The flight from JFK to LHR was to be the first leg of a 4 continent, several month long journey. I had just finished recovering from a tonsillecotmy, and I was raring to go. Sometimes airline arrangements go so smoothly and the travel is so seamless that you wonder how anyone could ever gripe about air travel. This was not to be one of those experiences. As a semi-crazy person, I have a thing about flying in window seats. It’s OCD and nuts, but whatever. As a result, I paid British Airways $125, to select a seat on the upper deck of their 747-400 months ago. I selected a seat and everything was fine.
Then, my travel plans changed, and I moved the ticket to a date several months later. I understood that changing my flight would invalidate my seat assignment, so once the new ticket was issued and my new flight was confirmed, I phoned BA and spoke to an agent. She told me over and over again that I was confirmed in seat 64A (an upper deck window, one of the better Club World seats). I know I should have logged into my Executive Club account and double checked, but like a fool, I chose to take a BA employee at their word. On a whim, a few days before departure, I thought I would just make sure the seat selection had been confirmed. When I logged in, what did I find? Seat 13E, a lower deck middle seat, and one of the worst Club World seats. What’s more, there were no window seats in business class available at all. I don’t just mean on the upper deck on the that flight, I mean there were no club world window seats on any deck on any BA flight for the entire day.
I considered a MFU from J to F with miles…no MFU availability on any BA flight that day. I scanned on BA.com and found 2 open seats for award tickets in F on the day before my flight (the day I was calling). I called BA and tried to move my flight up a day then MFU to F, but was told BA can’t process mileage upgrades on day of travel. It seems rather silly to me to list the seats as available for award redemption when there is no way to actually award them and they instead go out empty but that’s BA’s call I suppose.
Throughout this all, the most vexing part was the utter indifference of the BA employees at the U.S. call center. Not once did they apologize for the mistake, the fact that I was being deprived of a service I had paid for ($125 for advance seat selection) and that I was now inconvenienced by way of their error. Instead, they took a hostile attitude, as if it were my fault that their agent had not done her job. After consulting the braintrust of FlyerTalk, I called BA again with my Executive Club number, reservation # and the date I had changed my flight.
In earlier calls, the BA supervisors had told me that their computer didn’t show I had paid for seat selection or alternatively didn’t show that I had been assigned 64A, thus I must be mistaken. I noted that their computers also think you’re flying on an award ticket and award 0 miles when you use miles to upgrade a paid business ticket to F with mileage and that they are hardly infallible. So, armed with the knowledge that BA logs all calls, I told them to pull the tape of my call, so that they could hear their agent tell me that seat 64A was confirmed, everything was set and I needn’t worry. At this point, they gave up trying to pin the blame on me and informed me that BA reserves the right to kick anyone out of their seat if they choose to do so, and all they have to do is refund me the $125. I tried to explain how ridiculous this policy sounded, who would want to pay for advance seat selection if it was in practice nothing more than a $125 bond with a chance of being converted into a seat, but got nowhere.
Resigned to my fate, I logged in to see BA had inexplicably moved me from 13E to 13F, the middle seat next door, so I switched to 14F, because I was told it was marginally better. That night I came home to check my seat selection again, and found BA had switched my “confirmed” seat in 14F to 20G, an aisle. Finally, the day of the flight, I checked the seat map every hour or so and lo and behold, seat 14K opened up. I grabbed it, “confirmed” my check-in again and hoped BA wouldn’t decide to kick me back to a middle seat just to be cruel.
I got to the airport early just to make sure there were no further foul ups. The check-in agent for Club World was probably the most courteous BA employee I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. I got my boarding pass with 14K on it (an added measure of certainty) and found out that the F cabin was totally full, so there would be no possibility to upgrade with miles or cash.
As this was a 10:55PM departure (BA 182), it was dubbed “sleeper service,” which basically means, they offer a limited menu on-board and the FA’s then retire to the galley and presumably everyone goes to bed. As such, dinner was served in the Galleries lounge at JFK.
There was a large selection of both hot and cold food in the dining area, and I have to say it’s a pretty good way to deal with the short New York to London flight. The food on the ground was better than most anything BA has ever served me aloft, even in First, and this lets you get right to bed once on board so you have a shot at getting some sleep before landing. One complaint though, in both the Galleries lounge and the JFK Concorde Room, BA’s wireless internet is so painfully slow that it is almost unusable. I don’t know if it’s a JFK issue or a BA issue, but something should be done.
Boarding was a few minutes late, but once down the jetway, I was ready for my first Club World flight. I tossed my hanging bag into the overhead and tried to keep my other carry-on near my feet, hoping the FA wouldn’t catch me and make me stow it during take-off. As we were on an active taxiway, the FA came through and told me I needed to put my other bag in the overhead. I expected her to take the bag and stow it as I believe it is against FAA regulations for passengers to be up and moving around the cabin while the plane is in motion on an active taxi way, but her words were very clear “you need to stow that in the overhead during takeoff,” after which she walked away. So, up the bag went, FAA be damned.
Once we were airborne I skimmed through the movie choices. I was mildly interested in seeing Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but with an announced flight time of only 5hours and 55minutes, it seemed like a better idea to try and get some sleep. I switched on the airshow, declined the meal service, took a bottle of water and put the seat back into bed mode.
Having grown accustomed to the mattress pad and duvet in BA first, the bare seat and ratty blanket given to Club World passengers was not a welcome change. However, the CW seats offer excellent privacy, more so even than the new F suites.
Although I was worried flying backwards would make me nauseous (all BA CW window seats on the 744 face backwards), it is true what they say. Other than take-off and landing you totally forget you are facing the back. I managed a few hours of spotty sleep and arrived feeling less than exhausted. On the way off the plane, I peeked into the nose and saw that it was the old first cabin. I was glad I hadn’t wasted the miles to MFU on a short night flight with limited service and the old first cabin and a bit shocked old F had gone out on JFK-LHR as this is a prestige route for BA.