Man Found Dead In London Suburbs Was Plane Stowaway

Coroners have confirmed the body of a man found dead in the suburbs of London was almost certainly a stowaway hiding inside the landing gear of a British Airways flight from Angola.

The Guardian is reporting José Matada was either dead or nearly dead due to hypothermia and lack of oxygen when he fell out of a plane as it opened its undercarriage for descent into London Heathrow Airport last September. Matada, who is believed to have been seeking a better life in Europe, had a single pound coin in his pocket, as well as currency from Botswana. Also in his pocket was a sim card, which investigators used to identify him.

In case you are weighing your options, sneaking into the undercarriage of planes comes with a low survival rate. In fact, a recent BBC article noted that from 1947 until September 2012, there were 96 known stowaway attempts that resulted in 73 deaths.

[Photo credit: Flickr user David Reese]

Inside Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class clubhouse

Any traveler who has come within a stone’s throw of a major American airport has heard of the Virgin airlines. Among other brands, they’ve got Virgin America operating service between a handfull of fortunate, domestic cites, V Australia bouncing between Los Angeles and Australia and the granddaddy, Virgin Atlantic, serving the United Kingdom and beyond.

Throughout the years, the airline has cultivated a quality product, a hip, posh experience that bucks the trend of traditional airline travel, driving down prices, impressing passengers and ruffling a few feathers along the way.

Among the avenues that they use to excel this product is the Clubhouse, Virgin Atlantic’s signature lounge built for the pampering of upper (business) class passengers and Flying Club gold members before and after their flights. And these are no ordinary, anemic lounges, either. Each clubhouses embodies the Virgin brand with top quality services, appointments, food and drink.

The opening of their newest lounge at London Gatwick last month piqued our interest, so Gadling decided to take a first-hand peek inside of a similar clubouse for a closer look at the offerings. Passing through London Heathrow this past holiday, we had the chance to stop in for a visit to their flagship lounge.

%Gallery-80310%In case you’ve never been, international airline lounges are generally pretty formulaic. A series of front desks provide passenger screening and assistance – you can go here to check your flight, make changes and ask questions about your tickets. Inside of the lounges you’ll find a variety of food, beverage and pampering amenities, as well as the occasional shower and entertainment feature. It’s all fairly standard for an international lounge.

Where Virgin Atlantic excels is in the quality of these amenities. Heathrow’s Clubhouse is a sprawling, multi leveled complex, cleanly appointed in white and wooden tones throughout. The massive open space has been segmented into different themed regions, each area offering a different take on relaxation. There’s the poolside section, for example, where a dozen seats and tables sprawl around a waterfall and pond, or a runway-facing lounge where airline enthusiasts can watch jets and crew scamper around the tarmac. They’ve even got a rooftop deck for warm weather plane spotting.


In preparation for the upcoming flights, passengers can have a shower or book Cowshed treatments for a quick manicure, pedicure or shave. And naturally, a full deli backed up by a wide range of top shelf liquor, beer, juice and smoothies is available for grazing.

The entire setting is engineered to create the perfect, serene, pre-flight experience, the complete antithesis of the madness of Heathrow. And though Gatwick’s lounge will be slightly smaller, the same concepts and appointments will carry through, down to the same Cowshed treatments available in-house.

To visit the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, passengers must be booked in Upper Class or be a Flying Club Gold member with no single-use or day passes available. You can find branded clubhouses in London Heathrow, London Gatwick, New York’s JFK, Newark, Washington Dulles, San Francisco, Boston, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Amenities will differ slightly by location.

Layover: London Heathrow

Of all the airports in the world, Heathrow is probably my favorite to be stranded.

The airport itself is nothing special, but thanks to some very efficient public transport, you can be in the heart of London in about 30 minutes if you find yourself on a layover.

Shorter (2 hour) layovers

As I mentioned – the airport complex is not too impressive, and with the possible exception of some decent shops and restaurants, there won’t be too much to do. Of course, if you do like shopping, then you’ll probably enjoy what the airport has to offer.

Unlike some other major International airports, Heathrow has not invested in any kind of entertainment for waiting passengers – you won’t find a casino or museum here. If you want to stretch your legs, you may want to walk from terminal to terminal, just keep in mind that many parts of the airport are under construction, and you may find yourself walking towards a closed door, or long detour.

If you are lucky enough to be stuck in Terminal 5, then things are different – this terminal is brand new, and a real pleasure to spend some time. Terminal 5 is also home to the best eateries at Heathrow, including a Wagamama and a Gorden Ramsay restaurant.

Longer layovers (4+ hours)

Leaving the airport is the best thing to do if you have more than 4 hours to kill. From the terminal buildings, simply follow the signs to the Heathrow Express. The Express runs every 15 minutes, and trips to Paddington station take just 15 minutes (though in reality these trips often take a little longer). Once at Paddington, you can make your way to the Bakerloo line train, and in just 4 stops you will be at Oxford Circus. I’ve made this trip many times, and without delays, you can travel from the arrivals lounge of the airport to standing in Oxford Circus in 34 minutes.

The biggest downside to the Heathrow Express is its insane price – a round trip ticket is $52! There are alternatives to getting into the city from Heathrow. London Underground trains operate from Heathrow towards London on a very regular basis, the ride will be much cheaper, but it will also take a little over an hour to get to most major destinations in the city. If you have the time, this is a fun way to make your way into the city.

Once in London, the list of things to do is of course endless, and much easier to discover using one of the many London guides available. Personally I always enjoyed starting my trip at Oxford Circus, then walking up or down the street while visiting the many stores. Fans of electronics will enjoy taking a walk up to Tottenham court road, where store after store sells the latest and greatest in gadget land.

If you prefer a more peaceful way to spend your time, make your way to one of the many parks where there is almost always something fun to watch, especially in the summer months.

If you are running a really tight schedule (one hour or less) and don’t mind a decent amount of walking, start at Oxford Circus, walk down Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, then on to Leicester Square. After taking in the sights and sounds here, walk down Charing Cross road towards the Embankment and take a quick look at the Thames. Of course, the easiest way to get around is by purchasing a bus pass and hopping on board one of the thousands of buses clogging up the streets of London.

A couple of things to keep in mind before you leave the airport are of course to be aware of the time it will take to get back through security and to always keep an eye on your belongings. Like most major cities, London has its fair share of street crimes, but pickpockets and thieves are very active all around the area, especially on the tube.