The Banker Shuttle From London City to JFK (Trip Report)

I left off yesterday as I prepared to board BA flight 001 to bring me back to the US. No reason to keep you waiting. Let’s get back to it.

[Note: BA arranged the flight and accommodation for me without charge, but that in no way guarantees them positive press.]


January 19, 2011
British Airways 1 Lv London/City 1250p Arr Shannon 210p
London/City (LCY): Gate 24, Runway 27, Depart 2m Early
Shannon (SNN): Gate 108, Runway 24, Arrive 12m Early
G-EUNA, Airbus A318-112, British Flag colors, 14/32 Seats Filled
Seat 1K
Flight Time 1h3m

I was immediately greeted by Cat, our purser. Cat was excellent. She was very welcoming and had one of those infectious smiles the never went away the entire flight. I took my Club World Cabinseat in row 1 and put my bags in the overhead bin. Then it was time to explore the seat.

Unlike BA’s backward/forward Club World seat, this is in a traditional 2-2 configuration across with everyone facing forward. The seats do go completely flat, marrying with a small footrest that sits at the far end of the seat. There isn’t a ton of storage overall, but there was plenty of storage for a camera, drink, etc on the armrest and in a little cubby hole. I liked this better than the traditional BA Club World seat.

There wasn’t anyone else in all of row 1, so I took the window on the right side, where I had been told the best view of London would Storage and Power in Seatbe.

We headed out on time and taxied down the runway to turn around so we could depart to the west. (There isn’t a taxiway to get you down there so you use the runway.) London/City is also unique in that it has a steep angle for departures and arrivals, but we had no trouble meeting that requirement with our light load.

We launched and made a right turn, giving me a great view of the Olympic Park. Then we stayed low and slow for a little while, probably vectoring through the maze of London airport traffic. Here’s a 2m45s video:

Soon, Cat came back with the other two flight attendants and they started an appetizer service. I had a tasty smoked trout and opted for a mimosa to start the day.

The service was constant throughout the flight, but in subsequent passes, the crew had more time to stop and visit. Cat and the others were expert at quickly learning if customers wanted to talk or be left alone and they adjusted their service accordingly. I, of course, always want to talk to airline crews so I spent a lot of time with them.

It turns out that the City crew is actually Gatwick-based. The Gatwick base is smaller and this crew gave off a looser vibe than I what I traditionally expect from a BA crew. It struck theMobile Flight Tracking right chord with me and appeared to with the other customers as well. I’m told the flight has a lot of repeat customers so it ends up feeling more like a corporate shuttle.

After my snack, I had another mimosa and decided to play around with the onboard mobile offering.

Unfortunately, the US still won’t allow mobiles to be used within US airspace. British Airways doesn’t allow voice calls but it does allow texting and mobile web use (GPRS). But since it can’t be used in the US, our mobile carriers have been slow to agree to the system. So far, only AT&T does it, and I don’t have AT&T.

So the good folks at OnAir, the company that offers this, gave me a SIM card from another provider so I could use the service. This was fun. I booted up the phone and was off and running. While I couldn’t receive email on my Blackberry, I could use the web and text message. If you follow me on Twitter (@crankyflier), you saw a handful of tweets throughout the flight. I liked being able to stay in touch for anything urgent but not having full internet access to encourage me to work.

Soon we were descending into Shannon over green hills, blue water, and a lot of sheep. We landed and touched the gate at 158p. That’s when I started timing things.

After getting off the airplane, we were escorted throughBA Shannon Lounge Area the empty terminal to the US pre-clearance area. Nobody was there and we all sailed through. I was confused when I saw that you had to put your bag through an x-ray machine but there were no metal detectors. You had to take your shoes off but you could leave everything else as is. Very odd.

At 208p, I was out of customs waiting to board. There’s a small area with plush chairs dedicated to BA customers for use while we waited to reboard. Why couldn’t we get on right away? Well, the cabin crew has to go through the same formalities but they have to wait until we’re all off the plane. So they got through after us and then hopped onboard to clean things up and prepare the next flight.

The flight crew (not cabin crew) actually stays in Shannon for the night, so our old crew left and a new one came. At 223p, we were ready to board. Cat welcomed us back on the airplane and we all took our seats again. At 238p, we were back on our way, ready for the 7 hour flight after a 40 minute stop.


January 19, 2011
British Airways 1 Lv Shannon 255p Arr New York/JFK 525p
Shannon (SNN): Gate 108, Runway 24, Depart 17m Early
New York/JFK (JFK): Gate 1, Runway 4R, Arrive 27m Early
G-EUNA, Airbus A318-112, British Flag colors, 14/32 Seats Filled
Seat 1K
Flight Time 7h

Once we were in the air, things started to happen quickly. Cat and friends came back and asked if I wanted a personal video player. I did, so Inflight Entertainmentthey pulled aside the armrest which revealed an arm to hold the player. Then they plugged in the player and I was on my way. (They use the separate player because it’s lighter than a built-in unit and weight counts on this flight.)

Once that was up and running, they came by and served the meal. I opted for a good chicken dish and I decided to have some wine. I actually decided to have a lot of wine, assisted by the fact that my glass never seemed to be empty.

On the first flight, I had asked Cat if she knew if we would have a smooth crossing. She said she didn’t know because we’d get a new flight crew in Shannon but she’d ask then. So I asked her again upon departure and she had the best answer ever.

“Do you just want the captain to come out and talk to you?”

I think you all know the answer to that one. Five minutes later, the captain walked out with his turbulence plots and showed me what was expected. We Over the Atlanticspoke for about 15 minutes and I was just floored. You don’t see a captain do something like that on just any flight. Amazing.

I settled in to watch some movies and found that the seats were really comfortable. In fact, I thought the recline position was more comfortable on this seat than on the regular Club World. The bed seemed good, but I really didn’t spend much time in that position since it was a daylight flight. I kicked back and watched some movies while texting and tweeting over the mid-Atlantic. Pure awesomeness.

Cat and friends kept coming back frequently to check on me, and every time I would get into a conversation about something or other. It was just a great, familiar feeling that made the flight go by very quickly.

Soon we were over Canada and I was dreading the end of the experience. About an hour and a half out, I had my last touch of British class with a traditional English tea. We started with some Finger Sandwiches and Teafinger sandwiches and tea along with clotted cream, scones, and a donut. It was delicious.

As the sun started to set, we began to head down toward New York. They collected the personal video players on descent and buttoned up the cabin. It was a beautiful day with several thin cloud layers reflecting the remaining sunlight.

We touched down and then taxied for a few minutes before docking at gate 1, the same gate Concorde used to use. But instead of walking into customs and immigration, we walked off like a domestic passenger into the gate area. Even with a bathroom stop, it took right around 10 minutes for me to be at the AirTrain, waiting to take the subway into the city.

The experience went by so fast. The math makes a lot of sense More Clouds on Descent into JFKfor those people who are in Canary Wharf. You would probably need to leave the area 2.5 hours before departure to get to Heathrow but you could leave 30 minutes before departure to get to City. Even with the Shannon stop and the slower cruising speed of the A318, the time savings is there. And the convenience of the whole thing makes it worthwhile.

I’ve only purchased a business class fare once, but I actually found myself thinking about how many thousands I would be willing to pay for this experience again. Of course, not living in New York, it makes little sense for me, but it was still that good. And it certainly lives up to the flight number.

See the rest of my photos from the trip


40 Responses to The Banker Shuttle From London City to JFK (Trip Report)

  1. Steve says:

    Any idea if this sector will be available as part of AONE and DONE tickets? Any restrictions there?

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  3. Euan says:

    Great report! Am flying BA1 for my 30th in just over 3 weeks.

  4. A says:

    Only 14 of 32 seats filled and we know one was non-rev, how is BA making any money on this, especially with the extra fuel burn of a landing and take-off in Ireland? I know finance people can and do shell out $10,000+ for a flight and will gladly pay more for a little convenience, but from your own experience there aren’t enough of them there to fill up this flight. Something tells me this flight isn’t prime for times of global recession and austerity measures.

    • CF says:

      My own experience is one single flight on one day. According to BA, the service is profitable and they’re actually looking to see if other markets could handle it as well at this point.

  5. What was the lavatory like anything special or just a standard first/business class look to them?

    Great video with the airplane shadow. When the plane starts to take off it looks like the shadow takes off in a different direction.

    Will there be a part 3 getting from New York to Long Beach?

    • CF says:

      The lav was normal; nothing special.

      Yes, there is a part 3 but that was an easy flight from JFK to Long Beach on JetBlue (at my own expense). The focus of that one will be on my first experience in JetBlue terminal 5.

  6. Bob says:

    Brett,

    Sounds like a phenomenal experience, but I think A makes a good point: between the perks, the stop, the extra labor costs involved, and carrying “15-20″ pax on a plane meant to carry 107, how exactly do the numbers work out for this flight? The ticket price must be insane for the flight to be anywhere close to breakeven!

    Can you use your travel-fu skills to tell us the typical price for a RT ticket on this, and maybe compare it to the price of biz class on BA from LHR-JFK?

    • Bob says:

      Sorry, just saw the comments on the previous post, which answer my questions for the most part.

      Still… at probably <$8k RT before corporate discounts, you're looking at only $120-160k in revenue RT, or $60-80k a flight for BA. Can it really make money with that kind of revenue, or is this flight close to break-even and done more for show and prestige?

      • Dan says:

        Block hour costs (according to wikipedia) are around $2500-$3000/hour, so I suspect that the flight can generate money at $60k/flight. (LCY-JFK is what, 7 hours? That would be $21,000 in costs.)

        • If you think about it, $38,000 in gross profit, is pretty damn good for a flight. I know BA’s international is probably pretty profitable as is, but for a business that has the profitability swinging by if a bag was paid for, or if an extra glass of wine was bought $38k in gross profit isn’t anything to sneeze at..

    • CF says:

      Yes, LCY-JFK is 7 hours, but there have to be more built-in costs here. I mean, the flight crews are put up in Shannon for the night, for example. But still, it’s usually premium class fares that make the money on an airplane with coach fares (especially in the winter across the Atlantic) failing to pull their weight. I’m not sure how much they’re actually seeing from each passenger but the airline says it’s profitable. If it weren’t, imagine we’d hear less concrete claims such as, “It’s performing really well.”

  7. Hajime Sano says:

    Great trip report! Did you need special permission to run electronic equipment (shooting the video) during takeoff?

  8. Bruce says:

    Sorry to be a curmudgeon, but the crew surely knew you were a guest of BA and therefore went above and beyond the norm, particularly when the captain left the flight deck to spend 15 mins chatting with you. Besides providing a free ticket, BA PR probably sent telexes alerting the appropriate recipients of your presence and mission. Despite what you say about free tickets and good press, very few travel pubs still accept free tickets/accommodation exactly for the reason that they feel it compromises the evaluation. Even in the ’90s when I was in airline PR, it was already very hard to give away media tickets even to freelance writers.

    • CF says:

      Tell you what, Bruce. If you start paying to read the blog then I’ll start buying tickets for flights like these.

      It may very well be the case that BA told the crew, but the service seemed consistently good even with interactions that didn’t involve me. (With such a small cabin, it’s easy to observe.) I think you overestimate my importance that BA would go to such great lengths to treat me differently.

      On accepting free tickets – the reality is that traditional media won’t accept freebies but bloggers will because we don’t get paid (much). This is a flight that I would never do on my own because I don’t live in New York, but it’s interesting enough to make it worth going out of my way to report on it. The result is that I report on what might be slight out of the ordinary if BA does in fact alert everyone to my presence, but it’s better that I report on that than not report at all.

    • Bruce don’t assume Brett got special treatment having the Captain come out and talk to him.

      Pick up a copy of Airways Magazine March 2011 issue and on page 32 there is a two page story on LCY-JFK service about BA1/2/3/4 titled “First Birthday of BA’s ‘Concorde-lite'”. while not as detailed as Bretts blog, it does say “The pilots also walk throught the cabin to chat with those who are interested in the flight’s progress.”

      So it does seem that this is a normal thing to occur on these flight and not something special done just because Brett was onboard.

  9. Brian Lusk says:

    Sounds like a great trip. I notice that the flight has the old Concorde flight one designation. The service sounds similar to Concorde service, sop maybe the flight does earn its designation.

  10. Johnny Jet says:

    I basically had the same experience. The only thing I think they need are better entertainment systems. Mine had an annoying hum unless I held it. http://www.johnnyjet.com/folder/archive/British-Airways-LCY-JFK-Slideshow-2010-2.html

  11. I’m curious, how many flight attendants did BA have on this flight? Legally they only needed one, but I’m sure they had a few more than that…

  12. Mennix says:

    Sounds good. Start remembering my own BA 0001 experience which was also great.

    You guys asked for the price? I paid ex DUS ( yes, had to switch airports in London, but this was no problem ) EUR 1800 rt. ( appr. GBP 1600, USD 2400 ). They priced this flight as on of several ones. No difference if I take the 747 via LHR or the 318 via LCY

  13. David says:

    In looking at the timing, you forgot 1 other key benefit:

    Clearing Customs in SNN will *always* be faster. Even if the flight is totally full AND by some rare circumstance there’s only 1 Customs agent at SNN (worst case!), you’re still talking only 32 people + cabin crew — and all of them are going to be very experienced fliers with nothing to declare.

    Compare that to being part of a mob of people approaching Customs at JFK.

    SNN is a brilliant choice:
    http://www.gcmap.com/mapui?P=lcy-jfk;lcy-snn-jfk

    • CF says:

      Very true, and the benefit is even greater for non-US citizens. Apparently the westbound flight gets EU-heavy with passengers because the US entry process is so onerous these days. Going through the process in Shannon makes life better for everyone, but it makes it MUCH better for non-US citizens.

      • Why would this be the case? It would seem that the US entry process should be the same whether it is done on US soil or outside the US. (Note – I certainly understand the point about the long lines for customs at US airports such as JFK compared to a guaranteed quick trip at SNN but I don’t think that’s what you were referring to re: non-US citizens.)

        • CF says:

          The process is the same, but since lines move much slower for non-US citizens, the fact that fewer people are using Shannon means there’s a much greater time savings than for US citizens.

  14. Brett were you ever on one of the MGM Grand 727 jets? Seating for 34 with 4 staterooms all luxury seats was fantasic. I could have lived on that airplane, they had to pull me off kicking and screaming as I didn’t want to leave….lol.

    Even their over sized Lav’s were so plush you didn’t mind actually using an airplane toilet.

    • CF says:

      Never did get one of those but did dream about it when I drove past LAX as a kid. I remember going over to the old Imperial Terminal to see the airplane.

  15. Dan says:

    I also had the same feeling about the seats. I prefer them to the regular club world seats, but then again I didn’t have anyone next to me, so i don’t know how the privacy feels (I’m a fan of 63B on the 744s). I took one of the JFK-LCY flights and nobody grabbed the entertainment units, so I can’t comment on that. Is it worth the cost differential vs. the LHR flights? I’m only one of two people in my group to take it, but I was going to a meeting in Canary Wharf. The convenience is hard to top.

  16. Lenny says:

    hi,

    Thanks much all the information on the LCY-JFK route. Do you know whether BA has considered flying into LaGuardia rather than JFK since, as you mentioned, passengers go through customs in Shannon and LaGuardia is closer to Manhattan.

    Also, do you know whether BA purchased just 2 A318 for the route or more?

    Finally, is it possible to purchase a ticket for the Shannon-New York leg of the trip?

    thanks,
    lp

    • I’m pretty sure BA can’t fly into LGA due to
      The perimeter rule.

      Not sure about buying just the SNN-LGA leg, but I’m going to guess no since there is no round trip possibility, an they’d like to keep dependencies out of the SNN stop.

    • CF says:

      All good questions.

      1) Nick is right – the perimeter rule restricting flights to 1,500 miles prevents that from happening. That rule is suspended on Saturdays, however, so if they wanted a Saturday-only flight, they could. Of course, that’s not the best day for a business shuttle.

      2) BA purchased just 2 A318s

      3) No, you can’t buy a ticket on the Shannon to New York leg

  17. Dan says:

    Correct, they shouldn’t be able to fly into LGA because of the perimeter rule. The snn-JFK leg does not appear to be bookable on the ba website.

  18. Lenny says:

    What is interesting is that the London-Shannon-New York route was established in the 1946 Bermuda I Bilateral Agreement between UK-US governments, among many other routes.

    I wonder what aircraft originally served that route.

    You can view the original established routes in sub-section III here.
    http://www.aviation.go.th/airtrans/airlaw/us-uk.html

  19. Red says:

    Still doesn’t beat the Santa Maria -Lisbon flt on a Lockheed Super Constellation in 1963! Ok ok only kidding (I was only 8 at time!). Well written account of your experiences, the photos and video complete the enjoyment.

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  21. Neil Purssey says:

    Thank you for your report but why oh why do most folk from The States find it so difficult to use a 24hr clock format. 158p!!!! that’s £1.58 Did you mean 15:08? No I guess you mean 13:58 it’s simple it’s used by the Worlds’ airlines why can’t you?

    • Geez, the US doesn’t use the metric system, why would be be using a 24 hour clock format? We have the great company of Burma and Liberia resisting the invasion of this French measurement system. (Recall that the US Congress also invented the term Freedom Fries, in protest of France in 2003.)

      FWIW, time and calendars are the bane of standardization and calculation. Time Zones aren’t even implemented in a uniform capacity, and when they are implement they’re implemented differently from region to region.

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