London’s a very colourful market. You have Heathrow, the monster airport whose slots are worth gold, you’ve got Gatwick, which serves as a vent to Heathrow, you’ve got the low-cost airports in the middle of nowhere — Luton, Southend and Stansted… and then you’ve got London City Airport.

Now in case you don’t know, LCY is jammed within London, standing 15 minutes away from the Canary Wharf business center. For airlines, this can only mean one thing: very high yields.

The airport, however, doesn’t come with its difficulties. With a short runway of just over 1,500 meters and a very steep approach, it is one of the most challenging airports in Europe. For this reason, the largest aircraft operating there are the Airbus A220-100 and the Embraer E190, in both the E1 and E2 generations.

But all of this prompts one thing that the legacy airlines love: besides being incredibly central (thus passengers being able to pay more for it), they are shielded low-costs’ A320 and 737s alike.

So when the opportunity knocked to have a meeting in downtown London, I prefered to book a flight to LCY, given it would be so much closer.

British Airways offers about three daily flights from Florence (an airport that’s also operationally shielded from low-costs) to London City. I found their website surprisingly easy to use, with one of the most seamless booking flows around.

A good thing is that you could find a better solution via Gatwick as well; since IAG owns Vueling and Vueling has a base in Florence, I could have booked one flight with BA and another with Vueling via Gatwick in the same booking.

But as soon as the payment was finished, I had my ticket in hand. Their app was really great as well, and check-in was made with ease.

The only «problem», if you will, was their incredibly high prices for allocated seating; 14 euros for the privilege of choosing a seat? Might as well try my luck with a random seat upon check-in. And I lucked out; I got 14A, a window two rows behind the energency exit.

BA8472 FLR-LCY

I arrived by tram to Peretola airport some three hours before the flight (I covered it in our Vueling trip report some months ago), and again, it’s so great to see Florence Airport alive after a couple of terrible years for the industry.

While there were lots of flights leaving in the next hours, I passed the safety screening with ease, and in less than five minutes I was on the airside.

There were some windows there, from where you could see the operations go in the small apron. Vueling had two Airbus A319 side by side; they are basing two aircraft in Tuscany this Summer season.

Vueling Airbus A319 Florence/Firenze/Florencia Airport/Aeropuerto (FLR)

Here are the departures from the airport that morning. It’s painful they never quite nail the actual operators of the flights (due to the codeshare agreements) all at the same time; so if you visit Florence Airport don’t be scared if you look at the screen and see a «GOL» flight departing to Amsterdam or Paris.

Florence/Firenze/Florencia Airport/Aeropuerto (FLR)

The extra-Schengen flights are the minority here in Florence, so the separate area for these flights is composed of two of the ten gates, and two migration counters only (one for EU passports, one for the others). These gates are also used for regular flights when there are no flights leaving the Schengen borders.

Florence/Firenze/Florencia Airport/Aeropuerto (FLR)

All departures from the airport are in remote positions, so that’s a nice feature (when it’s not raining).

Vueling Florence/Firenze/Florencia Airport/Aeropuerto (FLR)

Our aircraft arrived on time. G-LCYU was delivered brand new to BA CityFlyer on September 2014, according to Planespotters.net.

British Airways Florence/Firenze/Florencia Airport/Aeropuerto (FLR)

The flight today would be relatively full, with 68 passengers spread across the 98 seats of the jet. The six rows in front were Business class (branded by BA as Club Europe); as far as I saw they don’t block those seats up front, so the capacity there stays at 22 seats — row 1 has only two instead of four.

So all in all there were 68 passengers in the 98 seats put for sale, a load factor of 69.39%. That’s quite good when you consider the premiums BA charges for their City operations.

Our gate area, where we had our boarding passes cleared, was opened at 10h12, and at 10h43 the gate doors were open, respecting the Elite membership/Business class priorities. Luckily, the plane was parked in a position where we could go by foot.

Florencia/Firenze/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

We also had great sights of this Vueling A319, EC-MKV, which was being fueled for its next hop to Amsterdam as VY6814.

EC-MKV Vueling Airbus A319 Florencia/Firenze/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

These sights will never get old, and the weather was really helping that day.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

All of BA CityFlyer’s fleet is in their «regular» livery — British Airways uses to be quite uninspired when it comes to painting their aircraft. Still, this livery is so classy and overall pretty. It was my first time flying British Airways so I was quite happy.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

This scene reminds me of boarding the Azul E-Jets many years ago in my home airport of Porto Alegre, Brazil. In fact, two of BA CityFlyer’s E190s came from Azul — G-LCYW was PP-PJJ and G-LCYX was PP-PJK, according to Planespotters.net.

I flew PJJ two times back in the day (and both were painted into BA’s colours in Porto Alegre), but unfortunately I wasn’t lucky enough to fly one of the two. Anyway, silly data that only an AvGeek would be proud to remember.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

I was one of the last passengers to board, for just as I took my seat, the doors were closed; it was 10h50, so everyone got in in about seven minutes.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

And yes, I didn’t need to spend 14 bucks for a seat as it happens, for the seat by my side was empty.

There is not much mystery to the Embraer product as it’s consistent pretty much anywhere in the world. Leather seats (with few exceptions around the globe), no middle seat and those giant windows is always a winning combination.

The Embraer 190 is already a little bit smaller than its bigger brother E195 by three rows, but BA also has a pretty roomy configuration, with 98 seats (Azul’s E190, as a comparison, have 106), so the cabin really felt comfortable.

And legroom was quite impressive, too.

The large windows are one of my favorite features of the E-Jets: they really make a difference in making the cabin look brighter.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

Pushback was a little bit delayed, I think given that the runway was in use already. Florence Airport has a chronical problem with lack of space in that departing aircraft need to taxi on the runway, back track and then take-off in a single direction, whereas arriving aircraft need to land in the opposite direction, then backtrack and taxi on the runway.

With that, even though doors were closed before schedule, we were only pushed at 11h07, seven minutes after scheduled departure.

Particularly in Europe, the E-Jets are the backbone of operations in these restricted airports. In this photo I could snap five different Embraers going to five different destinations: mine to London, TAP’s to Lisbon, Austrian’s to Vienna, KLM’s to Amsterdam and Air Dolomiti’s to Frankfurt.

After waiting for Air Dolomiti’s Embraer to take-off and an arriving business jet to clear the runway, it was our turn to depart.

At 11h17, the Captain started applying throttle into the pair of GE CF34s with the brakes on, given Florence Airport’s short runway, only releasing them once the take-off thrust was applied. The Embraer responded like a rocket, and soon we were airborne.

Firenze/Florencia/Florence Aeropuerto/Airport (FLR)

A turn to the right followed, and before we even did that the purser introduced herself and her colleague. Service wouldn’t take long to start, and of course there would be space for all the food in my tray table… they are so funnily oversized on the E-Jets.

The seats reclined to an average extent for an Economy class cabin.

And then the catering service came. Now the service at BA CityFlyer is way different than in their mainline parent. If BA serves the «Speedbird Cafe» buy-on-board menu in their intra-Europe services, here they have complimentary food.

As I said in Aegean’s trip report, it takes guts for an airline not to serve buy-on-board these days — that is, if they don’t want to serve warm meals, they must trust that their free offer is at least of a good quality.

And this was their offer: a chicken caesar salad roll (there was also a vegetarian option for the passengers who asked), a brownie and this small glass of water.

The sandwich was really tasty, and the brownie even more.

But there was more; after the food tray, the FA passed again offering the actual drinks. Because there are only two FAs and the aircraft has a two-class configuration, they had to scramble a little bit more, doing two passes through the cabin instead of one. But they were really lovely, a true highlight of my experience with BA CityFlyer.

Surprisingly so, they offered full cans (not only those half-full glasses) and even alcoholic options. I picked the red wine, which was Montenero, a Merlot: it tasted really good… not bad for a two-hour Economy class flight, if you ask me.

We were cruising smoothly at 38,000 feet; after the service ended I paid a visit to the lavatory, which is your average E-Jet toilet apart from that NHS sign about washing hands just over the sink.

Notice how bright the cabin is. The flight continued calmly, and descent was started very early, at 12h34 — 34 minutes before arrival, I assume because of the high levels of traffic in London airspace.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190

Before arrival, I still had time to ask for a coffee.

Flying in Europe is so cool. You can clearly see another airplane overtake us just over our altitude level (the photo just doesn’t make justice to it, but still).

But despite the slow-ish descent, we still did a more or less straightforward approach directly into London City’s 09 runway.

But I’m sure it’s more complicated than what it looked. Because of the steep glideslope they need to approach with the speed brakes open, which is so counterintuitive.

But the landing was really smooth (the braking was not); at 12h08, eight minutes after schedule, G-LCYU touched down in London, finishing a great flight.

London City is a really small airport, so the aircraft stop like this on the terminal, I think to avoid the need for lengthy pushbacks. So the aircraft enters the «regular» parking position, then does a very sharp turn to the right, stopping as seen below.

Deboarding, at least, was very quick, and I managed to snap a photo of the Embraer’s cool cabin.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

I waved goodbye to the purser and made my way to the tarmac, for a very short walk to the terminal.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

But before… some pictures of the aircraft, of course. Less than fifty minutes after our arrival, Yankee Uniform would proceed to Rotterdam and back; the plane would still have time for a roundtrip to Edinburgh and a last hop for an overnight in Edinburgh.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

From the stairs, I also got this photo of G-LCAA. Originally delivered to China Southern Airlines on August 2011, it was transfered to British Airways on April 2019, according to Planespotters.net. LCAA had just arrived from Frankfurt and would head to Dusseldorf some hours later.

G-LCAA British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

BA CityFlyer’s service is very standardized to BA’s levels; the only sign you see outside of the plane that this is not a flight actually operated by British Airways is this small sticker under the cockpit windows.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

Some more photos of G-LCYU from the tarmac.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

The dispatcher even rushed me towards the terminal… but as an aviation fan, I can’t help. Apron walks are always so fun.

G-LCYU British Airways (BA CityFlyer) Embraer 190 London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

I had always read that LCY’s terminal was so small, but still, it was way smaller than I imagined! This was the corridor towards the passports check.

But the lines went quite fast and in less than 10 minutes I was outside the terminal.

I waved goodbye to LCY, which I would fly from two days later, and walk to my hotel, Moxy Excel, which was a 15-minute walk away, with the planes arriving and departing very close to me. A proper end to a great day with British Airways.

London City Airport/Aeropuerto (LCY)

Final remarks

I chose LCY because of its central location in London, and didn’t expect much more than that. Still, BA did the extra mile to provide an even more pleasurable experience onboard, so I was quite surprised — positively so.

After all, a complimentary service of sandwiches and even alcoholic drinks is not something you’d see everyday, especially in the sour, tough European aviation market.

Still, having paid about 330 euros for the roundtrip, I’ll admit that I don’t feel that I had scored any dirty cheap deal, that’s for sure. And that’s because I bought the tickets a single week before the flight; even buying in advance is quite expensive like this — searching on Google Flights, the cheapest I could find was EUR283.

If you’re curious, by the way, BA’s Club Europe — the equivalent of Business class — in this route can be bought at around EUR600 the roundtrip.

But ultimately, I paid the price of convenience. LCY is much closer to where I needed to be than, say, Heathrow, or (God help us) Stansted. With that said, the product didn’t disappoint either. You definitely don’t see wine being served in intra-Europe Economy class these days…

Overall, this experience was really good and consistent, even because it didn’t change much on the return flight. I really liked flying BA CityFlyer, and I hope I can do it again very soon.

The post Trip Report with British Airways CityFlyer: flying can still be good (for a price) appeared first on Aviacionline.com.

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