At 1050, precisely 3 hours before our flight, we were outside T3. After a quick vape we went in, up the escalators, and through a slow “fast track” security rigmarole, emerging into the main departure area at 1105. By 1110 we were in the Cathay Pacific lounge, getting a friendly welcome from the staff at the desk and being directed to the first class bit.
Here’s why the present was so perfect. My existing shiny gold card was “earnt” through the glory of a few mistakenly cheap first/business class flights back in 2016/17, and then extended for two further years courtesy of a BA IT cock-up over a bank holiday weekend during which we flew, but were unaffected. I reckon I’m the cheapest gold card ever. Being in possession of such a card grants me access, when flying with a oneworld airline from Heathrow T3, to four separate lounges – three of which have a dedicated first class section. Yet during the past 2.9 years of having such a card I’ve failed dismally to take such a flight. And it was really bugging me. So it was with GREAT ANTICIPATION AND JOY that I was finally able to check them all out.
Cathay Pacific, first class lounge
So, here we were at Cathay’s lounge. It’s a fairly small place, not crowded but not particularly spacious. Poking our head around we spot the restaurant-style eating area, with proper menus and table service and stuff. There are staff but no other punters, so we have the pick of our seats. Grabbing a corner, we’re given a couple of minutes to make our choices.
I’ll have the signature Dan Dan Mien noodles, thanks. Helen opted for the western set breakfast. Did we want any tea or coffee? No thanks, but I tell you what – I’d love a champagne. Helen opts for a mimosa. Let the holiday begin!
I had a Little Creatures. The tap wasn’t working and I had to settle for a bottle. Whatever. I’m told the Qantas mimosa beat the Cathay Pacific mimosa, but other than that this lounge is worse in pretty much every way. The gin bar would’ve maybe changed that verdict, but being denied our place there we necked this sauce and buggered off to lounge #3.
American Airlines international first class lounge
I’ve been in the AA lounge at terminal 3 before, but not the first class bit. In fact I’m not sure there was a first class bit back in 2014, but who knows. I recall very much disliking it at the time, so was taken aback upon entering this one and having a very good first impression.
Perhaps it was just due to the Qantas disappointment, but American impressed me here. The range of seating was all more attractive and we grabbed a couple on the mezzanine bit. Helen went off to fetch a small cake, after which I tagged in to go get another plate full of stuff. Man, I was totally pigging out here.
Actually, that’s only about half the cheese. I got loads, expecting Helen would want some, but she didn’t. Oops. Likewise the scone and clotted cream.
Having completed the 4 lounge crawl, and now being very merry, I am happier than a pig in shit. “So, now do you see why I’ve wanted to fly to Luxembourg for ages?” I’m saying, over and over again. What a preposterous, magnificent, indulgent morning. I really can’t express how much fun Heathrow lounge bingo is to me. That it ended because we had to go catch a plane wasn’t exactly a bloody hardship though was it?
Heathrow to Helsinki
We were leaving from Gate 5, back up beyond all the other lounges and indeed past the Emirates lounge. By the time we get there, boarding hasn’t started even though it’s only about 25 minutes until departure. Helen nips to the loo, taking sufficiently long enough that by the time she’s out and we’re back at the gate the monitors say “closing” and it seems like we’re going to be last on. Entirely unlike me, I actually had a bit of a panic there. I blame the Qantas beer.
Onboard, we’re in row 1, seats 1D and 1F on the right hand side of the plane as you face forwards. In order to re-qualify for gold – legitimately, this time, without any mistake fares! – I needed 115 tier points. This return will earn me 160, with the added symmetry of being to the same destination which got me over the line back in 2016.
There’s instructions for connecting to WiFi. For the entire duration of the flight, except for a split second when it was clearly showing default content, I am only able to connect to the page which says “you can’t get online just yet”. Thanks, BA.
We are given hot towels, and I’m somewhat startled to read in the magazine that taking your own booze onboard has now been banned. This is definitely news to me.
Business class is very full back to about row 8, so I’m extra glad we’re in row one. Once the seatbelt signs go off, the crew come round with menus – well, actually, one of them drops the entire supply of menus all over my lap and feet and the floor around me.