Back in the Groove
To Chicago with British Airways, in Premium Classes, along with a surprise
- Something a little different? Maybe…
- Off to the Land of Milk and Honey. I mean Heathrow Terminal 5
- British Airways BA295 – London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare (Club World)
- Into the USA, Crowne Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- The Wonder of Micro Center
- More Food Adventures in Chicago
- Exploring China Town in Chicago
- Back to O’Hare T5
- British Airways BA296 – Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow T5 (World Traveller Plus)
- Welcome back to the United Kingdom
- Well, that’s a bit different.
Editors rambling introduction
Time for the first long-haul trip of the year, with a familiar destination being the Windy City. This trip has more than a few unexpected twists in it (as well as coming back with both cameras, but that’s beside the point).
And there were surprises for me in it.
This was conceived as an Economy Class/Premium Economy review, but things went north (as opposed to other trips) a lot faster than I expected. It’s also a chance to continue to keep an eye on the transatlantic product, as well as the customer touch points that we come to love.
I’m going a little more off-piste in the style of writing and what I do, to give you an insight into a few things I do beyond just flying to Chicago. Because there is life at a destination (of course, not everything… no one needs to know those details).
Whilst I am using Grammarly a lot more than I should (dyslexia is a pig and gets me most days of the week), my usual detractors who moan about my spelling and grammar can read this press release I wrote a few years ago about this inconstancy and how I deal with it.
Something a little different? Maybe…
With it time to visit my friend, a trip to the Windy City was needed. Thankfully, when booking this trip, it was the January sales season – the perfect time to lock in a ticket (or two as it happens) and start putting the bones of my travel year together.
That challenge will increase this year, as I need to aim for 600 British Airways Tier Points (as opposed to the reduced amount of 450 Tier Points that British Airways gave me last year).
And as we all know, every tier point and Avios matters… especially at the budget end of the market.
I’ve always considered my mad mileage runs, weekends in Helsinki and so on to make these long-haul transatlantic trips a lot more bearable. It helps reduce luggage costs (£100 a time for bags adds up when you travel twice a year two ways).
As for lounges and such – they make the travelling experience more… bearable. Sometimes having a place you can go, sit down, and grab some nibbles as you ponder about the world is no bad thing, especially when you’ve had a long morning or a crap day.
And yes – those can happen both up and down route when travelling. Sometimes chomping on a burger you haven’t had to make or a poorly made vodka and lemonade can make a world of difference after a bad day.
Going through the BA ticketing engine, I did find something that was a little off. To maximise my time in Chicago, I normally want the early morning (read: 7:45/7:50) flight out of London to maximise my first day – even though it does tire me out (it helps for the body clock reset). Sadly, the first flight I could find was 11:20, getting me in for 15:15.
I selected the latest possible flight back to the United Kingdom, to try and exhaust myself. I also found cheap enough capacity in World Traveller Plus on the return leg.
That’s a bit of a nuisance, but unavoidable. It also forces a lot of additional planning that sometimes, I want to skip.
Both flights would feature a type I’ve not flown much of – the Airbus A380. With quad-jet engined aircraft getting rarer by the day, as well as the limited A380s that aren’t operated by Emirates, it was welcome to see what the passenger experience would be like on these aircraft
On top of this, I wanted to pop over to Manhatten (New York) for a day, before I met up with my friends.
This was a continual battle with BA.com, which showed plenty of outbound space, but nothing on the return leg after lunchtime. Whilst that’s good for an excursion, I needed to hit both B&H and Adorama (because I’m a camera nerd).
That is annoying. The cash fares did not work for me – I needed this to be on a redemption so I can save a few pennies and invest it in camera gear I will never use.
Sadly, Chicago’s list of decent camera shops that I can use when I travel has diminished since Central Camera Chicago suffered its fire and has been trying to rebuild – its just not open when I need it to (and I would rather support a business like this, than a big-box company like Target or Best Buy).
With that plan scrapped, I decided to focus on some new experiences in the Chicago area. Thankfully, with Uber, Lyft, and wondrous L lines, it unlocks a few options as needed (compared to the past when you were at the whim of the Chicago Taxi companies).
In terms of hotels, I’m not going too wild here. For the first night, I chose the Crowne Plaza O’Hare (the perfect crashpad hotel) and the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for the rest of the trip (regular readers will know why. Other readers can make wild assumptions and have them deleted).
Finally, to round things off, I booked a seat on a National Express Coach to shuttle me back and forth to Heathrow.
One more thing to add before we go is that I had been on and off debating a Pre-Depature Upgrade. Typically, when I arrive in Chicago, I need to hit the floor running to get a lot of small things done before I catch up with my friends over the weekend. Whilst a 3 pm arrival was annoying, it would be viable to do something when I hit the ground.
Or so I thought.
To help me along, I checked the upgrades on BA.com – and outbound upgrades were offered for £238 from World Traveller (economy) to World Traveller Plus (premium economy).
I consulted with ExpertFlyer, which showed the seats to be empty.
I took the plunge, hoping the dice were at least warm for this roll. £238 later, I was in World Traveller Plus.
Although… let us be honest, it is remarkable how much airlines can break down a fare and charge the world in taxes and fees.
Expect I checked the seat map for the live seat map – with only the last row free and one seat In the middle (and a middle bulkhead seat).
Grrr. And there was me hoping for a window seat. I assigned myself an aisle seat and quietly hoped someone would swap.
With all the preparation complete, it’s time to head back to the Windy City.
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