Look, before you judge me, just bear in mind there's a guy on the Flyertalk forums who rented 37 cars in 2 days just to earn miles. So, y'know, I'm a bloody amateur here.
Oh, and anyway, those of you who followed my lightning trip around the world last August might recall I went to Jersey for about 90 minutes at the start of a 3 flight day then, so this is hardly out of character... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
It's Wednesday, about 1115 in the UK as I type this, and I have a Tiger beer to refresh me despite having asked for a Heineken. I'm on my way to Heathrow. From Norway. Having been to Norway this morning. Sort of.
Finished work at 1745 or so yesterday and went to the pub in Surbiton with a very tired Helen. After two pints of stout and a snog goodbye, I went home and watched wrestling and took miraculously dry clothes out of my shiny new washer dryer (seriously, I'm 41 and have never had a dryer before) and had a very very large gin and started packing at about 2300. A few t-shirts, couple of pair of shorts, a bunch of plugs and cables and USB bricks, and alarms set for 5am.
Perhaps not everyone sets a 5am alarm for a 4pm flight to New York, but I don't like making things easy. This is a trip long in the making, over 2 years planning by Mr Lester of Great Circular European Railway Challenge fame of summer 2013. I booked my flights in February, because a) I knew I was going b) BA announced a brutal devaluation of their miles scheme and "prices" were about to sky rocket, so I cashed in what I got back from having to cancel a North Korea trip (curse you, ebola) on a last hurrah return trip in first bastard class, London to New York. That cost me £640 and 120k Avios (aka miles).
Fast forward to August, just under a month before departure, and someone makes a bit of a data entry mistake. My obsessive Flyertalk obsession pays off as I spot, very early into the saga, a thread saying "erm, seems you can fly from Norway to the USA for between £300 and £400 return in business class...". A mistake fare, surely, I mean this is a crazy price. I'd paid £640 just in taxes, fees and surcharges from the UK and though our Airline Passenger Duty sucks up a lot of that, this was still an outrageous deal and I firmly believed it was a mistake, and what's more, that it wouldn't be honoured.
Nevertheless I dove in and booked a return from Bergen to New York via London, with seats on the exact same transatlantic services as already booked. £342 in business class. Yes, £300 less than I'd paid to spend miles. And then I waited for the airlines involved to say, oh fuck off, you bunch of chancers, it's a mistake and there's no way you can fly that. Have your refund and get to fuck.
Turns out BA said "you bunch of chancers, it's a mistake, and we'll honour it this time". Holy smokes! Not that I booked with BA; I booked with American Airlines because I prefer their site, but they are in a joint venture and all my flights are actually on BA planes. Also there's some vague hint that USA-based airlines have to suck up honouring mistakes a bit more than BA do. But anyway, holy smokes!
I booked a trip with Avios to Bergen and back to top and tail the new itinerary, but didn't cancel my original booking until a couple of days before flying, still a bit worried they wouldn't hold. Yes, there was a genuine risk I wouldn't make it to NYC, but in for a penny in for a pound. Mistake fares are not for the faint hearted.
Er so anyway, enough detail. Yesterday arrived and I checked in for all 3 flights. There were already plenty of reports of people flying on this fare with no fanfare at all. And back to the 5am alarm: my 1600 flight to JFK now necessitated the 0755 London to Bergen service to kick things off.
Up at 5 cab at 6 lounge at 7 plane at 8. That was my plan. Gett Taxi, the app for booking black cabs in an uber-esque way, but also in advance, wanted £77 to take me to T5 from my flat but only £44 for T1-4, or to T5 from a 2 minute walk away. They can fuck off. I used the trust local minicabs of Mogul who I am happy to endorse for all Surbiton and surrounds readers. £35 to T5 including a ludicrously generous £7 tip. He arrived promptly at 6 and we nattered the whole way - which is not my norm in a cab - about flying (he finds planes boring) and boats: he was in the merchant navy for years and had numerous stories to tell about shagging his way around the world and getting into fights in Melbourne, Greece, and wherever. He also hates the Great South Run because he lives on the route and I told him, well mate, it's great to run so whatever.
As seems to be usual, the how-busy-is-it ratio of Heathrow T5 north to south was about 2:5, so I walked to north and joined the fast track queue. Fast track! Because fuck yeah I earnt that silver card on the Australia madness. It was about 0640 and I was far and away the scruffiest bastard in the whole queue, with pretty much 95% of the rest of the folk being middle aged white men (yes, so far so me) in suits or with smart shirts tucked into their jeans because what the fuck.
Through with no grief and past the million pound door (see: Moscow trip) I strode the length of the terminal to the south lounge and was surprised that it wasn't that busy. Maybe the north lounge was? But anyway, I got my favourite seat (look at me, I have a favourite seat in an airline lounge... prick) and proceeded to fetch bacon. A couple of rolls and some fruit salad I left pretty early, as soon as the gate was announced. Long day, the sauce can wait.
Gate A12 is in the middle of T5a and only a couple of minutes walk. I got there and it was the most empty gate I've flown from in a long long time, maybe even ever. I know it had only just been announced but even so, this was something else, and very few people seemed to be arriving after me. Conformance - the time after which you cannot come through security, i.e. you've missed your flight - is 35 minutes at Heathrow and it was about that long until take off.
Boarding was announced very shortly and the mics didn't work, so one guy just had to shout at everyone. Fast track started and there were about 3 of us, but in reality it wasn't fast because a very old and frail couple had rightfully been let onto the airbridge way before us and they were still making their way down, full of sticks and unsteadiness. I cheerfully held back rather than trying to overtake, and delighted in the man behind me tutting a bit. Just a bit. Maybe. Maybe I imagined that. Sometimes I like to think the worst of people.