British Airwaysin’

I’ve long sworn off British Airways, insulted as I am by their egregious fuel surcharges and business class that presents the possibility of both sitting in the middle and sitting backwards. I certainly wouldn’t be “chuffed” to be in that situation, that’s for sure. However, it turns out that I’ll probably book BA on our big trip next year. Yes, I know it’s only March, but I plan way in advance because I’m insane. Seriously, I have major OCD about travel, and knowing I’m going to travel without knowing every exact detail about what flight I’ll be taking or where I’ll be staying drives me crazy. It means that I often miss out on last-minute deals, but if I plan it well enough to start, that shouldn’t matter.

Big surprise, this trip will be built around a week-long stay in the Faroe Islands, which (as I’ve detailed in a past post) can be a pain to get to using points. I had thought that SAS flying to Vagar airport meant that you could route all the way there through a Star Alliance booking engine, but that’s not true. United’s ass-butt system will only get you as far as Copenhagen, so if you want to get all the way there in one shot from the US, you’d need to use SAS Eurobonus miles. Hope you still have that Diner’s Club card, since they’re the only US-based program that transfers to SAS. (Some European iterations of Membership Rewards transfer to SAS as well.)

However, CPH isn’t the only gateway airport to the Faroes, and as I dug into it some more, a couple other options popped up. First is Reykjavik, which is only an hour away. Biggest downside there is that the trip would involve a long haul flight on Icelandair, which doesn’t have a “real” business class. However, for 50,000 Alaska miles and ~$100, it’s not awful. Sure there are better redemptions out there, but I could live for 7-8 hours in a wide recliner seat. It’s not like I can sleep on planes anyway, so that’s an option. Another one is Edinburgh, which has flights to Vagar on Atlantic twice a week. It probably wouldn’t work for both legs, since it would be too hard to fit the trip around the twice-a-week schedule back and forth to EDI, but I’m almost definitely going to use it in one direction.

We’re aiming to go in March, which means I’m about a month out from being able to book the trip, since most airlines haven’t loaded schedules through March yet. However, from what I can see in January and February, if you want to go to the UK in the early part of next year, you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you want to get there without fuel surcharges, you’re a little more constrained. Virgin Atlantic has a handful of days from SFO through Delta for only $5.60, although I personally will never fly a herringbone seat, given that having my back to the window would really stress me out. British Airways is much better – here’s what it looks like via American:

journeycontrol
The dreaded JOURNEY CONTROL

Let’s try that again:

aashiz
Ahhh, much better

BTW, First sAAAAAAver awards are the same – a sea of fuchsia. Of course, the difference here is that I searched SFO to EDI, not London. When I first found out about journey control on Swiss, I thought I had uncovered the conspiracy of the century, but Gary Leff set me straight in the comments, basically saying “Bro, this happens all the time, so use it to your advantage bro.” (Gary and I are totally bros.) So I am: I need to go to Edinburgh anyway, so I can take advantage of this frankly ridiculous policy of blocking off availability for routes with connections.

Now, I know that fuel surcharges are an issue, but BA first also looks pretty nice. Nicer than any of the business class options I would have – and assuming I book it with Alaska miles, definitely worth 20,000 miles and a couple hundred bucks more than Icelandair Saga class. Speaking of Alaska miles, I put together a little chart to keep track of the various options booking BA First. Assuming a flight from EDI to SFO, here’s how it looks:

  • Alaska: 70,000 miles + $374
  • American: 85,000 miles + $509
  • British Airways: 85,000 avios + $486

I don’t understand why the cost of the fuel surcharge varies by so much, but Alaska certainly looks like a good deal here. (Also, adding to my annoyance around the ever-mutating fuel surcharge amount, the surcharge actually DROPS by over $100 on Alaska by flying from EDI via LHR than flying from LHR directly.) $374 is a lot any way you slice it, but it stings less than the other two, especially since I usually figure money for fuel surcharges into my budget. Taking this option just means I have to figure out a surcharge-free way to get overseas, meaning my options are either SAS or Swiss via Aeroplan, anyone via United, or Air France/KLM via Delta. Not exactly a dearth of choices.

Now comes the even harder part: which plane do I choose??? (Knowing full well that booking 11 months out leaves me very exposed to equipment swaps.) The 777 is out, since the plane holds no mystique for me. Sure it’s big, efficient and has some impressively-sized engines, but it really lacks personality. The A380 is so hideous from the outside, I can’t help but love it. It’s like the Airbus engineers had access to the same demon at the end of Ghostbusters, and they also thought of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man… but instead of a giant ghost, the demon made them a plane. Put a giant sailor hat on it, and I swear you couldn’t tell the difference. The 747 is iconic, and both the 787 and A350 have that brand new, sleek appeal to them.

655x350-first6
787 First class – so new you’re not even allowed to sit in it, you just stand in the aisle the whole time.

 

Initially, my thought is to pick the A380, since I’ve never flown on one before, and I’ve always wanted to. Plus, the BA first class cabin looks nice and spacious – way better than photos I have seen on the 747 and 777. However, the 787 features the newest version of BA’s First suite, and I do love the 787’s higher humidity and giant windows. It’s quite a bit narrower than the A380 lower deck, though, so I’m wondering how much more cramped it feels. (Also, I’d have a more expensive taxi ride home, since I’d arrive at San Jose instead of SFO.) Either one looks pretty cool to me, and pretty obviously superior to most business class seats out there. (Are there any reverse herringbone seats in business class where your feet don’t go under the console of the seat in front of you? To me that’s what sets this apart from a normal business class seat.) Anyway, here’s where I could use the expertise of my legions of jetsetting readers. I’m sure there are enough British business travelers reading this blog who shuttle back and forth from the UK in first class and can weigh in here… as long as they aren’t too offended by my use of the word “chuffed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “British Airwaysin’”

  1. You’ll like the A380, those things are so quiet is amazing. BA First looks nice, but Business class on the A380 sucks. That little “footstool” thing that folds down from the seat in front of you was a real pain in the ass, every time I shifted in the seat, that fucking thing “fell” downwards, slamming into the poor bastard that was seated in front of me. Never flying BA again, that was a complete nightmare.

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    1. One of the reasons I dislike AAdvantage is that you can’t filter out British Airways awards on the award calendar (at least not to my knowledge), only on the day-by-day listing of available flights. BA’s business class looks so laughably shitty, I’d rather fly any angle-flat seat instead of theirs. In fact, I’d rather fly premium economy on someone like Virgin Atlantic. In fact, I think I might even rather fly normal economy on an 8-across plane like an A330.

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      1. May I be the weirdo that defends BA’s business, er Club World, seat? Particularly on the upper deck, particularly in a window seat? I love the privacy, the window seats have plenty of storage, and I sleep/lounge much better than in AA’s vaunted 77w seat. I can never really get comfortable in the AA seats, and I hate the foot cubbies. BA feels much less coffin like. I’m a particular fan of the Z-position for lounging/movie watching. I’ve never been in one of the middle seats, and they’re probably not great, but I prefer BA’s seats and especially service (even with all the damn cuts) over AA. (I have had a few very bad service experiences on AA in business; the better the AA seat, the worse the crew has been my experience lately.) There are some plans, which probably won’t ever be realized, for all aisle variants of the CW seat, but for the time being, careful seat selection can get rid of that irritation.

        Re First, the 747 experience is lovely, especially if you can snag row 1 (reserved for BA gold until closer to departure.) That alone is worth the extra number of miles.

        I haven’t tried the others, unfortunately.

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      2. I’m happy to see the counterpoint, especially since my reaction is 0% based in experience. Maybe I should reconsider my aversion.

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