Tim Foolery

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African Trip Review — Transit: ORD-LHR

We planned this trip to Africa because MS had a friend getting married in Joburg. I couldn’t take enough time off to go to the wedding so I came late. The isn’t an easy way to get to Cape Town from Chicago – definitely no direct flights, you have to transfer at least once and more often two or three times to get there. I took the shortest option: ORD-LHR-CPT. This will quickly review that flight.

Carrier: United Air Lines
Flight #: 938
Seat: 20B
Departure: March 1, 2011 – 21:01 / 21:00
Arrival: March 2, 2011 – 11:05 / 10:47
Travel Time: 8 hours 4 minutes / 7 hours 50 minutes
Flight Miles: 3,953
I worked all day on Tuesday, came home to finish packing and head off to the airport. I was flying coach, but was offered an upgrade to First Class, but only for this leg, not the long leg to Cape Town. United wanted over $900 for the upgrade. This is totally insane, even I wouldn’t do that…but if it was $900 for the whole ticket round trip to upgrade, I would have totally gone for it. I arrive at ORD in time to check in and hit the Red Carpet Club (RCC). I enjoyed a bad glass of red wine and headed off to my gate. I really love the RCC near B14 at ORD, the others are too big or too small and not as modern.
My flight looked about only 70% full, so the night before I changed my seat from an exit row with a seat mate to an aisle without a seat mate. Imagine my surprise when I sit down and another traveler sits next to me. He was part of a large group of Brits returning from a football (soccer) exhibition in the US and Canada…unfortunately not a single one of them were cute. Ugh.
The service started while on the ground, the stews were handing out a section of newspapers (Financial Times or the Globe). The Brits didn’t want either and they made it abundantly clear. I couldn’t move to another seat as there weren’t any better seats in my area. The Brit next to me, smelled like he’d been out on a bender for several months (booze, beer and cigs). He used the washroom quite a bit but wouldn’t ask me to move, he’d just crawl over me. After I told him I’m more than happy to get up, he said it wouldn’t matter and continued to crawl over me.
I had the ravioli for dinner, which I’d rate a 5 out of 10 – traditionally the ravioli is top notch — not so much today. The movie selection was acceptable, but the only film I really wanted to see was The Kings Speech. I thought it was very well done, even if it was “edited for content and length”. After dinner I closed my eyes and slept off an on for about 5 hours total — waking up as my neighbor was crawling over me, then I’d watch another snippet of The Kings Speech” then doze off again. This continued every 45 minutes for the entire flight. Less than ideal.
We landed at LHR and had a short taxi to the gate. As it was Heathrow it did took about 9 hours of walking to get to Customs/Immigration. I had a short session with the officer, who was quite confused as to why I would be spending only 8 hours in London and not just sitting at the airport until my evening departure. I can’t believe this is an uncommon practice. London is a major transfer hotel and I’m sure most people don’t just sit and wait…do they?

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