Flight 2 of 14 – Zurich bound

  • British Airways BA710
  • London Heathrow to Zurich
  • Airbus A320 G-EUUB

So it’s the start of day two of my travels, and today’s adventure will see me in Zurich and, hopefully, Prague. Arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 at 0530 in the morning it always amazes me how busy this place gets, but airports have always been a special place for me, with lots of happy travellers making special memories of their own. I think once again it goes back to memories of holidays in my childhood where we’d be waiting with excitement (and often tiredness!) to head off on holiday!

A warm welcome to Terminal 5 – BA’s home at Heathrow

Lots of people moan about queuing for ages and making a huge fuss over the Airport experience but I have to say it’s as good or as bad as you make it for yourself. I hit the security search area at one of the busiest times of the day and my wait was under 5 minutes, even in the ‘normal’ queue (I have fast track access… but who needs it at T5?) – and was even able to have a quick chat with one of the team who was manning the scanners about my trip today, and he wished me a good trip! Always nice to see cheery staff, who make it a much more relaxing process for travellers in my opinion.

As I headed off to the BA lounge – there are several at Heathrow – at Galleries North for some breakfast it’s amazing just how many flights there are and people heading to many amazing destinations across the world. What’s even more surprising is just how busy the lounge is at this time in the morning, with the first wave of departures starting at 0600. There must be hundreds of people in the lounge here. After all, you have to fly a fair bit to even get access to the lounge, or be travelling in business class or above. I have reached BA’s ‘Silver’ tier last year after a long haul trip to the Far East tipped me over the ‘tier point’ threshold!

The ‘outside inside’ part of the Galleries North lounge at Heathrow – a balcony above the gate areas where you can sit and watch the planes!

Today’s adventure takes me to Zurich, and onto Prague, before returning to Heathrow this evening. I’m taking the chance to try out a Chinese airline called Sichuan Airlines, who operate a ‘fifth freedom’ route between Prague and Zurich, as an extension of their long haul flight from Chengdu. So my first flight today is from Heathrow down to Zurich with British Airways, mainly as a positioning move.

British Airways A320 taking me to Zurich today

Most of BA’s European flights operate from Terminal 5’s main area where the A gates are, however there are two satellite terminals B and C, which are mainly for long haul flights but also handle some of the first wave of European departures thanks to the schedule of long haul flights which arrive later in the morning and depart again in the afternoon or evening. To get to the B and C terminals you have to take the shuttle train, or indeed you can walk, underneath the tarmac!

Terminal 5 shuttle train to the B and C gates

As we get onboard we’re welcomed by the cabin crew and I’m in Seat 9A on this leg, towards the front of the Euro Traveller cabin. BA operate a two class service on European short haul services, with the economy (Euro Traveller) cabin and up front the business class (Club Europe). On the short haul Airbus fleet the seats are identical but in Club you do get the middle seat free with a table (unless you’re on a newer ‘Neo’ aircraft). You do get free hot/cold meal and drinks but otherwise there is no real difference and on short flights it’s often not worth the extra, unless you can get a good deal of course!

As we all settle into our seats the update from the cockpit isn’t good news, with IT issues hitting BA’s operation at Heathrow this morning, and 10 mins after departure time we’re still waiting for a loadsheet – which crews use to determine the weights and therefore takeoff calculations – to be delivered. Little more than 10 minutes after this we get another update saying we’re ready to go, the airbridge is pulled away and a few minutes later we can push back and taxi out for departure.

On stand at Heathrow whilst long haul arrivals await parking stands…

The late departure from the stand means we don’t actually lift off from Heathrow until 0740, some 45 minutes behind however there is usually a fair bit of padding in BA’s schedules to take account of long taxi times and delays at Heathrow, so we shouldn’t be too late into Zurich. The scheduled arrival time of 0940 gives me 1 hour 45 minutes until the departure of the Sichuan flight, so the delayed departure is looking like it could cause a few problems, though the crew assure us they’ll do their best to make up some time enroute.

I’m near the front of Euro Traveller in seat 9A

As we near Zurich we’re given an estimated arrival time of 0950, which would have us on stand around 5-10 mins later, which isn’t too far off the scheduled arrival. I need to exit airside and check in landside for my Sichuan flight, and I have a feeling check in might close 1 hour before so stay tuned to see what happens!

Early starts!

Getting up early in the morning, what could be better? Well lots of things, in the view of most people. I’ve always been a ‘morning person’ – probably because it brings back so many special memories of getting up early to go on holiday when I was little. You can’t beat being out when the world is just waking up as the sun rises.

Early morning – hello world!

This morning the alarm went off at 0450, which was a struggle given I got to bed at 2300! After not many (and not enough!) hours sleep it’s always tricky to wake up, however made much easier when you know another adventure awaits.

This morning it was back to Terminal 5 at Heathrow – of course I always use the local buses instead of the rip off HotelHoppa service – more on that in a future blog maybe? The 423 serves much of Bath Road where most of the hotels, including mine, are situated – and the first bus arrives at T5 around 4am!

A warm welcome to T5 this morning

Flight 1… of 14!

It’s Tuesday evening and after a day travelling up the region from home in Stockton to Newcastle Airport, it’s time to relax in the sanctuary of British Airways’ Executive lounge with a glass of orange juice!

Today is day one of 10 days travelling, covering thousands of miles. Travelling is something I do for fun, and indeed it’s a bug I got early in life from my parents who used to take us on regular holidays! It’s what has earned me my ‘Silver’ frequent flyer status with BA, allowing me to access their lounges whenever I fly with them, a perk worth having if you like a quiet corner to relax.

So I’ll tell you a bit about my trip over the next ten days or so, well actually it’s two trips split by a weekend at home. The first is spread over 4 days primarily to try out BA’s new ‘Club suite’ on their brand new A350 introduced to the fleet just this week. They are operating ‘training’ flights on the Heathrow to Madrid route for the first month whilst crew get used to the new aircraft – before it goes on to the long haul network, where its first few routes have been announced as Toronto, Dubai and Bangalore.

I am also testing out a Chinese airline called Sichuan Airlines who operate one of numerous ‘fifth freedom’ routes where a long haul airline serves two cities with the same flight, and carries passengers between the two closer cities, effectively filling what would otherwise be empty seats on the shorter flight. This one runs between Prague and Zurich, although this part of the route is due to be withdrawn from 24th August so it was really ‘now or never’ for me to catch them. I’m also trying Hainan Airlines later next week so it will be interesting to compare the two. More on that later.

Of course flying both of these routes means a fair bit of positioning needs to be done, and my first flight of seven on this trip sees me on my regular shuttle from Newcastle to Heathrow. This must be my most frequently flown route, definitely in the last few years. It is a shame we don’t have a route to Heathrow – or even London – from my local airport at Teesside, but I understand the mayor is working on it!

British Airways operate up to six flights per day between Newcastle and Heathrow. It’s very popular with business travellers as well as passengers able to connect onwards to hundreds of destinations around the world. Today I’m on the last southbound flight of the day the BA1337, departure time 2015. It’s operated by the biggest aircraft in the short haul fleet the Airbus A321 with 206 seats, which are required as it operates the very popular evening peak 1815 departure from Heathrow which is often full! Tonight’s aircraft is G-EUXH for the short flight down to London.

British Airways A321 G-EUXH at Newcastle

It was a pretty quick flight down to London this evening – Flying time just 49 minutes which is competitive with the northbound timings. Normally holding before landing at Heathrow extends this but one perk of flying late in the day is the lack of holding. Departure from Newcastle was 2048, landing at Heathrow 2137.

Signing off now as I wait for my bag as I’m back here at Terminal 5 in around 8 hours for the next leg of my travels!

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