Pre flight check-in was efficient, fitting after my first trip on the Gautrain to the airport. It’s a cracker! I skipped the lounge as I was running a little late and with last-minute adaptors needed for the computer I did some shopping. I know this is about the flight to UK, but I can tell you about the check-in for Club World on the return leg. Terminal 5 at Heathrow is outstanding. BA passengers have a range of various lounges and facilities for Club World from a spa, to lounges, to shower facilities. I opted for a shower to end my day of meetings and driving to Birmingham. The ablution and shower cubicles are very well kitted out and I was fortunate not having to wait for a slot – if there is a backlog, one might have to. While waiting for the flight (or your shower) you’d be in the lounge and that is just superb. A range of different areas to sit – chairs, bar stools, comfy soft furniture, computer terminals along with coffee stations, drinks and dining options that span any decent buffet.
I was seated in row 60 on the upper deck, which was relatively empty going to London, so my ‘accompanying’ passenger seat was empty. Not sure how you describe the passenger who sits opposite you facing backwards (or forwards, depending on which way you’re heading). But the configuration of these Club World seats is well designed. There is champagne, juices, all on tap from the moment you sit down. Ample space, a fully reclining / lie-flat bed which, when taking off at 23h00 was very appealing! The starters were smoked Chilean salmon, poached kingklip fillet and butternut, baby marrow, squash, salad and lemon – or Tabouleh with brinjals and tomato, assorted lettuce with mozzarella, and labneh with quail eggs, grilled peppers and olives. Watching cholesterol, I opted for the former. The main course was as exotic as its description – but I was tired and decided to test the sleeping facilities instead.
Before that, I had to look at the adjustable screen, with VOD, news, flight details and much more than you’d need for an 11-hour flight. There are power facilities for laptops, discreet reading lamps with dimming facilities, and head phones for muffling sound, although I prefer sleeping with plugs (which are also available). The tray where the food is served I found to be a little wobbly. And with a glass of wine on it, if you’re going through a little undesirable weather … I kept watching that spirit level. My solution was – you guessed it – to drink it up and avoid a potential spill! With the foot rest being as flat as you want and a blanket to boot, (not a duvet, but perfectly functional as a duvet) that was me for the evening.
We arrived 45 minutes ahead of schedule and despite everything the ground handlers couldn’t accommodate us at a gate for the next 30 minutes. Frustrating, yes, but it reminded me how we travellers need to be cognisant of how complicated the airline business is, with so many domino effects that we can experience. You can’t simply arrive at the world’s busiest airport and expect to be slotted in – although we all have those expectations.
On the return leg, I was seated in a full upper deck, row 64 facing backwards. I actually preferred that as you have a great view out the window, but the accompanying passenger I found to be slightly in my personal space to start with. Fortunately she was an interesting woman and for the short time we chatted it was worth noting that her husband, a frequent flyer, found the ‘S’-shaped collapsible window between the seats and subsequent close proximity to the facing passenger, a little off-putting. I’m not sure it was enough to deter from the tremendous British understated, classy service – but on a long list of pluses, that was my only note of concern (and of course the wobbly tray table). Other touches included great reading material (where do you get Vanity Fair to read on board?) and the help-yourself galley area makes the trip a pleasure. I was proud to take out my British passport for that trip.