Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thanksgiving 2013 in Maldives: Heading back to Austin


The main objective for our short stay in Manchester was to do the Manchester United Old Trafford tour. The tour itself was okay but Old Trafford itself ended up being slightly disappointing since it didn't have the jaw dropping affect one would have if they visited say a football stadium like the LA Colliseum. Christmas atmosphere was in full swing and we visited a couple of the markets after doing the tour.

Since we didn't have a complimentary chauffeur for the next segment, we instead took the train to the airport which was pretty easy since our hotel was located next to the train station. Check-in was a breeze in the business class line and we were in the British Airways lounge that American Airlines uses in Manchester soon after. We were still full from the breakfast at the hotel so I just grab a coffee while waiting for our flight.

BA Lounge
I was initially pretty apprehensive and worried to be flying a narrow body 757 on our flight from Manchester to Chicago. As soon as we got settled in, I tested out the seats and found it to be surprisingly comfy. The seats were not lie flat but being a day flight, it was looking to not be a great deal. A cheery attendant came around with pre-departure champagne and water and it looks like it was going to be a great flight until the captain came on the PA and there was some mechanical problem with plane they were still trying to fix.

AA 757 Business Class Cabin
The attendant kept drinks flowing and brought out snacks during the delay. The flight kept getting delayed every 30 minutes until the captain finally decided to cancel the flight about two and half hours after our scheduled departure. I immediately got on my iphone looking for options but things didn't look good since all of American's Manchester flights and their morning bank from London had already left.

We had to re-clear immigration, collect our bags and head back to the check-in counters to find out how we were getting home. When waiting for our bags, I saw the most hideous customer service by one of the flight attendants. A passenger had accidentally took her jacket which she manage to track down in the luggage area. She demanded her jacket back but couldn't even be bothered to bring the passenger back their own jacket or to help them with it. She took the jacket and just walked away. If that happened to me, I would have just kept hold of the attendant's jacket until she returned mine.

Thankfully it was only a 757 that was cancelled and there was a business class/priority line so we were able to get an agent to rebook us on a flight to London connecting to Dallas tomorrow on their brand new 77W. American was also providing a lunch voucher and the hotel and meals in London.

Once re-ticketed, we hopped over to the nearby Virgin counter to check in the short hop to London. Our bags were overweight by Virgin standards but thankfully the agent made an exception. Note to self in the future is to opt to get flights in the same alliance, i.e. British Airways if this happened again in the future. There was only thirty minutes before the flight to London so we quickly grabbed a fish and chips to go to be enjoyed on the flight. We still can't find fish & chips as good as the ones in UK over here in the US and this one was no exception - way better than most places in Austin.

The flight to London was probably on 40% full so we had an entire row for both of us. The flight itself was also uneventful with a round of drinks on the short flight. On arrival in London, we once again had to re-collect our bags, trek over to Terminal 3 where the American counters were to collect our hotel and meal vouchers before boarding the Hoppa to the Renaissance hotel that American was paying for. We personally would not pay for this hotel since it was badly in need of a renovation. The meals also were pretty bad and looked like a scene from Kitchen Nightmare that required Gordon Ramsay's intervention.

There were no more surprises the day after. Since we were bored at the hotel and wanted to give ample time in case of other unwanted surprises (Hoppa tires going flat? :P), we left for the airport an early three hours prior to departure. This gave us ample time to do some window shopping and check out both the Cathay Pacific and American Airlines lounges in Heathrow. It should not surprise anyone that the Cathay lounge was better than the American lounge. It was way quieter and had better and wider selection of food and drinks.

CX LHR Lounge
Boarding for our flight to Dallas was a complete mess. It didn't look like there was dedicated line for first/business/premier passengers so folks just kept crowding the gate area when boarding was called. Things got much better was on board and first impression of the the new business class cabin was WOW. Seats for comfortable and had the right amount of privacy. It was definitely way better than the business class seat in the 757 were just on yesterday.

We were going to have another great crew serving us today. The attendant serving my row personally introduced herself when taking orders and made sure glasses were never empty through out the flight. I don't remember what we had on the flight but I do remember that it was somewhat decent.

Starter & Salad
After lunch, I got the seat reclined, relaxed and finish a movie before falling asleep and only waking up an hour before landing. The pre-landing snack selection of a pizza didn't sound too appetizing so I just skipped it and saving space for the food in the Amex Centurion lounge after arrive in Dallas. I was particularly impressed that the attendant serving my aisle made sure to check if I still wanted to snack when I went to the restroom.

Immigration was a relatively breeze compared to other airports like Los Angeles. I later found out that we were on the last and only flight to Austin for the day. All other flights to Austin were cancelled due to the weather and ice in Dallas. We ended up being on the ground longer than our flight time of 50 minutes due to having to de-ice but we were happy to finally end this vacation and get home to Austin instead of another delay and the need to stay the night in Dallas.

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