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#553565

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Dear all,

As promised, I would update the overall experience on the BA LCY to JFK service.

I was booked on BA3 on 21 April, coming in from ARN on 20 April for a day of meetings which I conducted at the Hilton Metropole, my usual London hang-out. I thought I had a booked a car for 14:00 (for the 16:00 departure). However, I was misunderstood and a car was booked for 14:30. This was quickly rectified, and I had car by 14:15. The drive from Edgware Road took roughly an hour through town, and I was a bit nervous that I would not make it.

At LCY I used the check in at the door, which quickly took care of my one bag, and boarding passes issued promptly. The check-in process was done in less than 60 seconds, and I proceeded to security. Security was swift, with no queues but I was surprised no “Fast Lane” option was indicated for the service. I quickly made my way to the designated gate, about 30 min before departure. I did glance at the Duty Free offers, but nowhere as good as LHR. I tend to go for the Fizzy offers, but it was a poor offer compared to LHR.

The makeshift “Lounge” at the gate was rather full, and a bit tight as I later discovered 28/32 seats were taken on the flight. It felt a bit like a waiting area outside a conference at a large hotel, and not a lounge. To BA’s defence, there is limited real estate to do more with it.

Boarding was called 20min before, and I was the last to board as I want to get my latest emails downloaded. On-board, coast/jackets taken quickly, and I settle into 1K. Now, I would not select this seat again but opt for row 2. Felt more spacious to me. The seat is very comfortable, but the usual CW seats feel a lot more private.

We quickly shut the doors, taxied to the runway, and took off. Once airborne, it struck me how very quiet the A318 is. On the outside, the large engines on the airframe look odd, but once on-board the lack of noise is just marvellous. Quickly, the On Air system came online and I started to shoot off my SMS to friends and family to talk about the cool service. Additionally, drinks and starters were served from the galley. Given BA’s focus on the F&B element on this route, I was surprised of a few details:
• The wine and champagne selection is the same as on mainline CW. Given the positioning on BA.com it was not what I expected
• I really dread the tray service in business class. On this service, there should be time and resources to do a real table service. I know this may sound odd, but I have noticed that most carriers I travel with no First offer, have in Business a restaurant style experience with table cloth and course-by-course. This is what I expected from BA on this route
• The overall food however, was better than my (limited) CW experience

We landed roughly 15 min ahead of schedule at Shannon. Disembarked quickly and taken to a holding area. Passengers like me who had checked bags waited in a holding area for the bag to be cleared, while those with hand luggage proceeded directly to the US Immigration and Custom Area. A second screening of hand luggage + shoes done prior to clearance. Waited 5 minutes for bag to be cleared, and through the processing which was quick. An image of my bag was shown to me, and I identified my bag. Another 5min waiting before boarding. Overall process done in roughly 20 minutes, and we departed early. Whilst Shannon Airport itself seems a bit long in the tooth, overall process brilliant. I wonder if the timing of BA1 may cause a longer process as other US bound flights may be departing at the same time? I have not check the schedule, but something to look out for.

Back on-board we quickly got seated, and departed. Once airborne, the entertainment units were handed out. I don’t understand why these are not fixed, but it is no big deal. However, I needed a combination of three units, two power-supplies, and two sockets to get going. Crew very apologetic, and issues sorted.

Meal quickly served, and choices abundant and good. Wine selection limited, and the Ayala fizz not the best choice from my point of view. I wanted a nice Rhone, but they ran out.

Settle back for two movies I wanted to see, and managed a short snooze before landing into JFK. Second meal service did not look particularly exciting, so I skipped it. We arrived early into JFK, and as with LHR you get penalised. Due to Easter schedule and due to a delayed Iceland Air flight, we were stuck for about 30min before we could deplane. Not BA’s fault, but a bit annoying being so close to the target. 15min from the door opening; I stood outside waiting for my pre-arranged Dial 7 car service to Manhattan.

MY VERDICT
I was perhaps expecting a little more as the BA web site “sells” the service as unique in regards to F&B. I didn’t feel this part lived up to the “hype”. Nor was the LCY “Lounge” experience special, but I suspect it is hard to do much with the area available at LCY. Despite this, the overall experience is brilliant. The quiet ambience is excellent, staff was superb, but best of all is the Shannon pit stop. Whilst I believe arriving into JFK 20:00 would perhaps be reasonable quick, you never know. Therefore, the stop at Shannon takes away the biggest headache of US Travel; the US Immigration process. I was at the Waldorf 60min after the door opened which is excellent. My return was on BA mainline to LHR on 26 April. Whilst my scheduled departure was around 22:00, I was at the airport around 17:45. Due to bad weather at the Airport, I was offered a seat on the 18:40 departure even with my inflexible ticket, and I was given the now famous “60B” seat by the Lounge staff. I opted for a quick meal in the lounge, and with about 75min delay I changed into my BA First PJs and went to sleep for 5½ hours. Can’t ask for much more than that from the US East Coast. Arrival Lounge experience excellent as always.

As I purchased a round trip from ARN for roughly £1350 in January during the BA sale with a working day in each direction in London I must say this was excellent value for money. I would certainly use the service again; my one concern is the connecting service to/from ARN on CitiFlyer which leaves a lot to be desired. So I would use it in combination with work in the London area and come into LHR the night before on the mainline service.