TRIP REPORT: Doing it for the Tier Points – What can you do with about three hours and a bit of sleep? Coach and lounge anyone?


What can you do with about three hours and a little sleep? Coach and Cathay Pacific Lounge anyone?
Do it for Tier Points

Do it for the stage points cover art

  • And again, welcome to the Tier Point Enrichment Center
  • What can you do with about three hours and a little sleep? (Coach, Heathrow Airport and Cathay Pacific Lounge)
  • Finnair AY11332 London Heathrow to Helsinki (Business Class/A350)
  • Trains, boats and trams – to Helsinki and beyond.
  • Crowne Plaza Helsinkki
  • A morning walk
  • Back to Helsinki Airport, Finnair Non-Schengen Lounge
  • Finnair AY1337 Helsinki to London Heathrow
  • Heathrow excites, Euston groans and Rugby looks lovely
  • 320 Tier Points for little work, but lots of new experiences

What can you do with about three hours and a little sleep?

After a busy week at the office, I came home and made some packing decisions for what I needed for this trip. This is an overnight guest – the answer is not much

I skipped most of the lenses I normally carry with me, threw in a change of clothes as well as a laptop for editing and image dumping. I call this “light”. Others may have different opinions.

With 2am and a snooze that left more of a headache than rest, I reached for what would resemble human clothing. After checking that my bag had the essentials (money and passport), I left the apartment and ordered an Uber to go to Digbeth Coach Station.

Even though Digbeth is a 35 minute walk from home I didn’t feel like it at 2am. Also, the clubbers are out and about and I prefer to avoid dealing with them.

Of course it’s never a good idea to leave on a Friday night/Saturday morning as most nightclubs close for the night. Luckily an Uber picked me up in a reasonable time frame for the quick trip to Digbeth.

I was dropped off at the main entrance of the bus station which was locked so I had to walk around the station to get in.


The joy of digging up Digbeth High Street.

Once I found my bus and got ready to board.

Bus 423 to London Heathrow

I was one of the first to get on the bus – and again it was pretty full when it came down from Liverpool. I found a seat and kindly asked the person to move over as they used both seats to look at their laptop. I don’t think the Lord was happy sharing the space.

In addition, there were people in reserved rooms who had to move. I guess reserved seats are becoming more and more popular on National Express – something to be aware of when traveling.

Coach 423 has a very basic stopping pattern and stops at Birmingham Airport, Oxford, Heathrow Central, Earls Court and London Victoria Coach Station. Much easier to rest compared to the 210 which serves Coventry (for a longer stop), Warwick Parkway, Oxford and HeathroMoredrive more on the freeway, which means fewer turns, which means a chance for a nap.

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Like last time, nobody got on or off at Oxford so the bus bypassed this stop and stayed on the M4y to the M25. The driver skipped the M4 exit for Heathrow instead of taking the Heathrow T5 exit instead.


Ah. Heathrow to my right. Joker to the left. Here I am right in the middle with you.

At least they didn’t go directly to London’s Earls Court – although I had left a lot of padding on my trip in case that did happen.

Eventually the bus pulled into Heathrow Central Bus Station, the farthest bus station from the entrance.

With no luggage in the hold of the bus to worry about, I set out for the wonders of Heathrow Central.


Back to the breach, dear friends.

On the day I traveled through there was a rail strike going on. This seems to be one of the hot things to do in the UK at the moment.


No Heathrow Express for you!

For me, it was on to Terminal 3, a familiar place (and looking back over my travels this year, I’ve walked through Terminal 3 more times than Terminal 5).


The Oceanic Terminal. Or the pink ones.


Where do you come from, where did you go?

Again I went through door B to the Finnair check-in counter. There was a small line in the premium line (pretty busy with the regular line) but I was spotted fast enough.


If frequent flyer status can do one thing, it can reduce queues.

Round-trip boarding passes were issued – saved me the hassle of checking in on the way home.

With that I went upstairs to the departures zone and into a busy security area.

I kept an eye on the FastTrack section as the normal queue was running very slowly.

It was a bit late – but the FastTrack line opened at 5:35 am. I hopped out of the regular queue and into the FastTrack queue where I was processed and cleared through security in less than 5 minutes (compared to the 5 minutes I waited in the regular security queue and found that I was… didn’t move so fast).

FastTrack will, of course, take you well past duty-free shops. I had an item that I had to pick up on the way.


And not Travelex exchange rates

Which was… socks.

don’t look at me like that

I walked into the lounge, socks in hand. Now I was planning to check out a few lounges but honestly I was tired enough to only go to one place.

You guessed it – the Cathay Pacific Lounge.

Cathay Pacific Lounge

If you’ve been here in recent travelogues you’re probably wondering why I’m not changing the lounge or going to the Qantas lounge for different content. The bottom line is simple: When you’re not getting enough sleep, your brain wants to take it easy.

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And there is a minimal chance that I use another lounge.

Also, the Qantas lounge opens at 8am. This includes getting off my ass at a certain point when my mind isn’t ready. While I could go to the British Airways Lounge…yes. nope I like to grab a higher quality lounge any day of the week.

On the way to the lounge, I stopped at the noodle bar to place my usual noodle order. This time it’s a little different – honestly.

I also went to the “seats looking out the windows” which showed an Air France A321 and a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330 in view today with one important difference. This time I would watch planes take off instead of landing.


Qantas Boeing 787-9 taxiing, British Airways A320ceo taxiing out.


TAP A321neo rolls out.


JetBlue A321LR


Air France A321


Emirates Airbus A380 taking off.

The aviation nerd didn’t care – there was only the chance for other pictures. Meanwhile, the warm food station was the same as last time.


Which tea would you like?


cold items


Grain


Sausages and Bacon.


Self-service items.

As I was settling in, the buzzer rang to pick up my stuff.

So, yes, I had dandan noodles. But this time I wanted something a little more refreshing — and Wonton Noodle Soup always has a reputation for that.

The catering options that were available last time were again well pre-set for those wanting a cooked English breakfast.

Even when I was out, bubbles felt appropriate.

Other drinks were available – and of course I compensated for them with water.

It gave me time to monitor the plane. Interestingly, two passengers who were on the same flight sat next to me and were keen to go to the gate. I double-checked that the plane arrived (it seems the earlier departure to Helsinki had more than a few problems).

It was interesting to watch the behavior – I was more than mentally checked out as they sat on the edge of their seats looking at my copy of flightradar24

When they got a gate notification, I swear I’ve never seen anyone run out of a lounge so fast.

Me? Time for an espresso to keep me awake.

If I’m honest – I’m not indifferent to travel (I missed a flight because I treated myself to a lounge) – there is a difference between the “gate open” and “go to gate” commands. And sometimes it’s important to know the difference.

After about 20 minutes, a gate call was made in the lounge. So I packed my trash and hit the road.


Where is it going?

But something was bugging me in the back of my mind. Gate 24. Well, where had I heard of this gate before?

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I walked down the familiar bits of Heathrow infrastructure and to the first satellite as I headed for T5. That’s when I realized what Gate 24 was.


uh-oh

Or rather, I saw Gate 24a/b/c/d/e.


Many goals at once in one place. That can only mean one thing.

Yes – these are the Heathrow Bus Gates for Terminal 3 – and two Finnair flights were being served at the same time.

Oh wonderful.

The early flight was delayed a good two hours while our flight also started increasing the delay.

With no priority boarding management and someone to manage the boarding process, it took a good 10 minutes to be ushered to the gate area.


Fun.

Of course, boarding a widebody jet from a bus gate is never a good idea — since you’ve got over 250 people who get grumpy quickly.

Some ground handling agents eventually arrived with buses. It turned out that our plane had problems with the ground handling system and was parked in the wrong place – delaying the arrival of airstairs and other ground handling equipment.


relics.

However, there are some good window views for watching planes taxiing around.


Delta 767 with a tail that needs a touch up paint job.


American Airlines Boeing 787


Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9


British Airways Boeing 787

By this point it was clear that a timely departure would quickly go out the window. The question would be how long we would be stuck on the ground and how late we would get to Helsinki.

At some point it was called boarding. Much to the disappointment of the people who pushed forward first, during the process they boarded in order of priority (and people were turned away).

I made my way through the chaos and boarded the bus, Heathrow transfer buses being used for this purpose. Of course, the urge to play sardines is never far away when the buses are full.

I had found a place to sit – my lower back had played to the point where I should have bought a heating pad before my trip.

The bus skirted the Terminal 3 complex and eventually landed at the far end of the area under Heathrow’s control tower.

After a short wait we were allowed to board the waiting plane.

Next: Finnair AY1332 London Heathrow to Helsinki (Business Class/A350)


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