The first I knew that something was up for our return trip from Nice to London was when I had an alert on myflights telling me the aircraft had changed. I had been expecting an Embraer 190, like the one I have been on when I took this flight back in September 2015. I had already selected seats, so the alert told me they had changed.
When aircraft go in for maintenance or when there is an issue, airlines can charter a wet-lease to cover the gap. British Airways often uses a company called Jota Aviation. They provide the aircraft, pilots and crew, and operate using the BA flight number providing a standard BA Service. I understand that it is common practice to be informed in advance that your flight will be operated on behalf of British Airways, but in this occasion, it did not happen.
Arriving at Nice airport was easy; I deposited my travelling companions and the luggage at the Kiss and Fly, before returning the hire car and taking the free shuttle bus back to the Terminal 1.
Since I was last there in September it has had a makeover, with a much improved security area on the ground floor. This should cut down the queues that used to snake back and forth at the top of the escalator. You then go upstairs and pass through passport control. This used to only be necessary if you were departing from a B gate outside the Schengen Zone (for flights to London and Dubai I think) but it is now compulsory for everyone.
We passed quickly to the lounge, me and a guest with my Silver card, and the other 2 getting in using the free Lounge Club passes form my Gold AmEx. It is not the most exciting place, and the food offering is pretty basic, but it is quiet and offers good views of the concourse.
Boarding was called via B16 – a bus gate. The queue was really long as the staff were checking most of the cabin bags into the hold, citing the small aircraft size as the reason. I assume that all these people checked in online and that this was their first interaction with staff, otherwise their bags would surely have been tagged before. We boarded the bus and waited; when there was just 4 people left in the queue the bus drove off and another one came. Why they waited so long is anyone’s guess.
A very short drive over the tarmac took us to the plane – a BAe 146. I have flown on them years ago on Inverness – Amsterdam and Inverness – London routes, and they were one of the first jet aircraft allowed in to LCY because of the steep angle of decent.
The first issue I had was the seating. There was no row 13 on the aircraft, but there was one on the seat selection map, so there were people in the wrong seats – always a bad start. I had selected the last two rows on the right hand side of the aircraft, as these are two abreast rather than three, and the last row was an exit row with extra leg room. BA were asking £16 a seat for selecting row 17, but this was waived as I am a Silver card holder. However, as there was no row 13, my seats were not in the last row, but the one in front; I therefore did not get the space I was expecting.
The second issue was the service. There were 2 cabin crew; one serving the Club Europe cabin (which remained un-curtained the whole flights) and the other doing the rest. Now, there was nothing wrong with the crew – there just wasn’t enough of them. They first served lunch, then the drinks, which is the opposite to BA when they are not just doing both at the same time. My brother-in-law is listed as a vegetarian on his BAEC profile and on the way out in Club Europe, he was presented with a vegetarian meal without being asked. This was not the case coming home. In fact, whilst I wanted the vegetarian option, I felt obliged to ensure that he got it as there was only one left when they got down the back to us. What is the point of listing a special meal if it is not delivered? The drinks service arrived over 40 minutes later, so there was no opportunity to have a drink with the meal, and the coffee was cold when it was served.
The third issue was with the rules; BA allows you to use electronic devices throughout and you can use the internet and make calls whilst on the ground. On Jota, we were told to turn everything completely off when the doors were shut. I would estimate that this meant a reduction of about 20 minutes of connectivity. I would love to know what the reasoning behind these different policies are.
The flight itself was fine, although the decent was in complete whiteout until after the final trade-mark LCY drop!
We deplaned and I was last through security, thanks to my soon-to-expire passport that does not allow e-gate use.
All in all, we got back safely, but this was not up to the standards I have come to expect from the airline.