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May 9, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 L.A. to London

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If youíre traveling to a destination in Europe, Africa or Asia that does not have nonstop service, consider buying two separate tickets, instead of one direct ticket. Going through London or Ireland can save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars. For example, last year when I flew to Sardinia I bought a round-trip ticket from New York to London. I then purchased a separate ticket on easyJet (one of Europeís most popular low-fare carriers). That trick saved me over $1,500! Just be sure to leave plenty of time in between flights (preferably a day), because many low-fare carriers depart out of alternate airports. And pack lightly -- they charge for baggage.

A friend of mine was on one of British Airwaysí three flights from LAX to London the same day I was. He was bummed he couldnít select a seat until 24 hours prior to departure. I thought that was weird, because I got mine just after the ticket was purchased (a month earlier). I had plenty of choices, and snatched the best seat in economy by following the advice of I assume I could select my seat because Iím a platinum member on American Airlines (a BA partner). Unfortunately, that was about the only perk I had. BA does not give AAdvantage miles, which meant I missed out on 10,000 of them (ouch!).

British Airways made big news a few months ago by announcing a charge of £120 ($240) per bag, or £84 ($167) if passengers paid online for their second piece of checked luggage on long-haul flights. Fortunately, the new rule does not affect passengers traveling between the UK and the Americas. First and Club World (business class) passengers can check three bags, while World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (coach) passengers can check two bags for free. The maximum dimension (height plus weight plus length) per bag is 158 cm (62 inches); maximum weight per bag is 23 kg (51 pounds). For more info on BAís bag policy, click here.

Check-in at BA was quick, and the agent was friendly. Because I was checking a bag, I had to go to a TSA checkpoint to screen it. Iím still not clear why passengers at some airports have to lug their bags and wait in a whole other line, while at others they donít. Even at some other LAX terminals, passengers donít have to do this Ė they just hand their bag to the airline agent and go on their way. It doesnít make sense, and it adds another chore to an already unpleasant airport experience. Keep in mind this is not the regular security line (a whole other subject). However, while I was waiting I did spot one of the oddest and funniest flights on the departure board. Take a look at this picture. The last flight listed is China Air. The flight number is 007, and the destination is "Unknown." How bizarre is that? I donít think I want to be on that flight.

My flight was scheduled for a 6:20 p.m. departure, but we were delayed and did not take off until 7:40. BA boards by row numbers. I was in row 28 -- one of the first rows in coach Ė so I was the last to get on. The kind flight attendant helped me find space for my laptop bag, and I took my bulkhead exit row seat. Keep in mind that BA has strict carry-on rules. Passengers traveling from, or transferring in the UK, may only take ONE piece of hand baggage. Maximum dimensions are 56 cm (22 inches) x 45 cm (17.72 inches) x 25 cm (9.843 inches).

I had plenty of leg room, but my seat width was very tight and the armrest did not go up. All the seats came with comfortable headrests which could be bent on either side, making them feel like travel neck pillows. Each seat also featured an 8-inch individual monitor with movies, music, games and map tracking. The BA flight attendants were very serious about the safety video. They spread themselves throughout the jumbo 747, and made sure no one was talking while it was shown. The overhead compartment near me did not lock properly, so the FAs took out all the bags and moved them to another bin. Did you know that carry-on bags injure more than 4,000 people each year? But BAís emphasis on safety did not stop there. One of the flight attendants was seriously the meanest around. But it was entertaining to watch as she downright yelled at passengers who tried to get up and use the loo while the seatbelt sign was still illuminated.

Seat 28H would have been just perfect if the audio on the entertainment system worked properly (I had to hold my plug halfway out so I could hear the movie), and if I had not had a grouchy old English lady behind me. After takeoff, when the pilot told us to sit back and relax, I reclined a quarter of the way. The woman complained to a flight attendant, who replied, "We canít ask them to move the seat up except during meal service." To be courteous, I brought my seat back up. Economy must be very tight on BA, because this woman was petite -- maybe 5-3 -- yet she kept pushing my seat back, even when it was in the upright position. I felt like I was being beaten up. After the fifth time I turned around and gave her a look like "what the heck is your problem?" Her husband then asked me to move it up. I said it was. I stood up and demonstrated that it could not go up any further. They gave me angry looks, like it was my fault. After dinner, the FAs shut all the shades for the 9-hour, 35-minute flight. When I returned from the bathroom I noticed my grumpy seatmates had their seats reclined and were asleep, so I did the same. I slept for a few hours, until you-know-who woke up and began pushing again. She put her knees into my back like I was a criminal. I wanted to kick Grandmaís ass, but because thatís not socially or morally accepted, I just took the abuse and waited for breakfast.

FOOD ON BA: An hour after takeoff, the flight attendants came through the cabin with food and drink carts. Dinner choices were braised beef and chicken risotto. When the passenger next to me asked which one was better, the FA said with a smile, "Itís airplane food. Though they look different, they both taste the same."

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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip




Check-in at BA


LAX Departure Board


British Airways




Coach Headrest


Breakfast On Plane


Heathrow Express


Arriving at Paddington Station


Tube Station


Steep Tube Escalators


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