We’re here at last!
British Airways BA179
Miles: 3,458 miles Aircraft:B777-300ER Duratoin: 7hr50mins
Speedbird 179 whisked us across the Atlantic in her stylish fashion, with terrific attention being paid to two very weary travellers. We were made welcome, comforted and fed, and bedded down in the luxury of BA’s First product with fully flat beds. We couldn’t have asked for anything more ideal for our last sector. It was a wonderful feeling of home, of comfort, of familiarity, but all the while we just glowed about a truly phenomenal adventure. We had an extra special thank you and congratulations over the PA System from the captain just after we landed, announcing our fundraising efforts to the entire aircraft. We received applause from the cabin crew, too, which was most touching. We loved it!
Just think about it – an amazing 30,320 flown miles later, taking in 1.22 times the circumnavigation of the earth, with a total flying time of 71 hours and 50 minutes. Wow!! And we’re back where we started, just a few short days ago. We can’t believe we’ve made it, and we are so excited that we have been able to raise funds for a truly wonderful charity. In hindsight, it is the charity fundraising that has kept us going through this amazing odyssey.
We have thoroughly enjoyed this challenge. It has been exhausting, but that is all part of the giving process.
It has been a pleasure and an honour to have met so many wonderful people, all of whom are dedicated to making oneworld THE premium airline alliance. Together, they have shown us what dedication and passion can produce, and we have to say, it was all VERY impressive.
We’re off to the care of the Omni Berkshire Place for a much needed jumbo martini, and a good few hours in a bed that isn’t on the move!
We’ll write more over the weekend once we restore ourselves to a time zone and place that our bodies might recognize. But before we slope off, we would just like to say a simple and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone – to all of the oneworld airlines – American Airlines, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Royal Jordanian, Air Berlin, LAN, Iberia, S7 Airlines, Finnair and British Airways – for their amazing generosity, kindness and hospitality.
To our hotel partners Global Hotel Alliance, Omni Hotels, Kempinski, Starwood for the W St Petersburg, The Adlon, Marriott for the Sky City Hong Kong and Renaissance Times Square stays – you have been a much enjoyed respite from all of our flying hours, and your great service and warm welcome has made this journey possible. Thank you.
To Michael Blunt at oneworld HQ, to Neena Campbell for so efficiently running mission control from BA’s Waterside HQ, to the BA press office, to those who helped design and produce our pamphlets, polo-shirts, logos, blog sites and twitter accounts – our very many thanks.
And to those of you who have supported us in this challenge, we cannot thank you enough for your extreme generosity towards Flying Start. The funds you have contributed will truly make a difference for children around the world. Thank you all so very, very much.
Now…where is the bar – I think we’re justly due a rather large martini?!!
Nigh night, all!
Finnair Flight AY839 Helsinki – London
Aircraft: Airbus A319 Miles: 1,134 Duration: 3hrs5mins
After our comfortable Airbus A319 service from Helsinki to London T3 on Finnair, we made our way via international transfer over to Terminal 5, the home of British Airways, for our final flight on our challenge – a British Airways Boeing 777-300ER service to New York JFK.
Our inbound flight from Helsinki was very comfortable and enjoyable. Today’s service included drinks from the bar, a hot chicken and wil mushroom lunch followed by pancakes with a blueberry compote). Crew were constantly in the aisle offering more drinks, coffee refills, cognac, etc. As it was a Saturday lunchtime flight, the cabin wasn’t overly busy, so we could stretch out.
After an enjoyable day in the excellent care of Finnair (with great thanks!), we’ve pit-stopped in the BA Galleries Lounge Pavilion for a quick shower and some water. The Galleries lounges are vast, with both north and south lounges in Terminal 5A (the main terminal), with another lounge in Terminal 5B, plus a separate First Class lounge (T5A) which serves the carriers Emerald Card guests, and the Concorde Room, exclusively reserved for First Class customers and Concorde Room card holders. Combined, these lounges have space for 2,500 guests at any one time, and offer a sizeable increase over previous lounge facilities in other terminals. The décor is soothing and comfortable, with a wide variety of food, beverage, entertainment and business options available.
Boarding tonight is from a B gate, so we get to ride the toy town train before boarding our last sector, covering 3,458 miles in 7hrs50mins. Upon landing, we will make our way back to 2 Park Avenue, to check-in at the oneworld Headquarters, thus completing our challenge. We hope someone’s left the lights on!
It seems fitting that our last flight will be with British Airways, whose partnership with Comic Relief UK has lead to the creation of Flying Start. Although the origins of British Airways stretch way back, the actual name British Airways came into being in 1974, with the merger of BOAC and BEA. Today, British Airways have a fleet of 241 aircraft flying to an impressive 169 destinations. Heathrow is the main hub of BA’s activities, but London Gatwick also has an impressive array of destinations on offer. BA have an impressive fleet, split between both Airbus and Boeing. BA have one of the largest 747 fleets in operation today, with up to 55 of the giants circling the globe, backed up by more than 50 Boeing 777s. A dozen Airbus A380s are on offer and are due to be delivered soon, followed closely by 787-800 and 787-900 variants. Recent product renovations, including new seating and improvements to catering, along with a refocus on customer service have seen the airline’s revenues respond positively. We both spend quite a bit of time on board BA aircraft, so it is a taste of “home” for us after this epic journey – one we are immensely looking forward to.
More from New York!
After a wonderful breather in the magical city of St. Petersburg, we sadly left for our last day of this ‘roundtheoneworld challenge. We urge anyone who has not had the chance to spend some time in St. Petersburg – there is so much to see and do, and the experiences we had were so positive – it certainly is on the agenda for a place to return, sooner rather than later!
Despite suffering from lack of sleep, we sprinted to The Hermitage to see some of the most amazing treasures…from gold clocks to lapis lazuli urns, from daVincis to Van Dyks, malachite columns to grand ballrooms – it is all just amazing. You could spend months and not see everything. We had a taste and will certainly return. We also had a wander around town, which was bustling. We had to retreat to the Mix Bar on the top floor of the fabulous W Hotel St Peterburg for some, uh, liquid refreshment!
Finnair Flight AY166 St. Petersburg – HelsinkiAircraft: Airbus A319 Miles: 187 Duration: 55mins
After a comfortable and much needed rest, and a good breakfast in the Alain Ducasse restaurant, we made our way back to the airport and checked-in for our Finnair flights to Helsinki and onwards to London Heathrow. The short hop from St. Petersburg was due to be on Finnair’s Embraer E190 aircraft with its wonderful 2×2 configuration, but an aircraft change saw us board a pristine Airbus A320 instead, which flew us to efficient Vantaa Airport in just under an hour.
We were offered a light snack of prawn salad on brown bread, some sliced Parma ham and some olives, along with a choice of juices, water or coffee on this short flight by very welcoming, stylish and friendly cabin crew.
The transfer process at Helsinki is slick, quick and pleasant. Within minutes we were safely ensconced in the stylish new Finnair Lounge, which has space for upwards of 250 guests. In addition to drinks and an ample buffet, Finnair has its own wine cellar in the lounge, offering guests a chance to taste some interesting wines. There are separate workrooms, access to showers, internet access – in fact, just about all you can think of needed during a transit.
But the surprise is yet to come. Down the hall, there is a full spa and sauna operated by Finnair. The 600 square meter facility contains four different saunas, a mineral water pool with underwater audio, and a selection of paid-for treatments available to totally pamper and refresh mid-journey. Treatments include facials, massage, full body treatments – even a Hamam. I don’t believe there are many airport lounges in the world that have this amazing offering – so congratulations to Finnair on their innovation. Next time you fly with them, remember to pack a swimsuit in your hand luggage (there are swimsuits available for purchase if need be) and don’t fret over a long layover. Without a doubt it could pass very quickly. And no, you will not be seeing any photos!
Finnair is another historical carrier with its origins dating back to 1923! It has long served destinations in Europe, and has been serving New York since 1969. In 1983, Finnair became the first Western European airline to fly non-stop from Europe to Japan, cutting up to three hours off the average flight time, and five years later became the first Western European airline to fly non-stop from Europe into Beijing. AY were the launch customer for the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 aircraft, which served the carrier well until their recent retirement. The backbone of their fleet is now Airbus narrow-body aircraft, along with Airbus A330/A340 aircraft for their longer-haul flights in a fleet than numbers 56 aircraft, flying to 63 destinations. They have 17 aircraft on order, including 11 Airbus A350 variants scheduled for delivery in 2014.
So, just two flights to go and our challenge will be complete! So close, but still nearly 5,000 miles to fly.
Aircraft: Airbus A319 Miles: 396 Duration: 1hr30mins
Our flight on S7 this morning was terrific. A bright-green liveried Airbus A319 took us the short 400-mile sector into Russia’s former winter capital city of St. Petersburg. The aircraft is divided into eight Business Class seats in a 2×2 configuration, and 114 Economy Class seats in a 3×3 configuration. The service on this short flight was impressive. Water and juice were offered before take-off, along with pillows and blankets. After take-off, we were offered drinks from the bar along with mixed nuts (all served in aviation-themed glassware that was very nice. A light meal followed with choices of chicken, fish or a spelt risotto, along with a chicken tureen and a slice of roast beef (meats were served chilled), and a cheese plate with grapes and nuts. That was cleared, and a chocolate dessert was offered, along with coffee ans wafer biscuits. It was very generous for a short flight, but was welcome. Service from the crew was top notch. What a terrific airline! The three business class passengers were permitted to alight first, and given our own transfer to the terminal. From landing to car was just over ten minutes. Marvellous!
After a short transfer in a splendid high spec car, we’re now thrilled to be in the fabulous W Hotel St. Petersburg, right in the heart of this amazing city. We have the longest stop on our journey – 24 hours due to flight connections on our final day. And what a terrific place to have a stopover! This property has 137 contemporary style rooms with bold decor right next to historic St. Isaac’s Cathedral, and a short hop to the Winter Palace (and the Hermitage Museum). Its central location is quite an asset to any traveller.
Despite being somewhat tired, we’re off for a wander to explore this “Venice of the North”. One must seize every opportunity, right? Besides, it is nice and sunny, so time to make hay!
Tomorrow is our final day of this challenge. We’re exhausted, but loving all of this challenge.
More in due course. Happy Friday!
We’re in the S7 Lounge at Domodedovo, awaiting our connection to St. Petersburg.
The Iberia flight was very smooth and comfortable, although a bit short for a good rest – we could have used a few more hours of flight time! Never thought you’d read that on our blog, eh? Iberia operate a specially configured Airbus A319 on this route, with 14 Business Club seats and 108 Economy Class seats. Business Club is a dedicated product on flights from Madrid to Moscow, Cairo, Malabo, Lagos and Tel Aviv, and features fifty-inch seat pitch and a 2×2 configuration. Entertainment comprise personal DigEPlayers with a selection of programmes. Our flight offered a dinner service of a cheese plate with grapes, a salad with fresh crab, grapefruit, apple and cherry tomato, and for mains a choice of lamb roulade with vegetable noodles or a fried cuttlefish with wild rice, strawberry gateau or seasonal fruit for dessert. Given the late hour, we declined food in favour of sleep. We did note dinner was served about an hour into the four-hour flight.
Did you know that Iberia is Spain’s largest air transportation operator? It is also the leading operator of flights between Europe and Latin America, both in terms of number of flights as well as number of destinations served. Iberia merged with British Airways in January, 2011 and is under the umbrella of International Airlines Group (IAG). It has 159 aircraft flying on 120 routes (38 of which are domestic) in a mostly Airbus operated fleet (everything from the A320 family through to the A340-600). Madrid is the hub city, with Barcelona serving as a focus city. Iberia is a founding member of the oneworld Alliance.
Our passage through Russian formalities has been perfectly pleasant, quick and painless. We noted several flights arriving behind us, so perhaps timing was everything today. We tried to get on the earlier S7 Airlines flight to St. Petersburg, but it is full!
We made our way through fast-track security to the S7 Airlines Domestic Business Lounge and will soon be in the air again on our way to St. Petersburg. Just the one flight today.
A little. It about our carrier: S7 Airlines is one of Russia’s fastest growing airlines, even recently becoming the largest domestic Russian airline ahead of Aeroflot. Based in Novosibirsk with a hub in Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, it can trace its routes back to 1957 with flights from Moscow to Novosibirsk. The formerly named Siberian Airlines was only renamed S7 Airlines in 2005, after its two-letter IATA designator code. It joined the oneworld alliance in November 2010 following sponsorship from British Airways.
More from our next destination!
We’ve landed in Madrid following the relatively short flight on LAN’s Airbus A340 wide-body flight from Frankfurt, with continuing service to Santiago. We caught LAN on a bit of an off day, as they were having technology issues which made check-in slow (the ground staff were struggling). Security, too, seemed to be going at a snail’s pace, which is not the norm for FRA. The flight was packed in economy, with many alighting in MAD. On board service comprised a sandwich and a small drink. AVOD helped pass the time.
LAN Airlines LA705 Frankfurt – Madrid
Aircraft: Airbus A340 Miles: 884 Duration: 2hrs50mins
LAN is the Chilean flag carrier, and since June 22nd of this year, following its merger with TAM Airlines of Brazil, constitutes one of the largest airlines in South America. It serves 21 countries in The Americas, Europe and Oceania (including Easter Island), Australia and New Zealand with a fleet of 152 aircraft. It has a staggering 137 aircraft on order, including 30 Airbus A320neos, and 32 Boeing 787s (the first of which is to be delivered shortly and is due to enter service this autumn). LAN has quite a few subsidiary carriers including LAN Argentina, LAN Peru, LAN Colombia and LAN Ecuador. LAN is one of the top ten oldest airlines in the world, having started service in 1929.
We flew on LAN’s Airbus A340-300 aircraft, fitted with business class plus 222 Economy Class seats (at a 31-inch pitch) in a 2x4x2 configuration. The A340 is used on LAN’s ultra-long routes, with the Boeing 767-300 being utilised for medium to long-haul routes.
We were met off the flight by Iberia, who snapped some photos of this travelling duo for their in-house newspaper. We depart for Moscow in 45 minutes…just our third flight of the day and a short overnight sector. More from Russia!
Aircraft: Boeing 737 Miles: 268 Duration: 1hr15mins
Hello from Frankfurt!
If you haven’t been to Berlin lately (or at all), please go! What a fun city. It is interesting, fun, has some beautiful buildings…and we highly recommend the Adlon, and not just for martinis (which were delicious!). Such impressive service, well located, and everything is just beautifully presented. Thanks to GHA and Kempinski – it made our breather truly fabulous and is giving us the drive to continue.
We had a swift journey down from Berlin at lunchtime, and we are now awaiting our 19:30 departure on LAN from Frankfurt to Madrid. We have been guested into the Japan Airlines Lounge at FRA, which is a wonderful place to spend some time before our flight. The lounge is bright and airy, with a wide selection of snacks, drinks, newspapers and magazines, showers and wonderful Toto toilets.
Our flight on AB was much like yesterday’s, with good service and a pleasant snack service. Our thanks to AB for their kind care and attention. We took hand luggage today to avoid any potential of anything going missing. Our connection at MAD isn’t long, so having our few possessions with us is critical. We fly later on the overnight to Moscow.
We’re also happy to report that Mr. Kelly’s generous donation took us over our fundraising target – hurrah!! We couldn’t be more thrilled, pleased, excited, jubilant, happy, chuffed, tickled and more to have reached this milestone. THANK YOU ALL! We’re so humbled by your generosity – it is profoundly moving. Of course, we never turn additional funds down, so if you’re able, do give. To exceed our target would be truly fabulous! Again, our deepest appreciation to all donors. Wow. You are keeping us going!
More from Madrid…