BA’s new London City-New York JFK service, which was launched at the end of September 2009, heralds several firsts for the airline – from using a short-haul aircraft on a transatlantic route, to onboard connectivity, and a new all-business class layout and seat.
I arrived at LCY at 11:20 for my 12:50 departure and was told there was an hour’s delay because of a technical problem with the aircraft. Security was to the right, after going up the escalator to the first floor.
The flight departed from Gate 24, where there is a lounge at ground level with 32 seats facing the A318. There was free WiFi courtesy of the airport, and hot and cold drinks, including Ayala champagne.
The call for boarding came at 14:20. A coat hanger and a slip of paper with the seat number on it were waiting on each footrest, and jackets were promptly stowed in wardrobes at either end of the plane. I was sitting at the rear of the cabin in aisle seat 7J. Drinks weren’t offered, although this might have been because of the late departure.
The A318 has been configured with 32 seats in a 2-2 configuration of eight rows. “Club World London City” features seats that recline fully-flat, but are very different from those in Club World on the rest of BA’s long-haul fleet. They face forward, in pairs, with a small privacy divider between them, and each reclines into a hard, curved shell. There is a footrest with a cushion that raises and a magazine storage pocket beneath, and between each set of seats there is a narrow gap for papers, and a button on which you can hang your jacket. There are two power sockets for each person, and in-flight entertainment is provided by a personal video player that slots into an arm that comes out of the central armrest. The tray table also comes out of this, and was a little difficult to stow. When fully extended, the table vibrated when typing on a laptop, although not quite as much as the ones in Club World. This is the first BA flight to have Onair service, allowing passengers to send SMS messages and use Blackberries, and the connection worked intermittently.
Given the short runway at London City, the A318 cannot take off with a full tank so has to refuel at Shannon, Ireland. We landed here in under an hour – just enough time for a drink and an appetiser (Welsh Carmarthen ham with Cox’s apple and potato salad). Passengers clear US customs en route – I disembarked with all my hand luggage, walked into the terminal, had my bags X-rayed and went through immigration. There was very little queuing, and I was then through to a dedicated seating area by a corridor with a duty-free shop at one end. After five minutes the flight was called and I walked 20 metres to the airbridge, had my documents checked and got back on the plane. Once seated, there was another safety demonstration, and after take-off, Elemis amenity bags were given out. The lunch options were Dedham Vale Farm fillet of beef with Scottish girolles and Madeira sauce; British corn-fed chicken cooked in a Somerset cider sauce; grilled sea bass served with a roasted fennel and caper dressing; penne pasta in a courgette and aubergine tomato sauce with chestnut mushrooms and Berkswell cheese; and Inverawe smoked salmon and prawns with new potato and horseradish salad. There was a wide selection of wines on the menu, although several were not on board, and the crew were keen to make a good impression. After lunch, I fell asleep for more than two hours, waking in time for afternoon tea, which was served about 90 minutes before landing. I then had 15 minutes of texting and checking emails before the Onair system was turned off.
As predicted, landing was at 18:05 and we were at the stand by 18:15. I disembarked five minutes later and was kerbside at JFK seven minutes after that.
Something unique that even jaded travellers will want to try. Will it succeed? It depends on whether the financial community in the City and Docklands recovers in time, but the feeling of being able to arrive at JFK and walk straight out of the airport is rather special.
seat width 63.5cm/25in
seat pitch 190.5cm/75in
seat recline 180