At the end of May, en route to Primavera Sound, I flew with British Airways for the first time. With direct flights from Edinburgh, Scotland to Barcelona seemingly only available via budget airlines, I ended up on a connection service with British Airways via Heathrow. Like many national carriers around the world, I’d rarely heard great things about the airline – and sadly this experience only cemented this experience.
Airline: British Airways (Part of One World)
Route: Edinburgh (EDI) to Heathrow (LHR) to Barcelona (BCN) – BA1447 and BA0482
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Class: Economy, Aisle Seat (3-3 Layout)
Flight Times: 1 hour and 2 Hours
On Time?: No, both flights delayed
Check In & Baggage at Edinburgh International Airport (EDI)
With few flights departing from Edinburgh Airport, check in should have been a quick process, though with only one person serving the self bag drop queue, it was a very slow moving line. It was also an unnecessarily long system that could easily skip a step. First, there was a ticket check, then a self service weighing machine to get your bag tag and then you had to line up again with people who didn’t have a bag tag to drop it off. At the very least they could provide desperate queues at the end so people who didn’t do the second step don’t hold up people who did. Security thankfully was pretty painless.
About the Airport
Edinburgh is a small but very busy airport. Nowhere to plug in a computer or anything. A few dining options though no typical fast food joints. Sushi and Krispy Kremes and lots of cafes. Getting a toastie is the seemingly the go here!
Boarding The First Flight
The flight was delayed 40 minutes, which was well displayed on monitors, but not in announcements through the terminal. So keep an eye on time and monitors especially when they haven’t revealed the gate. Boarding was via the tarmac (no jetbridge), with rear and forward stairs available.
The In Flight Experience EDI – LHR
The A321 was a notably old aircraft, still with TVs on the ceilings (where you got to watch the star studded safety video with comic relief), but the seats were comfortable with decent leg room and movable head rests. Though we were about 45 minutes late to depart in the end, they made up some of time lost time in air, and made it from gate to gate in about an hour. They offer M&S food or drink for purchase only, but they’ll give you water if you ask. They are a remarkably budget offering in that respect.
Transiting at London Heathrow
This is where things get complicated, especially when you’re in a rush. Heathrow is one of the most painful airports in the world when it comes to security checks – plus the sheer size of the place has its own issues. After landing, it takes 13 minutes to get between terminals on the bus, and then you have to recheck your carry on bags and go through another layer of security. There was another one at my gate too, which was absolutely jam packed, with no restrooms and seemingly without air conditioning.
So put off going to the gate until you can – the main area has heaps of seating and chargers and food options. I had rushed there because my last flight was so delayed, that I would have barely made my flight had it not been for an initial flight delay. After another half hour delay was announced, we were permitted to leave the gate to use restrooms, or grab a snack. The delays were due to a “damaged engine”, it turned out, which you never want to hear.
Eventually we boarded, only to continue to enjoy delays on board. Two hours after it was originally due to depart, we were still sitting at the gate – though at least we were on the plane; it was considerably more comfortable than the gate.
The In Flight Experience LHR – BCN
We ended up departing and arriving two and a half hours late, meaning I got into Barcelona at around 1am. Thankfully I had scheduled a night at a hotel at the airport (Tryp by Wyndham at Barcelona Airport), so I have to empathise with those who had a longer journey ahead of them. Customers weren’t happy, understandably, but surprisingly the airline offered little respite. They could have offered a complimentary beverage, or something as many airlines do in this situation. But there was nothing. No entertainment, no food, no drink. Even asking for a water was a chore – I asked three times and never received.
To add to the dissatisfaction, even with all those delays, they failed to load my baggage onto the aircraft, with caused additional delays at the airport (and unsurprisingly that late at the airport they had limited assistance). Remarkably, in some 30 years of travel this was the first time my bags had been lost. Thankfully, they were able to track it onto another flight, and I had to go back to the airport the next morning to come and pick the luggage up. Again, I was thankful to be staying at the airport in this circumstance, and it just meant I had to get up a little earlier the next morning. Given it was already 2am by this point though, I wasn’t particularly happy about this either. But boy did I sleep well…
In what felt like a comedy of errors, this was truly one of the worst flight experiences I’ve ever had. I understand planes are delayed all the time, but the quality of care and service was just so low – with a ticket that was not cheap I might add – that it made me wonder what the real difference was between flying BA and a budget carrier. And these problems started all the way back at check in at Edinburgh. The only saving grace to the experience was that the on ground staff in Barcelona were wonderful and helped ensure I was able to get my bag the next morning.
ONE STAR (OUT OF FIVE)
The author flew at his own expense, and was a guest of Tryp by Wyndham at the airport.