British Airways have recently (April 2017) introduced their Club Europe business class product on domestic flights. I had a look at the service offered by their London City subsidiary, BA CityFlyer, which differs to what is offered on BA mainline services from Heathrow and Gatwick.
Glasgow (GLA) - London City Airport (LCY)
BA2215 departure 20:05 operated by BA CityFlyer
The flight was a 20:05 departure and I had a hire car to return by 19:00 so I arrived at the car hire drop off point at 18:40 where the car was quickly inspected and a receipt issued. It took about 10 minutes from the car hire drop off to reach the BA check-in desks.
Most of the time I travel short haul I travel with hand baggage only, but as I was hillwalking over the weekend I had some luggage to check-in. There's a dedicated desk for business class passengers and those with status in the Executive Club. There was no queue at this desk so my bag was quickly checked in and I headed upstairs to security.
Fortunately I was able to use fast track (Club Europe tickets come with FastTrack and it's also available to silver and gold Executive Club members), there was only one person ahead of me in the queue at fast track but the regular security queue was very long.
After security you have the forced walk through the duty free shop which is becoming commonplace at airports and I noticed that the airport has now blocked off the quickest route to the domestic gates meaning a walk by other shops and restaurants including a James Martin Kitchen (same branding as VTEC use).
In all this extra walking only adds a couple of minutes to the walk and once in the lounge it's time to relax. The Glasgow lounge is smaller than the one in Edinburgh and it did start to get busy (but there was enough seats). It had the usual range of food for a BA lounge outside of London (sandwiches, cheese, soup, cake, crisps and biscuits) as well as a decent range of drinks. I went for a Tribute, a Cornish ale, and some sparkling water. As I already had lunch and knew I'd be eating on the plane I decided not to have any food in the lounge.
Boarding was called in the lounge and the gate was a short walk away. As London City has a short runway the aircraft used on these routes are smaller than the ones used on services to Heathrow and Gatwick. The aircraft was an Embrarer 190 which has seats in a 2-2 configuration throughout and more generous legroom than the mainline fleet. The only real disadvantages are less overhead luggage space and no screens to show a moving map. None of the BA shorthaul fleet currently offer WiFi.
Sitting in Club Europe I was quite surprised to see menu cards being handed out. On the mainline fleet menu cards are only handed out on the longer European flights (such as to Athens), but BA CityFlyer seems to hand these out to Club Europe passengers even on the shortest flights which is a nice touch.
The menu was also impressive for such a short flight. There was a choice of steak or salmon served with a side salad and a dessert. Those with special dietary requirements can request a special meal in advance.
After take-off the food orders were taken from the trolley. I ordered the steak and was happy with it, even though the menu description was slightly wrong (it came with mashed potato rather than chips), I don't know what the dessert was (the menu just said dessert) but it was nice too. The drinks trolley then came through, I found out champagne is not offered on domestic flights by BA CityFlyer even though it's offered on BA mainline services, but in the end the food on BA CityFlyer was much better so not having champagne was not a big deal. I decided to stick with Tribute which I was drinking in the lounge.
As it's a small aircraft there's only two members of cabin crew on-board, one member is dedicated to the economy cabin and the other works mainly in Club Europe but briefly helps out in economy once the meal and drinks service is complete. BA CityFlyer still offers a complimentary drink and a snack to those in economy, but there's plans to make economy catering buy on board like they've already done on BA mainline.
After the meal service was complete we were offered more drinks when the trays were being collected away and the crew would offer additional drinks as required.
The aircraft arrived slightly early (21:16 rather than the scheduled 21:25) and then it's a short walk across the tarmac to the terminal. As this is a domestic arrival (no passport control or customs) you do have to take a different arrivals route to an international flight. My bag arrived on the belt at 21:28 (i.e. 3 minutes after the scheduled arrival) and from there it's a short walk to the DLR station and I can be home in 15-20 minutes.
So from door-to-door this trip took under 3 hours. The fastest train journey (Virgin Trains West Coast) is 4.5 hours and that doesn't take into account the time getting from home to Euston station (for me that's approximately 30 minutes in a taxi when the roads are quiet).
Travelling BA CityFlyer in Club Europe from Glasgow is a good alternative to first class on the train if time is important. The seats on a plane are not as comfortable as first class on a train but for a flight that's a little over an hour this should not be an issue. As these flights have more generous legroom taller people have another reason to choose London City over Heathrow or Gatwick.
The catering on BA CityFlyer was better than the evening offerings on Virgin Trains West Coast, although on a weekday I think Virgin Trains East Coast would be slightly ahead on food. This comparison was irrelevant though as I was travelling on a weekend and neither rail operator offers hot food or alcohol on a weekend, so like for like this was an easy win for BA CityFlyer.
I’m hoping that the introduction of Club Europe on domestic flights will make Virgin Trains look at improving their first class offering on weekends.
As I was hiring a car this also gave advantage to the plane. The airport car hire is open longer hours than the city centre locations and means I can drop the car off and walk straight to the terminal.
I would say it's definitely worth considering if you're looking at ways from Glasgow to London. Being able to use Fast Track and the lounges takes away most of the airport stress and landing at London City means you don't lose the time advantage in travelling to the final destination. If I had wanted to be home by 10pm and was travelling by train I would have had to get the 16:38 service from Glasgow Central which arrives in Euston at 21:34, assuming traffic was not too bad this would get me home a little after 10pm. The later departure of the plane meant I could spend more time at my destination.
The points angle
It's possible to book this ticket using Avios, the rewards currency used by British Airways. There is a fixed fee of £25 each way to cover taxes and airport charges. The total cost for this flight was 7750 Avios + £25, this would rise to 9000 Avios if the date was classed as a peak date. Avios tickets can be booked right up to a few hours before departure if there's availability.
If I had not used points to buy my ticket I would have earned Avios (for rewards) and Tier Points (for status).
A domestic flight earns 500 base Avios, you also get 250 extra Avios for travelling business class and as a Gold member I earn an additional 500 Avios on top of that. Like other short distance Club Europe flights this would earn 40 Tier Points. This goes towards your status level (blue, bronze, silver, gold) which determines what loyalty benefits you receive.
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