First the Super Bowl in Dallas and now the ATW Online Awards, what a week! Alright, in all fairness, I care as much about the Super Bowl as a child cares about a retirement fund. Put me aside, and it’s undoubtedly a massive event in the US. So what about the ATW Online Awards? Right. ATW stands for Air Transport World. According to their website, they “for nearly 47 years, Air Transport World […] has been the leading monthly magazine serving the needs of the global airline and commercial air transport manufacturing communities.” In this capacity they award the annual ATW’s Airline Industry Achievement Awards. The 37th award ceremony for this years winners is taking place tonight from 6pm local time in Washington, DC.
On my business trips to California I usually prefer to fly Virgin Atlantic, but this time, unfortunately, the economics were against my preference. Well, to be honest, British Airways isn’t actually that bad even though their Premium Economy product lacks all the benefits of its arch rival but I guess value for my employer value for money was pretty okay this time. But there is one very clear benefit of flying with BA out of Heathrow (IATA: LHR): you can leave from Terminal 5. And that, you have to admit, is despite all the BAA bashing, is a fantastic terminal.
LateDeparture.com has previously written about Terminal 5 but we then focused on the main building, housing the “A gates”. Terminal 5’s full structure, however, consists today of the main building and a satellite terminal with the B gates (Terminal 5B). A third complex, the C gates (or Terminal 5C), is currently in construction and due to open in May 2010. British Airways mainly operates their long haul flights from the B gates, hence I now got the chance to have a closer look at it.
Reaching the satellite terminal is simple and quick: you hop on a short underground shuttle from the main building. Make sure you set aside 10 to 15 minutes for the journey with the actual shuttle ride only taking about 1 minute. There, by the way, I suggest you ride in the front as it travels pretty fast and looking out to the track is a somewhat exciting (I know boys will be boys…).
Once at the terminal, you will find a few shops (see PDF map for details) including a nicely stocked Boots (I liked their selection of miniature travel essentials), a WHSmith, a Duty-Free Shop, a “Caviar House Seafood” bar with a great view towards the main building and a sandwich & coffee place. None of them are actually interesting enough for you to leave the shopping and gourmet heaven of the main building in a hurry, but there is one very distinct advantage of the satellite: it is quiet. Because fewer flights depart from this terminal, less people are present which again means you can easily find somewhere to sit and relax. This, together with the 360 degree view of everything that is going on at Britain’s busiest airport makes it an attractive option for people like me who are fascinated observing the airport’s operations, landing and departing aircrafts (try to spot Singapore Airline’s A380). With the satellite’s close proximity to the main terminal, it could even be an attractive alternative for sitting out longer delays occurring in the main terminal.
[Photo by LateDeparture.com – all rights reserved]
Last week I had the pleasure of taking a flight from London’s smallest commercial airport, London City airport (IATA: LCY). The airport is conveniently located in London’s docklands, east of the financial district and can be accessed easily by Docklands Light Railway (DLR). It is even in London Transport’s zone 3, so it won’t cost you much to get there either.
So what is the catch? There of course is one – as always. The airport is small, has only one runway which is not very long (1319 m) and therefore is restricts to STOL (Short Takeoff and Landing) airliners. Its operating license says, aircrafts have to be capable of a 5.5 degree or steeper approach. Plus there is a strict noise regulation in place. Therefore only small planes are predominant, particularly the BAe 146 aircraft which means the number of destinations offered are limited.
So, how does the airport terminal rate? Even though the airport is small, a lot of people are passing through on a daily basis. In 2006 2.3 Million people travelled through the City airport according to Wikipedia. Particularly on week days, the airport is at its full capacity affecting the limited space in the terminal. But its not all bad, they have recently increased seating space and anyway, with low delay rates, you can expect to be in and out of the terminal faster than you can say “delay”. In the rare occasion where you do get delayed, here are my Top-X-Things to do:
Check out the 2 big bars and mingle with the business men who enjoy their evening beer
Sit at the north side of the terminal and count the number of BAe 146 aircrafts taking off
Guess the nationalities of the business men and women rushing to the gates
Find the biggest TV screen to watch the Olympics coverage
Count the number of destinations you can fly to from the departure screens
Ryanair seems to be interested in taking over London Stansted airport (IATA: STN) according to a news article published in the Daily Telegraph today:
Michael O’Leary is interested in launching a £2bn bid for Stansted airport and proving to BAA and the regulators that he can run it much better than they can.
The current owner, BAA, has recently become under increasing pressure to break up its monopolistic ownership over the three busiest airports in London, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after continuously failing to improve their performance. However, having Ryanair running an airport would raise other concerns: Would they make travellers pay for every little additional thing as they do with their flights? At least this discussion adds to some movement in the BAA question and that’s always welcomed.
British Airways today introduced a new program where they “generously” give away 5,000 airmiles when your flight from Heathrow Terminal 5 is more than 15 minutes delayed:
As part of our commitment to giving you outstanding service, we do everything we can to get you to your destination on time. So if in spite of all our efforts we can’t depart from Terminal 5 within 15 minutes* of scheduled departure time over the coming weeks, we’d like to give you more than just an apology:
When you fly Club Europe, Euro Traveller or Domestic Flights on a flexible ticket (booking classes JCDYBH) departing from Terminal 5 between now and 02 September 2008 you’ll receive
5,000 BA Miles if your flight leaves later than 15 minutes* of its scheduled departure time from Terminal 5.
BA actually has been doing this for quite some time, but you only received the miles when you actively complained about a particular flight. This offer now sounds fairly generous since manymost Heathrow flights these days suffer a delay. In fairness this delay is often not the result of a problem caused by the airlines, but more because of the airport’s severe capacity constraints. And, surprise, surprise, the small print of BA’s offer then exactly excludes those kind of delays:
British Airways reserves the right to exclude at its discretion any flights where disruption occurs beyond the reasonable control of British Airways. Non–exhaustive examples include severe weather conditions and their ongoing or consequent effects, air traffic control delays and industrial action.
With that, this offer all of a sudden sounds more like a common PR exercise than an innovative and generous customer centric solution.
During a press conference in Germany, Ryanair’s Boss Michael O’Leary announced a new long-haul service that would feature “beds and blowjobs” in its business class configuration. Yes, you read correctly. Watch the video to hear it for yourself. Also, pay attention to Anja Reugling’s reaction, Ryanair’s Sales and Marketing Manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland who was caught in surprise about her bosses statement.
According to the always reliable UK tabloid newspaper Daily Star, Ryanair later confirmed O’Leary’s comments and said, “Beds and Blowjobs” is the working title for their business class service. Sounds more like a marketing trick but if they have the guts to actually launch this “service”, expect long (male) cues in front of the Ryanair gates, overly eager to board the aircraft first 😉
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