#932632 by honey lamb
12 Feb 2017, 21:34
Or:

The Trip of Lost Seat Assignments! Part 1.

Some months ago my travel buddy Chris floated the idea of a trip to Chile. About four years previously we had had an enforced 12 hour overnight stay in Santiago when our only chance to get from Buenos Aires to Mendoza was to go via Chile because of a general strike in Argentina but really we only saw the airport and the hotel. A chance to go back was not to be missed and besides, it had been ages since we had been on a long trip together and so I grabbed it with both hands. Dates were agreed upon, itineraries planned and then began the excitement of booking. Or perhaps not!

Initially it was difficult to find routes that would take me to Santiago with the minimum of cost (in Business) and effort. It was beginning to be a choice between flying to Paris and thence to Santiago (and given all that was happening in France at that time, it was a route I was loath to take) or London to Sao Paulo and from there to Santiago with long layovers. I was considering the possibility of flying to the US and from there to Chile when all of a sudden, BA announced a new route to Santiago starting the week before we planned to go. I was ecstatic! Oh, not about flying BA but the fact that I could do it with the minimum of fuss from Cork. Er, no! The fare from Cork was prohibitive in Club World but good old Expedia showed me a fare from AMS in CW which was less than half the fare from Cork and so it was booked. The downside was that I would have to fly to AMS on the 5.50am flight that morning as there was no evening flight to that fair city the night before and so I booked a hotel at the airport to save me getting up in the middle of the night. The upside was that the seat map for SCL showed me that the window seats where you don’t have to scramble over someone’s legs were available and so I paid and snagged those seats! Thus my itinerary was a very early morning flight to AMS, and early afternoon flight to LHR and a late night flight to SCL. It was going to be a long day but given the savings, it was going to be worth it. And I had the seats I wanted.

Two weeks later I got an email from Expedia. BA had cancelled my AMS-LHR flight and placed me on a late afternoon one. >-( Every time I have made an Expedia booking via AMS to LHR and beyond, BA has cancelled my original flight. I swear there’s someone sitting at a monitor and when my name pops up it triggers an alert to cancel that flight! Ah well! At least there were alternative flights. I just hoped that it didn’t mean a return to my penchant for disasters! :-O

Warned by what had happened to one of our beloved V-Flyers where her seat assignments with BA rapidly became a game of musical chairs, I checked mine regularly and rejoiced in the fact that they remained untouched. And then the dreaded day came! 7K was gone and I was now in 10A. >-( Instantly I was on to the Customer Service number BA gives for Ireland and was immediately put through to the sub-continent where a charming Indian lady told me over and over again, “It is for operational reasons”. I queried what they were. “It is for operational reasons”. I pointed out there wasn’t a change of aircraft. “It is for operational reasons”. I pointed out I had paid to select that seat. “It is for operational reasons”. No matter what I said the mantra was “It is for operational reasons”. Eventually I said this was unacceptable and she asked me if I wanted to make a complaint. Well that’s what I’d been trying to do for the last ten minutes but she gave me another number to ring. This time I got helpfulness personified! The lady explained that because of the length of the flight (14 hours) they needed the seat for crew - I think for an extra pilot but stand to be corrected on that. I explained why I had chosen that seat and didn’t want 10A and after some discussion 6B was mine. Not ideal but the best I could do.

Ah well, what else could happen? Well nothing as far as the flights were concerned. We had chosen to visit Easter Island and the Atacama Desert and the bookings were made. What else could go wrong? What indeed? Two days after Christmas I came down with something akin to E Coli :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: and when I should have been planning and packing, I was lying in my bed wondering if I was going recover enough to be able to make the trip.

I did, of course! An overnight stay in one of the hotels at Cork Airport ensured a good night’s sleep, albeit with a 4am call. Check-in was fine and, while security was busy, I was through in 5-10 minutes. The flight on Aer Lingus wasn’t quite bog-standard in that I didn’t have a G&T - even I don’t have a G&T at 6am! A champagne in a CH, yes but that’s another thing! We landed on time in AMS but the bags seemed to take an age to come through, although the carousels tell you what time to expect them - which is nice.

You need stamina to negotiate Schiphol! Once I had retrieved my bag I walked to the further end of the airport to the BA check-in which had moved since I was last there and took me some time to find. I was unsure if they would accept my bags given that I had seven hours before my flight but it wasn’t a problem. I had toyed with the idea of going into the city and decided against it given that it was cold, wet and blustery outside so I found a place to get some breakfast and spent some time people-watching before heading through passport control and security to present myself at the BA lounge (after a long trek to get there) just after noon. The man at the door looked at me quizzically as he could see I had an onward flight, wondering why I was there so early; I looked at him impassively with my best “it’s none of your business” face :-P and was admitted. The lounge was busy but shortly after I arrived a Cathay Pacific flight was called and the place emptied. After that, it only filled up (and then not very full) just before each of the London flights. Like all BA lounges, it was self service with snacks, some cold cuts and cheese and a pot of vegetable soup which was more like vegetable broth but was actually quite nice. I couldn’t be bothered asking for champagne and some cheese and biscuits together with a glass of sauvignon blanc hit the spot.

In the fullness of time I took myself off to the gate which meant another long march! The flight was uneventful. I was given a chicken salad and a rather nice dessert and asked for and received a (small) bottle of champagne. We landed on time and, as I had no bags to collect it was off to the Galleries Lounge and the trip report proper. I do hope you’ll forgive me for this long-winded start but neither of the positioning flights were worthy of their own TR.

LHR-SCL BA 251

By the time I got to the Galleries Lounge I was feeling a tad wiped out and also a bit snuffly. I’d felt that way on and off since I started out first thing that morning so my journey to the lounge included a detour to Boots. Aaaatchoo!

The lounge was rather busy and so it was difficult to find somewhere to sit, especially as I needed to recharge my iPad. I also needed to recharge myself and what better medication than champagne? It was duly delivered to me and its therapeutic qualities kicked into action. I didn’t want anything to eat but on a visit to the Ladies, out of curiosity I looked at what was on offer with regard to hot food. It was being cleared away at that stage but it seemed to consist of baked beans, pasta, baked beans, bolognese sauce and baked beans! Oh, did I mention that baked beans were on offer? Back to my seat and the champagne and some people watching. There was a gentleman who was on the phone discussing the antics of his grandchildren. Once finished, he proceeded to sneeze and snuffle while being hit upon by a “lady” of indeterminate age. It was as good as any soap opera - apart from his sneezing and snuffling but I was glad when she eventually went off for her flight.

At last my flight was shown on the monitors and it was off to a familiar haunt for me, Gate C62 from where I had departed to Buenos Aires, Las Vegas, Johannesburg and now, Santiago. There was a small crowd gathered and I quickly found a seat nearly opposite the entrance to the priority boarding lane. The crowd quickly increased and the gate agents left their desks to bring families with small children and those needing special assistance to check-in. I rather liked this as it was done discreetly and certainly prevented situations where some people with strapping teenagers have come forward for pre-boarding. While this was happening a group of young men positioned themselves unwittingly in front of the priority lane. The families were being checked in at all the desks and a rather imperious man with a DYKWIA air arrived at the gate area. He noticed that people were being checked in and that the area was blocked. He ordered the young men to move who were most apologetic and then commanded his wife, “Come along, Pauline”. Pauline submissively obeyed and followed him three paces behind. Once at the desk though, he was sent back with a flea in his ear and mega eye-rolling from Pauline! In the meantime, the checked-in families were being held in a holding area until the doors were opened to the jet bridge and we all recognised that this was the signal for the off. Check-in was finally called and all of us who had witnessed Mr DYKWIA’s behaviour were determined he would not be in the lead. He wasn’t! I was! Well at least 3rd or 4th - I’m not that agile!

Once on board I headed for my seat 6B, and was more than satisfied. CW on the 789s is in two cabins, the forward one consisting of 2 rows 6 and 7 which in most airlines would consist of a maximum of 12 seats in a 2-2-2 formation. BA however manages to squeeze in 14 seats in that small area. In the second section of CW there are 4 rows of seats and the sections are bisected by the galley and the toilets. In 6B, I had an aisle seat which disappointed me but I would have no-one scrambling over my legs nor would I have any traffic as the galleys and toilets were behind me. And of course one of the features of the 789 is the large overhead bins assigned to each seat. I assembled all I needed for the duration of the flight and then popped into the loo and (rather naughtily) changed into a VS sleep suit. I’m such a rebel! Before this though, the cabin crew were very pro-active in helping us to settle and offer champagne, orange juice or water. They really engaged with the passengers and it was more like a VS flight than any of the others I had had on BA. I think that part of this was that it was a new flight and destination and there was a suppressed air of excitement among the crew as none of them would have been there before. However, their excitement did not lend itself to offering refills of the champagne. At one stage Mr DYKWIA and Pauline passed through to First with an air of disgruntlement that they had not been among the first on board. I felt that poor Pauline was going to get an ear-bashing about it once they were settled!

In the meantime the young lady in 6A took her seat and very pleasant she was too. She was heading to Chile on business and had a shocking cold. She had also made a diversion to Boots and said that her intention was to bed down for the night as soon as possible and once we were airborne, she did just that.

Our flight was due to take off at 10pm but we pushed back slightly early and with a minimum of fuss we were in the air just shortly after that. Once released to their duties the crew came around, first of all to take our food orders swiftly followed by the drinks trolley. Because of my recent flirtation with E Coli my alcohol intake had been severely diminished but now it was time for my first G&T of the year. And they had Tanqueray! And better still, Fever Tree tonic! But, but, but!! They only gave me one miniature of Tanqueray!! In the past I had always received two. However I nabbed a passing crew member saying that I still had half a can of Fever Tree left and it would be a shame to waste it. She laughed and took the hint and soon a second Tanqueray was delivered to me. Happiness indeed.

Dinner orders were taken
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and I chose the chicken and duck terrine
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followed by the beef
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washed down with a very nice Argentinian Malbec. They were delicious but I still hadn’t recovered my appetite so I wasn’t able to finish either and I decided against a dessert. The Malbec was very nice though!

Once the meal had been cleared away there was nothing more I wanted to do than settle down for the night as it had been such a long day so I snuggled down and within minutes was away with the fairies. I slept extremely well for about 6 hours - the best I had ever slept on a plane. When I awoke it was a bit daunting though to realise that there was still 4 hours left before we landed. There was nothing that was grabbing me on the IFE so I decided to read although I did put on the map. We were somewhere over Brazil. An hour later we were somewhere over Brazil! An hour later we were still somewhere over Brazil! During these couple of hours there was no sign of any cabin crew coming into the cabin to check even though one or two of us were stirring and moving about. I went to change my clothes and get some water from the galley and the guy across the aisle from me came while I was there and asked for some coffee but it was a good hour later before he got it! About 2 hours before we were due to land breakfast was served. I had some fruit and the full English which I picked at but enjoyed what bit I ate. The cabin crew looking after my side of the cabin were really nice and made sure that I had had sufficient, also providing me with a second mug of tea.

Finally we began to leave Brazilian airspace and head towards the Andes. As we drifted nearer I began to realise that the sniffling and snuffling passengers whom I had encountered on my long journey had very (un)kindly passed on their germs to me and I was now sniffling and snuffling and my nose was running like a tap! I could have well done without that! As we approached the Andes the captain came on to say that in about half an hour’s time he would be switching on the seat belt sign as it is mandatory that seat belts are fastened while crossing the Andes and they would remain fastened for forty minutes until we landed. There was a last minute flurry to have everything sorted before the sign came on and at last we were on our last leg of the flight.

Up till then I had been perfectly happy with my second choice seat of 6B to the extent that I would happily consider it as a future option. It was at the head of the cabin so no passing traffic once the flight was airborne. There was no-one to scramble over my legs to go to the loo. Yes, it was very good - that was until we reached the Andes! I remembered that the reason I had chosen 7K was to be able to view the Andes and this time to spot Aconcagua as on my previous sojourn over the range I had been in the A seats. Ha! Not only would I not see Aconcagua, I wasn’t going to be able to see the Andes as the lady in 6A, having woken from her slumber marathon, was now happily snapping the mountain range with her iPad, thus effectively blocking the view. Ah well, there’s always the return flight!

The transit over the Andes was remarkably smooth given that the mandatory seat belt order is because of the likelihood of turbulence given the varying air currents and we landed in Santiago some 15 minutes early. I was delighted as my buddy’s flight was scheduled to land an hour earlier and he was waiting for me. We taxied to the gate past an AA flight (Chris’s) and an Iberian one and then instead of turning into the gate, inexplicably we stopped and waited for a tug to tow us there. Of course once the plane stopped, people started to stand up and get their things together until commanded by the captain to return to their seats. Once at the gate I was delighted that the door to be used was the one nearest to me. The couple in 7A/B chose not to get up at this stage (they were elderly and possibly needing special assistance) and so I was one of the first off the aircraft. After a bit of walking we arrived at the Immigration Hall to find the remnants of the Iberian flight.

On my recent sojourns in South America (specifically Argentina and Chile) the immigration lines are managed very well. The booths are numbered as a sign flashes up the first available booth so there is no second-guessing the shortest line only to find it is the longest. The only problem here was that the sign was not at eye-level and so people didn’t see it. Those in the know tried to prod those at the top of the line to the appropriate number but half the time they went to the nearest desk and waited or else to a desk where there was a person there but also a great big X to say she wasn’t on duty and were then sent away with a flea in their ear. I noticed that families with young children from our flight were being directed to a different lane and that a tensa barrier was being opened for them. I approved of this wholeheartedly as queueing for immigration is bad enough but with tinies, it can be fraught - especially if they haven’t slept that well on such a long flight. Eventually it was my turn and I presented myself to a young chit of a girl who was young enough to be my granddaughter if I had one! She looked at my passport with suspicion and then asked in Spanish what flight I was on. I looked at her blankly and she repeated her request in English and I realised that I was her first passenger from the BA flight. Once that was established there was no problem and I was given a slip of paper similar to a supermarket till receipt. This was my Immigration record and I needed it to check into hotels and also to present it when it was time to leave. It was to be my nightmare! It was tucked into my passport but the number of times I checked if it was there and couldn’t see it was heart-stopping!!

Once through Immigration it was down to Baggage Claim. There is no central board saying which tells you which carousel to go to so I just ploughed my way along looking at the individual belts. I guessed it was one of the ones at the farther end because the Customs area was there and sure enough, there was the belt and on it, getting dangerously near disappearing back into the bowels of where they load on the bags, was my case. A quick sprint retrieved it and it was on to Customs. All bags get x-rayed through Customs and that includes hand baggage including personal items such as handbags, laptops etc. I trotted along the long line towards the machines but just as I was passing one, the officer opened a tensa barrier and with quick “Senora” waved me to a new one so I was through in seconds! After that it was straight into the zoo that is Santiago Arrivals (we were to come to hate that place) The area was thronged!! Bodies were at least 10 deep as people strained to meet their loved ones. The air of anticipation and excitement was electric. It makes the usual reception committee of men standing with placards looking like a bus queue (they stand just after the customs machines so unless you are looking for a driver you don’t even notice them). Fortunately Chris at 6’ something was head and shoulders above the average Chilean and so was easily spotted so, having fought my way through the crowds we were re-united.

On our previous visit to Santiago we had learned that, if you haven’t already pre-booked a car, you book your taxi before you leave the airport for a fixed fee. After Customs/Baggage Claim there is a row of taxi booths and we always chose the official airport one. You tell them where you want to go and pay them; they give you a receipt and tell you the door to go to and you find the dispatcher who shows you to your taxi. Fee paid, no tips, job done. If you just take an ordinary taxi, if you can find one, you can be taken via the scenic route. The same applies for airport hotels. There are some desks there for transport to the hotel and if you are at the wrong desk they will direct you to the right one.

OK, Santiago airport sounds (and looks) chaotic from leaving the aircraft but actually it is quite smooth when you know how. To show how smooth it was, I left the aircraft at 9.37 and at 10.37 we were checking in to our hotel in the middle of Santiago.

Next stop Easter Island after a quick trip around Santiago and Valpairso
#932634 by David
12 Feb 2017, 22:38
Nice TR HL

There's nothing worse than flying long haul when your under the weather.

Glad to see that BA made it a little more bearable.

Roll on part 2

Thanks

David
#932636 by whiterose
12 Feb 2017, 23:58
Thank you for such an interesting TR, you took us with you so that we experienced it with you, surely what a TR is all about. I do hope that the next instalment doesn't show that the sniffles spoiled any of the trip.
#932676 by TimCrawley
13 Feb 2017, 22:00
Thank you for such an interesting TR, you took us with you so that we experienced it with you, surely what a TR is all about. I do hope that the next instalment doesn't show that the sniffles spoiled any of the trip.
+1 to that, really enjoyable & informative read - thanks for the high quality HL posting

Roll on part 2
+1 to that too
#932692 by marshy11
14 Feb 2017, 08:33
I do love a good TR but confess that some lengthy looking ones get a speed-read. Not this one, I thoroughly enjoyed (and read) every part.

A shame about the view, or lack of, on your descent, I look forward to reading part 2 and seeing photos of what you missed.
#932807 by pjh
17 Feb 2017, 17:18
Great TR, another one that has you walking though the whole experience alongside the author(ess).

So BA Lounges now serve as Saga speed dating venues? Fascinating.

Hope the cold cleared up and rest of the trip went well (though I know you had some issues).

Paul
ps they serve Fever Tree down the back too on BA, which impressed this simple soul.
#932854 by honey lamb
19 Feb 2017, 17:04
iforres1 wrote:As always an excellent TR, and surprisingly uneventful by your standards :-)

That's only the first leg. There's another five flights to come! :-D
Virgin Atlantic

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