It’s quite ridiculous really. In the 12-odd hours since my last post, I’ve flown across about a third of the planet. From Los Angeles to New York, and now a hop across the Atlantic. It was a shame to not have time to revisit New York, but after my unplanned day in LA it was good to be cover some miles again.
I flew American Airlines out of LA; one of the long-standing ‘legacy carriers’ in the USA. AA offered a pretty decent flight across the continent, although the plane was showing its age a little, with old-style overhead compartments and chairs with a few loose threads. However, the flight attendants were top-notch and almost seemed disappointed that they couldn’t bring me dinner or a drink. I just wanted to sleep, and a three-hour snooze made the States disappear all too quickly.
Which was a pity, as it meant that I didn’t have time to tap into one of the AA’s best on-board services: WiFi.
Wireless internet at 30 000 feet is a godsend when you’re trying to work on the road, and I can’t wait until it finally comes to SA. Mango is working on it, but I reckon a quagmire of red tape is slowing things down.
My hour in New York’s JFK airport was just enough to have a shower and neck a Starbucks cappuccino before it was onto another flight. Because just getting through security can take a little while.
Apart from taking out your laptop and bag of liquids (they’re super-strict about individual bottles being less than 100ml, packed into a one-litre ziplock bag), you also need to remove your shoes. I also went through one of the controversial ‘back scatter’ scanners for the first time.
These new security scanners take an X-ray of your body, looking for suspicious objects on your person. When they first came out they caused uproar as they produce an anatomically accurate image of the person being scanned. Although that’s now changed, and it simply produces a ‘gingerbread-man’ profile of the passenger and any hotspots, it’s still quite an intrusive way to be scanned.
Passengers step into the scanner and hold their hands above their head for 10 seconds. Only when the controller (who sits elsewhere in the terminal) radios the all clear are you allowed to proceed. An easy way to feel like you’re being arrested, and hardly a nice bon voyage.
Of course you don’t have to go through the scanner: a hand-written note informs travelers that if you don’t want to go through the scanner you will be subjected to “a thorough pat-down.” I’ll take a little radiation any day.
So right now I’m tapping this out from the upper deck (again, hooray!) of a British Airways 747 about halfway across ‘the pond’.
BA is in the process of revamping their First, World Traveller and World Traveller Plus cabins, but for me it’s the service on BA that stands out. With their jaunty cravats and smart waistcoats, stewardesses somehow hark back to the golden days of travelling by air. The reality may not be quite the same any more, but there’s still something to be said for a formally dressed hostess greeting you in a clipped British accent. Simply delightful.
When we land in a few hours’ time I’ll have an hour or two to explore Heathrow’s Terminal 5 again, and I think a little meal and a pint at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Plane Food will do nicely. In between a little shopping for whisky and the wife, that is. Two more flights to go!
Flight highlights: Long-awaited showers at JFK, and everything running on time. One delayed flight and my tight itinerary would come apart at the seams.
Soundtrack: The quirky Cat Empire keeping me entertained with ska-punk silliness.
Gripes: Is this a cold I feel coming on? Uh oh… despite obsessive hand-washing I wonder if three days on planes have come back to bite me.