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

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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.

British Airways BA London City Airport

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:

City1

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!

City2

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.

City3

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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Comments (79)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • James Alexander says:

    Interesting comments on both BA and LCY.
    I’ve never had an on-time flight into or out of LCY EVER!!! that the place has no biz lounge is truly pathetic. Boarding by BA at LHR is always an abortion .. At LCY they take it to new heights of uncoordination!!
    As for the food. Your evidence proves rightly that BA can do it when they want. Taking on board the new BA chief just don’t expect it to
    continue !

    • rossmacd says:

      If BA were to have a lounge in LCY it would be so horrendously overcrowded as almost every passenger is at least Silver…..and many, many Golds use LCY frequently.

    • John says:

      EVER?? I’ve NEVER had a flight arrive late at LCY. I’m usually on the DLR by the scheduled arrival time. BA’s schedules are padded so even when they depart 10 mins late they arrive early/on time.

      • Genghis says:

        Lucky you! The Edinburgh service late in the afternoon whenever I’m on it appears to consistently arrive late.

    • Rich. says:

      Don’t arrive early! The airport doesn’t want you there! It’s great and feels like the old days arriving 45 mins before departure….

  • Jonny says:

    Had a very positive experience myself flying out of LCY to the Algarve a couple of weeks ago myself (just in Euro traveller)

    Everything was extremely quick, not far to walk (helpful with a 2yo and a baby), and comfortable, spacious seating. Would do it again in a heartbeat over LHR.

    Took little over 20 mins on the way back from plane landing to getting on DLR, including picking up luggage. Seamless.

  • N says:

    Those spending their own money at LCY are very obvious – they’re the ones getting Boots Meal Deals!

  • Ed says:

    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.

  • Ian says:

    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.

  • 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!

  • NS says:

    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

    • John says:

      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.

  • John says:

    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.

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