/WP queue certainly made it quick, and before long, was back in 23B saying hello to the older gent in A. Fighting back the desire to sleep, the trip was about to change.:mrgreen:

More soon, when the desire to not study overtakes me again!:rolleyes:
 
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Tooner

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I awoke from my sleep/daze to see our new CSD before us saying "Gentlemen, I have a problem ... I need to move you..."

Thinks, Oh no, I don't really want to give up my nice front row seat.

"... in there (points to the hallowed ground through the curtain), seats 4E/F thanks".

After giving a nano-second's thought, the elderly gent and I agree and hurriedly shift our things to the rear of the F cabin, finding some space in the cramped overhead lockers, settling down to a quick OJ. Not enough time to explore the surroundings really before the door shuts, push back and off down the runway towards LHR.

We are both offered the menu (which looks fantastic), and its a case of, Oh Bxxxxr - I had special meals back there. No problem, says the FA, we'll just bring them forward. And so it was - after a lovely champagne, I was treated to J SPML on F setting (still a plastic knife though!).

As I'd missed out on the handouts, I was introduced for the first time to the salubrious Black F PJs, and the now obsolete amenity pack. Forget the PJs, the amenity pack was miles better than the J one. Better razor, better lip cream etc (I still use the Oroton pack, razor and shaving cream now).

As dinner began to wind down, noticed most other PAX winding down, and beds being made. 4E had gone to sleep pretty well straight away, so off to the spacious toilet (more like a suite next to the J ones, with a real sink as well!), change into the ludicrous PJs and back to the now fully made up bed.

Plugs in, Eyeshade on, into the bed, got comfortable and zzzzzzz.
 

littl_flier

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I'm loving this Tooner. Is there any chance we'll have an update before October though? ;) Talk about keep us in suspense. :p
 

Tooner

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Sorry everone, I don't get a lot of time to write this unfortunately:(

I also hope to finish it soon as some details are leaking from my memory (especially the menu etc - except for the last one - details coming ;)
 

Tooner

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Woke from zzzz-land after 5-6 hours of sleep. Bliss:D Given the last time i woke from sleep on the long haul from SIN - LHR was with Mrs Tooner and the little Tooners, I guarantee that time I didn't have more than an hour!

Feeling very refreshed, my special was provided to me, followed up by an additional serve of goat's milk yoghurt and honey (I still remember some things:rolleyes: ) and some fruit. I hadn't partaken of the lolly and sweet tray in the galley when passing to and from the bathroom (can't really call it a loo), however tempting they looked!

On descent into LHR, the gent next to me woke up, and we chatted. Turned out he was big in water resources (going to a conference in UK) and knew a couple of mates in the same game. I learned a little more about the recycled water debate than I probably wanted to know, but it was good to chat.

The funny thing was, I had expected to do lots of work (using in seat power) or watch a few movies. Net result, no work, 1 movie, and a lot of sleep.

Consequently, got to LHR feeling quite refreshed, despite the long journey. Off the plane reasonably quickly (well, compared to when we were in row 47;) ) and found we wer close to immigration (by LHR standards). Ended up about 4 or 5th through the blue lane, and out to luggage collection.

Strategy was at this stage to get luggage, head to BA Arrival lounge for shower and see if I could get breakfast. We landed around 6:00, and got to luggage at around 6:15. I was being picked up around 7:30am, and I couldn't keep the driver waiting as it would cost me lots of Stg. So I waited..............until 6:47. LHR strikes again!

Got the stuff, through the green zone, hung a right and looked for the BA lounge. Eventually found it hidden to the right of the luggage place, down a corridor. Waltzed in, hopefully confident that I could get in. Notice the sign said F, CW & QF Platinum FF's welcome! Man at the desk was very helpful, luggage (ex suit pack) stored for a while, and off to find a shower.

[Incidentally, from SYD - LHR (via SIN), I had a large suit pack (with 3 suits) and a reasonable messenger bag the whole time - not a peep from anyone]

Into shower cubicle, put the trousers into the little box in the door to be pressed, and hung out the non-iron shirt to breath. Hopped in the shower - what a corker! Proper shower head, and body jets, and Molton & Brown soaps. Lovely. After shower and shave, felt refreshed and starting getting dressed. Checked the wooden box, as I was being paged by the front desk - no pants! Oh Oh. Hang on, what's that sound? Yep, there they are - looking great despite the journey. Got ready, headed out, and got collected. Then started the 2 hour journey into London, to the apartment I was staying in, and then to work!

Enough of the F class shenanigans, the next leg home would be a chance to compare BA CW from LHR - HKG and then QF J from HKG to SYD in quick succession. But then, as was common with a lot on this trip, it didn't happen like that. But this time, it was my own doing.:cool:
 

Tooner

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Once in London, and then at work, I eventually considered the return trip. As a result of the tips in this forum, I registered with BA.com so I could select my own seat on the forthcoming flight to HKG. While I had thought it might be nice to try the BA Flounge at T4, this was definitely a T1 flight, so I figured I'd get by!

I checked out my seat - not appealing, and according to seatguru, there were better seats elsewhere. After some searching of top and bottom decks in CW, 62K was selected, being a rear facing seat (I quite like these despite the drift forward on take-off), and quite private. With this seat selected I was happy, and looking forward to the flight.

I was on BA31, the late evening flight to HKG, so I worked most of the day, checked-in online, collected my things, took a car to Paddington, on the Heathrow Express, and lobbed at Terminal 1. Not having previously used the terminal for anything other than local or European flights, I wasn't quite sure where to go, so looked for the CW/F signs. They seemed to lead me out of the Terminal :shock: Followed the signs to Zone R, and discovered an oasis of calm amongst the ugly check-in queues outside. A friendly lady assisted with tagging bags, didn't even glance at the bag I had as my solitary carry on (containing my giant Dell Inspiron 6400 and not a lot more!) and printed a boarding pass. I commented on how handy the online check-in was, and she noted "well that's what our frequent flyers want ..." Refreshing :rolleyes:

As this trip was done before the liquids rules commenced in Oz, this was the only leg of the trip the restrictions applied to. Faced with the task of sorting out my toiletries etc (and the 3 potential toiletries bags I already had!) I....checked the lot into my baggage, and forgot all about it. After all, I'd get a flash BA CW pack on board ;)

So, with no liquids to worry about, I thought I could allow about an hour for screening. Once checked in, I followed the departures signs, but not back into the scrum outside. No, CW/F departures in Terminal 1 have a dedicated screening point. In 5 minutes flat, I was in duty free land! After some purchases here there and everywhere, it was off to the BA lounge and see how I went with the legendary BA dragons.

They were....very nice, and sent me straight to the Flounge.

After a quick look around, I was extremely disappointed. The Sydney temporary F lounge was disappointing too, but at least it was temporary. This was full, with pretty useless seating, cramped and dud food. Having said that, the champagne lounge looked good, and the restaurant looked Ok, but staff were just about absent at 8pm at night with a full lounge. Overall, I rated it a dud. I'm sure the spa would be fantastic, but after the shock of the dud lounge, I couldn't be bothered.

After a short time, the flight was called, and off I went to the far reaches of Terminal 1 to head into the CW experience.
 

Tooner

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[Sorry for the delay in the final instalments - Exams now finished, back to normal]

I have to say that even though BA has a new CW, I couldn't find much to complain about in "old" CW. Even though the previous leg had been in QF F, I found it comfortable, although the lack of VOD was annoying.

I had chosen my seat carefully, and was not disappointed. My champers was cold and bubbly, a particularly fine special meal was delivered, meanwhile watching Casino Royale on the adequate screen. And no, I didn't notice the excision of the human headline, nor the masking of the tail on the plane:D

Sleep was pretty easy given the late departure, and the breakfast was also adequate (a little more elaborate than what QF provides in specials to be honest). I was happy with the seat too - plenty of privacy, and the only odd thing was the time my glass of wine was passed to be over the top of 62J! Fine for me - not so good for her!

Nevertheless, a pleasant trip, and pretty much as I remembered CW from 4 years ago.

Landing in HK was only a little late, and once through the queue (quaint leftover of colonial past?;)) headed to the train station to hop on the train. Off at Kowloon, and a slight delay when collecting my pre-paid ticket at the other end to get out of the station (not very slick, and certainly not as good as Heathrow Express), and via the shuttle to the Sheraton.

Given it was by then early evening, after catching up on emails, I had some dinner, went for a quick walk, watched TV and headed for bed. Before heading to bed I checked out my booking on the QF website - had my upgrade come through for the 9pm flight the next night? No sign of it - thought I better check in the morning, but my hopes were not high - looked like I would get to compare CW with QF J.

After a pleasant sleep, I looked up my booking again. First thing I saw, points balance down 25,000 points! Excellent!. After a big breakfast (amazing breakfast buffet, catering for a bewildering array of breakfast tastes), I dropped my bags with the concierge, and headed to the MRT station and into work.

About 4:30pm, headed back to the Sheraton, collected the bags and caught a taxi back to Kowloon station. I could have taken the shuttle, but the stop is out the exit and halfway up the street outside - not a good look with some luggage!

Once at the station, I considered checking in there and then, but for some reason decided to wait until the airport itself. It is nice to pass the huddled masses in Economy and even Business and check-in at the F counter!

Duly checked in, the staff made it quite clear to me where the QF/BA lounge is. I thanked them politely, headed to the security screening, and instead of turning right as instructed, turned left and walked....and walked... and walked, until I reached the CX lounge.

Very polite lady on the counter was not the least surprised, welcomed me, and off I went. My mission: check out one of the Cabanas I'd heard about. There were 2 of us heading in that direction, but the attendant was nowhere to be seen. She eventually appeared behind us, and asked me if I wanted a cabana? After a yes, towel in hand I headed into the door.

I'd have to say, this was amazing - not just an amazing shower, a fabulous bath, lovely day bed, and lounge, plus just about anything else you'd need. After a quick shower and feeling refreshed, I had a little rest on the daybed, enjoying the trickling water and pleasant atmosphere!

Eventually headed out and had a drink, and finished off some leftover food I had with me, before eventually we were called for the flight.

Headed to the gate, but this time I actually had an F boarding pass in hand, and took the opportunity to again pass the crowd and waltz straight on, down the ramp and turned left to find my seat at 3K. With less luggage this time, settling in took a lot less time, and I had plenty of time to enjoy my champers, and settle back for the trip home.:)
 

simongr

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That feeling of the F upgrade coming through is just amazing isnt it :)

I must check out these Cabanas next week on my way out of HKG...
 

Shano

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There are no doubt many posts here about the cabanas but they are well worth a visit.

Going through HKG last weekend though, the toilets in the cabanas weren't flushing. Luckily I discovered this before I used it :oops:

When I entered the Wing on Saturday afternoon, the receptionist also asked if I preferred the CX lounges over the QF lounge as I handed over my BP and WP card. Hmm, not much of a comparison really....
 

Tooner

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Shano said:
When I entered the Wing on Saturday afternoon, the receptionist also asked if I preferred the CX lounges over the QF lounge as I handed over my BP and WP card. Hmm, not much of a comparison really....
I tend to agree - while the QF/BA lounge and F lounge are quite convinient, and in the case of the F lounge quiet (except when Mr & Mrs Tooner and the 2 little Tooners were in there in April last year:rolleyes: ), the CX lounge kills it for facilities, service and the cabanas!
 

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So once on board and settled, I quickly took up the offer of the dinky Red and Black F PJs. The friendly FA suggested the XL was a bit big, but I took it anyway in order to be really comfy.

Although the upgrade came through that morning, my special meals were loaded, and the meal quoted to me compared well with the normal menu provided. I have to say, one reason I hadn't bothered to try to upgrade any previous flights was the problem of getting the special meal. But then I had got special meals in WLG once with a normal international upgrade, so it was good to see it can be done. OT but I got a domestic J special out of Melbourne once when an ODU 45 mins before boarding stretched to 1hr 45 after boarding, perhaps allowing enough time to load it.

After a little work on the plugged in laptop, a quick read of my Monocle magazine (first issue), dinner and a couple of drinks, it was time to use the cavernous bathroom (well, by the normal aircraft standards), while my mattress was unfurled etc. Then off to sleep. Fantastic sleep too - once again, the true flat bed and matress made it very comfortable, and the ear plugs and shades also helped. I actually woke around 3am Sydney time and read some more and listened to music. While passing the galley on the way to the loo I noticed the passenger list sitting on the trolley and snuck a look. If anyone had any doubts about whether the FAs can tell if we have upgraded, the only indication was the "late notice SPML" next to my name - nothing else. Also noticed all but one of us was WP!
 

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Sorry for the abrupt end to the last post - flight to ADL was called so had to shut down! This is my first chance since then to finish the story.

After waking early to discover the AVOD wasn't working, then losing interest, I started writing my report on the trip for work using the seat power. After a while I noticed the battery indicator on the laptop dropping:shock:. Checked the cord to discover I had pulled it out some time ago:oops::shock:

After a little longer I decided it was time to change out of the most attractive PJs and back into real clothes. After returning to my seat one of the very friendly FAs came by and asked if I was keeping them - I said that she was right, they were a little big so no. she headed to the cupboard and delivered 2 packs of them. I tried to refuse, but she insisted, saying they're relaly useful for cleaning the car! I didn't realise at the time that they were on their way out!

Time for breakfast, and for the second time in a QF flight, my special breakfast was steamed fish and veggies:shock::mad::confused: I accepted the offer of yoghurt with honey and fruit salad, and some slightly odd rice cakes (savoury flavour), plus the wonderful smoothies and coffee and I was done.

After a while, everything was packed away, and we duly landed at SYD. It is nice to be one of the first out of the plane, and not have to wait a long time to even get out of the seat! No stop at the duty free - all bought on board!

Through customs with only the odd bits of food and visit to the country to list, collected bags, headed to the customs queue - directed to the counters, showed my cleaned boots and on my way. Into the cab queue and then home. I wouldn't say I felt as refreshed as I did when I arrived at LHR, but it was good to see the family (big painted sign waiting for me when I got home!) and to not be travelling. I've always found jet-lag worse on return to Oz rather than going anywhere. I always thought the going in holiday v returning mood was to blame, but copped it here too. So much so that during the lecture on Monday night (after arriving back Saturday morning), I was nodding off the whole time. After a week or so, all was fine.
 

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Conclusions

As I rarely fly offshore for work (mostly family holidays), this was a unique experience for me. Some things noted:

  • QF FAs are mostly welcoming and friendly in premium cabins (and usually the same in whY as well on long-haul).
  • QF F is a great experience, but it is likely I would never pay hard$ for it - paying funny money (points) is a yes, but not every time.
  • Op-ups are a huge rush:D
  • Special Meals are much more flexible than QF makes out, though of course they are not guaranteed.
  • QF F was starting to look a little tatty and needed a spruice up
  • BA CW was comfortable, and I think the upgrade will make it even more acceptable - I love travelling backwards!
  • QF J was comfortable, but I have no idea whether full-on sleep is easy in the old seats, as I didn't have to sleep in them in the end! Thankfully the new seats will be flat.
  • QF F Lounge (old) in SYD was fine, but temporary and looked it. I'd like to try the new one.
  • BA F lounge T1 at LHR was not much chop, and very crowded. The bar looked good, but that was it.
  • CX F lounge was excellent - it would be an interesting comparison with the new QF F lounge.
  • BA Arrivals lounge was awesome, and I would have liked to spend enough time there to have breakfast, but had to leave.
  • Researching long-haul flights on this forum is essential - I would never have heard of op-ups, upgrade procedure, arrivals lounges, seat allocation on ba.com, nor many other great tips without it, so to everyone a big thanks:D
So there it is - enjoy:mrgreen:
 

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straitman said:
We had to wait a while however it was well and truely worth it. :cool: :D ;)
I must apologise for the delay in getting the whole story down - at every turn work, study or family holidays got in the way.

I must also update my travel too!
 

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Tooner said:
I must apologise for the delay in getting the whole story down - at every turn work, study or family holidays got in the way.

I must also update my travel too!
I know the feeling. Still trying to complete the report from my trip to the US in September :oops:

Thanks for your TR.
 

simongr

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Thanks Tooner for the TR - this must have been a little while ago as the PJs were the old black/red rather the new dirt coloured? Interestingly not once have I had a bed made up by the FAs - I normally fall asleep shortly after dinner watching TV on the laptop so the normal service is to take away the glass of wine to stop me spilling it ;)
 
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