London City Airport has a single 1,500m (4,900ft) long runway. Only multi-engine, fixed-wing aircraft (with special aircraft and crew certification to fly 5.5° approaches) are allowed to conduct operations at London City Airport. The largest aircraft which can be used at the airport is the British Airways A318, which has been modified with a "steep approach function".
British Airways operate an all Club World Business Class service on their sole A318 between London City and New York JFK. The outbound route from London City requires a tech stop at Shannon, where passengers are pre-cleared for US immigration and customs, before arriving at New York JFK.
I have long been wanting to fly on an A318 Trans-Atlantic, I think this flight holds the title of the smallest Trans-Atlantic commercial flight in the world. I redeemed Qatar Airways Qmiles for this flight to New York. Quite surprisingly this flight was the only flight open for redemption, out of the many BA flights between London and New York. It cost me 70,000 Qmiles plus a whopping £446 tax and surcharges!
At London City
On the day of departure, I arrived just 1 hour before my scheduled departure time. London City terminal was extremely crowded, with queues going all the way back outside the terminal. Only passengers who have a ticket within an hour of departure are allowed inside for check-in.
The BA check-in agent explained to me all the formalities that would take place in Shannon and assured me that I would enjoy the ride. There is no lounge at London City Airport; passengers travelling on BA1 can however use their boarding pass to redeem a breakfast in the cafe after security.
The British Airways A318 has 8 rows, in a 2-2 configuration, with a total capacity of 32 seats. I chose seat 8A during online check-in, as I wanted to sit at the very back of the plane; although it doesn't really matter, as all the seats are Club World Business Class!
We had just 20 passengers joining this flight. Boarding was completed in less than 10 minutes and we were ready to depart.
There were a total of 3 cabin crews looking after 20 passengers. It took only 18 seconds during takeoff to climb out of London City's short and narrow runway. Flight time to Shannon was 50 minutes. A quick snack was offered, along with a drink of my choosing.
I followed the blue line after landing at Shannon to go to US pre-clearance. I was through within a couple of minutes, with my passport stamped it was then back to the boarding gate.
The whole transit experience at Shannon was fantastic, it only took 20 minutes for all of the passengers to arrive back at boarding. There was a change of cockpit crew at Shannon, a new set of 2 pilots took over the duty to fly us to JFK; the same cabin crew remained on-board.
After take off, the cabin crew came around to distribute The White Company amenity kit. Each seat already had a plush pillow and The White Company bedding inside a cover. There was no built in IFE so iPad's were distributed, along with noise cancelling headset's.
I had the whole last row to myself; as no one else was around, I felt extremely relaxed and in great privacy.
The catering on this flight was loaded by Do & Co. I had the potato and Stilton soup as a starter, along with a nice bread roll. I like the new dining presentation, especially the silver bread tray and drinks glass.
For the main, I had the miso glazed Cod; it tasted quite dry and also looked quite average.
To save the day was the dessert, a strawberry trifle, which was quite wonderful.
After lunch, it was time for a nap. I must admit The White Company bedding was very soft, warm and comfortable. The seat goes fully flat (at a slight angle) but it wasn't too sloppy. The bed perfectly accommodated my height, which is 6' 0" (185cm) without issue. I slept for 4 hours before being woken up for the arrival refreshments.
There was a choice of afternoon tea and I was shown both choices. I chose to have the sandwiches with a nice cup of tea.
The crew told me that July is generally a slow month for the BA1, the service will be temporarily discontinued for the summer month of August and will restart in September. They also shared with me that frequent business travellers prefer to save time when they travel (after business hours) so usually the outbound is less crowded than the return from JFK to London City.
We flew past Long Island before our descent into JFK. We landed on runway 22L 15 minutes ahead of schedule. We taxied past several BA B747-400s; I could only imagine how long the immigration and customs queues were.
The friendly pilot allowed a flight deck visit after landing. The Shannon to JFK sector took 6 hours 34 minutes and we cruised at 39,000 ft.
Perhaps saving the best till last, it took me just 5 minutes from walking outside the plane to the street at JFK.