Viking of the ring fly fly my darlIng
10A immediately puts the privacy screen up, which I like. They also ask for someone to take their jacket and hang it, then go to the loo and return to be annoyed that someone has taken their jacket and hung it because they have something else which totally must be hung with it. Jesus. They also have a companion and they want to be sat together, but decline the offer of adjacent seats in the middle further back. They seem quite annoyed, and look, I get it, BA have a pay-for-seating policy unless you're a shiny card holder - yes, even in business - but if sitting together is so important then fuck it, pay the £18!
As it goes I am so wound up - because the 3 champagnes on the Bergen to London flight have got me all rankled - that I think about being nice, and offering to swap seats so long as I still end up with one that's as private as mine. But in the end the service starts and my stuff is already distributed around the seat in ways I like and fuck it, I decide not to be nice at all. What a wanker I am. When in Rome...
Before take-off I have a champagne. After take-off I have another champagne. Upon reaching 5 for the day I set apart an area in my notebook where I can keep an ongoing tally.
I'd already checked out the in-flight entertainment options on ba.com and discovered two films I really wanted to watch: Straight Outta Compton, and Legend. So I put the former on, taking advantage of BA's "we let you watch from the gate" policy.
The film restarts about 5 times. Grr. But eventually I get to watch the whole thing, and it gets an official thumbs up from me. As if that matters. I was pretty familiar with the story anyway and it was a great reminder of how fucking amazing early NWA is (and how shit Eazy E's voice always was).
The BA club world seat is OK. Same as last September. My seat has very wonky elbow rests but whatever. As usual the initial part of the flight makes me tired and I almost miss the first round of free shit in the air. But only almost. Champagne and nuts arrive, then more champagne, then my pre-ordered chicken and gnocchi which looks kinda ropey but tastes kinda awesome. At the end of the meal I am chastised by the attendant for not having my chocolates yet. Sorry!
After Straight Outta Compton I move to the second film I really want to watch: Legend, yet another account of the Kray brothers' reign over the east end, with Tom Hardy playing both twins. I fucking love almost everything about Tom Hardy (it would have been actually everything until I saw that nonsense Russian thing he did... Child 44? Something like that).
Pretty sure.I fell asleep during Legend, because I don't really remember the ending. I definitely dozed, because at one point I spilt a glass of champagne all over my trousers. God fucking damn it.
My personal headphones are fantastic, way better than BA's (which I don't even try and use) and the relative quiet, tiredness, drunkenness and cabin pressure have totally knocked me out. I eventually wake at pretty much the exact second they are serving "afternoon tea", about 1h15m before we land at JFK. No, I am not flying direct to San Francisco from London. Who'd do a thing like that?
Afternoon tea is pretty terrible. The sandwiches are rank and only one of the 3 sweet things actually has any flavour. I watch a couple of episodes of American Dad and a Diet Coke briefly perks me up; soon we land at JFK T7, around an hour late. My champagne tally says 10, which seems pretty accurate and explains my mental and physical state. Thankfully I know that the scare stories about JFK immigration are just that - the queues, for me, are never as long as people report.
Landing without even being able to see a window, let alone have a decent view through one, is very strange. I'm something like 20th or so off the plane, thanks to sitting so far forwards. After two long corridors I arrive at the immigration hall, and it is fucking packed. Almost everyone off my plane goes to the US residents line, which is pretty empty; I join the back of a 100 or so strong visitors line. In the 2 to 3 minutes I'm there I don't move because apparently it's taking everyone off whatever flight came in before us forever to get through. But then I leave the queue, because over the tannoy they are saying "paging passenger Darren Foreman,,,"
Apparently I need to contact a member of British Airways staff. I can't see any, so I walk back towards the plane, and can't see any there ether. So I head halfway down the US residents bit and find a man in a uniform and tell him I'm Darren Foreman. He's got a piece of card with my name and next flight and other stuff written on it. Exciting!
The uniformed guy is amazingly friendly and helpful. I'm escorted past all the queues, even in front of some other guy who had been paged and sent to the front because he also has a tight connection. The guy who I am immediately plonked in front of is happy enough that I'm being plonked, and the border patrol guy is also great. He asks why on earth I haven't flown directly from London to San Francisco rather than connect at New York. Yeah, I'm wondering that myself.
Through customs, across the road, up to the Airtrain, there's one leaving wthin 30 seconds, next stop T8. That's where I need to be! The walk at that end is much longer but soon I am in what looks to be a mostly dedicated AA terminal and my 'express connections' orange card gets me let through into a special queue, but not a quicker one. At a fork I make the wrong choice and end up waiting to be X-rayed behind a 3-person family with 8 bags, numerous electronics and a stroller. Plus, at JFK, apparently all shoes have to come off. Once again I stink and am embarrassed. God I hope Russell isn't reading this in advance.
Eventually I am airside, again, at about 2040 local time - 0140 UK time. Pretty fucking long day this. There's an aptly Big Apple and signs to two Admirals Clubs - the names of AA's lounges - one of which is for passengers departing gates in the 30s and 40s. I'm departing C42, so take a very very long trek up and down and along various escalators and travelators. The lounge happens to be directly above the gate, so I figure with an hour until take off I have time.
I'm greeted nicely into the lounge and warned there are no announcements, so just keep an eye on the time. There's a staffed bar and people seem to be wielding money, which I don't like. After a self guided tour - this is all new to me! - I throw my bag down and get a mystery self-serve cold drink, which it turns out is an absolutely disgusting ice tea.
Seated, I consult the admirals club rules and it seems that booze is meant to be free, so I go to the bar. I ask for a Brooklyn Lager and am in turned asked for a voucher, which I don't have. She tells me that beer's out of bounds, therefore, and offers me a Bud. As it happens I like Bud, but, seriously, this is a lounge which grades beer availability? And charges for some? Why would I ever use it instead of just go to a bar? Grr!
I'm so completely fucked at this point. Drunk, dehydrated, and harried because of all the delays. I'm not remotely pissed off, just a bit annoyed that I haven't had one of the two extremes - lots of empty lounge time, or lots of chaos. Instead I've just had a couple of tight connections. Ah whatever.
After the Bud I leave, and as I walk past the desk to the left they make one of those announcements they're not going to make, saying that my flight is boarding. The gate seems empty and I waltz straight on and take seat 7A. At the door I'm greeted and respond with 'morning! Er, afternoon!' and then mutter to myself while I continue down the aisle. It's neither of those thngs, it's half nine at night for fucks sake.
I booked this flight last August. Until about 2 weeks ago the seat map said I was the only person in the cabin, and then it started to fill up. American Airlines do this mental thing where their top level shiny card holders get free upgrades and so don't have to actually pay for business or first class. Accordingly, people's applications to exercise an upgrade cleared and once I board it seems the cabin is full. There's a lass in seat 7B already and she says a cheery "hi!". To this point, which as I type is around 4 hours later, we haven't comunicated any further. That's how I like it.
The AA transcontinental flights between New York and LA or San Francisco use a plane unlike any of their other domestic services. It's basically long haul quality, and I've wanted to try it since it went into service a couple of years ago. I actually thought at the time of booking I'd snagged First Class, but it's "only" business. Oh no!
First class looked good as I strode through it tbh. But business is good too. I'm convinced the seat is wider than the transatlantic BA flight, and yes, I'd love a champagne before we fly. I'm in my seat a full 20 minutes before scheduled departure time after all. The TV is huge, there is USB power, fantastic legroom, and a very very fancy handset for controlling the entertainment.
Well, I say that. I have a good old play with the handset and am well impressed with its responsiveness and features and etc, but any tme I actually want it to make something happen on the TV it does the square root of fuck all. I've tried it a few times during the flight, same story. The touchscreen controls work perfectly though, so I watch Black Mass. It's excellent.
The AA magazine for February has 4 WWE stars on the front, because it's part of the whole "road to Wrestlemania" spiel. This is cracking timing, but because of the timing of this flight I eschew the entire mag. I can read it on the way back. And it also gave me my post title, because there's a WWE pay-per-view event called King of the Ring and the start-in-Norway deal I'm on was nicknamed "Viking" on flyertalk. See? (Not many people will get the reference of the subtitle, but I don't care)
The flight attendants keep refilling my champagne even when I don't ask, but at one point ruin the whole thing by asking "more prosecco?". Gah! But whatever, fizzy wine is fizzy wine. I'm typing this sentence at 0640 UK time, Friday morning, aka 2240 Thursday in San Francisco, and my tally says 17. The problem with keeping such a tally, though, is that I might have embellished it and not realised because I'm so wasted on fizzy wine.
Aaaanyway. Everest just finished, and had I not spent a significant chunk of it writing this I'm sure I'd have cried at the emotional ending. Prior to writing this I had my pre-ordered meal which was a cheese and shrimp quesadilla and holy shit it was fucking lovely. Then ice cream. My calories are off the fuckng charts today and y'know what, I don't think I care.