Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways A319 Club Europe

21/05/2014

CHECK-IN

I checked in online the day before using the BA iPhone app, accepting my seat assignment in Club Europe (2A, my favourite). The was no option to have a digital version of my boarding pass, so I needed to collect it at the airport when I dropped my bag off. My flight, BA2667, was set to depart from Marrakech Menara airport’s Terminal 1 at 1910, bound for London Gatwick. (A second terminal at Marrakech is under construction, due to open next year.)

I arrived at 1845, and identified that the BA desks for my flight were 26-29, a short walk away from the entrance to the left. As there were no other passengers waiting to check-in at the Club Europe desk, I was seen to immediately and my case checked in. (Club Europe passengers can check in two pieces up to 23kg each.) I was also given a voucher that would gain me entry into the shared VIP lounge.

I then walked back and turned left to the security screening area, where there were two lanes – one for men and one for women. There were no signs or requests for liquids or laptops to come out, so I didn't bother and this wasn't a problem. I then continued through to passport control, where there was a short wait, but I was upstairs in the airside zone by 1800.

THE LOUNGE

The shared VIP lounge was upstairs on the level above passport control. It was a pretty dismal space and had no VIP feeling about it whatsoever. It was also small, with seating for about 50 people crammed in. There was no natural light and the artificial illumination was harsh and depressing. There was free wifi with a code and a modest refreshment area with free mini sandwiches, cakes and cans of soft drinks, plus a microwave, a coffee machine and a few local newspapers. A departure screen was fitted to the wall by the door but staff also announced flights. 

BOARDING

My flight to Gatwick showed as boarding at 1830 from Gate 1/2. As the gates were right outside the lounge, I was able to keep an eye on when passengers actually started moving. I left the lounge at 1840, and joined the shorter Club Europe lane for boarding at Gate 1. The line adjacent was for Gate 2 economy travellers.

Premium passengers were called first, but ended up having to wait on the stairs leading down to the tarmac as there was no airbridge. From my vantage point by the window, I could see our BA plane (one of the A319s that was painted like a golded dove for the 2012 London Olympics) was just finishing being cleaned (a man was walking down the steps with a vacuum cleaner, while another carried bags of rubbish).

Boarding continued at 1855, via steps to the front of the aircraft, with everyone in their seat by about 1905.

THE SEAT

The A319 is configured with 22 rows, with economy 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F), and Club Europe (short-haul business), effectively 2-2, as the middle seats B and E are kept free and separated with a fold-down tray from the seat front.

Seats were clean and upholstered in BA's trademark navy blue leather, with slim nets beneath the seat-back tray tables holding copies of the in-flight magazine. Blankets and pillows were provided. There is no in-flight entertainment or in-seat power. Click here to see a seat plan.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

Sitting in row one is good in that you get served first and can disembark before anyone else, but it also means you can't stretch your legs out under the seat in front as you are quite close to the bulkhead. Row two is best. On this flight, business class seating went up to row five and was separated from economy by a curtain.

THE FLIGHT

The pilot came on at 1906 to welcome passengers and inform them that the journey would take two hours 50 minutes. The plane pushed back shortly after at 1912, and during the taxi to the runway, crew conducted a safety demonstration. Once airborne, at 1930, a member of crew handed out menus and hot towels. There was then a drinks service of soft beverages, wine (the cabernet sauvignon is good), beer, champagne (Monopole Heidsieck and Co Blue Top) and spirits.

For dinner, there was a choice of two main meals – lamb navarin or sweet chilli chicken. (There was a note saying no pork was used in any of the dishes.) Trays also included toffee cinder torte, and Coastal Cheddar and Cashel blue cheese with fig relish. Tea (including herbals), coffee and hot chocolate followed.

I had pre-ordered a special vegetarian meal before my outbound flight, which meant I was served before anyone else. I was given a very flavoursome vegetable curry with rice and an onion bhaji decanted into a white bowl.

As with the LGW-RAK service, there was also a small plate of very good cheese and biscuits, though in my case, I was given grapes instead of the fig relish. I also had fruit instead of the torte. More drinks were offered as the meal trays were handed around, and again on request.

ARRIVAL

Trays were cleared away at 2115, with any remaining glasses collected at 2150. The pilot came on to say that arrival of our flight would be about 30 minutes ahead of schedule because of a favourable tail winds the whole way. We began our descent shortly before 2200 (there is no difference in time zone between Morocco and UK), landing at 2210.

Unfortunately, much of the time we had gained was lost because there were no ground staff available to help with disembarkation so we didn’t get off the plane until 2225. Immigration was very quick but there was then another 20-minute wait for the baggage carousel number to appear. When it did, by the time I had walked down to the reclaim area a minute away on the lower level, my priority-tagged case was coming through.

VERDICT

An enjoyable, relaxing flight with amenable, organised crew. I enjoyed the meal and found the A319 offer a better cabin experience than the older B737-400 I flew out on. (Click here to read my review.) It was just a shame I didn’t get out of the airport as early as I’d hoped, given our early arrival in Gatwick.

FACT FILE:

  • SEAT PITCH 34 inches
  • SEAT WIDTH 19 inches
  • SEAT RECLINE 6 inches
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek Club Europe flight in June ranged between £583 and £697 depending on flexibility.
  • CONTACT ba.com

Jenny Southan