Review of British Airways flight London Athens in Business

Airline British Airways
Flight BA634
Class Business
Seat 1F
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 03:40
Take-off 18 Nov 17, 19:25
Arrival at 19 Nov 17, 01:05
BA   #76 out of 108 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 810 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 4024
Published on 21st January 2018
Hello Flight-Reporters and #AvGeeks, welcome to the second report in this series of flights!

Due to the 3 hour delay on our inbound flight from Washington-Dulles, we were in for a very long wait ahead. Our original connecting flight to Athens was scheduled to depart at 0750–with the delay on the IAD-LHR flight, we were going to miss the connection and were re-booked prior to departure from Washington. Unfortunately, as explained in the previous report, British Airways were only operating 2 flight from LHR to ATH that day and the next flight was not until 1930 that evening. Also, as mentioned in the IAD-LHR report, BA were not able to find any viable options for rerouting onto another airline, so in all, we would be delayed almost 12 hours to our destination. Not a great way to start a holiday!

At least we'd had an enjoyable flight in the upper deck of the Queen of the Skies. A link to that report is below, in case you've missed it.

The Routing:

Washington Dulles IAD ✈ London Heathrow LHR | British Airways, B747-400, Business Class
London Heathrow LHR ✈ Athens E Venizelos ATH | British Airways, A320-200, Business Class
Athens E Venizelos ATH ✈ Santorini Thira Intl JTR | Aegean Airlines, A320-200, Economy Class
Santorini Thira Intl JTR ✈ Athens E Venizelos ATH | Aegean Airlines, A320-200, Economy Class
Athens E Venizelos ATH ✈ London Heathrow LHR | British Airways, A320-200, Business Class
London Heathrow LHR ✈ Washington Dulles IAD | British Airways, B747-400, Business Class


Pre-Flight & Lounge



Having arrived at the gate at 0920, we had a good 10 hours to kill before our new flight to Athens. Upon arriving, we went through transit security and headed straight to the South Galleries lounge.

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Once in the lounge, I went to the customer service desk to ask if we could get a hotel or "day room" for our long wait ahead. Unsurprisingly, the answer was no. The agents were very apologetic and understanding of our frustration, but their hands were clearly tied. They explained that they were only authorised to issue hotel vouchers for delays over 24 hours. The two agents at the desk were both very nice, so I didn't push the issue too much more, but I did express my frustration at the complete lack of accommodation for the delay, especially as paying Business class customers who both have oneworld elite status. Both agents agreed they really wished they could do something, but were bound by policy. One of them suggested that perhaps contacting BA on social media may yield some results. I thanked them for their time and suggestion and took to Twitter.

Again, it was to no avail.

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I know that not being able to get a hotel room for a 12 hour delay when you have lounge access is a total #FirstWorldProblem, and I don't want to come off as entitled, but I find BA's rigidity to be a real shame. They leave their front line employees absolutely no leeway to make decisions for themselves in the interest of good customer service. Had this 12 hour delay been overnight, I would hope that BA would have offered a hotel room!

I'd thought about taking the Heathrow Express into the city for a few hours, but as it was a cold and rainy day, I decided against it.

The lounge is large, but gets very crowded during the busy morning and midday banks of departures.

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We were able to find a relatively quiet corner on the side of the lounge facing the middle of the terminal.

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After a refreshing shower, as there was still plenty of time, I decided to head outside for some fresh air. Easier said than done…

Normally, when transiting at Heathrow Terminal 5 with sufficient time to head outside, I pass through the U.K. border immediately on arrival. However, as I'd taken the transit route this time, it complicated matters. There is no exit to landside by the security checkpoints. This is understandable as there would need to be passport control to ensure that a passenger is allowed into the U.K.

Upon inquiring about how to exit at the BA customer service centre, I was informed that passengers wishing to exit must be escorted by BA staff who make regular trips every half hour. This seems like such an inefficient system for such a new terminal. You would think there would be a way to access the arrival passport control area as it is in the same building, but there is not without being escorted. The only other option is to take the train from the main terminal all the way to the T5C concourse, then take it back to the main terminal where you can enter the arrivals area. With so much time to spare, I ended up taking the train. The problem was that once I'd had my fill of fresh air, upon passing through security, my boarding pass would not scan correctly. Apparently, once your boarding pass is scanned through the transit zone, it will not be recognised by the computer system at the security checkpoints. Luckily, the security agents were used to this happening and allowed me to pass after a quick check of my passport.

Lesson learned…if you plan on stepping outside during a long transit at Heathrow Terminal 5, go through passport control on arrival of your inbound flight–going through the transit route first greatly complicates things. If you're a smoker, it's a lot of effort for a cigarette ?

After that ordeal, I needed a drink!

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There is a decent selection of adult beverages available at self-serve stations.

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Beer and wine are available in a different location near the buffet. Champagne is also available, but you have to ask a member of the lounge staff.

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As lunchtime approached, some hot dishes, including several types of curries, were added to the buffet. There was a decent selection, but not as good as the offering at some BA outstations, like Singapore (See Report Here), Dubai (See Report Here), and my home airport of Washington-Dulles, as shown in the first report in this series.

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As the afternoon carried on, the lounge became quieter as there were less departures.

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The afternoon tea offering was mainly just finger sandwiches.

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View from the lounge after nightfall.

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Boarding



After many hours spent in the Galleries lounge, we headed to our gate shortly before boarding was due to begin.

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The boarding gate was just downstairs from the lounge, so we didn't have far to go.

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The gate area at A15 is quite spacious, with a good amount of space separating the Fast Track boarding queue from the Economy class queue, which meant minimal crowding prior to boarding.

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Boarding began just a few minutes late; we were among the first on board.

We were greeted at the aircraft door by a very friendly and cheerful purser.

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We were lucky that, despite the last-minute re-booking, we were able to obtain seats in the first row of Club Europe.

Our seats in the first row.

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For most European carriers, including British Airways, short/medium-haul Business class consists of Economy seats with the middle seat blocked. This allows for the size of the cabin to be adjusted based on demand.

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In the past, rows towards the front that could be converted to Business class featured additional seat pitch; however, with the BA A32X cabin retrofits over the last few years, the seat pitch was brought down to 30 inches for all rows. 30" seat pitch in Club Europe is pretty rough, which is why I was glad to get seats in the first row, which has more room.

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Today, there are 5 rows in Club Europe. The load factor in Business was 75%, with 5 empty seats.

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These new-ish seats are attractive, but even with the better legroom in the bulkhead row, Economy-style seats can't compare in comfort to the wider 2X2 seating and 38-40" pitch to which North Americans are accustomed in the premium cabin.

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As boarding ends, the friendly purser comes through the cabin to introduce herself and take coats.

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The flight



We pushed back from the gate right on time.

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The safety video played on the overhead screens as we pushed back and began to taxi.

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The taxi time was short at this late hour

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Shortly after takeoff, there was an apéritif service, similar to long-haul flights.

I had a Castelnau champagne, the same available on long-haul.

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Menus had been distributed during boarding. Let's have a look:

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For this medium-haul flight, there is one option for the starter and two options for the main dish. On long-hauls, there are normally two options of starters and 3-4 options of main dishes.

Dinner service began as we were flying over Belgium.

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The crew began the service from the front of the cabin which meant we had our first choice of mains.
Like on short overnight transatlantic flights, the tray is delivered with dessert already on the tray. Also on the tray, is the cheese course.

Starter:

Balik-style smoked salmon with horseradish cream

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Main dish option 1:

Herb-grilled chicken supreme supreme with thyme jus, truffled linguine and root vegetables

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Main dish option 2:

Grilled Atlantic cod fillet with olive mash and ratatouille

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I'd selected the chicken supreme, which was delicious. I had red wine with the meal, which I believe was a Bordeaux, if I remember correctly. The lovely purser checked on us regularly and kept our glasses filled.

Interestingly enough, I enjoyed this meal better than the meal on the long-haul IAD-LHR sector.

By the time we finished dinner, we'd reached the Adriatic sea, about halfway to our destination.

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A little cognac digestif after the meal.

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Approaching King's Landing (Dubrovnik, Croatia) ? ?

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After a short nap, it was time to land

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We landed a bit ahead of schedule and pulled in to the gate shortly before 1:00AM

The airport was a ghost town at that time of the night. We quickly received our baggage and were on our way to the rental car within 15 minutes of arrival.

Thanks for reading!
See more

Verdict

British Airways

7.0/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi5.0
Meal/catering8.0

British Airways (South) Galleries Club - 5A

7.5/10
Comfort7.5
Meal/catering7.0
Entertainment/wifi7.5
Services8.0

London - LHR

8.0/10
Efficiency7.5
Access7.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

Athens - ATH

8.1/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

Overall, judging only by the actual flight experience, it was a decent flight. The lovely cabin crew really elevated the experience and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the catering. For a 3.5 hours flight, the meal service was on par with the long-haul Club World experience, maybe even better than the catering on the overnight IAD-LHR flight. Again, the seat comfort can't compare to the larger seats found in North America premium cabins, but I was glad we were able to have seats in row 1, which offers a decent amount of legroom, especially compared to the 30 inch pitch found in other rows.

The long wait at Heathrow, due to the missed connection, was frustrating but we made the best of it. In the end, after writing in, we received compensation in the amount of 600€ each (about $700 US) for the 12 hour delay, in accordance with European Compensation Regulation EC261/2004. It's just a shame that BA make no effort to do anything but the bare minimum as required by European law.

Information on the route London (LHR) Athens (ATH)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 4 reviews of 2 airlines on the route London (LHR) → Athens (ATH).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Aegean Airlines with 7.6/10.

The average flight time is 3 hours and 38 minutes.

  More information

10 Comments

  • Comment 428620 by
    757Fan 595 Comments

    Sorry to hear about your long delay, Kevin. Glad you had a good flight with BA though down to Athens. I've never been to Greece before, but it certainly is on my list of places I'd love to visit.

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Comment 428681 by
    loukas 343 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thanks for a great report! Good decision to spend your holidays in Greece. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to some bonus pictures in the next report. BA service looks really good in businness class, completely unlike the LCC style economy. I'm wondering if their 767s still operate on the LHR-ATH route or they 've been totally replaced by the A320s as in your flight?

    • Comment 428768 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5377 Comments

      Hi Loukas, thanks for your comments!

      "I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to some bonus pictures in the next report."
      - I loved it! Will definitely have bonus pics in the next 2 reports :-)

      "BA service looks really good in businness class, completely unlike the LCC style economy."
      - Aside from the painful 30" pitch in both classes, there is good differentiation between J and Y, at least by intra-European Business class standards.

      "I'm wondering if their 767s still operate on the LHR-ATH route or they 've been totally replaced by the A320s as in your flight?"
      - They definitely weren't running any 767s on the day I flew, as they only had 2 flights, but they are still running 767s on the LHR-ATH route. I assume they run more A320s in the winter, but I definitely see some flights still operated by 767s.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 428686 by
    KLMA330 28 Comments

    you complain too much ;-)

  • Comment 428771 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thanks for sharing Kevin!

    None of the BA Lounges at LHR are great, but at least the South Lounge is usually less crowded than the North Lounge. I know the corner you staked out, it was always my favorite corner too, farthest from the buffets and most of the traffic. No meal vouchers were given? Or you should have at least been able to get reimbursed, isn’t that a part of the delay rules?

    When did BA start giving out menus for intra-European flights? Is this lumped into the medium haul category? I also don’t remember pillows/blankets (albeit long haul Y ones) being pre-placed in seats on intra-European flights.

    Rob Peter to pay Paul ;) Enhanced J catering at the expensive of Y catering, that’s how it should be done! All in all, a good looking meal tray. Even LHR-ARN has catering of this level, so it’s not just limited to the longer trans-European flights. JU is still the king of Europe, but good food and crews on BA. The lack of IFE and cramped seats just don’t help the situation…

    • Comment 428772 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5377 Comments

      Hey Michael, thanks for your comments!

      "None of the BA Lounges at LHR are great, but at least the South Lounge is usually less crowded than the North Lounge."
      - Exactly. I went walked over to the North lounge when I was bored and it was even more packed, so I came right back to the South Lounge.

      "I know the corner you staked out, it was always my favorite corner too, farthest from the buffets and most of the traffic."
      - Yep! It's kind of hidden away in the corner, so it's the last section to fill up. It doesn't have the good tarmac views you have on the other side, but it's much quieter...and the liquor station is close :-P

      "No meal vouchers were given? Or you should have at least been able to get reimbursed, isn’t that a part of the delay rules?"
      - In DC when I asked, they said they were giving meal vouchers out to Y pax. The guy said it was only $10 per person, so it wasn't worth it, since there was dinner service in the lounge. At LHR, no mention of vouchers, but again, I imagine it would have been the same situation, not really worth it. Yeah, if I had gone into the city, I could have been reimbursed meals, but I'm sure it's a pain to get that reimbursement based on my past experiences with BA customer relations. But yes, the website did mention that "reasonable" expenses could be reimbursed when I looked as I was contemplating going into the city.

      "When did BA start giving out menus for intra-European flights?"
      - No idea. Maybe it is because it's a longer flight, same for the pillow/blanket. At first I thought it was because it was a late night flight, but we had pillows and blankets on the return flight, which was a day flight. I guess they have to make up for the crappy seat pitch somehow, lol.

      "JU is still the king of Europe, but good food and crews on BA."
      - Definitely...JU being the only Euro carrier to run a real J seat on short/medium-haul consistently. If BA had real North-American style J seats with that catering, they would have a truly competitive product.

      "The lack of IFE and cramped seats just don’t help the situation…"
      - Definitely. Though I like that they at least play the airshow on the overhead screens. And luckily I got a seat in row 1, so it wasn't cramped...on this leg at least.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 435569 by
    Rl 777 810 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this FR with us!

    “if you plan on stepping outside during a long transit at Heathrow Terminal 5, go through passport control on arrival of your inbound flight–going through the transit route first greatly complicates things.”
    Definitely great to know, thanks!

    Nice to hear the meal was of good quality.

    “It's just a shame that BA make no effort to do anything but the bare minimum as required by European law.”
    Yep… and if passengers are clueless airlines can completely get away (probably occurs regularly).

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 436738 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5377 Comments

      Thank you for your comments Rl777!

      "Yep… and if passengers are clueless airlines can completely get away (probably occurs regularly)."
      - Oh for sure. I'm sure they count on the majority of people not asking for the compensation due.

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