Photo © Miguel Snoep
After years of burying their heads in the sand and hoping the budget airlines would go away, BA have finally seen the light and started doing the decent thing by lowering their fares and scrapping the Saturday night stay rule, all of which means that this was my second domestic flight on BA in the space of five weeks-the first was a day out in Manchester and now comes this day trip to Glasgow.
This was booked about a month ago on the BA website, and cost me ??136 for me and my wife. We could have got cheaper tickets but it would have meant having to leave later in the day which we didn't want to do. The BA website is much easier to make bookings on than it used to be-it seems to be modelled quite closely on what easyJet have been doing for years by pricing flights individually instead of as a return journey.
Having no hand luggage for such a short flight meant we were able to cycle to Heathrow...from our house to Terminal 4 is about 8 minutes by bike, or 10 minutes by car! After safely depositing our bikes at T4 we jumped on board the next available Heathrow Express train to terminals 123 and arrived in the main hall of terminal 1 at about 0645.
The priority at that point was to check in, and booking on BA.com meant I was able to use the self service machines. Of course with it being a Monday morning there was a big queue at the ticket sales desk and queues for the self service check in machines aswell (several of which were out of order!). Anyway, we were assigned seats 31E+F which seemed a little strange to me as the website had indicated the flights to be 737's in both directions and I didn't think 737's had that many rows. I also checked in for the return flights, 32E+F this time although I tried to change them to 32A+B as I would have preferred to be on the 'South side' for the final approach into LHR-the machine wouldn't let me change the seats but it wasn't that important so I didn't mind.
We had some breakfast in the landside part of the terminal and then went through the security screening so that we could sit in the lounge which has excellent views across runway 27R. My wife spent the next half hour reading a book while I was torn between watching the constant arrivals on the runway and watching USA v Mexico on the television, I tried to do both and inevitably ended up missing the USA score the first goal!
We got called to gate 76 at around 0750 and made our way over to what is a fairly recent addition to LHR and contains gates for BA/BMI/EI for domestic and Irish flights. It was about 0800 when we got to the gate and it was immediately obvious that the stand was empty and it was unlikely we would be pushing back on time at 0815, all we could do was wait....which we did until 0815 when G-BIKY arrived from the maintenance area. I wasn't all that surprised to see a 757 instead of a 737 but it's not often I get to fly the 757 so it was a pleasant change. We were amongst the first to board at about 0830 and by 0845 the doors were closed and we were ready to go. Somewhat unusually for me we boarded by the airbridge-four of my last five flights out of LHR have involved boarding from the tarmac! As has been the case on our last few flights together my wife ended up with the window seat but I didn't mind too much as she doesn't fly as much as I do and in any case the aisle seat was vacant so I had some extra room which was particularly helpful when we had the meal.The captain explained the reason for the delay-the aircraft had been parked in a 'dip' in the ramp at the maintenance area overnight and it had taken a second tug to pull it out of the dip and away to the gate-a strange excuse, it seems too far fetched to be untrue!
Pushback came at 0851, 45 minutes late, and taxiing to 27L took a further 20 minutes with take off at just after 0910. Rotation was swift and we took off at a fairly steep angle. As the ground fell away from below us I could see 8 United Airlines and 9 American Airlines aircraft parked around terminal three, plus a few Air Canada and SAS etc. We banked fairly sharply to the right and started to take a northerly course towards Glasgow, High Wycombe was noted passing below us followed shortly by a distant view of Luton airport, and then a few minutes later the city of Nottingham was drifting past our window-noticeable by having two football grounds and a cricket ground all next to each other. Unfortunately clouds obscured the view for much of the remainder of the flight, but by now breakfast was being served-bacon,mushrooms,an omelette and a fried tomato, plus the obligatory bread roll and orange juice. The food tasted good as it usually does on flights out LHR and was more than adequate for a one hour domestic flight....a three hour domestic flight on Qantas and all we got was breadsticks+dip and a small chocolate cake! They may be partners but when it comes to service BA and QF are miles apart!
The trays were cleared away and the seatbelt sign came on in readiness for what was expected to be a bumpy landing.Sure enough it got very bumpy as we descended through the cloud cover over the southern outskirts of Glasgow, we then took the sharp left turn in to approach from the north east of the city. The final approach was very bumpy but the view across the hills and valleys and then over the Clyde was very pleasant.
We landed at 1001 having made up about five minutes of the time we lost at LHR and parked at gate 19. Deplaning was swift since both the front and rear doors were in use and we got into the city centre at around 1045.
Photo © Gary Watt
We got back to Glasgow airport at about 1800 and spent some time looking around the shops before going through the security checkpoint, as we made our our way down the pier to gate 21 a very colourful Balkan holidays Russian built aircraft arrived (LZ-HWW), it had been at GLA when we arrived in the morning and was now returning with a cargo of holidaymakers having had their time in the sun. A couple of GO 737's were also in evidence along with a BMI 321,JMC 757,Brittania 757 and the usual selection of BA props from the outer reaches of Scotland.
I was glad to see another 757 awaiting our presence, G-BPEC this time. I presume that BPEC is used for medium haul work aswell as it is fitted with headphone sockets in the armrests and three TV monitors throughout the cabin. Departure was pretty much on time and it only took a couple of minutes to taxi down to runway 23 from where we initial headed off towards Kintyre. Two minutes after take off we headed south towards Turnberry VOR passing the harbour port of Ardrossan in the process. In no time at all I saw Prestwick airport below us and then the town of Ayr-the view was then obscured by clouds as we climbed up to our cruising altitude of 37000 feet. Dinner consisted of Chicken curry and some cheesecake, again it tasted good and was more than I expected.
The clouds began to part over the midlands, we were now well over halfway to LHR having been routed via Polehill and Trent VORs and now heading down to Daventry VOR. Birmingham airport was visible to our right, closely followed by Coventry airport.Just over five minutes later I caught a glimpse of the competition as an easyJet 737 streaked out of Luton on an upward trajectory and we did two laps of the holding pattern over the village of Chalfont. As we did the Southbound leg of each loop I could clearly see LHR in the distance although it was only noticeable due to being so close to the Staines reservoirs which were shimmering in the evening light. Also in the holding pattern but just below us was a BMI 320 which gradually crept up on us until the bank angle gave the impression that we were flying side by side.
After leaving the holding pattern we passed over Watford town centre,then got a glorious view of Wembley Stadium (at least my last view of the old Wenbley will be my favourite view!) before continuing to Willesden and then turning right over Kensington to pick up the ILS for 27L. Now it was time for the familiar sights of the approach to LHR, Putney Bridge, Kew Gardens, Hounslow town centre and Hatton Cross tube station before touching down at 2050. We made our way past terminal three which by now was occupied mostly by aircraft heading east-Thai,Korean,Gulf,Emirates,Singapore etc, and arrived at gate 74 almost exactly on time at 2059. Deplaning took a great deal longer than it had done at Glasgow but was still fairly swift, and having no bags to collect meant we were able to get straight down to the Heathrow Express and back to terminal 4 by 2130. Nowhere near as good as last time when I managed to get from the front door of a 737 to the front door of my house in under 25 minutes!
So it was a good day out all round, the delay in the morning was an obvious disappointment but the on board service was very good in both directions-as was the food. Booking the ticket was easy and the price was very good-I have no complaints about any part of the experience and I know it's only a matter of time before I book my next daytrip with BA. Coincidentally I booked flights to SIN/KUL the following day, and the positive experience we had with the Glasgow trip was probably what made the difference between booking BA and booking Malaysian airlines.
Thanks for reading......