A recent work trip to London was required. I knew I needed a full day on the ground, so I needed to travel the day before. Despite booking six weeks out, the sleeper was already out of reach and the cost of tickets on normal trains were already high so I looked at air travel. Prices here were similarly high for anything that suited me (departing late enough to give me a work day in Edinburgh but arriving early enough to do stuff in London in the evening), with the additional qualification that I was going to stay with a friend in Plumstead in southeast London. I ended up looking at what my avios could get me on British Airways to London City. The result: the 16:30 BA8707 from Edinburgh to London City Airport.
Fast forward and I spent the morning in the university in George Square, before leaving at 13:15. I walked down to Waverley Bridge, weaving through the pre-Festival crowds and avoiding serious injury from a range of inappropriate luggage. Airlink Express have taken delivery of new buses, which look very regal. I especially like the addition of sunroofs the length of the upper deck. There are a number of practical adjustments on these: most notably the addition of extra luggage racks downstairs. Sadly, for those of us who liked to work on board, the handful of tables that were on the previous vehicles are gone. I didn’t wait long to depart, and the run out to the airport was the daytime regulation 30 minutes, getting me there for 14:00.
I had only been able to secure a business class ticket with my avios, but this was why I arrived quite so early. I made use of my fast track security channel, but in reality I needn’t have bothered as the security hall was quiet. I was through in under five minutes and on my way to the British Airways Galleries Lounge. Plenty of people have written more and taken better photos than me, but suffice to say it’s a very nice lounge. I settled down for some lunch and to do some work in the business centre.
Time slipped by and before long it was time to head off for boarding onto our dinky Embraer 170 for a full flight. The business cabin (same seats, just a curtain to separate you from the normals) was full – loaded with three real passengers and five re-positioning crew. We got away on time, and it’s always a pleasure to take off on the Embraers, which have a lot of power for such little aircraft. Being business class, I was handed an actual menu. I was also plied with more champagne than can possibly have been sensible in the middle of the afternoon (I did not drink it all!). Had a pleasant chat with the pilot in the seat beside me – it transpired we had three mutual acquaintances.
The weather at City wasn’t great, but there were some good views of Plumstead/Woolwich/Shooter’s Hill to be had on finals. We were on stand quickly and it took just a few minutes for me to get onto the DLR heading for Woolwich Arsenal. I spent quite a bit of time in Woolwich in 2012 and the place really has changed a great deal since – particularly thanks to the Royal Arsenal development and the impending arrival of Crossrail. After some hipster pizza in Woolwich with my friend, the journey to Plumstead was completed courtesy of the number 51 bus.
It was a remarkably smooth journey, and one which demonstrates the absolute strength of City Airport. When there are no delays, it is a fantastic airport to arrive at – finals from either direction are spectacular, and the proximity of the DLR station is a huge bonus. For southeast London, this is unbeatable, and I would have been hard pushed to come close to matching my travel time had I gone by rail. As for British Airways business class on domestic flights, I’m on the fence. It was nice and all – but I was always perfectly happy with the previous all-economy arrangement for Anglo-Scottish flights.
Thoughts on connections between southeast London and central London, as well as on my return journey to Edinburgh on the Caledonian Sleeper, to follow.