When the NHL announced that it was holding yet another series of games in Europe; I thought it would make the perfect weekend getaway. I initially had the choice of Helsinki, Stockholm or Prague.
Having never been to any of these cities; I made the decision on Stockholm as it is a city I have heard nothing but good about and also I preferred the teams playing there.
Finding accommodation was harder; as Stockholm is a fairly pricey city when it comes to sleeping – however I got a fairly good deal in a small hotel hidden away in the old town.
Booking flights was however a more interesting process. I had the choice of Ryanair to one of the “middle of nowhere” airports, British Airways to Stockholm or SAS to Stockholm.
Ryanair I have flown before, and whilst the product is more than adequate, at the time of booking, their prices were about £30 less than BA or SAS; so I discounted them almost straight away from my list.
Choosing between BA and SAS was a little more difficult; considering SAS would give me the chance to finally fly a Mad Dog; however I had always wanted to see what BA was like, plus they fly from Terminal 5 at LHR, somewhere I have always wanted to fly from. Also, the BA flights were on a 767; and somehow I just couldn’t turn down the idea of a wide body on a short haul flight.
Online check-in opened 24 hours before the flight, and as I was not willing to pay for reservations; we selected our seats then.
To our luck; the exit row on the right was available, so we chose to sit there. I elected to print my boarding pass at the airport; as despite not having baggage and it being easier to print at him, it just isn’t the same feeling boarding a plane with an A4 print out.
Taking the Heathrow Express once again as I have a strong dislike for the underground, more so in rush hour – we arrived at LHR around 10.30.
I was immediately amazed at by how large and open the building felt, yet despite this, how it didn’t feel too cold and empty. There were very few passengers around and no queues at any of the kiosks; which allowed me to print my boarding pass in seconds. I was less impressed however by the fact that the boarding card is now printed on what feels like receipt paper.
Fountains outside T5
Fairly iconic artwork
After a wander around both arrivals and departures; and a look at the fountains outside the terminal we returned back to departures and cleared security which took very little time for once.
The departures hall once again feels like a giant shopping mall, however I do appreciate the light and open feel that has been achieved with this airport. What I also like is the views of the runway and the aircraft that can be offered from the departure lounge; which made waiting for the flight that little bit more comfortable.
Some BA Departures
AA with winglets
747 with Dreamflight titles
Another BA flight
What did seem odd however was an advertising kiosk set up by SkyTeam advertising Delta’s business elite seats. Whilst it was really great to finally try out a premier business class product in the terminal, and enter a small competition, it seemed strange that they would so be allowed to do it in a terminal which is entirely made up of BA flights.
I was also given a 1GB free pen drive for visiting the kiosk; and a pen with SkyTeam printed on it; so if you’re in terminal 5 and even if you are a loyal BA customer – its worth visiting just for the free 1GB pen drive.
Gate was announced at 1pm; and as it was gate A12; it unfortunately meant I wouldn’t get to visit Terminal 5B. Maybe next time?
At around 13.40 boarding was announced; and it was obvious now we would never get away on time. From the windows as I was boarding; it was clearly obvious that today’s flight would be flown by BA’s oldest 767; G-BNWA.
Dep: 1350 (1425)
Arr: 1720 (1725)
Photo © Simon Brygg - Ostersund Photography
Boarding was held up as I reached the aircraft as the person in front of me was fussing about baggage or something similar to this. Eventually she moved and I was welcomed aboard by several crew members; who seemed cheerful and more interested in the passengers boarding that chatting with each other which I have experienced on other airlines before.
The first half of the European configured 767 is leather seats and double as Club Europe seats whilst the rear of the cabin contains cloth. Whilst I had the option to sit in the front half at check in; exit row seats are not something I turn down – plus I prefer cloth other leather.
Me in my seat.
The cabin itself looked worn, but not old. There were no signs of things being held on by tape; and all the lights seemed to be working. The only thing that I could see not working was the CRT above my head; but as they would not be used on this journey it was hardly an issue. Today’s load seemed to be around 80%, with a good few middle seats not being taken; and a few empty rows.
Boarding seemed complete by around 2pm, and we were pushed back from the stand. At this stage the pilot introduced himself and informed us of the flight time which was to be around 2 hours. He also mentioned that as we had now missed our slot that we would be at least 10 minutes; but we should still be on time when we arrive in Sweden.
View from the window
Safety video was shown on the ageing CRT monitors and we joined the long queue for take-off.
Takeoff came at around 1425, and the 767 accelerated into the sky.
Seatbelt light was turned off shortly after levelling; and the crew sprang into action offering a sandwich. The choice was Chicken salad or Egg mayonnaise – of which I like neither; mainly because I despise the taste of mayonnaise; and this, was present in both options. It’s a shame that it is globally assumed that everyone eats mayonnaise.
Sandwich of doom
Drinks service soon followed, and I chose to have vodka with sprite; which I managed to make way to strong; mainly as I made a mistake pouring the vodka into the cup.
After this I settled in and watched a few episodes of Family Guy and The Simpsons on my iPad.
I must say this is how I spent the remainder of this short flight; although I will comment I did not want to prop my iPad up fully as I usually do whilst watching it as it felt more vulnerable to being knocked considering the occasional traffic from people moving around the cabin.
The crew seemed to be constantly available moving around the cabin bringing drinks to people who request them; and I was sure to take advantage of the free drinks and order a couple more cokes.
Seatbelt lights came of pretty much as soon as we started to descend into Stockholm; and within about 10 or so minutes of this we were on the ground.
The plane pulled up next to an Air China 777, which I must say was looking like it could do with a clean; and we disembarked quite quickly, and I was on the Arlanda Express train towards the city no later than 6pm.
Our plane after its short flight
Getting ready to head to Beijing.
Stockholm is a fantastic destination to visit if you’re looking for a short weekend visit; and in what little time we did have in the city, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. The people of Sweden seem friendly, and spoke very good English (which was really appreciated as my Swedish is unfortunately lousy). It certainly isn’t the most budget destination to visit, but I found most of my spending was on food, where there certainly were plenty of options to choose from.
On the Saturday we attended the NHL premiere game between Columbus and San Jose; which was very enjoyable, and even though we could only afford the cheap seats; were certainly treated to a great view and a decent game of hockey. The pregame events were also a laugh, and I got to make an idiot of myself firing shots against a goalie.
The old town
Another street in the old town
A view of the rink - not our seats
A view of the rink - our seats
Sadly all good things end, and it was soon time to return.
Picking up the train and our bags from the lockers at T-Centralen was a piece of cake; and we arrived at the airport around 5pm. Collected the boarding passes once again from an empty set of check in kiosks; and was this time treated to a boarding card that was actually printed on card.
Used the remainder of my Krona on an unforgettable McDonalds, fortunately it had a decent view of the runway. In the whole time I was there, the JAT flight which was delayed since 14.30 never took off; so I must assume that the passengers were really happy.
BH Airways flight
Our flight in the background; with the other flight I was considering in the foreground.
Boarding was supposedly set to start around 1825, and we headed towards security where there was a longish queue but only 2 scanners in operation.
Eventually we were through, and into the shopping section of the airport. With no money left, it was best to not stop to shop and we continued towards the gate. This however meant going through immigration control; which surprised us as in every other airport I have been to immigration is done at security and we thought we had already cleared it.
Blinds are not a spotters friend!
Arrived at the gate just before boarding began; and we were on the aircraft with it boarded by 1840. Todays aircraft was to be BA’s oldest 767, G-BNWB.
Dep: 1840 (1925)
Arr: 2015 (2037)
Photo © Chenpeng
Once again I was given a very warm welcome by the crew; and I walked through the aircraft to the exact same seats as we had chosen for the outbound. This cabin felt a lot more worn than the previous flight, and I noticed a broken armrest, seatbelt and smoking light for our seats weren’t working and that my tray table needed a very large yank to get it out of the armrest.
The cabin - note the broken seat back on the right.
Lots of legroom.
Boarding completed around 1840; with a load of about 70% and the pilot welcomed us aboard. We were informed that a very favourable tail wind should speed up our journey home, with it taking just 2 hours. However we were informed that Air traffic control had given us a takeoff time of around 1920; and that whilst they were trying to get us an earlier slot, chances were low.
After this, the cabin crew announced that we were welcomed to move around the cabin and “that the kettle is on in the galley, and we are welcome to stop by”. This pleasant attitude by the cabin crew was very welcoming and quite refreshing compared to any of my previous flights.
A view from the window.
Around 1910, it was announced that we were about to begin our taxi to the runway; and that we should return to our seats post haste. Safety demonstration was shown and the cabin was prepared for takeoff.
Takeoff felt like it took a long time, but soon we were in the air, with a few baggage compartments popping open. Seatbelt lights were switched off; with the exception of the one above us that decided to illuminate, and the crew once again sprang into action offering the same sandwich as the outbound journey. I declined this offering; as I was still full from my McDonalds, and also because I hate mayonnaise.
Beer it is.
Drinks service followed; and I opted for a beer. I then spent most of the journey again watching TV programs on my iPad; with a quick break to buy a model aircraft (one of my personal traditions), and a quick trip to the seriously old school looking toilets located at the rear. I also had a quick sit down in a regular seat and I must admit the legroom felt very generous!
Again, the crew were floating around the aisles continuously delivering drinks to passengers; though it seemed a lot more of a quiet flight with people just resting after most likely a busy weekend.
We began our descent somewhere over the North Sea, and were treated to a clear view of the suburbs of London with all the tiny twinkling lights.
View on landing
Landed at Heathrow just after 2030; and we arrived again at gate A12; which was a very short walk to customs and immigration; which took a lot longer as there was 4 people to several arriving flights.
After a 10 minute wait for the Heathrow Express; we were on our way home, and I was back home by 11pm.
Overall, the whole BA experience was great. With an exception of the food, and the aircraft looking slightly worn, the flights, the airports were a great experience. The crew were attentive, friendly and professional; and didn’t “disappear” for the entire flight like on other airlines.
Arriving at Stockholm is a lot easier than departing it in my opinion; and Heathrow Terminal 5 really is a refreshing UK airport experience.
I hopefully will return to Stockholm at some point in the future as it truly is a great city.
I will hopefully be booking future flights with British Airways based on my experience this weekend.
Thank you for reading this trip report; and I look forward to your feedback.