British Airways, Brussels – London Heathrow – Brussels, Wednesday 01 March 2006
After I had finished a few exams in January, I thought that the time was right to book a little day trip to some place in Europe.
My last flight with British Airways dated back already from September 2004 (used BMI
for my flights to London and Manchester ever since). The combination of British Airways – London Heathrow is a combination I’ve always liked (Heathrow is always interesting to visit, and British Airways is one of my favourite airlines), so I decided to fly down to LHR
for a day.
Booking your e-tickets on line at ba.com is very easy, and a few minutes after I had booked my flight, I received my confirmation e-mail.
I used the excellent Manage My Booking-facility at ba.com the day before departure, and checked myself in for both flights. One of the fantastic features of BA
on line check-in is that you can select your own seat. I took 13F for BRU
(27L would be in use for landings on that morning, so I opted for an F-seat to see downtown London from the air), and 11F for LHR
(runway 27L would be in use for departures on that evening, so the F-seat would allow me to see the construction site of Terminal 5 once again from the air).
Wednesday 01 March, 2006
It had been snowing for quite a few hours during the evening/night, so I was hoping that my train to the airport would run on time (30 minutes delay or more, and I would have missed my flight). Exactly on time, the “Brussels Airport Express” left Ghent at 04:30 in the morning, arriving at 06:00 at the airport.
I picked up my boarding passes at one of the four self service check-in machines, and entered the queue for passports control. When it was my turn, a friendly police officer waived me over, and I was in the queue for security screening only a few minutes afterwards.
BIAC has, as promised, installed more security machines, to reduce the length of the queues at security. However, with only one counter open, there was quite a lengthy queue in front of me. I was through security about 15 minutes later (all Servisair-staff members were friendly as usual, I don’t get it why so many people always seem to have problems with them).
I had breakfast at one of the coffee counters, and made a short walk through the Terminal afterwards. There wasn’t anything special parked, as it was still very early (about 6:40 at that time). Austrian Airlines’ brand new A319, OE-LDG, was night stopping, together with a fairly recent Fokker 50-addition to the VLM fleet, namely OO
There wasn’t that much snow on the apron, so I didn’t expect much problems, until the following announcement was made around 07:00: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is an announcement for all British Airways, American Airlines and SN
Brussels Airlines passengers booked on British Airways flight 389 to London Heathrow: we have just been informed by the airport authorities that the airport has been closed due to weather circumstances. We regret to inform you that your flight is delayed by one hour. We will update you when we have new information.”.
This was almost immediately followed by a general announcement of BIAC: “Ladies and Gentlemen, we regret to inform you that the airport is now closed for one hour due to weather circumstances. We apologize for any inconvenience”.
A queue immediately formed at the BA
counter, as quite some people were worried about their connection. Of course, none of the three gate agents could give us more information.
When the queue had disappeared, I started chatting with one of the friendly BA
-ladies about the flight. She told me that she hoped that the we would be able to leave after one hour, as it would be tight otherwise for quite some transfer passengers. At the end, she offered me a newspaper for free, after I had asked her whether there were any newspaper shops in the Terminal.
flight was boarding in the meantime, and I counted about 35 passengers boarding the A319. Not a very high load factor! Looking at the cheap fares currently offered by BMI
between Brussels and Heathrow, I don’t think they made much money on this service (unless a lot of C-class passengers were on this flight of course).
Brussels to London Heathrow
Airbus A321-200 G-EUXG
Scheduled - actual time of departure 07:10 – 08:57
Scheduled - actual time of arrival: 07:30 – 09:20
Flight time: 50 minutes
Boarding was announced around 7:30, and all passengers were greeted by two friendly BA
flight attendants at the door. We were directed to our seats, mine being 13F.
A picture of G-EUXG at Gate B04 (sorry for the window reflection):
The leather seats were as comfortable as usual, and it became clear very soon that we had a light load this morning (about 15 people in C-class and about 60 in Y-class I guess). I had a whole row for myself, and stretched out as I expected quite a lengthy wait before we would be airborne.
A picture of my window, covered with ice:
The Captain introduced himself by name (I didn’t understand his name), welcomed us on board, and excused himself for the fact that we were running behind schedule. He also introduced the First Officer (James), and told us that James would be the pilot flying us to LHR
He also urged us to watch the safety video very carefully, and announced a flight time of about 40 minutes. He told us to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, thanked us and wished us a nice flight (I love those detailed announcements – communication is the key!).
8:00 in the meantime… de-icing should have started already. The Captain came on the PA again, and told us that de-icing would take a little longer than anticipated. He thanked us again for our patience.
De-icing finally arrived at 8:15, while the cabin crew were handing out drinks. I got an apple juice first, and some still water about five minutes later (the flight attendant mistakenly thought that I hadn’t been served yet, and I gladly accepted the second drink as I was a little thirsty
At this point, one of the flight attendants was walking through the cabin with a list of all passengers, and the connections all of them had to make. She did this in such a professional way, that I e-mailed BA
Customer Service the day after my flight, to thank her for the excellent service she provided to all passengers.
8:25 in the meantime (1h15 after our schedule departure): the Captain announces that we are being de-iced, and that we should be airborne in the next 20-25 minutes. He also warned us for a lengthy departure queue as suddenly, all flights were departing at the same time (now that the airport had re-opened again). He thanked us once again for our patience, and told us that he would do his utmost to get us into LHR
as soon as possible (ask ATC for direct routings, etc.).
In the meantime, several flight attendants once again walked through the cabin and took care of the passengers with connections.
8:30 in the meantime: co-pilot James enters the cabin to check the wings for ice, and we were getting fully ready for departure in the meantime.
We pushed back at 8:57, almost two hours late, and James came on the PA shortly afterwards to wish us a good morning, to thank us for our continuous patience, and to let us know that quite some aircraft were in front of us for take off.
With a delay of 2h05, we were airborne from Runway 25R at 9:15. Unfortunately, the de-icing liquid on my window didn’t really dry up and disappear, so I couldn’t take any pictures during the remainder of the flight
This is a picture of my window, at cruising altitude (usually around 18 000 feet on BA
flights between LHR
, while BMI
always climbs to about 24 000 feet). As you can see, it was very difficult to enjoy the beautiful blue sky
Breakfast was served, and everybody received a hot panini (there was a ham & cheese panini, and a vegetarian panini). I opted for the ham & cheese, and it tasted OK
(although I prefer the ‘old’ BA
breakfast with a large piece of cake, a yoghurt and a fruit salad). Unfortunately, BA
drastically reduced their in-flight catering after the Gate Gourmet problems were solved at the end of 2005.
We all got some orange juice as well, and a selection of drinks to chose from (I opted for some tea).
It was 8:35 UK time, when James announced that we had “a lovely view of Dover on the left”. He also announced good weather conditions in London, and that we would start our approach shortly (with about 15 minutes to go before landing).
Our trays were cleared, and all passengers with tight connections were allowed to go to Business Class, so that they would be the first to get off the aircraft. The assistance of the crew was once again fantastic: they guided the passengers to C-class in a very friendly way, and stowed the trolleys of some elderly people in the overhead bins.
We had a marvellous sight of downtown London in the meantime (the Thames with well known sightings like the Tower Bridge), and I noticed a VLM F50 on approach to London City. Unfortunately, the condition of my window still didn’t allow me to take any pictures
We touched down at 9:05, almost two hours late, and James came on the PA that there was some congestion on the taxiway we needed to taxi to our gate. After waiting for about ten minutes on the taxiway (which obviously caused that several people must have missed their connecting flight), we taxied to our gate. James told us that he appreciated our patience (and to be honest, I didn’t hear anybody complaining due to the professional attitude of both the cabin crew and cockpit crew), and he thanked us on behalf of himself, the Captain and the cabin crew, and wished us a good day.
When leaving the aircraft, I thanked the crew standing at the door for the excellent flight. When I had left the aircraft, I noticed that the flight attendant (her name started with “Mell”) was standing in the jetway, assisting the people with connections. I thanked her as well for her professional approach towards the passengers.
London Heathrow Airport
After waiting in line for about 10 minutes at Immigrations, I went to the Terminal 4 bus station to catch the 555/556/557 to Harlington Corner. I got of the bus at the BA
Maintenance area, where a South African Airways B744 was parked, together with a Qantas B744 and several BA
B772’s and B744’s. I proceeded to the Visitors Centre where I stayed until noon.
After a visit to the local Mc Donalds (the cheapest option if you want to eat something in the neighbourhood of the airport), I made the long walk from the Visitors Centre to Hatton Cross, where I went to Myrtle Avenue to see the landing traffic for about half an hour. I left at 13:00, and went back airside after a quick stop at the BP
Gas Station to buy a sandwich and something to drink.
Once at Hatton Cross, I took the free “Terminal 4 Shuttle” replacing the Underground service.
I went through passports control afterwards, where the female officer wished me a nice flight, and proceeded to Security. There was a short line of people waiting to be screened, and as usual, I said “good afternoon” to person who was directing everybody into the right queue.
I didn’t like his reply though: “I wish you a good afternoon as well, and select you for additional screening”. No more “good afternoons” from me to security officers in London in the future
The additional screening was quite strange: I had to stand up in several strange positions, while he was x-raying me.
At the end, I also had to go through normal security, before I could enter Terminal 4.
I spent the afternoon near the big windows of Gate 09 (from where you can see both runways).
A picture, taken from the big window at Gate 09:
afternoon services to New York JFK
boarded through Gate 9, and it was always interesting to see how the gate agents were stressing to get all passengers on board in time. Judging from the huge crowd waiting for every flight, those 747’s must have been well filled.
And of course, every time when the flight had to close, there were still two or three passengers missing, who arrived on all occasions right before the doors were closed (without running or anything, just acting like nothing had happened).
Of course, there is always something funny happening whenever I’m on a day out to an airport in Europe… Somewhere in the evening (it was already dark outside), a friendly African lady started chatting with me. She told me that her flight was only leaving an hour later. When I asked her where she was going to, she told me that she was heading to New York – Newark. “Euhm… so you are flying on the BA187??” (I had checked the screens five minutes earlier). “Yes, that’s my flight”. This flight was actually CLOSING when I checked the screens five minutes earlier, so when I told her that she had to run to her gate, she started panicking and screaming around. So I grabbed her hand luggage, and told her to follow me (as she was really in panic).
I checked the flight information screens to know through which gate her flight was boarding, and ran with her to Gate 02 (which was about to close). The gate agent saw us coming, and she was luckily accepted for the flight. She thanked me, and I walked around a little in Terminal 4, as it was too dark in the meantime to spot.
About an hour later, my flight was called for boarding, so I entered the queue at Gate 20.
London Heathrow to Brussels
Airbus A319-100 G-EUOA
Scheduled - actual time of departure 19:40 – 19:52
Scheduled - actual time of arrival: 21:50 – 21:55
Flight time: 43 minutes
Thanks to the fact that I checked-in on line a day earlier, I had managed to get a seat in the section which is convertible to Business Class. This meant that I could enjoy a 34inch seat pitch, which is a big plus when you measure 1m93 (6’5’’).
Two flight attendants were greeting the passengers at the door. I proceeded to my seat, and took a picture of G-EUPB
on our right side, being readied for departure to Oslo. The tail of the BA
Airbus A321 parked behind G-EUPB
, was G-EUXE
which was being readied for departure to Paris CDG
I didn’t take any further outside pictures as it too dark. The Captain came on the PA, and introduced herself and the co-pilot by name. Both the Captain and the First Officer were female (never happened to me on the 60 flights I’ve taken before). Glad to see more female pilots!
She also introduced the cabin crew by name, and shortly afterwards, we were off blocks (about ten minutes late).
The load factor on this flight was quite good, with about 25 people in the first six rows of C-class, and with a load of about 80 % in Y-class. I started chatting with my seat neighbours, who had just returned from Harare, Zimbabwe, on a B772 of BA
. They went to HRE
to visit their daughter. It was quite an interesting chat, which continued till we got off the plane about an hour later!
The lights in the cabin were switched off, and we were airborne after a very powerful take off roll of only 20 seconds (although it was a rolling take off) from runway 27L.
As it was too dark to take pictures outside, I made a picture of the in flight screens, shortly after take off:
Dinner was served shortly afterwards, and I was lucky to be on a service-flight (BA388 and BA400 are currently the only two LHR
flights with a real service, you get a drink with pretzels on all other flights).
We got an egg mayonnaise sandwich (no choice) with a fruit salad. There was a large selection of drinks available, and I opted for a Gin & Tonic (as I wanted to try to sleep a little on the long 1h30 train journey back to Ghent). Excellent service on this short flight!
The rest of the flight was uneventful, and after the standard KERKY-BRUNO arrival, we touched down on time at Runway 25L.
I said goodbye to my seat neighbours, thanked the crew for the nice flight, and ran in exactly six minutes (!!!!) from the door of the aircraft to the train station, where I jumped on the train of 22:04 to Ghent. Seconds later, the doors were closed, and it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at all on the boring 1h30 journey. A lot of train guards just don’t bother to make any announcements, but this one was just too active. He made an announcement every time the train departed to announce the next station, and every time before the train arrived in the next station, he made an announcement again. This train stops 13 times on the way to Ghent, which means 26 announcements on the 90 minutes trip to Ghent (= an announcement every three minutes on average preceded by a very shrill “ding-dong” on this particular train). This while the train was actually empty (I was the only one sitting in my compartment).
I was finally home after the long 90-minutes drive, which spelled the end of a very pleasant day trip.
British Airways performed excellent on both flights. Cabin crew were excellent, the service was very pleasant and generous, and the cockpit crew kept us up-to-date all the time. BA
’s marketing slogan suggests that they are the World’s favourite airline. I can only speak for myself of course, but for me, they really are the World’s favourite!
Thanks for the enjoyable flights, British Airways!
Thank you for reading this trip report! I wanted to make a short report of both flights, but without realizing it, I suddenly had seven pages in Microsoft Word… so my apologies for in case that this was a boring read!
All comments are welcome as usual…