Nutmeg Avios

Good food, good leg room – what I found flying BA from London City last week

For the first time in quite a long time we flew out of London City Airport last Friday.

Before I continue, I should say that only a fool should try to fly out of City at peak hours on a Friday night.  Trying to do it when most flights are delayed due to bad weather across Europe is positively certifiable.  The terminal was like a refugee centre for people fleeing from persecution in the banks of Canary Wharf.

As there is no lounge at London City, I also had to reaquaint myself with the joys of airport catering.  In the case of City, this goes beyond your standard price gouging as very few passengers are spending their own money – I don’t think I have ever paid £4 for a takeway yoghurt before.

There are, however, some good reasons to fly British Airways from City.  There are even some reasons to book Club Europe if there are no Euro Traveller Avios seats available:

Reason 1: leg room

Following the reconfiguration of the British Airways short-haul fleet at Heathrow and Gatwick, there is now substantially better legroom on the new Embraer 190 fleet out of City.

I accept that the photo below does not look hugely generous.  However, you need to remember that I am 6’2′ and there is still space between my knees and the magazine pocket.  I simply cannot sit like this on a BA short haul flight now except in Row 1 or an emergency exit row:


Reason 2: good food

Take a look at this plate of sausages, beans, mash, salad and cake.  Fancy that?  Tough, you can’t.   This is what you get on London City Club Europe as the kids meal!


Out of Heathrow or Gatwick in Club Europe, kids get a sandwich, a bag of Mini Chedders and a pack of M&M’s ….

Big people in Club Europe get a MENU (yes, a MENU, on a BA short haul flight) with a CHOICE (yes, a CHOICE) of HOT (yes, HOT) dishes.  On Friday night it was either :

honey and ginger chicken with bok choy and water chestnut rice (pictured below) or

line-caught roast fillet of sea bass with chateau potatoes, sugar snaps and lime butter

This was a flight to Switzerland which, out of Heathrow, would only have got me a ‘take it or leave it’ cold salad.


You’ll note that Heidsieck Monopole champagne is also still alive and well on BA if you fly out of City!

Of course, BA has little choice but to spend a few £££ extra on the food in Club Europe.  After all, you don’t get anything else!  No lounge, no empty middle seat, no priority boarding (50%+ of the passengers have BA status so they can all board in the first group!), no extra overhead space (a side effect of not having the empty middle seat).  The only other benefit apart from from tier points and a handful of Avios is sitting at the front.

The reason we did it was that we had little choice.  The kids were in school on Friday so our flight options were restricted to whatever we could get in a small window of departures between 6pm and 7pm.  Any later than that and our 5-year old is liable to become unpredictable …..!

Reason 3 (for a couple or family of 4):  2 x 2 seating throughout

The Embraer fleet is 2 x 2 seating throughout.  If you are on your own, this is a negative in Club Europe as you don’t benefit from the empty middle seat.   As there were four of us travelling it didn’t make much difference.

For a couple or a family of four, 2 x 2 down the back in Euro Traveller may well be preferable to 3 x 3 out of Heathrow or Gatwick.  You are guaranteed full rows to yourself.

So, what did I learn on Friday?

You should avoid City Airport on Friday nights if you can!

British Airways is more than capable of serving good food, with menus and a choice of hot main courses, in Club Europe when it really wants to

You can still find acceptable leg room on BA short haul if you head to Newham

2 x 2 seating offers real benefits over 3 x 3 to certain customer groups

Bring your own yoghurt to eat in the terminal ……!

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  1. I really like the 190’s out of City. Much more space than usual. Also CE coming back into LCY has menu, though when I flew back from AMS a few weeks ago the options were both cold.

  2. Club Europe is still not worth it from London city. If you live nearby, which I do, it takes 12 minutes in an uber from door to airport drop off. The Pret or Costa outside of security is where I pick up lunch for £3-4. Far superior than any of the BA catering and still have a couple of vodka tonics in the back.

    The joys of city airport is turning up late and spending no time in the airport. Rather pay economy and risk missing the flight than club Europe.

  3. SpeedbirdABZ says:

    I’ve just flown the E190 on a charter flight from ABZ to AGP. The best charter I’ve ever been on – not that I “do” charters very often. The only problem was that it was a Buy on Board and service took about 1 hour 45 to get to the back row. Love the Embraers though – best legroom in the fleet in Y by a mile!

  4. I absolutely love LCY. Used to fly to AMS every week for almost a year. The efficiency and ease through which you can get through when travelling han baggage only is amazing. The only downside flying from your own pocket is that flights are typically more expensive

    • That’s why I only use Avios for BA shorthaul, there is a specified maximum price.

    • Genghis says:

      When everything goes seamlessly, LCY is a great airport. From arriving into the terminal building you can be at the gate within 5-10 mins. When something goes wrong however (e.g fog), the airport is chaotic and flights very quickly get cancelled.

  5. Funny story about hand baggage – last week a Spanish speaker managed to get a ridiculously large bag through security, the gate agents noticed it, printed out a bag tag and said they would have to gate-check it. But the pax didn’t understand and just brought it on the plane anyway. The CC noticed but as the aisle was rammed she couldn’t do anything except move someone else’s bag to the floor-level cabinet by 1B to free up some overhead space.

  6. Where have you been, Rob? Love the 190s – the last 34in economy seats left on BA….
    LCY looked crowded this week even early afternoon with no delays – Thursday/Friday evenings are often a nightmare. Trick for out of towners is to fly in to LCY and out of LHR – miss the crowds inbound, enjoy T5 lounges outbound….
    And the summer charters using BA 190s are a dream – Scotland direct to the Med in a small plane and decent seat. Long may they continue….

  7. Danny says:

    LCY is one of my favourite airports, even on a Friday evening it still works wonder.
    I use it every 2-3 weeks to see my partner in the Netherlands for the past 5 years and the flights (majority with BA) are rarely late. If you can plan and book well in advance, you can often have return HBO fares for as low as £80. The convenience, quick and cheap DLR journeys mean you avoid all the costs and hassle of flying out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

  8. The food on Sun Air is even better – best plane breakfast I’d ever had, and the friendliest cabin crew too!

  9. Anon2 says:

    I’m here now and echo Rob’s sentiments. A French ATC strike has added to the chaos. Anyone know of a nearby pub? £5.75 a pint is a bit steep.

  10. Peter Taysum says:

    Thanks Rob,

    I love “our five year old is liable to become unpredictable…” Well done that’s not “all the time…” 🙂

    I’m in Madrid, in the lounge after a lovely shower awaiting return to LHR. My last time here was from GIG in November (£600 plus Avios thank you in BUS). This time after a “silent” retreat. The Cava and Chorizo (it was vegetarian alcohol free) are AMAZING…

    I’m day dreaming of HNL, I feel I need the “babybus” again.

    PS Another reason for the Iberia card, Avios on purchases in Duty Free at T4… 🙂

  11. flyforfun says:

    I have a BA Amex PP 241 about to expire in a few weeks. Might blow it on ex LCY flight just for the weekend if I find availability.

    • Billy Buzzjet says:

      Hi Raffles.
      Perhaps you could do a feature on the new Club Europe i experienced on the Gatwick fleet this week. Row 1 now has plenty of leg room since BA have removed the bulk head and wardrobe in front so theres now nothing between you and the crew sitting in their jump seats opposite you. So now you truly do get to feel like part of the crew by practically sitting in the galley as the crew prepare service , other passengers treading on you as they board, no privacy, no seat pocket to put your lap top in , no over head storage above you, And this is a premium seat !! What are BA thinking ?!??

      • harry says:

        Sounds an improvement if you have long legs.

        • Billy Buzzjet says:

          I do . I’m 6’4 . I’m pretty sure no else will agree .

        • harry says:

          So basically you want to have a rant about the design of the plane? (Which you are not going to change or remotely influence.)

          Isn’t rants what FT does particularly well?

        • Billy Buzzjet says:

          yeah , yeah , whatever . i can’t even be bothered .

      • I had that with easyJet when I flew from Southend a few weeks ago. Not had the joy of this from LGW yet though.

        • harry says:

          It’s fairly common on LCCs. Just keep your knees in or get on after the crowds if you don’t want to be bumped.

          The other bits such as nowhere in front of you to store stuff, ooh people can look at me: trade off for getting off first & loads of legroom.

        • I always feel a but guilty when people walk past my 5 year old in F or J as they shuffle towards the back 🙂

        • Lady London says:

          you should.

          nearly as bad as those little three-year-olds on French ski slopes performing tumbles and Olympic manoeuvres and annoyingly NOT landing on their a$$…

      • barry cutters says:

        The new club seats with no bulkhead are loads better. If like me you are over 6 ft the bulkhead made the journey very restrictive. I always get on towards the end of boarding as I don’t really want to sit in the seat foe 20mins longer than I have to. That way i dont have to deal with 100people walking past me too. I totally disagree that this is a negative change

      • I flew that too, was very old plane. Looked it up and it was on lease from TAM airlines I think it was…

      • Sounds good to me for the increase legroom! I liked 1C in that you could stretch out but never a fan of the rest of row 1 due to the bulkhead.

  12. Catman99 says:

    Hi a lot off-topic…….as some of you might remember I missed my cheap Qatar from Oslo as my Air Norwegian flight ended up being 7-8 hours late. Instead I jumped on a direct flight the next day to Bangkok. I understand that my outward flight would be cancelled in its entirety but have I also lost my return flight as well?

    This really is a nightmare!!!!

    • Almost certainly yes

      • Ouch. Ex-EU’s come with a health warning, though sounds like you’ve been hit pretty bad

      • Catman99 says:

        Hi Raffles an article on what to do in these sort of situations would be very helpful. These deals are spectacular when they go right but obviously they do go tits up sometimes and having some options ahead of time would save a lot of grief.

        What did other people do? Who pays for the mess….

        • Polly says:

          There really is nobody to sort this mess out but the pax. We did advise him to call the QR MAN centre to get his flight changed that day. When on a J ticket they are very accommodating, as we found out last year when we needed to change our return flight home. There was lots of support for him, but ultimately you got to be in that city the night before. It’s the only fail safe way to make it. Such a shame really . There’s always his travel insurance to claim on, perhaps, as his positioning flight was well delayed.
          We are going over to CPH and to OSL the night before, last flights in, just in case. Be it bad weather or whatever that could delay us.

        • Agree, I always go out the night before – makes things much less stressful on the day and you can treat it as a mini-citybreak!

        • My feeling is he should have gone to Oslo and asked QR to send him the next day. Very likely they would have agreed if he was there in person in the terminal looking helpless.

          However, insurers know return is cancelled if outbound missed so if he is covered it should be fine.

          Plan B would have been to approach Qatar at Heathrow and get on a London service. It would cost Qatar nothing (well, APD) so they might have done it.

        • Catman99 says:

          Thanks Raffles

          I called Qatar Airways but because there was less than 3 hours to go, they said there was nothing they could do to change my flight. But maybe I was just unlucky and didn’t get someone helpful. Unfortunately I was in Gatwick so no QA desks to ask in person, although I could have tried the next day.

          I also rang my insurers but neither they or Qatar mentioned anything about my return flights also being cancelled. I can’t really see the logic of that myself.

          If it happens again, I will try the throwing myself at the mercy of Air Qatar in Oslo. I certainly don’t advise trying to leave Gatwick due to all the security obstructions they put in your way – you can’t just leave the airport from the Departures Hall. You have to wait until someone comes to collect you to take you through a staff exit. Then Immigration where you can’t even use the eGates as you didn’t arrive on a plane.

          It was the 1st time I have ever missed a flight so a new experience for me plus you are tired and hungry from waiting around at the airport all day.

        • James67 says:

          Only common sense is needed; adequate travel insurance, ideally a short break or overnight in city of departure if possible, and preferably HBO which is now even more important given interline restrictions on OW.

        • barry cutters says:


        • Catman99 says:

          The funny thing about common sense is that it isn’t very common….I am blessed in that I have uncommon sense!!!

  13. AndyR says:

    Sorry for OT – do HMRC charge a fee to pay your tax with the Supercard or do I remember reading that it treats it as a debit card? Thanks.

    • I think that was the case with the pilot version of the Supercard.

      It hasn’t been put to the test with the new Supercard yet as far as I am aware.

      • imbruce says:

        I had to pay a small bill of £229.93 to HMRC,to use the Curve card the charge was £4.65,to pay with Visa it was 95 pence, a big difference. When you are on the HMRC website after you have entered the amount of money you are paying you will then be asked to input the first 8 digits of your card it will then tell you the amount it will charge you for using that card.

  14. James67 says:

    OT: an interesting story on Channel 4 news tonight relating to maintenance, safety and security shortcomings at BA resulting their outsourcing of IT functions.

  15. rams1981 says:

    No point using supercard now as they charge for uk transactions

  16. Billy says:

    Club Europe food from London City is really surprising. Last time I flew there was a menu card, I was offered Steak & Chips (admittedly not as successful as it sounds) and the nicest cheesecake I have ever had!
    I also flew home in Y to LCY from Europe and there was a substantial food offering provided. And five Gin miniatures *hic*