Featured Flight BA633 (ATH-LHR)

Date: 09 Oct 2020Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 ‘Dreamliner’ (G-STBH)
From: Athens (ATH)To: London Heathrow (LHR)
Scheduled departure: 1955 (EEST)Actual departure: 1947
Scheduled arrival: 2145 (BST)Actual arrival: 2130
Cabin: Club World, with Club Europe serviceSeat: 7K

Our flight from Athens to London was one that, in theory at least, was guaranteed to quicken the pulse of any avgeek (aviation enthusiast): this was a relatively rare opportunity to fly a long-haul aircraft on a short-haul route. Specifically, a Boeing 787-8 was substituting for the usual Airbus A320 on this Athens – London Heathrow service. Such a substitution can happen for a number of reasons, the most common being high demand for cargo space.

We boarded the Dreamliner and easily made our way to seats 7J/K, situated in the back corner of the smaller, two-row Club World cabin aft of Door 1. While thoroughly modern, the 788s pre-date the introduction of Club Suites and therefore have BA’s classic ‘yin-yang’ seat arrangement at the front of the plane. 7K has the benefit of being a window seat that also has direct aisle access. The Premium Economy cabin was also in use for Club Europe passengers, and we were dismayed to hear some passengers in that section asking cabin crew why they hadn’t been seated in Club World. (Long-haul Premium Economy is, of course, a considerable improvement over the short-haul seats on the usual A320, but these people took exception to not getting the best!) Overhearing another conversation, we also learned that there was no champagne on board. Dear-oh-dear, this one didn’t seem to be getting off to a smooth start!

In spite of the moaning going on in Premium Economy, we pushed back eight minutes ahead of schedule. The safety demonstration was manual, and it was repeated in Club World for the benefit of rear-facing passengers such as myself. We still managed to be airborne just ahead of 8pm.

Cabin service commenced with drinks (served without the usual nibbles) and was followed by the already familiar Club Europe ‘Covid’ sandwich box, designed to minimise contact. As ever, it was agreeable without being exciting. (And what does the strapline ‘Enjoy Your Menu’ actually mean?) Later, I wandered along to the Club World galley and asked for a little bottle of ‘the single-malt whisky from Dufftown’. The cabin crew member knew exactly which one I meant and somehow I ended up with three! I gave one to Bruce, put one in my bag to take home and enjoyed the third on the flight.

We landed at 2122 local time on Heathrow’s runway 27R, and arrived at our allocated gate within eight minutes.

In summary, while I enjoyed the opportunity to fly a Dreamliner on European short-haul, this particular experience was somewhat marred by a couple of factors:

  • First, cabin crew on the earlier outbound sector should have kept in mind that the onboard supplies were meant to cater for both outbound and return sectors, and should have managed the stock accordingly. We should not have been out of bubbly and nibbles from outset.
  • Secondly, we were both disappointed by the standard of behaviour exhibited by some of our fellow passengers. I’m talking about those loud, ‘entitled’ people with no concept of good manners, whingeing to cabin crew that while they had received an upgrade compared to the usual A320 aircraft, it wasn’t as good as what some others had received. [In response to which, my (silent!) thoughts were: Did you keep an eye on your booking periodically? Did you assign seats in advance? Did you check in online? And failing all that, did you at least turn up at the airport nice and early? What’s that – none of the above? Hmmm!]