Club Europe from Athens is one of the longest British Airways European sectors with a scheduled flight time of around four hours. This means the service and catering is the most elaborate of all the European routes as it falls into ‘Band 4’.
European flights at BA are divided into different bands depending on the flight time and all flights over 180 minutes fall into Band 4. Other routes in Band 4 include St. Petersberg, Larnaca, Istanbul, Malta and Tenerife.
Check-in for British Airways at Athens opens approximately 2.5 hours before departure. This isn’t great for early morning cruise arrivals as thirty or so of us had to cool our heels waiting for it to open. There was quite a long line and due to various issues it took a little while to be seen. Club Europe is very popular out of Athens and many people were waiting in this line.
The check-in agent informed me that the British Airways lounge was now closed and that they use the Onassis Lounge instead. Fast-track security is offered but I don’t think any time was saved as the line was fairly long and slow moving. The Onassis Lounge is relatively pleasant and bland with decent enough food and an okay bar. The Wi-Fi is dreadfully slow and I was happy to only be cooped up for an hour.
BA639 – Athens to London Heathrow (ATH-LHR)
25 August 2016
Airbus 320 G-TTOE
Seat: Club Europe 1A
Departure: 13:25 Arrival: 15:30
After a late gate change due to the late arrival of the inbound flight, we boarded the aircraft and I was pleased to immediately note the service enhancements. A blanket and a pillow was on each seat and the seats were fitted with inflight entertainment controls.
A tiny packet of small in ear headphones was provided however I had brought along my new Grado headphones to watch a movie on my iPad so I did not try these out. Club Europe was around 8 rows on this flight with the divider almost all the way back to the emergency exit.
On The Menu
Once passengers were on board we watched the video safety demonstration and settled in for takeoff. Once airborne the first order of business was hot towels, followed closely by distribution of the menu.
The menu was also printed in Greek on the facing page. I immediately began wondering if the Atlantic Cod dish was “the cod” that had been so delicious on my flight a couple of weeks beforehand. Time would tell! The crew put the carts together and began a drinks service. Naturally I took Champagne and it came with the ubiquitous nuts in a bag.
The Champagne had been finished by the time the crew were moving the carts back to the galley and on the way back I was offered refill which I gladly accepted. At this stage, one of the passengers had a little accident which meant the forward lavatory was out of service. The flight was full and this left the two rear lavatories in service. The lead crew member attempted a clean up but left it locked as he was unable to fully clean up what had occurred.
It was time for the meal service and I asked to see the Atlantic Cod before I was served to see if it was in fact “the cod” I had previously. The reason I was checking was “the cod” was amazing and I was hoping it would be the same. It was not however I decided to take it anyway. Bread from the basket was immediately offered also.
The Band 4 meal service in Club Europe used to feature a starter course which has been removed. There is also the bread issue. Where do you put it? There is no side plate unless you were to eat your cheese first so I usually pop it into the mug. It’s not elegant but it does the job!
Dessert and Cheese
Niggles aside, the bread is usually amazing and happily the cod dish was delicious and full of flavour. The crew advised that I could change to the chicken course as they had some left over but I was happy with the cod. Dessert today is Lemon Meringue Cake.
The blue glass plate that dessert sits on is a hallmark of Club Europe. Over ten years ago I first experienced Club Europe and these glass plates were notable at the time. I am very glad they have survived all the various cuts to the service. The cake was quite good though I would have preferred a Lemon Meringue Pie. The cheese course is billed as Barber’s 1833 Vintage Cheddar served with quince jelly. The crackers that come with it have a story all to themselves.
The cheese course was quite delicious and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Club Europe features a number of different teas and I took a Green Tea.
The excellent crew had made another attempt at cleaning the forward lavatory and opened it for business. Several passengers used it and came out looking a little white and eventually there was a light water leak heading towards the cabin. The crew employed at least two blankets in an attempt to stop things progressing and to try to get the lavatory clean enough to use. Nothing came of it however… I have visions of a volcano erupting and the entire bathroom being a-splatter. Kudos to the crew for their multiple attempts in what must have been eye watering circumstances to get things clean!
Flying over the Alps was particularly pretty. You fly at 32,000 feet and all of a sudden you notice the mountains not all that far below you. It’s something of an experience!
Throughout the rest of the flight I was chatting to my seat mate who had also been on the same cruise while drinking Champagne and admiring the view. We landed into London Heathrow around 20 minutes late which wasn’t too bad all considered.
British Airways Club Europe on a longer sector is very good. The food quality is top notch, even with the lack of a starter course or place to put the bread. What struck me as strange was the provision of headphones and yet no video entertainment. The aircraft is equipped with overhead screens which showed the map however no movie or TV programming. In Australia on Qantas you are given video entertainment on all domestic flights so this would stand out in Europe even if it were only on longer flights. Seat comfort was adequate for the sector length and being in row 1 meant I had extra space at face level which I enjoy.
The crew made the flight however and I gave out my first Golden Ticket to award the lead crew member for his service in the face of adversity. Despite the lavatory explosion he was friendly and fun and made for a good flight and one can’t complain about that!