World Traveller Class is British Airways branding for economy class. After flying American Airlines and United Airlines for my last two trips to Europe, flying British Airways was, without a doubt, the better experience. Perhaps the best measure for the quality of an aircraft is not the amenities and service of First Class and Business Class, but rather, how the vast majority of the passengers flying in economy class are serviced.
It never rains in California
This was my first flight on an A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. And I almost missed the flight.
It never rains in California, until I travel. I arrived to SFO Wednesday morning just as the skies opened up and the rain fell hard. My flight from SFO to LAX was delayed by almost two hours. I had 2 hours, 45 minutes transit time scheduled at LAX.
45 minutes might be sufficient at most international airports. Not LAX. Arriving at LAX on American Airlines required me to exit the terminal, take a shuttle bus around LAX to the Tom Bradley International Terminal and go through TSA screening again with my luggage. I begged passengers in line to allow me to cut in front and remarkably everyone agreed. Then I was bitched out by TSA for not taking the computer out of my bag. Oops.
I ran through the terminal to the last gate down the interminably long hallway and arrived at the gate to see no passengers remaining. Five gate agents looked at my sweating face and asked, “Are you Richard Garrido?” There were several phone calls by gate agents to the powers that needed to be informed stating, “Richard Garrido is here”, and a bunch of keystrokes on the computer to change my status from missing to present. After about five minutes, I was personally escorted to the plane.
Is that how celebrities are treated on a regular basis?
British Airways LAX-LHR A380-800 in World Traveller Class
My original assigned seat was for the upper deck, but that had already been closed. The young guy sitting in the aisle seat on the lower deck quipped he thought he was going to have the three seats for himself to lay horizontally for the night. No such luck for him. Our true luck was the middle seat was empty and that was the only empty seat I saw on the plane. A380-800 is 3-4-3 seating across the row.
Later in the flight I tried to go to the upper deck to see my originally assigned seat, only to find an ominous metal gate blocking access at the top of the spiral stairway in the back of the aircraft. Kind of reminded me of the steerage gates from the movie Titanic to keep passengers restricted to lower decks. The main difference being the gate on the A380 was only a half-gate that could be stepped over, if necessary.
British Airways A380-800 inflight entertainment system truly kept me entertained for the ten hour flight time. The Ramones were playing on my car CD as I drove from Monterey to SFO.
Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go, I wanna be sedated
Nothin’ to do and nowhere to go-oh, I wanna be sedated
Just get me to the airport, put me on a plane
Hurry, hurry, hurry, before I go insane
I wanna be sedated – Ramones
British Airways personal inflight entertainment system offered dozens of movies and hundreds of albums. I watched Lucy and The Fault in Our Stars, ate dinner and fell asleep.
When I woke up after four hours, I spent several hours listening to bands I do not know. British Airways provided me a musical education.
I sampled album songs by Slowly Rolling Camera, Real Estate, Paramore, Palma Violets, Needtobreathe, London Grammar, King Krule, Eels and at least a dozen more bands.
Then, I spent an hour reliving my punk youth.
Who would have believed in 1977 that Sex Pistols would be a musical selection for inflight entertainment on British Airways in 2014?
I had not listened to Never Mind the Bollocks album in years. Submission and Problems still rock out with the best of songs. The band’s last show was in San Francisco January 14, 1978. Later in 1978, I got into the punk rock scene after seeing the Ramones and my deep knowledge of punk rock bands I quickly acquired provided employment in a record store in 1979.
There has always been a similarity between punk rock and blogging for me. More than a musical style, punk rock in the late 1970s was about a freedom to do it yourself. Bypass the major record companies, concert promoters and corporate restrictions. Pay for your own studio time, record a song and market it yourself or go with a small indie publisher. Rent a hall and perform a show. Build an audience and hopefully make a living.
The first punk show I saw after the Ramones was a San Francisco Band called The Dils at the American Legion hall in Soquel, California. I got stoned under the California coast redwood trees with some leather-clad guys outside the hall before the show and went inside the hall with them. Turned out the guys were the band.
Then after a couple of years, punk music was co-opted by corporate money.
Punk rockers in the UK
They won’t notice anyway
They’re all too busy fighting
For a good place under the lighting
The new groups are not concerned
With what there is to be learned
They got Burton suits, ha you think it’s funny
Turning rebellion into money.
White Man in Hammersmith Palais – The Clash
The Clash Hits Back, a best songs compilation, entertained me for the final hour at Heathrow. It literally took 30 minutes from the time we landed at Heathrow airport to arrival at the gate.
White Man in Hammersmith Palais and Police & Thieves were songs I played so loudly in the 70s that dad would pound on my bedroom door demanding I turn the amplifier down.
The similarity I see between punk rock and travel blogging is the shift to banks co-opting the travel writing market. Many bloggers changed their travel writing emphasis over the past three years to focus on credit card marketing. Loads of new bloggers came into the field for the easy money to be made in credit card marketing.
I am still an old school punk rocker and old school blogger. I write Loyalty Traveler to be free from corporate remote control.
Still, even an old school start-up band like The Fall, my favorite punk band in 1979, who inspired me to get a printed t-shirt reading ‘White Crap that Talks Back’, are still making music and their songs are a selection of British Airways inflight entertainment.
During the 30 minutes taxiing around LHR, I listened repeatedly to The Clash – Police & Thieves. The nation awaits the grand jury verdict in the Ferguson, Missouri Michael Brown shooting. I remember April 1992 very well as I was driving across the Golden Gate Bridge listening to news that protesting high school students had shut down the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge following the acquittal of the four police officers in the Rodney King beating. Then all hell broke lose, literally. I still recall sitting in the hotel lounge of the Crowne Plaza (now Hilton SFO) watching the TV images with horror of Reginald Denny having his head stoned on the streets of LA.
Police and thieves in the streets, oh yeah
Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition
Police and thieves in the street, oh yeah
Fighting the nation with their guns and ammunition
From genesis to revelation
The next generation will be, hear me
Police & Thieves – The Clash
British Airways inflight entertainment took me on a musical journey through my past. I may have had limited physical freedom in World Travelller economy class for a ten hour flight, but I found adequate mental freedom in songs to make the long-haul flight a pleasant experience.
The other aspect of the A380 flight I noticed when not listening to inflight entertainment is the ambient noise in the cabin was far quieter than I ever recall for a long-haul flight.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
Loyalty Traveler shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. Check out current hotel loyalty program offers across all the major chains in Loyalty Traveler’s monthly hotel promotions guide.