Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This story actually starts back in October 2012. So please bear with me! I’d just booked my first flight in BA’s Club Europe cabin (LINK) and as such had access to British Airways’ Club lounges at their home base at T5 LHR. In the days running up to the trip, my mother, who has always appreciated life’s little luxuries was constantly reminding me to ‘take lots of pictures of the lounge’. The main reason being was that whenever we went on holiday when I was younger, being at the airport and being on the plane was as much of an event as the holiday itself – therefore, more often than not, we flew in Virgin Atlantics Upper Class and both of us enjoyed going to their great Clubhouse lounge in T3 at LHR. For various reasons though, she hadn’t so much as set foot in an airport for many years. Therefore, she’s more than pleased seeing the pictures I take of the whole event of being at the airport and the on-board service, rather than just the destination pics. Where as others ask ‘Why on earth have you taken a picture of that?!’. I showed her the pictures from my trip to Madrid upon my return and she thought the lounge looked great. Fast-forward to April 2013 and I gained Silver status with British Airways. I made the comment that I could now get her into the lounge she liked the look of so much even on a cheap flight to Manchester. She said she liked the sound of that, but nothing more was really said. When I came to book my [url=]trip to Aberdeen[/url], I had a brain wave, and asked if she would like to join me. Unfortunately she was busy on the weekend I was planning on going. But as I was on the BA website we decided to check out other places we could go. Barcelona jumped out at us both, but as it was the sort of place I’d like to walk around, and she was more of a beach person I figured it probably wouldn’t be the ideal location. Then she mentioned Alicante. Admittedly it wasn’t on too high on my to do list, but after a bit of research, it looked decent enough – a good beach to keep her happy, a castle to keep me amused and seemingly decent weather. So that was that sorted. As Alicante is served from both LHR and LGW, I decided to book the return to LGW – for purely selfish reasons! I wanted to log one of the rapidly disappearing 737-400’s!
As seemed to be the norm with BA, there was a cheap upgrade to business offer. We purchased this without much discussion.
I checked us both in online 24 hours before departure:
Upon completion I had both a printable boarding pass and a mobile one.
As my mum didn’t want to fuss with the coach, she booked us a taxi for the 25 minute or so journey to T5, for a pricey £30. It arrived ten minutes early and we arrived at around 12:15.
We made our way over to the Club check in so I could grab my souvenir boarding pass and my mum could put her newly acquired BA executive number into her booking, as it wouldn’t let me do it at the online check in stage. And as previously mentioned, she hadn’t flown in a very long time, so still liked the idea of seeing an actual person when arriving at the airport rather than scanning a home printed piece of paper and getting on a plane without speaking to any member of staff at all.
We then made our way through the fast track security, which in true Heathrow fashion, wasn’t particularly fast. Mainly due to the guy in front having none of his liquids in a clear bag, so having to re pack the lot. Hmmmm.
Once through, we made our way up to a packed North lounge. Forgive me for not sharing too many pictures, although I have covered both T5 lounges in the past.
It was a struggle to find a pair of seats together but we managed. Once we had finished eating, the lounge emptied out quite a bit. We also decided to grab some champagne.
As the lounge had emptied out, we headed out to the terrace, so I could get a few pics of the arrivals.
Following this, we made our way down to the south lounge, via Dixons to grab a case for my new iPad.
Contrary to popular belief, they do still serve ice cream in the South lounge.
At 14:45, just as we were expecting boarding to get underway, a thirty minute delay flashed up on the screens.
At least now, I could grab some cake… Although it had gone somewhat downhill from what I remember since the new caterers took over earlier in 2013.
I also spent some time watching the departures.
At 15:15 gate A19 flashed up, and we made our way downstairs.
Some pretty major delays – two of which from the previous day.
As we reached a gate a PA announcement said we would now be delayed until 16:00, as the aircraft is currently being towed to the gate. An estimated boarding time of 15:30 was given although looking at the queues outside; I figured it would probably be a little longer.
Confirmation of the delay
I was quite happy to sit and watch the planes outside.
And was even more pleased when the BA A380 taxied past, as I’d not seen one of these close up before.
A few moments later, G-EUPB was towed on to stand, the second oldest A319 in the BA fleet delivered in November 1999. It looked to me like it had a pretty fresh coat of paint. In fact it is the second oldest BA airbus if you don’t count the ones previously ordered by BCal that BA ended up acquiring.
Around 15:45, the gate agent was on again, saying that the aircraft was now on stand however we wouldn’t be departing at 16:00. A further call came out a few moments later saying we now wouldn’t be departing before 16:30, as a dispatcher couldn’t be found. Pretty poor excuse if you ask me… I eventually got a little bored of watching the endless BA A32X’s so spent the rest if my time browsing the web on my iPad as I was still connected to the Wi-Fi from the lounge upstairs. Boarding was eventually called at 16:15, and we were among the first to board this seemingly busy flight, making our way down on of the long T5 jet ways.
A319-100 / G-EUPB
Seat: 5A / Club Europe
Scheduled: 15:15 /18:45
Off Stand: 16:32
On Stand: 19:55
Eventually the crowds heading towards the back died down. I counted ten of us in the Club Europe section.
Still looks out of place at T5
The captain came over the PA and was very apologetic about the delay. For once it wasn’t caused by a late inbound aircraft – this time it was much more interesting. The aircraft had been in the maintenance hangar and was being towed over to the gate. Unfortunately the tug broke down along the way and they had to recover the broken down tug before scrambling another. He then made much more usual announcements – a flight time of 1h55 and a cruising altitude of 39,000 ft. The purser then made the obligatory safety video announcement, although she was very well humoured about it, stating that ‘we should all pay attention – first because the captain has asked us all so nicely to do so, second because it’s actually a very entertaining short film and third because the figure of the flight attendant in the film is amazing, and that she wished her figure was as good!’ Pretty much the whole cabin erupted in laughter at this.
Nearly time to go
We pushed back and made a very slow taxi out to 09R, despite being parked up pretty much next door. We eventually lifted off at 16:50, 95 minutes behind schedule. We made a right turn towards the South coast, and I was able to get my second night time aerial shot of Gatwick within a week.
Over the other side however, was a great looking sunset.
Luckily, the seatbelt signs pinged off just in time and I was able to make a brief move to the empty row adjacent to ours to grab a picture of the sunset.
Much like last weeks flight down to Madrid, pretty much as soon as we passed the south coast, that was it for the views. Hot towels were dished out soon after, although it was whipped out of my grasp before I could grab a picture. Although I’m sure everybody here knows what a hot towel looks like so no big deal. The afternoon tea service shortly followed this.
Along with some more champagne.
The purser then came around offering more scones – and when nobody before us took up the offer, she responded with ‘oh I don’t know – after all the baking I did last night…’ Both me and my mum took her up on the offer though.
When my mum asked for more clotted cream, the cheeky Liverpudlian crew member who was about to start the rubbish collection in economy responded with ‘ahhhh you don’t want much do ya love’ in an amusing Liverpool tone, before handing her a couple of pots of cream. Pretty light hearted crew on board today… The one complaint I had was that the crew were a little slow collecting the trays in. In fact my mum ended up taking hers back herself. This sparked the crew into life and my tray was cleared by the cheeky Liverpudlian guy, commenting ‘the boss can half talk the talk’. He then noticed the guy in front smoking an e-cig. Then came quite the discussion about how he thought he was entitled to use it, and the crew thought the opposite, using the argument that he might know its an e-cig, but the guy sitting in economy might not and light up a real one. Fair point. Although if they bothered to close the curtain between Club and Economy it wouldn’t be an issue.
I made a trip to the washroom and was surprised to see that the panels were held together with duck tape. Not what you’d expect from a so called premium washroom, however due to the curtain between economy and business not being closed, it was more of a premium and economy washroom.
As my mum had her head buried in the inflight mag, I decided to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm on my iPad.
As the end credits were rolling, the end credits for this flight were also rolling – as the captain was just giving the ten minutes to landing announcement.
There wasn’t a huge amount to be seen due to the approach taking place over the sea.
We landed firmly and made a speedy taxi over to the terminal, pulling in between an EZY A319 and a MON A320. Pretty much as we pulled on to stand, the jet bridge was on its way over to us. There was a short wait to disembark and we were on our way through to passport control. Although it was a little pointless, as there was a very un interested looking guy just waving people through. So no stamp today.
It was then baggage claim, and outside for a taxi to the hotel – the Melia. We arrived around fifteen minutes later.
After dumping our bags in our respective rooms, we then headed out for a bit of dinner.
Decent enough view from the balcony
As my mum was getting tired it was only a brief walk around the marina area before heading back.
I spent the next hour or so on the balcony with the iPod, after checking in for our return flight. As the first row behind club was available, I bagged this for us. At least now I could say we had club seats with an economy service!
The following morning, I called for my mum and we went for a walk around the area of the hotel – once she had finished watching Coronation Street!
We returned to the hotel and I sat on the balcony for the next hour or so until it was time to check out. The next few hours were spent looking around Alicante.
Great to see this scene in November!
First stop was the castle, which offered some great views.
Our hotel, as seen from the castle
Then it was a look around the city followed by lunch and a look around the shops.
As my mum was getting worn out, we made our way back to the airport at around 16:30, arriving around fifteen minutes later.
When we arrived, check in wasn’t open and there was a huge line. Luckily, nobody was in the Club Europe queue and we were the first to be seen.
It was then off to security, which was full of newbies, therefore holding not only security up, but also after security by crowding the FID’s and blocking the entrance to the duty free shop/exit. We made our way down the length of the terminal to the lounge and I managed to guest my mum in without issue. Impressions of this lounge was that it wasn’t brilliant, but far from the worst I’ve been in.
Slightly unimpressive entrance
Decent drinks selection, but the sandwiches were pretty stale.
At 18:20, we made our way downstairs. Boarding began at 18:30, although it was a bit of a free for all. We were still among the first to board though, through an unlit corridor.
Boeing 737-400 / G-DOCZ
Seat: 4A / Euro Traveller
Scheduled: 19:10 /20:40
Off Stand: 19:03
On Stand: 20:38
We took our seats behind club and watched the masses board. I mentioned to my mum that I didn’t manage to catch the reg of this jet, and without hesitation she was up and heading towards the front, retuning a few seconds later saying ‘Charlie Zulu’. Thanks!
The LHR flight peering around the corner
During boarding, I spotted the 6000th 737 no doubt owned by a bank but operated by Norwegian.
And a Monarch
The captain welcomed everybody on board, mentioned that due to a strong head wind we would have a flight time of two hours thirty minutes and we would be cruising at 34,000 ft. Despite the pretty full load, we actually pushed back around ten minutes ahead of schedule. We made the dark taxi out to the runway and departed without hesitation.
We turned through 180 degrees and over the town we had spent the last few hours walking around.
A few moments later, dinner was served.
The cabin dividers are still used on the LGW fleet.
Then I stuck my IFE on.
After the program had finished I made my way to the washroom and the rear galley to grab some water and have a chat with the crew about the future of these old 737’s. BA have ordered 10x A320’s, the first of which was due to be delivered in January 2014 (who knows what happened to them) to replace some of the 737’s, with the remainder to be replaced with surplus ex BMI stock. All 737’s will be gone from the BA fleet by the summer 2015 season. He then disappeared off to do the duty free run, giving me free reign in the galley.
Retro compared to the 787. At least it wasn’t taped up though.
Anybody else would think this was graffiti.
Wasn’t aware BA did kids packs.
I returned to my seat a good few minutes later to find my mum with a hot towel? Turns out she had complained that it was very hot on board so the purser had given her some water and a cold towel. Good service. The second part of my IFE was the iPod.
I stuck with this until descent started, around thirty minutes before arrival. The captain was on almost immediately with the usual thanks and hope you’ve enjoyed the flight etc., followed with our arrival time and stating we were just passing the Channel Islands.
Looks like Poole to me.
As I had developed a bit of a cold in the last couple of days, the change in pressure during descent meant my ears were in agony. Something I’d not experienced since I was quite young. It took quite a while for them to pop back to normal too. We made a pretty dark approach to Gatwick’s 08R, touching down at just past 20:30. We made the quick taxi over to the North terminal, and I was hoping for a position at pier 6, so we could cross the famous bridge. My hopes were quickly dashed though when we carried on past it.
We quickly disembarked and it was a quick walk through to arrivals. I was hoping to be able to grab at least a decent view if our jet but it wasn’t to be. I don’t like not being able to see the plane I’ve flown on! As we made our way out, I stopped to look at the EasyJet next door and this was met with ‘Oh go on then’ from my mum. Out came the camera.
There was hardly any queue at passport control, and we were out into arrivals within minutes.
Although it was worthless as we ended up waiting half an hour for the taxi we had booked. He eventually turned up, and it was across to the car park for the forty-five minute drive home.
I thought BA were pretty standard. Maybe I’ve been flying with them too much recently for them to really impress me? My mum was definitely impressed with hem though, and she loved the lounges at T5 – just a shame the catering has taken a bit of a hit since I was last there. She’s already talking about going on another trip, although this time she wants to do Club both ways. Fine with me!