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 and North America. 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 are the first on British Airways Premium Economy to or from BWI and only the second and third long-haul reviews to/from BWI.
In this review, I'll cover the final sector in the series from London to Barcelona with a visit to the Heathrow Qantas lounge. In case you missed the first three instalments in this series, you'll find the link below.
Reviews in this series:
Having just arrived from Baltimore at the Terminal 5 C Concourse, we hopped on the train to the main T5A Building, where we could catch the bus to Terminal 3. Barcelona is one of those few destinations served from T3 instead of T5–luckily, we had plenty of time between flights.
Compared to our previous experience, two weeks prior, the transit area in T5A was noticeably less crowded. Though border closures In Europe and North America hadn't yet happened, demand was already dropping significantly amidst the first rounds of Covid-related travel restrictions and flight cancellations.
Going between T5 and T3 isn't a particularly pleasant experience. There is quite a bit of distance between the two terminals so the ride can take between 10-15 minutes on the shuttle bus.
If you're an AvGeek, the positive side is great views of the tarmac.
Upon arrival at Terminal 3, all transit passengers must go through the security checkpoint. We had access to the Fast Track queue thanks to our oneworld Sapphire status, where there was very little wait.
Once airside, I was surprised to see that the main waiting area was so crowded despite the rest of the terminal being so empty!
I've often lamented the practise in British airports of only displaying gate assignments one hour prior to departure, often times even less. I've always found this to be inconvenient, but in times of Covid, I find it to be downright dangerous as it forces passengers to crowd the main central hall.
This was two months ago–I imagine things have changed and crowds like this are a thing of the past.
One of the major benefits of oneworld Sapphire status is access to Business class lounges when travelling in any cabin.
Terminal 3 offers several oneworld lounge options:
American Airlines Admirals Club
British Airways Galleries Lounge
Cathay Pacific Lounge
Qantas International Lounge
Just a short time ago, in our pre-children days, we would have enjoyed a bit of lounge-hopping, visiting all four lounges. These days we prefer to choose the best lounge for our needs and stick with it. We chose the Qantas lounge as I suspected there may be a children't play area, as I'd seen in most other Qantas lounges I'd visited.
We were greeted by a very friendly and cheerful agent who told us there was a children's play room upstairs before I even thought to ask. Love the proactiveness!
Having been to Qantas lounges in Auckland, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Singapore, and Sydney, I've always found them to be consistently nice lounges, and the London Heathrow Qantas lounge is no exception.
I would love to have the opportunity to fly a non-stop London-Sydney flight one day! In a premium cabin, though–I can't imagine how painful 20 hours in Economy could be!
Social distancing wasn't going to be difficult inside the lounge as there were few other passengers.
The stylish staircase leads to the second level, which is even larger than the ground level–this lounge is huge! I suppose it needs to be with multiple A380 departures in normal times.
The bar, and decor in general, are very chic–typical of Qantas lounges in my experience.
There is also a small lift, which was convenient for the baby and stroller.
We ended up with the playroom to ourselves for our entire 3-hour stay!
As a new parent, I really appreciate play areas inside lounges. Our son has a great time playing and we can relax a bit while he is occupied with new-to-him toys and games.
It was nice to enjoy a glass (or 3) or bubbly, while the kid played.
There was a nice spread of breakfast items at the nearby buffet.
I enjoyed a bit of salmon and bacon with my champagne.
The Qantas lounge also has shower facilities. It's always nice to be able to have a hot shower after a long-haul flight.
As we approached the departure time of our flight, the buffet was changed out with lunch items. Knowing there would only be Buy-on-board on this intra-European leg, we has lunch before boarding.
There were several hot dishes–I tried a chicken curry and vegetarian lasagne, which were both tasty.
With boarding for the ultra-long-distance flight to Perth called shortly before we left the lounge, it was mostly deserted by the time we headed to the gate.
The same agent who had checked us in wished us a good flight as we walked out, with a friendly smile and a wave.
It was a quick walk to the boarding gate from the Qantas lounge. Boarding had not yet begun when we arrived in the gate area.
Our ride for today, G-EUYJ, a 9 year old A320 recently reconfigured in the tighter 180-seat layout, from 168 previously.
Caught a glimpse of a Star Wars liveried 777 as we were about to board.
Based on the number of people at the gate, the flights was not going to be full. Of course, this didn't stop people from crowding the gate podium to attempt to board first. The "gate lice" are truly a worldwide phenomenon.
I was pleasantly surprised when the gate agent called us up to the podium before officially announcing boarding and invited us to board with the baby.
With that, we were the first to board.
Unlike the A321neo, which have 2 different models of seats in the forward vs rear cabin, as I'd mentioned in my recent review, the retrofitted A320s have kept the same pinnacle seat throughout the cabin, but with less pitch.
With a 30" pitch in the forward rows, which can be converted to Business, and a 29" pitch in the rear half of the plane, the configuration is definitely tight. However, I will say that the pinnacle seat is well designed in that it allows for a decent amount on knee clearance thanks to the location of the literature pocket at eye level.
At 5'10" (1.78m), my knees did not touch the seat in front.
Luckily, once again, BA had blocked the middle seat for the baby, which definitely helped with feeling less cramped. I would say the load factor was about 70-75% in Economy.
Nice view of the LATAM Star Wars 777-300ER from the window.
Retrofitted A320s feature 4 USB ports for every set of 3 seats. In the forward rows, which can be converted to Business class, there are also 2 universal power outlets for every set of 3 seats.
Boarding was completed on time and we pushed back right on time at 1:40PM
Would love to see the inside of that LATAM 77W as it's got the new Vantage XL cabin in Business.
View of the beautiful Concorde as we taxi to the runway
After a short taxi time, we were off.
Within a few minutes we reached the English Channel.
Once in the air, the blue light on the USB ports indicated they were activated.
Unlike most European Legacy carriers, British Airways don't offer any free snacks in short-haul Economy. They do, however, offer a rather extensive buy-on-board menu from British brand Marks & Spencer, which includes fresh items.
Coffee, tea, and soft drinks
Spirits and liquors
Champagne, sparkling wine, and wines
Overall, there is a decent selection and I find the prices for alcoholic beverages and food items to be ok, but soft drink prices seem really high. 1.95 GBP (2.50 USD) for a bottle of water or a can of soda seems excessive to me.
Nevertheless, we ordered 2 waters–you have to stay hydrated when flying!
After a quick flight, we began our descent into Barcelona.
Making a turn over the Mediterranean Sea…
Then following the coastline.
I had picked seats on the right side of the aircraft in hopes of getting some good city views on landing.
And good city views I got!
Short final over the port.
We landed right about on time.
Thanks for the ride G-EUYJ!
It was a long walk to baggage claim–the bright side of that being that our bags were coming up by the time we got to the baggage reclaim.
From the arrivals hall we took the skywalk out to the parking area to catch the shuttle to the BAH Barcelona Airport Hotel, where we would be spending another night. With the hotel's offer of 7-days of free parking for each stay, we were able to get free parking for our 2-week trip with our 2 stays. I definitely recommend the BAH is you're flying out of Barcelona.
An overall pleasant and scenic quick hop down to Barcelona. The fantastic Qantas lounge was a haven of tranquillity during our layover and allowed us to relax and replenish prior to the next flight.
Once again, I find BA to be very consistent with their kid-friendly practises. Of the more than 20 flights we've done with our son in the 13 months since he was born (at the time of the flight), about a third of those flights have been with BA, and I can truly say that they've been the most consistent with pre-boarding, whereas it has been hit-or-miss with other carriers. I also very much appreciate that BA blocked the middle seat for the baby on each one of our 3 recent intra-European flights. The cabin crew were very friendly and stopped by to chat for a bit and play with the baby as the flight wasn't very full.
I like the BA Pinnacle seats as they are well designed with more space at knee-level and have better padding than most slimline seats. The design makes the 29" pitch tolerable for shorter flights, but it does feel tight. This aircraft was equipped with Wi-Fi, as are most A320s, and I appreciated the multiple USB ports.