Contact Air From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 1154 posts, RR: 14 Posted (8 years 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 7395 times:
Alex (A.net-member Ndebele) and me had thought it was time for an other spotting weekend at LHR in the famous Renaissance Hotel. So we searched the web and found an interesting deal on BA for EUR 129.33 return incl. taxes per person.
Saturday, 26 November 2005
Stuttgart (STR) – London Heathrow (LHR)
Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA 917
Scheduled departure time: 07:25
Scheduled arrival time: 08:15 (local time; time difference – 1 hour, so flight time was 1:50)
Type of aircraft: Airbus A 320-200
This aircraft was built and delivered to British Airways in 2002.
BA offers a late-night check-in at STR which we kindly used as our flight time would be quite early in the morning. We got boarding passes for seats 18A and 18C while 18B would remain empty as loads on this early Saturday morning flight were expected to be low.
The next morning we me at Stuttgart airport at 06:45, both of us arriving by train from different directions. We made our way through the “normal” security check (very quickly) and the “special” security check for all British and American airlines where hand luggage was screened once again and every passenger got a body search. Passport control followed and then we could enter the gate for our flight in Terminal 1.
Most of you might have heard of the catering problems at LHR: About three months ago, there was a dispute between the Gate Gourmet staff and the management, leading to a strike that lasted several days. But even after the strike had been over, things didn’t come back to normal and the catering problems last until today. As Gate Gourmet is BA’s supplier at LHR, they are mainly affected by this. I had checked the BA web page the day before and had read that catering was back to normal on all flights to and from LHR that lasted more than two hours, plus on the domestic network. As our flight was international and less than two hours, it would still be affected.
A gate agent appeared and told the waiting passengers about the catering problems and about the solution here at STR: There were snack bags available in the gate area, as well as cans of Coke and water, and every passenger could take one:
Newspapers were also available. Boarding started shortly after, and as our aircraft was parked directly in front of the terminal, we just had to walk down the air-bridge and were welcomed by a very friendly crew consisting of four female flight attendants. The first section of the plane (about 1/3) was Business Class with 5 seats per row (BA’s Airbus fleet features the convertible seats that can be changed flexibly from 6 to 5 seats per row) while we went to the back section of the aircraft to take our seats in Economy. But even there, seats were quite comfortable, with a movable head-rest and decent leg-space. The seats were even equipped with an audio system, but this didn’t seem to be in use on that flight (at least they didn’t give out any headphones).
As I had already mentioned, load factor on this flight was quite low. There were about 45 pax in Economy Class and 2 in Business. So after boarding had been completed, Alex went to a window seat on the right side while I stayed in my reserved seat 18A, so each of us had a row for himself.
The captain made a welcome announcement before take-off, followed by the safety demo of the cabin crew which was done manually, although the aircraft was equipped with video screens. A tape in German language was played as well.
We were off-block at 07:20 and taxied the long way to the Eastern end of the runway.
An Air Berlin B 737-800, waiting for its flight to PMI:
Terminals 1 (left), 2 (middle section) and 3 (right) of Stuttgart Airport:
We entered the runway without waiting time and took off in Western direction:
Southern Germany is covered with snow and ice:
The town of Boeblingen:
The DaimlerChrysler car factory at Sindelfingen:
Shortly after, we disappeared in the clouds, and there was not much to see outside for the remaining flight. Luckily, the video screens were put down and they were showing the air show for the whole flight:
At least no stupid candid camera scenes or other silly stuff like on many other airlines! So, as you can see, our flight route was STR – North of LUX – BRU – crossing the Channel to LHR.
Cabin crew distributed coffee, tea, water and Scottish shortbread biscuits, the only on-board catering that was available. They explained the current situation and apologized for any inconvenience. I had a look into my snack bag and found two different kinds of sandwich (turkey and cheese), a muffin, a yoghurt and an orange juice:
The items are similar to what you get on these flights when catering is normal, so there is absolutely no disadvantage for the passenger. However, I wonder why we had to collect the snack bags in the gate area and why they didn’t take them on the plane and distribute them during flight. Not that it would have bothered me – I just found it a bit strange.
An in-flight cabin shot:
The British Channel coastline:
We started our descent into LHR. Some town in the Southeast of London:
Some suburbs of London:
We touched down on runway 27L of LHR. On the way to our gate at Terminal 1, we passed Terminal 2 where an LH CRJ was parked that had arrived from STR as well:
Then we came to stand on a parking position in the old part of Terminal 1. We were the last passengers to leave the aircraft, and I took a picture of the Economy Class section:
We thanked the crew and went through immigration (quickly) to the arrivals area. Then we took a Hotel Hoppa bus to our hotel, the famous Heathrow Renaissance Hotel. We had got a very good rate: GBP 64.63 (about EUR 95.00) for a room per night (breakfast not included). Not too bad for London, and especially for this view (note: the BA 320 is the aircraft from our flight):
Some more pics taken from our hotel room:
The Tower of London:
Later that day, we walked to the end of the runway to watch some movements. Suddenly, our way was blocked and we had to wait until a BA 777 on its way to maintenance had crossed the road:
On the next morning, at about 10:00, we took a bus back to the airport.
Sunday, 27 November 2005
London Heathrow (LHR) – Stuttgart (STR)
Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA 920
Scheduled departure time: 14:15
Scheduled arrival time: 16:50 (local time; time difference + 1 hour, so flight time was 1:35)
Type of aircraft: Airbus A 319-100
This aircraft was built and delivered to British Airways in 2001.
Terminal 1 was not too busy on that Sunday morning:
We found a check-in counter where only one passenger was in front of us. There were more than four hours left until departure, so we didn’t expect any problems with getting a window seat. However, the agent gave us some B and C seats at first. We asked if there weren’t any window seats left and she said no. The only option she could offer us was the exit row, but she told us that we had to expect in fact a door there, and not a window … Well, we kindly accepted that detail and got seats number 9A and 9B, sequence numbers 59 and 60. The reason for this packed flight is supposed to be BA’s schedule on the LHR-STR route: There are 3 BA-flights every day, the first one leaves LHR at 07:10 which is too early for most of the inbound long-haul connection flights. So everybody arriving with BA at LHR in the morning (later than about 06:15) and continuing to STR has to wait for the second flight at 14:15 which is usually quite full then. The third flight leaves LHR at 18:20.
We saw some sings of BA in the terminal saying that passengers on flights without catering could get some food vouchers. As we hadn’t got any information at check-in, we asked a lady at the ticket counter. She wasn’t sure about the situation on flights to Germany herself, so she sent us over to a special customer service counter where the food vouchers were distributed. We showed our boarding passes and each of us got a food voucher of GBP 5.00, redeemable in practically all food outlets in Terminal 1.
Then we passed security check and did some airside spotting in the gate area of Terminal 1. We saw our aircraft from the day before again:
Later we went to a snack bar and bought some food: While I had the “classic” airline meal (a sandwich, a cake and a Coke), Alex had some take-away sushi. The amount of GBP 5.00 seems to be rightly chosen; you can get the same food which is usually served on board for that sum.
The gate for our flight was announced about 30 minutes before departure. Our A 319 was already waiting:
Boarding started shortly after. We were welcomed by our cabin crew (two female, one male). This time there were only 3 rows of Business Class. Economy Class was fully booked, no free seat available, and even Business Class seemed to be nearly full. We took our seats in the exit row.
Alex is enjoying the huge leg-space:
We were off-block on time and taxied to runway 27R. Entering the runway:
Taking off (unfortunately, the window was quite dirty from the outside):
Here you can see parts of the new Terminal 5 (still under construction) between the wing and the window:
The lake behind the runway:
Then we were above the clouds for the remaining flight, so there was nothing to see outside. At least we had the air-show again. By the way: other than on our A 320 on the first flight, the A 319 wasn’t equipped with an audio system.
Service was like on our flight the day before with coffee, tea, water and biscuits.
After about 1:20 flight we started our descent into STR and landed on the single runway on time. After taxiing to the same parking position in front of the Terminal where we had left the day before, we left the aircraft.
Clearing customs took quite a while as the flight had been full and they don’t have too many custom staff members at STR as most flights here are Schengen-flights anyway.
We said good-bye to each other and left STR by train into different directions again.
Conclusion: From my point of view, BA is still among the top airlines when travelling within Europe. Staff is friendly and professional, and catering is above average, even now during these catering problems. While I really wonder why it takes that long to solve the problem (after all, the strike is about 3 months ago now), they offer alternatives to the passengers on all flights affected. The only small disadvantage was that we had to ask actively for the food vouchers at LHR, so if we hadn’t asked because we hadn’t known about the problem, we probably wouldn’t have got any food for that flight.
Flights were on time and prices on BA are usually quite competitive: a Germanwings flight to STN would have been only about EUR 10.00 cheaper on the dates of our travel, and I will always pay EUR 10.00 more for a good service and a flight into LHR rather than ending up at STN. So BA is still highly recommendable.
Thanks for reading my report – questions and comments are always welcome.
MH017 From Netherlands, joined Apr 2005, 1633 posts, RR: 32 Reply 1, posted (8 years 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 7343 times:
Really enjoyed your trip-report and well documented pictures !
Agree with you, that BA is still a fantastic way to fly, even more so, considering they're only 10EUR more expensive than Germanwings ...(and with the train fare STN-LON v.v. you would have even paid more, than BA to go to the Heathrow hotel you visited)...
LeonB1985 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 3, posted (8 years 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 7311 times:
Nice report - just for future reference, the Hotel Hoppa buses at LHR are very, very overpriced. It's far better to take one of the normal London buses which pass almost all the hotels on Bath Road and (unless you are leaving the airport) are free.
FLIEGER67 From Ethiopia, joined Sep 2003, 4758 posts, RR: 56 Reply 4, posted (8 years 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 7291 times:
high standard story and pix as always.
Reminds me to my BA flight in late August on the very same service, with the same catering situation.
IMO not bad for me, I had my whole day coke supply on behalf of BA!.
Flight route was also similar and my overall impression of BA, too.
Funny coincidence, I was yesterday on an ContactAir ATR 42 and write this reply today to ContactAir.
Ryanair737 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 5, posted (8 years 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 7285 times:
Quoting Contact Air (Thread starter): However, I wonder why we had to collect the snack bags in the gate area and why they didn’t take them on the plane and distribute them during flight. Not that it would have bothered me – I just found it a bit strange.
I think this is because the snack bags were done for British Airways by a STR based catering company so obviously it just makes more sense to collect one yourself if you want one. It is also less hassle for the cabin crew doing it this way.
TriStar500 From Germany, joined Nov 1999, 4690 posts, RR: 45 Reply 6, posted (8 years 3 days 3 hours ago) and read 7023 times:
Very nice report as usual, Christoph! I have to agree with your conclusion - I am becoming increasily weary of LCC "cattle calls" and the "free boarding stampede" myself, so if a quality airline like BA charges only a few Euros more than the no-frills competition, I happily go for the better product.
Homer: Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that's even remotely true!
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8352 posts, RR: 55 Reply 7, posted (8 years 3 days ago) and read 6921 times:
Nice report Christoph, as usual
Quoting Contact Air (Thread starter): Most of you might have heard of the catering problems at LHR: About three months ago, there was a dispute between the Gate Gourmet staff and the management, leading to a strike that lasted several days. But even after the strike had been over, things didn’t come back to normal and the catering problems last until today. As Gate Gourmet is BA’s supplier at LHR, they are mainly affected by this. I had checked the BA web page the day before and had read that catering was back to normal on all flights to and from LHR that lasted more than two hours, plus on the domestic network. As our flight was international and less than two hours, it would still be affected.
- I am still amazed the problem is still on going, very poor IMHO!
Quoting Contact Air (Thread starter): The seats were even equipped with an audio system, but this didn’t seem to be in use on that flight
-I've never been on a flight where it was used, I'm not sure if it ever will be as the A319 & A321's don't have it.
Quoting Contact Air (Thread starter): The items are similar to what you get on these flights when catering is normal, so there is absolutely no disadvantage for the passenger
-No, 'Y' pax are ok, it is the Club Europe pax that suffer. I flew back in Club from WAW last month, our 'goodie bag' was simply terrible!
-Yes they are, but they should do something more for pax paying Club fares, they are basically getting 'Y' service with lounge access at the moment - extra mileage or something would keep most of us happy.
Well, this time we visited only the airport, which was great. But I have been to the City of London several times as well - it's a fantastic place; my favourite city in Europe.
Quoting LeonB1985 (Reply 3): just for future reference, the Hotel Hoppa buses at LHR are very, very overpriced. It's far better to take one of the normal London buses which pass almost all the hotels on Bath Road and (unless you are leaving the airport) are free.
Thanks, Leon, for this information! You are right, the Hotel Hoppa is quite expensive, but we didn't know about the alternatives.
Quoting FLIEGER67 (Reply 4): Funny coincidence, I was yesterday on an ContactAir ATR 42 and write this reply today to ContactAir.
I hope you enjoyed your flight on "my" airline! I have to admit, I have never been on a Contact Air plane myself (what a shame...)
Quoting Ryanair737 (Reply 5): I think this is because the snack bags were done for British Airways by a STR based catering company so obviously it just makes more sense to collect one yourself if you want one. It is also less hassle for the cabin crew doing it this way.
Indeed it is less hassle for the cabin crew, especially on very short flights. So this might be an alternative for BA even when the problems are over, at least for very close destinations like AMS or BRU.
Quoting TriStar500 (Reply 6): I am becoming increasily weary of LCC "cattle calls" and the "free boarding stampede" myself
So do I - so if the price difference isn't too big, I will always go for full-frills where possible.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7): I've never been on a flight where it was used, I'm not sure if it ever will be as the A319 & A321's don't have it.
This is interesting. So if they don't use the audio system at all, it was really a waste of money from BA's point of view as I guess these systems aren't really cheap to install.
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 7): No, 'Y' pax are ok, it is the Club Europe pax that suffer. I flew back in Club from WAW last month, our 'goodie bag' was simply terrible!
I have never been on BA Club, so I can't comment on that. But I agree with you that Club passengers should receive a better service as they are the ones the airline is making money with. Do Club passengers get the same snack bags as the Economy pax at the moment? I thought catering in Club Class was back to normal, even on shorter flights?
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8352 posts, RR: 55 Reply 9, posted (8 years 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 6782 times:
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 8): Do Club passengers get the same snack bags as the Economy pax at the moment?
-Flying from LHR we get £10 in vouchers and a decent snack box to take from the lounge and eat on the plane,however, once on the plane the drink service is tea,coffee or water and none of the usual extra bits. When I flew from WAW they gave a voucher for use in a restaurant but I didn't have time to use it. The snack given at the gate was bigger than 'Y' pax, so I hate to think how bad their 'goodie bag' was.
Quoting Contact Air (Reply 8): I thought catering in Club Class was back to normal, even on shorter flights?
-It may be now,not sure as I've not flown since last month.
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2897 posts, RR: 24 Reply 10, posted (8 years 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 6614 times:
Hi Christoph and thanks for writing the report about our LHR flight! Very detailed, there's not much I can add, just like you I enjoyed the BA flights and have to say that BA is certainly the best alternative for the STR-LON route.
Also some great photos taken with your new camera, very nice!
ZRHnerd From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 11, posted (8 years 23 hours ago) and read 6530 times:
Very nice report! I always wanted to do a trip to the Renaissance hotel at LHR, but my dad cant be bothered to go with me and I cant be bothered to go on my own i flew ZRH-LHR-ZRH on BA a few days after the strikes started, but was very pleased to get food vouchers at both ZRH and LHR with which i actually was able to buy much more stuff than a normal in flight service would have included
N808NW From United States of America, joined Aug 2004, 374 posts, RR: 5 Reply 13, posted (8 years 16 hours ago) and read 6447 times:
I was spotting from the renaissance hotel back garden that Sunday afternoon, more than likely I saw your plane take off. I only got pics of "big" aircraft as I can see A319/20s at MSP :P (ill post em in a report soon)
Quoting LeonB1985 (Reply 3): the Hotel Hoppa buses at LHR are very, very overpriced. It's far better to take one of the normal London buses which pass almost all the hotels on Bath Road and (unless you are leaving the airport) are free.
I was going to ride one from terminal 2 to the hotel but it was too exspensive. the driver of the hoppa was nice enough to direct us (my grandad and I) to the london buses which were way cheaper.
All flights have great IFE...get yourself a window seat, thats something no PTV can beat! flew 808 Pacific an Atlanic
Ndebele From Germany, joined Apr 2001, 2897 posts, RR: 24 Reply 14, posted (7 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 5864 times:
By the way, I showed my SN Privilege card at the check-in for both flights. As the miles were still missing on my account, I claimed those missing miles, and just looked at my account - now I got the miles, 125 miles for each of the flights. Wow, now I'm 19,750 miles short of a free SN flight