Heathrow Terminal 5
It’s a mid afternoon, late in December, and Heathrow T5 is quiet. I’m there with my close friend Moff to take a flight to Bucharest to start the “Phoenix Run”. Over the next four days, subject to no mis-connects, we’ll be taking 9 flights and travelling over 16500 miles. This first flight to Bucharest is a “positioning flight”, and at over 1300 miles it’s one of the longer short-haul flights that BA operate. But in this instance it’s just a prelude to the real action which starts tomorrow.
We’re travelling hand baggage only, and quickly through the First Wing, an express checkin and security channel for BA Gold Card holders which takes you directly to the First Class lounge. I’m always surprised that even when the lounge itself is busy, the terrace is usually relatively quiet. With its airy feel and a good view of the tarmac and aircraft movements, it’s one of my favourite spots in T5.
We’re chatting leisurely about the trip, whilst keeping a casual eye on the information boards for the gate number to be displayed. There’s nothing until about 45 minutes before departure when suddenly the status is updated to “Boarding”, with a departure gate of B35, over in the satellite Terminal 5B. Strictly BA ask you to be at the gate at least 20 minutes before departure time, but 5B is not far. In preference to the transit train, we take the walkway to stretch our legs before the flight. Heathrow is dotted with Christmas trees at this time of year, with quite a pretty one just next to our gate.
Heathrow to Bucharest (80 TP)
Heathrow to Bucharest is worth 80 tier points when flown in Club Europe, BA’s short-haul business class product. There are 4 rows of Club on this flight, and having gold cards, we could select row 1 when booking for some extra leg room.
The seats themselves are identical to economy, with just the middle seat blocked out with a table in its place. But it gives a little extra space to spread out, and Club Europe includes a relatively decent meal and a free bar, unlike Economy which is now strictly buy on board for both food and drinks.
Our cabin crew are great, and after a smooth take-off on Runway 27R, they keep the red wine flowing throughout the flight. It’s not long until we’ve touched down at Henri Coanda airport in Bucharest, and are quickly through passport control and landside.
Vienna House Hotel, Bucharest Airport
Bucharest Old Town, about 20 minutes by car assuming no traffic, has some nice bars and restaurants concentrated in quite a small area. But being in a timezone 2 hours later than London and with a 3 hour flight, it’s now close to midnight, so there’s no time to experience them on this trip. Instead of staying centrally I’ve booked a hotel very close to the airport called the Vienna House. In theory it’s a 15 minute walk, but the directions are unclear and there’s a dual carriageway between the airport and the hotel, so given the time of day decide it’s best to try to take a cab. It takes an offer of 100 Romanian Leu (approximately £20) before a cab driver is even interested in the short trip, presumably because he’s missing out on something longer and more lucrative. For reference, the 2018 minimum wage after taxes in Romania is approximately £10 per day.
The Vienna House proves to be extremely comfortable, and at 56 Euros for a room inclusive of breakfast, somewhat better value than the cab ride to it. To round off the evening, the bartender insists on a free nightcap of some local Romanian spirit. I sleep well as a result!