British Airways 747– 400 Club World (Business Class)

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

 Arriving at T5 at 7.30 a.m. for my 10.35 a.m. flight, I was expecting to find myself a little bewildered and disoriented by the challenge of making my way through a terminal new to my usual route.   My apprehension was lifted by a clean, slick check-in hall that was well sign-posted and easy to manoeuvre through. 

CHECK-IN.  My tickets were booked at BA.com where I utilised the online check-in and seat selection process (available 24 hours before departure).  I collected my boarding pass from the self-service check-in kiosk at the entrance, scanned my own passport, and was given the option to confirm my seat position – with my Executive Club miles automatically updated.  Next, to the dedicated fast-drop service desk where my passport and tickets were checked, and my luggage dispatched.  I was directed to security clearance point south, (closest to the dedicated lounges) and on to fast-track security, which I cleared in 10 minutes.  In total, check-in, bag drop, and security took thirty minutes – impressive for a departure from a busy international airport.

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE.  Heading upstairs to the Club lounge, (available to First, Club World, Gold and Silver Executive Club members) I admired the forward-thinking decor and slick, silver bar complete with Swarovski crystal chandeliers.  There are, of course, full business facilities, with free wireless Internet services provided throughout the terminal by BT Openzone.  If flying from terminal ‘B’ it’s worth knowing that there is a Club Lounge within that offers the same services.  For those in need of a pre-flight pamper, the Elemis Travel Spa has a comprehensive range of treatments which you can pre-book.

BOARDING.  T5 has reduced the number of announcements within the terminal, therefore it’s important to check for regular updates.  My gate number was listed under an hour-and-a-half before departure at 09.10 a.m.  Making my way to the transit train, it was a quick two-minute ride to the ‘B’ terminal.  Boarding was called at 10.00 a.m., and I was seated by 10.10 – enjoying a glass of Heidsieck.  The announcement was made that, due to Heathrow air traffic, we would be held on our stand for several minutes.  After much taxiing and queuing, our departure time came and went, but to their credit, the flight crew kept us updated throughout.  We finally departed from runway 9R at 11.20 a.m., nearly 50 minutes late. 

THE SEAT.   Our flight, a 747– 400, had yet to have its new Club refit, but the old style is still an award-winning product.  With a generous seat pitch of 73”, and the world’s first genuine flat bed, it still beats other airlines within its cabin class.  The aircraft is configured 2-4-2 on the lower deck, and 2-2 on the upper deck.  All seats come with privacy dividers, power points for laptops, and ample storage space; the sliding mechanism and lumbar support are both comfortable and easily manipulated.

THE FLIGHT.  Video-On-Demand is installed throughout the aircraft, with an impressive list of 26 new releases.  Lunch was served at 12.20 p.m., and I selected the poached crayfish and pink grapefruit salad, with spiced lamb rump and roast potatoes as a main course.  The food was excellent, and the lunch service unobtrusive but attentive at all times.  I declined wine, although my travel companion was very satisfied with the South African Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Shiraz (2005).  The award-winning selection of wine (by Master of Wine Jancis Robinson) was appropriately recommended for each dish.  Trays and cutlery were individually cleared, with the meal completed by the Cabin Service Director spending a welcoming minute with each passenger.  A self-service Club Kitchen was opened for the remainder of the flight.

THE ARRIVAL.  Before landing, we were updated as to weather conditions and advised as to the time change (+2 hours GMT).  Being a regular traveller to Nairobi, I brought a spare landing card, as Kenyan officials do not always supply them.  Our plane touched down at 21.10, and we were on the stand by 21.20.  A quick disembarkation through the tired-looking arrivals halls led me to the immigration/visa queue.  All non-Kenyan visitors need an entry visa which is available on arrival, at a current cost of $50.  Have the exact cash ready (in U.S. dollars) as being turned back to the Travel Exchange can be a morale-destroying experience.   With only two officials attempting to process two international arrivals, the queue moved by a painstaking one person every six minutes.   I was tenth in the queue, but it still took a frustrating 80 minutes to clear arrivals.

THE VERDICT.  The excellent service sets B.A. apart, and T5 is a pleasure to transit through.  Be ready to exercise your patience on arrival into Kenyatta International.

David Leigh Delport.

 

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