I regularly fly on British Airways out of London Heathrow to Nice, just have a read of my European British Airways Flight Reviews to find out what the Heathrow route is like, but today I flew from Gatwick.
I actually prefer to fly out of Heathrow because I am a major fan of Heathrow Terminal 5 with its modern and impressive design and the glamorous facilities, all set inside a modern aircraft hanger-style building with glass sides and loads of structural detailing. I love all the light that streams in from its glass sides, the futuristic advertising boards, the immaculately kept communal areas, and the views out onto the tarmac.
The British Airways lounges are particularly good here. You can read all about them including the best British Airways lounge in Terminal 5, they are all based on the upper floors so you can relax above the main terminal concourse and look down upon the non-lounge flyers.
Gatwick is less exciting, in fact, the South terminal which you fly out of is dated and tired. The long stay car park seems endless and there is no Pod Parking so if you drive to the airport you need to take a bus to the terminal from the long stay (or pay the extra for short stay).
The British Airways lounges at Gatwick are the one redeeming feature of flying out of Gatwick’s South Terminal. They are both excellent and I have reviewed both in detail below:
Being brutally honest, in looks and seating alone, the First class lounge at Gatwick South is no better than the Business Club Lounge at Gatwick South which I have already reviewed with pictures. In fact, the seating on offer is… Read More.
The new British Airways Business lounge for Club passengers and First lounge is open at London Gatwick’s South Terminal and it is an absolute cracker. Following a late opening due to electrical teething troubles, the lounge is now fully functional… Read More.
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I was surprised when I boarded the non-densified BA A320, that there were only 3 rows of Club Europe. No wonder I had found it so difficult to redeem Avios air miles out of Gatwick in Business Class. There clearly isn’t a demand for the more expensive Club Europe seats.
I find this odd because the British Airways Business airport lounge at Gatwick South is excellent and a huge upgrade to sitting in the chaotic terminal. I find it is absolutely essential to start my Gatwick flights and using these BA lounges changes a mediocre airport experience to a thoroughly enjoyable one.
If anything, it is more important to have British Airways airport lounge access in Gatwick than Heathrow. In Heathrow, I can while away a few hours shopping in Burberry or the nice and stylish duty-free stores, but in Gatwick, there is very little to do other than eat or buy from high street brands. The communal areas are busy and noisy and therefore stressful. I would therefore heavily recommend booking into Club Europe from Gatwick to avoid sitting in the main terminal and to sit in the more peaceful space of the British Airways Business Lounge.
I chose to fly out of Gatwick on this trip in February 2019 because my trip was booked rather last minute and there was Avios availability out of Gatwick but not Heathrow (I took the last 3 available seats on my route for that week) so I was only able to fly out of London Gatwick.
The cabin on this British Airways A320 was spacious, as the plane had not been densified. The decor was royal blue and light blue with grey tray tables. These cabin interiors are not new or special but they seemed clean and functional and not desperately worn like the cabin on my most recent and rather horrendous Easyjet flight.
European flights on the British Airways tend to be on their Airbus A319, A320 & A321’s and the experience is very similar as they all have the same in layout 2-2 in Business Class and 3-3 in Economy, with the main difference being whether they have been refurbished recently or not.
I was in row 1 which was a great spot with plenty of legroom (see pictures in the scroller above). Because the plane had not been densified, the front row seats still had a wall in front of them. On the refurbished BA planes, being in the front row means that you have people pushing past your legs during boarding which isn’t ideal. This is a major problem if you are seated in row 1 to the left-hand side of the plane but is less of a problem to the right.
The front row is undoubtedly the best row to pick on the plane with the best 4 seats because of the sheer amount of legroom. So seats A C D & F in row 1 are by far the best seats on this A320. On BA’s refurbished, densified short-haul planes, I would always opt for seats D & F in row 1 because of the problem of passing human traffic during boarding in seats A & C. That said, the seats themselves are all the same throughout the cabin including the Coach seats at the back, with exactly the same width. By booking into the Business Class seats on the flight, nobody sits in the middle seat (it is converted to a table), so you have plenty of elbow room if you want to work.
This is a major reason for me to choose Club Europe over Economy. When you try and type on your computer in Economy, you are liable to knock your neighbor as these seats do not have a generous width. In Club, you can work your way through the flight. 2 hours of my time makes it worthwhile for me to upgrade, particularly if I upgrade on Avios air miles!
Food in Club Europe
For this flight, the food was surprisingly delicious. It was the British Airways afternoon tea as my flight left at 3:35 pm and the choice was between a sandwich selection and a plowman’s. I went for the sandwich selection which was a chicken roll with a mayonnaisey sauce, a prawn wrap with avocado and lettuce, and a cheese and pickle roll. The pudding was a small slice of chocolate cake and a citrus sponge.
Of course, I must not forget the afternoon tea highlight, Scones, Rodda’s cream, and strawberry jam. I don’t usually finish the sandwiches when I fly, 4 pm is a funny in-between time to eat, but on this flight, I ate it all. OK, it’s not fine dining, but for a European flight, the food was very nice!
You can have anything from the bar for free in Club Europe, including alcoholic drinks and usually, there is at least one passenger in the Club Europe cabin that is taking advantage of this. On my last Club Europe flight, one poor lady had one-too-many, and after exiting the plane and walking down numerous corridors with one-way doors at Geneva airport, she was left scrabbling around in her bag in front of me trying to find her lost passport.
This major embarrassment blocked the passport queue for a while before she finally admitted to herself that she had, in fact, left it on the plane, probably because she wasn’t on the ball after her over-indulgence. She did try to battle the non-returnable doors to get back to the plane. I admired her optimism, but Swiss door technology outwitted her and she was left rather hopelessly in no-mans land. I didn’t stick around to find out what happened…
I am not a fan of afternoon drinking, I tend to get a headache when I travel and alcohol only makes it worse, so I had sparkling water and a diet coke.
Once they pull the Club Europe curtain across, the front toilet becomes exclusively for Club Europe travelers which means there are no queues. Unfortunately, the bonus of the huge amount of legroom I enjoyed on my flight because it had not recently been refurbished with the densified layout, meant that the toilets had not been refurbished either.
WOW, I wish I could say the toilet was not noteworthy, just small and with white company smellies (liquid soap and moisturizer) but it was noteworthy in a bad way. Just take a look at the photos on the scroller above. Unlike a Business Class toilet on Emirates or Etihad where you might find Bulgari amenities and even fragrances, this toilet had a fragrance all of its own.
I took my son in with me (it was a squeeze) as I don’t like him walking around the plane and being locked in a cubicle in the air on his own, and he felt the need to use my scarf as a face mask against the stench. I guess the smell was “old toilet” with a touch of the number 2. The toilet inside didn’t look clean and the basin and flush button looked grubby.
The basin was old and cracked and had a nasty brown stain inside. The rubbish bin flap was stiff so you had to touch it when putting your paper towel into the bin and on the back of the door was…. a broken ashtray in case you wanted a quick fag in the loo!
Interesting fact regarding Free Upgrades On British Airways
Previously I wrote an article about the one sure-fire way to get a free upgrade on a flight. An airline is obliged to move you to the only seat available on the plane if your seat is broken. If there is no spare seat in Economy (as was the case on this flight) you will be upgraded to the next class, for free.
On this flight, a seat in Economy was indeed broken, it reclined but it wouldn’t go back upright which is required for takeoff. So sure enough, as expected, seeing as there was no spare seat available in Economy, the passenger was moved next to me, at the front of the plane in Club World.
But this passenger was not as lucky as it seemed. You see, it is not legal to take off and land on a seat that is reclined, but you can “enjoy” your flight on a seat that reclines and won’t go back up. Once we had taken off, the lady was moved back to her Economy Seat.
Was she happy? Goodness no, she had a rather aggressive conversation with the Club Word air hostess on why it was not good enough that she had to return to her Euro Traveller seat. At one point I thought she might start a fight, but the air hostess remained calm and firm and the passenger was marched back to enjoy the seat she booked until landing.
So the moral of this particular event is never to intentionally break the recline on your seat because it won’t get you a permanent upgrade on your flight, just a temporary one (assuming there is no other seat available in Economy). At least not on British Airways!
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My British Airways air hostess on this flight was lovely even though she had to deal with less than pleasant “upgrader”. She was well presented and kind to my family and my son. For a two hour flight, she was excellent.
The British Airways pilot was also great at keeping us updated with the weather conditions for our “smooth flight” and “rather chilly” air temperature at Nice, our arrival airport. I always like the commentary from the excellent BA pilots; you usually know what’s coming and I always feel like I am being flown by someone capable.
But I fly on their aging but capable planes in Club around Europe all the time and I can’t help but like our very British Airline even though it probably doesn’t deserve my love.