Its Sunday, so it must be time for some Airplane Art.

This week, it’s a Frontier Airines Airbus A320 – “Ozzy the Orca” taxing at Denver International Airport on a sunny summers evening

_MG_0819

The image is clickable if you want to see a larger version – and yes you can keep them for your desktops!

More airplane art next week!


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Posted by Kevincm | Comments are off for this article

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
Back to DIA, AA Admiral’s Club

Index:


Wrapping up

Lets review and make notes.

Aer Lingus – Again, a very solid performance on a very short leg. The same friendliness and good service always makes me smile… and whilst they may play the Low Cost Carrier game, there are some parts to Aer Lingus that don’t see it at all.

Dublin Airport – If T2 is the shining beacon, then someone needs to tidy up T1 a bit more. Saying that, the facility is functional, and the free WiFi makes a difference if you’re stuck waiting for a plane..

BA Shorthaul/ExBMI – were perfectly functional, delivering a basic service for the time the plane as in the air… and it was nice to be aboard an old BMI plane if I’m, honest

Heathrow Airport – What an absolute omnishambles – both as a transit and as an arrival. From a reasonable experience the past few trips to massive queues, poor planning and poor luggage delivery… a very poor impression this time. Oh, and having to deal with Gate 10 as well…

British Airways First Class Lounge – Again, a focus of “can do better”. The food presentation wasn’t great, and the choices were not what I expected of such a facility.

British Airways Long Haul – What the deficiencies there are on the ground are made up by some great crews in the air. The crew managed to turn a situation around and made  for two very pleasant flights. The crew of the outbound segment were pretty much the “perfect” crew, whilst the inbound upgrade was a very nice touch.

The Staybridge Suites and Crowne Plaza Denver are two good hotels for two different reasons – and both served their purposes well with good service and a very nice upgrade at the Crowne Plaza.

As for BAcon itself – a great experience learning from others, identifying new ideas as well as meeting a lot of the family that makes up Boarding Area… and beyond. Lots of food for thought, as well as a few things to chew over when I have 10 minutes in my life. The venue at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort was a great choice, and made for a very comfortable venue for the conference.

Before I wrap up this trip report, I would like offer a very special thanks to Randy Petersen and the team at Boarding Area for setting up this event, to Rapid Travel Chai who kindly put up with me giving me a lift to Colorado Springs, and to FlyGracefully for giving me a lift back into Denver. I’d also like the thank my office for not refreshing the DataCube. Again.

Coming Next: As the summer season rears its ugly head, I’ll be sitting on the ground for a bit unless something special comes up. I do have a Chicago Trip coming in October, but if sometime interesting happens in the meantime, I’m sure you’ll be the first to know about it.  I will be reviewing other things as I get a chance during the summer (as I have some big rail trips coming up), and who knows… there could well be some writing when it happens.

What’s that terms seems to follow me? “Oh yes. May you live in interesting times”.  My times just seem to be very interesting.

For now, I’ll bid you adieu, and thank you for reading this mammoth of a trip report (although they all seem to be long these days…)

Your comments are as usual welcome :)

Disclosure Notice: Frequent Flyer Services kindly supplied a hotel room at the Cheyenne Mountain resort to me to assist in this visit.

All opinions expressed within this trip are my own, represent my own personal thoughts and my observations during the visit.

Posted by Kevincm | One Comment

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
Homeward Bound

Index:


Arriving into Heathrow, the plane docked at the C Dock, so it was a case of going to the small room, then heading down the lifts to shuttle train. Now a big hint for those of you who want to save time at Heathrow T5 – avoid the escalators and head for the lifts – you’ll save bucketloads of time. The train thankfully did its usual thing and headed to the B Dock and finally the main terminal

Trust me. It felt like this after that flight.

Again, after leaving the train, I headed straight for the lifts, and over to the UK Border. Seeing the queues were of a stupid length, I headed to the empty e-passport lanes and cleared after the machine took its time to process me.

After arriving at the luggage belt, the good news was it was moving around. The bad news was that luggage delivery was slow. Very slow.

A good 20-30 minute wait, and finally, a fawn coloured rucksack and an aubergine coloured suitcase finally spat out of the luggage storage. Those items in hand, it was time to clear UK Customs (which was its usual quiet self)

Arrival

During this time, I had checked with the office who needed me to work on something remotely… with still the umming and ahhing if I was needed in. Reluctantly, I abandoned my onward connection to Gatwick, then Dublin and back to Birmingham. Electing to catch a train homewards and see what mess there was to fix if needed.

From there it was downstairs to the Heathrow Express and an onward connection with Heathrow Connect. Another £9.90 later, I was on my way.

Express pulling out.

As I spent the next 10 minutes on the phone trying to work out what they had done to the Active Directory, and me working out how we could fix it, I grabbed a Heathrow connect for the slow trip to Paddington.

And a visitor joined me for the journey too.

As we approached Paddington station, I saw that Crossrail was coming along with the major amount of works occurring outside the station mouth

Crossrail – coming eventually…

I exited the train, and ducked into the Underground station for the 2 stop ride to Marylebone station. The tube was its usual self – and I remember why I hate wheelie bags (it’s not fun lugging them around on the tube), but soon I was on a train at London Marylebone for the train back to Birmingham, with me using the free WiFi on the train.

Chiltern Railways
London Marylebone – Birmingham Moor Street
Super Off Peak Return: £27.50

After dumping my stuff in a corner of the train, it was time to whip out the laptop and remotely diagnose what was going on… and it looked like someone had been messing with Datacube that wasn’t reflecting the updates to the Active Directory. A bit of moaning and checking – and SURPRISE – the Cube hadn’t been refreshed.

That could have saved a couple of cancelled flights if someone else looked in the right place first. Grrr.  Oh well – I was heading homewards at least.

The Chiltern route takes its ways past High Wycombe, up through Bicester, through Banbury and Leamington Spa, before finally pulling into Birmingham Moor Street

And compared to the 27c I was experiencing the day before, it was distinctly… cooler here.

Rushing beyond High Wycombe

Surburbia of Lemington Spa

Train interior

Closing in on Birmingham Moor Street


Pulling into Moor Street – The Selfridges building in the middle with silver dots all over it

Still, the train did reasonable time, and approached Birmingham as peak time was kicking off.

A quick escape from the train, and it was outside into drizzle of a Birmingham evening. Some things don’t change.

I headed for the taxi rank, and found it empty… for a minute or so before a black cab came.

After the driver did his best to get lost around Birmingham (what is it with taxis and where I live? It’s not exactly in the middle of nowhere), I was through the gates of the flat and at my front door – ending a very interesting weekend, with the joy of working out why someone switched off a cube in the morning…

… and nope, I’m still not sold on wheelie bags.

Next and finally – the wrap up…

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Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
BA218 Denver International Airport – London Heathrow T5 in World Traveller Plus

Index:


With a bit of a bounce in my step, I headed towards my upgrade. Well it may have been “Just” to WTP, but an upgrade is an upgrade in my book.

16A is the first row of World Traveller Plus, and the product hasn’t changed much since I last flew WTP when I went to Sydney for six days. That in itself has some pluses, and minuses that’ll go into in a bit.

On the big plus side, it’s a bulkhead seat – and whilst it hasn’t got “infinite” room, it’s still pretty darn good in my eyes.

I stowed my trash in the overhead bin, and plonked myself down for the 8 and bit hour flight that laid ahead for me.

On the seat was a blanket, a WTP amenity kit and WTP headphones – all good for the flight ahead.

Whilst on the ground…

Meanwhile, the plane begun to fill up – the full load that was expected was turning up, filling the plane up (including my seat mate).

Pre-departure, menu cards were handed out, as well as video screens pulled out for the safety briefing.

Pushback was on-time, and the video played. Alas, my beloved seat mate obviously knows the safety briefing word for word and can be tested on it extensively as he continued to read his paper… with a crew member right in front of him. I know I bang on a lot about safety in a plane (and yes, I do run Safety Video Saturday most Saturdays), but if I can’t get out of a plane because you failed to understand the safety implications of something quite important… don’t expect me to recite the video word for word as I shove on your emergency oxygen mask/put my lifejacket on whilst you fumble for yours/push you out of the way if you don’t know where the emergency exit is.

The taxi took us past the three concourses, then to a hold point, and finally a lineup point where our twin Rolls Royce Trent 800 engines roared into life.

Take off was rather smooth, with minimal bumps on the way up, as well as the last glimpses of sun.

Pretty soon the sky turned black, and the bright lights of towns and cities below lit the way (although I need to get a camera with better low light performance… the 40D is great for a lot of things… not night photography…)

As climb continued, I popped my IFE unit out of the seat. As the IFE choices were the same as what I had on the way out… which isn’t too bad. Means it’s easier to fall asleep to the IFE as opposed to paying attention. The IFE system is the same as on the way out, which isn’t a bad thing – except when the map crashes, or if the map is unreadable.

IFE Controller with integrated phone… I wonder if anyone actually uses those phones in flight?

First up was the bar service, which consisted of… well… do you even need to guess?

Smirnoff Vodka with Pretzels.

But of course, before sleep there is of course food! And since we’re in World Traveller Plus we get a little card menu too…

Tres cute.

Anyway, an option of beef or vegetarian lasagne was on the menu. So yes – dead cow it was. Wine was offered with the meal.

The tray

Beef

Salad


Roll with water to the side

The funniest looking carrot cake I’ve seen in ages. Looks more like a cheesecake…


Metal cutlery.. with speedmarques.

Now, this isn’t bad. We’ve had bad beef in the sky, but this didn’t need brute force to cut through it. The rest of the tray made for a reasonably high quality meal in Y+, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The salad was fresh, the desert was not as advertised (not that I was complaining) and the roll… oh you know my thoughts about airline rolls. The presentation was reasonable, and the food actually tasted good – which is a challenge for any airline at 35,000ft and above.

Trays were collected in a reasonable timeframe, and the lights dimmed down for the long overnight slog over the pond. Cabin crew asked for window shades to be lowered.

I popped the seat into recline, and tried to get a reasonable evenings rest as I had a feeling I’d be doing phone support on the ground, with a standby to go in if needed.

Truth be known, I got 3-4 hours sleep – which is a lot better than normal for me on a Trans-Atlantic flight. Whilst World Traveller Plus in a 747 has a substantial gap between the headrest and the bulkhead, this is a lot less in the 777 – allowing me to sleep against the bulkhead, and making for a bit nicer of a rest.

WT+ seat guide

I woke up a bit before service begun, and checked the map, seeing we were beginning to close in on Ireland

Meanwhile, I checked the amenity kit – and this confirmed the kit I had on the way out – a World Traveller Plus kit:

Eventually the lights came back on, and it was and it was time for the breakfast service. Now… would BA finally knock the olde Continental off the top spot in my Trans-Atlantic breakfast audit.. or not?

Well it comes nicely packaged. That’s one thing.

Say it with me – Polo Mint

In it, there’s a bottle of probiotic drink, a crunchy thing that I still haven’t worked out and raisins, a cake thing and an oversized polo mint (what some call a “Lifesaver”)

Hmm. Well, it’s a good effort. I nibbled through most of it, thinking that some fresh fruit wouldn’t had gone amiss (Sorry, raisins aren’t fresh fruit), but this isn’t bad. Coffee was served alongside with the snack.

I nibbled on this whilst we crossed Ireland.

God, that map is fuzzy.

Meanwhile, the windows were starting to open around me, revealing blue sky and thick clouds.

The crew were friendly for an evening/night flight crew, but by no means as warm as the crew I had on the outbound leg. Whilst they did more than their job, night flights don’t tend to bring the best out in people – when all you want the passengers to do is fall asleep.

Clear down was done quickly, and soon enough the captain announced 20 minutes to landing. And of course, it was at this moment that the camera decided this would be the perfect time to die.

Wonderful.

So the smartphone came into play as we looped around a stack or two, before commencing a river approach into Heathrow, as we descended through the cloud layers

Soon enough the plane was lining up for landing, a mere 6 days since I last was at Heathrow.

Taxi was a quick affair, with the plane peeling off the runway quickly, and heading straight for the C gates, bringing my flight to an end.


Oh yes. It was wet. I should had guessed really.

Overall: Not a bad flight by any means. The World Traveller Plus product does have some seriously good things going for it in terms of the seat and the upgraded catering compared to World Traveller. It is defiantly a Y+ rather than a J-, and should be treated as such. Although as a battlefield upgrade, it’s better than a poke in the eye by any means.

Oh yes, and unsurprisingly the phone rung. Grumble. Guess who skipped the last segment to head back to Birmingham (or deepest darkest West Bromwich) to go and play Active Directories, and then back to the flat… So the next legs were skipped as I needed to head homewards.

Posted by Kevincm | 8 Comments

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
Back to DIA, AA Admiral’s Club

Index:


Now the Paris Air Show is over, and life returns to normal… so do things on this blog… and this trip report isn’t going to write itself..


Back to the Airport, AA Lounge

I pre-booked a shuttle back to DIA – as I really could not be bothered heading back to 16th Street Mall with my trash (which had expanded due to my friends asking me to fill their American candy shopping lists).

The driver turned up (without a working card machine – good thing I paid cash!), and we were off. The driver made a few stops around the Central Denver district to find no other passengers heading back to the airport – and it was then a drive up to Denver International Airport, taking in some of the sights of Denver from afar before the long trip to DIA (which is seemingly in the middle of nowhere).

Leaving Denver

Whilst I like the convenience of shuttles like this, I’m not prone to taking Public Transport – and this is one area Denver is lacking in between DIA and the city. Thankfully, they will be introducing new rail lines out to DIA in 2015 – which will make the airport a lot more accessible to visitors like me who hate the idea of driving on the wrong side of the road (and if I’m blunt – I’m not too hot on driving either)

After being dropped off at airport (and a seemingly long discussion with the Shuttle bus driver), I was at the Jeppesen Terminal again in all its tented glory. The next challenge was finding the BA check in… which was at the far end of Terminal West.

I dropped my bags off, and my boarding passes were issued for the flight home – with me checking in only so far as Heathrow (lets say part of Monday morning was dealt with emails to the office sorting out a replacement part for a server, which would require me to skip the last segments of this trip). I was also informed of the lounge and how the AAdmirals Club lounge works at Denver for BA passengers.

I also checked the load for the flight – which indicated as full (I should had guessed after the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs in the weekend – who’s guests were filling up that plane)

With that it was one last look at the tented terminal before heading to Bridge security

This way it seems…

At Bridge Security, it seems the TSA were in full flow today. Of course, the lines were full – even the priority line was, so there was a delay getting through the queues before the choice of Body scanner or pat-down was given.

Regular readers know what I went for – the pat down. But I never explain why, so this is my reasoning. Whilst I trust medical people with instruments that handle radiation and know of its dangers, I have very little trust in those who operate the machines in security services. Whilst there are arguments either way – that’s my stand on it, with me submitting to those scans if it is the only way of being screened. If there is another way, I seek to use that first.

Once I was declared as clean by the Itemisizer, it was time to head over the Bridge and watch one of the rare sights in aviation – the ability to walk over an aircraft as it taxi’s by. Whilst one such bridge exists at Gatwick Airport, I love the bridge they have at Denver.

A line up of Frontier Animals. Well at least they’re not bursting into song….

… and it makes for good spotting to.

After watching planes for a bit and dealing with duty-free, it was time to head to the lounge.

Lounge Stop: American Airlines AAdmiral’s Club

I found my way through a small maze to the AA Club, and was welcomed. My boarding pass was stamped, and I was informed that as a BA passengers, drinks and food from the menu were complementary in the lounge.

Which is nice.

Also on the way, I spotted this beauty.

Should BA wish to dispose of this lovely world tails model, please contact blog@ghettoife.com  in the first instance, where a good home can be found for it… in my hallway or living room. Thank you ;)

I headed into the lounge, and it’s very much an AA Club – which isn’t a bad thing.

The lounge itself is a reasonable facility, with the usual bar, work area, quiet areas.

My junk – sorting out images before the long flight home.

I ordered a Club sandwich and a drink from the bar. It wasn’t exactly bad, but not exactly memorable – or put it another way: I didn’t take a photo of it.

Oops.

Menu

In addition to the bar food, there was also snacks laid out for the British Airways flight:

Still, it was a pleasant enough place to wait.

Shortly before departure the BA representative lounge member of staff came around asking for names. One of them happened to be mine.

And my luck struck out as my seat for 26K was taken away, with an upgrade into World Traveller Plus in 16A.

Well, that’s a bit of a turn up for the books!!! An upgrade is an upgrade – no matter how you cut it. No longer would I have an emergency exit slide for a friend, but a bulkhead wall… and a window! Still better than a kick in the teeth!

With that, I began to gather my items together, knowing that as I’m in WT+. Well – it would help a fair bit as my leave had been curtailed by a day or so, and I could well be heading to the office rather than to home.

Heading down to the gate, there was a short delay before boarding, giving me time to take one last look around.

Eventually, boarding was opened up to Club World and Executive Club holders. That’s when I took my leave of Denver and headed for the plane home.

Posted by Kevincm | 2 Comments

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
A Photographic Interlude.

Index:


GhettoIFE.com One Time Photo Special
Central Denver

Ok, I’ll be blunt. None of my ideas for a one-time exception came off for this trip due to tiredness/lack of planning. I therefore resort to the oldest trick in the books – use photos to describe a trip. Simple really ;)

State Capitol (under repair)

 

Denver Art Center

 

16th Street Mall

 

Writers Square Statues

 

Piano’s on 16th

 

The Denver Conference Center Bear

 

Union Station – currently being transformed…

So… just a few pictures from my travels. A lot more are heading up to my Photoblog in a few days – be sure to check them out at http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm

Next – it’s back to Denver and the AAdmrial’s Club at Denver Airport…

Posted by Kevincm | 3 Comments

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
The Crowne Plaza, Denver Center.

Index:


As the BAcon came to an end – I found myself without a method of getting back to Denver. I was all ready to head to the Greyhound station. I did an ask around, and found that FlyGracefully was heading back to Denver.

Therefore I begged for a lift from FlyGracefully – which was kindly granted for the 70 mile trip to downtown Denver, where we spent time talking about trips, ideas, mad stuff and the traffic that seemed to be heaving on the roads out of Colorado Springs on a Sunday.

Closing in on Central Denver

Thanks to her wonderful driving, she dropped me off at the forecourt of the hotel for the night – the Crowne Plaza Denver Central

Crowne Plaza Denver, Central Denver
Booked Standard room, Upgraded to Corner Suite


I was welcomed to the hotel as I rolled my luggage in, and my credentials were all verified. I was informed that I would be upgraded to a corner suite on the 18th floor with a Mountain view, and also offered a free drink token and a welcome cookie. The wifi key was also given as well at this point

Reception


Lifts

Business area

Some nice beanies there.

After rolling my luggage to the lifts, it was up to the 18th floor, and this is what I got.

Hallway to the room



Living area

Bedroom


TV and Work area



Bathroom and Amenities


Hallway bathroom


Fanned TP.

Ok – I could get lost in this suite quite easily. The suite was divide into a living area (with a sink in), a bedroom, bathroom and an extra toilet just off the hallway.

More than enough room to swing cats in.

However, that wasn’t the best part. Just take a look at this view.

More of this in a notch..

With that done and me settled in, it was time to go off to 16th Street where I needed to get various bits and bobs… dropping in and out of the hotel in the 25-30c heat. Well, I was having fun getting bit and bobs for my friends (and bits and bobs that I needed too)

I got back in the evening to watch the sun set.

Not bad at all (more at http://www.photoblog.com/kevincm/2013/05/16/sunset-over-denver.html )

After that, I kicked back and sorted through the images I had taken so far, and relaxed with cartoons and bad telly. To be honest, this was what I needed for bit.

I decided to be a bit social and head downstairs to the bar for a drink as I was given a drinks voucher when I checked in. I let the barkeep select the beer… and I just drank and relaxed, listening to the locals.

Beer…

Eventually, tiredness got the best of me, and I crashed out on the bed. It was nice and firm, with minimal roll in it. Not bad at all.

As morning came, it was Monday afternoon back in the real world, so I dialed into the office to find out what was going on, and did a couple of over the air fixes. At the point I could see, it looked strongly that I would be heading to work as opposed to be heading off to Ireland when I got back to the UK.

However, I wanted to spend some more time walking around Denver, so I logged off the laptop, packed up my trash and checked out. I also checked into the availability of shuttles back to Denver International Airport too. With that out-of-the-way, it was time to enjoy the rest of my walking around Denver

After dumping my luggage for the afternoon, I headed out to relax.

Overall: Not a bad property at all – a good location just off 16th street, whilst the staff looked after me and gave a great upgrade pushing me way beyond the mile high limit…

Next: A One-Time Photo Special

Posted by Kevincm | 4 Comments

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
The Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Index:


Rapid Travel Chai kindly picked me up in the morning from the Staybridge Suites and we were off again, on the road to Colorado Springs. Now, in my time in trips to the USA, I haven’t travelled much on the roads – so this was a pretty new experience to me. The drive itself was quick, yet rather scenic. I’ll let you all judge with some pictures.

After a couple of diversions (including a very nice lunch), we reached the venue for BAcon – The Cheyenne Mountain Resort

Cheyenne Mountain Resort
South Colorado Springs

Cost: See Disclaimer.

We pulled up at the hotel, and went to check in. A few bloggers had already arrived (AAdvantage Geek said hello as did a couple of others who had arrived early). I was assigned a room in the Bear Lodge, which was a short walk away. After retrieving my trash from Rapid Travel Chai’s car, I went to scout out my room.

Just beyond reception

Restruant area

The lodge I’d be in

….and through this door…

The room itself is a double double – allowing me to use one as an extended dumping ground, the other to actually sleep on.

Beds

Work Area

Washbaisn outside bathroom

Bathroom area

The bathroom looked modern and clean, fully stocked with all the amenities one would need.

Now, whilst the room is nice, there seemed to be a distinct lack of power sockets. Whilst this place is designed for relaxation, I counted 2 accessible powerpoints I could run the laptop on in bed (because I had shifted to my UK weekend sleeping pattern – and thus was waking up at what felt like midday to me). Oh well – not the end of the world, but still a challenge I didn’t need.

WiFi was provided through the venue, with WiFi payable in the conference area (unless of course you had a WiFi network set up… or the antennas were really strong on your laptop)

However – this room had a feature than many other hotel rooms I’ve been in had not been in.

Now that’s what I call a view.

The beds were reasonably firm, so I got some reasonable sleep (if not for my dratted body clock), with some lovely views to wake up to.

However, the real reason I was here wasn’t for the views – but to network, meet, talk and learn.

Others have covered what they thought of it (See Just another points Traveller… and there maybe a sighting of me there), Pearls of Travel Wisdom (Three Parts – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Loyalty Traveller, Food Wine and Miles and MichaelWTravels – and I’m exactly the same boat – an excellent set of workshops, a lot of food for thought (some of which have gone into live already – others of which will be going soon including a new video channel… once I sort out some bits at base).

I was working believe it or not.

And then there was the time to relax and to talk about all sorts.

Mommypoints and LittleC Dancing the night away…

And one of our host – Mr Randy Petersen with a big sign. ;)

There were however an important lesson to take home from the whole event.

Friends don’t let Friends drink cheap Tequila.

Me? I know one thing about Tequila as summed up by the following song performed by Terrorvision.

(Terrorvision – Tequila (Mint Royle Shot Mix)

Three days went fast – when combining blogging, ideas and miles… it always seemed to. Soon enough it was time to check out where the incidentals were paid for, and I was on my way again…. with a little help from FlyGracefully

Overall: The event was a great event, set in a welcoming venue. The facilities provided were indusive to a great learning experience as well as a relaxing atmosphere when it was needed.

Disclosure: Frequent Flyer Services kindly supplied a hotel room at the Cheyenne Mountain resort to me to assist in this visit. All opinions expressed within this trip are my own, represent my own personal thoughts and my observations during the visit.

I’d also at this point like to thank the staff at the House of Miles, The Boarding Area Team and Randy Petersen for putting on a great event, and for Rapid Travel Chai and FlyGracefully for putting up with me for 70 miles plus each. Both of you are stars that saved me… from Greyhound ;)

Posted by Kevincm | Comments are off for this article

Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
Staybridge Suites Denver Tech Center

Index:


After disembarking the plane it was a case of follow the signs to US Immigration. The route took me over the famed Skybridge connecting the Concourse A and the Jeppesen Terminal.

Immigration after that was divided as usual with 4 agents manning the US Side, 4 manning the international side.

As you can guess, when a 777 full of people turns up – it gets swamped quickly. OF course who should turn up in immigration than.. you’ve guessed it – the flight attendant who was chatting to me. So much so, we went through immigration at the same time (I was cleared on a Visa Waiver for a conference – and accepted), so much so we ended up in the baggage hall together.

Eventually my bag arrived, and I thanked the crew one last time and high tailed it to customs, where my form was examined, and I was welcomed to the United States of America.

After I cleared immigration, I had to deal with a pressing problem – power socket converters. For some of us, socket converters are a matter of importance to convert UK plugs into other useful plugs around the world.

A bit of digging on the flight, I found I had no UK to US socket converters. Now, I had thought in my wisdom that I had packed a camera battery charger that had a standard 2 pin clover leaf cable. This could charge the laptop and in turn everything else.

… and unsurprisingly, it wasn’t in my bag – rather it was in my other bag sitting in the flat.

And thus, the hunt for a converter had begun, with a hike back and forth across the Jeppesen Terminal – with a bright light of hope found called Hudson News came into view. That was the good news – the bad news was I got royally ripped off $26 for a World Socket converter (that could convert anything into… well anything). It’s a bit heavy in comparison to the normal plug converters – but at this point – I took it so I could charge the phone over the next few days.

A bit of fiddling, and I had finally got everything plugged up and ready to go. Thankfully, my phone had a bit of charge in it, which let me know that Rapid Travel Chai – had arrived at the terminal and was waiting at the coffee shop.

After meeting up with Rapid Travel Chai who kindly offered me a lift to Colorado Springs, it was time for the off, heading to a rental car lot and then onto Denver Tech Center in the darkness of a Colorado night. We chatted a bit, but in truth – all of us in the car were shattered after our inbound flights.

Rapid Travel Chai kindly dropped me off at my hotels for night, and I headed in – and at this point – rather bleary eyed.

Staybridge Suites, Denver Tech Center.
Price paid $92.99++
Qualifying Points: 465, Earned Points 4,697.
(You’ve got to LOVE those stacking promos when it comes to ICHG properties…)

I wandered into the property and was welcomed. After completing all the initial check-in paperwork, I was given a welcome amenity, my keycards, and directions to the room.


Welcome amenity.


Hallway

I opened the room, to find a very big space, complete with a full kitchen, lounge and bed area.


Work area


Kitchen


Living area


TV


Bed

Well, considering this is just for a night, this isn’t bad at all to say the least.

After a minor hunt for plugs (am I the only person in the world who doesn’t use their laptop on the table provided), the adaptor I got kicked into life – along with my laptop which greatly appreciated the charge by this point (as well as the phones…).

After a quick update with the world using the free Wifi in the hotel, I headed towards the bed, turned on Cartoon Network and fell asleep. I was exhausted

The bed itself was actually rather comfortable, and had something I haven’t seen too often – a thin sort of duvet/comforter. Wow. That’s a first in my travels.

7 hours later, I was wide-awake. Westbound jetlag had kicked in. Grrr.

I took the time to dump the images from the camera to the laptop, whilst looking out of the window. Not a bad view I’d say….

And this was the perfect time to use the bathroom. It was a reasonable size will all the usual needs, however the extractor fan was a touch noisy to say the least.

Actually, a lot better than the Holiday Inn amenities


Bathroom

Eventually hunger got to me, and I decided to investigate the breakfast service they had at the hotel. Like most of the “lower cost” hotels (Holiday Inn Express, Hyatt House), breakfast is included… which for me as not a bad idea as it reduces the cost, whilst adding value.

The spread consisted of cereals, cold things and hot food – including omelettes, what the Americas call bacon* and sausages.

All good things in my book.

* The discussion of what the USA calls Bacon and what I call Bacon is another subject for another day… and trust me… it’s a LONG argument…

After filling up for the morning, it was time to head back to the room and watch Pokémon. Oh and pack too.

Normally, I’m a sucker for the news networks when I’m aboard, but this trip (more than any other), I’ve been drawn to Cartoon Network. Don’t ask me to explain it. All I know is I now have to catch them all…

As 10:00 I began packing up everything for the journey up to Colorado Springs. I checked out with no additional charges to the account and used the WiFi until Rapid Travel Chai. With that – it was onwards and downwards to Colorado Springs

Overall: Not a bad little property. Whilst geared to the longer-term visitor – it does work for the short term visitor too. Compared to the cost of some hotels nearby, this hotel worked for me both in terms of cost and points earned – which is never a bad thing.

Next: Some BAcon!

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It’s Sunday again, and it’s time for some more Airplane Art.

This week, with me in the Denver Skybridge and a Frontier Airlines A320 – Montana the Elk – crossing underneath.

The image is clickable if you want to see a larger version – and yes you can keep them for your desktops!

More airplane art next week!

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Mmmmm! BAcon! – Off to Denver and Beyond with Aer Lingus and British Airways
British Airways BA219 London Heathrow – Denver International Airport

Index:


BA219 London Heathrow T5 to Denver International Airport
British Airways, World Traveller, Boeing 777-200ER
4670 miles flown, 35 Tier points earned, 9380 Avios Earned

The pictures:

I was welcomed aboard, and directed down the back of the plane to the exit row. Yes, I had a slide for a friend, but there seemed to be more space than a BA777-300ER – which is nice.


Club World – not for me!


26K


And my luggage bin – don’t you just love those mini luggage bins?

I had a seat-mate join me in the middle seat – and I was fast expecting the aisle seat to be filled (as I saw it had been selected at check in). As boarding continued, people filed past the isle seat, not taking it. Could we have both lucked out here?

It seemed so as the doors went to close.

During boarding, the CSD came by and introduced herself. She thanked me for my continuing loyal custom, confirmed that any first meal choice would be met, and offered a World Traveller Plus Amenity Kit with WT+ headphones – which offer better noise isolation than the standard headphones for both me and my seatmate.

It was a small gesture – but it made a whole lot of difference from that point onwards. The crew member at 3R took an interest in me, and introduced herself – and also addressed me as Mr Kevincm at all times (as did some of the other crew).

All that negativity with the omnishambles at Heathrow had been melted away in one swift move.

Boarding completed and the person who was in the middle shifted to the aisle seat, leaving a nice space for both of us to take advantage of. This as they say is a good thing.

As we were waiting for pushback, the member of crew opposite engaged me in conversation, and took an interest in why we were travelling and our plans – and I like this… it shows curiosity, but also shows an interest in the people they’re with today.

The safety video played as I tried to familiarise myself with the video arms that seem never to obey when you want them to. Still the video was performed and safety checks were verified (including if I was happy operating the emergency exit)

Pushback was late – and I mean late. We were 50 minutes down before reaching the runway threshold due to baggage that needed to be unloaded – as well as the high winds that were causing fun earlier.

Take off was a long drawn out part – not helped by the strong winds that seemed to veer the plane off the centre line with the pilots fighting to keep it dead centre. We made it into the air, and cleared the rough air extremely quickly, beginning our track over the pond and over to Denver.

Climb-out

Sadly, the person besides me who had spent a lot of the time chatting on a Samsung Galaxy tablet on the ground decided to close the windows – forcing me to lean forward to the emergency exit window. Oh well.

I fired up the IFE system to see what was on – and Top Gear was waiting for me. That’ll do nicely.

Top gear with World Traveller Plus headphones


Top Gear

Soon enough, the first bar run was complete. Being 1) a long haul flight 2) way into the afternoon) it was time for Vodka.

Diet Coke and Vodka. No I didn’t use both things of vodka… that would be stupid.

Crossing the Irish sea

Soon enough the trolleys whizzed up the isles again, indicating that the meal service was to be carried out. Choice was between a 4 cheese macaroni or Butter Chicken.

Both are equally risky for me, so I plonked for the butter chicken… and a couple of Lactaid to help along the way.


Tray

Pasta

Butter Chicken Curry

Wrapped…


Roll


Desert

Well – this isn’t a bad tray at all compared to some meals I’ve had across the pond. The roll was predictable, the pasta was nice and fresh, whilst the curry… wasn’t that bad actually. Nicely spiced and of a reasonable quantity… and with the Lactaid, I didn’t end up expelling the curry in a way that could be really embarrassing. I skipped the desert… maybe I’m getting less desert biased as I get older – and preferring savoury food.

Wine was offered… and it was made double without a prompt or asking.

Trays were cleared down in a reasonable time, and the lights dimmed. I grabbed a few shots before the blinds we pulled down.

Lets move onto the environment. Whilst the exit row lacked a window, it had a lot of room now there were only two people in the row. The seat itself was the old style World Traveller seat, which has a fair bit of padding in it – in other words nice and comfortable.

The crew passed by at regular intervals offering drinks – which is good to see on long haul flights where some crew hide down the back of the plane/bunks and don’t come out.

Interestingly, the bunks for the crew aren’t far away from where I was sitting.


Crew area behind here

As my plan to fall asleep had failed miserably, I got up for while and walked to the back of the plane, and saw the usual lovely ice-flows

Whilst down the back, I raided the tuck box for some nibbles and drinks from the crew which were issued happily.


Mid flight extras

Meanwhile, the flight continued in the darkness of the cabin, where I emptied the IFE system of content, actually venturing into the movies section. Whilst the IFE loaded wasn’t content rich compared to the Thales system used aboard the 777-300ER’s and some 777-200’s, it still represented quite a broad selection – from Red Dwarf to Ratatouille to Yes Prime Minister – to even last night’s news.

Not a bad mix – how it would sustain me for the flight home would be another question…

As time passed, the second service soon came about. This was presented in a snackbox


What delights lurked within I wondered? Only one way time find out!

Ah. A Cream tea.

What we have here is a Egg and Tomato sandwich, a scone, water, clotted cream, and buried in the bottom, some jam. How terribly civilised at 37,000ft.

Sandwich


With some coffee.

Whilst AA is seemly coming out on top for the Transatlantic Economy Class 2nd Service, this isn’t exactly bad. A shame there was no 2nd choice of sandwich though – although just having egg and tomato caters to near enough the entire plane on the cheap. The scone is just a very British touch – even if it’s pre-packed.

Now earlier, I said I got an upgraded amenity kit (a World Traveller Plus one). What’s in it compared to the standard World Traveller kit?

WT+

It’s nicely packed…

A rarity on a plane – a pen, toothpaste, toothbrush socks and eye mask

Lets compare this with the World Traveller kit (with other bits on request)

Just a slight difference methinks.

Soon enough though, the cabin was cleared down – with a warning of a bumpy decent. This prompted the mass rush for the toilets (as there seemingly no toilets at all in Denver Airport – or so the flying public thinks) before the seatbelt signs lit up.

Descent itself wasn’t exactly bumpy (compared to the battering we had on takeoff earlier), and soon enough the pilot planted the 777 firmly on the tarmac of Denver International Airport.

Again, whilst taxiing, the purser chatted to me and my seat-mate – and it was just nice as the she gave out tips in Denver, and a few things about life.

Soon enough, our plane docked at Gate A37, and it was time to depart the plane. I made the effort to thank the crew profusely, and then headed off to immigration

Overall: I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again – crew can make or break a flight. What I had on this flight was one HELL of a great crew, who were responsive to customer needs, who delivered a good service with a smile and with human emotion. Yes, there are little things like the sandwich, but really – this is was a performance that almost made up for the omnishambles at Heathrow earlier that day. The crew made the flight, and are a real credit to British Airways Long Haul fleet.


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