The British Airways A380 is a wondrous beast, even in economy. We watch in awe as the huge bird lumbers along the runway, straining all four engines to lift its enormous bulk into the night sky.

What’s good about the BA A380

The A380 has some great features:

  • The seat-side storage compartment is brilliant.
  • Seat 83J is actually comfortable and I do manage to nap for a while.
  • Despite being full, the economy World Traveller cabin does not run out of overhead locker space.

What’s wrong with BA’s A380

Despite being an engineering marvel, there are a few problems with BA’s A380 economy World Traveller offering:

  • The armrests in seats 83J and 83K cannot be raised. This is a massive issue for Linda who cannot edge sideways – especially once the seats in front have been reclined.
  • The headphone sockets in seats 83J and 83K have both been damaged, rendering the inflight entertainment (IFE) system borderline unusable.
  • There are no adjustable air vents on the plane, so you have one temperature for the whole cabin – unlucky if you’re stressed and sweaty when you board (me).
  • The food is pretty pants – particularly the cheese, ham and egg bagel we are served for breakfast.

In the middle of the night Linda and I have to trade seats because she cannot get back into 83J – there’s simply not enough room to move (and she hurt herself getting out in the first place). Other than that, the flight is pretty good – as is usually the case when we fly British Airways.

What the hell Heathrow?

Arriving at Heathrow and we’re straight back into airport hell. Rather than fight with the masses, we hold back until everyone has disembarked and then make our way to the door expecting to find Linda’s scooter waiting for us as promised in Miami. But it’s not there.

Instead, a porter collects Linda in a wheelchair and takes her down the ramp, desperately running behind in an attempt to not lose control. At the bottom he sends me back to collect her scooter. Which is not there.

After waiting a few minutes he’s had enough and loads us into a golf buggy-style vehicle. It’s very narrow and cramped as the porter steers us through various lifts and tunnels below the Heathrow Airport taxiways. We get to use a dedicated passport control lane which is nice – and much, much faster than the dreaded ePassport gates that never work properly.

Reaching the porters’ station, Linda is decanted into another wheelchair and a female helper wheels her to the luggage collection belts. We wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

A full hour after we landed, suitcases finally begin to circulate along the conveyor belt. It takes an age before a luggage handler appears with Linda’s scooter. And another age for our bags to emerge between the plastic flaps that hide the inner workings of the airport. We are among the last to leave the carousel and one woman is still waiting for her scooter to reappear.

It feels like Heathrow is in a race to the bottom with Luton and Stansted.

Fortunately we have time to kill; our National Express coach doesn’t leave until 14:40. Luggage secured, we have to kill some more time sat in the Arrivals lobby of Heathrow Terminal 5.

5.5 hours of Express

At the appointed hour we spot our coach at the same time the driver spots us. By some miracle, National Express has delivered on their promise. They have actually informed him that a lady with a scooter will be boarding – and he’s ready and able to help load luggage. Then it’s off into central London to catch a second bus to our final destination and waiting lift – Braintree.

Again, both legs of the coach journey are pretty good and almost on time. Our route takes us through the centre of the City of London, so we get to see some more familiar sights, including Parliament, Whitehall and the Bank of England. We have interim stops at Stratford (where the driver is involved in a row with a random man who demands access without a valid ticket) and Stansted Airport (where he enters a heated discussion with a passenger about Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s policies).

The downside of the journey is that by the time we finally get home, we’ve been travelling for nearly 24 hours – and it feels like it too.

Final thoughts on the MIA-LHR journey

  • National Express coaches are a feasible transfer option for both cruise terminals and airports – just make sure to pay for extras in advance. Linda says she would definitely use National Express again.
  • The British Airways A380 is an amazing plane – but it has some serious design flaws for mobility-impaired passengers.
  • Airports have absolutely no idea what they are doing in terms of security or transport of mobility aids.