After reviewing a recent Club Europe (short haul business class) flight from Glasgow to London City I thought it would be good to look at the Euro Traveller (economy class) product on a similar length journey. BA CityFlyer is a subsidiary of British Airways and offers short haul flights from London City Airport as well as seasonal holiday flights from UK regional airports such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. The product offered by BA CityFlyer differs from that offered by British Airways on the mainline routes from Gatwick and Heathrow.
Edinburgh (EDI) - London City Airport (LCY)
BA8717 departure 19:00 operated by BA CityFlyer
As an economy class passenger my ticket would not give me access to the business class check-in desks, fast track security, the executive lounge or priority boarding. Fortunately BA has their own frequent flyer scheme called Executive Club that allows you to gain status that makes these benefits available to you. Silver status is sufficient to get the benefits mentioned here and gold provides extra benefits such as access to better lounges in Heathrow and Gatwick. These benefits really make the airport experience less painful, maybe even enjoyable in some ways.
There's multiple ways to get to Edinburgh airport from the city centre. The public transport options are tram or bus and then there's multiple private hire options to choose from as well. This time I decided to take the tram. I had already purchased a mobile ticket for the tram using their app so I can't comment on the ticket machines but I really would like to see other operators follow London and embrace contactless debit/credit card payment where you just touch in and out with your card and are charged appropriately with no need to buy a ticket.
Approximately 30 mins later and the tram arrives at the airport, there's a bit of a walk from the tram stop into the terminal but the walkway is covered. As I had no hold luggage I had no reason to visit the check-in desk as I already had the boarding pass in my Apple Wallet after checking in on the app.
When I arrived at security there was no one at fast track so I was straight through, the queue at regular security did not look too bad this time. After the compulsory walk through duty free it was time to find the lounge.
The British Airways lounge in Edinburgh is much larger than the other regional lounges and has catered for those who need to relax and those who need to work by offering a range of different seating styles including a couple of glass 'offices' where you can close the door and work while drowning out the noise. Every seat appears to be within reach of a regular socket and USB charging point.
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. I was hungry so I helped myself to some sandwiches and a bowl of soup. Everything is complimentary in the BA lounges and there's an extensive wine and spirit selection as well as champagne available on request.
The lounge was well maintained with friendly staff and they were quick to clear away tables. The lounge is about four years old now and the fixtures are still in good condition, the only drawback is there's no view of the airfield, there's large windows but the look out over the car park.
When boarding was displayed on the departure screens I headed to the gate, it was quite busy in the main section of the terminal so the walk involved zig-zagging around people but I arrived at the gate just as they were starting to board business class and gold cardholders. The aircraft was boarded by steps (unlike at Glasgow where we used an airbridge) and I was lucky to have the seat next to me unoccupied.
I was sitting in the first row of Euro Traveller so directly behind the curtain separating the two classes. As mentioned in the Glasgow review the aircraft used at London City are smaller due to the short runway and have a 2-2 configuration. Throughout the plane the legroom is more generous than that offered on the mainline fleet.
One benefit of flying from Edinburgh is you can get to see the Forth Bridges from a different angle. The windows on the E190 aircraft used on this route seem larger than the Airbus A320 series used on the mainline fleet so they offer a good view of the bridges.
Another nice surprise was that catering in Euro Traveller is still (as of April 2017) complimentary, it has not been switched to buy on board but we have been told that this is coming. I have mixed views on buy on board, it does increase choice but it is also frustrating having to mess around with payment which tends to slow down the service. The complimentary catering is similar to what used to be offered on British Airways Heathrow and Gatwick routes prior to the buy on board change in January 2017, it consists of a snack and a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. So for me it was crisps and Tribute. For a relatively short flight the drink and snack is enough for most people and it provides a more premium feel than buy on board.
Although a second drink isn't proactively offered it's possible to get addiitonal drinks just by asking a member of staff when they pass, visit them in the galley or use the callbell (personally I don't usually use the callbell). The Club Europe cabin were given menus and appeared to be offered food similar to what I got on my trip from Glasgow.
Once landed 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. I had no bags to collect on this occasion so it was just a short walk (approximately 5 minutes) to the DLR station. From here it took less than 20 minutes to get back home near Canary Wharf.
I aimed to get to the airport for around 17:00 which is ridiculously early for a 19:00 domestic flight, this was in order to have some time to review the lounge and also have a quick look round the airport as it has been a few years since I've departed from Edinburgh Airport. In reality arriving an hour before departure is more than enough, particularly if you don't have bags to check in, and with benefits such as fast track then you can get away with arriving at the airport even later. With this layover I left the city centre around 16:30 and arrived home before 21:00, in reality I could have spent an extra hour in the city if required.
With the train the 16:30 departure from Edinburgh Waverley arrives at Kings Cross at 20:52, from Kings Cross it's 30 minutes home in a taxi if the traffic is not too bad meaning that the train takes at least 30 minutes longer door to door in this situation and if I'd left for the airport at a more realistic time it would have been more like 90 minutes longer to take the train.
An important advantage of flying for those who have a standard class/economy only business travel policy is that British Airways still rewards regular customers. Although their Executive Club is not as generous as East Coast Rewards used to be you can redeem your Avios for cheap flights across their extensive route network and you have status benefits that build up as you progress through the tiers giving you benefits such as lounge access and fast track which greatly improves the whole airport experience.
Prior to East Coast Rewards frequent rail customers would get a membership card that entitled them to East Coast lounge access among other benefits, this is similar to the status benefits you get with BA. When East Coast Rewards was introduced these status benefits were no longer provided but it was possible to buy lounge passes with points. Since East Coast Rewards was scrapped there's no guaranteed way a regular traveller in standard class can get lounge access, although I've noticed some people on Twitter being emailed lounge passes as a 'surprise and delight' reward. Quite frankly if you travel regularly between Edinburgh and London and your employer has an economy class only policy then your best bet is to fly the BA CityFlyer service to London City. Eventually you will earn status to get lounge access and the end to end journey time is much quicker if you're going to Canary Wharf or Central London.
If your employer allows first class rail travel then you may prefer the train as it provides a relaxing environment with decent food (except on weekends) but as our review of BA CityFlyer in Club Europe from Glasgow shows their business class product is also decent and will be quicker door to door.
Virgin Trains East Coast publish comparisons between train and plane going between Edinburgh and London but they always compare flights in to Heathrow (using the Tube to get into the centre which is the slowest means). Personal experience has shown that the flights in to London City are the fastest way to London by far.
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 £17.50 each way to cover taxes and airport charges. The total cost for this flight was 4000 Avios + £17.50, this would rise to 4500 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 and as a Gold member I earn an additional 500 Avios on top of that. Short distance Euro Traveller flights earn between 5 and 20 Tier Points depending on fare. This goes towards your status level (blue, bronze, silver, gold) which determines what loyalty benefits you receive.
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