This is a Trip Report from May when I had to fly to London-Gatwick and back in a day for an appointment;
Started my day early, setting of at 07:10 for my 09:05 British Airways Shuttle flight to London-Gatwick (YES - It was a shuttle flight) Bad roadworks on the motorway system in Manchester had me sitting in a traffic jam nowhere near the airport at 8am, when I should have been at the airport, agonizingly watching the line of aircraft make their approaches above me! Finally arrived at Terminal 3 at 08:40 and made checked-in quickly in the departure lounge for BA2902 to Gatwick. Arriving so late, there were only center seat left, but the check-in agent kindly allocated me seat 2B, which is the first row on the port side.
Made my way straight to the aircraft, just stopping to pick up a free newspaper at the gate, before boarding the waiting aircraft. Boeing 737-436 G-DOCJ had been allocated for this flight, wearing the Bennyhone Tratan livery. Inside the aircraft was fitted with 147 of the new style leather Club Europe seats in a deep shade of blue. They were very comfortable, although the convertible seats were all arranged 6 abreast for the shuttle. Plenty of legroom, although I was in the first row! The cabin was in immaculate condition, and on the bulkhead were framed photos of famous European sights, and the overhead lockers had been refitted with new 737NG style doors (like United)
Because the flight was so full, boarding took a while, and our departure time of 09:05 came and went. It was not until 09:15 that we finally pushed back for the taxi to runway 24R, where there was a short delay as we waited for a JMC 757 to depart. Once he had gone, we were cleared to line up and made a rolling takeoff, commencing at exactly 09:30. Acceleration was rapid, although not as sprightly as a 757(!) and we climbed steeply and made a right turn to the south immediately after take-off. Less than 10 minutes after departure I was eating my HOT Breakfast, served by the charming cabin staff. This was a fruit cocktail of orange segments, sliced grapefruit and grapes in orange juice. The main part of the meal was scrambled eggs, bacon, grilled tomato and mushrooms. Served with a breadroll and glass of fruit juice. - all while hurtling towards Gatwick at 460 mph! No sooner had the crew finished giving out the meals than they came round to offer tea or coffee to go with our breakfasts, just as we started our descent. The food was excellent and the cabin crew were very friendly and efficient, given a hot meal service with a full load on such a short flight. Just after the crew began clearing away the trays the seatbelt sign came on and the First Officer made the "10 minutes to landing" warning as we made our descent over the beautiful Sussex countryside, encountering some moderate turbulence. Our landing was on Gatwick's Runway 26L, where we made a smooth touchdown, but braking was hard and with a lot of reverse to make a rapid exit, because at Gatwick, the longer your landing roll, the longer the taxi to the North Terminal! Landing was at 10:06, one minute behind schedule, giving a flight time of 36 minutes, making the service even more impressive! We were on stand and disembarking by 10:15.
I checked in 2 hours early for my return flight (BA2912 departing 20:10) and was rewarded with seat 11B, which is in the first overwing exit row, without even having to ask for it. Later, making my way to the aircraft I was confused by the North Terminal's gate numbering system. My flight was departing Gate 57, but so were 4 others! It turns out that Gate 57 is not a gate, but a lounge for domestic flights with 7 gates (A-G) leading off from it. Once at my gate (57G) I found B737-4S3 G-BNVM wearing the Union Flag livery waiting, which I was pleased about because I wanted to fly on an aircraft in the new BA livery.
Inside the aircraft I found it to be a bit shabby, the seat number stickers were peeling off the overhead lockers and the moveable cabin divider had left scrape marks all the way down one side of the cabin sidewall. However, these are minor complaints and the aircraft did have the new leather Club Europe seats. Legroom in row 11 is very good as you would expect in an exit row, so no complaints there. We pushed back at 20:15 and joined a Britannia 767-200 and 2 Cityflyer RJ100s also wearing the Union Flag livery at the hold. We finally departed at 20:32; making our climb into the gray overcast there was quite a bit of turbulence.
The cabin crew on this flight were again excellent, serving us with a snack box containing a glass of spring water, egg mayonnaise sandwich and a chocolate bar. I don't like egg mayonnaise, this didn't bother me, but when a lady in the row in front asked for something else a member of the crew gave her one of their sandwiches!!! On this flight there was a full bar of Tea, Coffee or any alcoholic/non-alcoholic drink. Again the crew were still very friendly, despite another full load of 147 passengers and a short flying time, putting them under a lot of pressure! By the time we landed at Manchester it was getting dark, although it was still light enough to make out the airport (and Woodford where BAE make the RJ) at some distance away. G-BNVM made its approach to Runway 24R and we touched down at 21:17, only 7 minutes late after a flight lasting 45 minutes.
All in all this was a good day's flying, the staff on both flights were excellent (BA carry 6 cabin crew on the B737-400 Shuttle flights) Hot food on the morning flight was excellent, the snack on the return was fine and the choice of drinks excellent. The rationale between a hot breakfast and a snack being;
At 8am you probably won't have eaten and may go straight from the flight to a meeting (as I did)
At 8pm, you will probably have just eaten (as I had at the airport) but a drink is nice at the end of the day!
The aircraft were fine, G-DOCJ was immaculate and I'm sure G-BNVM will soon be upgraded to the same standard. The seating was excellent, very spacious, comfortable and very classy - have a look at these seats on BA's website, they look and feel a lot better than BA's old Club Europe seats which were already very good! BA's crews remain some of the best in the skies, especially on the Shuttle where they have to work so hard. Despite the reports of low staff morale at BA, there was no evidence of this on my flights, and the service has definitely improved on the Shuttle recently.
Well that's it for now, well done for sticking with it to the end!