A few days before a recent trip via Dublin I received an email from British Airways advising me that my flight was to be operated by Cello Aviation and that my seat had been changed. It seems that BA has a shortage of planes for its routes to and from London City. A little research on Cello showed that it was a wet lease provider of planes of various sizes. They have one especially nice looking RJ85 and an Avro Business Jet with super seats in (below). I suspected we would secure the 85 seat, all economy plane.
This is the Business Jet:
Indeed when I arrived at the airport it was pretty clear that we would be getting the ‘other’ plane:
With the plane landing around the time we were due to take off I was not too optimistic of an on time departure. In addition the ground staff were warning people that there was a lack of overhead space on this plane, and so it proved to be.
Boarding from Gate 1 at LCY straight on the aircraft was easy enough, and my new seat was on the 3 side of the 2-3 configuration but still in the first row. BA thoughtfully left the middle seat open in the three seat Club Europe rows. As often happens with leases, the crew wanted to see boarding passes at the top of the steps which was pain, after years of BA only wanting them on long haul flights.
BA boarded Gold Card holders and Club Europe passengers first. Seated in row 1 I was able to locate a place for my bag and get sat down.
You can see that the seats stick out a bit in to the aisle on the 3 side.
No BA magazines in the magazine rack but there was the Cello safety card. And a BA sick bag. No electronic devices were allowed during taxi and take off – even in aircraft mode. Cello plane, Cello rules.
After a few bags were sent to the hold the door was closed and we were off. A mighty roar as we accelerated down the short runway reminded me how quiet BA’s normal planes are out of this airport.
Soon after take off the flight attendant offered Club passengers a drink. My champagne request was met with a glass (not bottle) of warm champagne.
The regular BA meal from City was then offered and was actually pretty good. The flight attendant was really good, making an effort to come around and make sure everyone had their glass topped up.
The service was fine for the whole of the one hour trip to Dublin. We secured a jet bridge gate and were pretty quickly out of the airport.
My return flight was a little more ‘interesting’. BA had obviously ditched Cello as when my next notice that my plane was to be operated by a different carrier arrived, I had been moved to Row 3 and the operator was shown as WDL, a German air operator. WDL has three BaE146’s operated in a 3-3 config. Arriving at the gate in Dublin we were notified that the plane was operating an hour late – I later learned that LCY had lost its baggage handling system that morning and so everything was falling apart.
Shortly before boarding an altercation between a passenger and the gate agent has occurred when the passenger found out that her seats had been moved to accommodate the differently configured plane. She was NOT happy – figures were pointed, voices were raised and managers were summoned. In the end three Dublin Airport Police Officers arrived, basically to watch and see whether things calmed down. After initially blocking boarding and trying to get her family to the head of the queue, she relented and waited her turn.
On board the plane it was unclear why my seat had gone from 1B to 3C as there were only four passengers in the 9 seats of Business Class. However, I decided to stay where I was. The flight attendant was grumpy the whole trip, although he did try a little humour at the end.
The seats were narrow, but having a whole row to myself I really didn’t care. There was no meal choice left by the time he got to my row and I took the salmon and prawn offering:
No Boarding Passes this time, but again no electronics during taxi.
As we approached London City, we did a big arc around the Dartford Crossing before starting the steep landing that is required by the short runway at City. The lady in the row behind had already mentioned to her friend that she was nervous. As we descended she was clearly unnerved by the approach, but more so by the landing and then sudden acceleration as the plane too off again.
I’ve never had that at City – cancelled landings happen to flyers all the time and are predictable, but this was a little odd as the wheels had touched down, but too far down the runway for us to stop – so either we were in the water or a go-around was required.
Shortly after we got back to a cruising height the flight attendant explained, in deadpan German accented-English, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, our pilot so likes the landing at London City, that he thought he would do it twice.’
Of course the pilot then came on and explained that he had landed too far down the runway and so had to go around again. Of course the poor lady behind me was pretty upset by now but other passengers explained what was happening, held her hand, and supplied hankies.
We ended up being about 90 minutes late, only made worse by having to take a bus for the 150 yards to the Republic of Ireland arrivals door.
So, all around interesting flying, with non-BA leased aircraft.