Wednesday : London to Warsaw via Helsinki

Today’s adventure wasn’t an ideal situation, but British Airways needed to change my flight from London Heathrow to Warsaw and the only way that they could get me there was via Helsinki. These are challenging times for airlines at the moment, but I hope that these schedules start to settle down over the next few months, it’s not really a routing that I would have thought the most cost effective to arrange.

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I was starting at the Ibis Styles at Heathrow, not my first time in the hotel, but my first time in the separate accommodation bloc. It’s really not apparent, but there’s a floor above what is visible here which is reset a little, which is where my room was.

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Not that it’s particularly interesting, but that additional floor is visible behind Esso, with the main part of the hotel on the right.

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A bus journey to Heathrow T3 central bus station and my complaint, yet again, that Heathrow have blocked off the pedestrian and cyclist entrance to the airport and so people are forced to use cars or go on public transport. In the past, the airport themselves paid for that public transport, but they don’t now. There’s an element of greed here and I find it a little sinister who is benefiting from these changes, but I had better not meander down that path for too long. So a little ride on the Travelator from the central bus station to get me to Heathrow T3.

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And here it is again in all its glory, my favourite of the terminals at Heathrow. This is solely because of the lounges where I can get the most free food, T5 is a much better designed and interesting terminal architecturally (including the bits that my friend Liam built).

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I can use the premium security line at Heathrow T3 because of my silver card (I have to mention every time that I got this through judicious use of Flyertalk tips, my spend on flights is very low and wouldn’t normally get me such decadence). A member of staff came over and said that the premium security line was longer than the standard line if anyone wanted to move over. I was by that point near the front and didn’t take the risk, but I was amused when someone just behind me said “you’re the one who just sent me over here”. I laughed just a little inside because the man seemed to want an argue but the staff member walked off. Security at T3 always seems quite quick and I got fortunate with my choice of queue, I think I was through within five minutes including the waiting time in the queue.

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Lounge hopping at T3, I decided to start with Qantas to get a Salmon Eggs Benedict and delicious it was too. The service in the lounge was as impeccable as ever, efficient, informal and professional.

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Part of the cold food selection, but I’ve written about this Qantas lounge before and won’t bore readers unnecessarily. It was though quiet, comfortable and as lovely as ever. I can’t decide which lounge I prefer, Qantas or Cathay Pacific, so I just visit them both.

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I thought some exercise would be in order and so I walked to the Cathay Pacific Lounge to get food there, with this being the menu of the day.

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Delicious, that Dim Sum selection is always quite beautiful. There was some spicy kick to that Thai coconut and vegetable soup, which complemented the Asahi beer nicely. I didn’t bother visiting the British Airways lounge, it’s just not as decadent and they don’t have any beer there. Well, they have Heineken, but I mean proper beer. The barman mentioned that I had the last bottle of beer he had left, so I hope he had access to some more stock from somewhere. Service here, just as in the Qantas lounge, is professional and although more formal, it always feels welcoming. It’s a comfortable space as well, there are plenty of different seating types as well as lots of power points to charge devices. I mention that frequently as it is quite important to me, just imagine having a phone without any charge. It’s too much to even contemplate, I shall move on and away from that horrible thought.

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My flights to Warsaw were with Finn Air, although it was a little difficult to work out when to board as the neighbouring gate spilled over and they had the wrong passengers in each queue for a short whilst. I think the other flight was going to Africa, so it would have been quite some distance if someone landed in Helsinki by mistake. I had a little problem when boarding as the staff member said “since you’re going to Warsaw as your final destination, I need to see your Covid pass”. I’m not actually sure that was right, as Poland doesn’t need the pass any more, so I spent about three minutes (that feels a long time when you know you’re holding up the queue) trying to find my older one, which he said would be sufficient. He was very helpful and after a few seconds of panic that I had forgotten to do something I should have done, I was ready to board.

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I don’t know why they were using such a large aircraft, the Airbus A350-900, as the flight wasn’t that busy and it isn’t the usual aircraft that I’ve been on when shunted onto this service before. I was very pleased with it though, as it’s also a long-haul aircraft and I haven’t been on such a large aircraft since 2019.

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I rarely get to see these sort of images, as British Airways opted out of the camera installation which isn’t relatively that expensive, they just claimed their passengers wouldn’t want it. I do, I like watching the plane from above and below, it’s quite surreal as it’s not the sort of image I’m used to seeing.

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I had the entire row of three seats to myself, so I could lounge out and enjoy my free blueberry juice.

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There was in-flight entertainment, so I watched an episode of Bear Grylls doing something adventurous with Alex Honnold, who I watched on board a BA flight a few years ago climbing with ropes in the film Free Solo (I mean I watched him on the BA in-flight entertainment, he wasn’t on the aircraft climbing things, although that would have been exciting). The series is Running Wild with Bear Grylls, it’s the sort of thing that my friend Liam would be excited to be on, it’s full of adventure and danger. I’d rather be in the pub than jumping out of aircraft or eating rattlesnakes.

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We landed and I was transfixed watching the servicing of the aircraft underneath me. I hope British Airways change their minds and install these in the future, they’re very informative about how aircraft are serviced after landing, it’s all precisely timed.

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I wasn’t in business class as I’m not that decadent, that’s the sort of thing my friend Richard does as he spends a lot of money on things he doesn’t need, but it looked really rather comfortable.

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And there’s the aircraft.

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I very much enjoyed visiting the non-Schengen Finn Air airport lounge a few weeks ago, but the Schengen one was much smaller and it was at near capacity when I went to it. The staff were friendly, although it’s the first time I’ve gone into a lounge and the check-in process has been via a scanner checking my boarding pass rather than a human inspecting it. The food wasn’t very exciting, a tray of pasta and a tray of cooked vegetables. It’s not exactly Michelin cuisine, nor actually is it even Greggs cuisine.

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They had some feta salad with cooked vegetables, but I’d rather have had something cold and crisp with it, it was all very bland. I greedily got two slices of cheesecake as they looked delicious, but they weren’t very nice either. I can’t complain as this was all free, but I just got my hopes up from how good my experience had been before.

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I had a couple of hours in the lounge and it got much quieter during the second half of my visit.

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Wine and biscuits. I don’t know anything about wine to comment on the quality of that, but they needed some custard creams I thought. Or Jaffa Cakes, that would have been very good.

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My laptop and I moved to the window to watch the aircraft. There were lots of power points in the lounge which was handy, so that I could get everything charged ready for the second flight.

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All much more sedate when most people had left.

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The self-pour selection.

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I left the Finn Air lounge a little disappointed it wasn’t as good as their other one in the same airport, but I enjoyed the friendly service, the clean environment and indeed the entire airport felt relaxed and comfortable.

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The flight to Warsaw was on a smaller aircraft.

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The aircraft was at near capacity, so no empty row for me this time. The curtain between business class and economy is right at the front on this flight, there were just two people in business class. One of the debates on FlyerTalk is whether customers in economy should be able to use the washrooms in business class. usually it’s preferred not to, but on this flight, I saw the crew turning back three customers and sending them to the back of the aircraft to wait. I thought that was petty and it caused them service problems as then customers were trapped behind trolleys in the aisles and the crew had to reverse back up to let them pass. I don’t know how many washrooms they had on this aircraft, probably two at the rear and one at the front. Having one washroom for two customers and the other two for eighty customers doesn’t really make sense, however much you want to offer a differentiated service for business customers.

The crew member made an announcement at the end saying “please let business class passengers off first” which caused amusement as there were only two of them, and she looked annoyed people had laughed. I just thought it was all a bit odd, although it didn’t impact me.

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Finn Air offer free blueberry juice and water, with other items being chargeable. I was quite happy with my blueberry juice.

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The flight landed on time and I was through Warsaw airport security quickly enough, even though I (and others from the UK, it’s not just me) now have to wait in a queue separate to everyone else as I was from the UK and not in Schengen. I love being back here, it’s the railway station underneath Warsaw airport, which means I’m back in what is now my favourite city.

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Warsaw landmarks on the seats, the train spotlessly clean and it cost me 74p for my ticket to the hotel. Bargain.

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I was staying at the Warsaw Airport Mercure hotel again, one of my favourites and I’ve stayed there ten or so times I think now. It’s the smallest room I’ve been given in this particular hotel, but they said I might enjoy the tea theme of the room, so I thought that sounded interesting.

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I wasn’t going to run out of tea.

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My welcome gift and I always appreciate the gesture, even if it is mostly fruit. Indeed, as fruit goes, it was rather nice.

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Pictures, all part of the tea theming of the room.

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I liked it, there’s something quite fun about hotels having these individually designed rooms, it seems to be something that a few Accor hotels in the city are doing. Having quirky little elements like this makes things just a little more interesting, especially when it’s a room that I haven’t had before.

That’s the end of today’s little instalment. It was good to be back in Warsaw, I very much like it here.