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Category: Airport

Duty Free Frustration

Duty Free Frustration

I thought I would vent my duty free frustration today.

I have recently returned from a great holiday in Taiwan.

 

On the way through the airports I wanted to buy some duty free gin.

At Taipei I was told that as the plane stopped and Bangkok I had to buy my liquor there. I suppose I should have challenged this but the explanation seemed reasonable.

However, at Bangkok they told me I should have bought it at Taipei and they showed me a card stating that when transiting though Bangkok form certain countries they could not supply alcohol.

I was very frustrated and never got my duty free gin!

 

I have emailed the Everrich duty free customer after sales service and will be interested in their reply. https://www.everrich-group.com/EN/Service/ContactUs. There was clearly no discussion to be had with the staff in Bangkok and it was very clear from the paper they showed me that they were correct and the staff in Taipei were not.

 

Next time I will know!

 

 

Senator vs standard

Senator vs standard

I am off on my travels again. Another week’s leave from my usual work.

As often seems to be the case I am passing through Heathrow Terminal 2. My usual first stop is the Lufthansa Lounge.

Senator vs Standard

As a Star Alliance gold card holder I get access to the Senator Lounge. This is accessed through the main lounge.

I have been here a few times and each time my observations are the same. It is much busier than the standard lounge

Is it better?

I have yet to work out what extra you get to justify “squeezing”  into the Elite section.

I think on this occasion I noted that ther was a rather limpid chees board and Bombay rather than Beefeater Gin. The wines were slightly different. Otherwise it looked fairly similar.

I actually preferred the increased space and less busy standard lounge

 

 

Interesting I am writing this sitting in the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge.

It is really empty, I would say quite but there is always one…

Even here where I can see less than 10 people one group is chatting at a volume that would suit the Senator lounge.

C’est La Vie!!!

 

Rare German inefficiency

Rare German inefficiency

I have just spent a few days in Berlin. I flew in and out of Tegel Airport.

 

Getting to and from the Airport

Berlin and the surroundings are covered by a network of trains; the U-Bahn. S Bahn, Trams and other rail services. The airport is not. You have to get a bus to and from Tegel.

When I arrived and found this out I purchased a cheap ticket that covered my journey and once validated was valid for 120 minutes (very efficient). The guy selling me the ticket told me where to go and change to the U-Bahn. I got it wrong and got off at the wrong stop but again was guided by helpful railway staff to the correct place. Despite getting on and off a bus and a train my single journey ticket remained valid.

 

When looking to return I found there was a bus to the airport from the center of the city fairly near my hotel so I would not have to change buses and trains. Great, I thought, and as I was travelling light it was not a problem to walk for a few minutes to the bus stop.

 

The Frustration

This is where the rather frustrating inefficiency arose. This is a bus to an airport. People using it have cases.

 

There was no where to put cases!!!

 

The bus was full and with cases and bags in the aisles being the only place to put them it was difficult to clamber over them to get down the bus.

 

Generally the transport system is efficient, and straightforward to use but why not install something so simple as a luggage rack? You would lose a few seats but so what. Perhaps this inefficiency can be corrected by the powers that be.

 

Otherwise a good time was had and Berlin is a very interesting and developing city.

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

I have a week off and am starting a brief trip of 3 European capitals. Namely Paris, Berlin and London. Currently London still is in Europe!!!

To start my trip I took a train to Gatwick and I am staying overnight at the Hilton Hotel – Gatwick South Terminal. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning to Paris.

 

Getting to the Hotel

The hotel state it is close to the Terminal. Indeed it is. I got off my train and walked into the South Terminal. I turned right and then right again and ended up on a travelator towards the car park. I then caught a lift down a floor and then along a covered walkway – effectively across the multi-storey car park and arrived at the reception of the hotel. All in all a 10 minute walk. All covered and quite well signposted.

 

First Impressions

As I entered the lobby it was, unsurprisingly, busy. There were restaurants and a Costa as I entered and on reaching the reception this was long and well staffed so I was dealt with very quickly.

 

 

Check in

I hold gold status through my Amex platinum card and this was recognised immediately. I was able to check in online. I thought I would try this. Perhaps my only “issue”. I had requested a high floor away from lifts. Through the online system I was allotted a room on the first floor. The Hilton system allows me to see hotel floor plans and choose my room> I was thus able to see that this room was just behind reception. Not the place I wanted. So I changed this for a 4th floor room.

 

Again this was recognised at check in and that this had 2 beds. The receptionist offered to change this to a double bed room and also said she would upgrade me. I had booked a basic room so was expecting as a gold elite member a one category upgrade. However to my delight I was offered an executive room. This was in the new wing and I see from other comments this is the recommended area of the hotel to be in. I was very pleased.

 

The Room

My new room was on the third floor so I caught the lift up and then walked though the older part of the hotel and across the glass bridge to the new wing.

I easily found my room and on entering it was very pleasant and bright.

The room had a double bed, single armchair and ottoman and a work desk.

It was clean and functional. Some of the edges around the desk, for instance, were a little worn but I suppose this is a sign of being well used.

The bed was firm and comfortable and I slept very well.

 

The Bathroom

This was bright and clean, It had a separate bath and shower. There were Tim Roth toiletries. All in all nothing overwhelming but good and functional.

 

For an airport hotel I was very impressed.

 

The Executive Lounge

As part of my upgrade, impressing me even more, was access to the executive lounge. This was offering drinks and aperitifs from 1830 to 2030. Wine, and spirits and some snacks. Perfectly fine. Beefeater gin, and mediocre wine, but certainly drinkable.

 

The loung had a mixture of sofas and tables and chairs. Perhaps a few more comfy chairs in smaller groupings would have been better.

i find it interesting people watching in lounges. Even for middle aged and older patrons the art of conversation seems dead – long live the ipad. Perhaps a subject of another post!

 

Final Impressions

Overall my initial impressions are favourable. Reading other reviews opinions are mixed and I accept they will be influenced by the type of room etc and I think I have been lucky. However the first impression is always generated by check in and the staff and I was impressed.

 

I would certainly consider staying again.

 

Sorry there are not more photos but I do feel inhibited in taking photos that show many other people.

 

 

British Airways Galleries Lounge – Heathrow Terminal 2

British Airways Galleries Lounge – Heathrow Terminal 2

I thought I should experience the British Airways Galleries Lounge as I as flying BA to Barcelona.

 

The Lounge

It is a big long space divided into several sections. Some have windows but overall the impression is of a dark area.

The first main space you enter is the dining area with a selection of hot and cold foods. There was quite a nice if rather basic selection. All self service.

 

The next areas you enter are seating areas divided by “wine racks”. There are quite dark but there are windows overlooking the taxi ways.

 

Beverages

In the final section there is a large selection of spirits. On the centre of this area is an iconic wine cooler with a light installation above. Many other reviewers have commented upon it. Sadly this is now full of bottles of water.

The wine is relegated to another area nearby. However there is a selection of 4 reds and 4 whites. I could not see and fizzy stuff. The Grenache I tasted was very pleasant. This was all self service.

 

Conclusion

I found it an odd place. It is big but felt less comfortable and less spacious than the smaller No 1 Lounge upstairs. It as also generally noisier and less restful.

It is ok but not that relaxing. Overall I think I preferred the No 1 Lounge.

No 1 Lounge – London Heathrow Terminal 3

No 1 Lounge – London Heathrow Terminal 3

I am travelling to Barcelona so decided to use my Priority Pass to try the No 1 Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 3.

There was no problem getting in although moderately busy.

I chose a seat by the window with a view over the tarmac.

 

The Lounge

It was quite spacious with various zones and different seating types. There was plenty of “sit up to” tables to work at or eat and lower tables and armchairs to relax.

Food and Drink

There is a serviced bar with free standard alcoholic drinks. If you wanted champagne a glass would set you back £8 and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot £48.

 

They served Langley gin. Not one I have had before – quite nice with tonic.

I was disappointed with the food selection. There was self service for some rather boring salads and cakes. If you wanted other food you could order it. The selection, as I write, included Lamb Hotpot, Mac and Cheese, Fish finger sandwich, Soup of the day or the cheese plate. I selected the latter and it was served to me.

Not very impressive

 

There is also a paid spa, not that I tried it, but it looked good as I walked by it on the way to the toilets and showers. Then toilets are individual cubicles (no urinals). They are quite dark with dark tiling although the toilet is well lit. The handbasin is supplied with L’Occitane Verveine hand wash.

 

Conclusion

A very pleasant ambience and comfortable place to spend some time. Moderate food . Overall worth a visit

Heathrow Terminal 2 – Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and Conclusion

Heathrow Terminal 2 – Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge and Conclusion

Unlike the other affiliated lounges the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge does not have a first class section (in contrast to Singapore Airlines’s SilverKris, United’s Club and Lufthansa)

I was welcomed very warmly and shown into the lounge.

It is a long lounge along windows with a second tier of seating raised a little from the window seats.

There is a small food section with hot and cold choices.

The bar is serviced and as usual provides a range of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks.

The lounge didn’t seem as busy as the others I had tried earlier that day. I wonder if this was because many airlines use the United Club, or simply by the time I got there a number of flights had departed, hence depleting the number of waiting passengers

The seating was of a modern square design and comfortable.

I was able to watch the status TVs and walked from the lounge to board my flight very smoothly.

 

Conclusion

So which is best?

Of the 3 lounges I sampled on the same day I liked Lufthansa in the main building and the Maple Leaf Lounge in the satellite. If I am not flying first (I wish) then I certainly use this lounge over the SilverKris business lounge and probably even prefer it over the United Club business lounge.

Heathrow Terminal 2 – Lufthansa Lounges

Heathrow Terminal 2 – Lufthansa Lounges

This is on the same, upper level, that you enter once through security. Turn right out of security and it is near the escalators.

I showed my gold status card and my boarding card. My business class ticket with Thai airways allowed me entrance to the business lounge and the status card to the Senator lounge. From reception you first enter the business lounge.

Business Lounge

This was much lighter and bigger the the Plaza lounge. Again more crowded than I have encountered on previous visits but there were still places to sit and relax.

At the end of the business lounge is a door opened by waving a piece of paper with a QR code under a reader. You can then enter the Senator Lounge.

 

Senator Lounge

As before this seemed more crowded than the business section. As far as I understand it this lounge is for first class ticket holders and premium status holders. Although I am one of the latter I wonder how I would feel if I were a first class ticket holder. Perhaps Lufthansa needs to reconsider their admission policy.

The Senator lounge is smaller in area and feels as if it has more seats per unit area than the business area. There is certainly less free circulation space.

 

 

The food selection was similar although a little more extensive than Plaza. Again there were a couple of hot selections and cold foods. The beverages were serve yourself in both areas with any of the soft drinks and mixers, Coke, soda water or tonic water etc provided via a dispenser rather than cans. I presume this reduces waste.

The food and drink selection seemed very similar in both areas so again I can see no benefits of the Senator Lounge over the Business Lounge.

The toilets were clean and modern and had a pleasant air freshener smell.

As my departure time approached I made my way to the satellite part of terminal 2.

Heathrow Terminal 2 and the Plaza Premium Lounge

Heathrow Terminal 2 and the Plaza Premium Lounge

I arrived in Heathrow Terminal 2 at the start of my adventure to Sydney.

My plan was to try a couple of lounges whilst I waited to board. In fact I tried 3.

Plaza Premium – accessed with Priority Pass.

Lufthansa – I was able to access both the Business and Senator sections with my Thai Airways gold card (part of Star Alliance).

Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge – accessed with my Gold card as part of Star Alliance.

 

Terminal 2 in the evening

Before I comment on the lounges I wants to make an observation on the terminal. I have flown from Heathrow Terminal 2 on a few occasions,  usually around midday. It has been busy but not overtly crowded. Tonight it was really busy.

I dropped my bags easily and then went to security. I usually use the Fastrack lane but tonight the queue was backing up into the concourse. I asked the attendants if the standard queue was any quicker. She shrugged her shoulders, “everywhere is busy”. I decided to risk the standard area as it has more lanes. It was equally busy but well marshalled and did seem to move quickly so, in fact, I got through security pretty quickly. Overall therefore quite a good experience although not as good as previously.

Once through security I decided to try the lounges.

 

Plaza Premium

The Plaza Premium Lounge is in the main hall of terminal 2. After security you go down a level and pass by the transfer desks to the pleasant looking entrance. The receptionist was efficient and processed my Priority Pass quickly and then pointed me to the entrance before moving on to the next customer.

The Lounge is windowless but is well lit in a subdued manner. There are lots of natural woods and is overall very calming except for the crowds! Other reviews I have read say how quiet it is. The day I visited it was quite busy but I was still able to get a seat and was quickly served at the bar for my gin and tonic. Admittedly it was not noisy and was still quite relaxing.

The food selection was good from a couple of hot meals to a few wraps, cheese and cold meats.
There were a few papers and magazines – not a particularly large or varied selection but enough. I was provided with wifi access which seemed to work ok for a bit of web browsing and email checking.

Toilet facilities were clean and functional.

There is another section that contains showers and bedrooms. I did not explore this area.

All in all the lounge was OK. It has clearly got busier since it opened and other reviewers have commented on it.

After a short while I moved on.