British Airways (Warsaw to London Heathrow T5)

After a few weeks in Poland, it was unfortunately time to come back with a feeling of uncertainty of how the PCR test thing was going to work out in Heathrow. I left the Mercure Airport hotel at 08:45 to catch my flight at 12:45, expecting to get to the lounge at 10:00 sort of time (which is for me cutting it very fine). Everything went right with the train to the airport, there was no wait at the security area (indeed, there were no other passengers which felt really odd) and the customs check didn’t take long, so I was at the Bolero Lounge by 09:30. But more about that bit of today in another post.

There it is, the BA847 service from Warsaw to London Heathrow T5 which was departing a little late due to being held up on the outbound flight to Poland.

Arriving at the gate shortly before boarding commenting, I heard the gate staff call Groups 1 to 3 and I was the second person to board. Well, I should have been the second to board, but the staff member refused me boarding saying that my mask wasn’t sufficient for British Airways. To cut a long story short, this led to a rush to find a member of the airport staff to help me find a shop selling them, as the member of gate staff was absolutely hopeless in offering assistance.

What actually happened here, which became apparent after I spoke to a member of LOT Polish airlines at the airport is that the staff member had got the rules wrong, as British Airways and LOT Polish (who have their hub at Warsaw Chopin Airport) have different mask policies. However, if I had gone to discuss that point I was in serious danger of missing the flight and likely being off-loaded for being unhelpful. I have no intention of being uncooperative at an airport, there are too many downsides…. Fortunately, the airport staff member and a member of shop staff managed to sell me the required mask. I was able to board, but only just and it wasn’t an ideal situation.

After boarding, the crew member confirmed that my mask met the requirements of British Airways, but they handed out masks anyway on boarding to anyone who didn’t have one. I’ve spoken to British Airways  who have apologised for the gate staff. It doesn’t much matter now as these are challenging times for all staff at airports, but I would have been quite annoyed if I had missed the flight. I assume if I had returned to the gate without the mask that some other airlines I wasn’t flying with required then someone might have spoken to the crew to check the situation, but it’s not really worth risking that.

I shall drink one extra beer in the British Airways lounge next time I’m in it to compensate for the situation as I’m petty like that. But it wasn’t British Airways staff who were unhelpful here, so they’re still my favourite airline. And LOT Polish Airlines, who I suspect the gate staff are usually working for, are part of Star Alliance anyway and I’ve only got eyes for Oneworld airlines.

This was the British Airways aircraft I was struggling to board and its livery is certainly distinctive. It’s aircraft G-TTNA, A320neo which was delivered to BA in April 2018. It was repainted a couple of months ago as it was used in the COP26 talks in Scotland, showing the contribution of the airline industry to tackle the climate crisis.

An Airbus spokesperson said at the time:

“We’re delighted to be partnering with BA on this journey and feel proud BA has chosen one of our A320neos to highlight the importance of sustainability for the future of the industry.

The aircraft has 20% less fuel burn & CO2 emissions compared to A320ceo and 50% less noise so it’s a great choice and I am looking forward to seeing the new livery in the sky. BA is committed to a sustainable future and contributing positively to climate change mitigation and adaptation. We will achieve the ambition of a net zero carbon emissions industry by 2050 through cooperation and collaboration and this initiative is a clear example of that.”

It’s a nice concept, although it’s very hard to identify it as a British Airways aircraft at a distance and it puzzled me for a little while (not that that really takes much).

I deliberately moved out of my exit row seat the day before the flight, as I find it more faff trying to fit my bag into the overhead lockers above those seats. That would have been especially true on this flight due to boardinggate, so I was pleased that I had put myself in an aisle seat near to the rear of the aircraft. I had forgotten how little leg room there is, but it’s fine for a short distance flight and there was no-one in the middle seat. Everything was I expected, other than the USB power at my seat wasn’t working, although I could have used one on a different seat if I had needed to.

The free snack and water (I took the photo later, I didn’t have a pillow on board) which was offered. The crew were engaging, efficient and pro-active, another near perfect service from British Airways staff. The pilot, a bastion of professionalism (as they nearly always are) made appropriate and useful announcements, including telling us that we were arriving in Heathrow having made up most of the lost time. The aircraft was clean and the crew were handing out disinfectant wipes from a basket on boarding (the same basket that the masks were in).

Anyway, another excellent flight from British Airways only impacted by the airport’s gate staff, but maybe that’s what Star Alliance customers are used to flying from the airport so that’s fair enough.

Incidentally, I know some people have experienced long delays at the border at Heathrow T5, but I was through in under one minute, just ready to go and take a PCR test. After I managed to board, the flight and arrivals process was effortless, so all rather lovely.