Largely the Truth

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So You Want to Go to England: Getting There - British Airways

02 May 2012  ·  by Brennan Storr  ·  Be the first to comment!

Tagged under travel guides England British Airways Christina Hendricks

Photo by Florian, licensed through Creative Commons

The first time I flew with to London via British Airways it was out of spite; on a previous trip Air Canada had switched my booking from a flight that had seat-back televisions to a flight that did not. That may sound childish to you but since I enjoy flying about as much as I do being punched in the groin, taking away my only distraction from the fact I’m sitting in a chair in the sky was tantamount to a declaration of war.

Switching to British Airways was just about the best travel-related decision I've made - the planes have seat back televisions, the on-board staff doesn't fly about the cabin with murder in their eyes and if you know where to look there are seats on the plane that offer more leg and elbow room at no additional cost (more on that later).

What’s more, flying to England with British Airways gets you a look at Heathrow Airport’s newest addition, the very swish, BA-only Terminal 5. T5’s opening in 2008 was a failure of epic proportions, complete with lost luggage and canceled flights, but now it’s a sexy, well-oiled example of fine British engineering. Like Lucy Pinder.

I'm sorry, you were saying?


Fares listed below are in Canadian dollars and represent the cheapest fares available for low & high season as of this writing. These prices should be considered a baseline only as there are endless variations possible, including the day of travel, any holidays that happen to be taking place during your travel period, etc.

For those of you traveling from the New York City area, note that BA flies out of both JFK & Newark with little to no price variation between the two.

These prices exclude optional fees for upgrade to World Traveller Plus, additional baggage or exit row seating, covered below.

Remember that you will fly the class you have paid for - upgrades are a lie, like eternal happiness and the bulge in David Hasselhoff's shorts.

From Length Low/High Season
Chicago (ORD) 7h30m-9h $1010/1350
Los Angeles (LAX) 11h-11h30m $985/1400
New York (JFK/LGA) 6h40m-7h20m $900/1220
Toronto (YYZ) 7-8h $870/1330
Vancouver (YVR) 9-10h $1030/1500


The cost of upgrading to World Traveller Plus varies by point of departure but you can expect to pay around $1,000 for the return trip. That gets you a more comfortable seat in a separate section of the aircraft, an in-seat power outlet (as opposed to the hoi polloi in back who have to share) and a choice of meals from the Club World (business class) menu.  Traveling first class on British Airways from New York to London Heathrow costs $14, 800 dollars for the return trip and cannot possibly be worth it unless Christine Hendricks is on board giving backrubs.


A boy can dream


The baggage allowance for British Airways’ economy class is your standard, “One piece of luggage at a maximum of 51lbs”, affair, so you’ll have plenty of room for the tin cup and inventory of #2 pencils you’ll need to start your busking career.  For the record, don’t actually try to pull that – I know someone who did and barely made it off the plane at Heathrow before the U.K. Border Agency shipped her ass back home.


"You were planning to stay how long?"


The fee for additional baggage in economy class differs depending on whether it’s paid in advance, coming in at $51 if you pay online prior to departure and $60 if you pay at the airport.

Passengers in World Traveler Plus are permitted two bags at a maximum of 51lbs each with a charge of $119/140 (in advance/at airport) for each additional bag.

The bastards in Club World and First Class are permitted three pieces of checked luggage at a maximum of 70lbs apiece, for which British Airways says it “will waive the heavy bag charge”. This is helpful to old money who like to vacation in the sorts of places where waiters can make change for bars of gold with swastikas imprinted on them.

All passenger classes are permitted one carry-on bag in addition to a laptop bag, briefcase or handbag.


To remind economy passengers of their place in the social order they are marched past not one but two seating sections more luxurious than their own. The walk serves a purpose even for those who have upgraded to World Traveller Plus – passing through the cushy Club World cabin says to them, in truly British fashion, “Yes, you have money, but not enough to Matter.”

As for the First Class cabin, it has its own entrance at the front of the plane so the laity may not cast their common gaze upon the esteemed lizardmen of the Illuminati.


Ok, first class probably doesn't look like this.

The economy seats on British Airways flights have always been good to me – they’re not La-Z-Boys but neither are they the hard plastic torture devices used aboard Air Transat. Exit row seating is priced at $75 per person each way and is a great investment if you need more legroom or don’t feel like spending 9 hours staring at the back of someone's head.

Here’s a tip for those of you that want more elbow room - seats on BA flights are usually ordered in three rows of three but at the back of the plan on either side there are usually 2-3 rows of two seats. There’s no charge for selecting these seats and they have a little bit of extra leg room, making them a kind of budget exit-row. These seats fill up quickly so book early when possible.



Hello, breakfast. Photo by Rowena of
Rubber Slippers in Italy, licensed
through Creative Commons


My advice for eating on BA flights is exactly the opposite of what I said about eating on Air Canada flights – the standard meals are surprisingly edible and the kosher and halal options are to be avoided at all costs unless you’re worried about upsetting your imaginary friend in the sky. That’s not to say the standard meals are good, exactly, just that they’re better than what you get aboard Air Canada. As for the other options, I’ve only tried the kosher meal but it was bad enough that you should steer clear unless you are certain Yahweh exists and is going to pound his fist up your backside should you step wrong.

While you’re fighting off heartburn, in first class Jay-Z and the manager of his hedge fund choose from a number of meal options served, according to the BA site “...formally on an exquisitely dressed table with crisp white linen and fine bone china...” They also have the option of afternoon tea, complete with cakes and tiny sandwiches. Your meals will taste considerably better if you try not to think about this.

Tea, coffee, juice and bar service are gratis throughout the flight for all classes.

Final thought:

The British like to gripe about BA but before you let that convince you to fly another airline, remember that complaining is an integral part of U.K. culture and not to be taken too seriously. That’s not a dig at the English – I’d grouse too if in the span of 100 years I went from ruling half the civilized world to producing the Family Beckham and The Only Way is Essex.

This is the way the world ends


As far as intercontinental travel goes, British Airways has never steered me wrong – my flights have always been on time, have never crashed into mountains/buildings/oceans and most importantly, have always had seatback televisions. If you’re going to sit in a chair in the sky, trust in the British - you’ll pay a few dollars more but it’s worth every penny.

Check back next Wednesday for the word on freighter cruises.

Part 1: Getting Started

Part 2: Before You Go

Part 3: Getting There - Air Canada

Part 4: Getting There - Air Transat

Part 5: Getting There - British Airways

Part 6: Getting There - Freighter Cruises

Part 7: Surviving Heathrow Airport

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