Free Algarve Holiday Report 2/4 BA Economy Gatwick to Faro

BA Economy

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Following on from my previous article on our experiences at London Gatwick, this one will cover the BA Economy (Euro Traveller) flight with buy on board catering.

Click here to review Part 1

Timekeeping

The day’s earlier flight with our aircraft had been delayed by around 4 hours, and while some of that had been clawed back, we were still delayed by an hour. Enough to be irritating, but not enough to get compensation under EU261 🙁

There were still some residual technical issues and the air conditioning didn’t work properly until we were airborne. Thankfully everything else seemed to work OK.

On the return leg, we boarded on time, but were held on the stand for 30 minutes due to anticipated congestion in the South East UK. Thankfully the air conditioning was working fine as the temperature was just over 40 degrees for our midday scheduled departure. This time was made up en route, and we landed at the scheduled time.

Seating

We had booked a Euro Traveller (economy) redemption and had been fortunate enough to be assigned exit row seats on an A320. My wife had only flown long haul, widebody jets for several years and perhaps expected more room than there really was. She was slightly shocked when I pointed out the “Exit”.

 BA Euro Traveller
Those are not my painted toenails

That said, you can see considerable extra legroom (I’m 6’4″) in this exit row, which I really appreciated.

We ended sitting next to some guy who was off to play golf with his mates, and insisted on telling us all about himself. This is what we learned about this gentleman:

  • He is very good at golf but deliberately did not win on their last trip to avoid arranging the next one
  • He flies a lot for work
  • He has a BA Gold Card
  • He has over 200,000 Avios
  • He doesn’t see any value in them
  • He thought you could use cash to buy food and drink on the plane

Now obviously I could have helped him out with at least one of the above, but an hour into the flight I concluded that I did not want to encourage further interaction. 😴😴😴

On our return journey we were only offered 29E/F which is the very back row. This is despite checking in within 20 minutes of online check-in opening. Not ideal seats, but at least they were together (looking at you Ryanair!). They actually turned out to be OK seats, and we could recline them without fear of offending anyone behind us. Legroom wise, it was sufficient, but getting things in and out of the seat back storage was awkward.

From my window seat I got some great views on a clear day;

BA Economy
Departing Faro over the coast

 

BA Economy
Flying over Brighton, see if you can spot the BA “vehicle” in this photo (it’s not a plane!)

 

Buy on Board Catering

I won’t fill this post with full size images of all the options for buy on board, but I did take some pictures, and you can take a look at each section by clicking them here

The prices are not that bad, comparable with Marks & Spencer’s outlets at motorway service stations. The option to pay using Avios will be valuable to some (I have better uses for Avios myself!). The value placed on Avios here is 0.8p each, which we can often do much better than, but wouldn’t feel like an obscene waste.

After a few hours in the lounge, we had no need or desire for further food and drink, plus this was meant to be a free holiday!

The short haul A320s that BA operate on this route have a movable divider between Business and Economy which signifies the border between free food and buy on board. This flight had 6 rows of Business, leaving roughly 23 rows to pay their own way. Why is that relevant? It seems one of the cabin crew was new and was being coached by his colleague which meant it took longer than it might to serve everyone. It didn’t help when people tried to pay cash, but to fair to BA, that is made clear at every opportunity. Looking back to the rear of the plane, I saw that they *just* served everyone before the seat belt signs went on for approach to Faro.

While they passed I had to take this photo of the teapot on the cart

I'm a little teapot
Is BA really reduced to buying second hand teapots from a charter airline?

During this extended service, everyone forward of the cart had to use the forward bathroom which is generally intended for Club World passengers. I felt sorry for the people in  1A and 1C who thought they had prime seats for dinner but just had the backsides of economy passengers who were queueing for bathroom in their faces.

Anticipating slow service on our return flight, we picked up sandwiches at Faro airport. Another smart move by us: the cabin crew had no sandwiches left by the time they reached row 28. Not just limited choice, or something I didn’t want – no sandwiches at all!

This still doesn’t seem right to me, but then I’ve never flown a low cost airline. Therefore I still expect food and drink when flying, particularly on a national airline. Aside from the principle, the organisation and administration looks poorly implemented:

  • Excessive time to serve, even on a 3 hour flight on an A320 (imagine a shorter flight or larger plane?)
  • Lottery of having your first choice after the first few rows
  • Likelihood of having nothing by the time the back rows are served

On the positive side, the quality does not seem to be an issue. Although we didn’t eat on this trip, I have experienced Marks & Spencer’s on board a previous BA flight, and you know what you’re going to get. The Aberdeen Angus Beef and Red Chutney Bloomer (that’s a beef and pickle sandwich to normal people) is as good as a pre-packed sandwich on a plane could be. For £4.75 or 600 Avios, it’s fairly priced, in my view. The spirits, mixers and soft drinks are all quality brands so I’d have no complaints drinking a Bombay Sapphire with Fever Tree tonic (other than paying £6.00 for it, obviously!)

Conclusion

If you view flying purely as transportation from A to B, this did the job and people should have no problems with choosing BA for their journey. However, if you prefer to view it as more of an experience, then BA is going to alienate you with their seemingly unstoppable push to be as cheap as possible.

Personally I have a big problem with trying to make air travel ‘cheap’. Oddly enough for an InsideFlyer contributor(!!!) I’m not particularly keen on flying, but when I have to, I’d rather sit back and have unlimited gin & tonic available to take my mind off things and help me relax.

The ability to redeem Avios (particularly with low taxes and fees via Reward Flight Saver on short haul) is a huge saving grace for me, and means I will continue to choose BA for such trips.  If that went away and I had to spend actual money, I would have to look at one of the many other options who all want to differentiate on price rather than service.

Money Spent

2 Sandwiches at Faro Airport      € 9.90
1 Bottle of water at Faro Airport € 3.50
Total                             €13.40
GBP equivalent (approx)           £12.20

Sub-Total from Part 1            £143.44
Money Spent so far               £155.64

Comments

  1. peter says

    My heart is bleeding when I read about this “free holiday” – you can take an empty bottle with you to the airport and fill it in with water after security. You can make yourself sandwiches at breakfast in a hotel or pick up some from Minipreco for 3 euros.

    Using Nectar points on EasyJet is the way to fly to Faro for free. Flying with Ryanair direct would be the second best option. Flying via Porto (45 min Porto to Faro connection goes often for 9.99 euro) would probably be still cheaper than BA on avios.

    Another thing is – Ryanair with their tight turn arounds – have no time for delays and BA are known for getting deprioritised by ATC after missing a slot even at their own Heathrow base.

    • Craig Sowerby says

      Unfortunately Nectar points aren’t “free”. You are trading something worth cash in a number of places for flights on Easyjet. Maybe you don’t pay for the flight, but then you pay for your Sainsburys shop when you could have had it for free…

      Of course you could make the same argument for Avios, but it’s not quite so easy to consider those as “cash equivalent”.

      • peter says

        Craig – Nectar points are as “free” as Avios.

        Get a Nectar Amex Card, hit the £2000 spend and 30000 nectar points are yours. You can regularly get bonus points for buying train tickets (There was recently 1000 points given for any Virgin train ticket – including children’s one or one bought with railcard ), you can get nectar points for your ebay purchases even when you go through topcashback.

        I am not saying Nectar is the best loyalty program or that Sainsburys is the best supermarket but at least you can convert the points into easyjet flights or eurostar journeys without touching your wallet.

  2. Ian Perry says

    It’s all meant as a bit of fun, and I’m trying not to come across as a tight, grumpy old git. I just happened to have a stack of IHG points and a reasonable amount of Avios from Tesco clubcard and American Express cards, whereas I pick up only limited Nectar points from train travel.

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