Thursday : Heathrow T3 to Nuremberg

I arrived early at Heathrow T3 in case there were any security hold-ups, as it has been a challenging couple of weeks for Heathrow and for British Airways. To cut a long story short, I was in the lounge six minutes after I took this photo. There were no delays, which meant that I had a morning and afternoon to amuse myself in the various Oneworld lounges at T3.

This time I started off at the nearly empty Qantas lounge, with smoked salmon eggs benedict. Suitably decadent and rather nice to see the chef making them just a few metres away. Rolling back for a moment, I only have status with BA because I took a series of flights in January 2019, and it’s fair to say that I’ve been fortunate with my timing here. Service was impeccable as ever, I really like the refined atmosphere in this lounge.

As another aside, when I entered the lounge there were two BA customers in the queue in front of me, asking where the lounge was. The Qantas staff member gave the answer and mentioned that they could stay at Qantas if they wanted, and they thought about it, but then thought that the BA lounge was better. I then handed over my boarding pass and mentioned I thought they’d made a mistake, and it’s no revelation here to say that the staff member agreed with me.

I had quite a while in the lounge, so I got myself a little dessert, pastries, strawberries and cream. I have to say, I’m very productive getting work done in airport lounges, I think it’s the excitement of having wonderful food so close.

Then a quick pop downstairs to the Qantas gin bar.

My gin (No. 3 gin apparently, it was recommended to me) and beer, with a couple of Camden Town Brewery beers, this being the Hells Lager. An effort has been made by Qantas to provide a local beer and it’s a perfectly good choice, with it being available on draft and in bottles.

Then a move to the Cathay Pacific lounge, I think that looks suitably comfortable, although I stayed in the dining area (likely to no-one’s surprise).

The Wonton soup was cooked fresh for me, alongside the mixed dim sum selection which is always available. The beer is Asahi and this lunch was just really quite marvellous, this is a quite delightful lounge. I must confess to accidentally ordering another dim sum selection an hour later.

Another one of the seating areas in the Cathay Pacific lounge. It’s likely not hard for anyone reading to imagine the peace and quiet, all very calm.

And then I went to the British Airways for the last ninety minutes before I needed to get my flight. First and second impressions were negative, it was at near capacity, there were no power points available and the food ordering system had broken down which was causing some issues. The beer selection was limited to Heineken, overly chilled and it tasted dreadful to be fair. I’m unsure why T3 doesn’t have access to the Brewdog beers that other BA lounges have, although if anyone feels like something even vaguely craft beer related, the Cathay Pacific lounge has Brewdog Punk IPA. I am sure that Sean Doyle has more important things to worry about when running BA, but I’d like him to address the craft beer selection here….. Not that I’m one to complain of course.

The food was though perfectly acceptable, although a country mile behind the offerings at Qantas and Cathay Pacific. I didn’t fancy mash with my pie, so the helpful staff member said “would you like pie with your pie instead of the mash?” which I thought was a good idea. I liked her style. There’s not much steak in the pie, but it tasted decent, and the chicken & chorizo stew with rice was also suitably moreish. I know that there’s a near total onslaught sometimes on BA’s food, but I find it’s fine, I rarely have any complaints about it. Although that might be because I’m too busy muttering about the lack of beer.

I then got an alert on my phone that my BA flight to Nuremberg was delayed for three hours. This didn’t seem ideal, but if that was the case, I needed to move. So I went back to the Qantas lounge.

One more beer and Lamingtons, a beautiful Australian dessert. I then realised that the flight delay had been removed from the app, but I stayed where I was anyway.

You know there’s going to be a problem when it says “please wait”. An American lady came to talk to me for fifteen minutes or so, she was on the same flight and was hoping for some clarity on what was going on. She went to ask at the BA lounge, who were able to say it was delayed but it wouldn’t be too long, so we were confident it wouldn’t be an excessive wait. It transpired that the inbound aircraft was late in, then because it was much dirtier than expected, the cleaners took extra time. I did wonder what on earth had gone on during the previous flight, it was made to sound like quite an entertaining party.

I had an emergency exit row seat, with no-one else in the row. That was handy, I got my laptop out from the overheads as soon as the seatbelt light went off and answered every email that I had outstanding, always good to be back to email zero. The free refreshments don’t change much on these flights, crisps and water, but I still appreciate them.

There’s the aircraft parked up in Nuremberg, we landed 45 minutes late, but the flight seemed to go very quickly. That’s the delight of having extra space when on board, everything just feels more comfortable. The aircraft is G-EUYK, an Airbus A320 which BA have operated for the last eleven years since it was new. The flight cost £35 each way, which given the free food and drink I had in the lounges I thought represented very good value for money. I might sound slightly grumpy at the beer selection in the lounge, but even I admit that’s only a very small part of the entire experience, I think BA are doing a generally very decent job. The cabin crew were also friendly, efficient and the pilots sounded professional and that’s always reassuring.

Border control checked my vaccine passport, as Germany has a rule that only vaccinated people can get in without a test. The staff member also asked a few questions, including “is it your intention to remain in the European Union?”, which it technically is, but I didn’t want to run through the Brexit argument with him and I knew what he meant. He then wanted to see evidence of my return ticket, which I had, they seem to be concerned that British people will enter Germany and stay.

If I may make one slight complaint at an otherwise impressive building, it’s that the airport is a little badly signed and I noticed a few other people getting lost, and then I couldn’t work out where to go. I never really understand why a director of an airport doesn’t just stand in their terminal for a while and see where people are getting lost. There are some standout airports that have got this sussed, such as the brilliant Warsaw Chopin airport, which marks out on the floor the various routes people need to take around the building. But, I mustn’t compare with Poland.

I found a sign to the metro, which sent me to the wrong side to buy a ticket, but at least there are regular services to the city centre.

To my slight surprise, the services are driverless and everything seemed to operate perfectly and on time. A very decent set-up.

Clean, tidy and functional.

Very pretty.

And into the Ibis hotel, where the staff member was helpful and friendly. She mentioned her favourite restaurant in the city, which I’ll likely visit, and gave me a city map. A positive first impression of the hotel, although I had noted some anti-social behaviour when walking there (although I’ve started off on the slightly dodgy side of the city), which moderately surprised me as I’m too used to visiting Poland where I’m constantly surprised and delighted.

I had the welcome drink immediately, the Zirndorfer Kellerbier Naturtrub from Brauerei Zirndorf, a perfectly acceptable beer. I may moan in future days about the purity laws, thereby annoying any German readers that I might have. However, since that’s likely zero, I’ll carry on with my thoughts in due course.

And the basic Ibis room. The hotel doesn’t offer kettles in rooms, but I sometimes forget that I’m not in Poland and I can’t expect the same nice things here.