This is my first trip of the year and I’ve done a few things a little differently to my previous trips to share in this report. First of all, this was my first use of an Amex companion voucher, the second I used the underground tunnels to get to B gates Terminal 5 and lastly I tried out everything in Economy that BA is offering at the moment.
Booking with an Amex voucher
I used to have a blue British Airways Amex card and with a certain amount of spend per year on that you’d be given what is called a companion voucher. The companion voucher allows you to buy two seats for the price of one, with Avios points on pretty much any Economy flight that has Avios seats available. These vouchers are usually easy to use with a bit of planning thanks to the shear number of Economy seats available for Avios redemption. See our Reward Flight Reports for more details.
Alternatively, you can use the voucher on your own and pay half the Avios. If you combine this with choosing a “Reward Saver Flight”, you can avoid paying the taxes as well.
For this trip I booked an outbound flight on a Friday evening and a return on a Monday morning, both were Reward Saver Flights, so the total cost to me was 9000 Avios and £1, which I thought was an exceptionally good deal.
This was the first time I’ve travelled in Economy for a very long time, but I’ve not tried it since the pandemic and I thought I’d see what they had to offer. It should be noted that the blue British Airways Amex card companion vouchers only allow you to buy tickets in Economy. If you have the more expensive black card (which I do now of course) then you can get a companion voucher for any cabin. Not that it made a huge difference because I simply used my Silver Executive Club status to get my fast-track security and lounge access.
Terminal 5 tunnels
Terminal 5 is split into three separate terminal buildings A, B and C, the latter two are normally accessed by a small transit train that runs underground. There is, however, an even lower level below the trains where there is a walkway that you can use to walk between the terminal building.
I think it’s primary intention is if there is a total failure of the transit system there is still a good-sized walkway to use instead. In all my years of flying, I’d never explored these tunnels and I was very pleased with my trip to Berlin was due to go from B gates. If you’ve read some of my other blogs you’ll know that if your flight is going from B or C gates it’s always worth heading over to B Gates to use the lounge there, which is what I did.
How to find the tunnels
Instead of taking the escalator, I recommend taking the lift, in there you will see the option to go to level -4 for the walkway. Once there it’s all clearly signposted and there’s only really one way to go. There is a departures sign overhead so you can check how long you’ve got until your flight goes and round the corner, you’ll find a moving walkway to help your journey down the tunnels. If you want to see what the tunnels look like I took a video of my walk down there.
The walk from the lifts to the B gates lifts took me less than 5 minutes, the signs say longer, but I think that’s if you don’t use the moving walking ways. If you’re going to B gates then there are escalators and lifts to take you up, again I recommend the lift as you’re going to go from the very bottom to the very top or you can carry on the tunnel all the way to C gates.
The one thing that’s worth mentioning, is the tunnels do take longer than the train. Figure 10 minutes of walking to safely get you from A to C gates. It’s a nice walk however and for those early morning flights where you want some peace, it’s a nice thing to do.
British Airways getting back to normal service
The Business Class lounge at B gates has certainly returned to a full service. The sparkling wine was back to being Champagne and there was a huge choice of meal options for my evening meal. This included a delicious pie and mash option, a choice of curries, pasta, lots of salads, soup, nachos and even a choice of cake.
British Airways Lounge Champagne
Outbound Economy Flight
Thanks to my Silver status I managed to choose my seat up front and I selected an emergency exit row for the extra leg room. Be warned these seats do not recline, something you might want to consider for a slightly longer flight. Inflight service in Economy consists of a small bottle of water and a light snack, which in my case was some sour cream and chive pretzels.
I looked into the wi-fi options, for £1.99 you could send and receive messages for the entire flight or £4.99 you could have full web browsing and video streaming for one hour, £6.99 for the entire flight. I opted for the £1.99 option and managed to catch up with a few friends on WhatsApp quite successfully.
The onboard Wi-Fi gives you free access to the highlight shop, the high Life magazine, options to donate to charity or to offset your carbon footprint and lastly a full onboard paid for menu, where you can order from your seat. I gave this a try to order myself a coke and a packet of crisps, which was promptly delivered after the free drink and snack service. I then had the option to pay by card or using Avios, I would remind you at this point that the Avios exchange rate for onboard food and drink is terrible, if you really do want something to eat or drink onboard I recommend either bringing it with you from somewhere far cheaper, or paying the cash fee with a credit card onboard.
British Airways onboard menu
Berlin Brandenburg Airport
This was my first trip to the new Berlin Brandenburg airport since it opened replacing the two smaller Berlin airports that previously used to operate. I was very impressed with the airport design, arrival was very fast, and we walked into a large passport control hall where we were processed reasonably quickly. German airports tend to have individual passport control at each gate meaning if your flight has a lot of people requiring it arrival can take a long time with the one person on duty processing your entire flight.
My return journey was equally pleasant with the gates being all lined out in one long row and the lounges were located at the far ends of the row. The upper level is the international area at the mid-level is the Schengen area. Meaning the same gates can be used for either Schengen or non-Schengen flights, making the airport quite efficient. I headed for the lounge that BA uses and found it had fantastic views across the airport, not much hot food was on offer, but plenty of drinks and lots of snacks to keep you going. It also had its own private passport control so I could leave the lounge and go straight into the international area near to my gate without having to go all the way back to the start.
If you’re flying from Terminal 5 B or C gates and you fancy stretching your legs before your flight, I can highly recommend a trip down to -4 to try out the walkway down there. I believe you can do the same thing in return, next time I arrive into those gates I will try it out for you.
British Airway’s return to full service in their lounges is greatly appreciated and you’ll find yourself easily well-fed if you get time in a lounge. I enjoyed my short fight in Economy. Being able to connect to messaging services for less than £2 it’s very nice, and a bottle of water and a snack is always good.
Lastly if you’re flying to Berlin the new airport is great now it’s finally open. I will probably choose to fly there over other airports in Germany and take the train when I get there as it will make life easier.