Saturday, 4 May 2019

Trip Report: British Airways to Baltimore

So here we are, a first for this blog, a long-haul trip report! My work took me to Baltimore, MD, USA, and to avoid faff we booked direct flights from London-Heathrow to Baltimore's Washington Thurgood Marshall airport (BWI). These British Airways flights are the only direct flights from Europe to Baltimore - alternatives included flying to Washington-Dulles, either direct or via JFK, DUB etc. This way cost a little more but is definitely worth it in my view, BWI is a 30 min drive or short train ride from the city, much more convenient for reaching Baltimore itself. Without further ado let's jump into the report!

London-Heathrow (EGLL/LHR) to Baltimore (KBWI/BWI) 
BA229 (BAW22B), Boeing 787-8 G-ZBJJ
The flights out to BWI are nicely timed, with a mid afternoon departure of around 16:00 (exact timings depend on the day and time of year). The flights out always take longer, as with any transatlantic crossing from Europe, due to the jet stream headwind. Today it took around 7H45. 

Spot the Landor 747!

Here's the take off and landing:

Now, I have heard horror stories about Heathrow, in particular T5, but I've never had any issues at all flying from the airport (twice from T2, twice T5). There were essentially no queues to be seen, security was swift, the transit train to the satellite piers was quick and easy, we left on time... no problems at all! Top marks to LHR, frankly. 

Now for the in-flight 'world traveler' (economy) experience. Being more used to European short haul, I wasn't sure what to expect. And I was very pleasantly surprised! There was a pretty wide choice of in-flight entertainment, and seats were comfortable enough (although a little narrow, I can't help but feel that the 787 should really be an 8 abreast aircraft). The catering, however, is what surprised me most. We got a drinks service, then a meal (which was kind of a 3 course affair with a bread roll, salad, main, desert, cheese and crackers), then an ice cream, and finally a sandwich later on. I'm pretty sure I've missed something else too. The quality of all the food was decent, much better than I remember airline food being, the last time I had it back in the early noughties! 

Overall I was very impressed with BA's offering on this route. The fact they fly the route at all is also a big plus, BA actually now have a raft of niche routes to the USA, flying direct to secondary US cities like Nashville, New Orleans and San Jose. 

I have to say as well, since this was my first flight on a 787 dreamliner, that I really noticed the increased cabin pressure and humidity on-board. Usually, even on a flight of a few hours, I get off with a dry mouth and feeling pretty tired. Not so this time! My only quibble with the whole flight was that they dimmed the windows for the duration. Why? We landed at around 19:00 local time, which is 01:00 UK time. The flight took place over the afternoon/evening, no matter which time zone you were working on! People were trying to stay awake so they could sleep when they arrived... dimming the windows felt like an odd choice here.

Baltimore (KBWI/BWI)  to London-Heathrow (EGLL/LHR)
BA228 (BAW22C), Boeing 787-8 G-ZBJE
Now, the flight back to the UK is slightly less well timed, but obviously that can't be helped. The departure is 9pm, flying overnight to land at 9am (usually earlier thanks to tailwinds) UK time. 

With a flight time of ~6H45, I was expecting a prompt meal service so they could allow the passengers to get some sleep. But it was around 3 hours in before that was all complete and the lights were dimmed! So I only got 2 hours sleep. This isn't great, obviously. Once again though, the meal itself was pretty good, no complaints there. I wasn't enamoured by the breakfast offering of a cream cheese croissant, but that's just my taste. 

See the landing back at LHR below. We landed during storm Hannah, the winds were south-westerly, at around 20 gusting 40 knots. We were warned that the final approach would be bumpy, and indeed it was! Interestingly though, it was as smooth as anything until ~4000ft - there must have been distinct layering in the atmosphere, perhaps an occlusion? Anyhow, here it is:

Overall I was very impressed with British Airways, and wouldn't hesitate to fly with them again across the pond, even if it costs a little more. Their service to smaller US cities, and the general offering, are sufficient reasons to pay a little extra in my opinion.

So that concludes my 77th and 78th flights, only my second ever long haul trip. Thanks for reading, and I'll be flying again in the summer.

Till then!