I sipped my first glass of champagne at about 6 a.m. London time. It wasn't my last that January morning either. I don't often sip bubbles so it was a real treat - even more so because I was indulging in one of the complimentary pleasures of the British Airways First Class Lounge at Heathrow Airport.
|Bubbles at the entry of First Class Lounge Heathrow|
Several months ago when planning our winter sojourn to the United States, we had thrown common sense to the wind and decided to burn a pile of our accumulated frequent flier airline miles. We used our stash of Alaska Airlines miles for round-trip First Class travel between Athens, Greece and Seattle, Washington.
Regular readers know that The Scout is usually in pursuit of the best deal for the least amount of money or airline miles, but we had a change of heart on this one.
With all due credit to our inhouse deal finder, his research paid off on this trip as well. He found that for 20,000 airline miles more per person we could fly First Class (140,000 miles)* instead of Business Class (120,000)*.
We had the miles, so why not use them? we asked ourselves. Why not experience the posh side of travel this time?
|A 747 flies the transatlantic routes|
|Checkin and security entrance|
It was the next morning that we finally entered the world of first class travel. It began at check in when we were directed to a glitzy private area where check in and security screenings were handled as a part of the route to the First Class lounge, dining room and terrace.
I was like a kid in a candy shop or Alice as she tumbled into Wonderland! I left The Scout sitting in a leather wing chair sipping a pre-breakfast cappuccino while I unabashedly scurried about taking photos of this opulent area. Who knew such a comfy, cushy world existed at airports? (I've been in Business Class lounges before but this was beyond that, so very beyond that!)
While this was likely a one-time shot for us, obviously there is a world in which first class is quite routine. As we were eating breakfast, a well-dressed man passed our table and as he did called out a greeting to the hostess, using her first name. Then added, "I will have my usual. I will be over in my chair." as he headed to the seating area. Incredible!
First class seat British Air
|A Mimosa while waiting for take-off|
We perused the menu and sipped - yes, another bubbly while awaiting take off. When the flight attendant took our orders The Scout asked when the meal would be served. Her reply, "Any time you would like it Mr. Smith." Yes, just like Alice must have felt in Wonderland!
Never has the near 10-hour flight between London and Seattle gone as quickly as this one did.
|I followed our journey on my television scree|
First Class Part Two
Now our return journey wasn't quite as posh and we can thank the US-based carrier Alaska Airlines, a code-share partner with British Air for tainting an otherwise delightful introduction to First Class travel.
|Alaska Air Premium Economy - snack bar and water|
When traveling on award-travel you are not always able to get the flight you want as seats are often scarce. We were unable to get first class seats on the direct BA flight from Seattle to London so flew Alaska Airlines to Boston and then British from Boston to London. Alaska also has Business Class seats, for which we were waitlisted. . .but never cleared the wait list so a six-hour segment of our return trip was spent in Alaska's economy seats. We paid an additional $99 per person to be seated in Premium Economy a few rows at the front of the coach class section.
Because we were waitlisted we were not allowed to use the Alaska Lounge at SeaTac even though our first class tickets were code-share tickets with the airline. It was admittedly a 'first world problem' but irritating to think of turning over all those miles and ending up in economy, however. . .
|British Air first-class lounge Boston|
|Claim tickets need numbers on them|
Alaska Air had been unable to ticket us all the way back so it was while checking in at British Air that we discovered the Alaska ticket agent had issued us baggage claim tickets for our two checked bags without any claim numbers printed on them. The sharp BA agent caught the error and hand-wrote the numbers on our claim stubs.
That proved to be a good thing because our bags were left in Boston. A fact we learned in Athens. And there, the first thing the lost bag clerk asked for were the baggage claim numbers
The First Class Story Ends at the Village Service Station
The bags did arrive in Athens on a later flight. However, we live four hour's drive from the Athens airport in the rural Peloponnese. We got a call the next day saying the bags would be sent by courier to the Athens bus station and put on a bus bound for Kalamata. There they would be put on a passenger bus bound for the villages to the south of the city. At 2 p.m. the bus would leave our bags at the village service station.
|2 p.m. the village service station and there were our bags!|
We have three service stations and they didn't know which one it would be. "Ask around the village and someone will know," we were told. We did just that and at 2:15 the bus pulled into Taki's service station, the bags were unloaded and our adventure into the world of first class travel officially came to an end.
|Our first-class travel comes to an end|
If You Want to Book First Class
|Appetizers and bubbles|
Now before you go rushing off to book yourself in First Class using award tickets let me caution that these were not 'free tickets'. In addition to the 140,000 reward miles per person we also had to pay $637 per person of which $499 was the 'carrier imposed surcharge' and $138 were taxes and user fees (split between Greece, United Kingdom and the United States). And a booking fee of $25.
That said, it compared favorably with the fare had we simply purchased the tickets as they are about $4,500 per person.
Note the small print when booking award seats whether Business or First Class as sometimes it is a mixed cabin ticket meaning one segment might be in the elite class but other segments will be in the economy section - despite the number of miles you have turned in.
That is it for this week! Thanks for being with us again and we look forward to being back next week with some more tales from The Stone House on the Hill. Until then, safe travels to you and yours~
Linking this week with:
Our World Tuesday