A few thoughts on my summer vacation

September 05, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Just returned from an amazing cruise on Seabourn Cruise Lines from Athens to Venice (my summer vacation), and flew using miles outbound on British Airways from New York JFK to London City Airport in their unusual and excellent all business class service, spent two nights in London on a free layover, returning from Venice directly via Heathrow to JFK in their newly designed first class (on a new 777-300 for our airline geek friends). For the record, I used part of the 100,000 miles I got with that BA/Chase Visa bonus offer that popped up a while back; by the way, I've also earned two companion frequent flyer coupons with that card; it's a good deal if they ever offer it again.

    But I'm not writing to tell you about the exemplary comfort and service of BA in business and first, nor about the amazing service on the Seabourn Quest (I usually find something to complain about when I cruise, usually about the service, even if it's some little itty bitty thing; but on this voyage I just couldn't find anything to carp about. The service was simply perfect, absolutely amazing, Four Seasons quality--and ironically, one of the initial founders/investors in Four Seasons Hotels was on the cruise with his incredibly charming wife... I hope they found the service up to their standards).

    No, I'm not writing to tell you about the service, but about a funny (at least I think so) incident in the Concorde (i.e., First Class lounge) in BA's Terminal 5 while I was waiting for my flight home. It wasn't very crowded before my flight, and it's a huge complex of rooms; soon after I sat down, this family of five came in and started looking around. Remember the Clampetts on the Beverly Hillbillies? They were dressed sort of like that. Now as some of you know if you read my recent USAToday.com column, I'm a bit of a stickler for not dressing like a slob when I travel, in part because I think you get treated better by staff, and might even get a discretionary upgrade if you're flying in coach and it's oversold. On my LHR-JFK flight I was dressed a bit down scale for me, because, after all, I couldn't be upgraded or treated any better than I was and most of my clothes were wrinkled and worn out from the cruise (I was wearing a nice pair of shoes, pressed dark blue jeans, a blue blazer, and crisp white shirt, for the record). Most of the other people in the lounge were dressed in businessman flying casual--jeans, collared shirt, running shoes, nothing particularly snazzy). I sat down by myself in a quiet corner far away from the Clampetts, who actually went out on the terrace overlooking the departure area, and then left the lounge soon after because they needed a smoke.

    But soon after I sat down, a very sharply dressed woman (she was probably in her early thirties) sat down across from me in my little area. And soon after that, a very stylishly dressed (nothing fancy, mind you, just well thought out) young man sat across from her. I couldn't help notice that these people had made an effort to look really sharp and I mentioned it. The funny part, I thought, was that the nicely dressed woman, after thanking me for the compliment, said, "Well the reason I sat here was because I noticed that you were well dressed and I didn't want to sit next to people who weren't." After she left for her flight, another couple sat next to me, also very nattily dressed, and we struck up a very fun hour-long conversation. I normally never talk to people while waiting in lounges, but this was a fun, and eye-opening, couple of hours.

    --George Hobica

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