Flights – Malta to London Gatwick South (British Airways)

Here’s Speedbird on the tarmac of Malta airport, looking rather elegant in the morning sun. It was my first time departing from Malta airport and it’s a small, but well managed, operation. Actually, that’s with the exception of when I got to the airport and my flight wasn’t listed on the departures board. Which led to a very quick check of if there were two airports or if the flight had been cancelled. It didn’t appear on the boards for another two hours, by which time I was already in the airport lounge.

The boarding process was the usual slightly confused little arrangement, where the staff called boarding groups one to three, but not many people seemed to either hear or listen. And those who did listen didn’t seem to understand what the staff member was talking about.

So the upshot of that arrangement is that the staff member had to start turning people away who tried to board before they should, with this mini walk of shame hardly a great way to treat passengers. Anyway, I was in boarding group one and I wanted to board promptly for a change as I needed to put my bag in the overhead lockers.

I commented on seat 1C a few days ago on my flight from Gatwick South to Malta, it’s fine other than it’s where the wardrobe once was. So, the aircraft wasn’t designed to have a seat where they’ve now put one, so it’s important for the occupant of seat 1C to be careful to avoid anyone’s bag coming towards them when they board. On this, I fortunately succeeded at keeping my knees from other bags as I was in seated in 1C.

I’m not a big fan of these front row seats, as my bag has to go in the overhead lockers, and it’s just easy to have it at my feet. The layout of the aircraft means that my bag has to go back three rows, always a challenge to recover at the end of the flight. Fortunately the helpful passenger in the row behind me rescued my bag, and also the bag belonging to the occupant of 1A.

Here’s a photo of an aircraft door.

The menus and hot towels were handed out before take-off, although the crew member apologised that they were cold (the towels, not the menus). I liked the sound of all three of the meal choices, and was very pleased with the starter, dessert and cheeses.

The pre-meal snack and drink. My second alcoholic drink of the year, a gin and tonic. It came with ice and lemon, and it tasted like I expected gin to taste. Unfortunately, I have no special knowledge of gin to even be able to try to explain it.

The meal, which was roasted chicken with morel mushroom and spring onion casserole with thyme roasted potatoes. The advantage of sitting in seat 1C is that I know that I can get my first choice of meal (unless something really bad has gone wrong with the catering).

The meal was well presented and all of the elements were at the appropriate temperature. I’m not a fan of chicken skin which isn’t crispy, it just tastes of fat, so I peeled that off. The rest of the chicken was tender and moist, with the sauce having a decent flavour. I’m not that big on mushrooms either, but they weren’t really an important part of the dish. The vegetables were about as good as vegetables get, but the potatoes were moreish.

The cheddar cheeses was excellent, and the olives, tomatoes and feta cheese added to the whole proceedings. As there was a bowlful of bread rolls left I was able to get a couple of them, with the butter actually having some taste and not the generic rubbish that is served in some places. The dessert was rich, a chocolate and cherry torte which was like a Black Forest Gateau.

The whole cabin service was efficient and pleasant, with the cabin crew being pro-active in offering extra drinks. They were so pro-active with me they asked if I wanted a second champagne and I hadn’t had a first, but it seemed rude to decline at least one glass. BA have switched from serving champagne in mini bottles to using full size bottles and it was Champagne de Castelnau (I didn’t know this from just the taste obviously, it’s printed on the menu).

The flight apparently arrived in a few minutes late, although I only know this because the pilot explained that there were strong headwinds which slowed down progress. There was also a fair amount of turbulence towards the beginning of the flight, but fortunately the cabin crew had already got to row two and so I had my drink.

Overall, I felt that this was a pretty strong performance from BA given their historic achievement of inconsistency. The crew member was saying that she was called in and hadn’t expected to be working today, but she seemed on top of the service. All in all, rather lovely.