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Is a British Airways Charter Flight better than Low Cost Airlines?

Every summer we usually take a week’s break in Europe. Perhaps the north of Mallorca, Portgual’s Algarve or France.

Although buckets of British Airways air miles means we could travel from Edinburgh via Heathrow or Gatwick and connect to a Club Europe flight, we’ve sacrificed the lounge access and slightly wider seats for more convennient direct flights with Jet2 or Easy Jet.

Until this year when I booked our villa in Mallorca’s Pollenca region through James Villas and they offered me a BA CityFlyer Charter.

British Airways Charter Flight
BA CityFlyer Embraer 190

I knew that CityFlyer use the spare capacity during London City Airport’s weekend downtime to offer charters, mainly through Barrhead Travel, and I immediately agreed to those flights and not Jet2.

The BA flights worked out at about £170 each which I thought was great value having paid nearly £1000 for three seats last year on Jet2.

Knowing that my BA silver card provided no advantage on a charter, I asked James Villas if I could pre-book seats.

They said, “No it’s not possible.”

Being a stubborn Edinburgh traveller, a quick Google search revealed a hidden BA CityFlyer Charter website where you can indeed book seats for £6 a pop.

BA CityFlyer Charter Website

I even had the courtesy to write back to James Villas and point out that you can, indeed, pre-book seats? They were kind enough to reply and tell me that I was wrong and it wasn’t possible to pre-book seats.

I enjoyed reading that email whilst clutching my seat confirmation with a wry smile.

British Airways Charter Flight
2×2 Seating with 34in pitch throughout

For the outbound at 7.30am on a Saturday, Edinburgh Airport bulged with people. We approached the usual BA check in desks. I asked the lady managing the queues if we could we check in here? She said that the charter check in was at the other end of the check in hall.

I mentioned we were travelling hand bags only and she very kindly used her work station to print our boarding cards. Great service.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

Without the benefit of lounge access we waited at the gate for BA to call the flight. Once onboard G-LCYS, one of the newest Embraer 190 aircraft in the BA fleet, we sank into our roomy 2×2 leather seats with their ample 34in pitch.

Once comfy, I heard the lady behind me moaning to the Purser that she and her husband and children had been split up at check in. The purser apologised and said that you can’t pre-book seats on BA charter services (strange that the cabin crew don’t know about the website where you can pre-book).

Anyway this lady whined to anyone who would listen about how upset she was. I was going to enlighten her about the website, but the child she was with was so badly behaved throughout the flight, kicking my seat back, that I decided they could carry on moaning.

Took off bang on time and the crew began the inflight buy on board service. You can see the menu in the photos.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

I drank a giant cup of tasty Saile and Sabga Gourmet Cafe Arabica coffee, and ate a hot bacon panini. The coffee could be the best I’ve ever had on an aircraft.

The crew came through the cabin on a second run towards the end of the three hour flight.

On the inbound, with only two BA flights, check in at Palma is civilised and not the multi-queue scrum you find for Jet2 or Thompson.

My only criticism of the operation at Palma is there was no facility for hand luggage only customers. We had to queue with those with luggage – actually we might have been the only passengers travelling without checked bags. Still we only waited about 15 minutes.

British Airways Charter Flight
Menu Booklet

Same aircraft and the same crew and the same service on the way home except I had a beer with my coffee and bacon buttie.

The moaning lady was also on the flight, and although sat with her husband and kids this time, all she did was moan about how they were split up on the flight out. Bet she’s a barrel of laughs in the pub.

Overall it was great flying on a BA CityFlyer Charter. You get the extra leg room and the professionalism of BA Mainline, with the extra quantities of food and drink from buy on board.

I’d do this over Jet2 any day.

Now it’s your turn:

Have you travelled on a British Airways Charter Flight? How do you think it compares to BA Mainline or other low-cost airlines like Jet2, Easy Jet and RyanAir? Please leave a comment or share a link to your own reviews.

Watch this video tour of the British Airways A380 Super Jumbo

Have you flown on the new British Airways A380 Super Jumbo yet?

I have. I was lucky enough to bag some Avios (BA’s air miles) seats to LAX two days after the inaugural flight. What an amazing plane; so huge but so quiet.

I’ll be posting a trip report and video very shortly and that will complete my occasional look at the build and launch of BA’s first A380 which I started over a year ago.

In this next to the last post – here is BA’s own video tour of this remarkable aircraft.

Or if you prefer the longer 10 minute tour click here.

If you want to read the earlier posts here are the links.

Now it’s your turn: What did you think of this video tour of the British Airways A380 Super Jumbo? Have you flown on the BA A380? I would love to hear your stories. Please post a comment below or share a link to your own reviews. And look out my video trip report coming very soon.

A hidden Caribbean gem – Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent

I have had my eye on Buccament Bay Resort in St. Vincent for a year or so and recently managed to get a great deal through BA Holidays.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Beach at Buccament Bay

We arrived at St. Vincent airport after a long delay waiting for LIAT to fix a problem with their Dash 100 plane for the short hop across from Barbados.

The airport has a little terminal with two immigration desks and one customs lady. The paper work took an hour and a half to get through and the customs lady was being particularly thorough and riffled through almost everyone’s bags. I have no idea what she was looking for in among all those clothes and swimming costumes, but none of the collection of middle-aged people who arrived with us looked like drugs or contraband smugglers to me. Consequently, arriving into St.Vincent counts as one of the most unpleasant immigration experiences in over 20 years of travelling.

Outside we met Creese who looked very smart in his cream and burgundy Buccament Bay Resort uniform. He apologised for the customs people and verbalised my earlier thoughts about what on earth it could be that they were being so diligent in looking for.

Creese drove us up and down hills, round many tight bends, the busy streets of Kingstown and through the dark countryside to our destination.

On arrival at Buccament Bay Resort we met Deanna from guest relations who greeted us and then led us across the impressive wooden bridge into the resort. At the foot of the bridge a lady handed us an ice-cold towel and as you would expect there was another lady at other side of the bridge to collect it after we had used it to cool down. As we stepped off the bridge the head barman from the Bay Beach Club introduced himself and handed us cocktails that were both refreshing, cold and laced with strong rum. He invited us to come to the bar later to try his signature cocktail.

Everyone knew and used our names right from the start. It is such a nice touch and smacks of superb service.

Deanna took us to our villa. Now this was the most pleasant surprise. I had booked what I thought was a two bed roomed room. I wasn’t quite expecting the quite frankly huge villa Deanna led us into.

It was vast with a high roof and the front door opened immediately into a comfortable seating area. To the left and right were two huge bedrooms each with bathrooms containing “rainforest showers”, a bath, basins and a walk in closet. I loved the detail in the shower – a wooden platform to stand on surrounded by pebbles.

On each bed they had scattered rose petals and folded the towels to resemble swans. Cushions and throws added to the tasteful colour scheme and feeling of comfort.

Outside was a deck area with its own plunge pool overlooking a small lake. This became a lovely place to spend the early evening after the sun went down.

Although exhausted from nearly 18 hours of travelling we had a late dinner at the Bay Beach Club. As we took our seats and scanned the menu a few guests were finishing their evening and drifting off to their villas.

We enjoyed starters of chicken satay, and crispy squid. Main courses of boneless beef rib and jerk turkey burger completed our welcome to this great place. We retired to bed and fell asleep quickly, to the sound of tree frogs singing, impatient to see what the light of day would show us about the Buccament Bay Resort.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Villa Sun Deck with Plunge Pool

In the morning we learned more about our home for the next 10 days. Buccament Bay Resort nestles in a long valley created by the Buccament River which of course flows into the Caribbean at the front of the resort. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains covered in green foliage. Apart from one three-story building which they use for staff accommodation all the rooms are single storey villas set among an extensive garden with sandy walkways, lakes, flowers and bushes.

Most of these villas are painted a pastel shade of either cream or orange. Some contain a single bedroom others have two. All have balconies overlooking either the gardens, lakes, river or beach and each has a plunge pool. The two bedroom villas have larger pools. Each has several mini bars containing soft drinks, fruit juices, water and beers which the staff refilled daily. The resort has a vaguely oriental feel to it.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The resort has an oriental feel

The sun above Buccament Bay Resort was already fiercely hot as we went to breakfast, across the bridge, in the open air Bamboo Restaurant. We found an extensive hot buffet of bacon, French toast, sausages, fried potatoes and baked beans.

At the egg station a smiling gentleman happily cooked fried eggs sunny side up and an omelette with tomatoes and onions. At the fruit station another craftsman cut up slices of fresh fruit to order, including the sour tasting but delicious wax apple. He also whizzed up an ice-cold smoothie of fresh banana and orange and ice.

Time to explore the resort. Back across the bridge we paused to watch a flock of white geese, or were they ducks, begging for scraps from the guests. Squalking and honking they pursued us across the bridge obviously thinking that we had a pocket full of bread.

We then wandered to the beach, a thick wedge of brilliant white powdery sand washed by the crystal clear blue Caribbean Sea. There are several random sets of sun loungers waiting for sun seekers, but I saw no sign of any books, magazines or shoes laying claim to their ownership.Two wooden huts contain a beach bar, and a grill offering delicious burgers and chicken for lunch.

Try this beach grill. The food is delicious but it is never crowded. For lunch one day I enjoyed freshly barbecued ribs served with salad and some Caribbean hot pepper sauce. This stuff is almost painful to eat but it tastes delicious. It makes the endorphins flow into your body which creates a feeling of pleasure like the after effects of an orgasm. I had two portions.

Finally we decided to settle in front one of the two huge horseshoe-shaped infinity pools. I’d later discover that the water was as warm as a bath. We picked sun loungers directly on the edge of the sea and these were comfortable and adorned with Buccament Bay branded towels and mattresses.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
The Beach from The Pools

A barman from the nearby Bay Beach Club materialised to offer a drink. Was it too early for a cocktail right after breakfast. Probably. But we didn’t hold out for long.

For lunch the Bay Beach Club offers a detailed but light menu. Sometimes simple is best. And with the hot Caribbean sun blazing above us surely the most sensible thing to do would have been to enjoy a crisp light salad for lunch.

But my eyes were dawn to the linguine – a simple dish of pasta, tomatoes, garlic, chilli flakes and white wine. Delicious but fiery the chillies ignited a fire in my mouth that only another beer could extinguish.

One day they brought out a giant Mongolian circular grill. A line of eager diners soon appeared as everyone selected their mix of meat and vegetables which the chef cooked to order, tossing the ingredients with spicy sauces and garnishes.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Mongolian giant stir fry

Buccament Bay boasts a Diving School, a Tennis Academy, Football Academy and a Performing Arts Academy as well as a Spa and Fitness centre. I went to a very calming restorative yoga class one evening.

On the first afternoon I noticed a very tanned gentleman with a shiny bald head cooling off in the pool and sipping from a glass of beer balanced on the pool edge. I swam over for a chat and discovered that he was in charge of the resort’s Performing Arts Academy. But he had no customers that day.

He told me his name was Phil Cavill. He’s quite a famous name in London Theatre land and on Broadway. Back in the 1990s he had a lead role in Miss Saigon and the went on to star as Jean Valjeane in Les Miserables in the West End.

As well as running the academy, Phil also sings in the restaurants at night. Obviously he specialises in musicals and as a tenor, wants to treat the guests to some really loud renditions of famous songs. Unfortunately some guests have delicate ears and often ask for him to be turned down (because he is loud not because he can’t sing). I really wanted to hear Phil really let rip.

For dinner the resort offers four restaurants but check the schedule as only the Bay Beach Club is open every night.

Bamboo: Offers a delicious Caribbean buffet.

The Bay Beach Club: Described earlier, this is the focal point for the evening. Sip cocktails at the bar, go to your table for an international three course meal and then head back for more cocktails after.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Fabulous spicy stir fry at The Bay Beach Club

Jack’s: This impressive restaurant specialises in Steaks and Seafood cooked to your liking. A simple menu that changes daily accompanied by tasty side dishes. Try the garlic mash, sautéed spinach and mushrooms.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Jack’s – Steak and Seafood Restaurant

Safran’s is an Indian Restaurant serving an impressive array of curries. You won’t find many of these dishes on the menu in a typical UK curry house but if you do fancy a chicken tikka, have a word with the chef and he will rustle one up for you.

Open all day is HQ, a coffee, ice cream, smoothie and cake shop. A mango smoothie, banana bread and pistachio macaroons made a tasty change for breakfast on more than one occasion.

Buccament Bay Resort is teeming with staff all of whom seem to know your name and are pleased to help. Some drive around in silent golf buggies and will happily stop and pick you up and take you where you want to go.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Dolphins playing

On the last evening we went on a sunset cruise on a huge catamaran. The sky was blue as we left the beach and we enjoyed a light swell of waves on the ocean as schools of dolphins leaped around the boat showing off their acrobatic skills. We were even treated to a tropical downpour which lasted long enough to soak us all to the skin. We had to dance all the way back to dry ourselves out.

Any negatives? The resort is plagued by mosquitoes as are many in the Caribbean. But the resort use a fogging machine each evening to drive most of them away but don’t forget to put on your insect repellant. The swimming pools became quite cloudy one day but were cleaned and vacuumed by the following morning.

Review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent
Sunset at Buccament Bay Resort

We were sad to leave Buccament Bay Resort. A stunning place, beautiful beach and facilities and lovely staff. Creese drove us to the airport but not before, Guido, the General Manager had stopped by to wish us farewell.

I’d also like to mention: Brod from Bamboo and The Bay for looking after us at breakfast and at lunch. Keon who mixes awesome cocktails at The Bay. Carlson who kept the drinks flowing during the day by the pool. Abby who was almost dancing as she served at The Bay and at Safran’s. And finally Lionel the gentleman by the pool for whom no request was too much trouble. And thank you for those bottles of hot sauce which will keep our memories of St Vincent alive for many meals to come.

Your turn: Did you enjoy my review of Buccament Bay Resort St Vincent? I would love to hear more stories about this great place. Please post your comments and links to your own experiences below where it says, “Leave a reply”.

 

The First Fully Painted British Airways Airbus A380

Continuing my occasional look at the building and painting of first British Airways Airbus A380 here are some pictures of the first fully painted aircraft fresh out of the paint shop.

First Fully Painted British Airways Airbus A380
Photo from BA Facebook page

I must admit that I’ve always found the A380 a little ugly and not as streamlined and beautiful as the Boeing 747. But this paint job – perhaps it’s the blue belly – certainly improves the super jumbo’s looks.

First Fully Painted British Airways Airbus A380
Photo from BA Facebook page

Airbus will deliver this A380 to BA in July. Then we can look forward to all the cabin crew training flights. I wonder whether we will see it on the Edinburgh Shuttle run?

Your turn: What do you think of these photos of the first fully painted British Airways Airbus 380? Have you got any others you can share? Please leave a comment or share a link by clicking below.