Check-in I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 0800 for my 0930 departure on flight BA078. (BA flies daily to St Petersburg from London Heathrow.) As I had checked in online and was travelling with hand luggage only, I headed straight to the terminal’s North departure area, but was informed that this was closed to new passengers as it was busy, and was directed to the South departure area. There was a small queue at passport check, and having reached the front I was informed that I needed to go through a “document check” before proceeding, presumably to check the Russian visa in my passport. This involved going to one of two desks back in the main terminal building. I headed for desk G16, where I was seen straight away, and two orange marks were put on my boarding pass to show I was now eligible to pass through.

This extra process didn’t take very long, but I did think it was strange that the requirement wasn’t mentioned during online check-in, as had there been a lot of people at passport check it would have been annoying to have had to queue twice. Those checking luggage into the hold will not experience this issue, as the document check is carried out at the baggage-drop desk. Security control was quick, and I was airside by around 0825. There are myriad shopping and eating options at T5, but I was content to grab a coffee at a Starbucks outlet.

Boarding The flight was departing at Gate A19 and boarding commenced at 0915. There was a choice of newspapers (the Daily Mail, Telegraph and FT) for all passengers. I estimated that the flight was around half full in both business and economy cabins. The captain announced the flight would take around two hours and 55 minutes, and we took off at 0955.

The seat The outbound flight was on an A320 configured 3-3, with the middle seat being kept free in business. (For a review of the inbound flight on an A321, click here). Seat stats are: pitch 79cm/31in, width 44.5cm/17.5in, recline 15 degrees.

Where to sit I was sat in 10F, an aisle seat in the second row of economy, and the first of two emergency exit rows. Passengers in these rows will benefit from slightly more legroom (although not as marked a difference as on the A321 aircraft where a whole row is removed around the emergency exit). I thought this was the best seat I could have chosen in economy, as it also meant I was close to the front of the plane and therefore was served the meal first, and was able to disembark just after business class passengers.

The flight A hot breakfast was served soon after take-off, consisting of sausage, tomato, bacon and scrambled egg, along with a multi-grain roll, butter and jam, a dish of sliced fruit (kiwi, apple and melon), a carton of orange juice, and a tub of Rachel’s organic raspberry yoghurt. There is no in-flight entertainment on this service, save for the communal screen showing details of the flight path. Service was impeccable and the flight passed smoothly.

Arrival We landed pretty much on time at St Petersburg Pulkovo airport. There were several large queues at immigration and it took about 25 minutes to be seen. However, this did mean that my travel companion’s checked luggage was on the carousel by the time we were through.

Verdict Unbelievably, this was my first experience of travelling through T5, and the terminal is undoubtedly a vast improvement on other parts of Heathrow. The flight was on time and service was good. Immigration at St Petersburg was slow, but still better than the departure from the airport a few days later (click here for the review).

Price Internet rates for a return economy class flight to St Petersburg in August started from £261.


Mark Caswell