Saturday 20 September 2008

British Airways, Economy Class, London to Brussels

You start your journey at Heathrow's notorious Terminal 5, a cavernous, space-age building walled by glass and held up with gleaming white girders. Kitted out with plenty of electronic check-in kiosks, a high-tech security process and upmarket shops, Terminal 5 is actually quite a pleasant and efficient place. It is also very big and you may have to take a shuttle to get to your gate. On route, you can stop at a branch of Apostrophe to get a grilled, tepid cheese and ham croissant for £1.95 or a decent filter coffee served in a small cafeteria for the same money.

Hurried and businesslike
On board, the leather blue seats have enough legroom and elbow-room for this 45 minute flight and can get free coffee and orange juice in the morning or beer and wine in the evening, plus a lackluster sandwich in either direction. The cabin crew are hurried and businesslike. When you arrive in Brussels, you may have to take a bus to the terminal building and queue for a taxi, before taking the 20-minute ride into the centre of the city.

A lot of hassle
On the return trip, it is better to do your shopping and eating before you go through security at Brussels airport. There isn't much on offer around the gates. A cafe called 'Grab and Fly' serves tasteless, over-priced, but large, slices of pizza (6.30 euros) and sweet chocolate muffins (2.20 euros). Still, the big glass windows let in plenty of daylight and there are electric sockets where you can plug in your laptop. Telenet provides a WiFi service, which appears to be free, but is agonisingly slow. Back at Heathrow, Terminal 5 has its own Tube and rail stations to take you back into London, but it is all a lot of hassle and the EuroStar is a far better way to make this journey. 5/10