Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways A319 Club Europe

04/10/2012

CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 by tube at around midday, and took the lift up to departures. As I had checked in online and only had hand luggage, I was free to head straight to passport control and security near Zone H, which was very quiet this Saturday lunchtime, bar a couple of families folding up pushchairs and walking their children through the X-ray machines. (Coat off, liquids out – one of my bottles was a 150ml and although half empty, it had to be thrown away. Not that this came as a surprise.) Once through, and after a quick trip to Boots to replace the product I had just had to dispose of, I headed to the far end of the terminal where the Galleries Club (North Galleries) lounge is located. 

THE LOUNGE The Galleries Club lounge is open to Club World, Club Europe and gold and silver Executive Club members, and is a long, airy space divided into various sections furnished with mixed-design armchairs and sofas, sleek, black bar tops and high stools, and white dining tables and chairs. Wifi internet access, provided by BT Openzone, is available free throughout all new BA lounges, and there is a workstation at one end fitted with PC terminals. The lounge was not busy and after having a bit of a wander around I helped myself to a drink from the one of the bars (there is a very good selection of coffees and teas, spirits, wine, beer and soft drinks) and a snack from the salad counter.

The food offerings were varied, with soup, hot subs, pasta and rice dishes, curry and cold meats laid out buffet-style, as well as the option to order from the Club kitchen. (Breakfast is served from 0530 to 1200, and a daily menu from 1400 to 2200.) As my flight (BA/AA954) was departing at 1355, I had time to read the paper (there is an excellent choice of newspapers and magazines at various points throughout) and watch the planes land – the floor-to-ceiling windows mean the lounge is filled with light and travellers have great views of the runway. Although there was some soft chill-out music playing overhead, it was relaxed and peaceful, as no announcements are made inside the terminal.

BOARDING At 1330, I noticed the display screen nearest me was showing my flight was ready for boarding from Gate A23, which is a seven-minute walk from the lounge, down an escalator to the lower level, and at the far end around the corner. There was no queue, so I was straight through and onto the plane. There was a choice of newspapers – Telegraph and Daily Mail – by the entrance. 

THE SEAT Once on board, coats were taken and cabin staff came around with hot towels. I was sitting in seat 5D, an aisle seat on the A319, which was configured 3-3 (A, B, C – D, E, F) across six rows in Club Europe (business) and 16 rows in Euro Traveller (economy). From February, BA is operating a middle-seat free policy which means B and E seats in business will not be sold. On this flight, only B seats were kept free.

Seats are upholstered in dark blue leather with a padded armrest on one side and a small cup rest on the other. On this short-haul product, the pitch measures 86cm/34in, while the width is 48cm/19in and the recline is 15 degrees. The best seats to choose would probably be 1A, C, D or F, depending on your preference for window or aisle seats, as these have the most legroom and should mean you get served first and disembarked before anyone else.

THE FLIGHT At 1415 we still hadn’t moved as the pilot still had some paperwork which needed to be done. The safety demonstration was given via overhead TV screens and at 1425 we started taxiing, taking off at 1440, around 45 minutes late. The food service came around at 1500 – a tasty-looking chicken ceasar salad with a separate bottle of dressing, fresh bread rolls and a (sickly) cream puff. The tray came with metal cutlery and a plastic pot of water with a peel-off lid.

As I am vegetarian I had requested a special meal, but as meal orders taken 24 hours before are treated as a “late request” and are not always put on the flight. The attendant was very apologetic about not having a meat-free option for me, but did offer me a pack of economy class sandwiches (Wensleydale and carrot chutney/cheese and red onion) and a Breakaway bar instead. I accepted these and a small bottle of sauvignon blanc wine, and flicked through a copy of BA’s High Life magazine. 

ARRIVAL The one-hour 25-minute flight went quickly, and we landed at Munich’s Franz Josef Strauss airport at 1705 local time, not too much later than scheduled, despite the delay. We disembarked swiftly and, as I had no bags to collect, I was through immigration and into arrivals with the minimum of fuss.

VERDICT Terminal 5 was a pleasure to travel through, so it was a stress-free start to the journey. The cabin crew were friendly and accommodating and the seating decent for a short-haul service. Once BA has introduced the middle-seat free policy, this will be an even better offering for business class passengers. 

Jenny Southan