I wrote in this post about the promise of festive cheer from British Airways and with flight out of Heathrow for Christmas it was a chance to discover whether they were to be delivered.
The arrival at Heathrow was not a great start. As a Gold card holder, I can guest one into the Galleries First lounge but, during this promotion, up to five people in the Galleries Club. With three people travelling this was not going to be a great start so I guested one of the party through The First Wing whilst my wife went through the North Fast Track as a Silver Card Holder. Only one scanner was working and the queue was backed up to the desks.
Given that there were now more people eligible to use the First Wing, who on earth thought it was a good idea to halve the capacity at security?! As could have been predicted, my wife sailed through and was waiting for us in the lounge upstairs.
When we left the Galleries First, I stopped by the entrance desk to clarify the new guesting rules and the staff had to confer before they were able to tell me. I can’t help but feel that if they are going to introduce a new policy like the enhanced guesting privileges, that they should ensure that the staff on the door know about them.
We got up to the Galleries Club where the lounge lady told me that I was eligible to use the First lounge…. I know! As a Gold card holder I don’t want to be in the Club lounge, I want to be in the First lounge but I have to be in the Club if the party was to be together. Whilst it was mildly irritating, it was no big deal, as we had always assumed that was where we were going to be in any case.
I have been a Gold Card holder since March and had got used to the lounge and its offerings, so it was interesting to compare it to the other options. I was underwhelmed by the food on offer, with ‘slop’ coming to mind.
It is tasty enough, but just doesn’t look too appealing. We managed to find a space for us all to sit, and flag down a waitress to get some champagne.
After an hour or so, the gate was announced, and changed from ‘Ready to Board’ to ‘Boarding’ in quick succession, so we went down to the gate to find that they were, in fact, no where near ready to board. We stood around for a while before the Pilot and First Officer arrived with Pret-a-Manger bags. To give them their dues, they had come off a flight from Brussels and I think had popped in to grab something to eat rather than taking a longer break which was good of them. I had been looking forward to seeing the new boarding process in action, but sadly it was not to be.
It is something that really annoys me because it is so simple to get right but the airline does not do anything to make it happen. There are usually tensa barriers in place funnelling people into queues, so everyone and their dog gets into the priority late. When they do call the first group to board it is impossible to get past, so you either look like an entitled idiot pushing your way through, or you can’t get there before they call the next group. All that the airline needs to do it put another barrier across the front of the priority lane so that no-one can enter and open it once they have called the first group with someone actually policing the gate. It really is that simple!
I managed to get in a side queue when Gold boarding was called, but it was at least 10 minutes before my wife joined me on the plane in the second group called for silver card holders. She is a stickler for the rules and didn’t want to skip in on my coat tails which I am sure would have been fine, but I admire her adherence – if only everyone did!
If I had a free choice, I would always much rather get on the plane last but given that more and more of my travel is hand baggage only now, I like to get on near the front so I can put my bag overhead – there is nothing worse than having to move backwards when deplaning to collect a bag. I also tend to choose the exit rows for the extra leg room; not having my knees pressed into the seat in front is pleasure but means that I need to put everything overhead. So you can imagine the frustration of being one of the first on the aircraft to find no over head storage above the exit row on the A321, and the nearby lockers filled with a massive (and I mean way in excess of the allowable dimensions!) crew bag!
I have no issue with the crew having cabin bags, but it is unacceptable for them to be above bulkheads and exit rows where space is at a premium anyway and preventing the passengers from putting their bags up.
Because of the lack of boarding process and then no enforcement of the hang baggage rules, boarding was completed about 20 minutes after departure time, so we were late in taking off.
Once airborne the buy on board service began. I did have 4,000 additional Avios in the household account from the Christmas bonus but as I will be able to use them for a one way fight to Nice which is worth £75 to me I didn’t spend them on board. I used cash and bought a nice Adnam’s beer – it was good to see a decent selection of craft beer instead of the outdated lager selection we have been used to.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and despite not making up any time, we were out of the airport and in the car less than 15 minutes after the doors opened.
So all in all, we arrived at the destination in one piece and not too late, so there is little to complain about. I just feel that the promises made about making flying a festive treat were not delivered on. The bonus Avios are great, but the lounge access didn’t make any difference, and whilst it is nice to be able to take so many into one lounge, I would much rather have been able to take one more guest into the Gold lounge. It is ridiculous that only one lane was open for security and, as always, it is annoying that priority boarding was such a mess. As I was not sitting in 25D I didn’t get any free champagne.
One day, they will get it right, I am sure…!