This is my review of BA1, the British Airways service from London City to New York JFK, on an Airbus A318.
The introduction to this BA1 review which ran yesterday – click here – looked at the background and history of the service. I also ran through nine reasons why I think the service won’t survive much longer, especially once Crossrail opens.
ba.com has a special page dedicated to the BA1 flight which you can find here.
Using London City
Having not flown BA1 since 2009, I thought it was worth giving it another try on this trip to New York.
I had a surprisingly trouble free trip from West London to London City Airport for my 9.40am departure. I was also pleasantly surprised by how quickly I cleared security at 8am on a Monday morning.
Of course, once through security, the shortcomings of the airport become very clear in terms of overcrowding. Whilst there is a lounge at London City in the Private Jet Centre (reviewed here, they will drive you to your aircraft) US security restrictions mean that BA1 passengers are not eligible.
It turns out that BA1 passengers are allowed a free breakfast at Pilots restaurant. However, BA does not tell you this in advance. You will be told if you are checking in luggage, but very few passengers on BA1 do this.
With virtually nowhere to sit, and not knowing a free breakfast was avaialble, I had to buy myself a seat by paying a shocking £3.59 for an Americano at the Illy cafe. The display boards said that the gate would not be announced until 9.05am, just 35 minutes before departure.
At the gate
We ended up on Gate 21. BA used to provide a buffet for BA1 passengers at the gate. This has now fallen victim to cost cuts and you find yourself sat at a random City gate, with minimal seating and no power sockets. It is hard to imagine a less premium experience. When boarding commenced, we had to walk across the tarmac to the aircraft steps – luckily it was a dry day.
Refuelling in Shannon
Before I look at the seating, it makes sense to talk about the Shannon stopover. Because the A318 cannot take off fully fueled from London City due to the short runway, a refuelling stop is required in Shannon. Whilst this is being done, you can clear US Customs and Immigration.
This wasn’t as easy as it seemed. We were on gate 114, which is the gate furthest away from the central area. We had a quarter-mile walk to the central services area, after which we had to reclear security. I’m not sure if this was necessary a decade ago or not, but since London City is fully secure it should not be needed. The upside was that BA1 passengers get to bypass any queue that may be there.
Once you have meandered through the duty free shop, you can head to US immigration. BA1 passengers can use the business class line and, whilst there were a lot of US flights departing together, I was through in minutes. The immigration official was very cheerful and it was an easy process.
Once back at the departure gate, it is a fairly grim situation. There is a lounge which accepts Priority Pass, and in theory if you were first off at Shannon – as I was – you would have time to pop in for 15 minutes. I decided not to bother because we were so far from the gate.
Unfortunately, gate 114 is so far out of the way that the free airport wi-fi signal doesn’t reach it. There are also no cafes. Luckily I was able to tether my laptop via my phone but your roaming plan may not allow this. There were no power sockets anywhere near the gate.
Here is a PR shot of the cabin. What you have is 8 rows of 4 seats in a 2×2 layout:
I was in 1B, by the bulkhead. This was handy for being served quickly and ensured I got my first choice of food. With two loos at the front of the aircraft, I did get disturbed by the constant foot traffic. The couple in 1C and 1D had an 18 month baby which I should say, for the record, was spotlessly well behaved throughout and played peek-a-boo with me at one point.
It is clearly apparent that these are old seats. Despite this, it still has a lot to offer. Each seat is set into a shell:
…. which means that there is no impact on the person behind if you go into bed mode.
The headrest is ludicrously comfortable and the footstool is near enough to be usable without reclining your seat.
The downside quickly become apparent though. Storage space around your seat is literally nil, apart from a slot for spectacles (which in 2019 now doubles as a slot for your phone). You and your drinks and snacks are sharing an arm rest with your neighbour.
The privacy screen is virtually non-existent:
….. and this is absolutely the wrong aircraft for you if this is a concern.
It is worth adding that the A318 is exceptionally noisy compared to an A380 or even a Boeing 787.
The White Company goodies are provided on BA1. This means a pillow – used by most people for lumbar support – a grey blanket and an amenity kit. The amenity kit only appeared on departure from Shannon.
This was the first time I had seen a White Company amenity kit:
After the fantastic Oman Air one a few weeks ago, this was a bit of a disappointment. You get a tiny lip balm, tiny moisturiser, tiny pulse point oil, socks, eyeshade, pen, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.
This is the end of Part 1. Part 2 of my British Airways London City to New York JFK BA1 review can be found here. If you are reading this via our daily emails, you have not been sent Part 2 – please click here to read it on the HFP website.
You can find out more about BA’s dedicated London City to New York service on this special page of ba.com