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Reality Check ➔ FLIGHT BRITISH AIRWAYS


THE FLIGHT: British Airways flight BA0962 in economy class departing from London Heathrow's T5 at 10.30, arriving in Hamburg 13.05 local time. The flight was operated by an Airbus A321. THE AIRPORT: Wonderfully spacious T5 is a joy, and I had plenty of time, unusually, to enjoy my passage through it – that is until the self-service check-in machine decided I didn’t have a booking. Several more attempts using the flight reference came to nothing. A member of staff at check-in – an actual human being, no less – decided there had been a cock-up internally and suddenly the time to flight closure was the focus of attention as she tried to find me a seat. She did, and I ended up rushing through security and to the departure gate. THE SEAT: Quite honestly, any seat would have done after that kerfuffle, but this was perfectly adequate for the short flight. The economy cabin was is in 3x3 configuration with a small adjustment on pitch and high- quality leather upholstery. A moveable curtain separates the business 'cabin' from economy seating. THE SERVICE: A friendly bunch of stewards and stewardesses coped well with the tight schedule of squeezing everyone’s carry-on


luggage in the overhead lockers, the flight safety demonstrations and then the trolley run of refreshments. A mid-morning snack and drink was timely and well received on this relatively short flight. THE ARRIVAL: The flight arrived bang on schedule and the wait in the baggage hall wasn’t too long either. THE VERDICT: An uneventful short-haul flight of the type we’ve come to expect within Europe: not all that many frills and a


➔ HOTEL BLOC HOTEL, BIRMINGHAM


THE HOTEL: Bloc Hotels is billed as a boutique/budget blend which cuts costs by concentrating on the essentials for a short-stay. This Birmingham property is the first of the brand which is set for expansion across the country. The building, in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter, is more Bloc Party than soviet bloc, with muted, ambient lighting in purple and a swanky, masculine decor of neutral colours and exposed brick. THE CHECK-IN: Fuss-free and friendly, we hardly had time to appreciate the light, modern lobby. The reception staff gave us honest advice on where to go for a drink. We opted for the 'not so cool pub' two-minutes away, rather than venture into heart of the Jewellery Quarter a ten-minute walk away. THE ROOM: I've never been to Japan but this is how I imagine its budget hotels – pod-like, quirky and cutting-edge! According to Bloc's research, people don't usually unpack and prefer not to eat in budget hotels. With this in mind, the hotel has saved on space by eliminating storage facilities and built close to restaurants instead of including one. They have, however, invested in high-quality showers, televisions and beds, with the latter taking up most of the room. Luxury cotton sheets, fluffy bathrobes and a tactile suede


basic service that does the job of getting you to your destination on time and in comfort perfectly adequately. THE DETAILS: British Airways operates five flights daily between London Heathrow and Hamburg, operated by either A319 or A320 aircraft. Lead-in one-way fares start from £65 including taxes. The airline's reservations number is 0844 4930787. See www.ba.com for more information. GILLIAN UPTON


headboard gave a sense of being cocooned. The simple wet room had a very powerful shower and limited but quality amenities. Hairdryers are available from reception. THE BUSINESS: You receive instructions on how to connect to the free wifi on check-in. There's no desk but the small bedside surface and stool is sufficient for doing emails. Not the place for writing up a lengthy report though! There is no clock so mobiles must be charged. FACILITIES: The hotel's concept dictates that there aren't any, apart from the Nespresso machine in the lobby and vending machines.


THE VERDICT: Bloc Hotel Birmingham doesn't claim all-out luxury, just some elements, and it's great value compared to some of the leading budget rival brands. The style- conscious will love this clever concept which saves on expenses. Great for one or two-nights – any longer and cabin fever may set in. THE DETAILS: St. Paul's, Caroline Street, Birmingham, B3 1UG. Tel: 0121 212 1223; info@blochotels.com; www.blochotels.com. Rates: £35-85, dependent on demand. A room with a window is £5 more than without. LAURA GELDER


FIND MORE REALITY CHECKS AT WWW.THEBUSINESSTRAVELMAG.COM I 89


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