Thursday : From Warsaw to Feltham via Helsinki

The Mercure hotel seems to have invested heavily in its food offering and I noticed that they’re promoting lunches now with their new chef. In terms of how this is presented, it’s far and beyond the brand standard. The choice of hot and cold items is substantial, with the breakfast room feeling calm and relaxed. I don’t really like omelettes, but the hotel seems to now be cooking those to order as well, which I can imagine is popular.

The items on the right are regionally sourced products, this is something quite positive for a large chain such as Accor.

My little selection which entirely met my expectations. The only little problem here is that those rolls had to be binned as they weren’t cooked (I assume they’re normally brought in part-baked and then finished on site), a slightly unfortunate issue. Everything else was suitably decadent and delightful, especially the blue cheese.

I like passive aggressive notes like this. Don’t steal the towels.

Beautiful, this means “we are with you” to the Ukrainian people.

This is Warszawa Rakowiec railway station, my train to the airport is just pulling in front from the left-hand side of this photo.

The interior of the train and I took this photo primarily to comment on how well designed their seat covers are, with various landmarks from Warsaw printed on them.

This is the train ticket that I needed to get to the airport, it costs 59p. It’s fair to say that public transport is very affordable in the great city of Warsaw.

My trip was booked with British Airways, to return back to Heathrow T5 with them. Unfortunately, that flight was cancelled, but they did fulfil their duty of care by arranging a flight with their Oneworld partner Finnair to get me to Helsinki, and then from there, to Heathrow T3. I’ve never flown with Finnair, so I thought it’d be an interesting experience. It was also beneficial in the sense that BA have paid out £212.03 in EU261 compensation, along with giving me extra tier points and Avios.

In the Warsaw airport lounge, there are four different pre-packaged ‘sets’ of food which customers can take out of the fridges themselves. The lounge temporarily switched to this style of pre-packaged service a couple of years ago, although I imagine they might revert to the more traditional self-service arrangement once again in the future.

I walked by here on several occasions to pick up another couple of chocolates each time. I think that I was quite subtle, although I suspect I wore a hole through the floor of the lounge given the number of walk-bys that I performed.

I went for the Caprese croissant with Greek salad. Anything that has Feta cheese on it I’m magically drawn to. I arguably didn’t need this two hours after I had worked through a large breakfast, but yet here we are…..

The beer options in the lounge aren’t particularly decadent, but the Zwierzyniec Pils was acceptable. I’m very tolerant to generic beers when they’re free.

The flight that I was meant to take with British Airways was listed as cancelled on the screens.

I arrived at the gate in good time, something that I always do, for fear that the aircraft will randomly depart early. There was then a delay of 45 minutes in boarding, due to a delayed inbound aircraft. Only three of us used priority boarding, although it was a little pointless since it was a bus gate. I wanted to do this though to ensure that I had understood all of the Finnair requirements. It transpired that I had, but my seat had been reallocated due to a change of aircraft, so I was given a new boarding pass.

Boarding OH-ATJ, which is an ATR 72-500 that is operated by Finnair and they were the first operator to use this type of aircraft on civil flights. I’m not sure that I’ve ever flown in this type of aircraft before and it’s quite rare for me to even be in a turboprop.

I was one of the last to board, primarily as I was faffing about taking photos waiting for those who had already boarded to spend what felt like hours rearranging their bags in the overhead lockers.

It’s not the largest aircraft that I’ve ever been on, with a 2*2 configuration. I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me, so I felt that I had plenty of space, not least as I had my bag at my feet. There was some space in the overhead lockers, but having my bag near to me is just easier.

These blades are actually rotating, it’s just the magic of photography that they don’t look like that in the photo. I’m easily pleased…..

There is a chargeable food and drinks service on Finnair, but they offer free blueberry juice and for reasons unknown, I got a free biscuit bar type thing as well. The service was polite and helpful, with the space meaning that I could use my laptop for the entire journey.

There’s the edge of Estonia, with Russia now that far along the coastline. There wasn’t much cloud cover for the entire journey, so I was able to look out over Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, going very close to Russian airspace.

After arriving into the airport at Helsinki, I hoped that this wouldn’t be my onward plane to London Heathrow. I’m pleased to report that it wasn’t.

Waving goodbye to the aircraft that had brought me to Helsinki. I’d note that I didn’t actually physically wave, the pilot might have seen and thought that I was a bit odd.

This worried me for a moment at the Helsinki terminal, it indicated a 30 minute walk to the gate. This didn’t seem right to me, as the terminal is all in one building. However, they’ve been pro-active and sensible, including the time it might take to get through border control. Fortunately, it took me under ten minutes for me to get to the lounge from here.

I had a couple of hours between the flights, enough time to visit the Finnair lounge. There are currently two lounges at the airport (there are more, but they haven’t re-opened), a Schengen lounge and this non-Schengen one.

This is the entrance to the lounge and it was quiet and seemed spacious, but I hadn’t realised this is just one small part of the complex. The member of staff at the entrance was particularly welcoming, all adding to just how much I liked this airport.

I noticed that there were a couple of beers on draft which were self-service. It was good to pour pints again, I haven’t done that for a few years. I messed the first one up slightly if I’m being honest.

More of the lounge area and I didn’t struggle to find a seat.

The food was self-service, the options here are falafel, tomato rice, chicken stew and roasted carrot. I’m sure that the carrot was delicious, but my plate was conveniently full when I got to that section…..

And the desserts options.

I went for the falafel, chicken and rice, all very delicious, hot, tasty and of a good quality. I was suitably impressed. It’s perhaps not the best food that I’ve had in an airport lounge, but it’s more than sufficient. This is one of the airport lounges that I’d look forward to visiting if I was taking a trip to the city, all really nicely done.

Back into the airport terminal, which seemed as quiet as the lounge. I have to add that I was very impressed with this airport terminal, which felt so relaxed and calm. There were plenty of different eateries along the way, all of which were open and had plenty of seats available, with a peace and tranquillity that’s hard to find at airports. I hadn’t thought much about it, but I checked and this airport has won a host of awards and they seem entirely justified, the whole design has been really well thought through.

This is the first Moomin cafe at an airport and it could of course only be in Finland.

Everything was sleek, modern and well presented. I’m also not sure that I’ve seen an airport with so many power points.

And after arriving at the gate, there were even more power points. It’s fair to say that I left the airport with everything fully charged.

This wasn’t a busy flight, so the boarding process was swift and effortless.

If I can’t get the emergency exit row seats, I like going towards the back of the aircraft when reserving seats. It’s usually quieter and so there’s more space, as well as providing ready access to the washrooms should that be helpful. That tactic worked here, there was nearly no-one seated towards the rear, so I got a row of seats to myself.

Having three seats to play with meant that I could sit sideways and use my laptop. This isn’t really possible usually if just having one seat as there isn’t enough space for the screen to fold back before it hits the seat in front.

My free blueberry juice was topped up a couple of times, and I was then given a glass of water. This free blueberry juice seems like a good idea to me, they just have cartons of it along with water, I can’t imagine that it’s particularly expensive. British Airways could perhaps do something like this…. British Airways don’t operate this route any more, with Finnair being quite a bit more expensive to use instead, so although I’d like to return to Helsinki (other this transit, I’ve only been once for part of a day) it’s unlikely I will in the near future because of the cost. The services were broadly comparable, although the Finnair services weren’t that busy, which brought extra comfort because of the space.

The joys of flying over London at night.

I don’t normally sit by a window, as I prefer aisle seats, but took the opportunity to try and work out what which parts of London we were flying over. The aircraft landed on time, although we had a ten minute wait whilst a gate became available. Heathrow T3 are really struggling though, as although the queue was minimal and it only took me five minutes to get through the e-gates, the airport staff seemed stress. One staff member shouted at a passenger “I’m trying to bloody help you, just listen” in what was really not an ideal situation to talk to someone who didn’t speak English.

I timed this just right, I was taking a photo of the bus station and that bus pulling in at the rear was the one that took me to Feltham. It’s one of the parts of London that I haven’t visited before, indeed all I know about it is that there is a young offenders prison there.

I popped into the Moon on the Square in Feltham, a JD Wetherspoon outlet that I haven’t been to. Frankly, I wasn’t confident that it was well entirely managed, the manager was showing what I would call an absence of welcome to numerous customers and the pub really wasn’t very clean. Customers were served out of turn, the bar staff didn’t show any awareness of who was at the bar and they were crossing over each other in terms of serving customers. There was a feeling of tiredness about the whole arrangement, but I accept this isn’t the easiest of pubs to run given the location, but the pub wasn’t meeting the brand’s CQSMA targets by some margin.

There’s a beer festival on at the moment, so there’s a decent range of real ales and at the usual very low prices. I decided against returning to the pub or staying any longer, as this was the second Wetherspoons that I’ve visited (out of 400 or so) that I didn’t really feel entirely safe in, with the other being Brixton. However, in the pub’s favour, their reviews on-line are broadly equal with other outlets in the chain, so perhaps I was just unfortunate with my visit and I’m sure it’s much better in the day.

Then onto the Travelodge at Feltham. The customer service team had added on early check-in and free breakfast for me (a result of Farnboroughgate), although the former was a little irrelevant as I arrived at 23:00. The team member was helpful and polite, but she said I needed to pay for the early check-in and breakfast. She didn’t argue the point when I showed her the email from Travelodge and the manager quickly fixed the matter a few minutes later. The team member who welcomed me was engaging and conversational, mentioning she’d given me a decent room at the top of the hotel which should be quiet. And everything was fine with the room, it was clean and functional, all at a low price. I’ve mentioned before, but will repeat, that Travelodge seems to be a brand on the rise again, affordably priced rooms which are usually clean and the staff nearly always seem to be friendly.

The view from the Travelodge window over the delights of Feltham. To be honest, it felt quite a long way from Warsaw where I’d been a few hours before.