This is the first post since our family sabbatical officially began on June 5th! This site went silent for a few weeks because we were transitioning out of our jobs and frantically making trip preparations including packing up our household, selling one car and storing the other, saying (temporary) goodbyes to family and friends, and packing our bags.
On the evening of June 5th the preparations were finally complete and we headed to the airport in a rental car. Once we dropped the car off and unloaded our bags it struck me that all of the possessions that we’d have for the next year fit into just a few bags. After weeks of de-cluttering and packing away our things at home it felt extremely liberating to be traveling light.
We arrived at the airport at around 6pm for our 8:20pm flight. After checking in we headed to the KLM Crown lounge since we are Priority Pass members (a benefit of the Chase Reserve card that we signed up for in order to boost our mileage balance). I had read that the lounge often denies PP members after 3:30pm but fortunately we were able to get in (maybe because we were traveling on an off-peak Tuesday?). The lounge is rather small but it provided a nice place to have a few snacks (including tomato soup, veggies, pita and hummus) and a drink before our departure.
The kids got to visit another lounge when we visited London a couple of years ago and they’ve gotten accustomed to the pre-flight snacks. Unfortunately this may be our last time to take advantage of this benefit because Chase is limiting the number of guests a Priority Pass member can take into a lounge starting this summer.
Our maiden flight
The first flight of our trip was an overnighter from Houston to London on British Airways. We snagged this flight (coach class) at a good price back in March using an open-jaw airfare search (read about that here). The ticket was booked through American Airlines but the first two flights were BA code shares.
Review: Houston to London on British Airways
Many travel blogs feature glowing reviews of air travel in business or first class, with lengthy discussion of the fancy amenities, wine selection, and Michelin-worthy food service. Alas, our budget only allowed for a trip in coach so we thought it would be fun to post a review of an international flight the way that 80% of travelers experience it. 🙂
Our aircraft for our flight to London was a 777-200 with 3-3-3 seating configuration. Once aboard we caught a glimpse of the posh first class cabin before making our way back to coach. We booked seats A, B, C, D and F in hopes that the E seat would be left empty, giving us a bit more room. This is a strategy that has worked for us in the past but unfortunately it was a full flight and someone was already in the middle seat. On the upside, we totally made the day of the middle seat person when we asked if they wanted to switch for an aisle seat.
The amenities for our flight included a pillow and a blanket wrapped in plastic, along with a set of headphones. Plus an inch or two of space between my knees and the seat in front of me.
Shortly after we got underway we were offered a snack of sour cream pretzels along with a drink. I like to have a beer upon departure and was a bit disappointed that the only choices were Heineken and Amstel Light. I would have thought that the national carrier of the country that invented the IPA would have better offerings. How about something from Brewdog, or at least Boddington’s?
The 777 that we were on was definitely showing its age, including the little metal ashtrays outside the lavatory doors. How many decades has it been since smoking was allowed on airplanes anyway? The in-flight entertainment featured ~20 or so movies to choose from, along with various music albums. I considered watching the latest Star Wars but decided against it because the screen was smaller and lower resolution than the $50 Kindles that we had brought with us, pre-loaded with movies and TV shows from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Fine Dining in Coach
When the dinner service began the kids got their food first since we had ordered child meals for them. Their meals included chicken fingers with pasta in a cheese sauce, peas & carrots, salad, dinner roll, chocolate/caramel dessert, and a Kit-Kat. The kids mostly enjoyed the chicken and pasta. I tried some of the dessert and it was actually fantastic.
For the adults there was a choice of a pasta dish or chicken curry. I quite like Indian food so I went for the curry, which was served with rice and daal. Not surprisingly it was not the best curry I’ve ever had, but it was above average by airplane food standards.
After dinner the cabin lights were turned off and the kids actually fell asleep rather quickly and stayed asleep until the lights were turned on for breakfast, which consisted of a hunk of pretzel roll smeared with cream cheese along with a granola bar. The spongy roll definitely would not have made the cut on “The Great British Bake Off”.
Not long after breakfast it was time to put our seat backs and tray tables up for landing in London.
Summing up our transatlantic flight on British Airways
All in all it was a great first flight. Even though the coach class food and entertainment were solidly ‘meh’, the price was right and the service was friendly. Most importantly we got to our destination safely and the kids stayed happy and got some rest.
Onward to Germany
Our stay in London was short as we soon caught another flight to Germany and made our way to our home for the next week. We won’t be making another flight until we return to the states for the holidays in December. Instead we’ll be getting around by train for a couple of weeks until we pick up our leased car that we’ll be driving on our epic European road trip.