British Airways BA296 Chicago O’Hare International to London Heathrow Terminal 5 (World Traveller Plus/Premium Economy)
Back in the Groove
BA296 Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow
British Airways BA296
Seat 62K, World Traveller Plus
3953 miles flown, 90 Tier points earned, 5,930 Avios Earned
Again, it’s an odd feeling if you’re not used to it – heading upwards on an airplane bridge (as opposed to sloping downwards).
Eventually, I made it to the queue to board the upper deck of the Airbus A380.
And there was a good reason – as British Airways have their premium economy cabin (World Traveller Plus) on the upper deck of an A380, behind business class (Club World),
It’s almost as if I was sat in these seats on the outbound segment. Wait. I did!
Making my way through the cabin, World Traveller Plus was looking busy that night – with someone sitting in the seat next to me. I made my way through, stowing the big rucksack above me. As for my Pan Am bag, that went into the side bins.
Yes, the Airbus A380s have side bins on the upper decks. How wonderful.
The seat is a Recaro Premium seat, so it’s a comfortable-enough seat for a long-haul flight, which featured a rather deep recline. What wasn’t comfortable was the noise that was behind me – a family with a child who was chatty.
And I mean chatty.
Thankfully, British Airways offers noise-cancelling headphones in World Traveller Plus. It wasn’t totally drowning out the noise but took more than an edge off.
Menu cards and welcome drinks of water and orange juice were offered. I took an orange juice.
Boarding was completed early, along with loading, so our A380 was off the blocks early at O’Hare.
American Airlines Boeing 787 parked next-door
Again, the safety demonstration for this aircraft was given manually. With it complete, the crew checked that everyone was compliant.
The A380 then descended into darkness, as it began its taxi around the airport – we would be taking off from 9C/27C, so it was a fair old taxi around the O’Hare Complex.
And a chance to give the camera a workout. You missed it, and so have I from this trip.
Ah. Hilton. That makes more sense.
United Airlines Terminal 1
The distant terminal
Ah. United Air Lines.
Crossing a runway.
Eventually, our aircraft lined up at 9C for the take-off run – and this being an Airbus A380 – it’s a long old run.
As we were taking off towards Lake Michigan, as opposed towards deeper Illinois, then looping out over Wisconsin we were given a view of the City of Chicago as our A380 climbed out of the airport.
See you in six months.
And a first for me – no person reclining their seat in front of me after take-off. That is a miracle in itself.
With the city behind us and the lights coming up, it was time to investigate the IFE system. Again, this is a Thales IFE system, which had a few more issues than on the outbound flight. In World Traveller Plus Whilst the performance was reasonable, there must have been some problems with it being rebooted around 30 minutes into the flight. It took the best part of an hour for the system to reset.
The screen on the device was around 12” (although it felt a lot smaller than that) with USB power outlets at the seat. However, these are low-powered outlets.
The content was the same as the outbound – so it was back to the world of Star Trek I went.
Best thing to come out of Star Trek: Discovery? The reimagined Enterprise.
Wi-Fi again was provided on this flight by IntelSat – however, with this being a night flight, I chose to skip the connectivity option. The world could do without me connected for seven hours.
The crew continued a welcome/aperitif service, with drinks being offered – I went for a G&T. I was also offered wine at this point for the dinner service – a way to cut down time, I suppose.
And yes – there were mini Penn State Pretzels. Also available in Supermarkets or in idiot-sized bags at Costco. Ask me how I know another time.
The meal service followed. Again, there was a choice of three options for World Traveller Plus:
- Beef meatballs with rigatoni, in slow-roasted tomato sauce
- Grilled chicken breast, pistou vegetables, rosemary mashed potatoes, thyme jus
- Ricotta ravioli, mushrooms with Parmesan panna sauce
I went for the chicken. Let’s see what turned up on the tray.
Starting at the top, we have the red quinoa salad. This was… well. Quinoa. It’s seedy enough and had some taste, which was passable.
The Chicken thankfully wasn’t a tough breast at least (I’ve had occasions when plastic cutlery has ended up snapping when trying to cut it), with potatoes, vegetables and a gravy that tasted of something.
With the trays collected, the lights began to dim. I put some trek on, reclined the seat and tried to get some sleep.
The IFE woke up during the meal service.
It took me a while, but eventually, I settled into a light doze.
I woke up around half an hour from the Irish Coast, spying the world outside had brightened up through the windows of the A380 – even though the blinds were closed.
I do love traditional blinds in this case – rather than the blue hue of the world you get on a Dreamliner.
The cabin lights came up slowly as the crew prepared to conduct a breakfast service. As is tradition, the second service in World Traveller Plus is based on the economy product.
And this flight would be no different. Thankfully, British Airways has long moved away from the box of sugar (and the pathetic ambient pass).
This service would consist of a breakfast muffin and drinks – I went for water and coffee, as I was a little parched (and my water bottle was in the overhead bin)
The muffin has a unique feature compared to the one I had on the previous trip – it was warmed up.
Little things like that make a difference – as it turns it from a stodgy muffin with cold cheese and ham into a slightly gooey muffin, that’s only slightly stodgy.
The coffee was at least warm, whilst the water was drunk in one shot.
I knew I should have brought a bottle before leaving O’Hare.
With the aircraft crossing Southern Ireland, the captain came on to give the 40-minute warning for everyone to get ready for landing. With this, the lights came up, and a flurry of activity occurred in the cabin – including people heading to the toilets, as well as the cabin being tied down and the Comic Relief/Flying Start charity drive.
As the cabin was coming back to life, I slowly opened the windows – least of all at the 20-minute mark, the windows would have to come up anyway.
Sadly, the cloud was covering the United Kingdom as we crossed over Bristol and started tracking towards Heathrow.
Our route to Heathrow took the southwest stack, where our aircraft did a loop or two, before heading past the airport to line up for one of the approach paths for Heathrow, with the aircraft targeting the North Runway.
Meanwhile, it was Gray and Wet outside. Welcome to London.
It’s grim down south.
With ease, our Airbus A380 made it onto the ground at Heathrow, and even rather smartish pulled off the runway.
With our aircraft having a gate allocated, it taxied over to the Terminal 5 C Gates – the home of the WhaleJets for British Airways. It was a slow taxi, but after passing two other sister A380s and an A350 on way, ours turned for the gate.
Move over tiny Dreamliner.
The next generation.
It still amazes me something so big can fly.
With the aircraft parked, everyone of course got up, as the airport attached two jetbridge. As they were connected, the doors opened.
Exit via Club.
It was time to end this A380 adventure and head back to reality.
Next: Welcome back to the United Kingdom.
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