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British Airways 'Club World London City' review

Part 1 :  Comparing and contrasting this unique service to BA's regular business class service - Overview and timings
 

A BA A318 seen here taking off on its maiden journey to New York via Shannon (BA supplied image).

Part 1 of a series on BA's new Club World London City service - please also visit

1.  Overview and Timings
2. 
Airport Issues
3. 
Flight Experience and Summary

 

 

This truly unique service connect's London City Airport (LCY) with New York's JFK.

Due to airport limitations, BA operate a tiny A318 on the route, with a mere 32 seats in an all business class configuration.

The service is nonstop from JFK to LCY, and has a short refueling stop in Shannon on the flights from LCY to JFK.
 

This review is based on two flights with British Airways in November 2009 - one each way between JFK and LCY.

Executive Overview

BA first announced these new flights at a time when there were other airlines offering all business class services between New York and London.  But between then and now, all the other airlines have either gone out of business (eg Maxjet, Eos, and Silverjet) or no longer operate the flights (eg AA) and all of a sudden, something that may have been intended as a way of knocking out the competition (better choice of airports - close-in LCY rather than more distant Stansted, and better service with a major 'name brand' carrier) found itself with no competition, and with a planned introduction at a time when business class travel was severely depressed.  Ooops!

For whatever reason BA pressed on with the launch of this new service, which also required it to purchase two special new A318 planes, and BA's CEO, Willie Walsh, has expressed strong personal support and backing for the service.  BA's apparent commitment has been further underscored by awarding these flights the prestigious numbers BA 1, 2, 3 & 4 - numbers formerly used by their Concorde flights, and not used since Concorde stopped flying.

BA says this new service, flying to London City Airport, is more convenient for people doing business in 'The City' and Canary Wharf areas (which are on the east side of the central London area - the same side as is LCY, and the opposite side to LHR.  The reduction in travel time between airport and those parts of London is one of the main claimed feature/benefits of the new service.

See our seven part series for lots more information about London's five airports.

This article compares/contrasts the new BA service to its existing JFK/LHR services, and attempts to determine if the LCY flights actually are quicker or in any other way 'better' than the existing BA flights.

Convenience of Departure/Arrival Times

The LCY flights are scheduled more or less in the middle of the other flights to/from LHR, offering departure and arrival times that are neither notably better nor worse than the LHR flights.

The A318 flies a bit more slowly than the Boeing planes, and so the travel time is a bit longer - this is most clearly seen in the extra 30 minutes or so it takes on the west bound crossing (the extra stop on the eastbound crossing makes the travel times harder to compare).

Table 1 :  Flights from JFK to London

Flight

Leave JFK

Arr LON

Travel Time

Flights to London City

   

BA 2

6.40 pm

7.15 am

7 hrs 35 mins

BA 4

10.10 pm

10.35 am

7 hrs 25 mins

Flights to Heathrow

 

 

BA 178

8.55 am

8.40 pm

6 hrs 45 mins

BA 112

6.20 pm

6.25 am

7 hrs 5 mins

BA 174

7.01 pm

7.10 pm

7 hrs 9 mins

BA 176

7.40 pm

7.50 am

7 hrs 10 mins

BA 114

8.50 pm

8.50 am

7 hrs 0 mins

BA 182

10.50 pm

10.40 am

6 hrs 50 mins


As can be seen, both the flights to London City leave at the end of the business day; and the earlier arrives in time for a full day in London.

There's really no appreciable difference in the basic flight schedule convenience between the London City and Heathrow services, other than the 'same day' flight that leaves JFK early in the morning and gets into Heathrow that evening - a flight of little/no interest to most business travelers who are unlikely to want to spend an entire day flying.  Overnight flights - flying while you're (hopefully) sleeping would generally be preferred.

But there are big differences in timings for the westbound flights to the US :

Table 2 :  Flights from London to JFK

Flight

Leave LON

Arr JFK

Travel Time

Flights from London City

   

BA 1

12.30 pm

5.15 pm

9 hrs 45 mins

BA 3

4.00 pm

8.45 pm

9 hrs 45 mins

Flights from Heathrow

 

 

BA 117

8.20 am

11.15 am

7 hrs 55 mins

BA 175

11.00 am

1.55 pm

7 hrs 55 mins

BA 177

1.35 pm

4.30 pm

7 hrs 55 mins

BA 115

4.00 pm

7.05 pm

8 hrs 5 mins

BA 179

6.00 pm

9.05 pm

8 hrs 5 mins

BA 183

7.55 pm

10.40 pm

7 hrs 45 mins


For flights from London to New York, there are better options from Heathrow, with the two late flights allowing for more of the business day to be spent prior to return.  The extra travel time on the BA1/3 service from LCY is most clearly shown in the difference between BA3 and BA179 - the Heathrow flight at 6pm arrives into New York at almost the same time as the LCY flight that departs two hours earlier.

There is also an early morning flight from Heathrow that would allow for half a day of productive time in New York, too.

Calculating Total Journey Time

The total time for one's journey is best considered not just in terms of the scheduled flying time.  Instead, one needs to consider the total time from the commencement to the completion of the travel process, comprising the following five steps :

  • Travel time to airport

  • Time to spend at airport prior to flight departure

  • Scheduled flight time

  • Time to spend upon arrival prior to exiting airport

  • Travel time from airport to destination

We'll consider the applicable parts of these five components for the two alternate ways to get between New York and London.  Because the travel time between wherever in New York and the JFK airport curb is the same whether you are flying to/from LCY or LHR, we omit that part of the calculation :

Table 3 :  Traveling from JFK to London

Process

LCY option

LHR option

comment

Arrive at airport how long prior to flight

2 hrs

2 hrs

 

Travel time

7 hrs 30 mins

7 hrs 0 mins

 

Clear customs/immigration, get to airport exit

15 mins

20 - 40 mins

Hopefully using priority lane at LHR

Travel time from airport exit to London downtown

30 - 90 mins

45 - 90 mins

Cab or DLR/cab from LCY, cab or train/cab from LHR

Shortest travel time

10 hrs 15 mins

10 hrs 5 mins

Almost exactly the same time

Likely longest travel time

11 hrs 15 mins

11 hrs 10 mins

Almost exactly the same time

Plus maybe also
Extra time getting to/from Arrivals Lounge
(ignoring time actually showering, changing, etc)


20 - 40 mins


10 mins


Much better at LHR than LCY


In the case of traveling to London, there's very little difference in total travel time from when you arrive at JFK to when you arrive at your London destination.

And while Heathrow is famous for its delays, statistics show that LCY has very similar delays.  This is not a point of differentiation between the two airports.

For travel to London, the most important things are probably the convenience of schedule times, whether you need to use the Arrivals Lounge, and where in London your ultimate destination is.

The Heathrow Arrival Lounge facilities are enormously more convenient and pleasant than the nasty and inconvenient arrangements at London City Airport (discussed below).

The closer to Paddington, the better Heathrow is as a choice, the closer to Canary Wharf, the better London City may be as a choice.

Table 4 :  Traveling from London to JFK

Process

LCY option

LHR option

comment

Travel from London downtown to airport

30 - 90 mins

45 - 90 mins

Cab or cab/DLR to LCY, cab or cab/train combo to LHR

Arrive at airport how long prior to flight

20 mins

45 mins

Absolute minimums, best to add a bit more time in both cases

Travel time

9 hrs 45 mins

8 hrs

The flight from LCY seems to regularly arrive early

Clear customs/immigration, get to airport exit

25 mins

30 - 60 mins

Preclear Customs & Immigration in Shannon on the LCY flight

Shortest travel time

11 hrs 0 mins

10 hrs 0 mins

LHR one hour faster

Likely longest travel time

12 hrs

11 hrs 15 mins

LHR still 45 minutes faster


Note - trying to ascertain official minimum check-in times was very difficult.  BA's own website only refers to a 45 minute close-off at Heathrow but makes no mention of business class checkin times at JFK, and both res agents and supervisors at BA's US Call Center insisted that a 2 hr (or perhaps even 3 hrs!) minimum applied to all international flights everywhere.

I've elsewhere seen information that the check-in time, with baggage, from LCY to JFK is only 20 minutes, hence show this amazingly short time.  This was eventually confirmed by a BA supervisor in a reluctant tone of shocked disbelief.

In the case of flying from London to JFK, the stop in Shannon en route from LCY really does lengthen the total travel time, and depending on where you are starting your travels in London from, you may find that traveling via Heathrow is more convenient.

In particular, if you're not planning on doing any business prior to flying back from London, you're as well advised to take any of the three early flights from Heathrow, all of which get you to JFK sooner than the first of the two LCY flights.

Part 1 of a series on BA's new Club World London City service - please also visit

1.  Overview and Timings
2. 
Airport Issues
3. 
Flight Experience and Summary

FTC Mandatory Disclosure :  I was given round trip air travel by BA to research/write this article (but had to pay for my own travel between Seattle and New York and all other related costs of the journey).  Thank you, BA, for your confidence in your product and your braveness in allowing me to experience and write about it.  I have not been paid money to write this article.  See more about our editorial policies here.

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.

 

Originally published 27 Nov 2009, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 

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