23 June 2011 by Luke McCormick
Each week Luke McCormick, Wexas Channel Editor, provides an inside look at the latest headlines and gives his independent, expert comment.
This week: San Diego, back on the map
Earlier this month British Airways re-launched a direct non-stop service between London Heathrow and San Diego in California.
The last time British Airways operated the service was in 2003, but a combination of soaring fuel costs and a lack of Business Class ticket sales saw the flights dropped.
It is expected that as a result of the new joint venture with American Airlines and Iberia, the airlines can work together to sell the route, so hopefully it will be third time lucky for British Airways.
Richard Tams, British Airways' head of UK and Ireland sales, said: "San Diego is an important destination for business travel, and [the new service] comes as a result of the recent joint business agreement with American Airlines and Iberia."
The new daily service is operated by a Boeing 777 (using the aircraft that previously plied the London-Las Vegas route) in a three-class configuration, with 48 Business Class ‘Club World' seats, 24 Premium Economy ‘World Traveller Plus' seats and 204 Economy ‘World Traveller' seats.
British Airways is the only airline offering a direct service between Europe and San Diego and brings to three the number of Californian destinations served by the airline alongside Los Angeles and San Francisco.
British Airways has also added more seats on the Las Vegas service by introducing a Boeing 747 featuring a First Class cabin, meaning there are now even more options to fly west for popular multi-centre, fly-drive style holidays.
British Airways CEO, Keith Williams, said: "California is one of our most popular destinations so we're delighted to be able to offer a third destination and give customers more choice. And with the state's importance in the technology sector we're sure this route will appeal to business customers too."
BA flight 273 departs Terminal 5 daily at 1505, arriving into San Diego at 1815. The aircraft is then turned around as BA flight 272 for a departure out of San Diego at 2005, arriving into London at 1425 the following day.
At 11 hours 15 minutes outbound 10 hours 20 minutes inbound, the flight is a comfortable distance from London.
Onboard the Business Class seat folds out into a 25-inch wide bed with a soft mattress, memory foam headrest, cosy quilt and touch-button privacy screen.
It has four pre-set positions, or passengers can create their own using the fine adjustment buttons. The seat area is also equipped with a desk, personal power socket, in-seat phone, adjustable reading light, laptop locker and 10.4" TV screen. Passengers are handed an Elemis wash bag containing skincare products, toothbrush, toothpaste, eye mask, earplugs and comfy flight socks.
Food and drink:
• Starters: Lobster with pink grapefruit and mango salsa or trio of tomato salad with Laverstoke Park Farm Mozzerella and basil (V). Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
• Main courses: fillet of beef with peppercorn cream sauce, British runner beans and Lyonnaise potatoes; Glenarm organically-raised salmon with garlic and lemon spinach and sweetcorn chowder; basil creamed pearl barley with char-grilled asparagus and sun-blushed tomato or chilled main course salad of seared breast of chicken, green beans, fennel and parmesan.
• Dessert: caramel salad chocolate layer cake with a coffee joconde and pistachio; ice cream, blue Wensleydale and smoked cheddar with biscuits, a selection of fruit and chocolates.
• Afternoon tea: individual selection of sandwiches featuring red salmon with cucumber and cheddar with vine-ripened tomatoes or artichoke and asparagus salad.
• Sweets: plain or fruit scones with clotted cream, and strawberry preserves, ginger cake.
Wines: BA wine list's contain a list of options, with the following listed on our flight:
• White: Sancerre 2010, Chateau de Thauvenay, Loire Valley OR Esporao Reserva 2008, Alentejo, Portugal. Hahn Winery Chardonnay 2009, Monterey California or Tangent Albarino 2009, Edna Valley, California.
• Red: Chateau Barateau 2006, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux (available) or Crozes Hermitage 2008, Domaine Philippe & Vincent Jaboulet, Rhone, Villa San-Juliette Merlot 2008, Paso Robles, California or Chona Reserva Syrah 2008, Elqui Vlley Chile (Available). The Champagne was Lanson Black Lable Brut NV.
New Terminal 5C
The announcement of the new service coincides with the opening of Heathrow's new £340m satellite terminal T5C extension, which will allow an extra three million British Airways customers to access flights via an air bridge each year.
The new terminal has 12 boarding gates, eight of which will feature triple bridges capable of servicing the new fleet of 12 Airbus A380 superjumbos, which BA will take delivery of in 2013.
The new T5C is linked to the rest of Terminal 5 via the existing underground transit system, with journeys taking just over a minute, and means customers can now avoid bus transfers to aircraft.
Negotiations are still underway, but it is hoped the new satellite terminal will feature a BA lounge in the future. For the time being customers can use the lounges in either the main Terminal A or Terminal B.
British Airways director of operations Andy Lord said: "We know how much our customers love flying through Terminal 5 and our operations continue to break performance records on a regular basis.
"Terminal 5 has transformed our ability to offer the very highest standards of customer service which our passengers rightly expect for punctuality, baggage handling and relaxing before their flight. We hope that T5C will improve our overall performance even further."
San Diego city guide
A group of Wexas staff recently travelled to California as guests of British Airways to celebrate the launch of the airline's new San Diego route.
Our weeklong fly-drive tour covered San Diego, as well as Huntington Beach and LA's Santa Monica further north.
San Diego is a wonderfully relaxing city, blessed with brilliant year-round weather, beautiful beaches, and plenty of family-friendly attractions to keep everyone amused.
San Diego's beaches and nightlife
Located in sunny southern California and boating 70 miles of beaches - including the second best beach in the States - sun seekers will be spoiled for choice. Mission Bay is a great base for first time visitors, great for walking, biking and rollerblading. It also has the oldest wooden rollercoaster in the States. Mission Beach and Pacific Beach are also not to be missed.
You'll also find some beautiful coastline in La Jolla, an upscale neighbourhood of fine homes, stylish boutiques and cafes and a cute colony of sea lions that grace the rocks around La Jolla Cove.
Coronado Island has a distinctly village feel and it's here you'll find ‘California's best beach'. The entire island was developed around the famous Hotel del Coronado as ‘the largest seaside resort in the world'. The Wizard of Oz was written here and the hotel was made famous by the King's Speech as the place where the Duke of Windsor took tea and met Wallis Simpson in 1920.
San Diego also has one of the most exciting downtown areas in the US. Stroll into the historic Gaslamp Quarter to find more than 100 restaurants, and 40 clubs and bars.
Among the best is the Altitude Sky Lounge. Perched atop the Marriott Hotel, Altitude is full of cool and the place to be seen in San Diego. It was also recently named by Condé Nast as one of the 25 best new bars in the world.
The lounge overlooks Petco Park baseball stadium and is a great place to watch the local Padres team take on their National League rivals. And to enjoy some great cocktails!
Families will find plenty of attractions in San Diego to keep everyone entertained. Take a hop-on/hop-off trolley tour to uncover the best of the city. The service covers 11 major landmarks and takes around two hours to complete an informative 27-mile circuit.
Top days out include the celebrated San Diego Zoo (as well as the associated wild animal safari park in Escondido), Seaworld and the new ‘Shamu' killer whale display, and Legoland. Between December and March, book a whale-watching trip for an unforgettable experience.
San Diego is also packed with outdoor activities and all year round you can enjoy anything from surfing, sailing and sea kayaking to hiking and golf. In fact the city has more than 92 golf courses.
The most renowned course is the beautiful Torrey Pines, the best course in town and extremely popular with locals and visitors alike.
The 19th century-style Old Own village was the birthplace of California and is close to some of the city's best Mexican restaurants.
For the city's best European restaurants head to Little Italy. Originally settled by Italian and Portuguese fisherman from the time when San Diego was the world's biggest tuna fishing port, it is bigger than New York, St Louis and San Francisco's ‘Little Italys' combined.
Culture-filled Balboa Park is the largest urban park in the states after New York's Central Park and has more than 25 different museums, such as the Science Centre and Natural History Musuem, as well as the Botanical Gardens.
In all the city has a young and friendly vibe, meaning you'll find it easy to kick back and relax, while having plenty to keep you entertained.
Where to stay
La Valencia Hotel, La Jolla
A Mediterranean-style historic hotel located in a lovely beachside neighbourhood.
Handlery Hotel & Resort, Mission Valley
A handy base, located 10 minutes from most major attractions.
Hotel del Coronado, Coronado Island
A grand heritage hotel located on the beach on relaxed Coronado Island.
Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, Mission Bay
A great choice resort with great watersports, kids facilities and views across the bay to Seaworld.
Catamaran Resort Hotel, Mission Bay
A real slice of Hawaii on the west coast, with great views of Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.