Brian’s Travel Spot: Return from Boston (Again)

My British Airways Boeing 777-300 waiting on the stand at Boston Logan's Terminal E, waiting to take me back to Heathrow.Welcome to the second and final Travel Spot covering this year’s second trip to Portland (Maine). I flew from London Heathrow to Boston at the start of April (the subject of the previous instalment of this Travel Spot), while this post covers my return to London at the start of May. Both flights were with British Airways and, as I’ve done the last two times I’ve returned from Boston, I took an overnight flight in World Traveller Plus (aka premium economy), leaving Boston in the late evening.

Since I returned from Iceland in July 2021, the rules have been different each time I’ve flown back to the UK, although in this case, the rules were non-existent. After my last flight to the UK in mid-February, the UK Government removed all requirements for testing and withdrew the passenger locator form, so there was nothing to do ahead of the flight. It was very similar to flying in the pre-pandemic era (other than the high prevalence of a highly contagious and potentially fatal airborne virus that is). Naturally, except when I was eating, I wore a mask the entire time I was on public transport, in the airport and on the plane.

As usual, since this is a long post, I’ve split it into the following sections:

You can see read more about how I got to Boston and the flight after the gallery.

I flew back on Monday, 2nd May, exactly four weeks after my flight to Boston. Since Amanda was working, she couldn’t drive me down to the airport. Rather than taking the coach, as I’d done in November last year, I decided to travel to Boston on Sunday, staying overnight in an airport hotel (there are a crop of these just north of the airport, around Chelsea and Revere Beach, with easy access to the airport, avoiding the centre of Boston). This meant that Amanda could drive me down on Sunday afternoon, popping into Exeter, New Hampshire along the way. A lovely old mill town on the Exeter River, at the point where it becomes the tidal Squamscott River, it’s worth a more extended visit.

I had option of taking the early morning flight on Monday, which British Airways had recently reinstated. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, this was a favourite of mine since I didn’t have to fly overnight. I can’t sleep on economy flights due to a medical condition, and while work was happy to pay to fly me business class (which meant I could sleep lying down), the flight from Boston to London is such a short one, it was hardly worthwhile. Although scheduled for 6½ hours, in reality, you’re in the air for 5½ or six hours at most. Once take-off and landing are taken into account, I doubt I’d get more than four hours sleep and that’s with skipping meals, going straight to bed and (crucially) being able to fall sleep immediately.

The daytime flight, which leaves Boston early in the morning (currently 07:15!) and arrives in London in the early evening (18:45) seemed the perfect compromise. I could save some money from my travel budget by flying premium economy and I’d get home at around a normal bed time.

The last two times I flew back from Boston, the daytime flight wasn’t available. In November, I took the early evening flight, leaving at 18:55 and landing at 06:00. I thought it would help me avoid jet lag since I’d be landing around 01:00 US time, which is when I typically go to bed. As it was, I suffered pretty badly that time around and I wasn’t looking forward to the late evening flight when I returned to the UK in February (since British Airways had cut its schedule right back, it was the only flight available).

This left at 21:45, although this meant landing at a much more reasonable 08:25 the next morning. I found that I was able to cope with this much better and had very little jet lag that week. Added to that, Amanda and I had spent the previous night in Boston and had a really good night’s sleep. I suspect that this, more than anything else, helped me avoid the jet lag.

When it came to choosing this flight, I went for the late evening option again. I was tempting by the early morning flight, but in reality, a 07:15 take off meant getting the 05:30 shuttle from the hotel, and even that would have been cutting it fine. In theory, I could have gone to bed at around midnight and had about five hours sleep, but the reality is, I rarely sleep well before early morning starts, so I would have ended up flying on a few hours sleep. If my theory about a good night’s sleep being one of the keys to avoiding jet lag was correct, this would have been a very bad idea!

That left a choice of two evening flights, one leaving at 19:15, the other at 21:40. Based on my previous experiences, I went for the later flight, which had the advantage of giving me a whole day in Boston, which you can read about after the gallery.

  • The view from my hotel window on the morning of my flight.
  • But first, a day in Boston beckons, and that means the Blue Line. I'm at Beachmont...
  • ... and my train is going to be arriving any moment, having set off from Wonderland...
  • ... two stops up the line (the other stop is Revere Beach). And here it comes.
  • It's been a long time since I've been on the Blue Line. Sadly, I only went as far as the...
  • ... airport (the irony) where I had to transfer to a shuttle bus to go to downtown Boston.
  • First stop, Intelligentsia on Post Office Square...
  • ... for a Black Cat cappuccino to get me going.
  • Next, it's Kōhi Coffee, in the lobby of 125 Summer Street...
  • ... where I had this Ecuadorian single-origin pour-over using the Bonmac filter.
  • Although my day in Boston was mostly about coffee, I did manage a stroll through the...
  • ... Public Garden at the western end of Boston Common, where the trees...
  • ... were in full bloom.
  • The famous suspension bridge.
  • After that, it was back on the coffee shop trail with a visit to Phin Coffee House...
  • ... the first of two new openings, where I had this Ca Phe Phin.
  • Next, and final, stop was at High Street Place, a new food hall...
  • ... which is home to the Gracenote Coffee and Wine Bar...
  • ... where I had this excellent espresso. This set me up nicely for...
  • ... the ride back to the hotel (again via the airport) by a combination of bus and Blue Line.
  • Back at the hotel, I picked up my bags and headed (by shuttle bus this time)...
  • ... back to the airport and the very quiet British Airways check-in desks.
  • Within 20 minutes, I was checked in and through security.
  • There have been some changes since I was last here. This, for example, used to be a...
  • ... well-known chain. Meanwhile, the airport was buiser, but still not what I'd call busy.
  • My flight left at 21:45, although there's an even later one with Virgin Atlantic.
  • The stairs to the lounge. Before I go up, I just want to wander down to the gate.
  • Normally there's an Emirates flight on the neighbouring gate (E11), but I'm so early it's...
  • ... this one, from Japan Airlines. And on my gate, E12, is flight before mine, the 19:15!
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

I got a decent night’s sleep and, after breakfast, packed up my things (not that I’d unpacked much the night before), leaving my luggage at reception. This was a different hotel than the one I’d stayed in the previous three times I’d taken the daytime flight from Boston. Not that I had anything against the previous hotel, but on all three occasions, I’d only cared about getting the shuttle to the airport first thing in the morning. Here the plan was to go into Boston for the day and this hotel was just a brisk five-minute walk from the Beachmont stop on the Blue Line, which would take me into the heart of downtown Boston.

Well, that was the plan. Unfortunately, the Blue Line had engineering works, with the trains only running as far as the airport, where I had to change to one of a fleet of shuttle buses to go into downtown Boston. It wasn’t massively inconvenient, but it did demonstrate the efficiency of mass transit. What with the time lost in changing from the Blue Line to the bus and the downtown Boston traffic, what would have been a 10-minute journey took half an hour!

Once I’d made it into Boston, I had an excellent day, wandering around roughly the same area that Amanda and I had covered the day before my previous flight from Boston, only this time, since it was a Monday (ie not the weekend) all the coffee shops I wanted to visit were open. I also visited George Howell at the Godfrey Hotel and the Gracenote Coffee Bar to buy bags of coffee to take to Berlin.

I’d booked a slot on the six o’clock shuttle from the hotel to the airport (the irony being that I had to go through the airport on the Blue Line to get back to the hotel so that I could get my luggage), but because of the replacement buses and the traffic, it took almost an hour to get back.

I arrived at the hotel just after six o’clock, having missed the shuttle, which had gone to the airport to pick someone up. The good news was that I still had plenty of time, with my flight not leaving until 21:40. The shuttle duly turned up, complete with a very grumpy driver who I remember from the other hotel. On that occasion, he forgot he had me onboard and we were almost on our way back to the hotel before he remembered he was supposed to be dropping me off. Given his excellent mood (which, I think, is a front) I decided that it was probably best not to remind him of the incident.

One advantage of the hotel shuttle over the public transport options is that you get dropped off upstairs at arrivals rather than downstairs at departures. By 18:50, I was at the check-in desks, which, given my early hour, had no queues. Within two minutes, I was checked in and on my way to security, which is right next door to the British Airways desks. This was a little busier, but even so, within 20 minutes of arriving at the airport, I was through security and heading for the British Airways lounge.

Each time I’ve flown from Boston, it’s been slightly busier than before. This was no different, with more of the facilities open and more flights on the departure board, although it was still far from what I’d describe as busy.

You can see how I got on in the lounge after the gallery.

  • Time to go upstairs to the lounge...
  • ... which is at the far end of the terminal, down this long passage way. The notice is new.
  • It's weird though, since Iberia and British Airways are owned by the same company.
  • Not that any of it applied to me, so off I went down the long corridor.
  • The 19:15 had boarded by the time I arrived, but there was another flight before mine.
  • The view from the back of the lounge, where the 19:15 had already pushed back.
  • This extension to the terminal is almost complete (unless there's another floor to go on!).
  • This is the corresponding view from November last year...
  • ... while this is what it looked like in March 2020, when construction had just started.
  • I grabbed one of the tables at the back and went to get some food.
  • The lounge now has a buffet service for salad and mezze...
  • ... as well as snacks...
  • ... while with the return of the daytime flight, breakfast was back (just not in the evening).
  • However, the main ordering is still online.
  • The familiar menu screen on my phone.
  • Let's get something to drink. Sadly there was no port this time.
  • I had the roasted beetroot salad last time and it was excellent.
  • I've had both the burger and risotto, but went for the burger this time.
  • That will do for now.
  • My salad, excellent as before...
  • ... and my Beyond Burger.
  • I also wanted dessert, but have learnt to wait until my food arrives before ordering.
  • Although it's not very sticky, I did enjoy the toffee pudding last time.
  • And here it is.
  • By now, my plane, a Boeing 777-300, had arrived.
  • Boarding, as always, was through the gate at the back of the lounge.
  • First you go down one level...
  • ... doubling back on yourself to go past the main gate (E12).
  • Then it's down another level...
  • ... and across the airbridge onto the plane.
  • As usual, there's the walk of envy through Club World and the new suites...
  • ... only this time there were two Club World cabins to go through!
  • I'll leave you with my seat, 30J, at the front of the World Traveller Plus cabin.
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

I got to the lounge at 19:20, just as the 19:15 departure was pushing back, leaving me with a couple of hours before boarding. I’ve written extensively about the excellent British Airways lounge at Boston, so I’m not going to say much more today. The lounge was busy but not full and, as well as my flight, there was a 20:50 Icelandair flight to Reykjavik. I also noted the rather aggressive note at the entrance to the lounge about Iberia passengers, which was weird because the last time I used the lounge, an Iberia flight had been shown on the departures board. It’s also strange since British Airways and Iberia are owned by the same company!

Service in the lounge is slowly returning to how it was pre-pandemic, although the first class dining area is still closed. There are buffet options for salad, mezze and snacks, plus, with the return of the daytime flight, the breakfast menu was back (although not available in the evening). However, the main food options were still only available online (although you can always give your order to one of the many servers). The menu was the same as the last two times I’ve flown, so I went with the excellent roasted beetroot salad and, having had the butternut squash risotto the last time I was here, ordered the Beyond Burger.

I then made a separate order for the warm sticky toffee pudding (if you order it all that the same time, it all arrives at the same time, so I’ve learnt to delay ordering a dessert). The toffee pudding is very good, by the way, although it’s not very sticky, so don’t be fooled by the name. My only disappointment was that there was no port on the menu.

I was sitting at the back of the lounge, near the gate. Unlike last time, when the flight was called without warning, there was a call for pre-boarding at 21:00, which allowed me time to pack up my things. When boarding was called, I was one of the first at the gate (one of the lounge’s many excellent features is its dedicated gate at the back). This uses facial-recognition technology which is much quicker than having a member of staff manually check your boarding pass and passport, so within a couple of minutes, I was on my way down to the plane, a Boeing 777-300.

This was my sixth flight to/from the US with British Airways since November, but my first on a 777-300 (previously I’d managed a 787-8, 787-9, 787-10 and two 777-200s). Like all of British Airway’s 777 fleet, it had the newly upgraded Club World suites, but being a bit longer than its 777-200 cousin, the 777-300 has two Club World cabins, both of which we had to walk through to get to World Traveller Plus.

I’d got my usual seat, 30J, an aisle seat at the front of the cabin by the bulkhead, this time sitting on the right of the plane. I was settled in by 21:10 and, since the flight wasn’t very full, boarding was complete by 21:20. Of course,we weren’t scheduled to depart until 21:40, so we had to wait at the gate until 21:35, when the aircraft doors were closed and we pushed back, ready for the manual safety demonstration. At this point, the seat next to mine wasn’t taken, so I shuffled over for take-off, although I wasn’t expecting to see very much since it was dark outside.

You can see what I made of the cabin after the gallery.

  • My 777-300 on the stand at Boston. As you can see, we board near the front of the plane.
  • There are two Club World cabins to walk through, a larger one (10½ rows)...
  • ... followed by a smaller one (5½ rows).
  • The view looking the other way. These are the new Club World suites by the way.
  • I was in World Traveller Plus, with its 2-4-2 configuration and just five rows of seats.
  • Finally, there's a relatively small World Traveller cabin, with seats in a 3-4-3 configuraton.
  • Back to World Traveller Plus and my seat, 30J, at the front on the right.
  • The view from my seat into Club World. 30J is the aisle seat by the way.
  • Behold my legroom!
  • The seat next door to mine, 30K, was vacant, so I ended up there for take-off and landing.
  • This meant I could look out of the windows. Note that the seat is behind the wing.
  • The bulkhead in front had a pair of magazine racks, which are handy for storage...
  • ... while the fold down table (which is meant for travel cots) makes a useful extra table.
  • Before this flight, I'd never worked out how to use the footrest: press the red button!
  • Each seat has its own power outlet, a combined AC and USB socket.
  • However, they are in subtly different places on front of the two seats.
  • The remote control, as ever, is tucked into the arm rest, while the impressively large...
  • ... monitors have the new entertainment system, which is where I'll leave you.
My 777-300 on the stand at Boston. As you can see, we board near the front of the plane.1 There are two Club World cabins to walk through, a larger one (10½ rows)...2 ... followed by a smaller one (5½ rows).3 The view looking the other way. These are the new Club World suites by the way.4 I was in World Traveller Plus, with its 2-4-2 configuration and just five rows of seats.5 Finally, there's a relatively small World Traveller cabin, with seats in a 3-4-3 configuraton.6 Back to World Traveller Plus and my seat, 30J, at the front on the right.7 The view from my seat into Club World. 30J is the aisle seat by the way.8 Behold my legroom!9 The seat next door to mine, 30K, was vacant, so I ended up there for take-off and landing.10 This meant I could look out of the windows. Note that the seat is behind the wing.11 The bulkhead in front had a pair of magazine racks, which are handy for storage...12 ... while the fold down table (which is meant for travel cots) makes a useful extra table.13 Before this flight, I'd never worked out how to use the footrest: press the red button!14 Each seat has its own power outlet, a combined AC and USB socket.15 However, they are in subtly different places on front of the two seats. 16 The remote control, as ever, is tucked into the arm rest, while the impressively large...17 ... monitors have the new entertainment system, which is where I'll leave you.18
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

This was my fifth time in World Traveller Plus (aka premium economy) in my last six flights, so I was starting to get to know the seat layout very well indeed, although this was only my second time in newly-refurbished World Traveller Plus seats. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll just point you to what I’ve written before (although at some point I should really write a cabin guide!).

The main differences came with the layout of the aircraft itself. This was my first time on a 777-300 in a while and certainly my first time with the new Club World cabins. London to Boston is clearly a business (rather than tourist) route as far as British Airways is concerned. The lounge, with its own gate at the back, is evidence of that, while the ratio of First Class + Club World seats to World Traveller + World Traveller Plus on the 777-300s is also telling.

We boarded quite near the front of the plane, with a small First Class cabin (just two rows, eight seats in all) and a three-row Club World cabin (12 seats) between us and the cockpit at the front. Going the other way, towards the back of the plane, I had to walk through another two Club World cabins, the first with 10½ rows (42 seats in all) and the second, smaller one with 5½ rows (22 seats) before I got to World Traveller Plus.

Normally, the front of the World Traveller Plus cabin is level with the front of the wing, or sometimes the middle of the wing, but here I was actually behind the wing, which is normally where I’d expect the World Traveller cabin to start. As with all the other times I’ve flown World Traveller Plus, the cabin itself was small, with just five rows of seats in a 2-4-2 configuration (40 seats in all).

Similarly, the World Traveller cabin behind us was also comparatively small, with 10 full rows, with the seats in a 3-4-3 configuration (which makes for very narrow seats). This is followed by three rows of 2-4-2 (don’t get your hopes up: the seats aren’t any wider, the fuselage just starts to narrow here) and one last row missing the back two seats on the right (so there are 130 seats in all). The one area where the 777-300 scores well is in toilet provision, with five toilets between 170 economy passengers.

Not that it mattered much since the flight wasn’t very full, with just three or four people in the (smaller) Club World cabin in front of me and not that many more in the larger Club World cabin in front of that. World Traveller Plus was a little busier, with 12 seats free (including the one next to mine) out of 40 total, while I reckon from a brief stroll through World Traveller than it was similar there (that is, about 70% of the seats taken). Perhaps business travel hasn’t picked up as much as British Airways would like.

There is, by the way, another variant of the 777-300 in service with British Airways. This only has one Club World cabin behind the front galley, while there are two World Traveller Plus cabins at the back. I had been due to fly on one of these 777-300s on my way out to Boston, but at some point it was switched for a 777-200.

One thing that disappointed me was the lack of mask wearing now that the requirement had been lifted. There were a few people wearing masks, including the couple sitting directly behind me, which was reassuring, but not a single staff member was masked at any point during the flight.

You can see how the flight went after the gallery.

  • I'd shuffled over to the window seat for take-off. It's a filfthy night out there!
  • We pushed back at 21:35 and had the safety demo, but then we just sat there.
  • We moved a little, but for 15 minutes, this Japan Airlines 787 was our only companion.
  • Then, at 21:50, we were off. The customary Emirates plane (a 777-300 this time)...
  • ... had replaced the JAL's 787 at Gate E11. We passed the Virgin Atlantic flight to London...
  • ... an Airbus A330-300, then there was this one, a Porter Air de Havilland Dash 8-400.
  • Then it was back to the big boys, with a jet from Qatar...
  • ... and another from Air France.
  • From there, we went past Terminal C and its numerous jetBlue planes...
  • ... before setting off to taxi alongside the runway to the other end of the airport.
  • I've had better views (and taken better photos of) downtown Boston if I'm honest.
  • I couldn't really tell where we were, but Google Maps showed us on the SW-NE runway.
  • We waited for another flight to land and then, at 22:05, we were off...
  • ... and very quickly airborne. That's Winthrop down below, just south of Revere Beach.
  • I think that might the southern end of Revere Beach.
  • This was my last clear view (I caught a blurry glimpse of Nahant) then it was into the cloud.
  • A sign that we're underway: the curtains between cabins, which are open for take-off...
  • ... are pulled across for the duration of the flight.
  • I found that the monitor in my new seat, 30K, couldn't get past the welcome screen...
  • ... so I moved back to my original seat, 30J...
  • ... where I found that the map wasn't working.
  • We hit some turbulence at 22:20, and the seat-belt signs came back on for five minutes.
  • After that, things calmed down and the main cabin service started.
  • I settled in to watch a movie (Belfast)...
  • ... while I got on with dinner, a pre-ordered vegetarian meal.
  • I also managed to get a cup of (decent) coffee from Club World. Status has its perks!
  • Belfast finished at around midnight, which is where I'll leave you, with four hours to go.
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

While we pushed back at 21:35, it proved to be something of a false start as, after the manual safety demonstration, we just sat on the tarmac. The pilot announced seats for take-off at 21:45, but it wasn’t until 21:50, 15 minutes after we pushed back, that we finally set off on our taxi to the end of the runway.

I’m used to taking off on the southeast-northwest runway, the end point of which is about as far away from Terminal E as you can get. However, the day before, planes had been coming in and going out over Revere Beach, which meant that they were using the southwest-northeast runway. This was the case today as well, not that I could tell much from looking out of the window as the weather was really bad, with heavy rain reducing the visibility.

It took us 10 minutes to get to the end of the runway and I got some (blurry) views of downtown Boston across the harbour. We waited there for five minutes while another plane came in to land and then it was our turn. At 22:05, we thundered down the runway, flying over Bellemarsh and Revere Beach as we climbed towards the clouds. I had some brief views of Winthrop and Nahant before we disappeared into the clouds about a minute after take-off.

As usual, the seat belt signs came quickly off, while the crew came through to close the curtains between the different cabins. By 22:10, we were well underway. I got out the monitor in my new seat only to discover that it wasn’t working (which probably explains why the seat was empty, so I can’t really complain). Shifting back over to my original aisle seat, I discovered that while the monitor worked, the in-flight map was down (from the looks of it, that was an aircraft-wide problem).

We had five minutes of turbulence at 22:20 when the seat-belt signs came on again, then the main cabin service started with drinks and pretzels, followed by dinner, which arrived at 23:00. I had a vegetarian meal this time, with a fine cous-cous salad, while the main course, penne with peas, was okay, although once again I felt cheated by dessert (melon). However, the cabin crew asked if I wanted anything from Club World (I’m guessing because of my Gold Status), so I requested some coffee, which is a cut above what’s served in World Traveller/World Traveller Plus.

I watched the movie Belfast over dinner, which finished at midnight. After that I settled down for the rest of the flight, which had about four hours to go.

You can see how the rest of the flight went after the gallery.

  • It started to get light outside at around 01:30 (06:30 UK time).
  • Since the 777-300 has manual blinds, I was able to watch the sunrise.
  • Just as well, since for the next 50 minutes, I was confined to my seat by turbulence.
  • The view down below: horizon to horizon cloud across almost the whole of the Atlantic.
  • Breakfast was served at 02:55 (07:55 London time), in a stylish paper bag.
  • It was also a very over-sized paper bag given that this was the contents!
  • Still cloudy outside as we began our descent at 08:25.
  • A sure sign that we'll be landing (relatively) soon: the curtains are once again drawn back.
  • It's hard to tell from these photographs, but the clouds are getting closer.
  • It's now 08:55 and I'm not sure I believe that 09:07 arrival estimate.
  • The pilot called seats for landing at 09:00 when we were still above the clouds...
  • ... at an altitude of 3,300m.
  • We entered the top of the cloud layer at a height of 3,000 metres...
  • ... and three minutes later, we came out again at 2,600 m, somewhere over southern...
  • ... England. I'm not sure where, but I'm guessing south of Heathrow, southwest of London.
  • There was a layer of cloud below us that wasn't helping me work out where we were!
  • Glad to see that we're not the only ones coming in to land this morning.
  • Sitting behind the wing at a window seat allowed me to watch the flaps in action.
  • There's an awful lot going on here.
  • By now, we had turned and were heading back west on our final approach.
  • The familiar landscape just to the east of Heathrow.
  • One of the many industrial areas around Heathrow.
  • This is the practically-named Balancing Reservoir...
  • ... while this familiar landmark is the Atrium Hotel, just to the east of the airport.
  • One of the airport's many, many car parks.
  • And we're down, at 09:15, on the south runway.
  • More flaps, this time, I'm guessing, acting as an airbrake.
  • We slow down as we pass Terminals 2 and 3, along with the control tower.
  • Terminal 5 and the end of our journey.
  • Ahead of us, someone is turning into the C-gate satellite area...
  • ... but we sail on by. This 787-8 is getting ready for a short flight to Munich.
  • We turn at the very southern end of the B-gates satellite block...
  • By 09:25, I was off the plane and faced with a 5-minute walk to the centre of B-gates...
  • ... where escalators (or lifts if needed) transported us down multiple levels to the transit.
  • I'd seen signs to this before, but today I decided to put the walkway to the test.
  • One level below the transit is this weirdly-lit walkway.
  • This is way more interesting that cramming onto a transit with loads of other people!
  • Five minutes later, I was at the main terminal and heading for passport control!
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

I spent most of the rest of the flight writing Monday’s Coffee Spot, which I published shortly after landing. Since we were flying east, we were heading towards sunrise and, at around 01:30 (or 06:30 UK time), it started to get light outside, which is right about when we hit a little turbulence and the seat-belt signs came on for the next 50 minutes. Fortunately, this being a 777-300, it had manual blinds, allowing me to watch the sunrise (in contrast, the 787s have electronically-controlled blinds, so the cabin crew can effectively lock the windows closed, even when it’s light outside).

Once the seat-belt signs came off, I went for a short stroll to the back of the plane stretch my legs, which is just as well, since the breakfast service started not long after that at 02:55 (07:55 local time). This consisted of a yoghurt and a cheese and chutney-filled croissant, which was okay, but if there’s any time I miss the comforts of Club Europe and its two-course cooked breakfasts and decent coffee, this is it.

In the past, I’ve had flights from Boston to London take around 5½ hours, which would have had us landing at 08:45. This time we had an estimated six hours flight time, although the on-board systems were estimating landing just after 09:00. We started our descent at 08:25 (03:25 Boston time) and the seat-belt signs came on at 08:45.

At 09:00 we were still above the clouds, entering them at an altitude of 3,000 metres, when the pilot called seats for landing, which typically means that we’re 10 minutes away from touchdown. We exited the bottom of the cloud layer three minutes later at 2,600 metres, with more cloud below us. Since I didn’t have a map to go by, I’m only guessing, but I think we came in south of Heathrow to turn over central London at around 09:05.

By 09:10 we entered the second layer of cloud to emerge shortly before we landed on the south runway at 09:15. The good news about landing from the east is that you just taxi straight off the runway and keep going to Terminal 5, which is at the far end of the airport. The last two times I’ve landed at Heathrow, we’ve had to be taken to the terminal by bus, but this time we taxied up to the southern end of the B-gate satellite block, coming to a halt at 09:20, just over 6¼ hours after leaving Boston.

Sadly, British Airways has given up on disembarking by rows, so it was the usual free-for-all. I was off the plane by 09:25 and on my way to the main terminal and passport control. On my recent flights out of Heathrow, I’ve seen signs pointing to a walkway between the main terminal and its satellite blocks, which is a tunnel which runs beneath the transit system. I’m guessing that it’s always been there, but has only recently been opened up due to the pandemic, allowing people like me (who don’t want to get onto the crowded transit with people from different flights) an alternative.

Although I’ve been curious about the walkway, until now, getting the transit hasn’t bothered me. However, as I approached the platform, there was a mass of people four or five deep waiting for the next transit, hardly any of them wearing masks. I quickly diverted to the stairs down one level to the tunnel and spent a happy five minutes walking from the B-gate satellite block to the main terminal. I think I might do this every time now, unless the transit is really quiet. If nothing else, it’s great exercise after a long flight!

You can see how I got on at passport control after the gallery.

  • I was reunited with my luggage a mere 25 minutes after getting off the plane.
  • Next stop, the British Airways arrivals lounge, the first time I'd used it!
  • It's upstairs at the back of the arrivals area of the terminal.
  • First thing you have to do is check any luggage you have with you.
  • There's a business area off to the left, which I didn't explore.
  • Looks very swish though.
  • In the middle, behind the entrance, is this food area, complete with two coffee machines.
  • Meanwhile, off to the right is the lounge seating, which even has its own...
  • ... coffee machine. It's smaller and more relaxed than the various departure lounges.
  • Beyond the lounge seating is the hydrotherapy zone (where you’ll find the showers).
  • However, I only had 45 minutes, so let's get to that coffee machine!
  • I decided to start my day with a Union hand-roasted cappuccino. First the milk goes in...
  • ... then the coffee.
  • Looking good.
  • All done.
  • Next, grab a seat...
  • ... and scan the QR Code to take you to the online menu.
  • I think that will do (it's my usual order of vegetarian breakfast plus toast).
  • It was as good as ever and just what I needed after breakfast on the plane!
  • From there, I went down to catch the Railair coach to Guidlford which was 35 minutes late!
  • This is easily the busiest I've ever seen it.
  • An hour later, I'm back in Guildford, which is where I'll leave you.
Webpage Slideshow by v4.6

This was the busiest I’ve seen Heathrow since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this, I was able to walk straight up to one of the automated passport gates without having to queue and was straight through in a couple of minutes. Unsurprisingly, I made it to baggage reclaim before my bags, although in fairness I didn’t have long to wait. The first bags were out at 09:45 and mine arrived at 09:50, an impressive 25 minutes after I got off the plane.

However, this did mean that I’d missed (in theory), the 09:53 Railair coach to Guildford, although this was no bad thing since I’d been wanting to try out the British Airways arrivals lounge in Terminal 5 for some time. The last time I’d flown into Heathrow, I’d been carrying on to Manchester, so had used the first class lounge in departures, while the two times before that, it had been closed due to COVID-19.

So, with almost an hour to kill to the next bus (10:53), I headed upstairs to the arrivals lounge, with is open to anyone flying Club World, Club Europe or First Class, or, like me, has Silver or Gold status (or equivalent with a One World Alliance partner airline). The first thing you have to do (after showing your boarding pass) is check your bags, which is different from the departure lounges since you’ve already checked your bags for your flight. This is a straightforward procedure, but if, like me, you’re rushing off to catch a bus when you leave, don’t forget to allow an extra five minutes to collect your bags.

The lounge is very laid back and much quieter than any of the Terminal 5 departure lounges I’ve used. There’s a central area where you’ll find a pair of coffee machines and where, in pre-pandemic times, buffet food was available. Now, of course, you order everything online with the familiar ordering system, where you can also reserve a shower.

There’s a business area off to the left, while to the right, where I ended up, is lounge seating, complete with its own coffee machine. Beyond this is the hydrotherapy zone where you’ll find the showers (it has a check-in desk where you need to report in). Having skipped coffee on the flight, I made myself a cappuccino and ordered the vegetarian breakfast, plus toast, which I settled down to enjoy in the relaxed surroundings.

With that out of the way, I posted the day’s Coffee Spot, all about Phin Coffee House, which I’d visited the day before in Boston. Then I packed up my things, collected my bags and hurried out to catch the 10:53 bus. Not that I needed to hurry, since it was 35 minutes late and, disappointingly, there was no information, either at the stop or online (which was showing the coach as running on time).

There was quite a queue by the time it arrived and it already had a considerable load from the main bus station, where it had started off. It was easily the busiest I’ve seen the Railair coach, with every other seat taken. In many ways, this is a good thing since it means it will keep running, but it was quite a shock after being used to having the coach almost to myself for so long!

We got back to Guildford at 12:25, but not before we’d called at The Chase, the weird stop that requires the coach to take a 10-minute diversion around the back of Guildford. Ostensibly a stop to serve the University, I’ve always been very rude about it, but I take it all back since eight people got off there!

This concludes my second trip of the year to Portland (Maine). Thanks for coming along and I hope you have enjoyed it. In case you are wondering, I didn’t have any significant problems with jet lag on this trip, despite arriving in the UK on Tuesday morning and leaving again (very early) on Friday to go to Berlin. Clearly I’ve been doing something right!

Don’t forget that you can share this post with your friends using buttons below, while if you have a WordPress account, you can use the “Like this” button to let me know if you liked the post.

1 thought on “Brian’s Travel Spot: Return from Boston (Again)

  1. Pingback: The Proper Cup | Brian's Coffee Spot

Please let me know what you think. Guidelines for comments are in the "Posts" drop-down menu.