Hello everyone, and welcome to this new Flight review.
Today, I'm excited to take you with me to the United States, marking my third visit to the country. Six years ago, I traveled to the West Coast, and a decade ago, I explored Florida. During both of these trips, I had layovers on American soil, including stops in Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Chicago. However, for the first time, I'm making a layover in Europe: London Heathrow, the first European airport, and the 7th busiest in the world.
So, with British Airways and its Oneworld partner American Airlines, I'm embarking on a journey today to the city that never sleeps: New York and its largest airport, John F. Kennedy, commonly known as JFK. But first, let's meet at the third-largest airport in Switzerland and the largest in eastern France: Basel-Mulhouse Airport.
About the Airport
Some context is needed here. The EuroAirport Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg is the world's only binational airport. Agreements on airport management have been signed between France and Switzerland. Moreover, the airport's board of directors includes two German executives. Thus, even though the airport itself is located on French territory, hence its ICAO code LFSB, it belongs to both the land of watches and the land of gastronomy. It's worth noting that this bi-nationality isn't just administrative; the terminal itself is divided into two parts: a Swiss section and a French section.
So, from this one-of-a-kind airport, I head to the capital of the United Kingdom, London, on board an A320 operated by the Royal British airline: British Airways.
I arrive at Basel Airport, by car, about two hours before my departure. The airport is well-connected, whether from the Swiss or French sides. On the Swiss side, bus lines connect the airport to the city center of Basel, while on the French side, buses connect to the Saint-Louis train station, the nearest one to the airport. One of Europe's busiest highways also runs right next to the airport.
I make my way to the very modern terminal of the airport. I really appreciate the architecture of this terminal; large windows allow plenty of natural light, which is very pleasant. The interior of the terminal is clean and straightforward to navigate.
Since I have luggage to check in, I head to the check-in area.
There, I'm met with a very long queue. And this long line isn't moving much. To give you an idea, I was advancing perhaps 1 meter every 5 minutes.
Finally, after nearly 45 minutes of waiting, I reached the counter. I believe it was the station manager. Very friendly and smiling, he offered to check my carry-on luggage for free, which I gladly accepted. What's better than traveling light, right?
Once the check-in process is completed, it's time to indulge in a bit of planespotting. After all, isn't that one of the joys of vacation travel?
But before we dive into the world of aircraft, there's the security check to contend with. To reach this point, one needs to ascend the escalator conveniently located next to the check-in area. However, please be aware that in this airport, there are three distinct security zones: one for Switzerland, one for France, and one exclusively reserved for easyJet flights, as they maintain a significant presence here. It's crucial to use the one corresponding to your departure country. If you've checked in within France, use the French security lane; if you're departing from Switzerland, opt for the Swiss one. For easyJet travelers, please use the dedicated lane. Generally, the French and Swiss lanes can be used interchangeably, but this does not apply to the easyJet lane.
I mention this because we've observed numerous passengers inadvertently taking the wrong lane and having to backtrack.
Now, let's get back on track. First, I must scan my boarding pass.
A brief queue of about five minutes precedes the security checks. The security personnel are courteous yet maintain a high level of professionalism. The security process proceeds swiftly and efficiently.
Upon completing this formality, we enter the traditional Duty-Free area, which boasts a distinctive Swiss quality. Indeed, amidst the watches and chocolate offerings, nearly 75% of the Duty-Free selection showcases Swiss products. It's truly commendable to see such robust promotion of local goods. In addition to Swiss items, there's a notable French presence with a wide array of Alsace wines, perfumes, and foie gras.
The Duty-Free area is a pleasant environment. It exudes modernity, and is well-lit, clean, and well-stocked. It may be a tad compact, but this is a minor inconvenience given the scale of EuroAirport.
After a brief commercial interlude, the first departure gates come into view, reserved for flights within the Schengen Area. Here, you'll find several flights operated by easyJet, Lufthansa, and Air France, among others.
As the United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen Area, passing through customs is a prerequisite before boarding. If you possess a passport, there's no need for a visa or any other additional documentation. Your passport alone suffices for entry into British territory from a European Union country.
The wait at passport control is relatively brief, requiring just five minutes. As is customary, the customs officers are not particularly talkative. However, like most airport employees, they are fluent in both French and German, a significant advantage, especially considering the region in which the airport is located.
With passport checks completed, it's time to proceed to boarding.
Surprisingly, following the identity checks, another Duty-Free shopping area presents itself. It's slightly smaller than the previous one but equally well-stocked.
I now find myself in the boarding hall. Here, numerous small restaurants, souvenir shops, and other amenities are readily available.
As I arrive at the hall, my aircraft lands. It's an Airbus A320-232 registered as G-EUUJ. At nearly 21 years old, it was delivered to British Airways in November 2002, making it one of the older aircraft in the British fleet.
The taxi to the gate is relatively short, and the Airbus quickly arrives at the gate. Passenger deboarding is highly efficient.
The boarding process is organized into groups, with Groups 1, 2, and 3 being the priority groups (for Business Class passengers, status passengers, and those with reduced mobility). Following them are Groups 4, 5, and 6. I belong to Group 4 but find myself among the first to board the aircraft.
The crew at the door is exceptionally friendly and welcoming, sporting warm smiles. They invite me to visit the cockpit while the co-pilot is preparing for our flight to London. He is very friendly and engages me in a series of questions. I learn that our cruising altitude will be 34,000 feet, and our route will take us over the eastern part of France, departing the continent above Le Touquet.
It's time to make my way back to the cabin.
Cabin and seat
British Airways' A320 aircraft features the classic European cabin configuration with three seats on each side of the aisle.
The Business Class, referred to as Club Europe, adheres to a classic European Business Class setup. Essentially, it features the same seats as in Economy Class but with the middle seat blocked off and provides more legroom. One distinguishing feature between the two classes is the white headrest in Business Class.
I'm seated in 24F, which offers a lovely view of the rear of the wing.
I take advantage of the remaining moments before departure to explore my seat.
Firstly, I must emphasize the comfort of the seat. The seat cushioning, even in Economy Class, is highly appreciated; there's no feeling of sitting on a wooden plank. This is a significant advantage for longer flights operated by the A320 aircraft, and a testament to the quality offered by the Royal carrier.
Furthermore, in terms of aesthetics, the seats are quite appealing. The dark gray color and the embedded logo in the headrest exude a sense of sophistication.
Speaking of the headrest, it is height-adjustable and can be folded on the sides if you wish to rest during the flight. This feature is not commonly found on short- to medium-haul aircraft and I really appreciate it.
Of course, each seat is equipped with a tray table, spacious enough to accommodate a medium-sized laptop. Perhaps one minor missing feature would be a cup holder. I find this to be a practical addition as it prevents the need to extend the entire tray table solely to place a drink. However, for a short flight like the one we are undertaking today, it's not a significant concern.
Another positive aspect is that each row is equipped with four USB-A ports, providing more than one per passenger. This is highly commendable! Moreover, each seat has a coat hook.
A net beneath the seat contains the safety card, the Buy-on-board menu, and the sickness bag. Above the tray table, another storage pocket is available for magazines, books, and other items.
As for legroom, it is decent, although it could be slightly more generous. As someone of shorter stature (1.65 meters), I found the legroom sufficient to stretch my legs, with minimal contact with the seat in front of me.
Boarding is now complete, and we should be pushing back from the gate shortly.
The safety instructions commence, and the engines start to hum. The magnificent sound of the IAE V2500 engines becomes audible. In my opinion, it surpasses that of the CFM-56 engines, which are also used on the A320.
With the pushback completed, engines ignited, and the safety instructions from the crew concluded, the taxiing commences. We proceed along taxiway Bravo toward the hold point Hotel for Runway 15.
At 12:26, with a 20-minute delay, the roar of the A320's engines begins to intensify. A few seconds later, we gracefully depart the Franco-Swiss ground.
The takeoff proceeds seamlessly, devoid of any turbulence. During the initial climb, we catch sight of a plethora of private and government aircraft lined up along the runway. They range from the small A318 to the grandeur of the Kuwaiti State's 747-8 BBJ, interspersed with various 777s, 787s, and a Canadian Government A330. Notably, there's even a Boeing 737-8 MAX sporting its radiant, factory-fresh livery.
Following liftoff, we execute a right turn to set our course for England. At that time, the turn offers us a nice view of the airport. It is certainly my favorite departure from Basel.
Shortly after takeoff, the crew initiates the onboard service.
British Airways provides passengers with a biscuit/cake and a bottle of water (I must admit, I quite appreciate its design).
Today's light snack is an English gingerbread, which I found somewhat palatable.
In addition to this complimentary offering, the British carrier presents an array of reasonably priced cold, hot, and alcoholic beverages. When it comes to meals, the prices remain quite reasonable as well.
As is the case with most European airlines, the in-flight service in Economy Class has significantly declined. Indeed, since the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines no longer offer in-flight beverages or meals.
I find it rather disappointing to experience a service akin to that of a low-cost carrier when one pays substantial sums to travel with national or non-low-cost carriers.
During the cruise, I will take the opportunity to present the various in-flight entertainment options.
Firstly, Wi-Fi is available onboard British Airways aircraft, starting at £2.99.
There are two Wi-Fi options available:
- The "Messaging" pass, priced at £2.99, allows messaging and sending emails without attachments.
- The "Browse and stream" pass, priced at £4.99, permits unrestricted internet browsing.
Wi-Fi is a crucial feature for me during flights, whether they be long-haul or short-/medium-haul. I believe that Wi-Fi, or at the very least the messaging pass, should be complimentary on all Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft.
Secondly, on the login page, passengers have access to numerous online magazines and other forms of entertainment.
Some entertainment options, such as movies, can only be viewed when the "Browse and Stream" pass is purchased. I find this unfortunate, especially on potentially longer flights to Eastern Europe or the Middle East.
Additionally, passengers can participate in the humanitarian initiatives that British Airways is involved in, along with various other options for our journey.
Lastly, we have access to certain flight information and weather updates for our destination.
A few scattered clouds linger over France on this early afternoon.
I really love the wingtip of the A320 btw…
As mentioned by the co-pilot during boarding, we depart the European continent above the beaches of Le Touquet.
Over the English Channel, the clouds dissipate, providing us with a splendid view of the sea that separates the United Kingdom from the rest of Europe.
Inflight service (2)
During the Channel crossing, the crew initiated an onboard service, this time on a paid basis. Several beverages were offered, with a predominant emphasis on tea. Remember, you're traveling with British Airways; tea is a sacred ritual among the British.
Descent and approach
We commence our flight over the Shakespearean Island. It's at this point that we begin our descent toward Europe's busiest airport: London Heathrow.
The British sky is very... well, how shall I put it... British? I'll leave it to you to judge from the pictures.
As for me, who was hoping to catch a glimpse of London and the City during the approach, I find myself subject to the whims of the weather, with nothing but a view of melancholic rain clouds.
After a few turns, we finally align with Runway 27L at Heathrow. Beneath the clouds, we catch sight of the London suburbs and their red-brick houses, reminiscent of the northern regions of France, Belgium, or the Netherlands.
The approach was quite turbulent. Indeed, clouds and rain often bring crosswinds, which was the case during our approach.
We begin to spot the first maintenance hangars of the British national carrier. Numerous aircraft are parked there, including a British Airways A380, the first one I've ever seen.
Next, the British Airways Concorde makes its appearance at the end of Runway 27L.
After an hour and fourteen minutes of flight, at 12:39, our A320 touches down on English soil.
A quick observation reveals that while Frankfurt Airport is the domain of Boeing 747s, London Heathrow Airport is undeniably the realm of the A380. Between Qantas Airways, British Airways, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Singapore Airlines, I don't think I've ever seen so many A380s from various airlines at a single airport.
Our taxi to Terminal 5 begins. Terminal 5 is exclusively reserved for British Airways flights and consists of a main building and two satellites.
The main building, housing the Concourse A, is designated for short- and medium-haul flights operated by the A320 family.
The two satellites, accommodating Concourses B and C, serve long-haul flights as well as some medium-haul flights.
These three terminals are interconnected by an automated underground train called the "Heathrow Terminal 5 Transit." Approximately one kilometer separates the main building from Concourse C.
After about ten minutes of taxiing, we arrive at Terminal 5A, parking at stand 511, corresponding to gate A10, right next to another British Airways A320 departing for Palma de Mallorca.
Shortly afterward, the deboarding process begins quietly. A flight attendant and the captain bid us farewell, and I left the aircraft to enter the terminal via a jetway.
I arrive in a terminal that's just 15 years old.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I am connecting at London's airport. My next flight, American Airlines flight AA107 to New York, departs from Terminal 3. Therefore, I need to change terminals.
In my upcoming review, I will guide you through London's airport and accompany you on board American Airlines' Boeing 777 to New York.
You've understood, this concludes the Flight review from Basel to London with British Airways. I hope you enjoyed it and look forward to reading the upcoming reviews.
Until then, thank you, and see you soon for another review.
In the meantime, safe travels to you!
The EuroAirport Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg provides passengers with a decent start to their journey. Its modern, bright, and clean entrance hall offers passengers a good initial experience. The duty-free shops, plentiful and well-stocked with regional products, and the airport staff are quite efficient and professional. The only slight drawback could be the long waits during check-in. The airport's Wi-Fi works perfectly, and the departure halls are well-equipped with restaurants and shops.
The flight with British Airways went very smoothly. The cabin, modern and chic, is very pleasant. The seat, very comfortable, offers many amenities such as adjustable headrests and numerous USB ports. The reasonably sized tray table allows for problem-free work.
The onboard service, as with other European airlines, needs improvement. For a national carrier, more than just a biscuit and a bottle are expected (a choice of drinks, meal boxes, etc.).
Regarding in-flight Wi-Fi, unfortunately, it remains at a reasonable price. The information provided on the connection page is relevant, and the entertainment selection is varied.
The cabin crew is very professional while remaining friendly and amiable.
London Heathrow Airport:
For arriving connecting passengers, London Heathrow Airport is well-organized! Numerous directional signs facilitate passenger transit, and ground staff are very attentive. Terminal 5, where I arrived, is bright, modern, and very clean. Overall, a very pleasant terminal.