This was *such* a fun trip to take and vlog to make. I have been posting some travel videos over the past few years and the timing and content was (cough) *ramshackle! They’ve been for fun and that’s cool. When I watch something, I do appreciate some structure, some speaking and some quiet moments, so I’ve tried to make something I like.
The video of this trip is BELOW this written trip report – so scroll down for that link!
Lockdown in Northern Ireland has had its own… character. It has moved at quite a different pace to other jurisdictions in these islands and I can’t argue with that, especially if vaccination does reopen things with care. But clarity has been problematic. It became clear (at last!) that trips to England were possible from late May onwards. I booked myself a ticket with British Airways from Belfast City to London City. Before the pandoomic, I travelled this route twice a week, with the long-lamented Flybe. What would it be like to fly in the time of corona? Was the product much different to Flybe, even if the price (at the time I booked it) was comparable?
First, Belfast City Airport parking. When I started flying from BHD, I had more cash and booked the priority options. This is bonkers. The ‘long stay’ car park is 1-2 minutes further to walk. I am not complaining. I am grateful to have a cheaper option! I *would* like better public transport links, especially light rail. But, unicorns and all that.
Landside was pretty quiet, with huge warning signs all over the place… masks, masks, masks, hands, clean, hygience, masks. Okay, got it and get why you need to remind us as 3 ‘lawds’ walk past with no masks on. The security line was very quiet… everyone stayed distant and the staff were *very* thorough. This is great. I wonder how things will be when more flights start *eek*.
The waiting area airside is *vastly* reduced and all of the lounges are closed until further notice. I imagine this contains the need for repeated hygiene to a definable area and given that about one flight per hour is going out, this is a pretty good idea. There are fewer shops than normal, but WH Smith and Starbucks remain open to serve immediate needs (such as Belfast fridge magnets and coffee).
The views of the apron from the waiting areas is, as always at BHD, spectacular. There was little to see until the incoming aircraft landed, which would return to London. The A321 is an unusual site at BHD, as it’s substantially bigger than the usual Embraer E190-SR class suited to this shorter runway.
The flight was called with a clear 40 minutes before scheduled take-off time. Passengers got a lovely view of both the E190 and A321 from the ground-floor gate (gate 3) and even ground staff not assigned to either craft were coming along to get a photograph of the A321! It’s nice to see it!
Boarding was not by priority or seat row, but as passengers arrived, so it made for a very quick boarding. The interior is laid out in a 2-2 configuration, with about 3 rows of business class designated only by a curtain (no bulkhead). It was unclear if business class was in operation on this flight from my perch down the back in row 11!! These seats did not recline as they were in front of the emergency row. I’d also avoid the last row, if I had the choice, as these are beside the galley and toilet and that could become annoying if a queue were to form.
The seat is very comfortable with a (I think) fake leather in a warm grey tone. The centre armrest stows away making the trip a little more comfortable for couples or families. The tray tables (standard twist button and drop down) are remarkably sturdy compared to other economy classes in Europe and will comfortably bear your computer, iPad or elbows for people snoozing forwards! There was no coat hook on this iteration of the E190, but our return aircraft did have it. Pleasingly, there was a light and personal air vent overhead – something which has been removed from more ‘modern’ aircraft. Hmph!
Take-off to the east was smooth and the plane soon banked right to follow the coast of Ireland, crossing the Irish Sea until Anglesey was visible from the right side. We continued over Manchester and onwards to the East of London, banking over the estuary and continuing towards LCY, following the Thames.
The toilet to the rear is small but remained clean (as far as I could tell) throughout the journey. Service started quickly on this flight with a hygiene amenity kit handed out asap, containing a very strong-smelling wipe and some antibacterial handgel. This was in a sachet which meant most of it was thrown away (a small resealable bottle would have been great and is standard on other airlines just now – see the Swiss offering).
A snack and beverage service is maintained, even on this short hop. Soft and hard drinks, tea and coffee, and a choice of crisps, popcorn or biscuits is offered. I mean, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
The staff on board were exceptionally friendly and professional. I spoke to my seat neighbour and he remarked on how safe he felt with the various protocols. Now, masks can be removed to enjoy your snack or beverage but you are gently reminded to pop it back on should you forget! This was done with smiling eyes rather than in a nannyish way.
On arrival in London City, the doors opened super quickly and disembarcation was by *strict* row number (no rushing or standing in the aisles permitted). This being a domestic flight, there was no passport control or customs and it was straight past baggage claim and into the landside hall at LCY. It was a surprise to see it *quite* so empty (I thought it would be busier than BHD). I think people are not encourage to linger: no shops or coffee shops were open and there was a lot of security personnel. For me, it was straight through and turn right towards the Docklands Light Railway for my journey to the dentist near Bank station. Perhaps I should have left that G&T alone!
If you’d like to see the travel vlog in full, do click on the link below. Do consider subscribing on YouTube, I post content every week (you might like to click on ‘notifications’ in YouTube also).