I really wanted a better view than this.

Back to Johannesburg, with a stop in London

  • Back to Johannesburg with a stop in London
  • Sightseeing in Joburg and our trip home

I had made my first trip ever to the African continent and wanted to go back, particularly with a r/t price of just over $1,000; that is a good price for more than 21,000 Elite Qualifying Miles and 42,000 Redeemable miles.

This trip would be different from my previous trips: there would not be any flights on American Airlines, the whole trip would be on British Airways. Thanks to their membership in the oneworld alliance, we would earn just as many miles as if we had been on American all the way.

The trip would start with BA’s new non-stop service from Austin to London on the 787 Dreamliner. Then, an Airbus A-380 to Johannesburg, a 747-400 back to London, then the Dreamliner back to Austin. We scheduled the trip just like our last one, leaving Austin on Friday evening, returning on Tuesday evening, with a one-night stay in Johannesburg.

I was most excited about the flights on the Dreamliner. I had seen it two years ago when it made its first trip to DFW and had wanted to fly one ever since. The Austin-London route is the first major international route from Austin: the only other international flights have been to Mexico, this is the first of what I hope will be many trans-Atlantic routes to serve Austin.

My friend and I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, cleared security, spend some time in the Admirals Club, and then made our way to our departure gate.

I looked forward to again seeing the beautiful 787 up-close, but was out of luck.

I really wanted a better view than this.

I really wanted a better view than this.

The alignment of the terminal and gate to the plane did not provide much of a view. But, if that was the worst thing to happen to me, I could deal with it.

We soon boarded the plane for our 9+ hour flight.

Bravo to BA. EVen in coach they profided us with a blanket, pillow, headphones, and a small amenity kit.

Bravo to BA. Even in coach they provided us with a blanket, pillow, headphones, and a small amenity kit.

BA's inflight entertainment was outstanding!

BA’s inflight entertainment (IFE) options were outstanding!

The ultrasharp resolution on the IFE monitor helped provide a clear view of where we were. In this case, still at the gate. :-)

The ultra-sharp resolution on the IFE monitor helped provide a clear view of where we were. In this case, still at the gate. :-)

We departed Austin on time at 8 p.m.

I was happy to see that the plane was completely full: the more passengers fly this route, the greater the chance of Austin getting additional overseas flights.

The 787 is a large jet, but took off like an almost-empty MD-80. Some aircraft lumber down the runway, slowly gaining speed before they take off. Not the Dreamliner, it raced down the runway and we were airborne much sooner than I expected.

Boeing did a wonderful job with this aircraft. (Disclaimer: I own stock in Boeing.) Boeing builds the plane, and then it is up to the airline to decide how the interior will look. Will it hold 150 passengers or 180? Will the seats be 7 across or 9? Will there be much legroom?

I’m sorry to say that BA chose to cram as many seats into the plane as they possibly could. The seats were narrow, with virtually no legroom.

My friend sat across the aisle from me and even with the seat in front of him in the up position, he had no legroom at all.

My friend sat across the aisle from me and even with the seat in front of him in the up position, he had no legroom at all.

Padding? The seats had very little: I ended up sitting on my pillow to make it more comfortable. I looked forward to seeing Boeing’s innovative LED lighting system that changes color to match the time of day, but I was out of luck: that lighting was only in the World Traveller Plus section in the front of the plane, we appeared to have standard lighting in the coach section.

Enough of the disappointments. The flight was one of the smoothest I have ever been on; the flight attendant said it was because the 787 flies at 40,000 feet rather than the standard 30,000-35,000 feet and is thus able to avoid a lot of turbulence. I found that to be true on both of our trans-Atlantic flights.

The 787 also has higher cabin air pressure, the equivalent of 6,000 feet above sea level instead of the 8,000 feet pressure that other aircraft have. Boeing says that this change will cause passengers to feel more refreshed at the end of their trip. Again, I found this to be true.

BA did a great job with the inflight entertainment. We had a huge selection of movies and television shows to watch, a much larger selection than I had seen on our previous flights.

The beautiful 787 wing. It's not very ovbious in this shot, but it bends upward in flight so that the wingtips are above the top of the fuselage.

The beautiful 787 wing. It’s not very obvious in this shot, but it bends upward in flight so that the wingtips are above the top of the fuselage.

With its unique carbon-fiber construction, the 787 can have much larger windows than those that you will find on other aircraft.

The view out the window: compare the size of the windo to the man's head - it's huge. You can also clearly see how the wing curves upwards.

The view out the window: compare the size of the window to the man’s head – it’s huge. You can also clearly see how the wing curves upwards.

Before too long dinner was served. I chose the lasagna

Dinner on our flight to London.

Dinner on our flight to London.

I fell asleep soon after dinner, and was glad I was able to sleep for several hours, Saturday would be a long day!

Our breakfast snack before arriving in London.

Our breakfast snack before arriving in London.

We arrived at London Heathrow at 9:37 on Saturday morning. That gave us a bit more than 8 hours until our 6 p.m. flight to Johannesburg. We intended to take advantage of the opportunity by leaving the airport and going into London.

When we told the customs and immigration agent that we were going into town and would only be in London for a short time, he  recommended a place we could go for lunch. Then we went downstairs where we were able to store our rollerboards for £5 pounds each.

Then we made our way to the subway, the famous London Underground!

The trains were modern and sparkling clean.

The trains were modern and sparkling clean.

Thanks to Google Maps (Siclaimer: I also own stakc in Google) I already knew we needed to take the Picadilly line.

Thanks to Google Maps (Disclaimer: I also own stock in Google) I already knew we needed to take the Piccadilly line.

It took us about an hour, with one change of trains, to arrive at the Westminster stop, on the Thames, across the street from the Houses of Parliament. We did not have much time to spare, so we had to do as much as we could in a short period.

My first view of Big Ben, easily one of the most famous structures in the world.

My first view of Big Ben, easily one of the most famous structures in the world.

Beautiful view of the intricate design of the clock at Parliament.

Beautiful view of the intricate design of the clock at Parliament.

My "picture postcard" shot of the day.

My “picture postcard” shot of the day.

It was cold and windy, when we arrived, with light rain falling. Normal weather for London at that time of the year. We made our way towards Parliament and saw that the police had blocked off some of the streets for a protest march.

The Socialist Workers Party held a peaceful protest.

The Socialist Workers Party held a peaceful protest.

The marchers went past a statue of Sir Winston Churchill. He seems none too pleased by it all.

The marchers went past a statue of Sir Winston Churchill. He seems none too pleased by it all.

The London Eye, which opened in 2000, is London's most popular paid-for tourist attraction.

The London Eye, which opened in 2000, is London’s most popular paid-for tourist attraction.

We had a wonderful view of the London Eye, the 443-foot tall Ferris wheel located across the Thames river. Its 32 capsules give passengers a 25-mile view from the highest point.

Passengers inside a capsule on the London Eye.

Passengers inside a capsule on the London Eye.

We crossed the bridge to the other side of the Thames: the clouds had disappeared and it was turning into a beautiful day.

We saw this statue on the opposite side of the Thames.

We saw this statue on the opposite side of the Thames.

The plaque on the pedestal of this statue says, “This lion modelled by W.F. Woodington and made in Coades artificial stone stood from 1837 on the parapet of the river front Lion Brewery Lambeth.  It survived the  surrounding devastation in the war of 1939-1945, and when the site was cleared for the building of the Royal Festival Hall was preserved in accordance with the wishes of His Majesty King George VI.”

We crossed back across the river and came upon the Battle of Britain memorial.

The monument, on the banks of the Thames, has various sections that tell the story of the Battle of Britain.

The monument, on the banks of the Thames, has various sections that tell the story of the Battle of Britain.

B-Brit3

B-Brit2

B-Brit4

B-Brit3a

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the Royal Air Force fighter pilots and crews said, " Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking of the Royal Air Force fighter pilots and crews said, ” Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

Farther down the river we came to another memorial, this to the air crews who served in 1914-1918.

Farther down the river we came to another memorial, this to the air crews who served in 1914-1918.

We soon came to the Tattershall Castle, a restaurant located on a ship on the Thames, which the agent at the airport had recommended to us.

A;though many people were deck eating, it was too cold for us and we decided to eat indoors.

A;though many people were outside on deck eating, it was too cold for us and we decided to eat indoors.

The ship is not docked, not tied up to a pier. Instead there is a gang-plank that goes from the shore to the ship. Since it was not secured to anything else, every time another boat went by we bobbed up and down in the ship’s wake. Maybe not the best place to eat a meal.

My lunch, British Fish and Chips. We never figured out what the green food item was.

My lunch, British Fish and Chips. We never figured out what the green food item was.

My lunch beverage. Some say British beer is served warm - this was not, it was chilled.

My lunch beverage. Some say British beer is served warm – this was not, it was chilled.

After lunch it was time to say good-bye to this part of London and make our way back to Heathrow for our flight to Johannesburg.

As we walked back to the Underground, I took this shot of a BA A-380 flying over London. Coincidentally, our flight to Johannesburg would be on a BA A-380.

As we walked back to the Underground, I took this shot of a BA A-380 flying over London. Coincidentally, our flight to Johannesburg would be on a BA A-380.

Disclaimer: I own stock in Boeing, Google, and American Airlines.


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