US Airways Flt. 729 London-Heathrow to Philadelphia
Dep. 12:05pm Arr. 3:35pm
US Airways Flt. 854 Philadelphia to Washington-Reagan National
Dep. 5:30pm Arr. 6:24pm
After about 16 hours, it was time to head back on the tube to Heathrow. My train changed destinations midroute, so it took a little longer than the trip into the city. It was a long walk from the departure gates at T3 from the underground. I had printed out a boarding pass at the hotel, and it was a good thing, because there was a long line for check in at the small US Airways counter, even at the elite/business class line.
A friend and fellow traveler who lives in L.A. Happened to be in London for the long weekend as well, and we had gone out in London the night before. He happens to be an American Executive Platinum, flying on the nonstop American Heathrow to LAX flight leaving five minutes before my US Airways flight to Philadelphia. That meant that he had access to the British Airways Galleries First Lounge, as opposed to my meager access to the adjoining Galleries Club, and was able to guest me in.
I met him at the lounge and it was fairly empty. The Galleries First Lounge is pretty large, with several different rooms, including a dining room with sit-down eating only for First Class passengers at dinner time. At 10:30 in the morning, the food spread wasn’t that different than I imagine the regular Galleries Club, as it just had some hot breakfast basics, including black sausage and scrambled eggs, and pastries. You could also order some breakfast from a menu, but wait staff wasn’t particularly attentive and inviting. The Bellinger champagne was delicious though!
I headed to the gate area ten minutes before scheduled boarding time, and couldn’t believe how empty it was, wondering if perhaps boarding had started. At Heathrow, boarding passes are checked when you enter the gate area. I presented my boarding pass and was told I had to wait to see an agent, though I wasn’t sure why. The agent was busy tagging two very large suitcases which seemed odd, but then I saw they belonged to a young woman escorted by two contract security agents, one of whom had a badge that said “Detainee Escort Officer.” Ooh I would’ve loved to hear that story.
For some reason my boarding passes needed to be reprinted, though there was no change. As they were printing, the agent called for business class passengers, and then, all at once, Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4. You know it’s an empty flight when they board the entire plane at once …. and there’s no chaos at all.
The plane over to Philly was a newer A330, a combo of the 2 different planes I had been on on the way over from Charlotte. I had a window seat towards the front of the economy cabin, and a neighbor soon joined me, but it became very clear this was going to be an empty flight, and she suggested she would move to the empty row of 4 across the aisle. There were empty window seats, empty aisle seats empty middle seats, empty entire rows…. even more than on my outbound flight. I guess not a lot of people fly from Europe to the States on a Tuesday in the winter? That, or maybe the new US/AA has too many transatlantic flights to support without Star Alliance feed.
The flight had a friendly Philadelphia-based crew, which was older, but not that old for US Airways. As we took off, I started watching some episodes of the Mindy Project, before the lunch service began. The entree was Thai Chicken Curry which was actually pretty good, though there was a weird cold corn and bean salad along with it.
Coach on an empty US Airways flight is pretty good. I stretched out and relaxed and slept for about two hours. I woke up as a “Refreshment service” of water and ice cream and pretzels halfway through the flight. I did some (non-blog) work, followed by some blog writing and picture editing. For the last 2 hours, I decided to watch “The Skeleton Twins” – a great depressing movie with Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as a snack service of a gross “flatbread” and red velvet brownie were served.
We landed in Philadelphia right on time. I saw that the earlier PHL-DCA flight had been delayed, and could have tried to get on it, but I didn’t feel like rushing to the commuter terminal to try and catch it, since my scheduled flight was on a mainline plane and only about two hours later.
After re-clearing security, I headed to the Terminal B Admirals Club. Due to the drama with my ticket in Budapest, I hadn’t been able to check seating for my PHL-DCA, and sure enough I hadn’t been put on the upgrade list yet. In light of the way US processes upgrades for AA elites, I knew it wasn’t going to happen – not a big deal for such a short flight. Sure enough, I ended up #1 on the standby list after all upgrades cleared.
The former-US Airways Club had a weird array of snacks, peanut butter, tortilla chips, cheese, cream of carrot soup, trail mixes, olives, salsa. I caught back up with work emails, made some calls, and then headed to the gate for the extremely short flight. I describe PHL-DCA as “You go up, you go down,” so I was surprised there was a limited drink service of juice and water. So fairly quickly, I was on the ground, on time, and on the metro back to my apartment – for a whole three weeks until my next sojourn to Abu Dhabi!