In a nutshell: British Airways Euro Traveller basic is a fine option is you’re traveling solo, packing light, and just want to get from point A to point B. Catering issues and the inability to check in online left me less than impressed for this short-haul experience.
It’s rare that I get excited about a short-haul flight, but I did have a bit of anticipation for my British Airways itinerary heading home from a whirlwind couple days in Barcelona. I’d opted to fly the return
I actually booked this ticket as an open-jaw, with a return to another European city in a few months. There wasn’t a decent option for a one-way return south of about $270 (Norwegian and LEVEL to the Bay Area were more expensive than expected), so I decided that I’d book a round-trip for a bit more and hope to come back to Europe, if plans allow.
The total fare was $381.50, which cost me 25,433 Ultimate Rewards points. I booked using my Chase Sapphire Reserve at 1.5 cents per point before downgrading my card soon thereafter.
Pre-Flight and Transit to BCN
I received a notification via email from British Airways alerting me that check-in was open; however, I could not check in online. This was problematic, as I did not have a seat assignment, and I really didn’t want to be stuck in the middle. I considered calling them, but decided against it, wanting to spend as much time out and about as possible.
The other notification ahead of the flight was regarding the catering. I’m glad they alerted us to the issue, as I would make sure I ate in the lounge before the flight. It appears that the A320 is stocked with food in London for both the outbound and return flights. Great way to start a long travel day.
The most logical option for my return to BCN airport from the city was the Renfe train, as it was the closest easy option to the Alexandra Barcelona Hotel. This is one of the cheaper options between the city and Barcelona Airport, and while not the most convenient, I found it a fine option if you’re staying in the Eixample neighborhood.
The downside is that you have to catch an inter-terminal bus after a bit of a walk to Terminal 2. My flight was out of Terminal 1. Luckily, the buses run frequently, and I was soon queuing up to check-in.
This was the first time I found myself needing to check-in at the airport in a while in economy. I’d previously minimized the benefit of having airline or alliance status when it comes to check-in, but it was much appreciated for this British Airways A320 Euro Traveller basic flight. The economy line was quite long.
But the business class line was short. With only a few months remaining as an American Airlines Gold which provides Oneworld ruby status, I was able to use the Club Europe business class queue when I arrived at 9:50 AM. It never even occurred to me that I would need to use this perk. It only hit me when I saw the Oneworld priority displayed on the sign.
I thought I might need to prove I was actually an AA elite, so I pulled up my AAdvantage card in the AA app while I waited. The couple at the front of the business class check in took ages. It was maybe 10-12 full minutes, but in line that feels like forever. They spent so long bickering with the agent about their seat selection. With only one desk serving business/priority, it took a while. Surely faster than the economy line, but still annoying.
The agent asked if I was checking a bag. This was a no, as I only had a backpack. Plus, it would have cost extra since I’d booked Euro Traveller basic. Once I had my boarding pass in hand, I saw I was assigned seat 22D. Glad I wouldn’t be riding in a middle seat all the way to London!
From check-in it was smooth sailing through security and immigration before heading to the lounge. One comment I have on the queues at Barcelona: they don’t adjust them. You have to weave through the entire thing, even if there is hardly anyone in line. The whole thing just seemed ridiculous watching people wind back and forth upward of a dozen times just to get to the entrance.
Overall, things went quickly. I was through security and passport control by 10:25 AM, just 35 minutes after arriving at the check-in desk. Considering the amount of time I spent there, this was quite quick for an international flight, in my opinion. I spent about 40 minutes in the Sala VIP Miro Priority Pass lounge before heading to Gate D15 just after boarding had commenced.
I wasn’t aware that Oneworld Ruby status provided priority boarding, but based on the sign, British Airways board that group along with their own elites. I walked to the now empty priority queue, scanned my boarding pass, and headed onto the plane.
Except I didn’t exactly. Priority boarding backfires a bit when you have to be bussed to a remote stand. I’ve been getting used to this lately in Europe, as my recent Finnair flight and short-haul Alitalia flights both used remote stands. And we would land at a remote stand at Heathrow. Is this really this common of an experience abroad? It’s highly annoying on the tail end of a flight.
We were dropped off at the British Airways A320. You could board at either the front or the rear, and I chose the tail end, as it is the far better choice for getting to row 22.
Plus, there were far fewer people. I was nice to avoid the traffic jam at the front of the plane.
Instead, I waited for just a few people in front of me, stowed my bag, and got settled. The flight attendants greeting everyone were warm and friendly.
Boarding actually went quite quickly, especially considering everyone had to be bussed to the plane. Until the end. It’s frustrating watching people bring multiple bags onboard and proceed to stuff all of them into the overhead bins, including the smaller bags. In this case, two ladies each had three bags, and both refused to stow their small bags at their feet at the request of the flight attendant. Instead of pushing back, the FA did her best to accommodate them.
I watched as the jigsaw puzzle of bags had to be rearranged, with some folks moved and condensed into one bin to open up space in another. All said and done, they had to stow 6 bags in 5 different spots, as the two ladies were nearly the last to board and quite literally the last to take their seats. Two, if not three, of the items could have fit underneath the seat in front of each of them.
Once boarding was completed, the captain announced the estimated departure time and arrival time. The flight was already slightly delayed, even though no announcement was made. I’d received a second email regarding potential air traffic disruption at Heathrow. My biggest worry was that I’d miss my connection to San Francisco. Our slot into LHR was approximately 1:30 PM. This meant we would only be delayed 20 minutes although we would be leaving BCN 40-50 minutes late. While I’ve experienced ATC delays at congested airports like SFO during inclement weather, the fierce slot control that happens at Heathrow is truly unlike any other airport in the world. Slots sell for millions of pounds.
British Airways A320 Euro Traveller Seat
British Airways A320 economy seats offer 30 inches of pitch, which is on the cramped side, but not at all atypical for short-haul flights within Europe. The seats were in good condition and seemed on the newer side.
I was seated in seat 22D, an aisle seat. Typically, I’ll pick a window for a short-haul flight. But with the requirement for the shades to be up at takeoff and landing and the crappy weather in England that limited any real view, I was fine with what British Airways assigned me. Even if I wasn’t flying Euro Traveller basic, I would have had to pay for a seat. British Airways charges all non-elites for seat selection.
For seats with just 30 inches of pitch, the legroom seemed just fine. It is a bit tighter than the Comfort+ I typically get into these days flying in the U.S., but I have only ever met one economy product where me knees basically touched the seat in front of me.
As expected, there was no at-seat power or in-flight entertainment screens. There wouldn’t even be M&S on board on this particular flight, per the card in front of me.
The British Airways safety video scored serious points, as it features Michael Cain and other celebrities (he’s just the best one). It’s a bit of a comedy and actually quite engaging. I’m not sure there is another I’ve enjoyed more.
We finally took off at 12:25 PM, definitely behind schedule, but hopefully with enough time for me to transfer from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 at Heathrow and make my connection to San Francisco.
Service and Amenities
Once we were climbing and near cruising altitude, the flight attendants provided a water service. This was all we were going to get. There was nothing else to be offered, neither snacks nor beverages.
With a bit of a charge left on my laptop, I wrote until it died. I did purchase 1-hour of WiFi access to use through my phone, and the speed was decent. I browsed the web and tried to contact BA on twitter to change my seat on the next flight. The latter proved unsuccessful.
The crew were pleasant and friendly through the whole flight. I’d not flown British Airways in over a decade, but even with the other shortcomings, I’ve really appreciated their staff, both other the phone and on this flight.
Arrival into Heathrow
We descended through the fog and rain into Heathrow, landing and then heading to yet another remote stand (did I mention I’m getting tired of this?). The bus service on this end was a mess. Apparently one bus left with too few passengers, causing ours to be crammed with extra passengers. It was supposed to be the last bus. But even after stuffing on as many as they could, they’d need to call for a final bus for the remaining dozen.
From there is was a mad dash through the airport. Transiting between terminals at Heathrow is no easy feat. You have to go through security again at Terminal 5, which is annoying. But I made it to my gate in time and had just enough left to grab a sandwich.
BA Euro Traveller Basic: The Verdict
Overall, the Euro Traveller Basic restrictions aren’t anything to worry about versus other economy fare types. The lack of a checked bag is no problem travelling light, which is pretty much the only substantial difference. I guess typical Euro Traveller also gets free same-day changes on some itineraries. You still earn tier points and Avios (or other frequent flyer credit) and unless you buy a flex fare, the ticket is nonrefundable.
For my particular flight, it was a less than stellar experience overall, but with some highlights. The seating is fine, even with narrow pitch, and the crew were friendly. I was glad to put my Oneworld Ruby benefits to use to avoid the long queues. However, the lack of catering was annoying. As was needing to be bussed to and from the plane on either end of the flight. I’m not sure I’ll ever book a connection this tight through Heathrow again connecting between and intercontinental flight and a Europe flight!