Introduction: Amsterdam Via Britain And Indonesia (Sort Of)

Introduction
Delta Sky Club Los Angeles LAX
The Club At SJC
Delta First Class CRJ-900 San Jose To Los Angeles
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse Los Angeles LAX
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A340 Los Angeles To London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways Club Europe A320 London Heathrow To Amsterdam
Garuda Indonesia First Class 777-300ER Amsterdam To London Gatwick
Andaz Liverpool Street London
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow LHR
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class A340 London Heathrow To Los Angeles


Last fall’s SkyTeam business class fare sales from the West Coast to Europe were truly the gifts that kept on giving. Initially I booked a roundtrip to Madrid, on Air France and KLM, for about $1,800, and I ended up going on that trip in April.

Surprisingly and unbelievably enough, fares dropped even further, and around Halloween of last year the fares were so low that I couldn’t resist booking another roundtrip. The Madrid airfares were tempting again at under $1,300, but I saw that nonstops in Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic were available from select West Coast cities for around the $1,500 mark. In the end, I booked an itinerary from San Jose to London (via Los Angeles) for the week of July Fourth, and I figured I’d piece the rest of the itinerary together at a later time.

My decision to fly Virgin Atlantic out of LAX ultimately was a fortuitous one, because Virgin has since put the 787 Dreamliner into service on the LAX-Heathrow route (even if the new plane meant an end to French champagne), and, to boot, Virgin opened its new Clubhouse at LAX just a little over two months ago, which I’ve been excited to try.

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse LAX

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse LAX

I finally decided to take advantage of the falling Euro and meet up with some friends in Amsterdam over the Independence Day holiday. Despite the almost comically short distance between the two airports, flights from Heathrow to Amsterdam and back were very pricey.

I ended up using 9,000 British Airways Avios (transferred from American Express Membership Rewards points) to book a one-way journey from Heathrow to Amsterdam on British Airways in its Club Europe “business class.”

Although I’ve stayed at the Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht in the past and loved it, because I was traveling with three other friends we decided on an Airbnb apartment rental in the heart of the canal belt.

Because my return flight from London to Los Angeles was scheduled to leave at 11:15 in the morning on a Monday, I decided it was fairly essential to get to London at least the night before and give myself a buffer.

As for flights from Amsterdam to London on a Sunday, they were maddeningly expensive and no award tickets were available.

I toyed with the idea of taking the train to London (which was substantially cheaper and would deposit me directly in the city center, but would have taken 4+ hours), but in the end decided to “take one for the team” and… wait for it…

…fly Garuda Indonesia from Amsterdam to London Gatwick. In First Class

For the sake of the trip report, of course.

Garuda's 45 minute flight

Garuda’s 45 minute flight

For a little less than $340 one-way, anyone can experience the crazy indulgent excess of Garuda First Class, even if only for a short-haul 45 minute flight. And so I figured: why not? I could make up for the cost in champagne consumption alone.

I’d been wanting to try out the Andaz Liverpool Street in London, especially as I’d not spent much time at all in the achingly hip eastern neighborhoods of Shoreditch and Hoxton, which are very close to the hotel. I’d also considered the Hyatt Regency – The Churchill, which was in a bit more sedate of a location but much closer to the Heathrow Express train from Paddington Station, but ultimately only the Andaz had award rooms available anyway.

Thanks in advance for reading, and I look forward to sharing my trip with you guys!

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About Nick

Nick brings the perspective of the infrequent but savvy traveler who finds that getting there is actually less than half the fun, but you might as well fly business class on the way and get a good night's sleep. Despite a relatively sparse portfolio of flown miles and hotel stays per year that would never otherwise qualify for status, Nick manages to leverage credit cards, promotions and points to secure elite status and increase his chances for that sought-after upgrade.

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Comments

  1. Hmm…hopefully the objective of drinking much champagne on the Garuda leg didn’t result in you being woozy for the following segments of the trip report! 😉

    Looking forward to your brand of humor throughout this report Nick. Thanks in advance for the insight and entertainment!

  2. Hi,

    Did you fly Virgin Atlantic 787 or A340 to London? because in the introduction you said the 787 but where the links are up top it says Virign Alantic A340.

    Thank You

  3. Give us more Nick ! Yay!

    Just a question: will you also review the Amsterdam AIRBNB, i would love to know about the facilities, aftercleaning clause, location and near vicinity—– and you got a primeur- the first AIRBNB review on this site! Champagne or tapwater for everyone!

  4. @Roberto: thanks for the kind sentiment! We had a good Airbnb in a great location, but I’m not sure how much it was worth reviewing since I barely spent much time in it. (I also didn’t really photograph it, so I don’t have much on which to base a trip report entry.)

    A point worth making, though, is that Amsterdam was experiencing a heat wave at the time. The Airbnb unit was beautiful but like most residences in Northern Europe, not equipped for air conditioning, so it was WARM. Very warm at times. Making it less ideal to sleep. The flip side of the coin on apartments vs. hotels is that nearly every modern major hotel in Amsterdam has air conditioning in the rooms. That would have been a heavy mark in the “plus” column for hotels on my particular trip.

  5. Looking forward to the trip report, Nick!

    Re BA – I’m guessing you don’t have OW status and went Club Europe for lounge access? It’s just otherwise I think there’s no point paying twice the Avios for it! I’d much rather go economy for 4,500 and sit in an exit row seat!

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