BA1 is a very special flight operated by British Airways. It is unique. Operated with an Airbus A318 it is the only BA “mainline” service at London City (the rest is operated by BA Cityflyer, with different in-flight service to the rest of BA - its free in economy for a start) - and the aircraft is business class only, with just 32 seats! The aircraft has to touch down in Shannon to refuel. It’s there that passengers clear US immigration before boarding, and arrive at JFK as domestic passengers.
I used a combination of Avios and an American Express voucher for this trip, which while probably not the best use of miles cost 52,000 Avios and £652.14 per person. This is against the normal redemption value which would be 100,000 Avios and £652.14 - the extra charges are quite ridiculous aren’t they?
London City Airport is the closest airport to the centre of London, and is easily accessible by public transport, with the Docklands Light Railway Station right at the airport.
Check in is extremely fast, although my pals boarding pass had the dreaded SSSS on it - which just meant a couple of extra security checks and was no big deal.
BA no longer have a lounge at LCY (they had a ‘lounge-lite’ area at the gate, with some refreshments, but this has been replaced with a meal at Pilots Restaurant. More on that later.
Security at London City is excellent - and if you pack correctly, you can be through in moments. Today was no exception.
There are great views of the apron from the airport, and I love Embraers, the backbone of BA’s operation here.
With boarding pass in hand, I headed to Pilots Restaurant, which looked nice, however… service was friendly but slow. The person who sat down after me and ordered after me received his food first, and it didn’t look good! It wasn’t all bad - the BA offer includes a meal and two drinks, or three courses and one drink, (or something like that) - so a decent coffee was served along with a big bottle of water. For breakfast I picked scrambled eggs on toast and it was poor. First, the portion size. If this wasn’t free, the restaurant was charging £9 for it. The eggs were incredibly dry, I think they weren’t made from fresh. And the bread portion was minute. I don’t rate this restaurant at all (indeed, last time I flew from London City I queued for about three minutes, ignored, before deciding to go to Caffe Nero instead!).
Flybe (soon to become Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Connect) have flights from London City. I wonder if this is in preparation for their rebrand?
I was actually late to Gate 21 - arriving there at 09.31 for a 09.50 flight. More SSSS questions for my pal, and then, excitedly, it was time to board.
Club World on these planes is different from the rest of the fleet - for a start, all the seats are forward facing, in a 2-2 configuration.
There is lots of legroom, and with eight passengers on board, felt very much like a private jet!
A menu was offered, with the meal service served on both legs - a welcome drink with warm nuts followed by a starter on the London City - Shannon section, and the main meal and afternoon snack on the Shannon - New York JFK leg.
Entertainment is via iPads - and this was the only disappointment, with only a fraction of the usual entertainment available.
At Shannon, there is another security check and then US Immigration - this was actually very quick and I thought Shannon Airport was pretty nice. BA have a small seating area by the gate, where the aircraft was being refuelled.
Shannon was great for plane spotting - with lots of aircraft parked in various states of (dis)repair, or perhaps impounded with a few Primera Air and Small Planet aircraft parked.
Shortly after take off the rest of the meal was served, and it was very good!
There was some severe turbulence over Canada but the crew seemed calm about it, and so was I. The rest of the flight passed uneventfully, with Afternoon Tea served, and some lovely views of the Atlantic Ocean.
I then wandered down the back of the empty plane to take some pics.
We landed on time, in a cold New York, as domestic passengers. A very short wait for luggage and in seconds we were in an Uber heading to the city!
London - LCY
New York - JFK
A fantastic 'niche' service from British Airways, the crew are clearly proud to work on the flight. With Avios is can be affordable and is well worth it for a trip with a difference.
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