READER ARTICLE: My Introduction to the World of Turning Left (for a lot less than I thought)

BA First class cabinBA First class cabin

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Today’s reader review for our competition is from Martin. If you enjoyed it, let us know in the comments below. We do not encourage criticism of reader reviews. They are not professional writers and everyone has a different style that won’t suit everyone’s taste. 

How naive I was, thinking that flights were flights, they cost a certain amount of money, and were merely a way of getting from YOUR home to your holiday destination. Much better to save my hard-earned cash than waste thousands of pounds sitting in the same metal tube everyone else was in and getting there simultaneously. The flights were mere hours, bookending the weeks of the actual holiday, which is the important bit right? Right?

I had always thought this, despite having had a love of aviation and being an engineer in the RAF for 19 years fixing the damn things. I paid for an airport upgrade to premium economy once on Virgin, but never considered even looking at anything else. Business Class flights costs thousands, and First Class was the domain of the rich and famous. Not that the Virgin PE was anything to be sniffed at – the A330 came with a bar you could go and sit at and help yourself to drinks:

Sitting at the Virgin A330 bar

 

Indeed, I thought simple premium was quite a treat considering my normal method of flying looked something like this:

Such were my thoughts until my other half happened to conduct a business trip to India, and due to the flight length company rules dictated business class. Seeing the photos and hearing the story of these travels made me want to experience them for myself, and I added it to my bucket list to be achieved at some point in my life. I had no idea when it might happen, but retirement seemed the likely timeline.

Fast forward about a month, and questions over Christmas plans resulted in a joke comment about avoiding both families and going to New York, our favourite city. By random chance, BA apparently had a sale on at the time (I didn’t know these were a thing) and we found a business class holiday over Christmas for about £1500 each which we couldn’t believe. Much checking and requoting later, we decided it wasn’t an error and booked it.

Paying special care to select the 747 flights, we also paid to choose our seats – if you’re going to be doing this properly, make it worthwhile and go on the upper deck. Oh how I wish I’d been a silver member back then…

Starting at the business class lounge in Terminal 5, the experience was like a different planet – the free food and drink, the relaxing seats, the quietness and comfort watching the planes go by, I almost forgot I was waiting for one myself. One does have to be careful not to completely stuff oneself too much on the croissants and bread before flying, or you won’t have room for the in-flight catering…

On board the aircraft, being directed up the stairs (technically still turning right) is a feeling I don’t think I’ll get the chance to repeat now, with the vast number of 747’s being retired. Although I didn’t know the general opinion on BA’s old Club World seats I don’t think I’d have cared – compared to anything I’d done previously, the setup was amazing.

We all know what the old seats look like so that’s enough photos of that. The journey back was just as enjoyable for the luxury of getting some proper sleep and feeling awake when getting in the car again to drive home!

Following this, I became aware of the BAEC, it’s tier point system, Avios and the various travel blogs such as TLFL. Another bargain holiday to Mauritius was booked. A 12-hour flight in a 777 Club World seat cemented my interest in the premium cabins and racking up the tier points and Avios. So many Tier points in fact, that when I got home both Bronze and Silver luggage tags were waiting for me…

The beautiful Mauritius water

More reading and investigating followed, and the BA Premium Amex card was added to my wallet to be used as the primary spending method.

Toronto in First class

Toronto from above

Another BA sale was advertised, and some research was undertaken for a small trip somewhere before I deployed overseas again, and what started out as a lodge for a week in the UK turned into visiting Toronto for about £1200 return each. This was BA’s companion sale, where premium cabins had cheap rates if you bought two tickets.

Bizarrely, the outbound flight had the option to upgrade to First Class for only £150 more, so that was a no-brainer. To cap it all off, the A350-1000 came into service on the route whilst we were out there, and so I selected that particular flight number for the journey home. First wasn’t available due to the new Club World Suites, but I suppose we all have to make sacrifices sometime…

We experienced T5 First check in and security, which was smooth and efficient (pre-pandemic) and made our way to the lounge for some breakfast. It was poshest dipping-soldiers I’ve ever had…

A few hours relaxing in the Concorde Lounge wondering whether to buy the piano or not was followed by the announcement of our flight, and the walk to the gate was met with the British Airways Flight 0093 Bus Replacement Service:

Concerns alleviated when we arrived at the actual plane, we were escorted to our seats and began enjoying the First Class experience. The space itself was phenomenal, and the option to have your dinner together is unique in my experience so far.

Premium travel, not so much premium accommodation:

The question of “can I have a cup of tea please…?” is no longer answered with a military paper cup, a small economy plastic mug barely bigger than a shot glass, or even some business class china with a spoon, but a full setup with teapot and milk. This is how I judge my travelling experience…

If you ever get the option for a small extra fee, I cannot recommend it highly enough. The soft product may vary between crews, but the hard product is the only way to travel.

First Class dining

The flight back was probably the wrong one to choose timings wise – you land at 1am Toronto time back in London, and so you’re absolutely knackered. I try to avoid sleeping a lot on flights as I want to experience what I’ve paid for, however, the new Club Suites are on a par with the First suites on everything bar outright space.

IFE is smooth and high quality, and the range of storage spaces is very useful indeed. I believe the newer first suites are quite similar to these with the larger screens and newer software, but I haven’t had a chance to try them as of 2022.

Fresh off the production line and about a week into revenue earning service, G-XWBB:

Airbus A350 G-XWBB ready to fly

If First isn’t an option then these are almost as good in my opinion. I shall always be looking for the former, however…

This flight landed toward the end of 2019, and I deployed for a few months shortly afterwards. Returning home at the start of the pandemic put a stop to any travel for almost 2 years, leaving us with a silver membership, several companion vouchers and a boatload of Avios.

 

Companion voucher tickets to Vancouver

If there’s any weak point in the Avios system, it’s trying to use them with companion vouchers on a flight you actually want. It’s well known how quickly the limited seat availability gets snapped up, and the more premium class you want to go the harder it gets. I’ve seen stories of people phoning the Japan branch of the BA booking desk to get seats the minute they’re released an entire year in advance.

There were, however, some surprises when we started to look at destinations around the end of 2021 when travelling had opened up again. Seats seemed to be changing daily, and whether due to additional flights or cancellations, we found a very nice return to Vancouver in Business class we could use some of Avios and a companion voucher on just before Christmas. Begrudgingly paying the not-insignificant taxes and fees, a return flight was booked on the A350 again, to experience almost 11 hours each way of Club Suite relaxation.

Travelling itself ended up being fraught with issues that took the shine off the holiday including four PCR tests, hotel isolation and masks everywhere, but using TLFL’s sale information I was able to get 20% off prepaid vouchers at Fairmont hotels during Black Friday, and that lessened the hotel cost a significant amount.

The Fairmont Pacific Rim is an amazing place to stay if you get the chance, with a view out over the bay from your own Japanese deep soaker jetted tub in the marble bathroom, and staff that couldn’t do enough for you whatever request you had. Isolation on arrival for 24 hours was made slightly better by the quality of the room service – I mean, what other choice did we have…?

Grouse Mountain hotel view

If you’re ever over that way, Grouse Mountain is a must-visit, especially in the winter. The views are simply breathtaking.

Grouse Mountain

On the flight back I think I slept longer than I ever have on a plane – 6 hours overnight in the club suite. Normally I don’t like doing it as it seems a waste of the limited time you have to experience the flight, but I do feel so much better on arrival. The A350 is an incredibly smooth aircraft to fly on which probably helps a lot too.

 

Club Europe

On a closing note, we’ve also recently experienced BA’s Club Europe offering on a reward flight to Mykonos – in contrast to their Club World and First, it isn’t something I would choose to pay much for over economy. It’s the same seats, but the bank of three has the middle seat unoccupied, theoretically giving you more room beside you, but no extra legroom.

The food was nothing to write home about either, but it was only an A320 short-haul flight so I was happy enough – happier than the other business passenger who complained that folk from economy were coming through the cabin to use our toilet at the front, due to the single aisle being blocked by the trolley service taking longer than usual thus putting the rear toilets out of action. Please don’t be this type of person – everyone needs to use the toilet…

In an attempt to burn through our remaining companion vouchers and Avios, reward flights to both Iceland and the Maldives have been booked, with the latter in premium economy. From what I’ve seen, there seems to be much better reward flight availability at the moment, including a lot of First to the east coast of America. Hopefully, this is an ongoing trend which BA keep up, as well as allowing redemption on Oneworld partners such as Qatar.

I’ve enjoyed getting into the world of premium flights and hotels, and if you’re wondering whether I now go on holiday to places based on where I can get cheap business class tickets or avios redemptions, then the answer is yes.

Thanks for reading and welcoming me to the world of luxury aviation travel.

 

74 Comments on "READER ARTICLE: My Introduction to the World of Turning Left (for a lot less than I thought)"

  1. Loved this review! Happy landings.

  2. Loved this review! Happy landings and many more to come.

  3. What a lovely evolutionary tale! Thank you.

  4. The winner!

  5. Lovely review. Thank you

  6. One of the best. Thank you

  7. Excellent piece, thank you. A dozen or so years back we took the decision that as we’d enjoy rather than endure long haul flights and so arranged holidays around best priced business class fares (very well worth it when flying to Australia). Curiously it was also business trips to India that cemented this for me, as our company policy mandated economy only and after enduring several,extremely uncomfortable legs on Jet Airways to and from Bangalore I vowed never to use my own money to make myself that miserable.

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:30 pm |

      Exactly this – why was I putting up with being uncomfortable on what is meant to be an enjoyable time of the year that we work for and look forward to? If you can afford it, enjoy the flying!

  8. Steve Sweeney | 7 September 2022 at 7:17 am |

    I do not usually comment but this is one of the best reviews I have seen on this site.
    Well done and I bet it would be great to meet up with him on holiday

  9. Definitely THE BEST review. Really enjoyed it

  10. Smashing review. Fresh funny and happy. Thanks

  11. Great article and manages to convey enthusiasm without the usual overload of exclamation marks.

  12. Excellent! You just described my own journey from discovering BAEC, Flyertalk, TLFL, collecting Avios and Tier Points then very quickly to BA Gold. Great read Martin.

  13. Ranjit Solomon | 7 September 2022 at 7:56 am |

    Cracking article and reminiscent of my own journey into this world and probably many more!! Thanks for sharing and lets hope that travel is once again as accessible.

  14. Totally agree with all the other comments. Awesome review!! I wouldn’t mind reading more from him…

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:33 pm |

      I’ve got a few more trips planned over the next year, so we’ll see if Michelle feels the same!

  15. This is what this blog is all about, for a reader review, this sits in the top drawer. Without a doubt the best so far. Martin has something that cannot be taught, a writing style that draws the reader and his words flow naturally with his own unique style, making the reader want more. Can’t wait for his next review…

  16. Chris Hallam | 7 September 2022 at 8:02 am |

    I loved this review as it exudes the sheer joy and delight of travelling in a Premium cabin. It reminds me of the first and only time I have travelled First Class (YYZ-LHR in Nov ‘92). Awesome experience and one I hope to repeat at some stage. Great stuff Martin!

  17. Well done that man. Good article.

  18. Anita harris | 7 September 2022 at 8:14 am |

    Great review. Best one yet. Amusing and informative

  19. Well done Martin, well written and very informative review. Useful info interspersed with humour. Good Job

  20. Love this. I can feel your passion for travel oozing through the sentences. For me part of travel is the homework before. Getting the right seats / check out the hotel on trip advisor.
    Fab !!!

  21. Very enjoyable read. Almost a short article expressing the pleasures of the TLFL experience. Made me want to start a new booking right now. Winner.

  22. Probably my favourite article thus far and by a country mile. I myself only learnt about all this J & F flatbed magic a few years back and reading your own words was as if I was writing it myself. “..First Class was the domain of the rich and famous.” Was exactly what I thought even when I started exploring things. ‘A person like me will never fly in a seat like that’ is what I’d always thought until we flew LHR-HKG and to say we were excited would be an understatement( We ‘may’ have booked a hotel at LHR the night before so we could max out our time in the CCR).

    Paul ‘Wingin It’ Lucas was the 1st flight review video I ever watched on YT & Michele was, and remains, my teacher, advisor on all things ‘BA-ish’ and font of knowledge in general. It was she who introduced me to the BA Amex cards which enabled that 1st F flight and where I learnt the best ways to play the game.

    Enough now though so as to save her blushes

    • And you were one of my original readers who has supported me all the way though so thank you for being such a loyal reader!

    • Funny – I myself found Michele’s site as I started my research on BA and Tier points. Have been a long time OneWorld flier with primarily AA miles, but after relocating several years ago to the UK I only began to really investigate switching to BA during lockdown. TLFL has been instrumental in my Tier Point education and has led me to other sites like Matt’s Planet (youtube), FlyerTalk, and others. The help and education has been greatly appreciated, and I’ve been a regular reader ever since.

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:38 pm |

      Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia are definitely destinations I want to try bother for the destination and the distance involved. If I’m going to pay for the premium cabins, I want to enjoy the experience for as long as possible!

  23. I feel like I am just jumping on the pile, but it needs to be said – superb read, Martin. Thank you for sharing.

  24. Considering you’re relatively new to this rewards game and the inherent complexities, you’ve got a really good grip. A very well written and passionate review- thank you.
    Anyone finding the old style 241’s impossible to use? We’re sitting on 7 sets and availability in J and F (obviously) is beyond difficult- even to India which I suspect people are now using to get to South East Asia. Put in a Premium Plus voucher and there’s loads. Any thoughts that BA might open up more availability for the old vouchers? Any insider info Michele- my BA Revenue Management mates have long gone.
    .

    • It’s mainly down to over demand and lack of staff. I also believe they are being super cautious with the Heathrow cap in place and the fact they keep having to cancel flights and don’t want to have to deal with people on Avios flights if they scrap a destination for a while. I think it should start to ease by early 2023 but in the meantime using something like Seatspy or Reward Flighfinder is probably the best way and setting alerts. It does change constantly but anything releases goes very quickly. There is also a good function where you put in your date and it shows you al the destinations available.

  25. Well done that man! …and I bet Martin’s journey to First reflects many of ours (apart from the RAF part!) – we all remember our first time in front of the curtain, eh?

  26. I very much enjoyed this review . Well written and informative too.

  27. Michele I tried to post a comment on this review but your website told me I was trying to post a duplicate comment and I’d “ already said that”. I hadn’t …

  28. A lovely well written and informative review . I very much enjoyed reading about these actual travel and points accruing journeys

  29. Michele..now it has posted my original !

  30. Great review. So glad you’re well into the TLFL journey and hopefully you’ve missed out those darker years engaging in the overnight gymnastics of the toilet trip, clambering over a sleeping passenger
    🙄
    I was a firm favourite of BA 64K up in the 747, cocooned in a little pod that was simply divine 🥰
    Finally I think too a special mention has to go to reviewer Paul who said why spend your own money to make yourself more miserable. Never a truer word!

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:42 pm |

      It’s very strange actually – you would assume the first class would be upstairs on the 747 but I’m guessing they couldn’t fit them in properly or something. The low ceiling and how it curves over the top of you, along with the small number of seats up there and intimate service made it a better choice than being downstairs in first I think.

  31. Fantastic and super interesting article, I loved the story of your journey from travel novice to TLFL guru! It’s one many of us can relate to. Coupled with the great pictures and memories of the places you have been, a very enjoyable read, thank you for sharing it!

  32. Clive Fletcher-Wood | 7 September 2022 at 10:39 am |

    I loved the comparisons with Martin’s RAF service, and the accompanying photographs. My first trip across the Atlantic was asleep in the front seat of a Land-Rover, in the belly of an RAF C130. My second was aboard an Aer Lingus student flight, even though I had served in Northern Ireland. Two gate upgrades to F in 2019 for BA Transatlantic flights (one to YYZ, one to SEA) put those earlier flights in context. (Mind you, No 1 Wife (and still the only one) gave me a rocket when we were told that we were being upgraded and I asked what seats were being offered. I had booked 61J/K in the 747 and wouldn’t have swapped them for 4C/D. The agent look slightly puzzled, then asked if 5A/C would do).

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:51 pm |

      I’ve only every travelled C130 on short hops – the thought of doing it transatlantic makes me shudder…
      There is something special about the upper deck on the 747, and I know if we had them in the RAF for any reason that’s where I’d be the whole time. Working on TriStar was the closest I got!

  33. What a great story. I was very fortunate to grow up with the benefits of parental staff travel and, as kids do, took foreign travel and occasional luxury cabins for granted. Imagine my surprise when I grew up and found such things cost actual money! Despite a life-long interest in aviation (and 14 years working in the sector) it was only around 2010 that I started seriously looking at frequent flyer schemes and fare bargains. Two years later I had my first “free” first class trip and have rarely turned right to board since. It’s all too easy once you’re into this to think “Well, everybody knows that…” This article is a great reminder that there are many people, who think they can’t afford their dream holiday, who could fulfil those dreams with just a little extra knowledge. Thanks to Michele and TLFL (and one or two others…) more and more are learning the ways.

  34. What a great article! I really got a feel for you as an individual and your love of flying. I’ve only managed first class once but I loved every minute. Looking forward to my business class flights to India next!

  35. Michelle Merry | 7 September 2022 at 11:19 am |

    Loved this article very much. Having just joined the BAEC and BA Amex group this really hit home for me. Style of writing is great and the humour….well hilarious. Thank you.

  36. So nice to read this man’s excited journey of levelling up! Makes me remember mine fondly too!

    • Agree, great article! Nicely written! All the reviews on seats and cabins are great but it’s lovely to relate it to a journey of discovery.

      Makes me think back to my first time flying the Cradle Club World seat to Sydney mid 90s and spending my first Amex 241 on F to HKG in 2003. So lucky to have some amazing experiences. And you didn’t answer your opening question… That vacation begins as soon as you get to the airport!

      Happy F(lying) 😎👍

      • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:54 pm |

        I wish I’d known these things went back that far – so many years wasted that I could have been collecting avios and 241 vouchers!

  37. The competition rules did you could use up to 2500 words so I did – apparently that’s quite a lot when you put it into the TLFL blog format!
    Thanks for all the kind comments everyone, and thankyou for taking the time to read it. I’ve got a few more holidays planned in the next year so I’ll try and do some more writing about them for Michele to peruse!

    • I may be slightly biased as an ex-blue job myself, but top review/Article, mate, and very similar to my own journey of ‘up front’ discovery – including First to Toronto.
      Shame that service has been dropped now, though it did seem a waste on the return without a Concorde Room

      • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 2:58 pm |

        I think the issue with first coming back for me is that the flight times are normally overnight, so you end up sleeping (even if you don’t mean to) and not experiencing it as much. Business class gets you the bed you need to sleep properly and not in the nodding dog way an economy seat would, and is usually lot cheaper. On the way out, however – first all the way.

  38. Nice one.I think I’ll have to me more picky when selecting my aircrafts in future

  39. Nice review. We’ve all gone through this journey at one stage , so a great piece of nostalgia that we can all relate to.

  40. Fantastic article and also saying what a lot of us EC members think without putting into words. You’ve spoken
    about the way I view using my points in the best way, your enthusiasm shining through and the glee when
    you bag a bargain. Hilarious! It reminded me of the first time I picked up a cheap first class fare returning from Barbados. The experience was wonderful, such an easy check in from the Jet Terminal Ifelt like a celebrity!
    Good luck to you, Sir and to all of you who revel in the wonderful world of BA travel.

  41. A super article and well written. I look forward to more in the future.

  42. A thoroughly enjoyable review. Loved it!
    P.S. Thank you for visiting Canada!

  43. Christine Lines | 7 September 2022 at 4:09 pm |

    Give that man a Bells! I really enjoyed reading your review. It had humour and well written information and good photographs and made me want to investigate options on BA! I have just had a flight with Qatar in Business Class in their QSuite and it rivals many airlines’ First Class. I look forward to reading more about your travels in the future!

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 3:01 pm |

      Qatar is definitely on the radar as a oneworld partner – will need some proper research into code shares and picking the right destinations. When I do manage it, you’ll be the first to know!

  44. James Harper | 7 September 2022 at 4:56 pm |

    Great review, well done. It’s always good to read of someone discovering that there is a better world of travel and that it doesn’t take too much doing to enter it thanks to people like Michele who offer sound advice and of course over time you develop your own expertise too for what you like and what you are prepared to pay. Keep enjoying traveling.

  45. What a wonderful review, absolutely loved it! Happy travels

  46. Terrific review and so nostalgic! Best yet!

  47. One of my favourite reviews

  48. What a fantastic review!!!! A well written, from the heart piece. Well done sir.

  49. Great travel report – and a real ‘journey’! I kept nodding my head and chuckling as I read it 🙂

  50. Simon Keightley | 8 September 2022 at 10:48 am |

    A really good review. A worthy winner of the competition.
    Thanks very much for keeping me amused for a good half hour. Please write some more.

  51. Brilliant review and as others have said well written, amusing and interesting. I am yet another to pin my blue colours up, 13 years for me. I remember my first time in VA premium economy 20 years ago in the bubble of a double decker and thinking I had arrived.
    I am also the person who has holidayed twice in Japan purely for the AVIOS availability, first class both ways.
    Hope to see more of your reviews Martin.

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 3:05 pm |

      You’ve got to use them for something and if you enjoyed going there once, why not again! Would be worse spending all those avios to go somewhere and then end up not enjoying it so if you’ve got them use them!

  52. Rob Chambers | 8 September 2022 at 2:56 pm |

    Enjoyed the review, a similar journey to myself although I still have to have that “1st class” experience. Had to make do with business so far.

    • Martin Dewfall | 8 September 2022 at 3:07 pm |

      The sale on at the moment had some good first class fares – pick the right place and time and they were only a couple of hundred quid more than the business class tickets. Weirdly, I did see a few first fares that were cheaper than the business class ones – that’ll need Michele to explain how that works!

  53. Echo the others, great review, and great to have a journey over time with the story!

  54. Great review, those words really chimed with me

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