Tag Archives: British Airways

How Airlines And Airports Show The Love

14 Feb

Yes, kids, I am a hopeless romantic who just loves Valentine’s Day.  I’m not a flowers-and-jewelry kind of girl, so the man had the fog light on my luxury vehicle fixed to show his love.  Airports and airlines like to show the love to their best customers, and there’s nothing better than being comfortably nestled in a premium lounge.

A sculpture at the entrance to the British Airways' First/Business Class lounges at London Heathrow. Photo by Benet J. WIlson

Back in November 2008, I flew to London to take an insider’s tour of British Airways’ flagship Terminal 5. I didn’t get to take pictures, but I remember almost everything. Part of the tour was a visit (and use of) the Arrivals lounge and the first and business class departure lounges.  I took full advantage of the  Arrivals lounge, taking a shower, getting my clothes pressed and shoes shined and having a lovely breakfast in the Concorde dining room.

And it was even better on the departures side.  You can read my story on airport lounges (including my time in T5) in the February 2012 issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine here (it’s free, but you must register to see it).  Suffice it to say that I still have dreams about my time in those lounges at London Heathrow.

When I last went to the Bahamas in 2004, there were photos and renderings of the new terminal at Nassau’s Lynden Pindling International Airport, but the actual experience wasn’t much to write home about.  Fast forward to now, and check out this article from our good friends at the Jaunted blog on the Graycliff Divan Airport Lounge in the departures area of the airport.  You have to enter through a gift shop, but past that there’s an indoor and outdoor lounge with food, drinks and a smoking area.

Food/beverage concessionaire SSP consistently has some of my favorite airport concepts.  And I’m really digging their latest one — enhancing the wine experience at London City Airport. The fun begins with weekly wine tastings every Wednesday, hosted by sommelier Ben Mulvaney and supported by Bars Manager Anthony Stanley. Passengers will be able to sample some of the world’s finest wines, learn of their origin and recommended food pairings, and receive complementary tasting notes.  And travelers can now taste the world’s best wines without having to shell out for a full bottle thanks to a new Enomatic machine at the airport’s newest restaurant, City Bar & Grill.

I’ll end my offering my picks for the top five airline lounges I’d kill to visit.  Enjoy!

  1. Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, London Heathrow. I had the chance to visit this lounge back in the late 1990s, and it was fabulous then. But since then, the 12,000 square foot facility has been completely redone.
  2. Emirates First and Business Class Lounges, Dubai International Airport. I had no clue until I interviewed Nate Vallier on his experiences in these lounges in the February 2012 issue of Airline Passenger Experience magazine here (it’s free, but you must register to see it).
  3. Singapore Airlines Lounge, Changi Airport. Who wouldn’t want to sit in the world’s best airline’s world’s best lounge, located in the world’s best airport?
  4. Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt Airport.  I flew on the German flag carrier in May 2001 on my way to Munich to do a story on the now-defunct Fairchild Dornier. The lounge was wonderful, but this is another carrier that has stepped up its airline lounge game since I was last there.
  5. ANA Lounge, Narita Airport.  This place is a foodie’s delight, with a sake bar, a monthly featured donburi (rice bowl) and a noodle bar. Plus the lounge features personal rooms.

So what did I miss? What are some of your favorite airline lounges?

Best Of: Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials

28 Dec

Editor’s note: kids, Aunt Benet is taking the week off to enjoy the holidays with the family. So please enjoy these best ofs this week.  Happy Holidays!!

I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit.  The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.

I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials.  I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel.  Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order.  Which ones do you like? What did I miss?

Click HERE to see the commercials!

Random Aviation Photo

22 Dec

Back in November 2008, I got the chance to take a behind-the-scenes tour of British Airways’ flagship Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport.  Say what you want, but I feel that building is an architectural wonder.  One of the unique features is that the floors don’t touch the walls anywhere in the building.  The floors are held up by these massive ceiling joints.  Check out my photos, below.

Top 10 Favorite Airline Commercials

23 Sep

I know I usually do top aviation stories of the week, but I’m on travel, so I’m switching it up a bit.  The announcement that Frontier Airlines is rolling out a new advertising campaign — complete with television commercials — made me remember how much I love a good carrier campaign.

I’ve always been a fan of good airline commercials.  I like ones that make me laugh, that give me a sense of place and that show the wonderment of air travel.  Below are links to 10 of my favorites, in no particular order.  Which ones do you like? What did I miss?

1.  Frontier Airlines “Still the One”: a classic, with the carrier’s  animal tails singing the lyrics to “You’re Still The One.”

2.  AirTran – Babysitters: grandparents get their own surprise when they make a visit to see their twin baby grandchildren.

3.  United Airlines – “The Dragon”: I know this one got a lot of flack when it was unveiled, but I was mesmerized by the juxtaposition of the man, the dragons and his son (yes, I did a semester of film school ;) )

4. Eastern Airlines – Disney:  This is a charmer from back in the day when Eastern was the official airline of Walt Disney World.  The quality is a bit fuzzy, but it’s still a great commercial!

4. Southwest Airlines – Bags Fly Free On Stomachs: this commercial was funny then, but funnier now that Southwest has bought AirTran.

5.  Delta Air Lines – Keep Climbing: Lift: again, this was another one that got a bad rap, but I loved it for several reasons.  One, I love how it looked in black and white. Two, I loved that they used actual employees. And three, it showcased by beloved Boeing 747.

6.  Western Airlines – The only way to fly: this 10-second gem features the iconic airline bird.

7. PSA – Our Smiles Aren’t Just Painted On: I’m from California, and I was a great fan of this originally intra-state carrier. They were known for having smiles painted on the front of the plane. If you’re lucky, you may see the PSA heritage plane in the US Airways fleet.

8.  Piedmont Airlines – McLean Stevenson, Fishing Hole: the former M*A*S*H star was tapped in the 1980s to do commercials for the carrier.

9. British Airways – The Good Life: as much grief as the airline got over the opening of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport, this commercial of the terminal as an aquarium won rave reviews.

10.  Pan Am – Introduction to Jet Service: as an homage to the launch of the television show “Pan Am” on ABC this Sunday, I thought I’d include this classic 3:55-minute commercial.

Malaysia Airlines to ban babies travelling in first class? Good!!

28 Jun

I was taking a stroll through my Google Reader when I came upon this story in Australian Business Traveller about Malaysia Airlines deciding to ban babies in first class on their Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s.  The first thing I thought was “good for them!”

What? I have to sit in coach, Mommy??

Now before you all start spamming me with hate comments, I am the mother of a 5-year-old daughter.  I’ve been flying with my child since she was 10 days old.  As much as I love and adore her, I’d sit naked in first class myself (NOT a pretty picture, kids) before subjecting my little darling to other passengers who have paid thousands of dollars to fly in that rarefied air.

My last flight in first was on British Airways for a trip to London in November 2008.  A quick check of BA’s website has that seat currently going for $16,788.16. And let’s be real, people –  I would be royally pissed if I paid that much for my seat and had to listen to a screaming baby for any part of it, and so would you.

Back in 1994, I flew SAS to Stockholm for a trip to visit Saab Aircraft.   There we all were, nestled in our seats and for the first 2 hours of the flight, a couple tried in vain to hush their toddler.  After 2 hours, the SAS purser told the couple they would have to move back to economy class because of the noise.  I spoke to one of the flight attendants about the situation, and she told me that they would refund the couple’s difference in fare between first and economy.

I’ll end this by quoting from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”

Captain Spock: It is logical. The needs of the many outweigh…
Kirk: …the needs of the few.
Captain Spock: Or the one.

So let’s end with a poll. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Why Larger People Need To Buy That Extra Airline Seat

3 Mar

Now before you start flaming me with comments about my discrimination against large people, I am a woman of size myself. You don’t need to know exactly what size, but I am a regular shopper at Lane Bryant (which has really upgraded their styles).  But I digress.

I am a woman of size who happens to still fit into a seat, and without a seat belt extender.  But there are plenty of folks out there who just don’t fit into one airline seat, a seat that has gotten narrower and tighter in the past 10 years.  Lord knows, I feel your pain and sympathize.

British Airways Boeing 767 Club World seat Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Back in the day, before airlines cut seat capacity, most would just let a person of size on a flight and try to block a seat so that person and their seatmate would be comfortable.  But those days, kids, are long gone.

Southwest Airlines can be ruthless when it comes to dealing with people of size — just ask film director Kevin Smith.  But it’s a ruthlessness that’s needed to make sure that everyone is a comfortable as one can be crammed into a packed Boeing 737.  So if you don’t fit, airlines are much more likely to make you pay for an extra seat.

One of my worst flights ever was on Southwest  going from San Antonio to Baltimore. It was 3.5 hours of pure hell.  Why? My daughter was cozy and comfy sitting next to the window in her La-Z-Boy-like SkyMall stroller that turns into a car/airplane seat (every flying mother should have one of these bad boys).  I was sitting in the middle, and a gentleman who clearly should have been in 2 seats came and sat next to me.

I really don’t know how Southwest missed this guy. He even had to ask for a seat belt extender.  I should have called over a flight attendant to say this was just NOT going to work.  But I didn’t want to be rude, and I paid the price.

He tried to lift the arm rest between us, but I refused. I was crammed on both sides, and at one point, I had to ask him to move his leg out of my foot space area.  And he seemed to have a bit of an attitude with me.  This was clearly a person who needed an extra seat.

I haven’t encountered that again, but if I find myself in a similar situation, I will not *hesitate* to speak up.  And please — I don’t need to hear about how some people of size can’t help it.  Again, I sympathize. I can play the “Guess Which Diets I’ve Done” with the best of them. I can go on for hours about the number of pounds I’ve lost — and gained. 

But in the end, the thin person in seat 17 B who is unfortunate enough to be sitting next to one of you, my Rubenesque compadres, on a packed flight in seat 17 A or C does not care about your weight trouble or the fact that you can’t help your size.  They just want to get through the flight with a modicum of comfort.

In the 1982 movie “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (yes, I’m a Trekkie),” Spock said: “Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. And Capt. Kirk responds: Or the one.  There you have it.

So will you “weigh” in? Am I being to harsh on my fellow large passengers, or am I on target?

Random Aviation Photo

7 Feb

Anyone who reads this blog regularly or follows me on Twitter knows that my favorite aircraft of all time is the Boeing 747.  I have a set with 112 photos of 747s I’ve taken around the world.  Back in November 2008, I flew over to London overnight to take the grant tour of British Airways’ Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport.  The camera never left my neck the entire trip.  I snapped the photo below when I was taking the shuttle bus for my flight home.  Enjoy!

 

BA Boeing 747 at Heathrow Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

 

 

A Love Letter To Heathrow Airport

20 Dec

One of my favorite movies is “Love Actually,” released in 2003.  You can read the Internet Movie Database post for details about the movie.  I really love how all the romantic stories are put together, but my favorite parts are the beginning and the end.

Both were shot in London Heathrow Airport and show a wonderful collage of people greeting each other in the arrivals area.  I listened to director/writer Richard Curtis’s commentary on that scene.  He just parked a camera there for a few weeks and edited it down to the collage.  I actually spent Christmas 1998 in London and got to see this play out as I waited for my luggage and my friend.

The Arrivals Terminal at London Heathrow (Photo by Benet J. Wilson)

I am a frequent traveler and one of my favorite thins to do is to watch people showing the love to those arriving and departing.  One time on a trip to Miami in 1985, a very enthusiastic Haitian family mistook me for a loved one. I was startled for a moment, but I still tear up to this day when I remember how loved I felt by these complete strangers until the mix-up was fixed.

And I know a lot of people just hate Heathrow Airport, but I’m not one of them.  My family moved in England in 1970 when I was six years old.  We landed at Heathrow, and I thought it was the most magical place on earth.  Fast forward to 1995 when I flew into the airport to cover the Farnborough Air Show, and I was still transfixed.  I love the proper British accents doing the announcements. I love the myriad shops (Harrods and Boots, to name a few) where you can pick up a piece of the UK.  And I especially love all the airline liveries from around the globe, especially flag carriers you don’t always see in the United States.

I practically fall into a swoon when I think about my time in British Airways’ T5 terminal (you can see my pictures on Flicker).  Yes, there were issues building it.  Yes, the airline was embarrassed when a baggage snafu marred the grand opening (attended by Queen Elizabeth, no less).  But the pieces are in place, and it has become one of my favorite terminals — right up there with Singapore’s Changi Airport, San Francisco’s international terminal and Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon Airport.

So wherever you go during the holidays , I hope you feel the love of the season.  And take a second to let the magic of the airport sink in!

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