Spain’s worst Business Class? | Air Europa Review

After my arrival into Malaga with Aer Lingus, I found myself with just 50 minutes to connect from one side of the terminal to another. Luckily for me, when I arrived at my gate there was a Primera Air Boeing 737 still waiting for the final few passengers to arrive, meaning my flight to Madrid would be delayed.

UX5049 Malaga – Madrid:

Finally the 737 pushed back and departed for Billund. The gate staff changed the signage over to Air Europa, and invited all Sky Priority + VIP passengers to come forward for boarding, so I did. I had my mobile boarding pass scanned and I was told to walk down the corridor and wait for a member of staff to direct me. It was only when the whole flight was waiting in the corridor that a member of staff came and lead us to a bus that would take us to the aircraft. So much for my priority boarding…

As we drove across the airfield, the plain white ATR 72 came into view. Today’s flight was being operated by Swiftair and not Air Europa themselves. Much like my Iberia flight from Ibiza to Mallorca. As the doors to the bus opened, the rush of passengers to the aircraft steps began, but not before larger cabin bags were tagged and placed into the aircraft hold.

Whether sitting in Business Class or Economy, the legroom on this aircraft was extremely disappointing…

After boarding I settled into “Business Class” seat 17A; I noticed that for other than an inch or two of extra legroom, this seat was no different to the others on-board. Even without my hand luggage underneath the seat, it was a very tight squeeze to attempt to stretch out. The seat width was the same as the Canaryfly ATR, because of this, I knew I was in for a rough ride. I fully understand that unlike their jet engined counterparts, regional propellor aircraft aren’t as gifted with vast amounts of space. However, despite this I have seen many airlines create a dedicated Business Class cabin on aircraft Including the ATR family.

One of the two crew on-board, who’s names I forget, offered myself and the other three passengers in Business a glass of Orange Juice or Water to drink prior to our departure. I chose the Orange Juice and also accepted the anti-bacterial face wipe offered that I believe substituted for a hot towel. Once boarding had been completed the crew introduced themselves by making several announcements in both Spanish and English. The engines of the turbo prop started up and we began our taxi to the runway.

Welcome drinks, not quite as extravagant as a certain other Spanish airline…

Upon take off from Malaga, we climbed out over the Mediterranean Sea then turned towards the mainland. Once the seatbelt signs had been deactivated, the crew came around to clear the rubbish from the welcome drinks. Offering another selection of drinks, I chose a Coca-Cola and folded down the tray table to begin writing up the Aer Lingus review on my laptop. Only, when it was all of the way down, It rested on my lap and left me with no space whatsoever. After resting my drink on my laptop (being very careful not to spill it), they offered a selection of newspapers that had become very creased from sitting in one of the overhead lockers. Declining this, I was offered my in-flight meal.

A tray of peculiar looking sandwiches was presented to me, two choices, Chicken or Ham. Choosing the latter, I opened it to find it was quite simply ham on a tomato bread. Talk about fine dining! I was also given a small packet of salted nuts and later offered a bag of ready salted potato chips. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting selection in the world, that’s for sure.

Attempting to take a working lunch didn’t go as planned…

No In-flight Entertainment is offered, so anyone planning to travel with on the ATR best pack a book otherwise you could be in for a very boring and uncomfortable flight. To pass the time, I cursed myself for not choosing to take the Renfe First Class service from Malaga to Madrid’s central train station. At least I would have had a large reclining leather seat, warm meal and most importantly, a cool air conditioned cabin. 

Much to the relief of I imagine most people that had booked into this ‘Business Class’ service, the city of Madrid came into view and we began to make our approach. The crew passed through the cabin to collect any rubbish that was lying around and then took their seats for landing.

I have to be completely honest, this isn’t at all what I had expected when booking onto a Business Class flight with Air Europa. The quite frankly disappointing seat space available and very basic food options that were offered, really leave me wondering if the nearly £200 I paid for this 1 hour 30 minute flight was worth it. The only saving grace for my experience was the crew. They were fantastic from take off to touch down, and honestly couldn’t do enough for you.

EC-MIY, the aircraft that flew me from Malaga to Madrid

Many reading this may be quick to point out that, as I mentioned, it was not Air Europa that operated this flight. It is however, the airlines choice to allow fare paying passengers to fly in a Business Class that is no different than the economy product offered.

My advice to anyone thinking of flying Business on a Air Europa service operated by Swiftair would be this; don’t do it. Save yourself the disappointment and discomfort and fly with Iberia instead.

Cathay Dragon A320 Business Class Review

Dragonair officially became known as Cathay Dragon in November 2016 and since the original takeover in 2007, the Dragonair brand has become more and more similar to that of Cathay Pacific. Cathay Dragon now operate many of the short haul routes on Cathay Pacific’s network and one of those routes is Changsha.

I have made a video of this flight which gives you the opportunity to see first hand what the experience was like – watch it below.

Having flown into Changsha just two days previously, I arrived back at the airport bright and early and very excited to see just how Cathay Dragon’s business class product compared to that of fellow OneWorld airline British Airways. You can see their regional business class reviews which I wrote for the Boeing 767 and Airbus A319.

The British Airways A319 Business Class. Will Cathay’s be any better?

Booking

I booked this flight using my British Airways Avios which I generated by using my American Express British Airways Premium Plus card. The one-way flight cost 9,000 Avios and around £20 in tax. This flight can be bought revenue but I advise to go via comparison sites such as SkyScanner to get the best prices. I found some very good prices on all of Cathay’s network on SkyScanner last night so be sure to have a browse.

Pre-Flight

I arrived at Changsha airport three hours before my flight departure as I didn’t know what to expect in terms of waiting times. The airport was pretty quiet at this time but check-in desks for Cathay were not open. I asked some people but it seemed nobody who knew spoke English. After about 20 minutes I googled it and found that Cathay’s desks only open 2 hours before the departure time. This meant I had to kill an hour in the departure hall before going through security.

Once check-in opened I took my place in the tiny queue

Business class passengers are really taken care of here at Changsha – you get a red carpet all to yourself!

Today I was travelling with my AeroLite case. I have to say its an incredible suitcase to use as a carry on bag.

At check-in we encountered some issues with my bags. To cut a long story short, I was flying the route Changsha – Hong Kong – Taipei – Hong Kong but the girls at check-in wouldn’t allow me to check my bags all the way through as they were scared it wouldn’t make the connecting flight in Taipei in time. Anyway, after 40 minutes of standing around, they decided to tell me the best option was to abandon my bag in Hong Kong and hope that I found it later that night… You can watch the video below which highlights exactly what happened and shows you if I found my bag or not!

As I was heading through passport control, another setback occurred. The Chinese border guard spoke very little English. He made me stand aside for several minutes and then repeatedly asked me the same question in Mandarin which I made very clear I didn’t understand. After he finally called an English speaker, I could finally get to security. Security had no fast-track line and a huge queue so when I asked the lady for a business class line she simply walked me to the front, opened the entrance and pushed me into the queue that was more like a jostling mass of fanboys trying to get the front of the crowd at a concert.

I finally made it airside with around 20 minutes until boarding began and hit one more setback. The lounge at Changsha was under construction so there was a makeshift lounge in use. This lounge was called ‘No.16: First and Business VIP Lounge’. As I walked in, I realised there was nothing less VIP than this lounge and after a quick coke and a glass of champagne which turned out to be simple white wine, I was out and moved down to gate 44 for boarding.

The Flight

Priority boarding was strictly enforced and as a business class passenger I was one of the first people to board.

Cathay strictly enforce priority boarding

As I entered the cabin I was instantly impressed. Without even needing to see any food or amenities, the 2-2 configuration was enough to reassure me that this was going to be an excellent flight. There are only two rows of business class seats which makes the cabin ultra private.

Loved the 2-2 configuration a lot

Because of this 4 abreast setup, the space next to the seats is great. There is room enough to store anything you brought onboard as well as the blanket and pillow that greeted you as you got onboard.

The seat has a small area at the front for your drinks, a storage area underneath the armrest, a table which folds inside the armrest and seat controls to adjust the recline and foot rest. I thought it was amazing that the A320 seats were fitted with a recliner. The seat recline didn’t take you to a lie flat position but a 3/4 position which was very comfortable.

Mega comfort

Cathay’s own brand headphones are also waiting for you as you board the plane. These headphones were really good and were to be used when watching films on the iPad that was handed out to business class passengers before takeoff.

Cathay’s headphones and comfy pillow

The iPad was equipped with Cathay’s own IFE programme and had an OK selection of media. I found this to be of very little use on a 1 hour 20 minute flight but did like the magazines that were loaded onto the iPad. I ended up reading Business Traveller during the cruise.

Such a cool novelty being given an iPad

Alongside the iPad I was also given a menu. I was very impressed with this and Cathay Dragan once again showed British Airways up in this department. Food orders were taken on the ground and I chose the Sauteed Pork with Osmanthus lychee sauce, steamed jasmine rice and sugar peas. To drink I went for the Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne which I was very happy to see on the menu. You can see the full menu in the slideshow below.

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As soon as I was comfortably seated, the offer of a welcome drink came around. On the tray was water, orange juice and a gin & orange juice cocktail. I chose the cocktail and was impressed. It had a strong gin kick which was excellently complemented by the orange juice.

My gin welcome drink

Once boarding was complete we taxied out and departed Changsha, waving goodbye to the first stop on my China trip.

Ciao Changsha

As soon as we hit our cruising altitude the crew made no mistake in getting our food out promptly. My Pork dish came around and was really nicely presented. The tray had my meal, a fruit salad, butter for bread that I assumed would come later, salt and pepper shakers, cutlery and two glasses.

Nice layout

After the meal was delivered, the crew came back to fill my glasses with the Taittinger I had decided on.

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Next came the bread. Alongside the normal rolls, there was an option of hot garlic bread which I jumped straight on. I couldn’t help laughing as I remembered the joke my mum always makes when I eat garlic bread. It generally involves her saying I better not kiss anyone after eating it. I don’t think there was any danger of that on this flight, anyway.

Garlic bread?!! YESSS

After I had cleaned up my really excellent meal, I was offered tea or coffee and opted for a coffee.

That’s what you’re meant to drink in the morning, not champagne

Overall, I was left mega impressed by the food offering. My pork dish was amazingly presented and tasted fantastic too. The fruit salad was accompanied it well and the hot garlic bread was a nice treat.

The whole dish
Cheers!

Before I knew it, we were already making our descent into Hong Kong and out of the window were some of the best views I have ever seen from an aircraft. We approached Hong Kong and then banked over it as we began our approach into Hong Kong International.

These views were UNREAL

As we came onto our final approach, headphones, ipads and drinks were all collected and we landed about 30 minutes late. I was first to exit the aircraft and was warmly sent on my way by the crew.

Hello Hong Kong!!

To conclude, I had an amazing flight in Cathay Dragan’s business class on this 1 hour 20 minute hop. The crew were fantastic, the food service excellent, the champagne great and the amenities even better. To be given an iPad and a menu really helps give business class passengers that elite feeling which so many other carriers fail to do.

Flying a 2-2 configuration is a real positive as it gives heaps of storage space and a very spacious cabin. If you have the opportunity to fly Cathay Dragon’s business class then do, it’s a really amazing product and one I can’t wait to do again in the future.

Like this review? See my latest 787 business class review here

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Air Baltic 737 Business Class Review

As you will read in this flight review, my trip on Air Baltic was two things: a massive success and a massive failure.

Air Baltic had initially invited me to fly out on their 737-300 and fly back into London, the very next day, on their flagship Bombardier CS300, both in business class. However, due to an unforeseen operational mishap, my CS300 was swapped at the last minute for another 737Classic, thus leaving me without a trip on the new Bomabrdier jet. However, as you will later find out, my return flight inherently became the best flights of my life, knocking the incredible A350-1000 flight with Raj off the top spot.

My outbound flight was the evening departure from London Gatwick to Riga (one of 2 daily services). This flight is supposed to be operated by the CS300 so it was horrible luck that I ended up on the 737Classic twice (this first flight was a known equipment swap). However, I was yet to fly on the -300 variant of the 737 so I was not fussed. Air Baltic has a total of 6 737-300 and 5 737-500 ageing classics in their fleet and currently operate the largest CS300 fleet in the world with a total of 20 aircraft ordered and eight currently flying. They have recently placed an order for 30 more CS300s and acquired options for a further 30 aircraft. The total value of this order is being placed at about $2.9 billion, based on list prices.

“I am excited to grow our fleet up to 80 CS300 aircraft while phasing out our other aircraft types in the next three years.” Air Baltic’s Chief executive, Martin Gauss.

Photo Credit: Air-Baltic

Flight Number 1 | Air Baltic B737-300 Business Class

Business class passengers departing from London Gatwick can enjoy the No.1 lounge at South Terminal, with access via passes handed out during the check in process. This lounge is perfect for a quick drink and a snack and has hot food on order. The fact it is also a ‘pay to enter’ lounge means it is unsurprisingly busy most of the time. However, it does offer an amazing view over the apron of which you can gaze at for hours watching the busy airport life pass by.

Priority boarding at the gate was strictly enforced and the handling agent made sure business class passengers boarded first. Once on-board the crew distributed pre-departure drinks, with a choice of orange or still water. Menu cards were handed out while still on the ground.

Once boarding was complete we had to incur a small delay while waiting for a take-off slot.

Taxiing out towards 08R

The Business class configuration on-board Air Baltic is very similar to the product of most other European carriers whereby the middle seat is blocked off. The Recaro seats show their age but the seat itself was pleasant enough for the near 3 hour flight, the tray tables were adequately large and do slide towards the user.

After the long taxi out to Runway 08R, we took to the skies bound for Latvia and after reaching a safe altitude, the cabin crew were released and more beverages were served. One thing I noticed throughout the entire flight was how diligent the crew were, as I was constantly asked if I would like a refill or another drink.

After a short while orders were taken for the hot meals. I opted for the sweet and sour chicken with rice. As I was flying on standby, however, this wasn’t the normal meal of a business class passenger but you can see the business class meal in my second flight below. As the flight progressed the sun continued to set over Europe, a sight best seen from 39,000ft.

Sunset from 39,000ft

The flight itself had been for the most part, smooth and this was no exception for the stunning approach into Riga, where we touched down safely on Runway 36 with only 15minutes of delay. Riga airport is home to only a small handful of jet bridges, so it is no surprise that we were parked on a remote stand with buses back to the terminal. After a small flight deck visit and photo opportunity with the crew I boarded the bus back to the terminal where border control took an easy five minutes. I  was soon off to my hotel where I enjoyed a pleasant night in Riga city center.

Touching down on Runway 36

View from St Peters Church

Flight Number 2 | Air Baltic 737-300 – With a Twist

My flight back home was scheduled to be operated by the Bombardier CS300, hence the trip out to Riga to review their flagship product. However it seems the aviation gods were messing around today and flight radar had my flight down as being operated by a 73C (The same aircraft type I had previously flown only a few hours ago). I was evidently frustrated at the time, in essence rendering my trip a failure.

I had obtained special permission to film onboard this flight as I was supposed to be making a small video about the CS300 and thankfully I still had the permission to film as it was granted for flight BT653 from RIX-LGW, no matter which aircraft.

Once onboard, I greeted the crew and showed them the letter of approval. The flight crew were very accommodating and let me mount my GoPro in the flight-deck to get some footage for the video. As you will see from the pictures below, I was also invited into the flight-deck for landing after securing special permission from Air Baltic HQ. This really did make it one of the most incredible experiences! Being able to sit on a jump-seat is the pinnacle of any av-geeks dream and is the closest you can get to flying the real thing!

View from the jump seat

I will not go into any significant detail of this flight, as it was operated by the same aircraft type, and I was sitting in the same class cabin. My experience in Business class was still faultless and the crew were still great. This time round I was able to try out their proper Business class meal, on this particular flight it was Salmon with Sweet Potato. The meal was served piping hot and was excellent. Due to huge electrical storms over England the flight back to London was unsurprisingly bumpy and we had to route around the weather, but the crew still managed to land safely and on-time.

Salmon with Sweet Potato

My Conclusion

Both my Air Baltic flights had consisted of exceptional service and professionalism. The crew on both flights were attentive in their service, constantly making sure you were well fed and hydrated. The aircraft them-self, although old in their age, were well maintained but lacked what I would call ‘modern day necessities’ like universal power sockets or USB charging ports. I would never hesitate to fly Air Baltic again and i would love to properly test out their CS300 product.

The only negative that stood out was the Business Class ticket price and indeed the economy ticket price. You are paying a hefty premium to fly Air Baltic over the likes of the low-cost carriers operating in this region, such as WizzAir or Ryanair, and for some this premium may not simply be worth it for the 2hr30minute flight. For example on the 13th June a one way ticket from London to Riga would cost £65 with WizzAir from Luton, whereas Air Baltic from Gatwick would set you back a hefty £282 (Economy class Ticket). Worth the price? That’s up to you.

diclaimer: This trip was fully provided by Air Baltic. I was under no pressure to express any specific point of view and all opinions are my own.

More Boeing 737 Reviews on LondonSpotter:

Cobalt Air Business & Economy A320 Review

Featuring Cobalt Air’s New Airbus A320 Business Class & Economy Cabins


Cheap fares on this amazing aircraft? Be sure to check out SkyScanner who have amazing prices on this leg.


At 0920am, the gate was announced, and I made my way to the boarding area. After already completing one five-hour rotation from Larnaca, my aircraft was enjoying some well-earned rest on the tarmac. Cobalt Air flies to Manchester year-round and has done since 2016. In the winter season the route operates twice a week and, in summer, increases to three-weekly. Having been met by the dispatcher at check-in, I was able to take some photos of the empty cabin before the rest of the guests boarded and have a chat with the cabin crew.

5B-DCY sitting on Manchester’s apron at Terminal 1.

As I stepped onto the aircraft, my initial impression was that the cabin looked airy, comfortable and welcoming. It was also modern, fitted with Recaro seats which offer adjustable headrests and a substantial recline. Although a minor detail, the boarding music enhanced the relaxing and tranquil atmosphere onboard; as the flight was not full – boarding was done in an orderly and efficient manner, without being chaotic.

the cabins:

My Cypriot chariot for the outbound flight – 5B-DCY – is one of 6 aircraft in Cobalt’s fleet and is fitted with 12 Business Class seats in a 2-2 configuration and, as with all Airbus A320 aircraft, economy class was fitted in a 3-3 configuration and began in Row 4, with 144 seats. Obviously, the bulkhead seats were very comfortable; the rest of the Economy seats offered 30” of seat pitch, adjustable headrests and substantial recline. All of the Business Class seats offer a 40” seat pitch and lots of width – with a foot rest and several seat controls, allowing you to find a comfortable position. On my inbound flight, I flew on one of the airline’s Airbus A319 aircraft which are configured in an all-economy class setup with 144 seats. Cobalt received this A319 (5B-DCU) in November 2016 and had a much more dated cabin, but equally comfortable.

The Economy Class cabin. All economy class seats offer adjustable headrests and substantial recline.
business class: cobalt shines above its competitors

The new Business Class – introduced in December 2017 – is where Cobalt really shines above its competitors. British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and others offer an Economy Class setup, with a blocked middle seat. Whilst this is convenient for the airline and easy to amend depending on the load of a flight, for passengers, it offers little to no more comfort than those sitting at the back of the plane. Contrastingly, Cobalt’s Business Class looks more like a short-haul premium product you’d find in Asia or a US airline’s domestic ‘First Class’.

Cobalt Air’s fantastic Business Class in a 2-2 configuration.

For longer flights, this really does offer all of the comfort you would need. When flying in Business Class, guests will experience several amenities offered by the airline which make the experience more seamless and tailored around you:

• Express Check-In Lanes & Priority Boarding
• 2x 20kg Baggage Allowance
• Dine On-Demand Menu (just ask a crew member when you are ready to eat!). Of course, when flying on a Business Class ticket, you receive a full complementary meal service. If you are on a flight when you can simply upgrade to the seat, you will have the same food choices as economy passengers.

Cobalt’s Business Class offers 40″ of seat pitch onboard.

The full Business Class service is currently only available on routes to Gatwick, Heathrow, Athens, Abu Dhabi & Moscow – but I found you can upgrade to the cabin on other flights for just €75, without the additional benefits. This offers an attractive proposition for business travellers and, if I were to travel regularly between Europe and Cyprus/Middle East on business, I would undoubtedly choose this Business Class product over Cobalt’s other competitors. I simply cannot credit Cobalt enough for the introduction of this “proper” Business Class and its introduction reveals the pioneering and innovative attitude at the heart of the airline.

The comfy recliner seats also had all the amenities you’d expect for Business travellers; large tray tables, a power port and lots of space.

It’s also interesting to note that Cobalt is also now offering connections through their Larnaca hub. For example, you can now book flights from Manchester through to Tel Aviv & Beirut – providing a more comfortable, seamless and relaxing alternative connecting through the modern and simplistic airport of Larnaca, in comparison to other major European airlines with often chaotic and confusing hubs.

onboard service: reflecting cyprus

The Out of the Blue menu included Grilled Chicken, honey and mustard wraps, halloumi and lountza (a Cypriot meat), baguettes and a variety of Primo Gusto Pizzas. There was also a range of alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, hot drinks and the obligatory Pot Noodle selection. The prices were quite reasonable – in line with most other airlines – and the airline accepts both British Pounds & Euros onboard. Although I was impressed by the menu, as the airline makes the transition from a low-cost carrier to a full-service operator with the introduction of a designated Business Class cabin, I would like to see complementary beverages and snacks available, or at least at a lower price – especially on longer flights such as mine from Manchester & London to Cyprus.

I liked the fact that the airline was inventive with its menu choices – reflecting aspects of the country it represents. The crew also oozed typical Cypriot hospitality and were very personable, genuine and polite. Celine (the cabin manager) and indeed the rest of the crew were jovial and welcoming – especially so to the children onboard. Also, Cobalt being a Cypriot airline, I was able to use some of my Greek language skills with the cabin crew. Celine even commented that my Greek was ‘amazing’ – but I shrugged off the comment, being the modest person that I am!!

Cobalt claims to be ‘the favourite airline of the Cypriot people’ and, speaking to the locals, it seems to be so. Many believe Cobalt harvested the best of the now defunct national carrier – Cyprus Airways – then modernised it and instilled ambition. The airline is also growing rapidly, adding routes to London Heathrow, Dusseldorf, Copenhagen, Mykonos, Geneva and Abu Dhabi from its Larnaca hub this year. It appears that Cobalt Air is also committed to improving the medium-haul travel experience more generally. The airline has recently signed an agreement with Bluebox Aviation Systems to offer wireless streaming of in-flight entertainment to passengers onboard. Bluebox provides wireless content streamed to passenger devices in any aircraft cabin, including film, TV, audio, games and other digital content accessed through any web browser. The device can be stored in overhead lockers and each box’s single swappable and rechargeable battery offers the equivalent of delivering 15 hours of streamed video content to 50 passengers simultaneously. Yet again, this is an example of another area where Cobalt have distinguished themselves from their competitors.

my conclusion: cobalt are unique

Overall, Cobalt are a unique airline; in the words of the CEO Andrew Madar, “not LCC, not legacy, just Cobalt”.

Cobalt is certainly a hybrid carrier. With a business class of this calibre, it is clear that the airline is making a transition from low cost to full service carrier.

Medium-haul flying is often argued to be the most uncomfortable and tiring; 4-5 hours on a narrowbody aircraft, with no entertainment, poor legroom and lacklustre food. However, Cobalt seem to be committed to improving medium haul flying – whether that’s from the introduction of a spacious new Business cabin, to the friendliness of the crew. As they grow, with big ambitions for the future (including working intensively on a business plan so as to connect China, Africa and the US with Cyprus), I am certain that their ‘small airline, one big family’ feel won’t wear away. Despite big ambitions, Cobalt continues to put Larnaca back on the map as a regional air hub and contributes massively to the Cypriot economy.

With massive growth and big ambitions for the future, Cobalt is putting Larnaca on the map as an aviation hub of the future.

I hope that more people across Europe can turn their back on traditional holiday airlines and business carriers and sample a little slice of Cyprus in the sky. Flight bookings can be made on Cobalt’s website or here!


Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Cobalt Air, but I was not pressured to express specific opinions in any way. All the views expressed are fully my own and if you would like to ask me any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

Edinburgh to London – By Train and Plane

When travelling from Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow or any other Northern cities to London, it can be difficult to choose what mode of transport to take.

I have travelled between Edinburgh and London several times this year and have used both the train and the plane as well as driving the route on one mad occasion.

Is flying really the best way? Read on to find out.

For the purpose of this article I have chosen a random date (my birthday – February 16th 2018) to compare prices on the journey. All costs will be correct at the time of writing and may be subject to change. I have selected the Shard as the final destination and Edinburgh Waverley Station as the start point. I will not be using London Southend, Stanstead or Luton as London airports. I will be basing the comparisons around British Airways Business Class vs Virgin East Coast 1st Class.

So, here goes!

A little bit about the options:

1. The Plane

British Airways operate a non-stop 23 times daily service between London and Edinburgh using a mixture of A319, 320, 321, Boeing 767 and Embraer aircraft. All of these aircraft are fitted with both an economy and business class cabin. If flying into London for a meeting your quickest route would be to fly to London City. Prices for this route start at £70 one way in economy and £138 in business class. Prices to Gatwick start at £39 in economy and £112 in business. Prices to Heathrow are slightly more expensive at £68 and £150 respectively.

Mid flight with BA

Other airlines to operate this route are FlyBe who’s prices start at £40 one way, thus undercutting BA on the Heathrow route, and EasyJet who operate the Gatwick – Edinburgh route. Their prices start as low as £34 one way.

 

2. The Train

The Edinburgh to London route is operated by Virgin Trains to London Euston and Virgin Trains East Coast to London Kings Cross. Prices on this route start at £40 in standard class and £86 in First Class. Virgin are the only operator on this route. Trains leave Edinburgh two to three times an hour and vary in length. The longest service is the Virgin Trains West Coast service to Euston (5hr 40min) and the quickest is the Virgin East Coast service to Kings Cross which takes 4hr 20min and leaves at half past every hour. This service stops at Newcastle, Doncaster and Leeds.

photo by LeedsList

 

  • Beating the Clock – Flying Takes the Lead.

If you’re travelling on business travel and need to be in London/Edinburgh for a meeting or anything else that requires you to beat the clock then your best bet is to fly. The flight time to London City is meant to be 1hr 30min, however, it rarely exceeds 1hr 15min. Obviously when flying you have to factor in all the other times, too. My times are as follow and are based on a business class flight on BA8713 from EDI to LCY with British Airways.

Flying is unarguably the fastest routing
  • 7.30am leave Edinburgh Waverley Station
  • 8am Arrive at Edinburgh Airport
  • 8.40am Through security and lounge
  • 8.50am Board BA8713
  • 9.10am Pushback and takeoff
  • 10.25am Landing at LCY
  • 10.50am DLR and Jubilee to London Bridge
  • 11.15am Arrive at Shard

TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 3hrs 45min without delays. Could take between 4 and 5 hours.

 

These times come out the fastest in comparison with the train which you can see summarised below:

  • 8.30am Train leaves Edinburgh Waverley
  • 12.50pm Train arrives Kings Cross
  • 1pm Northern Line to London Bridge
  • 1.15pm Arrive at Shard

TOTAL TIME TAKEN= 4hrs 45min without delays. Could take up to 5 hours. Delays less likely than when flying.

So, if you’re in a hurry – fly. The time taken at both EDI and LCY are minimal seeing as they are small airports. If you flew to LGW or LHR then you would have to factor in the train journey into London, too. These could add up to 45minutes to your journey and a hefty cost.

Gatwick to Edinburgh

 

  • I Spy With my Little Eye – Good Views From the Train

When flying from Edinburgh to London you don’t get a chance to take in the beautiful views or get a sense of how much the geography of Britain changes as you move south. I found the train a great experience and especially loved the views between Edinburgh and Durham. If you have the extra time, the train journey is a really fun experience. When travelling towards the South you want to make sure you have a left-hand seat to really appreciate the coastline.

 

  • Comfort – Virgin Trump Again

The most comfort you will get while flying is in the business class cabin on BA where the middle seats are removed for extra space. When sitting at the front of the cabin, comfort is great. The most comfort I have ever had was onboard the B767 in Business Class. If you’re sitting a few rows back, the legroom on all three airlines will disappoint you. Although for a 1hr 15min flight, does it matter?

Front of the cabin legroom on a BA A321

In the 1st Class coaches of Virgin’s East Coast service, the legroom is great and you get a very large table to share with three other passengers. I decided to go for a single seat which had a smaller yet still decent table. The space was good but I had to use the floor for some storage.

Coach M

If you’re not in the front row of the BA Business Class Cabin then comfort is definitely better by rail.

 

  • Service – Too Close to Call

On an early morning flight in BA’s Business Class, your service will start in the lounge. With free juice, booze and food on tap – its not bad at all. The meal on the flight is also good, I usually go for the cooked breakfast and there is always an offer of more. You can read about both my evening and morning business class flights by clicking the links. If flying EasyJet or FlyBE then you’ll have to pay for your meal. In terms of service, it depends on the airline and specific crew. I have had fantastic crew on BA and grumpy crew. If flying the 767 routing, you’ll have EuroFleet crew who always seem to make an extra effort.

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While the train journey is longer, the menu isn’t as good as I’d hoped. The hot meals on offer are beef and chicken however the person next to me got beef and it didn’t look great so I went for the chicken wrap. The service was fantastic. The crew were polite and smiley and came around with drinks and snacks many times during the trip. This was impressive. Virgin have a lounge at Edinburgh where you can eat snacks and make drinks. Not as good as BA’s offering but still enjoyable.

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Overall, the service on both modes are good, the meals are sufficient and crews polite but neither stuck out as superb.

 

  • Ease – Sorry Planes, You’ve Lost Again

While flying may be enjoyable for the vast majority of us, including me, it doesn’t seem worth it to fly such a short distance unless you’re under strict time constraints. There are no barriers at Edinburgh Waverley so all you have to do is walk onto the platform, take your seat and relax.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

Flying requires check-in, security and LOTS of waiting around. Once you arrive at LCY it will be very easy but if you fly to LHR or LGW it could be a lot slower to get through.

 

  • Conclusion

If you are in desperate need of getting between from Edinburgh to London and don’t have the money to splash then Fly EasyJet to Gatwick for £34

If you want the most enjoyable ride with the best views then Get the Train with Virgin for as low as £40

If you want comfort then Get the train in first class for £86

If you want speed then Book Business Class with BA to London City for £138.

 

I hope you enjoyed this review. Join the discussion by using #londonspotter on your posts and tweets.

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British Airways A319 Business Class Review

In August, I traveled up to Edinburgh out of LHR on one of British Airways’ B767s in business class which was a great experience. I decided to compare the service offered by BA out of Heathrow and Gatwick on this short route in business class.

British Airways have 11 Airbus A319s based out of London Gatwick which are all ex-bmi aircraft. In addition to this they have 15 Airbus A320 aircraft. I flew on G-DBCG – an aircraft BA acquired in 2012. The aircraft is fitted with 144 standard economy seats. The front 8 rows are all able to be used as business class seats where the middle seat is blocked off for extra passenger comfort. For this short trip I was in seat 5A, the same as on the 767.

The Club seats are marked with white antimacassars

Club Europe passengers at London Gatwick can make use of the fast track security option at Gatwick’s South Terminal. The system takes you straight to the front of the queues. I would have been through security in less than 5 minutes had I not been stupid enough to bring a pot of hair gel with me. The obvious lack of staff at my security lane took about 25 minutes to finally get to my bag and throw away the gel.

Once I was through security I embarked on the roundabout trip to BA’s lounge area. I was really excited to see the lounge as I hadn’t been in it since the huge revamp it underwent. You can read all about how I found it in my upcoming review.

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Once I’d eaten enough in the lounge I went out into the terminal and went to find my gate. Boarding was slightly delayed because of a delayed inbound flight from Barcelona. Nevertheless, I boarded once the food was on and spent a nice time with the crew for the day. Once we had boarded, we were delayed even further and didn’t end up taking off until an hour after our initial slot. Despite the delays, Club passengers were kept happy with drinks and a hot towel service before we eventually left for Edinburgh.

Hot towel before departure. Yes, I am my own laptop background – pure vanity.

We took off on runway 26L at 20.10 and banked right towards Edinburgh. Meal service started almost as soon as we had hit our cruising altitude and was a choice of Salmon Salad or Croque Monsieur. I went for the Croque Monsieur and I have to say I regretted it almost straight away. The salmon salad looked like a much more comprehensive meal. For dessert we were given a ‘Wild Gourmet Passion Fruit Posset’ which was probably the best bit of the whole meal! Drinks were served with the meal and refills were offered before we began our descent. Before our approach I asked our crew if they had any crisps or nuts to give me and they went and found two bags of cashews which kept my stomach happy during my trip to the hotel!

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On reflection, I was very disappointed that I went for seat number 5A. Being at the back of the cabin, you are last to be served. My piece of advise for such a short trip would be to sit as close as possible to the front as you’ll be one of the first to be served.

We landed in Edinburgh at about 9pm and as is usual with domestic flights at EDI, I was out of the doors in five minutes.

Arrival on stand at EDI

Conclusion:

BA operate their short-haul business class product to Edinburgh out of both London Heathrow and London Gatwick. While flying on the B767 was an obvious novelty, I felt that the Gatwick route was a more peaceful way of flying up the country. With the airport being smaller, fast track security is faster and there are fewer people in the lounge, too.

With delays being a downside to my Gatwick trip, there is one other factor to bare in mind. The Gatwick based aircraft are pretty much all ex-bmi aircraft, these aircraft are notoriously known for having worse quality than the Heathrow based aircraft. I didn’t find this an issue and thoroughly enjoyed flying Club Europe to Edinburgh.

British Airways B767 Club Europe Review

On May 30th I attempted to fly to Edinburgh onboard the BA B767 in their Club cabin in order to write a review for you all. I missed the flight.

The old cockpit of the B767

Thanks to a friendly flyertalker who read my blog post on the missed flight – I went back to have another go. This time, I made the flight! British Airways have seven B767s left in their fleet which once boasted 31. With all the long-haul configured aircraft now retired, the seven remaining aircraft are set up in a domestic configuration with 259 seats. The aircraft is, however, available to configure is several different ways. The first 17 rows are available to sell as ‘Club Europe’ seats (BA’s short haul business class product) but in practice it is very rare that all of these rows are used in CE (Club Europe) configuration. For my flight, the first five rows were configured for Club use. What this means is that the middle seat in the middle rows aren’t available to sell which gives the club passengers some extra comfort. To clearly show which seats are used for Club seating, white antimacassars are used. I flew onboard G-BZHB which is due to be retired in November 2018. I sat in seat 5A and had the only free seat in the whole of the club cabin next to me thanks to it being blocked for sale. The cabin may look tired but I found the old seats very comfortable for the 55 minute flight.

Cruising up north

The aircraft is powered by 2 Rolls Royce RB211-524H engines, has 3 galleys and 8 toilets onboard.

British Airways’ Club passengers are allowed to use Terminal Five’s ‘FastTrack’ facility located to the left of BA’s A desks. Having slept very badly the night before, I decided to make my way to T5 bright and early to spend my time in the lounge instead of rolling around in bed and not sleeping. Arriving at T5 is very easy no matter what transport you take. I arrived on the 490 bus from Twickenham and was up in the departures hall 5 minutes later. If you have an early flight out of LHR then you should take note of my following mistake. To my surprise, T5 doesn’t actually open its check in desks until around 4.45 for the Edinburgh shuttle so I couldn’t check my bags before then. This resulted in a 30 minute wait in T5 for the bag check facility to open for my flight. Even if I had been able to drop my bags, however, the Galleries North lounge at T5 wouldn’t have let me in until 5am anyway. Once through security, I went to the South lounge for some breakfast and then positioned myself in the North lounge to watch the sunrise and landings on runway 27R.  BA’s lounges are laid out nicely with a choice of pastries and rolls for breakfast and a wide selection of drinks.

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I headed down to my A gate before the gates were announced to meet the crew as they arrived. I was met by cabin manager Elaine and her crew for the day who were more than happy to let me on early to get some shots of the aircraft. My passport and boarding pass were checked and I came down to the aircraft to have a look around.

The empty Club cabin

I only had a few minutes before boarding began but it was really nice to check the cabin out and chat to the crew before the 767s get retired next year. Boarding was handled seamlessly and we pushed back and began our long taxi from T5 to 27L for takeoff. Service began while we were still on the ground as the crew brought hot towels round to the Club passengers. We banked right out of Heathrow and began our scenic cruise towards EDI. Breakfast (yes, my third of the day) was served very soon after takeoff and consisted of a full English and selection of bread roll of croissant. The basket of bread came around a few times during the flight, as did the offer of more drinks. I was very well looked after by the crew and (as always) ate far too much.

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The crew that operate the 767s are known as ‘Eurofleet’ crew. They operate on the smaller jets (319,320,321) and the 767. I found the crew very welcoming and I could sense they were a lot more relaxed than many mixed fleet crew I have encountered on my BA travels. The 767s are fitted with overhead screens in the aisle but these were not used during our short trip. Newspapers and magazines are provided on boarding to all passengers, however. Seeing as the majority of the passengers were commuters, there was just about time to have a read of the morning papers before coming in to land.

The scenic route got even better as we began to descend into Scotland. As we hit water to the east of Edinburgh, we began to bank onto our final approach which offered a fantastic view of Edinburgh for those on the left of the aircraft. But as pictures speak a thousand words I’ll let you look at the slideshow below.

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We landed at around 9am in Edinburgh and, as Club passengers, left the aircraft first. As a domestic arrival, no checks were needed and I was out the door 10 minutes later.

I had a really enjoyable flight with BA on their old girl the 767. I’ve on an A319/20 a handful of times but flying shorthaul on the 767 felt quite different. Firstly, I found the crew very relaxed and well organized. They stopped to chat with most of the club passengers onboard and seemed genuinely happy to be operating the flight. The space on the 767 also seemed a lot nicer than that in the Airbus fleet. Being a jet with two aisles makes it feel a lot more spacious and I liked that.

Conclusion

Flying on the 767 was a great experience to have before they become a thing of the past next year. I had a really enjoyable flight with British Airways and think the morning 767 shuttle is a great option for those wanting a stress-free ride to Edinburgh