CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 at 0815, nice and early for my 1035 flight SK526 to Stockholm Arlanda, having had an unexpectedly traffic-free journey to the airport. Having checked in online and carrying hand luggage only, I proceeded straight to departures upstairs. Security was quiet, with a separate queue in places for families, and I was airside in five minutes.
THE LOUNGE I took the opportunity to try out the brand new No 1 Traveller lounge (click here for a review), located in the lounges area (follow signs for zone F), above the BA Galleries facility. Costing £30 for three hours’ access, it is an attractive, calm space, much like the No 1 lounge at Gatwick North Terminal, with welcoming staff, a manned bar serving soft and alcoholic drinks (all free except for champagne and cocktails), a bistro area with a self-service buffet – offering fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries and cereals on this morning – and a freshly prepared dish – eggs Benedict/Florentine or a bacon roll – all complimentary. Larger à la carte options are also available from £8.
There is plenty of seating with runway views, a small vertical garden, quiet areas, a spa (treatments at an extra charge, and a shower available for free – you can pay to use these without buying lounge access), a cinema showing films on rotation, a games room with two iMacs, table football and a pool table, a TV room (there are plans to add a Playstation and another corner with a PC. At the end of September, 12 bookable bedrooms are due to open. Wifi is free via password and there are a range of newspapers and magazines. I had some breakfast – very nice – worked for an hour and kept an eye on the departure screen.
BOARDING At 1000 my flight showed as boarding so I made my way to gate 11, just downstairs. There was no queue and I boarded immediately.
THE SEAT This B737-600 was configured 3-3 (ABC-DEF), with the first two rows reserved for business class passengers (note there are no seats ABC in row one, and the middle seat is kept free), rows three to four for Economy Extra and the remaining rows five to 22 economy. I was in aisle seat 8C, which I had pre-selected at check-in. It was upholstered in dark blue fabric and should have reclined via a button in the right armrest, but my button wasn’t working. Unfortunately, the passenger’s in front of me was, and he reclined immediately, leaving me feeling quite restricted, and having to position my laptop on the edge of the fold-down table to work on it. Legroom was fine.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The exit row (nine) doesn’t offer any discernable extra legroom, though note that it has no seats A or F, so seats 10A and F behind them are the best in the cabin as you have more room to stretch. Avoid the back row as you are likely to be disturbed by noise from the galley and people hovering to use the washroom. These seats do not recline either. (There is no seat D in the back row.) Choose a seat towards the front to be served first and disembark first.
THE FLIGHT We pushed back bang on time but then there was a short delay as there were a few planes waiting ahead of us. We took off at 1055 and shortly afterwards a drinks/snack service started. Economy passengers get nothing free, which I thought was a bit stingy. Water and soft drinks were Kr 25 (£2.50), beer from Kr 25 (£2.50), wine Kr 60 (£6), spirits Kr 45 (£4.50), pasta salad Kr 80 (£8), sandwich Kr 50 (£5), wine and pasta salad Kr 100 (£10), soft drink, sandwich and bag of snacks Kr 80 (£8), coffee and a muffin Kr 40 (£4). Service was efficient, and crew came around to offer coffee top-ups to those who had bought one.
ARRIVAL We landed at Stockholm Arlanda’s Terminal 5 at 1400, five minutes ahead of schedule, and were quickly off the plane. Immigration was a few minutes’ walk to the right and down an escalator, and there was a short queue for EU citizens (longer ones for non-EU). I was through in a few minutes and walked straight through with my bag to catch my bus to the city centre.
VERDICT An efficient, punctual service, though I was surprised at the lack of a free drink or snack for economy passengers.
PRICE Internet rates for a return economy flight from London Heathrow to Stockholm Arlanda in October started from €144.