Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B737-400 economy class

29/04/2013

CHECK-IN I checked in online within 24 hours of my flight, which meant it was free to choose my seat – those who want to have a better choice of seats need to check-in earlier than this and pay – click here for more information. Note that Executive Club members have privileged reservation options – free (except exit row seats) for bronze members from seven days before the flight, free for silver members from the time of booking (except exit row seats), and any seat free of charge for gold members from the time of booking.

I completed the additional passport information requested, before changing my seat from one in the aisle to one by a window. There were only two left, right at the back in row 26, but I decided I'd rather sit at the back of the plane than not be able to see out, so opted for 26A.

When I got to London Gatwick at 1435 (my flight was departing at 1625), I had to take the shuttle train from the South Terminal to the North. This only took a couple of minutes. I then checked the departures screens and headed for Zone A, where British Airways' check-in and bag-drop desks were located. There were two staffed bag-drop desks and hardly any passengers so I was seen to immediately. I realised I had forgotten to pick up my boarding pass from the printer but was issued with another one without a hitch.

I checked in one suitcase (note that BA also has cheaper hand baggage-only fares). Economy passengers can also take two items of hand luggage – one piece no bigger than 56cm x 45cm x 25cm and a smaller laptop case or bag no larger than 45cm x 36cm x 20cm. Security was a minute's walk away, and there were only about five people in the lane I selected so I was airside by 1447. (Liquids and laptops came out as usual, and jackets off.)

BOARDING Departure screens informed passengers that gate information would be displayed at 1545, so I relaxed for an hour until this came up. It was only a five-minute walk down to gates 57 and 58 (my flight was from 58), and I was there by 1600. (Other gates take about ten minutes on foot.) Boarding passes and passports were checked, and passengers were able to sit down in a spacious lounge while they waited for boarding to begin. The process began at 1612, with passengers in rows one to eight called first, along with families and elderly people. I was one of the last on board, but this wasn't a problem as I knew everyone would be queuing on the airbridge anyway.

THE SEAT I was in my seat by 1625 and the plane pushed back five minutes after. Seats are arranged 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) throughout the B737-400, with about seven rows (this changes from flight to flight) at the front dedicated to Club Europe business class passengers who have the middle seat kept free. The economy product is upholstered in navy blue leather and there are fold-down tray tables that also slide-out to make it easier to work on a laptop.

Seats in the back row have restricted recline as they are in front of a bulkhead. This didn't really bother me though as I wanted to work, not rest, and was also pleased as no one was sitting next to me in 26 B/C, so I was able to use the adjacent seat and fold-down table for my belongings, drink and snack. There were small coat hooks on the side of seats and headrests with movable wings.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Sitting at the very back in row is probably best avoided as the seats have reduced recline and you will likely be the last off the plane when disembarking. You will also be last to receive snacks and drinks as the trolley service begins from the front. People in aisle seats here may also suffer some disturbance from people queuing for the washroom, but on this short 1.5-hour flight it wasn’t a problem.

Opt for window or aisle seats nearer the front of the plane, though note that rows eight to 14 are over the wing so will have a partially obscured views out of the window. Exit row seats ten and 11 offer extra legroom, though passengers sitting here are not allowed to store bags under the seat in front during take-off and landing.  

THE FLIGHT There was a safety demo while taxiing, and the plane took off at 1650. Once airborne, about seven minutes later, it was announced that there would be a refreshment service with complimentary snacks and drinks (including alcohol), and the opportunity to buy duty-free items. As I had exchanged a few friendly words with a member of the cabin crew who was standing near me by the galley at the back, I was actually offered a drink before anyone else, which was appreciated.

The service then began at 1700 from the front of the plane. By 1715, it reached the back, and I was then offered a choice of chicken salad or mozzarella, rocket and sun-dried tomato wrap. I went for the latter, which was fresh, relatively wholesome and tasted good. Rubbish was collected at 1805.

ARRIVAL Landing was ten minutes ahead of schedule at 1905 and, although disembarkation was fast and efficient via an airbridge, I was one of the last off the plane as I was sitting at the back. It was a five-minute walk to passport control, where there was no queue, and once landside in the baggage reclaim hall, my suitcase appeared within about ten minutes.

VERDICT Crew were friendly and efficient – particularly Darren. It was a pleasure to fly this punctual, stress-free short-haul service, and I was grateful for the generous hand-baggage allowance.

FACT FILE:

SEAT CONFIGURATION 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F)

SEAT WIDTH 17.5in/44.5cm

SEAT RECLINE 4.5in/11.4cm

SEAT PITCH 31in/78.7cm

PRICE Internet rates for a midweek economy class return flight from London to Faro ranged between £225 and £924 in June depending on flexibility.

CONTACT ba.com

Jenny Southan