Route: London Gatwick – Geneva-Int. (Cointrin)
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA2736
Aircraft: Boeing 737-436
Seat: 04A (Club Europe)
Distance: 445 miles
Duration: 1hr 15mins
Photo © Darren Wilson
Photo © Andrew Hunt - AirTeamImages
We’d spent the previous day with my Dad and given the early flight time we chose to stay the night at the airport. Thanks to our Nigerian friend who had tried to set himself alight a few days before we weren’t taking any chances with security so awoke at a rather shocking 4am and made ourselves human before Dad’s Taxis dropped us at the departure level at just about 5am. Gatwick seems to be one of those airports where there is always some kind of activity and at this early hour there were quite a few people about. We grabbed our boarding passes from a self service kiosk and went over to security. Fast Track was predictably closed, or well broken (it is usually one of the two) so we snaked round the regular line as we saw other security lanes open up. It seemed to take a while but it was probably about ten minutes all said and done.
As Kirstin had been feeling a little under the weather we stopped by the Boots and then the next door WH Smiths as I’d left our travel books back at home. Oops! Unfortunately there weren’t any books on Geneva itself, only a general book about Switzerland where the Geneva section was barely more than a paragraph!
We went to the BA lounge area and went to the First lounge arriving a couple of minutes before 5.30am. The First lounge is the last of the BA lounges to open with the upper floor of the Terraces first and the lower section soon after. A short time after the scheduled 5.30am opening a BA uniformed lady appeared on the other side and undid the locks letting us through.
Stupid o’clock in the Gatwick First Lounge
The next thing we did was rather predictable for any of you that have read my reports before…bacon baguettes and bubbles of course! The Lanson Noble Cuvee ’99 was the same as on our IAD-LHR flight a few days before, except this time I polluted it was some orange juice. Very nice it was too!
Bacon baguette and Buck’s Fizz
Unfortunately even the staple bacon butty has fallen victim to BA’s round of cuts. When I first started taking notice of such things as lounge food the bacon butties came with two small pots; one HP sauce, one tomato ketchup. Alas with the global financial crisis we’re now made to the suffer the indignity of opening our own sachets of sauce
I used the time we had to find some half decent information about Geneva, usually we just wing it a little with guide books reading on the aircraft but thanks to old muggins here that wasn’t an option! I found the must sees of Geneva and printed some directions to the Patek Philippe Museum. Useful those printers!
A handful of other passengers joined us in the lounge, some arriving off flights from the Caribbean, but at any one time there were no more than half a dozen or so present.
Just coming up to 7am the lounge warden advised us it would be the right time to head down to the gate, accessible by one of the ‘turbine’ spiral ramps. I looked through my bag to try and find my boarding pass and just couldn’t. I pulled my bag sufficiently apart to the extent that on leaving the lounge I asked the agent if I could have a re-print. Apparently without a good excuse it wouldn’t be possible so I rifled a little further. It couldn’t have gone far as I needed it to enter the lounge and it was soon recovered.
It was fairly quick through the gate area as boarding was well under way but it was about a five minute wait on the jetbridge as something unknown to me was figured out. My wife and I were welcomed back onboard and directed to our seats. There were five rows of Club Europe on the flight with around ten passengers spread across them, five of them were a young family heading off on a skiing holiday.
Pushback was a little late, 7.35am and unfortunately it was still dark. Although I grew up in the UK I still forget how long the dark hours are in the middle of winter…However, as we taxied out to runway 8R things brightened up a touch. From my window I could see the stream of incoming and departing aircraft and one thing that struck me was how much Easyjet traffic there was! The BA shareholder in me cried as it wasn’t for a good ten minutes or so that I actually saw a Union Flag liveried aircraft!
The cloud cover was extremely low so not much chance to enjoy the views of the South Coast and Northern France as I’d done on a trip to Rome a couple of months back. After several turns and a rather extended climb, a good 20 minutes or so, we emerged from the thick cloud and to some blue sky above us. A large twin, possibly an Air France 777 was just above us although racing a little faster.
Above the clouds…
Once at the top of the climb breakfast was handed out, the usual Club Europe hot breakfast affair although continental breakfast was also an option. I preferred to take the best of both worlds and had some pastries when the bread basket was passed around. I smiled a little when the purser always referred to the two youngsters ahead of us (maybe five to seven years old) as Sir and Madam
Towards the end of the breakfast service I partook in a cup of tea although the couple on the other side of the aisle were hammering away on the mini bottles of Pommery. I reckon they got through at least half a dozen from the beginning of meal service until we touched down! Lightweights
Club Europe breakfast
Unusually for European flights the duty free shopping offer was made and for once it really was duty free. A few interlopers from Euro Traveller made their way to the toilet at the front of the aircraft, some more successfully than others. One tried to get into the closet just ahead of 2A and 2C which got a bit of a chuckle, especially when she then tried yanking on everything in the galley area until a lavatory appeared like magic behind one of the doors
As we could feel the aircraft begin the initial descent the cloud cover became a little more patchy and the ground below became visible…
The fifteen-minute to landing announcement was made a little sooner than expected and we gathered the various items we’d had out for the flight and put them away. I peered out the window hoping for a glimpse of something interesting but it wasn’t until we went back into some more cloud and subsequently emerged that I could see what was more than likely Lake Geneva below us.
On approach to runway 23
We taxied in to a little satellite hub where we joined a Heathrow originating company. It took a while for the jetbridge to meet us so we had the slightly awkward standing in your seat thing before the door opened. I did have enough time to figure out the rather well behaved children in front of us were litterbugs though, their entire seat area was strewn with sweet wrappers and various detritus. The parents saw but barely gave a monkey’s. Sad.
It was a slightly convoluted way out of the satellite; along the jetbridge, down some steps, round a corner, down some more steps, through a door and down a corridor until we reached a little passport control area. It looked a little odd perched in the middle of a underground walkway but suspect it was the result of Britain being one of the few countries not fully tied into the border control side of the Schengen Agreement.
One final moving walkway and automatic door and we were through into the baggage hall. In the baggage hall we printed off our free train tickets for the short ride into the city…
Route: Geneva-Int. (Cointrin) – London Gatwick
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA2741
Aircraft: Boeing 737-436
Seat: 03A (Club Europe)
Distance: 445 miles
Duration: 1hr 15mins
Photo © Thomas Brackx
Photo © Konstantin Von Wedelstaedt
After a couple of pleasant, but rather wet, days in Switzerland’s second city we headed back to the airport. We arrived around 3hrs 30mins before departure but after a lot of rain soaked walking we felt it was for the best!
We didn’t see any self service kiosks so went to the BA desks. It was obviously a quiet time for BA as there were no other passengers in either the Euro Traveller or Club Europe lines. We were dealt with quickly and directed up to security. The lines for each checkpoint were fairly short but it wasn’t until we were almost at the front that we realized at the far end a First/Business security line was in place. Would have been nice for the check-in agent to point that out!
At the end of our line it split into X-ray machines and it was a couple of minutes before one of them became free. In one line was an Easyjet passenger who was having a difficult time getting their takeout Burger King through and in the other was a student who had more electronics than a branch of Radio Shack. It was touch and go who would finish first but the student it was…
After security it was on to the lounge. Now those who say BAA are the worst when it comes to shops haven’t been to Geneva! To get to the gates you have to walk round a pretty substantial swathe of them before emerging into an area that doesn’t smell of ‘to be sampled’ perfume! We followed the signs to the Airline lounges up one of those escalators that look like they are moving really slowly but in reality speed up when you get close to them…it was past the Lufthansa HON Circle lounge and smoking lounge (where the door opened as we walked past and I felt like I needed a lung transplant!!) and to the BA Terraces, a little haven in a rather white soulless corridor.
There were a few other people in the lounge so went to the far end under the gazebo type feature most of the larger Terraces lounges have.
We found the beer fridge, home to a decent number of cans of Fuller’s London Pride and sat down with a few magazines and newspapers. After a few days of lots of walking it was nice to settle down with a good drink and while away a couple of hours.
Gazing outside I got the impression that this lounge might have once had a rather nice view of the apron although this was now blocked somewhat by the presence of another large departures hall. Through the three sets of glass you could see some of the aircraft shuffling around on the apron and also the occasional roar of an aircraft departing, which could then be seen over the rooftop of said departure hall.
Once a view…
After reading one paper I decided to amuse myself at one of the internet workstations at the other end of the lounge. Positioned just to the side of the entrance desk it was became the scene of a small battle; on one side status passenger and family, on the other BA lounge warden. This guy with his wife, an elderly relative and a teenage kid was trying to get his family into the lounge, rather unsuccessfully. When the warden explained he wasn’t eligible to get everyone into the lounge he said, ‘Can’t you make an exception, it is Xmas!’ In the end I think the lounge warden allowed him to take an extra guest in, leaving the son to his own devices. He threw a couple of Swiss Francs at him and said to ‘Go and do what every other passenger does, go get a coffee or something’. Nice way to treat your son…at Xmas As my wife and I both have lounge guest privileges I was half tempted to wade in and guest the lad in myself for his own benefit, but didn’t want the father to get his own way after being a little rude to his own kid and the BA employee!
We settled down with a few more cans of London Pride although found a rather faulty batch that despite kid glove handling exploded every time they opened. After the third or fourth can we opened them over a nearby bin to save making a mess! We passed the remainder of the time playing Sudoku until 5.25pm when the flight was called.
The gaggle of us for the Gatwick bound flight left the lounge together and went down the same corridor that we’d used when flying in, back through passport control and up into the satellite area. Boarding hadn’t begun yet although a line had appeared under a sign for ‘Gold and Club Europe Passengers’. Half the thirty or so passengers in line weren’t in lounge which was a little surprising although Mr. Leave-My-Son-In-The-Terminal and his group had pushed their way to the front. One of the desks had a sign to check travel documents so we got our various items looked at and joined the Club Europe/Gold queue.
Boarding began after a couple of minutes and we were welcomed back onboard by the flight attendant checking boarding passes. The Club Europe cabin was seven rows deep with around 15 passengers sparsely spread through the cabin. Indeed I recognized everyone from the lounge and suspected that somehow it would be a bit odd, even on the Geneva route, for fifteen BA Golds to be flying EuroTraveller during the holidays! Whether or not I’m suggesting some people may be barging in is up to you!
Pushback occurred around ten minutes ahead of schedule and thanks to the design of the satellite terminal (where aircraft pull up with port side facing the building) we didn’t even need a tug but sort of swiveled out towards the taxiway and thence to runway 23. We stood by, the lights of the runway streaming away from us, as an Easyjet aircraft landed and then we moved out slowly onto the threshold.
As we took off the sapeur-pompiers and a number of other emergency service vehicles could be seen surrounding a KLM aircraft on three sides. Wasn’t quite sure what that was about….With the low cloud the city lights (as the airport is so close to the city) disappeared quickly behind them, the silhouette of the Rhone quite obvious for a moment though. We had some pretty heavy chop as we headed up to cruising altitude but once it was over the dinner service was quickly rushed out. It was to be one option, a salmon salad.
Salmon salad, something of a staple on these shorter Club Europe flights
Unusually, and probably wrongly, the drinks service came after the dinner was served. Not much of a problem with a cold salad but with the hot options it could be. Bread rounds then followed the drinks. This time around I opted for some bubbles…
Pommery NV – AA used to serve this in international First Class!
The salad was actually quite reasonable. Sure it won’t win any awards for originality or for taste but it certainly filled a hole as did the Lily O’Briens post dinner chocolate bite. I miss the proper desserts that used to be the staple on even the short Club Europe flights…
After the meal service was cleared away I told my wife it was probably best to fill out her UK landing card before the Pommery (and the pre-flight London Prides!) took their toll on her handwriting and concentration She asked the flight attendant for a card which prompted his colleague to go through the cabin doling them out.
Unfortunately the cloud cover over France prevented us from seeing anything noteworthy as a couple of months ago I had a superb view of Paris on a flight that took us on a similar routing. Not today though…
Around 55mins into the flight it was announced we’d be landing in around fifteen minutes and the last drinks round orders were taken. We decided to decline the further offer and I sat on the lookout hoping for the cloud to break so that we could see something familiar. It wasn’t until we were about 500ft off the deck that we emerged from the cloud and touched down on runway 8. A line of about half a dozen aircraft waiting for us to vacate Gatwick’s sole runway so they could be on their way.
As we taxied toward the North Terminal it looked from the window like the thick cloud we’d been flying through was trying to bring us some snow. The flakes interspersed with some other precipitation a little more familiar to Britons!
We docked up at gate 54 right in the shadow of the enormous passenger bridge that crosses the taxiway. On each of my international flights into LGW I have a little hope that we pull up on Pier 6 to enjoy the view over the airport operations.
The winding path to the Border Control area allowed us to stretch our legs and marvel at the somewhat contrived way that Gatwick has organically grown, even the North Terminal which is a damn sight better than the South is a bit of a bugger’s muddle! The immigration hall was rather empty and as usual IRIS made the passage even easier, my wife through just a few seconds after me. Into the public area and we met my father who was expecting us for the drive home…
Verdict: Another couple of solid Club Europe flights. The evening meals could do with spicing up a little, maybe something more interesting or enticing. I understand a lot of people can’t justify the extra for Club Europe since the seat is pretty much the same as Euro Traveller, however, I think the Gatwick crews do an excellent job of differentiating between the two. Additionally the ex-Gatwick prices for Club Europe (at least when I book) tend to be similar to the Euro Traveller prices ex-Heathrow. I really hope that Mr. Walsh doesn’t decide to axe Club Europe from the Gatwick flights, something that has been hinted at
Lastly, sorry for the lack of photos, particularly on the return flight. Not a whole lot to photograph out of the window with blanket cloud. Refer to some of my other reports for pictures of the Club Europe cabin.