Trip Report: Flying BA’s Shortest Route

British Airways
Airbus A321 G-MEDM
London Heathrow – Manchester
As I was still without a passport (at the time of booking at least) my trip options were somewhat limited. I would have preferred Scotland but flight prices were a lot more than I was willing to pay so that was that option out. Next up was Belfast, but this didn’t really appeal as I’d only visited a couple of months previously. Which then left Newcastle or Manchester. As Manchester had the slightly better flight times, that’s the destination that won.
Some of my followers may remember that I nearly always took the National Express coach from my local station to Heathrow. However earlier this year, I decided to start driving due to the fact the coach became so infrequent and unreliable I decided I’d rather pay the extra to park at the airport. So this journey starts at the T5 Business Car Park. This is probably the best value of the car parks that serve Terminal 5. Every time I’ve looked its less than £2/day more than the long stay and I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes for a shuttle bus – in fact more often than not, I haven’t had to wait at all. The Pod Parking is also a good option, but that costs a little more.
Arrival at T5 was just a few moments later and I made my way over to the First Wing to clear security.
It was a little on the slow side this morning – nothing to do with the fact it was busy, more to do with the fact that seemingly everyone set off the initial metal detector and needed a secondary search. Once through, it was down the hallway into the lounge. The lounge itself has been covered here, so I won’t say too much here. I grabbed a bite to eat, before heading off to grab something from duty free.
As that took less time than I had anticipated, I popped into the Galleries Club North lounge as I happened to be passing. I’d not been here for a few years, and noticed it had undergone a minor refresh in that time. There was a new dining area and seating, although as ever it was extremely busy.
I only stayed a few minutes, as not only was I struggling to find somewhere to sit, my gate opened so I headed down to A1 to wait there instead.
A common issue I’ve found with a lot of the gates in terminal 5 is that there is a lack of seating around them, meaning people have no option but to crowd the boarding area – hence why it’s worth getting to the gate a little early on some occasions. Boarding began and was done by group – and it appeared to be enforced quite well too with a gate agent checking each and every boarding pass before allowing people into the respective lanes. There were also a few people sent back too… Once on board, I took my assigned seat of 35F, and waited as the plane filled up. It seemed to be a full flight too. I hadn’t been on too many of BA’s newly densified A321’s. The reduced space was certainly noticeable. Back when I took my first flight on a BA A321, there were 33 rows of seats. Now they’ve managed to shoehorn in 37.
We pushed back more or less on schedule and headed over to runway 27R for departure. Our flying time was given as a pretty quick 30 minutes to cover the 151 miles up north.
Just fifteen minutes after takeoff, we started our descent. Luckily for the crew there didn’t appear to be too many takers when they brought around the buy on board cart.
We touched down into Manchester more or less on schedule.
One minor annoyance though was the time taken to disembark. Nearly twenty minutes after arriving on to stand – ten minutes of which was the time taken to open the door.
Once I was finally on my way, it was over to the train station to head into town.
The highlight of this visit was a a trip to the free Museum of Science and Industry.
After a few hours taking a look around. it was time to head back to the airport. Throughout the day I’d been getting notifications on my phone that the return flight had been delayed by an hour and a half, so it would be an extended wait.
Security was as busy as ever, although being able to use the fast track meant I got to jump pretty much the whole queue. I took a brief look around the terminal, but there’s not an awful lot in terminal 3 other than the standard duty free shop and a few eating outlets, so I made my way up to the lounge. My personal opinion is that this is one of the better BA outstation lounges on the network, although really it really could do with a refresh.
After a few hours in the lounge, the announcement was made that the flight was ready for priority boarding, so I made my way down to the gate…. Only to find this wasn’t the case at all. In fact, there wasn’t even any staff around.
British Airways
Airbus A320 G-EUYT
Manchester – London Heathrow
Once boarding did begin, there was no mention of any priority – it was pretty much an “all aboard”, which does seem to be a common thing at Manchester. Then to add to things, we did the whole “boarding not boarding” trick. The ground crew sure did want us out of there….
After around ten minutes on the jet bridge, we were finally given permission to board. As there was a special offer on, I upgraded this flight to Club Europe.
Probably not worth it for the service onboard, but there’s no cheaper way to get an additional 35 tier points. We pushed back and made a quick taxi over to the active – eventually departing around 90 minutes behind schedule. The later departure did mean there were some impressive views of the sunset however.
Shortly after departure, and I mean literally about a minute, the crew were up and starting the service. There were two crew serving the Club Europe cabin this evening, one started from the front and one started from the rear. Being more or less in the middle, I was the last to be served. The one and only option was a chicken salad. When Do&Co took over the catering back in September 2018, it was a genuine improvement. However after less than a year, I cant help but feel standards have slipped a little. The last couple of Club Europe meals I’ve had certainly haven’t matched the quality or presentation of those I had in the early days of the contract.
By the time I took the last sip of my drink, darkness had set in and the seat belt sign had come on. We had just ten minutes left to run and we were treated to some good views across the capital.
We touched down just over an hour behind schedule and headed over to Terminal 5.
To further add to the hold up, all the domestic stands were occupied, so we parked up stand 513, which is an international stand. This meant that rather than use the standard forward left door for disembarking, everyone had to use the rear door instead and file on to a bus to domestic arrivals. This meant that it was one of the rare occasions when the premium cabin was actually the last to leave.
Luckily it was only a short drive over to domestic arrivals, and once off the bus, it’s simply a case of walking out the front door of the terminal to wait the ten minutes or so for the shuttle back to the car park – which is the longest I’ve had to wait for a business car park bus – normally they’re ready and waiting, although I guess during the later hours they’re a little less frequent.
All in all, a standard enough pair of flights with British Airways. The flight to Manchester in Euro Traveller was your typical BA shorthaul economy flight these days – since the introduction of buy on board in January 2017, for me personally there’s virtually no interaction with the crew these days as I rarely, if ever, buy anything. The delay on the return could have been handled a little better I feel – no mention was made of it whatsoever. Either from the ground crew or the onboard crew. No apologies, nothing! Service wise in Club was very rushed – which is expected on these 30 minute sectors and 6 rows to serve though. There were more than a few people dotted around the cabin drinking from plastic cups as we landed. Must be stressful for the crew – maybe the airline could enhance the express band services to Manchester and Leeds and include a cold snack box which would allow the crew to serve both the food and drinks at the same time? Hang on a sec… Wasn’t this the standard EuroTraveller service from a decade ago?

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