Archive for May, 2014
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
With its unique carbon-fiber construction, the 787 can have much larger windows than those that you will find on other aircraft.
Before too long dinner was served. I chose the lasagna
I fell asleep soon after dinner, and was glad I was able to sleep for several hours, Saturday would be a long day!
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!
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.
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.
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.
We crossed the bridge to the other side of the Thames: the clouds had disappeared and it was turning into a beautiful day.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I own stock in Boeing, Google, and American Airlines.