On arrival at London Heathrow I had a scheduled 1 hour 20 minute connection, and that was cut down 10 or 15 minutes by traffic getting into Heathrow.
Fortunately this wasn’t like the bad old days of coming into a terminal 1 bus gate, busing to terminal 1 then busing to terminal 5 before taking a train to the far gates of T5.
Instead we arrived at gates that required taking the train in, but that didn’t take but a few minutes. Then after a short walk there was no wait at passport control to speak of. The only queuing would be for premium security which took about 10 minutes.
That meant though there wouldn’t be any time to visit the Concorde Room, or really even spend time at any lounge other than for a quick use of the restroom. It was straight to the gate for the short Paris-Orly flight.
There was plenty of lounging going on at the gate, though!
Less than 10 minutes after I’d arrived at the gate they began boarding.
And that’s where it hit me. I had read about the reduced seat pitch in British Airways intra-European business class, “Club Europe.” I knew it was 30 inches. But surely it had to be a spacious 30 inches. Like Donald Trump’s hands, it wasn’t.
I wasn’t impressed the last time I few between Paris-Orly and Heathrow and that’s when Club Europe had 34 inch pitch.
Now there’s no more legroom in business class than there is in coach, and it’s an inch less legroom than the major US airlines offer in coach.
Instead, British Airways “Club Europe” is coach with a blocked middle seat and a cold meal tray. Plus lounge access and priority boarding, of course, which you receive with mid-tier elite status anyway.
A top British Airways sales executive once told me that ‘they lose money on Club Europe but their long haul business class customers expect something better than economy for their connections’ — in other words they believed that long haul was subsidizing short haul. In fact they had the economics of it backwards. They needed to offer a decent short haul product in order to attract long haul premium cabin flyers, and were thus just allocating the revenue wrong in coming up with their money-losing calculations.
And it’s certainly jarring to come off of long haul first class, even British Airways first class, to 30 inch pitch.
I’m not tall, but 30 inch pitch means that I have to angle my laptop bag to get it under the seat. It’s not like my knees are butted up against the seat in front of me, but that’s hardly the only issue. The top of the seat ahead so close can be claustrophobic. (Though it means no underseat storage, it’s advisable to take the bulkhead in British Airways Club Europe because there’s more legroom.)
Whenever I think about the lack of predeparture beverages in domestic first class, or long for the days when US airlines made more of an investment in first class meals than they do today, I think of intra-European business class and I’m suddenly grateful. Europhiles excuse the offerings by saying that most intra-European flights are short, but most domestic US routes are too (about half of American’s domestic route network is under 500 miles). I’d still love a better product in domestic first on flights over three hours, though.
Looking back at coach, I realized I liked the blocked middle seat and being at the front of the plane. But more or less that’s what I was getting by being in ‘business’ on this short morning flight.
I did get a nice cold deli plate. And there’s booze if that matters to you.
The flight is 228 miles, about the distance between New York and Washington DC. So this was more than fine for the short segment. But Chuck Schumer wants to outlaw 31 inch pitch in the US. To find a product in the US offering less legroom you have to look to low cost carriers like Spirit Airlines.
We weren’t in the air terribly long, and we arrived at Orly which is a wonderful airport to clear immigration at (no lines) and from which to get into the city (closer and faster). And I certainly got value for my money on the ticket. I’m not complaining, but I’d never spend more for the Club Europe product and I wouldn’t even go out of my way to secure award space in Club Europe versus merely coach for a flight of this distance.