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.
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.
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.
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.
We were able to find a relatively quiet corner on the side of the lounge facing the middle of the terminal.
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!
There is a decent selection of adult beverages available at self-serve stations.
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.
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.
As the afternoon carried on, the lounge became quieter as there were less departures.
The afternoon tea offering was mainly just finger sandwiches.
View from the lounge after nightfall.
After many hours spent in the Galleries lounge, we headed to our gate shortly before boarding was due to begin.
The boarding gate was just downstairs from the lounge, so we didn't have far to go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, there are 5 rows in Club Europe. The load factor in Business was 75%, with 5 empty seats.
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.
As boarding ends, the friendly purser comes through the cabin to introduce herself and take coats.
We pushed back from the gate right on time.
The safety video played on the overhead screens as we pushed back and began to taxi.
The taxi time was short at this late hour
Shortly after takeoff, there was an apéritif service, similar to long-haul flights.
I had a Castelnau champagne, the same available on long-haul.
Menus had been distributed during boarding. Let's have a look:
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.
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.
Balik-style smoked salmon with horseradish cream
Main dish option 1:
Herb-grilled chicken supreme supreme with thyme jus, truffled linguine and root vegetables
Main dish option 2:
Grilled Atlantic cod fillet with olive mash and ratatouille
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.
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!
British Airways (South) Galleries Club - 5A
London - LHR
Athens - ATH
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.
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