Hullo from London, folks! I'll be telling you about my first day in The Big Smoke in a wee bit, but for the moment, I just gotta rave about flying business class!
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a spendthrift and I am quite careful with my dimes (and pounds). Flying business or first class under normal circumstances can be very expensive and would seriously cut into my regular comic book buying budget. This time around, however, I cashed in some of my miles to upgrade and get a free business-class round trip ticket to London, and boy howdy, am I pleased as punch I did! It's a long enough flight as it is, especially when you do it overnight, and the change in setting from steerage (no pun intended) to business class made it rush by that much faster. Why so surprised that I have miles to cash in? I earned them selling seeds door to door. It was a lot of seeds. (And yes, for the purpose of my pop-culture joke in the last post, I suppose I have miles with Fresh Air.)
Anyway, the delight starts from the very beginning when you step into the busy busy terminal 9 at JFK and get to step directly into the "business class" line to check your bags. Seriously, since our flight was at midnight, there wasn't much of a wait even for coach, but it was a nice treat to immediately be the second in line to check in. A few exchanged pleasantries with the clerk at the check-in counter included the fact that I was entitled to go into the Admiral's Club until departure! Whoo hoo! I have never been in an executive club at an airport before and it was great fun running about helping myself to free fruit. It was quite a disappointment however, that the club was actually outside the security section to the gates, so to give myself plenty of time before the flight I left the cozy confines of the club and waddled, full of fruit, to the sparse and spartan international departures wing, which was about as exciting as a pit of mud.
Seriously, JFK...that was one pretty lousy departures wing. There were no restaurants. There was a bar, at which I bought a bottle of water for the flight ($3.50! Not good value for money.) There was free bottled water in the flight club but you were not allowed to bring it through security. Grrr. I'm remembering how fantastic the Heathrow Departure Lounge is, chock-a-block full of amazing shops for your last-minute souvenirs needs, lovely restaurants, and a relaxing atmosphere. At JFK there are not enough seats for everyone so many people were sitting on the floor, and there were doors slamming every two or three minutes. Once again I have been misled by a Tom Hanks movie into thinking something was better than it actually is: the JFK international lounge in The Terminal is a lovely and elaborate Hollywood set with multi-leveled shops and stores. The real one is a dull grey limbo.
Thankfully all that dismal-osity was soon about to change as soon as we boarded. I am not a little stuffed bull who rushes the podium as soon as they call boarding, but I do enjoy being able to board as swiftly as possible to allow myself time to settle in and relax. Hooray for business class, because you get to board first! Up I sauntered with my e-ticket and onto the plane.
A right turn once in the plane takes you immediately into the business class (ultra-posh first class is to the left. I didn't see it, but I presume there were tame peacocks roaming about and a reflecting pool in the middle of the section). Hooray again!, because business class means you get your own seat and do not have to spend the trip inside the overhead storage bin. The seats are wide and comfortable, and there is so much leg room that even a big tall guy like John couldn't touch the seat in front of him with his toes. Poppy the Friendly Flight Attendant came by immediately after we settled in to bring glasses of wine, champagne, water and orange juice. I wanted to try some champagne (I bet it would tickle my nose!) but I had to settle for orange juice instead. What's better than being offered orange juice pre-flight? When they come by again and you get to have seconds!
The seats were so comfy (and it was quite late) so I kind of kept dropping off a bit before the plane took off, but I made sure to stay awake because we were issued menus. Menus! On a plane! You got to choose your meal out of several gourmet choices. I had a delicious, creamy pasta, but just like a pretty good restaurant (one that flies!) the meal came in several courses: first, a cup of hot nuts! And not just peanut pieces in little vaccum-sealed bags, oh no: an actual little china cup with warmed mixed nuts. Including plenty of cashews. Refills on whatever I wanted to drink (in real glass glasses!) and then a nice Caesar salad and bread, plus a return visit to the bun basket a little later on so I could have an extra roll. Then my pasta, which was gob-smackingly delicious, followed by ice cream with fudge on top. I was starting to fall asleep then so when they came around with chocolate bars after that I actually turned it down. (Can you believe it?)
Before I fell asleep they also brought round Bose noise-reducing headphones, which were simply amazing. You don't get to keep them (they collected them at the end of the flight) but I know it will be hard going back to my cheap Sony headphones while listening to my iPod on a plane after having those. I know they aren't cheap but I will have to save up my dimes to get a pair someday. They were even comfortable when I fell asleep. And if you've ever seen how odd a bull's ears are, that takes some doing.
We'd also been issued a large complimentary spa pack full of all sorts of toiletries and comfort items: earplugs, lip balm, toothbrush, immensely giant socks, eyeshade, and much more. Look at all the cool stuff I got to take away!
Why, it was a lot of stuff in a free pouch that was so huge I could use it as a sleeping bag!:
And that is how I spent one of the nicest flights ever, which was a wonderful start to my holiday. This trip is meant to be a real treat for me, and I'm very chuffed at having used my miles to fly business class, even though (shh! don't tell them) I did not come to London to do business. I've been upgraded from coach to first class a very few times on some short-range flights, mostly New York City to and from Buffalo or Chicago, and aside from a coat-hanging service and early drinks, it wasn't much different than coach. But this was a wonderfully posh experience: I don't normally sleep on flights, but I actually got a few hours shut-eye thanks to the spacious and relaxing suroundings.
I am not an elitist little bull by any means, and I definitely know that aside from the return trip home, it'll be back to coach for me in my journeys. But oh my, what a nice treat to upgrade.
Um, unless any of you want to buy some seeds to help me build up some more miles?