BA2644 Flight Report : London Gatwick - Malta

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To escape the biggest snowstorm to hit London in years, head south. I watched the forecast for Malta very carefully and upon a more positive change to sun, I searched for a seat to this delightful part of the Mediterranean. easyJet and Air Malta had expensive seats left, with easyJet's flight departing at an early half past 7. But add a checked bag to the mix, and the price added up to an expensive outing. BA came to the rescue. Since an Avios redemption includes checked baggage, the overall cost, including tax, would be far cheaper while the redemption itself only costed 8500 Avios.

Unfortunately, BA's departure out of Gatwick was even earlier at 6:15. Since I was not living along Thameslink, which runs trains to the airport overnight, I had to resort to Uber to get me to the South Terminal just shy of 5am.

The drop-off area was downstairs from the terminal entrance, which had a very long walk to reach the check-in counters. Why everything was so far apart, I'm not sure, but I wasn't impressed with British public infrastructure already, so this was not a surprise anyway.

With a long line at the regular check-in counters, I tried one of the many check-in kiosks to print my boarding pass. It didn't work, so I had to get a staff to print it out. She didn't take long to do this and politely directed me to the bag drop machine. As part of cost savings, the bag drop machine was not manned and upon scanning my boarding pass, the luggage tag spat out and I had to fix it to the bag myself, then press a button to send the bag off. Unlike the traditional process, the customer no longer received the bag tag, but an electronic receipt was sent to my email. This was much more useful and environmentally-friendly than the old paper stick receipts.

As I wandered through the departure area upstairs, I noticed a lot of people were sleeping in the terminal. All this looked like a refugee camp.

Security was extensive and it took a bit of time to get through the checks. It was efficient and sufficiently staffed for the hour but with so many checks, it had to take some time.

Air-side, I peeked at the boards for my gate, but it showed the gate would be displayed at around half past 5, very close to my boarding time. Instead of standing around waiting for it to come up, I decided to grab a bite with a breakfast deal - sandwich, drink, and snack for 4 pounds. The downstairs section was crowded so I went upstairs, where there were plenty of empty benches.

By the time I finished my sandwich, the gate number had appeared. It was in a far away pier that had no other departures at that hour. A long line had snaked from the gate by the time I arrived. While it moved slowly, we still managed to push back on time.

The seats looked new and sleek with grey and black colours. However, the leg room was absolutely awful, on par with the budget carrier. I suppose a revenue ticket on these legacy carriers is about the same as flying with easyJet these days so I shouldn't have high expectations.

The flight deck gave a long welcome announcement explaining the storms affecting England would make the skies bumpy for pretty much the first half of the flight. We took off relatively smoothly and on time, a big delight compared to the train delays I experienced the day before, thanking my lucky stars the airport didn't grind to a halt this morning. Not long after our departure, the turbulence started to kick in. We consistently were within the clouds and the seat belt sign was on and off for most of the flight. Flight deck did come back with another long announcement keeping us informed on the weather conditions, and that they had flown a bit higher at 37000 feet to avoid the turbulence. Nevertheless, it was consistently "lumpy" until we reached the Mediterranean, where the skies cleared out as we descended into Malta.

These days, I like to browse the duty free catalogue not to shop but to amaze at the all sorts of irrelevant gadgets they try to sell.

Food is not free on these intra-European flights either.

The flight deck came back again to notify us of the descent and that the weather in Malta would be substantially better than London. Indeed it was. With a left window, I had a great view of Gozo and Malta, including Valletta, as we approached from the west.

There are no gate bridges at this airport, so we parked at a remote stand and 2 staircases connected to the plane. After getting off, we walked a short distance to the terminal. Immigration was relatively quick as were bag delivery. Soon, I emerged landside looking for the bus counter to buy my weekly pass.

I haven't flown with British Airways for a very long time, and never short-haul. The hard product is a bit cramped, although the crew was friendly and kept us in the know for the duration of the flight. The very early departure was a drag though, as only Thameslink was running at that hour, making transport to Gatwick a bit difficult. Seems Stansted and Luton do a much better job getting people there early in the morning.

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