After an amazing honeymoon, which included a beautiful 55-hour train ride through the Rockies, a stunning 2-day drive down the pacific coast and finally a short train trip to our final destination, we were ready for our flight home. San Diego is a great city for plane spotters. The airport is right in the heart of the city, sitting on reclaimed land right in the bay. You frequently get approaching aircraft flying low over the city. In addition, there’s plenty of naval activity due to San Diego bay playing host to half a dozen military bases.
When it was eventually time to head home, we headed to the airport that we’d been passing on trams for the past three days. We arrived in good time, and checked in at the dedicated priority desk for British Airways. We were then informed that the lounge at San Diego airport is a third-party partner lounge, i.e. not run by British Airways or a One World airline. As such they may not honour the rule of allowing me to take a guest in. They suggested we tried anyway so we did.
We headed to security, which did offer a fast-track option, although it was so quiet it made no difference. Once through we looked for the location of the lounge. On the way, we noticed how nice the airport was, with sculptures and a very interesting light installation that gave the impression of being underwater with silhouettes of people swimming overhead.
The lounge at San Diego for One World customers is the Aspire lounge. Unfortunately, it was located in the exact opposite direction to our gate. Luckily, we clocked this early on and made sure we left plenty of time to get back to our gate afterwards. There was no issue with me bringing a guest in and we headed inside. The lounge was pretty small, I know the airport doesn’t have many major international flights, but with a mixture of American Airlines flights, Japan Airlines, and British Airways it meant the lounge was quite full.
There was a light selection of food, all cold. There was tea, coffee and a very small self-service bar. Since our flight was an overnight flight and we’d been out all day in the hot sun, I wanted to shower and change before the flight. After a quick search around the toilet area, I found a combined toilet shower wet room that was empty. I asked the staff and they said that it was bookable, and nobody had booked it. So, I booked myself in, they just wanted to clean it quickly before I went in. They provided towels and basic toiletries, and there was plenty of space inside. Afterwards, I grabbed a snack and a drink, and we played cards while we waited for our flight.
The flight itself was on one of the new A350s. BA had cancelled the flight the day before, the one we originally booked on. They did this a good six months ago. I suspect many of the people booked on that, like us, were moved onto this flight, so it was completely full. Boarding went smoothly and we were soon sitting in our seats. Again, we’re in Premium Economy and in my favourite location, left-hand side 2nd row back. Given this was the new A350 it also had a slightly newer design of Premium Economy seat. The screen in front was definitely newer and more responsive. The seat itself came with a leg rest that comes up from underneath your seat. The outbound flight on the A380 didn’t have this. The only issue was that my partner’s screen did not work, it took 3 different types of reset to get it working, but we got there in the end.
The service on the flight was lacklustre – just like the outbound flight. No sparkling wine before take off, no hot towel, dinner eventually arrived, but again the trolley was not so well organised. After dinner, we managed to get some sleep.
We were woken for breakfast 2 hours before landing. This was at least a hot breakfast, offering full English. When I asked for orange juice it seemed like it hadn’t occurred to them that people would like orange juice with breakfast.
All in all a fairly unremarkable flight. After landing we were walking to passport control and my partner commented: “It’s very hit and miss with BA these days isn’t it, the service seems very inconsistent”. This coming from someone who really doesn’t share my passion for flying and generally doesn’t notice these things, I think is very telling.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was definitely something missing from the flight experience with BA in both directions. They have certainly lost their attention to detail and the sense of customer service being their top priority. Maybe flying might not return to what it was in pre-pandemic times, but I am certain that other airlines are offering a much better product for your money. I hope that BA will take notice and keep working on improving. Yes, the new seats in most of their planes are nice, but it takes more than a good seat to make a great flight.
As I say, BA’s service seems to have taken a hit. However, the new A350 aircraft is very nice. Also, the new Club Suite product for Business does mean BA is catching up when it comes to onboard products.
Premium Economy is a smart choice if the price is right. Also, if you’re looking to upgrade to Business it’s easy to hop from Premium to Business by doing an upgrade. Despite the service on this flight, I will likely continue to view Premium Economy as a good product.