Review: British Airways' Euro Traveller Economy: Lyon to London Heathrow

Overall Rating

By John Walton, September 7 2011
British Airways' Euro Traveller Economy: Lyon to London Heathrow

Lyon - London (Heathrow)

Aircraft Type

Airbus A319


British Airways



Cabin Class

Euro Traveller (economy)



The Good
  • superb tea
  • oneworld (including Qantas) miles)
The Bad
  • serious errors by check-in staff
  • priority bag tags didn't work
  • extra business class leg room trick


With several options to get from Lyon (France's second city and an economic powerhouse) to London, I picked the direct British Airways flight to Heathrow over the direct easyJet flight to Gatwick or connecting via Air France or other European airlines.

This is the same type of flight that Qantas Premium Economy or Economy passengers connecting through London on BA will experience. 

In Economy, the cost for the 1h10 minute flight was €9 (A$12) between BA and easyJet, and I had luggage, so BA actually came out cheaper. Plus, I'd earn a few frequent flyer miles via the oneworld alliance.

While I'm normally a fan of business class, the "Eurobusiness" style of convertible seating (where three economy seats with a few inches extra legroom are sold as two business class seats) doesn't really draw me in.

Eurobusiness: the same seats as Economy if you pick carefully.
Eurobusiness: the same seats as Economy if you pick carefully.

With oneworld Sapphire frequent flyer membership (and a card from the Priority Pass lounge network) giving me access to business class lounges, and armed with our article on how to score those extra-legroom Eurobusiness seats when flying Economy, I decided that I would save the $956 and travel Economy.

Yes, you read that right. €711, or A$956 (on a one way ticket for a 1h10 flight, bought a week in advance) for Club Europe, which is BA's European business class -- which buys you (a) nobody sitting next to you, (b) a few extra status credits, (c) a chicken salad, (d) the addition of mediocre Heidsieck Monopole champagne to the drinks menu, (e) departure lounge access and (f) priority baggage handling.

Worth a grand? You decide.


Looking for the self check-in kiosks? They're behind your left shoulder.

Since British Airways only lets you check in prior to the T-24 (24 hours before departure) time if you're a oneworld Sapphire (Qantas Gold equivalent) or higher, I made sure that my frequent flyer number was in BA's system and chose my seat when I booked. Otherwise, you can pay a fee of, if memory serves, around €11 to choose a seat.

Since I wrote our guide to picking the best seats in Eurobusiness I chose 4F, which was the first row of Economy on this British Airways A319.

(As that guide says, Club Europe can stretch as far back as row 9, so rows 1-9 all have 34 inches of leg room, compared with the 31 inches at the back of the bus.)

With my seat pre-assigned, I checked in online 24 hours beforehand. Since I didn't have a printer, and I was travelling with hold luggage, I planned to head to a desk at the airport anyway, so I didn't worry about printing my boarding pass.

If you're a fan of self check-in kiosks, be advised that the BA ones in Lyon are around the corner from the BA check-in desks (to the left as you walk through the doors into the terminal). Very few passengers seemed to be aware of these, and the queue for check-in was quite long.

After waiting for about five minutes in the business class queue (owing to my oneworld frequent flyer status) I was checked in, although it's a good job I spoke French -- the agent's English was a little ropey. She did issue me priority luggage tags (which isn't strictly a oneworld frequent flyer benefit, although I've been granted it before).

(Irritatingly, my priority-tagged luggage didn't come out before other luggage at Heathrow -- and I wasn't alone in this. What's the use of organising priority luggage if it doesn't work?)


Incredibly frustratingly, the agent didn't tell me that the lounge BA uses is before security and passport control, not afterwards. Even worse, France is one of the countries where you can't re-enter from departures after you have officially left the country through passport control, even if you offer to be re-screened again.

Frankly, that was an inexcusable error, especially since I was obviously a partner airline frequent flyer and therefore likely to be unfamiliar with the airport.

I ended up sitting at the dreary departures gate with no wifi for an hour, and there was absolutely nobody from British Airways' contract ground staff to complain to. If I had indeed paid the $956 for a one-way business class ticket where lounge access is a major part of the offer, I would have been livid.

Instead, I got a superb pain au chocolat and a bad café au lait from the Caffe Ritazza kiosk and tweeted in irritation. (To their credit, BA's Twitter people did apologise, but only two hours later after I'd arrived in London.)


The A319 is a relatively small plane, which means people board and disembark quickly, so you might be away early.

At 1h10 minutes, this was a short flight. The plane was about 90 percent full, and everyone was on board 20 minutes early. Fortunately, air traffic control let us depart early, so we were well ahead of schedule even with a slight delay on arrival at Heathrow.

Apart from the check-in agent who didn't tell me about the lounge location, the other part of the flight that really fell down was baggage reclaim at BA's headquarters in Terminal 5.

It took 35 minutes for baggage to start to come through, which was unacceptably slow anyway, and the priority tagging system didn't get my bag out before people without priority tags.


With 34 inches of seat pitch (the space between my seat back and the one in front, which is "my space" during the flight), I was pretty comfortable on this short flight -- which is why I picked my seat carefully.

The recline felt like about two inches more than normal economy.

On the downside, the leather was ripped and torn, with several visible rips on the seatback pocket in several places inside and out. I checked, and this plane is eleven years old -- and the seats look it.

The seatback pocket contained BA's High Life in-flight magazine, its business class-specific Business Life, a glossy inflight shopping mag and a safety card.


Proper tea: excellent.

In Economy on a flight of this length (just over an hour), you get a single trolley service of alcoholic or soft drinks, and coffee or tea. You also get the choice of a small packet of potato crisps or a biscuit. Average for European economy.

Due praise must go to the tea, though. My family originates in Yorkshire, where tea isn't brewed properly if you can see the bottom of the cup, and this was superbly strong tea. Trust British Airways' British staff to get that right -- but one point down for only having long-life UHT milk rather than the fresh stuff.

Entertainment & Service

The ground service needs serious work at both ends. There's no reason I should be standing around for 35 minutes for my bag at BA's main hub.

Overhead 8-inch LCD screens showed the safety briefing and the moving map, but that's it. You also get the aforementioned magazines (though I doubt economy passengers behind row 9 get Business Life), but other than that, bring something to read, listen to or play with.

The service on this flight was remarkably mixed. The purser (in charge of the cabin service, and who mainly stayed in Club Europe) was noticeably disinterested and couldn't-care-less. Her attitude was so unusually grumpy for BA crew, who I usually find chirpy and cheerful. She didn't crack a smile until she was serving drinks to the Club passengers in the three rows ahead of me.

It reminded me of flying BA during the BASSA union strikes last year -- or of comedian Pam Ann's "Mona" character, if that means anything to you. (If it doesn't, try Googling it somewhere that doesn't mind swearing.)

The two other crew, who looked after Economy, were superb, however -- solicitous, friendly and happy to hand out an extra can of diet coke.


As an Economy experience, this was an great flight with unacceptable ground service on both ends. When you spend half as much time waiting for your priority-tagged luggage as you spend in the air, that's a bad sign. It's a shame, because BA's long-haul Club World product wasn't half bad.

Being in the know about how Eurobusiness works really helped, especially on a mostly full flight like this one.

I'm glad I didn't fork out nearly a grand for business class, though.

You'll note that the only difference between business and economy is a blocked middle seat and a curtain between the two.
You'll note that the only difference between business and economy is a blocked middle seat and a curtain between the two.

You'll note how business class and the economy row behind it are separated by only a curtain.

On a short flight like this, which cost me €99 (A$133), it simply isn't worth it -- especially with the status to get into the lounge anyway. Buy a sandwich in the airport to replace the business class meal and you're ahead of the game.

Consider that the next time you're figuring out your itinerary to Europe via Heathrow.

07 Sep 2011

Total posts 1

John, thanks for the review. Just an FYI, if you're a Qantas Gold (oneworld Sapphire) you aren't entitled automatically to priority baggage on BA or any other carrier - it's not a oneworld benefit. (but since you get PriorityAAccess, you'll get it on AA).

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Huh, that's interesting -- thank you for the update. I've frequently asked for (and received) priority baggage as a oneworld Sapphire when flying BA and Iberia...and it's pretty telling that the contract agent in Lyon either didn't know or didn't bother to say "non".


16 Nov 2011

Total posts 595

BA stopped priority baggage for ALL passengers on European flights at about the same time as they moved to T5. What you will find is on flights leaving Heathrow they will never tag your bag, but on flights to Heathrow it is a bit hit and miss, but it doesn't matter anyway as on arrivial tagged bags are not treated any different.

I gather the only reason they even give tags to agents in places like Lyon is to put onto bags of passengers connecting to long haul flights where priority baggage is still done and for people who insist on them being tagged.

As for priority baggage in general it is not a blanket no for members of other airlines, what one world says is "Customers luggage may be tagged for priority delivery by some oneworld member airlines, however this service will only be available when travelling on an aircraft of the oneworld member airlines offering the benefit"

So to me it says if the airline offers priority baggage then other OneWorld customers will be afforded the same priority, if however prioity bagage isn't offered (such as BA on intra Europe flights) then clearly it won't be offered.

27 Jan 2012

Total posts 117

very different to what you would have seen John! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 129

Club Europe is a VERY VERY average product , I have used it several times now, however , the price is a lot cheaper if you plan your flights earlier ,(around half the price) This fare doesnt hang around for long though , but if you are connecting to another Europe destination after a 23 hour flight from AUD, then the use of the lounge does come in handy .

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Oct 2012

Total posts 129

BUT 4star for the  seat??  .. 1 star at best . sorry BA.

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on British Airways' Euro Traveller Economy: Lyon to London Heathrow