I took my father to New York City back in December 2017, and he’d loved the city and I knew he’d like a return visit. But rather than just repeat the same trip, I decided to weave in a short stint in Washington DC before taking the Amtrak up to New York for a couple of days. With my eldest breaking up from school early after finishing his GCSE’s, this seemed the perfect opportunity for a three generation lads trip to the US.
Holiday Inn Express, Heathrow T4
Our morning flight to DC isn’t until 11:00, but to ensure a relaxed start to the trip and maximum energy for a half-day of sight-seeing when we arrive, we’re staying over at the airport the night before. Our flight is with BA (naturally!) from T5, but with a bunch of IHG Hotel Reward points to spend, I’ve booked the Holiday Inn Express at T4.
The hotel is connected to the terminal via a long covered walkway, the sign-posting to which is not totally obvious,. The hotel itself is joined to the slightly more upmarket Crowne Plaza Hotel, another brand in IHG’s portfolio. They have a shared lobby area, and the bar and dining facilities of both hotels are open to residents of either. We have dinner in the Urban Brasserie in the Crowne Plaza which has two AA rosettes. Service and food are both very good.
The hotel rooms in the Holiday Inn Express are quite basic – the hotel is only two star – but they’re clean and comfortable and serve their purpose well.
Heathrow T5, Concorde Room
Another reason for wanting to stay overnight at Heathrow is to maximise time in the Concorde Room. As a treat we’re flying both ways in First, so will get to experience BA’s most exclusive Concorde lounges, both at Heathrow on this outbound and at JFK on the return.
The Concorde Room has various different areas; there are plenty of armchairs and sofas for relaxing, a bar you can sit at, a terrace for aircraft watching, a fine dining restaurant area, a “boardroom” for work, and some private book-in-advance cabanas if you want to sleep or shower before flying.
There are two different dining menus, the full fine dining menu you find in the restaurant, and a bistro type menu elsewhere (though you can actually order food from either menu anywhere in the lounge). We start in the restaurant for a sit-down breakfast – there are numerous different options on offer from pastries, fruit, yoghurt through eggs benedict, eggs royale and kippers to full English. Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle champagne is the perfect accompaniment!
After breakfast we move to the terrace which overlooks the tarmac between Terminal 5A and 5B. As luck would have it, we have a perfect view over to the gate our 747 is being prep’d at.
We also see Airbus A319 G-EUPJ taxiing past. This is one of a number of aircraft that BA have re-painted in retro livery to celebrate their centenary.
Cut-off time for boarding is officially 25 minutes before departure. But rather than rush, around an hour before we head down to the transit and over to Terminal 5B. This gives us a short time in the BA Galleries Lounge at B Gates before boarding. It’s usually a haven of tranquillity in Heathrow, but this is probably the busiest I’ve ever seen it.
A few minutes after boarding is called we head to the gate. There’s no queue in the “Group 1” lane for First Class passengers and BA Executive Club Gold Members, so we’re straight onto the plane.
LHR to IAD (210 TP)
The BA First cabin is in the nose of the 747-400. I’ve booked seats 1A, 2A and 3A for this flight. Strictly 2A/K are probably better seats than 1A/K – row 1 has no dedicated overhead bins and the seats are quite close together. However, there’s a certain cache associated with the row 1 seats, and they enjoy a unique semi-forward looking view from the first two windows in the curve of the nose. As such they’re only bookable in advance by BA Executive Club Gold Members. As it’s his first time in First, I give up 1A to my father so he can enjoy the view.
Pre take-off we’re served assorted warm nuts (very tasty!) and drinks. I have another glass of the Laurent Perrier Champagne, my dad chooses a whisky. Food, wine and service during the flight are all excellent. The cabin crew recommend the red Bordeaux to accompany dinner and it’s truly excellent. After eating, we all doze off, so the eight hour flight passes pretty quickly, and almost before we know it we’re on the descent into Washington a little ahead of schedule.
Disembarking arrangements Dulles Airport in Washington are somewhat unique. The aircraft is met by “moon buggy” type vehicles which rise to the level of the aircraft doors, fill up with passengers and then drive to the terminal.
First Class passengers get to disembark first, but to avoid ending up at the back of the immigration queue we grab seats near the front of the buggy. Fortunately the US border queues at Dulles today are short, and we’re through and into arrivals quickly. I’d planned an optional extra bit of sight-seeing in the event of an early arrival, so we head to find the free shuttle to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center…