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PatJordan
Participant

DUB-LHR-EDI (Club Europe& UK Domestic)

Booking and check in

In the wake of their takeover of BMI, BA have returned to the London-Dublin route, in direct competition with Aer Lingus. As a result, Club Europe makes a welcome return to this route.

I needed to go from Dublin to Edinburgh and with no time constraints, decided to explore the possibility of a reward flight with BA via LHR.

There was availability for the dates I wanted, and little trouble in making the booking. The total charges and fees were 125euro and 10,800 Avios. This was for both flights, DUB-LHR-DUB in Club Europe and LHR-EDI-LHR in UK Domestic. This was excellent value indeed, and provided a further opportunity to sample the BA product on the DUB-LHR leg.

As a BA Executive Club Gold Card holder, I was offered the opportunity to select my seats online at time of booking. The front rows of the Airbus 320 were available, and I chose 1A for DUB-LHR-DUB on both flights. I chose the same seats on LHR-EDI-LHR.

On line check-in is available 24 hours prior to travel, and I used this facility to print my boarding passes for all my flights.

I arrived at Dublin Terminal 1 just after 6.20am for my 07.50am flight and proceeded straight to security. Since Aer Lingus and transatlantic operators have migrated to Terminal 2, there is a lower number of passengers using T1 which makes it far less crowded than heretofore. BA Club Europe includes use of the fast track security lane which is useful. I was airside in less than a minute.

Lounge (Dublin)

BA use the Dublin Airport Authority executive lounge in what was formerly known as Pier B. The lounge used to be the Aer Lingus Gold Circle lounge and retains the same panoramic views of the apron. There is a variety of seat types: I chose a deep beige leather armchair beside the business area.

A small range of newspapers and magazines is available, and restrooms outside the lounge.

There is a very limited range of food: fruit, cheese, biscuits, crackers, crisps and packaged bread. Orange juice is available in small cartons in the fridge. Not the most enticing of offerings, and certainly below the standard of the majority of BA lounges.

The coffee, however, is good and strong (perfect for early morning!) with a good range of soft and alcoholic drinks.

The lounge is a short walk from gates 301-313 (the old B pier) and makes boarding quite easy. Flight information screens showed BA 0831 departing from Gate 313, which is very close to the lounge. The flight was called for boarding @ 7.20am, and I proceeded to Gate 313……..where the screen showed the flight boarding as an Aer Lingus to Berlin. Having asked a member of staff, I was assured that BA would be the next flight to board from there. Seconds later, the screen changed to BA 0831!

Boarding

Boarding is through an airbridge and rearmost rows are called first to minimize delays. Priority boarding is usually offered to Club Europe and BAEC Gold & Silver cardholders, but was not on this occasion. I presume this to be an oversight on the part of Servisair, BA’s handling agent in Dublin. After my boarding pass was inspected, I proceeded to the jetway where a number of passengers were waiting. After some 10 minutes of waiting (in a chilly area) we were informed that there would be a delay of approximately 30 minutes due to a technical issue and we would be informed of any developments.

I returned to the lounge, and an announcement made that any passengers booked in Club Europe with hand baggage only should report to Gate 313 to be rebooked on a later morning flight. I duly went to gate 313 where an agent was dealing with a customer. No other agents were in sight, so (along with a number of others so instructed), I waited. After some minutes, a number of Servisair staff arrived, and without any preamble announced boarding for BA 0831, with apologies for the delay.

Communication appears to be an issue amongst BA, Servisair and Lounge Staff.

Being in row 1 my hand baggage had to be stowed in the overhead bins, so if the flight is busy it can be worthwhile boarding early to ensure space is available close to the seat. There seems to be a high load factor on this route, so it is worth bearing this in mind.

The Airbus 320 was immaculate, with blue carpets and darker blue leather seats. The cabin is configured 3-3 with the first rows allocated to Club Europe. These have the middle seat converted into a table top with space for drinks, etc. It also allows for much more personal space, particularly in row 1.The cabin crew warmly welcomed passengers by name.

Inflight

The Captain gave a welcome, apologised for the delayed departure (explaining the precise details of the technical issue!), and details of flight time( approximately one hour).This was followed by a safety announcement from the cabin crew. We pushed back shortly afterwards and were airborne around 9.00am.

When cruising altitude was reached, there was a hot towel service, followed by a hot breakfast :

• Bacon
• Sausage
• Mushroom
• Tomato
• Scrambled egg

This was served with a cuplet of juice, sliced fresh fruit and a choice of warm breads & pastries. Feeling self indulgent, I asked for a snipe of champagne (Pommery) and thoroughly enjoyed the meal.

We landed in Heathrow around 10.15am, and were on stand shortly afterwards. There was a technical issue with the jetty, which could not be pushed positioned in such a way as to allow the aircraft door to open. The Captain was very apologetic and said that steps were being fetched. The steps outside obviously weren’t the right ones! After almost 20 minutes wait, the correct steps arrived, and passengers began to deplane from the rear of the aircraft. At this point, a technician had arrived to the jetty and within seconds it was in position so as to deplane from the front!

As I was flying onward to Edinburgh, I had the option of using the flight connection centre or going landside and approaching security directly. I chose the latter as past experience of slow security clearance using flight connections can be an issue.

T5 security

The fast pass lane was empty, and I was airside very quickly indeed.

Lounge

My Gold Status meant I could use the BA First lounge in south end of T5. Given the amount of comments regarding the new catering company, I was very interested to compare the new offering. On approaching reception, I was warmly greeted and welcomed to the lounge.

It is a very large and impressive lounge with several seating areas, excellent views of the apron and a smaller selection of international newspapers and magazines than heretofore. There is a huge choice of seat types too: finding a comfortable spot is certainly not going to be an issue!

There is a business centre which offers complimentary internet access, fax and printing facilities.

The range of food on offer is much less than before: jars of biscuits, plain crisps….and little else

There is a dedicated champagne bar which had a choice of Bollinger Rose, Eric Lemaine or Tattinger. I had a couple of glasses of the latter and thoroughly enjoyed them!

As well as the aforementioned range of food, there is a hot buffet self service area. Up to noon, breakfast is available, with lunch after noon.

The breakfast buffet was somewhat tired looking. It was 11.30am, but the bacon and mushrooms were very dried up and unappetizing. The grilled tomatoes were cold.

The new caterers’ buffet consists of:

• Fresh fruit
• Breads, scones, pastries
• Cereals
• Yogurts
• Bacon
• Pork sausage
• Scrambled egg
• Beans
• Mushrooms
• Toast

Additionally a number of items are available to order from a menu and are served on request. Again the range is greatly reduced:

• Poached egg & kippers
• Breakfast sandwich
• Boiled eggs & soldiers
• Porridge

There are a number of very friendly attendants who regularly ask of there is anything further they can fetch. The lunch menu begins at 12 noon, and the buffet changes to:

• Jacket Potatoes
• Pasta
• Rice
• A couple of curry/chilli type dishes
• Salads (but no cold meats)
• Small range of finger sandwiches

This is a much reduced range and appears to be of a quality similar to a Galleries lounge. It is almost identical to that which Star Alliance offer in their T1 Business lounge. However it falls short of what should be available in a First Lounge. Remember this lounge is the BA & One World flagship.

The table service menu consists of:

• A range of hot sandwiches
• Caesar salad
• BA Burger with sea salt & cracked pepper wedges
• Poached Salmon, crushed new potatoes with horseradish and sorrel cream sauce
• Szechuan chicken with wok fried vegetables
• Elderflower panacotta, berry compote
• Delice Chocloate Opera
• British cheeseboard: applewood, long clawson stilton, denhay cheddar, Bath Oliver biscuits with chutney, quince jelly.

The staff who serve these meals are very friendly indeed, and I ordered the Szechuan chicken. It was served quickly, and was presented in three separate dishes: chicken, rice, vegetables. It tasted as nice as it looked.

I had a long conversation with Sindy (BA Customer service in the lounge) about the catering. My views are that the buffets are vastly inferior, but table service very good indeed. It seems that many others have voiced similar views, and these are being actively considered, which is good to hear.

It is a learning curve for the new catering company, and only time will tell if they are able to meet the former standards which BA customers have come to expect.

Boarding (LHR-EDI)

Boarding is through an airbridge and there is a dedicated queue for BAEC Silver & Gold members. Boarding began almost as soon as I arrived at the gate, and I was on board very quickly.

The Airbus was immaculate and cabin crew warmly welcomed passengers. The seats are upholstered in Navy blue leather with adjustable headrests. UK Domestic is a single class service and seats are configured 3-3 throughout the cabin. I had selected 1A which I particularly like at there is no seatback in front of me. Unlike Club Europe, the middle seats are occupied, and it was a very full flight.

Inflight

The Captain gave a brief welcome, and details of flight times, followed by a safety video shown on a drop down screen.

Given the short flight time (1Hour) the service is basic but quite acceptable. There is a full bar service and a choice of crisps, nuts, etc. The cabin crew were excellent in all regards. We landed at Edinburgh on time, and were quickly on stand. It was a short walk to the arrivals hall and I was outside the building within minutes of landing.

Returning to Edinburgh airport later in the day, I went directly to security, which was very quiet and I was airside within minutes.

Edinburgh is quite small, but quite busy. BA’s lounge is well signposted and is opposite the departure gates. The lady at reception was very welcoming. This lounge is large, bright with lots of natural light from windows in the roof. There is no outside view, however. Unlike most BA lounges, restrooms are outside and shared with other bars.

There is plenty of space and I selected a quiet corner to read. There is a business section with complimentary internet access, printing, etc.

I was pleasantly surprised with the range of food: plenty of sandwiches, Scottish lentil soup, bread rolls, biscuits (in jars!) cheese, crackers and cold cuts. When the lounge got busy later, the staff excelled themselves in making sure the food was replenished regularly.

There was a good range of savoury nibbles and a full bar, with champagne served on request by very friendly staff. The friendliness and professionalism of the new company’s staff is exemplary.

The boarding gate for London Heathrow was adjacent to the lounge, with a separate lane for BAEC Gold & Silver cardholders.

The aircraft was identical to that on the inbound flight, with equally good service. We landed in T5, and deplaned quickly. After a short walk, I was landside and used the Heathrow Express to transfer to T1.

Security Heathrow T1

I arrived at security around 8pm for my 9.40pm flight. There were few passengers and I was airside within a few minutes. I have found security at T1 to be usually much more efficient that T5, and today’s experience mirrored this. After a small bit of shopping I made my way to the lounge.

Lounge Heathrow

The former BMI Lounge is very big and was refurbished shortly before the BA takeover. I was curious to see what changes had been made since my last visit. The décor and furnishings remain unchanged, as does the very relaxing night time lighting. I was pleased to learn that I would be boarding from Gate 8 right beside the lounge.

There was a good range of newspapers & magazines, and a business area with complimentary internet access.

The food on offer consisted of the remains of a vat of mushroom soup: scraping the bottom yielded just enough to half fill a bowl. There were no bread rolls left, nor sandwiches. There was some tired looking sliced cheese with crackers. Bowls of fruit and crisps were available, with very few biscuits.

The very least I expected would have been a decent bowl of soup and a sandwich: I was very disappointed in the fare on offer.

Boarding

My Dublin bound flight boarded at gate 8, almost beside the lounge. There is a dedicated lane for BAEC Gold/Silver card holders and Club Europe passengers..

The Airbus 320 was identical to that on the inbound flight . The cabin crew warmly welcomed passengers. The flight was quite busy both in economy, and Club Europe.

After a welcome announcement from the Captain, we pushed back at just before 9.40pm. During a lengthy taxi, the cabin crew gave a safety demonstration. Followed by a hot towel service, however.

The meal offered was a cold plate (sliced salami, prosciutto with shredded vegetables) but no warm breads. Having had such a poor offering in the lounge, I was hoping for something more substantial, but given the lateness of the hour a light meal might be deemed appropriate. I asked for a glass of champagne, and was served a snipe of Pommery. This was nicely chilled, and a replenishment was offered which I gratefully accepted.

The flight landed on time, and after a short taxi, we were on stand and deplaned. There was no delay at passport control and I was landside very quickly.

Conclusion

The UK Domestic product is perfectly acceptable for such short flights. Given the full flights between London and Edinburgh, the travelling public agree.

As to the Club Europe product, I was disappointed with the boarding and deplaning on the DUB-LHR flight, but felt that LHR-DUB was let down by the very poor lounge experience. The new caterers in BA lounges have not yet managed to equal the previous standard, but may well get there in time.