Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA8113
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Seat: 04A (Club Europe - Business Class)
Date: Sunday 25th September
Photo © Paul Dopson - AirTeamImages
Photo © Jenny Coffey
Decided to book another one of my little daytrip jaunts to Europe since it had been a couple of weeks since I’d been to Dublin at the beginning of August and the BA catering debacle and a great number of European leisure destinations seemed to make flying out of Gatwick an obvious choice. A few emails later and I had a companion for my trip We arranged to take the first flight out of Gatwick to Amsterdam and come home on the last allowing a good few hours to enjoy ourselves in the city. The aircraft were showing as A319 on the outbound with four rows of Club Europe and the return on the 737 had three rows which suggested light loads up front. In order to stick together myself and flyba kept our seats the same throughout the superb Manage My Booking (see thumbnail for similar screenshot) and Online Check-In stages.
The left hand side of the aircraft was preferable in order to take advantage of the mini ‘B’ seat which isn’t available on the starboard side of the aisle.
I awoke, as per usual for my trips out of Gatwick at about 5am and left home in driving rain about an hour later. The sun slowly rose, lightening up the M3 and M25 en route as such Pink Floyd and the sounds of Pulse seemed a very appropriate soundtrack. I pulled up at the Long Stay Car Park for the North Terminal having pre-booked in advance and parked somewhere in the acres of automobiles before heading to the bus shelter. I was due to meet flyba at the escalators near the BA Premium Check-In Area and although I’d passed through the area a number of times this summer it was always at some ungodly time of day so I was usually pretty dazed. Alas it became pretty obvious when I entered the building where the escalators were! I visited a Self Service Check In machine and printed off both my boarding passes and we made our way through Fast Track Security, a good old Gatport Airwick patdown was my first physical contact with a human being that day and after gathering bag, phone, umbrella and wallet we nipped over to the BA lounge complex to get breakfast. The First Lounge was fairly busy with morning flights to Caribbean and others flying to Europe (judging by the announcements).
BA First Lounge at Gatwick
flyba and myself took a seat at the far end of the lounge and ordered toast and bacon rolls off the menu before settling in until boarding with a glass or three of the rose champagne on offer; today a Bellefon which wasn’t too bad. A sign that you don’t have to pay the earth to buy a decent drop of the stuff. The other option was a Charles Heidsieck Mis En Cave, the stuff I tend to pollute with cassis in Club World.
flyba and myself enjoying Bellefon rose while choosing from the menu
Breakfast! (apologies for blurriness caused by bad light!)
Our flight began boarding after spending around forty five minutes in the lounge by which time we had been joined by a couple of screaming babies >:- . So much for the tranquil setting of the First lounge, this annoyed me a little as the Terraces Lounge next door had a perfectly good children’s playroom which could have kept the children much happier than they would have been in the First Lounge and alas wouldn’t have been disrupting everyone within!
Anyways enough rants of small children, it was time to board, and as we approached the gate it seemed awfully quiet and we found out we were amongst the last to board. We settled into 4A and 4C whereby the very efficient purser Chris came and collected coats from us. The Club Europe cabin was filling up and we were joined by nine others spread amongst the cabins four rows.
We taxied round past the hotch potch of airlines that make up the South Terminal (some I hadn’t even heard of!) before taking off to the west and am sure we banked round to the north but was otherwise occupied! The short flight means a brisk service is order of the day, albeit not as quick as my trip to Jersey a months back but brisk nonetheless! Both myself and flyba were offered a choice from the bread basket and a drink, and naturally opted for champagne even if the Monopole was inferior to the offerings of the First Lounge.
Club Europe fry-up
Chris, one of our two pursers was rather switched on and came offerings seconds on the champers before we’d finished round four (counting rounds one to three in the lounge ) although I was almost too busy enjoying the weightier new metal cutlery to notice!
I believe that is what they call in the trade ‘a big whirly thing that makes the air-o-plane move’
I admired the view from the window and watched our trays and glasses slide forward as the pilot nudged forward on the joystick a little too much. Does anyone how badly champagne stains jeans? Chris ran to the cockpit and said to ease back as he could us struggling to keep it all together in row 4 (just kidding) but the descent did even out a touch and at one stage it felt almost as if we were circling to allow us to finish our food because as soon as the trays disappeared in the direction of the galley the curtains were whisked open and seatbelt sign illuminated. The flat lands of the Netherlands appeared below as did Schiphol control tower on the horizon damn the Polderbaan!) Alas it appeared as if the Captain had been taking taxiing lessons from Emerson Fittipaldi and we were steaming towards the terminal! Myself and flyba were amongst the first to disembark and begin the trek towards the Arrivals area to catch the train into the city….
Route: Amsterdam (Schiphol) – London Gatwick (North Terminal)
Airline: British Airways
Flight number: BA8120
Aircraft: Boeing 737
Seat: 02A (Club Europe - Business Class)
Date: Sunday 25th September
Photo © William van Wanrooy
Photo © Guy Daems - Brussels Aviation Photography
We started our walk back to Centraal Station at about 5pm, a little too late for the 5.37pm train to Schiphol but a little too early for the already delayed 5.52pm service. My feet were killing me thanks to all the walking but with nowhere to sit I just had to lean on my unused, unfurled umbrella and wait. The site of the yellow double decker was very welcome and we awaited the departure for some fifteen or so minutes as the carriage filled to the gunwales. A couple of stops and then the train descending into darkness signified that our destination was close by. We disembarked along with literally hundreds of other people and battled our way up broken escalator and moving walkway to arrive in the large atrium. We then walked round to the BA check-in desk area to get through security. A ‘Business and First passengers’ sign looked very promising until we approached it to find it unpoliced, the line stretching to many dozens of people. We noticed the blue signage of the BA check-in desk where we were told to try further another security line further down the terminal building. Again very busy but I spied an EU Passport line with no line so we battled to the front. Again, received a frisking from the security guy and put my clothes back on as we followed the illuminated directions to the British Airways Terraces lounge. The lounge was fairly large, comprising two decent sized rooms each with own bar but both were rather empty. A sea of sky blue and white aircraft were seen on the apron below including a Flying Blue logojet. I had an airliners.net moment and snapped it just for you readers
KLM Flying Blue logojet
A nose around the lounge revealed a new addition to the BA lounge concept…a Cup A Soap machine! With six flavours! Alas I had to try one Ok, not too great but hey, different. Then settled on red wine, I reliably informed by flyba that it was a good French but to be honest I couldn’t tell much other than it felt rather smooth! The white wine though was nice and refreshing after a lot of canal side walking and I sat admiring the view over the tarmac perusing Business Traveller magazine.
BA Terraces Lounge at Schiphol
It became apparent an AA Gold member was turned away from the lounge, last heard muttering, ‘I don’t fly enough for one those coloured cards’. Poor guy, almost felt like walking out of the lounge and inviting him in on my account! Charity aside it was almost time to collect belongings and head the light years across to our gate, definitely no fun on by now heavily blistered feet! The long walk was livened up by numerous calls to passengers whose ‘luggathe’ was due to be taken off the flight, quite how someone can lisp ‘ge’ I’m not sure, but how they get on a pre-recorded message is plain worrying (yet comical!)
Security was once again done at the gate and we were whisked onboard although others were kept in the holding pen. We were the first two passengers in Club Europe and with only three rows showing on Online Check-In and plenty of choice I thought it was possible we could be the only two in the cabin. No such luck and the late arrivals were left with no overhead space thanks to morons from EuroTraveller using the Club Europe overhead bins. I get especially pissy when I start to see people manhandling my luggage although on this occasion someone else was the victim of luggage molestation. People in EuroTraveller cannot use the bathroom upfront so why take the overhead space? >:-
Of note were a couple of interesting passengers who boarded, two black guys in sportswear in 1D and 1F who appeared to decked out in masses of jewellery and oversized watches and didn’t quite know what to do, looked all a bit at sea. Especially when they boarded with boarding passes for 1A and 1C and were slightly confused to see another chap and his make up clad wife in their seats! However the crew didn’t seem too bothered by this and instead chose to schmooze with the gentleman, we presumed he was a Premier card holder as the crew chose to fawn over him although none of the other Golds in the cabin received a similar treatment An A319 was on stand next to us probably bound for Heathrow, was interesting to note how much higher it sat compared to us in the 737.
Not long after the cabin filled up, we were joined by another 7 passengers in Club Europe, this figure including our jewellery laden friends in 1D and 1F and the Premier and his wife in 1A and 1C. Euro Traveller looked, as it always does, rather full which confirmed my thoughts that the aircraft is deliberately configured so that not too many passengers in the back get spare seats next to them.
We were back to manual demonstrations on the flight this evening and as we pushed back many of the other passengers nestled behind books, Financial Times and other magazines although I was quite impressed to see the Premier (if indeed he was one!) leading from the front (so to speak in an Executive Club hierarchy kind of sense!) and taking in the safety demonstration with some enthusiasm! The briefing passed just enough time for us to reach the runway threshold which thankfully wasn’t the Polderbaan!
As we took off I noticed a lot of the greenhouses close to the airport, each a dim shade of yellow, this was to be my final view of the Netherlands before cloud obscured my view during the climb. Once again the service was to be brisk and the bread basket did the rounds, alas between myself and flyba we concluded that we were to get the Chicken with mango and salad, as enjoyed on my (fairly) recent Jersey trip. ( BA Club Europe: Gatwick-Jersey-Gatwick (with Pics) (by Fbgdavidson Jul 19 2005 in Trip Reports) ) And then soon after it was spied being handed to the row 1 passengers!
Chicken with Mango salad (note the metal cutlery)
As per routine now we both ordered champagne (again Monopole) and used the seatback table from the ‘B’ seat to store dead bottles, alive bottles, cutlery and other mildly useful things that our own trays couldn’t handle. Strangely we didn’t feel too rushed by the crew and just as the cloud below cleared a timely announcement was made that we were cruising over the North Sea at 28,000 feet which put to bed my alcohol fuelled thoughts that the lights on coastline far off in the distance were northern France and that we were coming into Gatwick at a very odd angle. It actually appeared it was still (some 30mins after takeoff!) the Dutch coast and we were coming in over the Thames Estuary. A second drinks round was made complete with coffee and tea soon before the descent. I was utterly disorientated, it wasn’t the alcohol , I just didn’t feel the aircraft banking much despite the ‘cabin crew 10 minutes to landing announcement’ and soon I saw the lights on the ground getting closer and closer. We landed over the M23 and taxied around to the new part of the North Terminal that meant crossing the recently opened bridge. The pier itself felt similar to the ‘50’ numbered gates at LHR Terminal 1 with the passenger walkways looking over the departure gates and then we turned the corner to be greeted by an enormous escalator up to the pieste de resistance, the over taxiway bridge. Very spectacular even in the dark, would have been nice to see something go underneath it. Nevertheless maybe another time…preferably in daylight
Immigration was painless as to be expected and the last thing of note was two bottles of Laurent Perrier for some BAA Worldpoints thing that flyba was wittering on about which earned enough for 12 upgrades on Heathrow Express or something, however, I passed as keeping control of my BA Exec Club is enough for me!
Overall a great day out, taking in a great city, a great couple of flights and good weather to boot. The consistency of Club Europe added to the experience, no surprises here!
Next trip: London Heathrow – Washington Dulles in BA First (Friday 30th September)