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March 12, 2008

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

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Cheers from England! This is the first leg of my ‘round-the-world trip. That's right, baby! I'm circumnavigating the globe for my second time in 15 months and the experience is not only exciting ... it's addictive! This week, I'm in London for a sneak peak of Heathrow's state-of-the-art Terminal 5, or T5 as it's called. If you haven't heard about it yet, you definitely will once it open its doors to the public on March 27th. To learn how this new terminal is going to change air travel to London and to find out what it's like in one of British Airways' plush Club World seats, grab your bags and your passport and let's hit the road! Once we arrive, we'll be checking into the swanky May Fair Hotel and you'll see how you can experience piloting a wide-body plane for yourself. If you'd prefer to stay closer to home, then join Richard Frinta as he tours us around the cowboy town of Republic, Washington.

My journey began at Los Angeles' Tom Bradley International Airport (LAX). Checking-in at British Airways (BA) took less than a minute; the agent was not only efficient but friendly, too. I was handed my boarding card and a pass to the new OneWorld first/business class lounge and I was off. The lounge is wisely positioned on the other side of security, up on level five. Don't you just hate the lounges before security? The elevator wasn't working so I hiked up the two flights of stairs, toting my two bags. That's right ... even on an around-the-world trip, I only took carry-on. It's the only way to travel.

The OneWorld lounge opened in November 2007 and its codeshare partners British Airways, Qantas and Cathay Pacific share it. The business class section can hold up to 210 guests and first class has room for 90. Both have aesthetically pleasing designer interiors: the carpet is brown, the trim is teak and green leather chairs are situated all around. You'll find the usual free newspapers and magazines and food and drinks, but there are also showers, which are cleaned after each use. The best part is that they also offer free Wi-Fi. If you're not traveling with a laptop, there are a slew of desktop computers, available for use at no charge. While checking email and quietly chatting on my cell phone, I sampled the chicken chow mein, beef Wellington, fresh fruit and picked at a chocolate muffin. Not bad at all!

BA has three flights a day from LAX to London and I was on flight number 268, which is the latest departure at 8:40pm. This flight is nicknamed 26 LATE. It's the last plane out of Europe and taking into consideration the domino effect, it's the one that tends to suffer the most. Jean Reno (from The Da Vinci Code) was on my flight and the special services agent escorted us onto the plane together. That was pretty cool. He's tall and skinny and judging by the number of doubletakes I saw, a good amount of people recognized him – but no one broke his stride. He must really love BA's first class service because he was flying to Paris via Heathrow instead of taking a nonstop flight on a different carrier. We chatted for a while and he wasn't happy about the 40-minute delay because he was going to miss his connection. I wasn't bothered by it at all as I had nowhere pressing to be.

Club World is the name of BA's business class. The moment I stepped on the plane, I noticed the cabin's mood lighting and two round lampshades hanging from the middle of the ceiling. Pretty cool, huh? The 2-4-2 seating configuration on the 747-400 was strange to look at but pleasing to use. People who are traveling together definitely want to sit in the two middle seats as they are the only ones next to each other and make almost a full-size bed. Those seats, as well as the window seats, face backwards but don't let that freak you out because you don't feel a thing. Believe me, I didn't think I'd like it either as I tend to get motion sickness but that's not the case at all.

I was in seat 20A and according to, it's one of the best seats in Club World. I have to agree. The seat is like your own private apartment and you don't have to step over anyone. There are two windows and lots of privacy. All the Club World seats have an electronic divider so if you're sitting next to someone you don't want to look at or speak to, just flip the switch and say, "talk to the divider because the ears ain't listening!" In fact, there's so much privacy that I actually forgot I was on an airplane. I was lounging in the 180-degree, fully flat sleeper seat, watching one of the 25 on-demand new release movies on the 9-inch screen when the flight attendant popped his head over, bringing me my dinner tray. He startled the heck out of me and for a second there, I thought it was the Jolly Green Giant coming to get me for not ordering any veggies.

If you're anything like me and have difficulty sleeping on a plane, you'll definitely appreciate the power port, perfect for working on your laptop, and the wide selection of movies, TV shows, video games and audio options – all available with the quick touch of the screen. To increase your enjoyment, they also provide noise-canceling headsets. The only thing I didn't like about these seats was that the tray tables and video screens were a little difficult to open up and the tray wasn't that sturdy ... no big deal, I know. The seats also lacked storage space. There were no compartments on the side nor a pocket to put your cell phone, camera, book, iPod, bottled water or the designer amenity kits they handed out. However, I am told that there is storage space on the floor but I somehow missed it. The overhead compartment is huge and has a cool safety netting so when you open the bin, the contents won't fall on your head.

The flight attendants' service was excellent for the first and last portions of the flight. But they were non-existent in the middle of the night. Right after takeoff, they served drinks and dinner, which came out quickly. I passed on the lobster tail and mushroom appetizer but had the salad and steak and chose fruit over the chocolate brownie cheesecake. Once the food service ended, essentially so did the flight attendants' service until breakfast 90 minutes before touching down. Most passengers were sleeping so they didn't even notice and I didn't really care because I like to get up and stretch my legs so I frequently visited the Club Kitchen set up in the galley and stocked with food and drinks. Overall, the next generation Club World seats made the 10-hour, 15-minute flight a dream and I can't wait to do it again.

All prices below are in British pounds (£) unless noted. To convert into U.S. dollars, double the amount for an approximation of the price.

When we landed at Heathrow at 4pm, it was a race to passport control. It was a long walk but once there, it took just two minutes to clear and there was no line at customs, one of the benefits of not checking luggage. I followed the signs to the Heathrow Express and used one of their self-service kiosks to get my ticket. To get to the trains required an elevator down and another long walk (they do have free carts). What's great about the Heathrow Express (cost one-way is £15.50, £2 more on the train, £1 less online) is that it takes only 15 minutes to get to Central London (Paddington Station) and the trains depart every 15 minutes so there's no need to rush. Surprisingly, there was no taxi line at Paddington. If there had been one, I would've taken the tube but it was rush hour and I didn't feel like schlepping my bags in the madness. A taxi to May Fair took 10 minutes and cost a whopping £8 without tip.

Don't get me wrong: the tube is the best way to get around London and I love taking it – just not at rush hour. To save money, get an Oyster card. This transit card has a £3 refundable deposit and you can add as much credit to the card as you like. Plus, it's good for traveling by bus as well. The Oyster card makes those £4 rides turn into £1.50 (more for those traveling longer distances). The blue cards can be found in a number of places including most tube station ticket offices and online at the Oyster website.

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Copyright 2008 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


BA Counter at LAX


Oneworld Lounge




Club World Seats


Electronic Divider




Amenity Kits


Overhead Bin


BA Salad


Filet Mignon




Spot of Tea


Food in Galley


LAX to London


Landing in Heathrow


Heathrow Express


Paddington Station


10 Taxi Ride


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