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.
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.
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.
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.
Our flight to London showed on time. I like these old-style flight information displays.
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.
The non-Schengen Skyserv lounge is very similar to the Schengen side Skyserv lounge.
The food selection was typical European continental breakfast fare.
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.
The new-ish cabin is fresh, clean, and modern.
The BA Speedmarque adorns the forward bulkhead.
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.
Aegean A320 with sharklets at the gate next door
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).
Despite what looked to be a full flight, we pushed back right on time
Colourful morning sky as we begin to taxi
It was a very short taxi with little traffic at the early hour.
Takeoff on a beautifully clear morning
It was a beautiful morning for flying
From this altitude one can appreciate how large Athens really is
Athens Olympic Stadium
Looking towards the port of Piraeus
Windfarms and beautiful Greek landscapes of sea and mountains
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.
Snow-capped Mount Parnassus
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.
After breakfast, I slept uncomfortably for most of the flight and woke up somewhere over snow-covered Germany.
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.
Nice view of Canary Wharf and the City upon landing.
A rare sunny autumn day
We taxied to Terminal 5 where we got the the gate right on time.
Thanks for reading!
Athens bonus below.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus
View from the Acropolis
Theatre of Dionysus Eleuthereus
Hadrian's arch and the Temple of Olympian Zeus
The Porch of the Caryatids on the south side of the Erechtheion
The well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus at the Agora of Athens
Athens by night
Skyserv Aristotle Onassis Lounge
Athens - ATH
London - LHR
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.
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