Welcome to my last series of flights before the Covid-19 pandemic all but shut down air travel around the world. These flights took place between February 15th and March 1st, 2020–a short time period where things rapidly evolved in Europe. Though we were aware of the outbreak and took precautions while flying, little did we know that shortly after returning from our trip that borders would be closing and transatlantic commercial air traffic would grind to a halt.
We had been staying in France since late December, where we were planning on spending a few more months before returning to Southern California in the spring, but needed to head to Washington, DC for a few weeks to work on getting our previous home ready for sale. Being in the Southwest of France, there aren't really any major airports nearby. Toulouse is about 2 hours away, but transatlantic flights tend to be expensive from TLS, so we usually make the 5.5 hour drive to fly in and out of Paris.
For this trip, however, I'd found some really good deals from Barcelona in Premium Economy on British Airways. BCN is also about a 5.5 hour drive so I figured it would be an interesting change and a good opportunity to spend a bit of time in Barcelona. The best prices were to Baltimore-Washington Intl airport BWI, which is about the same distance from our home as Dulles IAD.
The transatlantic reviews in this series will be the first on British Airways Premium Economy to or from BWI and only the second and third long-haul reviews to/from BWI.
The day before the flight, we drove the 5.5 hours to Barcelona. The most direct route took us over the Viaduc de Millau, the world's tallest bridge.
We stayed one evening at the BAH (Barcelona Airport Hotel) where I took advantage of their Sleep & Park package which came with 7 days of free parking with our one-night stay for 120 EUR/night. I booked one night on both ends of the trip, which came with 14 days of free parking, saving a considerable amount in airport parking costs.
The BAH is also a nice, modern hotel with friendly multi-lingual staff. I was impressed by how many staff spoke French in addition to Spanish and English!
We enjoyed some tapas in the hotel bar the evening before the flight. Prices were reasonable and the restaurant staff very friendly and engaging. They were happy to indulge me as I practised my somewhat rusty Spanish.
Reports in this series:
During web check-in, the evening before, I noticed that I was unable to move seats, even though some seats had opened up closer to the front.
From my experience, I believe that BA block passengers with infants-in-lap from moving seats within the 24-hour check-in window as they often try to accommodate blocking an extra seat for the baby.
I certainly appreciate BA's proactive blocking of the middle seat for the baby, which I was able to confirm on ExpertFlyer shortly before departure.
We've been lucky so far as we've been 3 for 3 on having an extra seat blocked when flying short-haul on BA in Y this year.
Later in the evening, I received this message from BA warning of possible flight disruptions due to Storm Dennis. Luckily, our flights were not showing cancelled.
The next morning, our flight to LHR was still showing on time so we hopped the free shuttle and arrived at Terminal 1 a little over 2 hours before departure.
This was one of those days that I was very glad to hold oneworld Sapphire status, as this entitled us to use the Club Europe/Priority queue, where there was only one party in line ahead of us…
This was the regular queue…the line snaked past the Iberia counters and out the door! I imagine storm-related delays and cancellations requiring re-accommodation were to blame.
For us, luckily, check-in was quick with a friendly and efficient agent.
From there we headed through security, which wasn't too painful. The more we get used to flying with a baby the better we are at getting all the pre-mixed formula and any other liquid out of our bags to avoid unnecessary delays.
While queuing at the security checkpoint I was amused to find that the 10 or so people in line ahead of us were also French. I guess, we weren't the only ones to head south of the border for a good deal!
As our oneworld status allows us lounge access, we headed to the closest lounge to our gate in the non-schengen zone, which turned out to be the Sala VIP Joan Miró.
The lounge is immense and very Spanish in it's architecture and modernity.
There are shower facilities available.
It was pleasantly quiet that morning, so we were able to find an entire section to ourselves.
There was even a salon inside the lounge.
Not a soul in sight and chilled bubbly just for us–what else could you need?
No bubbly for this guy, but he enjoyed watching people down in the concourse.
There were three types of sparkling wine, all Spanish of course. I tried the rosé, which I found to be decent.
Other wines were available by the buffet.
At this morning hour, it was mostly pastries.
Enjoyed a snack before heading to the gate.
After an enjoyable visit to the lounge, we headed to the gate shortly before boarding was due to begin.
Spotted the tail of our A320 as we approached the gate.
As soon as we arrived in the gate area, the friendly agent who had checked us in earlier waved us over for pre-boarding. Great service!
A LEVEL A330 to our right as we headed down the jet bridge.
And here is our ride, G-EUYE, a 10 year old A320 currently stored at Bornemouth (BOH) during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.
I'd noted on a previous BA A321neo flight that the centre tables were gone from the Club cabin, but seemingly they've kept them on this A320ceo.
The coveted 1st row and its glorious legroom compared to the tight 30" pitch found elsewhere.
And here we are at our seats in row 15
The view out of the window.
And the view from the seat.
The 30" seat pitch is a bit tight, but perfectly fine for my 5'10" (178 cm) frame on a short flight. These aren't the slimmest of slimline seats, which makes them a bit more comfortable than average. In addition, having the the literature pocket above the tray table saves space at knee level.
Having the middle seat free definitely helps as well.
I like the look of these seats with the BA speedbird logo embossed on the adjustable headrests.
The kid quickly claimed the middle seat, as well he should.
The BA A32Sceo fleet was outfitted with 4 USB ports for every 3 seats during the 2014-2015 retrofits. A32Sneo aircraft came equipped with USB ports.
This particular A320 happened to have Wi-Fi installed. Note that as of early 2020, only about half of the A320 fleet is outfitted with Wi-Fi.
With boarding completed (a few minutes late), we were ready to go.
This kid just loves to sleep on planes (thank God!), but we needed to get his extension belt on so he could be in-lap for take-off. Luckily, he didn't wake up!
An Aeroflot A321 pulled in to the neighbouring gate as we pushed back.
That's a good looking livery.
We taxied past a LATAM 767-300ER in new colours.
Barcelona is a major Vueling hub, with mainline Iberia only serving a few major business destinations anymore.
Lining up on the runway.
And off we go.
After taking off to the south over the Mediterranean sea, we make a sharp turn inland towards our northern destination.
Within minutes we were overflying the beautiful snow-covered Pyrenées
I noted that the drop-down screens, that normally displayed the moving map in all my past experiences, were not deployed on this flight. I'm guessing this is for consistency with the A32Sneo fleet, which were not equipped with screens to save weight–they may have even been removed altogether from this A320ceo.
I imagine most people don't care either way, but as an aviation geek, I find it a bit disappointing.
Another thing that's disappointing about flying BA short-haul these days…having to pay for water! £1.95 for a bottle of water, isn't outrageous, but I do find it to be on the expensive side.
On the window In-flight Entertainment we have the city of Bordeaux and the Gironde estuary.
Let's have a look at the BA Marks & Spencer buy-on-board food and drink menu.
Tapas box, a nod to sister IAG carrier Iberia and its home country?
Then we have the oh-so-British Steak and Ale pie.
Options for those who prefer bubbly or wine
And of course, beers
Overall, I found soft drinks to be a bit expensive while most alcoholic drinks appeared to be on par with prices in the US. The food and snack prices also seemed reasonable.
Before we knew it, we had begun our descent and the cabin was readied for landing.
I'll make an AvGeek out of him yet ?
Only one loop in the holding pattern and we were cleared into Heathrow. Faster than average!
The visibility was surprisingly good despite the storm–I imagine we hadn't seen the worst of it yet.
We landed close to on-time despite the late departure out of BCN.
Two BA retro liveries! The Negus and Landor colours, which are my favourite of the 4 retro-jets.
We parked next to this good-looking MEA A320
It took a while to deplane being all the way back in row 15, but luckily we weren't in a rush as we had about 3 hours before our flight to BWI was due to depart.
Some views of our aircraft on deplaning.
This one with an Emirates A380 photobomb
And this one with an Etihad A380
For some reason flights from Barcelona arrive at Terminal 3 so we headed towards the inter-terminal bus to get to Terminal 5 to catch our next flight.
Thank you for reading!
While I'm not a fan of BA's move to buy-on-board, and especially having to pay for water or soft drinks, it was an otherwise pleasant short flight. The seats are comfortable and 30" pitch has sadly become the norm on narrowbodies flying intra-European routes--I'll take that over the 28-29 inches often found on low-cost carriers. I am disappointed that the overhead screens showing the moving map have gone away, but I'm glad BA are finally rolling out Wi-Fi, though it will be a while before the installations are complete, especially in the context of the worldwide pandemic, at the moment.