For my summer vacation, my parents and I decided to go to India to visit our relatives. This trip report will cover the outbound journey, I will add the return journey when I come back to Denver.
Why we chose British Airways and the booking process:
We mainly chose BA because they were the cheapest option, due to their 25% discount economy class fares to India, and because we had good experiences on them in the past. Our other options were either taking Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Continental Airlines via Newark, or American Airlines via O'Hare.
We booked our tickets through a travel agent, so we didn't have any problems there. British Airways uses a proprietary "manage my booking" system on its website so you can add mileage numbers, passport info., special meal requests, and on-line check-in.
The Outbound Journey:
Flight#1 (British Airways flight 21 (DEN-LHR)
Departed: 8:46 pm (scheduled 8:15 pm) [Gate A37]
Arrival: 12:42 pm (scheduled 12:15 pm)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236ER (G-YMME)
Denver: 75 degrees Fahrenheit, partly cloudy, light winds (<10 mph)
London: 60 degrees Fahrenheit, mostly sunny, light winds
British Airways doesn't allot seats until 24 hours before departure. I think it's stupid that a passenger who books 3 months in advance could get a crappy seat, while passenger who booked 28 hours in advance could get a great seat. Apparently, BA claims that this way everyone has the possibility of getting great seats.
Unfortunately, the entire BA online check-in system decided to have a massive failure right I was about to finish checking-in, so I ended up losing my seats and had to spend 35 minutes on the phone to fix the problem. At least the BA phone staff were helpful and once the system was online again after 45 minutes, I booked my seats and printed out my boarding passes.
At Denver, BA has quite a few check-in desks, so there was hardly any wait. However, the BA check-in attendant was fairly surly and seemed perturbed when he couldn't find my Indian visa. I later showed it to him and everything was fine, he checked in our bags and we were on our way.
British Airways baggage policy:
World Traveller: 2 bags, 51 pounds each
and 1 carry-on + 1 personal item (purse, laptop, bag of magazines, etc)
The boarding process and the flight:
Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes because the incoming flight from London was late. The boarding process started about 25 minutes before our departure time. The boarding process was fairly ordinary as Club World passengers (business) and families with small children boarded first, followed by rows 35-40 of World Traveler (economy). Interestingly, World Traveler Plus (premium economy) passengers actually board last. Overall, the boarding process was very orderly and it was nice to see that there was plenty of room for carry-ons even on a very full flight.
A picture of our Boeing 777 (G-YMME at Denver)
The British Airways safety video:
We pushed back at 8:45 pm and the massive RR Trent 895 engines were started. (Gotta love the RR Trent start-up) From there we taxied to Runway 8/26 and blasted off the runway. After a few sharp turns we began our climb to FL 350. During the climb, the Boeing 777 was pretty loud, but once we reached our cruising altitude the engines quieted dramatically and it was mostly a smooth flight. Unlike, my other flights with BA (where the seat belt sign was turned off at 10,000 feet), the seat belt sign was kept on until we reached FL 320. Overall, the flight was pretty uneventful for the next 2-3 hours as we passed over Kansas, Nebraska, and finally Minnesota into Canada. Unfortunately, we got some pretty heavy turbulence over the Quebec area, which lasted for about 2 hours and screwed any chance of me falling asleep. Afterwards, once we reached the Atlantic the flight was pretty smooth and we climbed to FL 370.
Our approach into London Heathrow was fairly standard as we were put into a holding pattern for about 20 minutes and made a smooth 9R/27L arrival.
Meals and Beverages:
About 20 minutes after take-off, the crew did a bar service with complimentary soda, water, orange juice, tomato juice, apple juice, red and white wine, scotch, and whiskey. I took a Coke with a lemon and was handed 2 tiny 6 oz. cans. I don't understand why BA just doesn't serve one regular sized Coke can, instead, and we were served a tiny 0.5 oz pack of chive and onion flavored pretzel nuggets. From the package, I thought the pretzel nuggets would be disgusting, but they were actually pretty good.
Nearly 40 minutes later, the meal service began. I had ordered a special Asian Vegetarian Meal and it was delivered before the main meal service began. The main course had a tortilla, basmati rice, dal makhani (Indian style lentils cooked in a cream sauce), and saag paneeer (spinach cooked with Indian cheese). The dessert was a large piece of burfi (an Indian sweet) and grapes, and the meal also included namkeen (Indian style salted snacks), a roll, butter, a salad with feta cheese and olive oil vinaigrette, saunf (Indian fenel seed with candy mixed in) and a small Cadbury chocolate bar. The rest of the cabin got the standard "chicken pasta" or "beef" and their meals came with a piece of cheesecake.
Overall, the meal was pretty good, as the rice was aromatic and soft, the Dal was nice and spicy, the saag was ok (abeit too salty) and the paneer was soft and rich. The tortilla was an interesting substitution for an Indian bread, although I would have preferred the latter. Surprisingly the bread roll was actually pretty soft and tasty, compared to mostly airline bread, which is rock hard. The salad was disgusting as the large chunks of feta cheese had no flavor and the olive oil dressing didn't help. The namkeen was a nice addition to the meal and the dessert was very good.
Throughout the flight the crew came around three times with trays containing water, orange juice, and apple juice. A much appreciated gesture, as I couldn't sleep the whole flight.
Breakfast served about 90 minutes prior to our landing in Heathrow. It contained a large cup of raspberry yogurt, orange juice, and a disgusting sandwich with a large pieces of squash, banana pepper, red bell pepper, and cucumber. The rest of the cabin received a similar "All day deli" box with a hot apple danish pastry, instead, of a sandwich. I guess that's the downside of ordering a special meal. Tea, coffee, orange juice, apple juice, and milk were also offered and the crew came around with refills. I had tea, which was pretty good, but reminded me a lot of Tetley tea.
The crew aboard my flight was excellent, as they were very polite and smiley. They handled customer requests very well and were prompt in handling call bells. I appreciated the extra effort by the crew in coming around 3 times with trays of juice and water during the flight. On some airlines, you're lucky to see an attendant walk down the aisles at all between meal services. It was also nice to see that the crew cleaned the lavatories frequently.
An image of the typical BA cabin crew uniforms:
Comfort, IFE, and Cabin Condition:
British Airways economy class was pretty comfortable as the seats had a 32" inch pitch, an adjustable headrest with small cushions, a pillow, and a fairly warm blanket. Some international BA aircraft have AVOD, unfortunately, our plane didn't have it. However, we had 18 channels of entertainment and a moving map. I watched a Fantastic four movie and a couple of episodes of Seinfeld and Fraser to pass the time. The other channels were drama, cartoons, the BBC, and sports. The cabin temperature was fairly comfortable and kept constant throughout the flight.
It was nice to see that BA gives out small amenity packs in economy class. These contained a small toothbrush with the smallest tube of toothpaste I have ever seen (it actually is just enough to get you through two times of brushing your teeth), good quality socks, and an eye-shade.
The plane looked fairly new despite being nearly 10 years old, as the seats had new looking cloth on them, the armrests were fairly clean, the side panels and lights were clean, and the lavatories were clean. Unlike many other airlines, BA's 777s don't have air vents, which is a little annoying.
A picture of the BA amenity pack
The backside of the BA amenity pack
The contents of the BA amenity pack
The ultra-tiny toothpaste.
Connecting at Heathrow:
After our smooth landing on runway 9R/27L we taxied for about 10 minutes to the new Terminal 5. It was a welcome change to see that we actually got a gate without any wait, the other times when I flew into T4 we had wait about 20 minutes for a Jetway. It took a little while for the crew to open the doors, but the disembarkation process was fairly quick and orderly and the crew was very friendly and actually wished every passenger goodbye. You would be surprised at the number of airline crew who couldn't care less about that simple gesture of kindness.
Upon entering T5, I was impressed by the large windows and open feeling terminal. However, I didn't like how confusing the flight connection process was. You first have to use two sets of escalators to find the train and board the train to go to the flight connection area. From there you weave your way through a combined flight connection/immigration area where you have to get out your boarding pass and are told to stop for 5 minutes to make sure your things are in order. From there it's up 2 more sets of escalators and then you weave through a long hallway and up another escalator before you finally reach flight connection security. The lines weren't staggered and the area was overcrowded and confusing. We finally got into a line and within 20 minutes we cleared security. In typical Heathrow fashion, the security staff was pretty rude and even yelled at some confused passengers, although the staff was ok with us. It was also annoying to have put your carry-on in a tray or otherwise it wouldn't be scanned.
From security we went downstairs and found a nice Three Crown Rivers Restaurant and Bar where we spent the next 3 hours. The Spicy Tomato Pasta at the restaurant was excellent and I had a pretty good cup of hot chocolate about an hour later. Afterwards, we spent some time in the waiting area, as we waited for our gate to be posted on the departure screen.
Eventually our departure gate was posted (B32) meaning that we would have to take the underground tram to the Terminal 5B Gate area. It took us about 10 minutes from the restaurant to navigate our way to the train station and we arrived at T5B.
One thing I found pretty funny about Terminal 5 was the large number of VS ads. Anyway, the gate areas were a very welcome change from Terminal 4, as they were very large and spacious with nice views of the aircraft.
British Airways G-VIIV going to Vancouver, you can see Terminal 5 C Gates in the background
A close-up G-VIIV sitting at Terminal 5B Gate B34
A picture of the Terminal 5 waiting area, notice the Virgin Atlantic ad in the background. The full thing said "My we've lost a lot of wait" and was advertising for VS new fast-track security lanes
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to photograph gate B32, so I didn't get any pictures of G-YMMD to compensate here's a pic I took of that plane in Denver last year. Yes, this photo is the same as my avatar.
British Airways flight 257 (LHR-DEL)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-236ER (G-YMMD)
Departure: 5:45 (scheduled 5:30) [Terminal 5, Gate B32]
Arrival: 6:19 am (scheduled 6:15 am) [IGI Terminal 2, Gate 12]
London: 63 degrees Fahrenheit, mostly sunny, light winds
New Delhi: 95 degrees Fahrenheit, smoggy, very light winds (<5 mph)
To my astonishment, the boarding process was actually very orderly. Not an easy thing to do with a gate area full of Indians, who are notorious for boarding like cattle. Anyway, Club World passengers and families with small children boarded first, followed by World Traveller passengers sitting in rows 35-40, and WTP passengers again were boarded last. At T5 you take, a long set of stairs and then follow a long winding jetway to your aircraft.
The boarding process was completed relatively quickly, but an air traffic control delay made us about 15 minutes late. At 5:45 pm London time, we pushed back and the large RR Trent 895 engines were started. We taxied for about 10 minutes and had to wait at runway 9L/27R for about 10 minutes before we thundered down the runway.
After taking-off we did a couple of small turns and continued our climb. At around FL 170 we encountered some pretty heavy turbulence, but otherwise the climb was fairly smooth and once we reached our cruising altitude the plane's engines quieted down dramatically. For the most part it was a smooth flight as we flew over several European nations, through Russia, over Pakistan, and finallly into Delhi.
Our approach into Delhi was very quick and smooth. Looks like the new third runway has really reduced congestion as we didn't have to enter a holding pattern. We made our ILS runway 28 approach, which brought us over the NH8 highway and we made a smooth landing.
Meals and beverages:
About 20 minutes after taking off from Heathrow, the crew came around with a bar service. The drink choices were mostly the same as the Denver flight and I once again had a Coke with a lemon. The most popular drinks with the passengers appeared to be orange juice and a British Airways' specialty spicy tomato juice with tobassco sauce and a lemon. In addition, the crew handed out small packets of onion flavored pretzel nuggets, which were pretty good.
I had once again ordered a special meal, which was delivered before the main meal service started. The main course consisted of channa dal and bengan bhartha with basmati rice and a roti (an Indian wheat flat bread). In addition, a bread roll with butter, bhel puri (a spicy Indian snack), raita, a small box of papadams, mango custard, sanuf (an Indian style after meal mint with fennel seed and tiny candy pieces) and a tiny Cadbury bar were served. The main meal choices were Rajma with rice (Indian style kidney beans with basmati rice) or rotisserie chicken.
The meal was excellent, as the channa dal was nice and spicy and the began bhartha (Indian style ground eggplant with peas) was soft and rich. The papadams were a good starter and mango custard was thick and had just the right amount of sweetness.
Throughout the rest of the flight the crew only came around once with trays of water, apple juice, and orange juice.
The breakfast was served in an "All day Deli" box and contained spicy Indian style potatoes, yogurt, and orange juice. After so many flights of getting cold breakfasts, the hot breakfast was a very welcome change. The other passengers also had a choice between an Indian style breakfast with parathas, raita, and samosas or an English breakfast.
The crew on my flight were pretty good, as they were smiley and very polite. In addition, like most of my other BA crews they did a nice job of responding to passenger requests. The crew was a mix of British and Indian flight attendants
British Airways Indian flight attendant uniform: (found here: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ewjOXW9DeP...0/77031664.jpg)
Unfortunately, the crew's poor handling of one incident kind of ruined the flight experience. During the meal service we entered a period of moderately heavy turbulence, so naturally the captain turned on the seat belt sign. After about 10 minutes, the turbulence stopped and for the next 20 minutes the flight was pretty smooth, but the cautious captain didn't turn off the seat belt sign. Many passengers needed to use the restrooms and since there was no turbulence, many decided to get up and use the restrooms. The crew tried to inform some of the passengers to remain seated, but a few didn't listen and some members of the crew got very angry and rude with those passengers. After about 10 minutes the captain turned off the seat belt sign and apologized for leaving it on way longer than needed. I agree with the crew, the passengers should have remained seated, but I don't think getting rude or angry with passengers was going to help the situation.
Other than that one situation, the crew was very good and performed their duties very well.
IFE and comfort:
Like my other flights the seats were pretty comfortable with a seat pitch of 32". Unfortunately, the passenger in front of me reclined his seat for the whole flight, which was kind of annoying. Thankfully, the PTV screen was adjustable so I didn't have much of a problem, but I wish that BA would use the slimline seats, which slide forward when you recline so that the passenger behind you isn't as uncomfortable.
Once again the amenity pack contained a small toothbrush/toothpaste set, socks, and an eye shade. The headphones BA provides are average quality and unfortunately, once again I got stuck on a plane without AVOD. However, the 18 channels had a good variety of programming and had a couple of hindi movies, so I was able to pass the time easily when I wasn't sleeping. We were also provided with a blanket and a pillow.
The cabin was very clean and the seats looked brand new, so no complaints there. The crew also frequently cleaned the lavatories, which was greatly appreciated.
Airport Experiences for the outbound journey:
Denver International Airport:
The drive to Denver's airport was about 40 minutes during rush hour, which wasn't bad. Although the location of the airport has always irked me, I still don't like how far the airport is from downtown Denver (about 20 miles). (It's location is primarily due to allow for future expansion and due to noise concerns). However, the drive to the airport was fairly easy as you get onto I-225, exit to I-70 and go to Pena Blvd.
A picture I found of the Jeppensen Terminal: (found here: http://workandtravelvail.com/images/denverairport.jpg)
The check-in areas were very spacious. From the check-in area we sat in the main area of the Jeppensen Terminal. Overall, I found this area to be very airy and the amazing architecture of the roof is always fun to look at. There were pleanty of shops and restaurants, which helps kill time.
From there we used the Concourse A security area. The security wait was hardly 5 minutes and we then walked down the pedestrian bridge, which connects the main Jeppensen Terminal to Concourse A. The bridge has excellent views of aircraft and it was fun to watch a Frontier Airlines Airbus A319 taxi below. The bridge has traditional native American music playing in the background and I always find walking to the bridge to be a calming experience in the stress that is modern day air travel.
Concourse A was fairly spacious with large gate areas, although the number of shops in some parts of the Concourse are a little less and some of the restaurants are generic. However, in recent years DIA has added some more sit-down and unique to Colorado restaurants and shops. We went to the main food court and had Pizza Hut. The food court had nice views of the tarmac and it was clean.
The gate areas at DIA were very large and spacious and the airport's large windows provide a good view of the action. The restrooms at DIA were plentiful and were also very clean. It's kind of funny, but I think DIA's one of the only airport's where the restrooms double as tornado shelters.
A view of DIA's Concourse A
Airport Departure Rating: 4.4/5
London Heathrow Terminal 5:
Image found at: http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/...s-aquarium.jpg
Overall, I found Terminal 5 to be an improvement over Terminal 4, as the security waits were less long, there were more seating area, the spacious feel of terminal was superior to that of T4, and the gate areas had pleanty of seating with great views of the aircraft.
However, I found T5 to be a little dissapointing for the amount BA brags about it. The flight connections process could have been more streamlined and more signs with clearer instructions would help. In addition, I don't see why Heathrow security staff have to be so rude to passengers, they make TSA personal seem like saints.
Heathrow T5 Rating: 3.6/5
New Delhi Indira Ghandhi International Airport:
IGI Airport has been undergoing massive renovations for the past 3 years and I was looking forward to seeing how much the arrivals process had improved. Last year, I was incredribly impressed by how much DIAL had improved the departure process. However, this year, I was disappointed because the arrivals process is still fairly basic and poor. After your leave the aircraft you walk down a small hallway, I was still surprised that most of the windows in this area were beat up and some were even broken. Once we got down the escalator we had to wait for about 15 minutes, to undergo a health check to make sure no passenger was bringing the swine flu to India. Afterwards, the customs process was fairly orderly and we only had to wait about 25 minutes. Baggage retrival has improved dramatically as each of the carousel is clearly numbered and information screens tell you which claim to go to. We collected our baggage in 15 minutes and we proceded out the green channel (nothing to declare) and outside the airport.
Outside the airprot is still a chaotic mess, as unofficial baggage porters will repeatedly pester you to allow them to help you and the blaring of horns, along with the chaotic traffic flow makes the arrival experience a little unpleasant. Overall, it's good to see IGI improving, but I wish that the arrival process could be made smoother.
IGI airport arrival rating: 2.9/5
I hope that you enjoyed reading my flight review, as always comments or feedback is greatly appreciated. The flight review for the return journey will be written as an additional post here when I go back to Denver in late July.