BA461 Madrid to London Heathrow (Club Europe/BA FIRST)
Widebodies and Short Routes
- Let’s do a challenge
- Off to Heathrow
- Points to be Made vs Economy Class and Beyond – Two idiots race across Heathrow
- Heathrow Terminal 5 and The British Airways Galleries South Lounge
- IB3167 London Heathrow to Madrid (BUSINESS CLASS)
- Crowne Plaza Madrid Airport
- Exploring a bit of Madrid
- Back to Barajas and the Iberia Lounges
- BA461 Madrid to London Heathrow (BUSINESS CLASS/BA FIRST)
- To the trains!
- Two sides of the IAG coin
EDITORS NOTE: IMAGE HEAVY
BA461 Madrid Barajas to London Heathrow
British Airways, Boeing 777-300ER, Seat 2K BA FIRST (Club Europe)
773 Miles Flown, 0 Tier points earn, 0 Avios Earned (Redemption Seat)
With Tim heading down to the main Club World cabin, I turned left, and into a land I don’t go into often – First Class.
Yes, it’s still a wonderland to me – mainly as I don’t fly First enough myself when there are plenty of more than adequate business class seats out there in the real world. That, and if you’re paying cash – First is normally way out of my bounds.
Settling into Row 2, I found my seat. This is a variant of the PRIME seat, introduced a few years ago on the 747 refits, and deployed on Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft.
Aboard the Boeing 777-300ER, this is laid out in a 14 seat configuration in a 1-2-1 configuration. Club World retains the 8 across layout, whilst World Traveller Plus is 8 across and World Traveller is 9 across.
Let’s settle into the to the detail shots. I’m sure most have reviewed this seat a million times over -but here’s my take.
The seat is comfortable and well padded (as well as forgiving in seat width and length. There’s plenty of storage space (for example, I loved the closet where I could put my coat away!). In terms of connectivity, there’s a power outlet and two USB ports (which are a bit fiddly to reach if I’ll be honest).
The IFE (In-Flight Entertainment System) is a Thales System – which was activated only for safety demonstration and arrivals video only
And of course, an individual lamp. Because you’re doing it in style and in first.
I got chatty with the crew who seemed to be having fun on this short return segment. Tim and I also asked for a flight deck visit when the segment was over. The cabin crew member said she would see what she could do.
None the less, the plane had completed boarding, with a full flight of 303 passengers going onto Heathrow and beyond.
Like the Iberia flight, this flight is run primarily as a cargo flight, with passengers being a nice bonus on top for the run between Heathrow and Madrid.
Sadly, this being a European flight, slot control soon came into play, with our aircraft being held for 30 minutes on the ground before we would be allowed to taxi and head to the air.
There was almost a groan through the cabin. For me – I was happy – an extra 30 minutes in a first class cabin couldn’t be sniffed at.
Or rather I could hear Tim shuffling up the aisle with a member of the cabin crew.
We had been granted access to the cockpit.
The Captains – Paul and Ian welcomed us to the front desk of the Boeing 777, and invited us to take the seat, and answered nerdy geeky questions as well as banter.
And yes. There are photos of us in the cockpit. Because why the hell not?
It’s a rare opportunity to be invited into the cockpit, and we both thanked them for their time after 5 minutes or so – least of all we didn’t want to be blamed if we were the cause of the plane missing an earlier slot.
On the way out, we both got chatting to the crew – who were a lot more warmer to us now. I even found one who in her own words “is a massive plane nerd”.
I’ll come back to her later.
With both of us settled in our seats again, we sat out the delay… and Tim and I might have spammed Instagram and Twitter with pictures.
— Kevin – Economy Class & Beyond (@EconomyBeyond) February 10, 2019
Menus were also handed out whilst we were on the ground
This is also a good time to check the in-seat guide.
As well as check the safety card
Well – it’s something to do during a delay.
After the plane sitting out the 30 minutes at the gate, we were given the clearance to depart.
And thus played the British Airways safety video. As I’ve said in the past – this one goes on a bit too long, with too many comedy moments separating from the needed safety content.
The concept was great when first introduced (and replaced the old one that had been spliced and diced so many times, it was getting more than a bit ropey), and I appreciate the effort BA are putting into it – but they need to tighten the timings on it.
With that done, our plane began the short taxi to runway 14.
And soon enough the two General Electric GE-90s roared into life, to lift the Boeing 777-300ER and BA461 into the air
At this point, the service becomes a Club Europe style service. Whilst the seat may be BA FIRST seat, it’s Club Europe all the way.
And that’s not a bad thing as it used to be.
With the trip underway, a hot towel service commenced.
With me a bit refreshed, the towels were collected. In addition, the cabin services manager came on the announcement system, welcoming passengers aboard and explaining the reasons why the In-Flight Entertainment system wasn’t enabled – namely the plane was not “dressed” for a long haul flight. In addition, British Airways did not hold the rights to show content in Europe.
So that’s why you only get the map on most services. We didn’t get that sadly. Drinks arrived in the meantime
However, what was on-board was Gogo 2Ku. This allows you to surf and stream – allegedly.
In the name of research – I decided to give it a whirl. For the privilege, it was priced as below.
For £4.99 I was happy to try it out and ponder its use on a long haul flight in the future.
It was still fast enough to upload content and do surfing functions, so I suppose it meats that checkmark, however – compared to the Viasat systems I’ve tried (both naturally operated and flying on other satellites), it did feel a little limited in the air.
The meal service followed – with three choices in the Club Europe menu. I went for the Asian Chicken
This is not a bad tray in the least. The chicken did feel like it had a bit too much salt but was very passable. The rhubarb crumble was light and the salad fresh.
And yes. I feel Do&Co has stepped up the Club Europe catering game. Massively. Compared with some of the disasters I’ve had in the past.
Yes, we’re all quick to criticise – but sometimes, we need to say well done as well.
Meanwhile, the bubbly aboard BA remains the Castelnau… and whilst it is a low-end bubbly, this is one thing that does need to improve. Whilst it was served in a larger bottle and chilled (which removes a lot of the acidity of it), it does almost feel a retrograde step from the Monopole Blue top. Which was almost as acidic.
With a full 60 Club Europe passenger load, service was a little slower than normal, but it seems the crew were making a good run at it and making sure people had topped up drinks and generally interacting with the staff.
Coffee and tea were served after dinner.
Eventually, the Wi-Fi ran out…. and since the plane was going to be in the air for less than another hours, I skipped on buying another pass.
One of the crew members came up to me and offered some information aboard BOAC and we had a little chat about planes.
And it made me feel valued as a customer, that someone would take the time to do that. It’s a small thing, but to me – that meant a lot. So much so, I wrote a BA.com/welldone for her on the spot.
When I told her (because I needed to know her name), she was in shock. For me, It’s never the big acts that impress me on a flight – it’s the attention to detail and the interactions that are made that make or break a flight. And she made it.
With that done, we were fast beginning our descent to London Heathrow Airport – ending this rather pleasant flight.
The cockpit team gave information about our arrival, and if we looked to the right – the city of London was light up in city light.
And you know what – it was.
One of the few times I’ve come into London sat on the right and I can see a clear city below.
Miracles take a little longer.
With ease, the Boeing 777-300ER beginning its final descent, with BA461 landing on runway 09R – or where this adventure started less than 24 hours ago.
With the plane on the ground, I checked the clock – the 30-minute delay whilst good for my comfort had eaten into my connection for trains home – with me either being on the last train or the second to last train home, depending on how my connection went in Heathrow Airport.
This was going to be tight
With a short taxi to T5C, we parked next to an Air Belgium Airbus A340-300 (subbing for broken Boeing 787s and their Rolls Royce engines. And I swear I ended up parked here last time after my last trip.
In fact, scrub that. I did.
With the safety belt sign off, everyone gathered at the exits, waiting to be let off the plane.
I thanked the crew and headed off to the jetway to wait for Tim.
Overall: If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – crews make or break a flight. And the crew of this flight made it for me. Friendly, interactive, welcoming and professional. Combined with a decent Club Europe meal service too, and maybe British Airways is on to something.
Whilst it’s unrealistic to want Boeing 777-300ERs flying short hops, it does expose the weakness of Club Europe – and it’s that Collin Aerospace Pinnacle Seat. With the airline beginning to limit the number of Club Europe seats on a plane due to galley re-configurations aboard the A320neo family, there might be an opportunity to move away EuroBusiness and actually move to a proper regional business class product.
I doubt that will ever happen – as the European airlines like the density offering. However, they could open up the seat pitch – which would reduce a lot of the Pinnacle seat issues
But if you get a crew that is on point, there is only one winner – and that’s the passenger.
Next: To the trains!
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