Report: Back to back in Brussels

Introduction: A two week tour of India
Report: Back to back in Brussels
Review: Club World in a British Airways 777 from London to Mumbai
Review: Hilton Mumbai
Review: Conrad Pune
Review: Hilton Shillim Estate Resort and Spa

In order to save money over the cost of a London departure for the trip to India, I opted to start this one in Brussels, saving over £400 on my ticket. This meant, of course, that I had to get myself to Brussels to start the trip! As with most of my positioning flights, I opted for a back to back trip, meaning that I would be taking the same aircraft from Brussels to London as I took from London to Brussels, thus mitigating the risk that any delays to my positioning flight could prevent me from catching my return. Missing my flight from Brussels to London could prove very expensive as I would then potentially have to reprice the whole trip at current rates.

For this one I decided to take the Heathrow Express to the airport, rather than the Piccadilly Line, so I ordered an Uber to take me from home to Paddington Station and, in typical style, arrived at the station just as a train was leaving. That wasn’t all bad, though, as it meant I had time to grab coffee before boarding the next train, which was due to depart 15 minutes later.

Boarding the Heathrow Express

The Heathrow Express is not the most convenient option for me as I need to either get the tube to Paddington, which can be a pain as it involves a couple of changes, or, as I did in this case, take an Uber, but that can take anything up to 40 minutes, depending on traffic, so when I arrive at the station and just miss a train, adding up to 15 minutes to the journey, any time saving over the tube is pretty much lost. That aside, once on the train it’s an easy ride to the airport and, with the benefit of my Gold Guest List status with BA, I can travel in the Business / First cabin for the price of an economy ticket, so I suppose it would be rude not to take advantage. Soon I was on board and making my way quickly through West London and on to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 for my flight to Brussels.

Business First on the Heathrow Express
Business First on the Heathrow Express

20 minutes later I arrived at the airport and headed up to the terminal…

Arriving at Terminal 5
Terminal 5 Departures

Terminal 5 was fairly quiet when I arrived and still set up for Christmas. I really like the trees they have up. It’s a shame they’ll be gone when I get back!

Christmas tree in Terminal 5

I headed straight for The First Wing, BA’s dedicated check-in area and security lane for first class passengers and Executive Club Gold Card holders. Opened last year, this really has streamlined the departure process at Heathrow.

Entrance to The First Wing
The first class check-in area

As I live in London, one of the great advantages of a back to back trip into Heathrow the day before a long haul flight is being able to stay at home so I can travel without any baggage, so, with nothing to check and very little to be searched, I went straight through security with no delays and headed down the corridor towards Galleries First, British Airways’ lounge for Executive Club Gold Card holders.

The First Wing

As always, I was greeted by the horse as I entered the lounge…

Galleries First

Now, Galleries First is a lovely lounge, and you can read our full review of it here, but I was only passing through as I was heading straight to the Concorde Room, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is British Airways’ dedicated lounge for first class passengers and those of us with Concorde Room access cards. You can find our review of the Concorde Room here.

The first class check-in area

The Concorde Room is just a short walk away, across the corridor from Galleries First, so very easy to get to.

Heading from Galleries First to the Concorde Room
The entrance to the Concorde Room

I was scanned in by the agent on the desk and, after a few frustrated key taps when the system didn’t at first recognise my status, allowed to enter.

Entering the Concorde Room

With only an hour to spare before my flight was due to board, I quickly ordered some coffee and a late breakfast, both of which arrived within 5 minutes.

Breakfast in the Concorde Room

Today’s breakfast wasn’t great. The sausages were overcooked and the rostis were cold, but I was hungry and it was food, so I tucked in!

As it was fairly quiet, with nobody at the bar and only a few seats in use, I took full advantage and ordered myself a glass of Laurent Perrier Grande Siecle, champagne, which helped to calm the breakfast demons.

The Concorde Room bar
Champagne time!

I also had a quick look at the current wine options…

The Concorde Room wine selection

And noticed this little herb box sitting at the end of the bar, which, f nothing else, made for a good picture!

The cute herb basket on the bar

Before leaving, I took a quick wander out to the terrace to satisfy my inner aviation geek and check out the planes. The view really is wonderful out there!

The view from the terrace

Soon it was time to board so I headed down to my gate, A18.

Boarding time…

On the way down I stopped off at World Duty Free to pick up a bottle of gin. Being the sensible, well travelled person that I am, and knowing that I was about to do a back to back connection, which meant going through security in Brussels, I asked for it to be put in a clear, duty free bag. It was, however, handed to me in a new style of duty free bag, which wasn’t see through. I questioned that as I was sure the rules were quite specific, but was assured that the bag was correct so I took my shopping and off I went to the gate, like the trusting little soul that I am!

When I got there, it was deserted. I were the last to board, which seems to be a common occurrence these days!

The empty boarding area
The A320 for the back to back trip to Brussels
Not even a queue on boarding!

As I mentioned in the Introduction, I changed my flight for this short trip from Club Europe to an exit row in economy when award seats became available, saving 4,500 Avios and £7.50. I just can’t justify the extra Avios for 45 minutes in the air, particularly when I had just eaten in the Concorde Room before the flight!

I even had the middle seat free, which meant I essentially had the Club Europe experience, at least as far as seating is concerned, but with more legroom.

The middle seat table
Plenty of legroom!

I was seated in row 11 for this flight, which, with 6 rows of Club seating, was only the 5th row back in economy.

Not even a queue on boarding!

We had quite a long taxi out, which meant some great views of the airport as we headed round to the runway. I do love seeing rows of aircraft parked up together. It makes for a great photo!

Great views as we taxied past Terminal 5
Great views as we taxied past Terminal 5

We soon took off and quickly shot through the clouds where the world was an altogether nicer place. There is something so special about that moment when you break through the mist and see a carpet of white in front of you, don’t you think?

Surfing the clouds…

With it being such a short flight, and having already eaten, I skipped buying anything from the Buy on Board menu and just relaxed with my iPad. Before long, the seat belt signs were back on and we were heading in to land in what appeared to be a rather wet and miserable Brussels.

Landing in Brussels

The landing was smooth and we quickly taxied in to what appeared to be a very quiet Brussels airport.

Arriving at the gate in Brussels

As the flight was fairly lightly loaded, deplaning didn’t take long, but this is where things started to go wrong. First of all, I left my headphones on the plane. Now, this is especially frustrating as I took a picture of the seat just before I left and can clearly see them sitting on the middle seat. Doh!

My headphones, left on the seat 🙁

Now, they say these things happen in threes and in this case they certainly did! Number 2 happened shortly after leaving the plane. Following the crowd, I reached the top of the gangway and followed the sign for flight connections.

Leaving the plane
Heading to Flight Connections
Heading to Flight Connections
Arriving at Flight Connections

It was at this point that I realised I had forgotten to check in online and download my boarding pass. Second doh! Normally this would be a huge problem, particularly with a short turnaround, but luckily (very luckily!!), just as I started running I remembered that it’s possible to go through Flight Connections in Brussels just by showing proof of a ticket and then collecting a boarding pass at the gate. Very pragmatic of them! I arrived at Flight Connections, showed the booking on my BA app and I was allowed through security. Phew!

Unfortunately they are not so pragmatic when it comes to liquids, which brings me nicely on to number 3! Remember that liquid bag I questioned in Heathrow and was told would be fine? Well, it wasn’t. They refused to let me take it through and told me I would have to leave the gin behind.

Apparently it has to come in a bag like this, which is what I thought. I really should have pushed the chap in Heathrow harder.

Heathrow’s bogus duty free bag!
The type of bag I should have been given

With my flight due to board and still no boarding pass in hand, I didn’t really have time to argue so I had to say a tearful goodbye to my gin and head off to the gate, which is a 5 minute walk from security.

Heading to the gate
Heading to the gate
Gate B28 for the flight to London

I arrived at the gate as boarding had started so had to wait a few minutes for somebody to assist me, but I was given my boarding pass without any trouble and allowed to board the flight. Well, actually, allowed to stand in a long queue of people waiting to board for 5 minutes before we started moving again…

Waiting to board

Once the line started moving, boarding was fairly quick.

Boarding the flight back to London

For this sector I was in 1A so quickly boarded and took my seat, plugging one of my phones in to my laptop to charge it. Legroom is pretty decent in the bulkhead seat, particularly when compared to the rest of the Club Europe cabin, but still not quite as good as the emergency exit row.

Onboard in 1A

The crew for this sector had changed, although one of the outbound crew was still working. I had a quick chat with him about my missing headphones when I realised that I didn’t have them with me and he went to have a look to see if they were there. They weren’t! He mentioned that any electronic items found by the cleaners are removed and handed to the local lost property handler and was kind enough to go into the iPad and get me the number of the company, so I’ll call them when I get back.

We left on time and were soon taxiing to the runway. Brussels is, of course, a lot quieter than Heathrow so there was now delay in getting airborne.

Turning on to the runway

Once up in the air hot towels were handed out and, given the short nature of the flight, the meal service began straight away. I was offered a choice between afternoon tea sandwiches or a ploughman’s platter. I went with the latter.

Club Europe band 1 meal

As BA short haul catering goes, this was actually really, really good! I was very impressed with the quality and the quantity, and it’s good to see the scone back. Do & Co recently took over the short haul catering for BA and the improvement over the previous company is huge! It’s nice to be able to look forward to onboard meals again. With a car to pick up from Avis in Heathrow, I skipped alcohol on the way home and stuck to coffee and water.

Being by the window at dusk for the flight home, I got to enjoy some wonderful views once above the clouds.

A beautiful sunset above the clouds
Fantastic colours in the sky

Trays were collected quickly and efficiently once the meal service was over and again, given the short nature of the flight, the seatbelt sign was soon on in preparation for landing. We arrived into Heathrow almost 20 minutes early!

Landing into Heathrow

Deplaning from the front row was very quick and I was soon through passport control and on my way to Avis in Terminal 5 to collect a hire car to take me home for the night.

Leaving the plane at Heathrow
Arriving at passport control
Avis, terminal 5

Originally I planned to stay in the local Hilton so I was close to the airport for tomorrow’s flight, but I went onto the Avis app earlier in the day and couldn’t quite believe the price I saw for a 1 day rental – just £19! After then plugging in my Amex discount code, it dropped to £13.90. How could I resist? I actually went a little bit wild and booked a higher group car for the princely sum of £16.70 and was upgraded on collection to a Peugeot 3008, which is a fantastic deal for less than £17.

My £17 rental from Avis

With the car collected, I headed home to pack and sleep ahead of tomorrow’s flight.

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