I flew BA0388 LHR to BRU in CE. I’d booked the flights originally in ET about 7 months in advance and got a good price of £59 each way but an upgrade offer opened up a month or so later for another £69 each way. That’s the only way I’d buy CE because as a leisure traveller, it’s cheap enough for the tier points to be tempting as I’m trying to keep silver status for next year. Had the tickets been any more expensive I don’t think I’d bother as the product simply isn’t worth it for flights that are so short.
Having spent the night at the T5 Sofitel, I arrived at Departures at 5.20am and was surprised to find it heaving with people. Queues for the WT and WT+ bag drops were 20 to 30 people deep and I only saw about 4 or 5 desks open to deal with it. I headed over to the CE/CW and First desks at the far end of the terminal, which were thankfully a lot quieter. I’d checked in on-line the day before and printed off my boarding pass so lined up behind one other person at the CE bag drop. The check-in agent managed to twist her face into her grimace at my cheery good morning, which I guess was her attempt at a smile but reminded me more of Wednesday Addams feigning delight. She kept the interaction to a minimum, showing more interest in the difficulties her colleague was having with the bag drop conveyer belt next door. This had the effect of delaying her in despatching my bag for which I received neither apology nor acknowledgement of the weight. There was no information on fast track security or access to the lounge and neither did I get any farewell pleasantries when my bag did finally disappear down the conveyer belt.
Fortunately I’m an old hand at T5 so went straight to fast track where I was through in 5 minutes (as a side note – such a relief to not have to remove my shoes anymore). I was at the BA Galleries Lounge by 5.40am where I was given a friendly hello by the female lounge dragon.
Thanks to BT and FT, I was aware that there had been a change in the catering arrangements in the BA lounge and had prepared myself accordingly for a scene from some kind of post-nuclear food waste land where I might have to club someone for a bacon buttie. I was pleasantly surprised however to find that the changes weren’t actually that noticeable unless you know what to look for and some (to my mind) were for the better. For example, bacon rolls are now presented in artisan seed rolls rather than the old white rocks. Mushroom and tomato rolls were available for vegetarians and there was a selection of yoghurt, porridge and fruit and an excellent array of pastries, which I thought were actually better than what were available before – especially the mini cinnamon swirls.
My only gripes were that there are no longer any little sachets of sauce (people instead have to spoon it out of containers, which isn’t a biggie) and some of the food labels were missing – e.g. I picked up a mini muffin thinking it was chocolate chip to discover instead that it was evil blueberry. Obviously, I’m going to claim compensation for these ninja blueberries assaulting my unsuspecting taste buds … I was also unimpressed by the fact that there’s now only one flavour of crisp – great if you like ready salted, not so much if you want something different.
I saw the infamous biscuit containers and I can see why people are bothered about it because they’re not very well designed and I would prefer it if they brought back the wrapped biscuits. However, the issue about hygiene seems (to me) to be no different to the general hygienic concerns I have about using the buffet generally (which I notice still doesn’t have a sneeze guard over the top). I was concerned enough about it to only go and get food when I saw the staff bring fresh produce out (and they did so regularly). Staff were very visible in clearing plates as well as replenishing supplies.
At 6.15am I made my way over to Gate A20 (which is only 2 minutes walk from the Galleries lounge). Boarding began at 6:18 with CE passengers and BAEC gold and silver cardholders and OW emerald and sapphire – staff were scrupulous in checking this. Boarding was via an air bridge and there was a friendly welcome when I reached the aircraft.
As a BAEC silver card holder, I’d preselected 2A when I’d booked the flight but at check in I noticed that row 1 was available and so moved to 1C. The seat was clean and comfortable and didn’t look as worn out as some seats I’ve had for CE. The CE cabin was only about a quarter full so there was no problem getting space in an overhead locker and cabin crew quickly brought around hot towels. There was then a captain’s announcement and we pushed back at 6:39 (which was 1 minute ahead of schedule). After the obligatory tour around LHR during which we had a video safety demonstration we were airborne by 7am and breakfast was served at 7:10. This was a choice of continental or cooked breakfast. Having made a pig of myself in the lounge, I went with the continental, which was somewhat unimpressive: 3 pieces of ham, 3 pieces of flaccid red pepper and a depressed slice of corgette with some kind of hummus thing, a croissant and a yoghurt with granola. For some peculiar reason cabin crew served breakfast on the middle table rather than asking passengers to pull out their own seat table. This made it very awkward to eat and I ended up pulling my table out and shifting the tray across. No idea what the thinking was there but they did it to a number of passengers and it just struck me as odd.
There was another captain’s announcement at 7:30 about ground conditions at Brussels and the remaining flight time. The monitors were also kept on during the flight so I could check progress. I used the short flight time to read the High Life magazine (particularly enjoyed John Simpson’s article on foreign ministers he’s known and loved) and then a very smooth landing at Brussels at 7:45 am. We were quickly at the stand and I was first off the plane only to hit a road block at passport control, which only had 2 EU passport desks open and therefore took 20 minutes to get through. I went through to baggage reclaim, found the BA belt which juddered into action after another 5 minute wait. Thankfully the priority tags had worked and my bag was first off the conveyer belt, allowing me to dash off to the train station and into Brussels city centre.
All in all, it was a pleasant enough flight and (for me) the tier points made it worth paying for the product but given the 45 minute fight time, it’s only worth doing if the price is cheap.