Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
My flight on British Airways was very disappointing and it is hard to distinguish British Airways from a low cost carrier on intra European routes. Pros- Great leg room and a fast boarding. Cons-Rock hard seat, no power, no in-flight entertainment, no complimentary snacks and drinks, and terrible service.
Trip Overview: European Adventures 2018
Flight Review: American Airlines A330-300 Economy CLT-LHR
Hotel Review: London Marriott Regent's Park
Food in London
Flight Review: British Airways A319 Economy LGW-BCN
Hotel Review: AC Hotel Irla Barcelona
Train Review: Renfe Clase Turista Barcelona-Valencia
Exploring Life in Valencia
Exploring Life in Barcelona
Flight Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy BCN-JFK
Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
London-Gatwick (LGW) is the second largest airport in the United Kingdom and about 1 hour drive south of London and features many of British Airways leisure-focused routes including our flight to Barcelona. We purchased Gatwick Express economy class ticket for 17.80 pounds each ($24.90). These tickets allow you to take any train on the specific day you purchased
We left the London Marriott Regent's Park and took the Tube to Victoria station to catch the 1:45 pm Gatwick Express train to LGW. The transfer from the Tube station to the Gatwick Express was very annoying because we could find no elevator from the underground Tube station to the ground level station where the Gatwick Express departs. This meant that that we had to drag our suitcases up a few flights of stairs and we were tired after carrying our luggage. Given that Victoria station features the Gatwick Express this seems like a very poor design on the part of the City of London. You can avoid this inconvenience by taking an Uber to the ground level Victoria station. Upon entering Victoria station, I was very impressed by the size of the station. It reminded me of Grand Central in New York and it was very busy. We found the sign for the Gatwick Express and agent scanned our boarding passes, and we boarded the economy section of the train.
Our train departed exactly on time at 1:45 pm. Large luggage can be stored above our seats or in bins on the train. The seats are fairly tight in the economy section but thankfully the train ride is only about 30 minutes. The train has free Wi-Fi but it was almost unusable because it was so slow. The seats featured only European power plugs at each seat. We arrived on-time at London Gatwick and after a short delay exiting the station we were in Gatwick Airport. I would recommend anyone coming from London take the Gatwick Express to the airport. While not very comfortable, it was a quick, relatively inexpensive, and efficient way to get to the airport.
Arriving at LGW we had to check-in because we were each carrying a large suitcase. We initially lined up in priority line since because we have OneWorld Ruby status through our American Airlines Gold status but the lined moved so slowly that we decided to just use the standard economy line and the check in process took only about five minutes. This was a letdown since one of our benefits of paying for a British Airways ticket versus a low-cost carrier is the priority check-in for One World elite members. One of the strange things about the check in process was that our boarding passes indicated that our flight would leave from the South Terminal but had no gate number. After checking in we proceeded to security which involved a very different process than I had ever experienced before. Prior to going through security we had to scan our boarding passes at an electronic gate which was the first time I had ever done that. We went quickly through security and then were forced to pass through Duty Free shopping. This was the first time I have ever seen this and my understanding is that it drives additional revenue for the airport. After arriving in the terminal we still were not assigned a gate so went to the No.1 Lounge which is the only Priority Pass lounge in the airport.
Lounge and Food
We showed up at the No.1 Lounge in Gatwick and I was impressed by the decor at the entrance to the lounge. I handed the lounge attendant my Priority Pass card and she asked me if we had a reservation.This surprised me since I had never heard of an airport lounge requiring a reservation. After I said no, she delivered me the bad news that the lounge was currently not accepting Priority Pass customers because it was full. The attendant proceeded to offer an up sell to a private club room and I declined. This was the first time I had ever been denied entry as a Priority Pass member. I have heard numerous stories about flyers being denied entry due the lounge being full and I know that as premium cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve have grown popular this has become a larger problem. In fact to help alleviate the problem Chase restricted Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders to only two complimentary guests. Priority Pass has also taken steps and started adding a credit in airport restaurants to supplement lounge access for members. Thankfully LGW is one of those airports so we proceeded to Grain Store and Cafe which was included. The restaurant gives Priority Pass customers a 15 pound credit towards any items on the menu. Most of the items on the menu are under 15 pounds so we found it easy to stay under that limit. We both ordered salads and enjoyed our meals at Grain Store and Cafe.
The boarding process at LGW is one of the strangest I have ever seen. As I mentioned after check-in there was no gate on our boarding passes. After eating our meal there was still no gate announcement. So we proceeded to the large board in the terminal showing all of the flights and quickly realized that the gates were not announced until about 15 minutes before scheduled boarding. This meant that the vast majority of people waited in the terminal and not at the gates until right before boarding which led to a very crowded terminal and scramble to the gate once it is announced. The entire process reminded me of the scramble to the correct track when boarding Amtrak trains. Once we reached our gate we were required to check in with a gate agent and each gate is walled off from the rest of the terminal meaning that there is no bathroom access a critical detail I wish I knew before scrambling to the gate. Boarding was very quick because of our OneWorld status and we were one of the first people on the plane.
Plane and Seats
Another added benefit of our status was that we were able to select seats 48 hours in advance for free and we selected two exit row seats with extra legroom. Our exit seats were in row 10 and had very good legroom. However, we were not allowed to store any luggage underneath our seats for takeoff and landing and were required by the flight attendants to put our back packs in the overhead bin. We departed exactly on time at 4:30 pm for a flight with a scheduled flight time of two hours and five minutes. I believe the schedule had significant padding because we had a very long taxi and we had to wait on the runway for quite a while.
This was my first British Airways flight and I was excited about experience a new airline but I can tell you that the excitement quickly faded as I sat in the seat. The seat was hard as a rock, had no power, and no in-flight entertainment. I would go as far as to say this was the worse airplane seat I have used.
I must say the service on this flight was the worse I have ever experienced. I always thought that the service on American carriers was bad but this British Airways flight put it to shame. I knew that this flight was going to be a bad one shortly after take off. As I mentioned earlier in the post there were no restrooms at the gate in London Gatwick and after a long taxi in LGW I found myself really needing to use the restroom shortly after takeoff. I waited about 20 minutes and the captain still had the fasten seat belt light on. I decided that I couldn't wait any longer and got up to use the restroom. I have done this numerous times flying domestically within the Untied States and typically the flight attendants warn that the fasten seat belt sign is on but that they can't stop you from using the restroom. This is what I expected the flight attendants to say but instead my bad luck of trying to use restroom on an airplane continued.
I proceeded to the bathroom in the rear of the plane having learned from my earlier incident trying to use the restroom on the business class restroom on the flight over from Charlotte. However, as soon as the flight attendants saw me they started to shout at me and say the fasten seat belt sign is on sit down. They refused to let me use the bathroom and would not let me go back to me seat. Instead they made me sit in one of the seats in the back row of the plane until the fasten seat belt sign turned off. This took about another 20 minutes and at this point we were probably about 40 minutes into the flight. Ok seriously this is such a dumb policy by British Airways. I completely understand why there is a passenger safety issue during take off and landing but once the plane is in the air, and there is not turbulence, and a passenger desperately needs to use the restroom why stop them? I have been on flights where the captain waited a significant amount of time to turn off the fasten seat belt sign or not at all. What if he never turned it off? Would they expect the passenger to use the restroom at their seat?
The bad British Airways experience continued as the flight attendants came around for a beverage and snack service. Both flight attendants were curt and nothing on this flight was complimentary. Since 2017, British Airways has charged for all drinks and snacks in economy on short haul flights. This is a significant fall from grace for an airline that offered free economy meal until 2009. Christina ordered sparkling water and I ordered a regular bottle of water which was served with a lime an ice. Together these costs $5.05. During the rest of the flight no additional beverage service was offered. After an uncomfortable ride we arrived in Barcelona 9 minutes early and I was glad to deplane.
As a child growing up in The Bahamas I dreamed of flying British Airways and I can tell you that this flight was a significant disappointment. With the rock hard seat, no power, no entertainment, lack of complimentary snacks and drinks, and terrible service this is one of the worse flights I have ever taken. We chose to pay more to fly British Airways because it is known as a full service carrier and is a member of the One World alliance so we could earn miles and elite status credit. However, after taking this flight I can see very little difference between British Airways and the low-cost carriers on these intra European flights. While it was nice to have an exit row seat and earn miles I am not even sure it is worth it. In the future if the flight is cheaper I would be willing to give the low cost carriers Easy Jet or Ryan Air a chance on an intra-Europe route.
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