Review of British Airways flight Athens London in Business

Airline British Airways
Flight BA631
Class Business
Seat 3A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 04:05
Take-off 26 Nov 17, 08:00
Arrival at 26 Nov 17, 10:05
BA   #53 out of 122 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 596 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 1299
Published on 11th March 2018
Hello and welcome to the 5th report in this series.

As the saying goes, all good things must come to and end and, after a perfect week in Greece, it was time to head home to the U.S. Upon returning from a few days on Santorini, we spent the weekend in Athens where we did the usual tourist things (bonus photos at the end of this report), ate some delicious Greek food, hung out with friends and probably drank a little too much ^^

On the last night in Athens, I began to feel a cold coming on but powered through and stayed out (Greeks don't go out until 1 or 2AM!). By the morning we were due to fly home, I was not feeling well at all–I guess I'm glad it hit me on the last night and not before, which allowed me to thoroughly enjoy my trip to the end. All this to say that due to being under the weather, the next two reports will be a bit on the short side, as I slept for much of the flights.


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



As many of you may be aware, Business class within Europe usually consists of the same seats as Economy class with the middle seat blocked. Cabins are separated by a movable curtain divider which is adjusted to match demand. Historically, the forward rows of European carriers' narrowbody aircraft–those rows which can convert to business class–have had more legroom than rows further back in the aircraft. In updating the cabins of its narrowbody Airbus fleet a little over three years ago, British Airways decided to increase seating density by adding rows and removing the additional legroom from the forward cabin. Seat pitch in Club Europe was reduced from 34" to just 30"–that's tight, even for Economy. Compare that to 38-40" of seat pitch found in short-haul premium cabins in North America.

Since the cabin updates, the bulkhead row, which offers a bit more legroom, has become one of the more desirable rows in Club Europe, along with the exit rows, on rare occasions where the cabin divider is moved that far back. I tested row 1 on the LHR-ATH flight.

At the time of booking, two months prior to the trip, the seat map for this flight showed 4 rows of Club Europe. Unfortunately, the coveted first row was not available so I selected seats in row 3.

photo baseatsa320ath-lhr

I checked the seat map a few times leading up to the trip, and again during online check-in, but row 1 never opened up. Oh well, I guess we'll see what the fuss over 30" seat pitch in Club Europe is all about.

Check-in & Lounge



We arrived at the airport a little over 2 hours prior to departure to drop off the rental car.

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The terminal was a ghost town this early in the morning. The British Airways ticket counters appeared to be the only ones open in this section of the airport.

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Our flight to London showed on time. I like these old-style flight information displays.

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After dropping off our checked luggage, we were given invitations to the Skyserv Aristotle Onassis Lounge.

There are two Skyserv lounges at ATH–one in the Schengen zone, which I covered my previous Athens to Santorini report , and this one in the non-Schengen zone, from which British Airways operate.

Unlike my experience with the Schengen zone lounges, the Skyserv lounge was pleasantly uncrowded this early in the morning. Also, being in the off season with few Transatlantic flights, the concourse was generally quiet.

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The non-Schengen Skyserv lounge is very similar to the Schengen side Skyserv lounge.

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The food selection was typical European continental breakfast fare.

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Boarding



We left the lounge and headed to the gate shortly before boarding time. Despite a nearly empty concourse, the gate area for BA631 was crowded and boarding was a bit chaotic. BA staff called priority boarding first, but it was difficult navigating through the crowd to board, so we just went with the flow and still boarded early-ish.

Club Europe goes all the way back to Row 9 for today's flight.

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The new-ish cabin is fresh, clean, and modern.

The BA Speedmarque adorns the forward bulkhead.

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There is a convenient cocktail table between the two seats in Club Europe. British Airways will reportedly no longer have cocktail tables on newly delivered A321neo aircraft, which is a shame.

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Aegean A320 with sharklets at the gate next door

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So how was the 30" seat pitch? Being of average height (5'10"), I wouldn't say it was knee-crushing, but it was tight! A 30" seat pitch is barely OK for Economy, but definitely too tight for Business class. I understand Lufthansa also have 30" seat pitch in European Business class, but the LH NEK seats seem thinner than these B/E Pinnacle seats (now Rockwell-Collins).

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The Flight



Despite what looked to be a full flight, we pushed back right on time

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Colourful morning sky as we begin to taxi

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It was a very short taxi with little traffic at the early hour.

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Takeoff on a beautifully clear morning

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Aegean/Olympic hangar

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It was a beautiful morning for flying

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From this altitude one can appreciate how large Athens really is

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Athens Olympic Stadium

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Looking towards the port of Piraeus

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Windfarms and beautiful Greek landscapes of sea and mountains

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The overhead screens play the airshow–it's always nice to know where you are. Sadly, BA recently announced that as part of another cabin retrofit to further densify the Airbus narrowbody fleet, the overhead screens will be removed.

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Snow-capped Mount Parnassus

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Unlike the LHR to ATH flight, there was no pre-meal drink service and no printed menus were available.

There were two options for breakfast including a hot English breakfast. I can't remember the other option, but I believe it was a cold option.

The English breakfast was fine. Croissants were also offered. You could tell both the dish and croissants had been piled on top of each other or crushed as they were both flattened…not great attention to detail for Business class.

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After breakfast, I slept uncomfortably for most of the flight and woke up somewhere over snow-covered Germany.

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Four hours is a bit too long in these seats and my back and neck were getting achy a few hours into the flight. The tight legroom makes it difficult to get comfortable and stretch out, forcing your legs to the side, which can strain the neck and back if the position is kept for too long.

First glimpse of the U.K. as we began our descent.

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Nice view of Canary Wharf and the City upon landing.

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A rare sunny autumn day

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We taxied to Terminal 5 where we got the the gate right on time.

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Thanks for reading!

Athens bonus below.

Bonus : Click here to display
See more

Verdict

British Airways

6.0/10
Cabin4.5
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment5.0
Meal/catering7.0

Skyserv Aristotle Onassis Lounge

7.0/10
Comfort7.5
Meal/catering6.5
Entertainment7.0
Services7.0

Athens - ATH

8.3/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

London - LHR

8.4/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

Overall, the flight was fine. It was not nearly as nice of an experience as the LHR to ATH flight with that wonderful crew, great meal, and row 1. The legroom is really tight outside of the first row--30" seat pitch is just not really acceptable for business class, especially for a 4 hour flight. The crew were friendly and did their jobs, but weren't as engaging or present as other BA crews I've had.

Related

12 Comments

  • Comment 436418 by
    757Fan 441 Comments

    Great report, Kevin. It does look like the cabin is really tight and compact - 30'' does seem really cramped for Business Class! Other than the free meal, it makes you wonder if there's a reason for someone to pay the additional price over Economy.

    "Sadly, BA recently announced that as part of another cabin retrofit to further densify the Airbus narrowbody fleet, the overhead screens will be removed."

    This is surprising - I wonder why?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Matthew

    • Comment 436544 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 4304 Comments

      Thanks for your comments as always Matthew!

      "Other than the free meal, it makes you wonder if there's a reason for someone to pay the additional price over Economy."
      - That's a good point. For me, European business class makes the most sense as part of a connecting itinerary to long-haul business class, but has little value as a product on its own merits, unless it's a reasonably priced upgrade. Having that extra lateral space is nice on a full flight, but the tight seat pitch is really a shame.

      "This is surprising - I wonder why?"
      - Cost cutting--to save weight and maintenance. Seems like a bit much.

      Thanks!

  • Comment 436444 by
    marathon GOLD 8672 Comments

    Do the seats recline ? It would be awful with a 30" seat pitch.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 436473 by
    loukas SILVER 221 Comments

    Thanks for a very nice report, Kevin. Looks like you had nice time in Athens. For me it's a city that I both love and hate, I've spent some time here coming for studies, holiday, work and I always come back home with mixed feelings. Great aerial shots. Yes, ineed, Athens is huge and totally overwhelming. I hope you recovered fast. Flying with cold is always difficult. Have a good day!

    • Comment 436546 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 4304 Comments

      Thanks for your comments Loukas!

      Yes, I had a great time in Athens, but I much preferred Santorini.

      "For me it's a city that I both love and hate, I've spent some time here coming for studies, holiday, work and I always come back home with mixed feelings. "
      - Yes, I understand what you mean. With so much political chaos over the last few years, the city has become so run down and the graffiti everywhere is really a shame. There was a big student protest in the neighbourhood where my hotel was just a few days before I got there so there was broken glass and rubbish everywhere. Yet despite the scary appearance, I found Athens to be very safe for such a large city. I never felt unsafe walking at night at all and the people are genuinely friendly and helpful. I ran into so many people that spoke perfect English and even French.

      "I hope you recovered fast. Flying with cold is always difficult."
      - I did, thanks for asking! :-)

  • Comment 436722 by
    nechus SILVER 511 Comments

    Hey, Kevin!

    Great report! Turning an economy seat into a business class one just by blocking the middle seat looks like a pretty cheap solution. They should come up with a different name for that. Isn’t that what other airlines call “premium economy”?

    I loved those aerials of Athens! The French flight-report.com staff will hate me for this, but I have read that Athens already had a nice system of sewers when Parisians were still pouring their wastewater onto the streets, which then flowed to the Seine, from which the same Parisians then took their drinking water. Ew!

    I’d love to visit Greece only for the fun of hearing people speaking with medical terms all the time. I can’t believe aircraft suffer from "anachoresis", as shown in the FIDS! XDDD (https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/anachoresis)

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

    • Comment 436735 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 4304 Comments

      Hola Nelson! Thank you for your comments :-)

      "Turning an economy seat into a business class one just by blocking the middle seat looks like a pretty cheap solution. "
      - It sure is. I've always said LCCs should do this more to have a more premium experience for those willing to pay, but I much prefer the real 2X2 premium cabin seating we have in North America.

      "Isn’t that what other airlines call “premium economy”?"
      - Meh...not really. I see your point, and it would make sense to call it premium economy, but it's such a nebulous term. It's kind of like how U.S. carriers call their Premium cabin "First class" on domestic/regional/narrowbody flights, but really it's Business class...or you could even say Premium Economy since US Domestic F seats are basically the same as long-haul Premium Economy seats (in fact on AA, long-haul PE is the same seat as they have in Domestic F on some recently renovated PMUS aircraft). Icelandair currently has a Premium Economy that is a Y seat with the middle blocked, but that product is being discontinued, and there aren't too many carriers that have similar products. Like I was saying...naming convention is complicated, lol.

      "I can’t believe aircraft suffer from "anachoresis", as shown in the FIDS! XDDD"
      - Such a polyglot you are! LOL. It is funny that the Greek word for departures is similar to the name of an infectious disease :-P

  • Comment 437652 by
    ashleyyau 197 Comments

    Thanks Kevin for sharing this flight report^^ Sorry for the delayed comment lol
    “Seat pitch in Club Europe was reduced from 34" to just 30"
    - Shame. Even the Y+ in North America has better seat pitch. I also heard the news of cutting the middle cocktail tables. I can only say BA has better cost cuttings than CX, at least BA has profit lol
    The flattened breakfast looks quite unappetizing…
    Superb aerial shots!!! All your photos on this series are very fantastic!^^

    • Comment 437748 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 4304 Comments

      Hey Ashley! Thanks so much for your comments!

      "Shame. Even the Y+ in North America has better seat pitch. "
      - Yup! Heck...even regular Y has more pitch on most NA carriers! Even LCCs have better pitch--WN has 32" pitch and B6 has 34" in Y!

      "The flattened breakfast looks quite unappetizing…"
      - Haha true...luckily it tasted ok, but you would think they should be embarrassed to serve a totally flat croissant haha

      "Superb aerial shots!!! All your photos on this series are very fantastic!^^"
      - Thank you :-) One more to go!

  • Comment 440083 by
    Rl 777 812 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this great FR with us!

    “the overhead screens will be removed.”
    - The trend of removing things continues... How far can we go when it comes to cost-cutting?

    Absolutely spectacular aerial shots throughout the flight!

    Have a good one, see you!

    • Comment 440562 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 4304 Comments

      "The trend of removing things continues... "
      - Yep, I know, it's getting crazy.

      "How far can we go when it comes to cost-cutting?""
      - Oh they seem to always come up with new creative ways!

      Thanks for your comments as always!

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