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LTN-LCA-LHR with Monarch (extra legroom) & BA Club Europe

LTN-LCA-LHR with Monarch (extra legroom) & BA Club Europe

Old Jun 2, 16, 6:27 am
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LTN-LCA-LHR with Monarch (extra legroom) & BA Club Europe

A compare and contrast – British Airways Club Europe vs Monarch extra legroom seats.

Preamble

I was asked by a client to attend a conference in Cyprus at short notice. Not wanting to spend too much time out of the country, it was pretty much open season when it came to finding which flights to take. Aegean, British Airways, Monarch, easyJet and even Lufthansa Group flights with a connection were all fair game, but the best combination I could get was out on Monarch from Luton early on the Wednesday morning, then back into Heathrow on BA in Club on the Thursday evening. That would give me just a shade over 24hrs at the event, long enough to get everything sorted, and back home with just one night away.

Outbound

4am alarm call and a 4.30am taxi to take me the 60miles or so to Luton Airport. I had no idea that the M1 would be so busy at 5am, but we got to the perimeter of the airport without incident. But that’s when the fun started. I used Luton a decade ago and vowed never again but the conveniently timed flight meant I was back – last time all we did was queue for two hours and this looked as if it would little different as we joined the craw into the airport some two miles from the terminal building.

In their infinite wisdom, Luton charges you a £2.50 fee just to drop off passengers for a flight. Given there’s no station on site, this is nothing short of daylight robbery – and it also causes a bottleneck, as cars have to queue up after decanting passengers to pay the charge. Anyway, after 15 minutes or so I was dropped off in the building site but still had a 150m walk in the drizzle into the terminal.

I had checked in online and separately paid £3 to use the priority security line at the airport, so I had no need to visit the check in desk. Security was a breeze with pleasant staff and no queue at all. My liquids were taken for a brief secondary check but no issues there and I was on into the departures area.

As is now routine for UK airports, the first hurdle was navigating my way through a duty free shop, part of which had been partitioned off, leading to another bottle neck as you try to exit the far side as it is right next to the cash desks. This took me into the ‘main’ departures area which still resembled a building site in much the same way as I recall from a decade ago, with nowhere near enough capacity for the passenger numbers the airport now sees. Think bus station. Now strip away every ounce of charm. There – you have Luton Airport departures.

The departure screens said boarding would start at 6.10am which seemed punchy for a 7am flight, but as it was nearly 6am by that point, I elected not to pay £18 to use the exec lounge and instead milled around a bit, picking up a sandwich to eat later. Seats really were in short supply here so as soon as the gate was posted I headed off & grabbed a seat there. Then I waited until eventually around 6.40am a lone gate agent rocked up to start the boarding process. Yes, an A321 that was almost full was going to be boarded by 1 agent. Genuis! At 7am (scheduled departure time) the queue was starting to die down a bit so I wandered over to the gate and eventually boarded around 7.10am.

I had paid an extra £25 for a seat towards the front of the plane where you get an additional 6” of legroom. I had also selected my seat so the opposing aisle was already booked, taking a gamble that the middle would remain free. This was indeed the case, so I had a wealth of space for the 4.5hr flight that lay ahead.

Crew were as you would expect from a LCC/charter carrier – I reckon they had been sent on a charm offensive course, but only bothered showing up for half of the day. I’ll let you guess which half. Seats were paper-thin (reminded me of the LH NEO seats – even the slightest pressure on the seat by the passenger behind and you can feel it in your spine). No real wait for take off and soon we were heading towards the far end of the Mediterranean.

I skipped the offer of food and drink on the first pass and instead got stuck into some work. The extra space and lack of a meal tray meant I was able to get an awful lot done, although the family who had secured row 1 were quite happy to let their kids shout at one another with their headphones on for pretty much the whole duration of the flight, forcing me to put my headphones in to try and block out some of the noise myself. Said family left row 1 looking like a bomb site with food debris scattered liberally across the front row when I got off, too – clearly they are pigs and I would hate to see what squalor they live in at home, but David Attenborough could probably make a cracking documentary out of it.

Grabbed a quick G&T on the second pass of the bar about 3.5hrs into the flight – at £5.80 it wasn’t cheap, but it came with plenty of ice and I think the stewardess might have even cracked a smile.

We landed on time, parked at an air bridge and I was straight up to an immigration desk with no queue at all. The terminal was also very quiet so I was quickly into a taxi to my hotel.

The return

I arrived at the airport just before 6pm for my 7.30pm flight back to Heathrow. I already had my boarding pass on my phone but seeing there was no queue at the BA desk, swung by just to check if I needed a lounge invite. Sure enough I did, so I’m not sure what would have happened there. Exit checks and security were both swift, but the airport does seem well set up for long lines in the summer peak.

I ventured up to the Swissport lounge which seemed at odds with the slick terminal downstairs. The acoustics were awful, the place was crowded and the F&B offering was mediocre at best. The terrace outside should be a nice touch, but it felt uncared for – if you don’t have lounge access at Larnaca, I really don’t think you’re missing out.

This flight was a 767 so BA were using a curious dual gate boarding formation. In theory gate 41 was for priority and 43 was for everyone else but I think so many people saw the BA signage at gate 41 first they ended up there. Anyway they did have someone at the top of the airbridge directing passengers to the correct door of the plane, which was useful in speeding up the process.

I had seat 7D – by the time I got there, my seat opponent in 7F had already sat down & unpacked her stuff all across the squashed 7E seat which is a bit off. At least the seat in front was unoccupied so wouldn’t be reclined I thought. Alas no, 6B moved over, still shouting back to his mate in 6A but reclined the seat minutes after take off, leaving it like that all the way back, including for the hour or so he spent standing in the galley.

The crew was in no rush with the meal service – it’s a 4hr 55 min slog back to London so they don’t need to be – but the flipside was that with the seat infront reclined and my tray table covered with a meal for the first 2.5hrs, by the time this got cleared away I certainly wasn’t in the mood to crack open the laptop and try to get on with more writing, with my neck at an odd angle at boot.

Dinner was a choice of prawn pasta or lamb. Fortunately they hadn’t run out of the lamb by the time they got to me, although CE did go well back into the second cabin. (I noticed the curtain wasn’t drawn either – tut, tut). The wine (a Tempranillo) was rough but I found something decent in a can of Tribute Cornish pale ale. Will have a word with the crew about securing a stash of that on my next long haul flight I think ☺

We landed back at Heathrow on time and parked at an A gate. Very quick walk along to a massive maze of tensa barriers for immigration, but no queues. E-gate worked very quickly and I was outside waiting for my car no more than 15 minutes after we pulled on stand. At that time of night it was a quick journey home too and I crawled into bed just minutes before midnight.

So in summary, I hated the Luton experience, but felt I was able to be far more productive on the plane with the extra legroom on Monarch. I accept there was a degree of luck here too as the middle seat was free. Conversely it was nice to feel cossetted by the BA Club Europe experience but I wasn’t exactly awash with space and had it been an airbus, I can only imagine how annoying that must be with the new denser cabin layout on a 5 hour flight…
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old Jun 2, 16, 3:09 pm
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Nice report. I have flown a lot on BA663 as my name shows, my other half lives in Cyprus.

The lounge is indeed poor at Larnaca, but compared to the Aegean lounge it is far better. The staff have an annoying habit of clearing away the food about 6:30-7pm when it is full of BA passengers. The terrace = smoking area. Best avoided.

The 767s are far better than the A320 for a flight this length. Sounds like you had some inconsiderate fellow travellers though. The club cabin is always large, it's usually full down the back as well.
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Old Jun 3, 16, 11:20 pm
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Pictures would be very helpful here.
byromania is offline  
Old Jun 4, 16, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by byromania View Post
Pictures would be very helpful here.
Easy to find on FT, well documentated product
offerendum is offline  
Old Jun 4, 16, 3:59 pm
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Thanks for the write up Swiss Tony.

BA know that their CE cabin is crap, but they don't give a monkey's. I guess there are enough connecting business passengers for them to say it's still a popular product (plus passengers from the odd dirt cheap sale now and then).
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