First BA (or Euroflyer) flights for over 18 months….Back to Forum
Travelling to BA, from Gatwick Airport and possibly using the M25 from the north of London is my travel nightmare. But this is where I found myself last weekend for a trip to Malta. With the worry of a train strike being lifted, I did switch from driving to Gatwick to using the Thames Link service, although when I arrived at my local Thames Link station, hey presto, it was closed. Quick divert to underground, into St Pancras/Kings Cross and in no time arrived at Gatwick.
Even though online check in completed, Malta required a passport check so went to BA check in. Gatwick airport itself was empty, check is lines were minimal, fast track security was empty. All in all, it took around 10 minutes from stepping off the train to clearing security.
Endured the compulsory walk through the shops, found the BA F lounge. The lounge was less than half full, certainly no lines to enter the lounge. The offering was not as extensive as the Heathrow lounges and the food that was out remained “splashy slop style”, ideal for food spillages on clothes. However, the app menu was still available and the staff were very happy to take food requests as they passed by. I ordered the veggie burger (and chips), which were delivered fast, hot and was extremely delicious.
Flight was delayed by 50 minutes, but as the lounge was quiet, good views, decent internet, the delay did not bother me.
London to Malta
Boarding was as it should be, not a scramble, (even though the flight was full) and noticed about 14 rows of business (more about that later). Overhead bins were all available, crew were polite and professional, and the captain assured us he would make up some of the delay.
There was quite a long taxi & wait from stand to runway and one of the minor irritations with BA, is why can’t the lead cabin crew make his/her welcome announcement on the ground rather than immediately after take-off. The gentle whir of the jet engines, always sends me to sleep, but the sleep lasts only a few minutes until the PA starts up with the “May I add my personal welcome……” speech…. Please BA, why can’t this welcome be done on the ground, when delays/taxi times allow.
Onboard service was very good. Drinks were fast and plentiful, food offering, printed on a menu and three choices. I went for the poached salmon salad, which was again, very delicious.
The only problem with 14 rows of club and 1 forward toilet, queues form and with the cabin crew undertaking their duties, passengers park themselves anywhere. I did have to ask a couple of passengers to move from standing in front of me, literally in row 1 and seat side of the bulkhead. Added to which with no curtain, passengers from beyond row 14, join the forward toilet queue and the front of the aircraft becomes very busy and crowded.
Landed just a few minutes late all in all, a very pleasant BA flight.
Malta to London
Online check-in no need to show passport to an agent for the return. Malta airport does get quite busy, but easy through security and quickly into the La Valette lounge which services most of the airlines, including some Ryan Air pilots who are able to use it as a crew lounge. It does get busy but the outside terrace is a very pleasant area to enjoy. Good food and drinks offering in La Valette.
Cleared through outbound immigration where the agent automatically starts counting my days within the EU and I use my standard phrase that if they don’t want me in Malta, I will spend my money elsewhere, which the agent smiled back and reminded me I told her the same thing a couple of weeks ago.
Boarding in Malta was a scramble and onto a bus. Ryan Air obviously got a freebie as they had 2 aircraft positioned in the prime “walk to the terminal spots”. I was a little further back for the return (row 4), but in flight still saw the toilet queues form and passengers in row 1 having people trying to stand in front of them. Not sure how this will be managed but certainly 14 rows of club, with no curtain and only 1 aisle and 1 forward toilet is a problem.
Onboard service back was of the same high standard as outbound, 3 meal choices all printed on a menu. I opted for the vegetarian shepherds’ pie, this was a first for me on any airline and as standard (non-special request) offering. Very VERY delicious.
Landed back at Gatwick 30 minutes early. What an absolute mess arriving into Gatwick. Up and down stairs, long walks, horrible corridors BUT, a full complement of e gates and plenty of immigration booths manned. I opted for a manned booth as it did look slightly faster, and I was only held up by a very pleasant immigration officer who wouldn’t stop chatting.
Out to Thames link onto a train to central London and then a quick change to north London suburbs. All in all very painless.
I thought I was on a charter aircraft. None of the uniform seemed to fit and looked extremely poor quality. It did not generate a wow factor or provide any reassurance that the cabin crew were indeed professionals. They just looked as if they were going to Benidorm on one of those TV documentaries… However, I am sure they are here to stay and from the sounds of things the crew were not altogether impressed with their new outfits either.
All in all, I was very pleasantly surprised. I am sure someone will point out the flight is operated by Euro flyer but does that make any difference?
Standout for me was the onboard service and food. Easily competes with Air Malta, who I will be travelling with in a couple of weeks. However, Gatwick is the downside for me, I far prefer Heathrow. Also, the timings for the Heathrow Air Malta services are (for me) far better.
I know this has been said on many occasions, but I hope a European airline will decide to offer business class passengers more legroom. It is a nonsense paying for business class and only gaining a free middle seat (which I understand can be used in certain circumstances). I also understand by having the same economy leg room allows the number of business class seats to flex…
Whilst Air Malta generally have better pricing, on this occasion, I chose BA because of the ticket price.12 Oct 2023
Great review. I actually prefer the Gatwick first lounge to Heathrow (and also the business one is nice).
Glad someone else finds the announcement after take off annoying and when usually time to do before.
Malta is a long flight for club europe. Maybe one airline could have like a cathay a321 regional product – however perhaps Europeans are too price conscious as Ba club eurooe is usually reasonably priced compared with Cathay and some other Asian airlines. I guess you pay for what you get! I liked the ex bmi mid haul planes but they were at the time better than club world in my view.
I do miss the BA service as I always find so organised and efficient v cathay which is slow and random – I don’t think a cathay crew would be able to handle a Manchester service.
Did you notice any difference in service between mainline fleet and whatever Gatwick fleet is called now (I have not been on the Gatwick fleet as only did a Glasgow to Gatwick and that is operated by Heathrow crew)?13 Oct 2023
You can avoid the walk through the shops entirely by merely turning left immediately after security rather than descending to the lower depths.
In a few short steps along the passageway you will arrive at the food court, with the business lounge entrances opposite and to the right.13 Oct 2023
Martyn, Qs at forward toilets
Had a similar problem on a KLM EU fight recently but the Purser had a solution, there were only 3 rows of business class, when he noticed passengers from further back pulling the curtain divider to one side to access the forward toilet, he promptly intervened and told them to wait behind the curtain until the toilet became free. This had the added benefit that pax in rows 1 – 3 could use the toilet ahead of anyone waiting behind the curtain.13 Oct 2023
@christ – The last time I used mainline fleet was a Malta flight from Gatwick pre Euro flyer and it was shocking. Row one had no bulkhead and you sat staring at the two cabin crew. Food was dire and service very poor. My next mainline BA flight will be to Milan in 3 weeks time, but that will be from Heathrow. I will be shocked if business class provides choices for meals and a printed menu !!
@Backoftheplace – Air Malta IMHO provided a more consistent onboard service over BA, until Euroflyer came along. At Heathrow they now use the Kuwait lounge in T4 which is very nice. I think after April, the new Air Malta will be identical. I read the same staff will be recruited and the same aircraft used. The only question I have is whether the loyalty scheme will be scrapped with all miles lost or transferred. What happened to the Alitalia f/f programme when they were reinvented?
@PhilHart – thanks for the tip, I will certainly try that route if I find myself at Gatwick again.
@ViajeroUK – 14 rows of business class seats and 1 toilet, will always cause a toilet q. The 3 rows you had on KLM is unlikely to cause a q. The fact so many passengers are trying to squeeze into the forward galley or blocking the aisles needs to be managed better by the cabin crew.13 Oct 2023