I read the majority of Trip Reports posted and enjoy both the factual content and the often “witty and tongue-in-cheek” dialogue - recent favourites include PumaKnight’s transatlantic trip. In addition, I particularly enjoy the re-positioning and domestic US trip reports which generally include a great deal of detail and seem to involve the A.nutter in overcoming every obstacle thrown up by the Aviation industry. So I thought I would share a UK domestic experience for our global colleagues…
Called down to Heathrow by the Head Office boys and girls for a meeting, not the best use of a day off but then I realised that this was a great opportunity to pick up a last minute Valentine’s Day present for the wife at airport prices! BA operates one class domestically with the fare (flexibility) of the ticket determining status – I was on a fully flexible ticket on this occasion in case the meeting overran and therefore classed as Business UK. This allows Lounge access and the ability to choose a seat well in advance of Online check-in opening. Goes without saying though that as a BA Gold cardholder, lounge access wouldn’t have been a problem!
The Trip …
As I said at the start I’m just aiming to share a typical UK domestic experience and as I was travelling in uniform I didn’t think it appropriate to be snapping away with a Canon; so all photos were taken with my Nokia 6234 in Flight Safe mode. (No rules were broken – the phone was off for T/O and landing and on as a MP3 player when okay to do so).
BA’s website is in my opinion one of the best in the business for usability and functionality; the Manage Booking screen illustrates the options and I’ve attached the online check-in seat selection screen.
|BA.Com's Manage Booking Service|
|BA.COM's - Online Check-in - Which seat to pick?|
As is the case with this wonderful industry the day didn’t go as planned; fog played a key part and I only mention it because there was a thread the other day bashing BA for being unable to cope with fog. As was robustly pointed out by BA777ER236 it’s not BA’s problem but the flow rate in LHR and consequently the London Area.
Edinburgh Airport is expanding rapidly at the moment and a long term development plan has been published by BAA. Additions include a new Multi Storey car park, the new Control Tower and a terminal extension to the North East – substantially reducing the use of buses.
|Edinburgh Airport - Main Terminal Building (from top of multi-storey car park)|
|Edinburgh Airport - North East Extension (6 new gates (14-19))|
|Edinburgh Airport - New Control Tower|
The terminal building is tidy, light and relatively airy. BA’s Self-Service kiosks are close to the door and the multi-storey car park, and were used without a hitch. Security, the area has been recently expanded, was a breeze at this time of day and I was airside within 5 minutes of parking.
|Edinburgh Airport - BA Self Service Area|
|BA Self Service Kiosk - Clear Interface|
|Edinburgh Airport - Heading along the first floor past the shops towards security|
|Edinburgh Airport - FlyBE Dash 8 on main apron|
|Edinburgh Airport - North East Extension Apron|
|Edinburgh Airport - North East Extension from the inside|
The BA Terraces Lounge was refurbished last year and consists of an attractive indoor area and an “external terrace” (outside the lounge but glass walled from the main departure lounge – a legacy from the smoking days I think). The usual muffins, fruit and beverages were available. I had missed the breakfast selections and was too early for the sandwiches.
|Edinburgh Airport - BA's Terraces Lounge|
A check of the screens revealed an on time departure, but delays to other flights, (e.g. AF5156 0655 departure to London City delayed to 1130) gave me a sense of unease. Continental 37 to Newark scheduled for 9am was delayed to 1415, but I guess this was an issue with the incoming aircraft from the States. I quickly checked the BA website from the business PCs in the lounge to discover that BA was predicting a 1hr late arrival into LHR. HHmmmm, a quick check of the weather indicated that a skirt of fog was in and around Heathrow and whilst not too bad over the field was presumably playing havoc with the flow rate.
Now I’m obviously very sympathetic to the staff dealing with this situation, indeed the crews were playing catchup for the remainder of the day – more later. But the one negative note in my report is the information given out in the BA lounge at Edinburgh. Since BA closed down the regions their flights are handled by Aviance who shall we say don’t appear to have same “pride in the brand”. Certainly in Edinburgh, the most experienced BA staff chose not to transfer to Aviance; it was more advantageous to take redundancy payments.
Politics over! Enquiring at the desk I was advised that we would board on time with a slot time of 11am – no problem the timetable to Heathrow has a bit of padding. One second later, the same lady then made an announcement that boarding was delayed to 11am – I hadn’t walked a step away yet... obviously a very dynamic relationship between BA Ops and Aviance.
I found it quite enjoyable noting down the anecdotes that fellow A.nutters may like to read. I’ve went for a detailed report outbound and a much lighter report inbound. Hopefully I’ve got the balance right.
BA1441 G-EUPG A319-131 “Landside” - Gate 10 “Airside” – Stand 9 (Sched: 1040-1205)
|Edinburgh Airport - BA1441 G-EUPG waits patiently on Stand 9.|
|G-EUPG - Our Senior First Officer undertaking her Walkround.|
Almost 8 years old and an immaculate “Papa Golf” was sitting resplendent in the winter sun. Boarding commenced at 11:05 and I continued to sit at the gate watching the usual scrum. I was in the back row (22) on my own so there was no pressure - I would have the floor under the next seat for my case. PET HATE No. 1023 - thought I was last to board but at 11:18 a breathless couple arrived with their Costa Coffees. How can you be late for a late flight – offload them
Very friendly welcome from Captain D who introduced the entire crew, apologised for the weather and explained that we had a slot restriction until 1200. In addition, depending on its arrival an inbound shuttle from London may require the stand – so possibly off to a remote parking position. This is followed by a friendly welcome from purser T., or Cabin Services Director in new money.
Heathrow Delays - This is always a tricky time for the crew; I know from my own experiences flying the first shuttle of the day that very often the 0640 flight can be given a slot of 1500 if Heathrow is having a bad day. Priority goes to the long haul guys arriving into LHR, but frequently the slot rapidly comes forward. What is amusing though on the early flights is the business types who get up and leave the aircraft by 0720… do they really plan their day that tightly ?!? Anyway back to today, we’re kept up to date by the crew.
Looking around the cabin it is in fantastic shape, the leather seats are clean and shiny, the floor is clean and the legroom for me is okay (6 ft 1). Being a rear bulkhead seat of course it doesn’t recline. Already there are productive rattles from the rear galley. The only draw back in the cabin, is that Mr. HairGel has been leaning against my window – I wasn’t inclined to wipe it so not many pictures from the window.
|An empty row 22|
|BA 319 - Just about a full load. Although the early flights are business types these mid morning flights are popular - cheaper and also for long haul connections|
|One advantage to everything running late; the luggage is already out for the next aircraft on Stand 10.|
|and here it is.. Easy Airbus G-EZBL|
Nice touch from the crew; an elderly passenger has a sore ankle, probably knocked about by the bus driver from the staff/long haul car parks – can you take speed humps at 50mph? Bags of ice are brought from the galley, triple bagged and offered as an icepack.
Still not underway so I review the seat pocket – everything is present and surprisingly new. I flick quickly to the Highlife magazine to see which crew members have been embarrassed this month. The “Ask the Pilot” section is always a hoot; you can tell that A.nutters don’t submit the questions. Instead of “what is the definition of a cluttered runway” the questions are usually along the lines of “are you allowed to wear sunglasses”.
|A full seat pocket, Business, Shop (not on Domestic), Highlife and Safety Card|
Ah Ha… Flight Deck door shut at 1145 – we’re off – doors to automatic and x-check. A long push and the appearance of company 757 G-CPEL indicates that someone has escaped Heathrow and that our Stand is required. We taxi at 11:53 and the screens rotate down for the animated safety briefing; it really is very good although I think the animated lady on the right during the “recommend keep your belts on” section looks like Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmations.
|Taxiing past the screws - these Archimedes screws lift water into a local stream|
For those that don’t know Edinburgh Airport, it used to be really frustrating as it didn’t have full length taxiways – it was always necessary to backtrack unless you were a Dash 8 or lightly loaded. These days are gone, new taxiways were built including at each departure end additional layby holding points. We pull onto DW3 to await the final minutes to our slot.
|Holding at D W 3|
12:05 we taxi out to D1, the final entry point - can’t see anything on the approach so why are we waiting? Then I spot “Checker 1”, the Ops Land Rover speeding down the centreline. We move forward as Checker 1 exits right – chimes given.
Papa Golf has been waiting for this moment so we’re not stopping again – a rolling takeoff commenced at 12:07, 23 seconds later we’re powering up into a blindingly bright sun. The wing is cleaned up and we’re surging ahead – always fun making up time. We’re on a Dean Cross departure, which means a little bank to the right towards Glasgow and then a left dog-leg to the Dean Cross beacon over the border on England’s west coast. Then more or less a straight line down past Manchester before the London TMA comes into play.
|Hills and Valleys of the Scottish Borders|
|The silted up Solway Firth marking the border between Scotland and England|
|Midland Airbus flashing by northbound.|
Crew released at 1210, belts off at 1212. Bit of fun from the crew with the passengers; we’re climbing sprightly and they’re pretending to struggle uphill with the carts. I hate these awkwardly timed flights, too late for breakfast and too early for dinner. The options were Sweet – a Jordans Fruit/Muesli Bar or Savoury – Pretzels or Nibbles. Full beverage service on offer.
|The Savoury Option!|
12:47 – update from the Senior First Officer, London is currently +12 degrees (Edin was +2), and she advised that Holding is expected - probably around 15 minutes (it turned out to be longer). We leave the hold at 13:12, Crew seats for landing at 13:16. London City and the Dome off to the left at 13:19. Right bank to establish and the merest dab of speedbrakes just to capture the ILS.
|About to turn finals; London City is just beyond the "Dome"|
Very, very hazy going down coupled with the bright sun was painful. 13:34 Landed. Sod’s Law of course dictates that it is the longest possible taxi in – the long way round to terminal 1 via Link 11.
|Heatrhow - The long way round - passing AA 777 N762AN on Stand 590. Ship 396AN was next door on Stand 592.|
If you are familiar with the BBC Television Series Blackadder then you’ll recognise the following phrase… “the crowning turd in the waterpipe” is that we’re on Stand 128 which means buses to domestic arrivals. Added to which the Stand Guidance system has malfunctioned so another 7 minutes before we can get on Stand. There’s a company 757 alongside on Stand 126, fortunately it’s G-CPER - for one terrifying second I thought that after everything thrown at “Papa Golf’s” crew that “Echo Lima” had somehow beaten us down from Edinburgh.
|Heathrow - Our neighbour - company 757 G-CPER.|
So there you have it… officially 1hr 30 late. A block time of 1hr 18 and an end to end experience of some 4hrs from airport to airport. All issues were outwith BA’s control, but everyone pulled together to try and make up time and deliver the usual high standard of service on board and show that BA can cope with fog - it's everyone else that can't! Hopefully this will give our worldwide friends a sense of the domestic market here in the UK.
I am slightly nervous though, we’re flying as a family in Club World to Miami in April. The journey starts on the very same BA1441 with a 1hr 10 minute transfer at LHR. However, as terminal 5 will be open by then this is now an acceptable transfer window – let’s hope its not foggy.
Hope you enjoyed this Trip Report, it may be a little long but I’ve tried to balance the facts with a little background colour. Check out Part II for a better meal option on the way home and some more foggy fun. Coming soon…
[Edited 2008-02-14 06:59:41]
[Edited 2008-02-14 07:01:07]