British Airways First Class Experience and Encounters with Madonna (June 9 JFK-LHR)
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I decided to hop on the 100,000 point sign-up bonus for the British Airways Visa. In addition to a couple 5,000 point Amex transfer bonuses, I was on my way to redeeming my first First class British Airways redemption. In fact, I had never flown BA, but always heard great things, so I was very excited. Until that is, UNITE decided to strike AGAIN, which would affect the outbound portion of my trip (June 9). At first I was annoyed, but then I realized it would be an adventure- and isn't that what travel is all about?
Check-in at JFK:
Empty- 5 minutes from bag drop to lounge
Security was a breeze- even the TSA agents were friendly!
After security we made a left and decided to try out the Concorde Room First Class Lounge. Upon entering the friendly agent advised us to eat our dinners in the lounge since the catering/service aboard the plane might be questionable. The lounge was quiet and set up for full-service dining.
Service was attentive and quick.
Food was okay- I ordered the beef, which was a little overcooked and rubbery. The truffle butter certainly helped!
Dessert was probably the highlight- a tasty strawberry lemon shortcake
Before I knew it, it was time to board. The walk through the terminal 7 was uneventful and I was surprised how dated the terminal was (in comparison to t5 in London). I utilized priority boarding and was on the 777 in no time. Upon boarding, the two flight attendants told me they'd be with me as soon as possible- clearly they were short staffed. The other noticeable feature, was that the cabin reeked like fish. I had never encountered such a stench when boarding an aircraft. However, I was sleepy and all I needed to do on this flight was sleep.
I wasn't overly impressed with the In Flight Entertainment system- Delta has larger screens in coach
Once settled in, the sheer amount of personal space sank in and I smiled thinking about the good nights rest I'd be able to get. I'm 6'7", so space is crucial- and the ability to have my legs stretched out while sitting, is amazing.
I stood up to stow my bag just as boarding was coming to an end and was shocked when I realized who was going to be sitting in front of me for the flight- MADONNA. Yes, the Material Girl and her 6 person entourage. I guess we are all prone to the recession- even superstars have to fly commercial when times are tough. At first I wasn't 100% sure it was Madonna, but when I put my carry-on in the overhead bin I snuck a peek at her boarding pass and sure enough, it had CICCONE as her last name.
Just as we were supposed to push back from the gate, the captain came on and explained that we'd be delayed for a while due to the weather (rain) and the closed runway. Immediately Madonna scoffed and grilled the head flight attendant about our departure time. The flight attendant scurried off and before I knew it, the captain came out and was personally addressing the situation with her majesty.
Madonna was actually really great about the whole thing — joking that she would fly the plane if necessary and then asking the pilot to "step on it" once we got airborne to make up time. The pilot actually came and talked to me afterward and I asked him about the new 3 hour tarmac rule, and he said he never heard about it — I guess foreign carriers aren't subject to the new FAA fines.
The 2 hour delay flew by — I guess the constant flurry of activity of Madonna's entourage — including her doting nutritionist (who was seated in Club World- the horror!) and her overprotective personal assistant who was sitting behind me. I was actually surprised they didn't boot me from my seat so that her PA could be closer.
Finally we pushed back and began to taxi. Before long we were airborne and my good friend Lunesta kicked in.
6.5 hours later and I awoke just in time for a pitiful breakfast of croissant and grisly bacon sandwich.
We did the expected circle around London due to incoming delays, and were landed at T5 only a few hours behind schedule (guess the Captain didn't step on it as he promised!). I actually had the pleasure of deplaning behind Madonna, so I had to make sure I was paparazzi-ready- which wasn't an issue, thanks to the Anya Hindmarch amenity kit!
I followed Madge off the plane and immediately a BA rep introduced herself. I continued following her, not realizing that I was not supposed to go through the door they were going through (I'm not a stalker- I swear). Once I was headed in the "lay person" direction, it was off to customs and reality.
Overall, the pre-flight check-in, security and lounge were great. The in-flight service was fine given the circumstances, but nothing to rave about. However, sleeping with my feet 1 foot from Madonna = priceless.
My London trip (wedding) went very well and before I knew it I was back in T5 for my flight home, which actually ended up being PHENOMENAL due to an equipment swap and getting a New First Class equipped plane. That story to come shortly (with lots and lots of pictures and video).