BACKGROUND: Celebrating its centenary this year, British Airways offers 18 weekly f lights direct to London from Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg, having added the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to the current fleet of A380 aircraft that service 14 of the route’s f lights. To celebrate 100 years in the aviation business, the airline is upgrading its Club World seat, the third evolution of the award-winning first fully-flat bed in business class introduced in 2000.
CHECK-IN: I saved oodles of time by checking in online and after dropping off my luggage, ambled off to the SLOW Lounge as the British Airways lounges at O.R. Tambo International Airport were closed for refurbishment. Here I found free wi-fi, comfy chairs, tasty snacks, and a decent double espresso. On board was where the magic happened though.
THE SEAT: I breezed straight onto the plane and into my wide, roomy Club World seat (53F on the upper deck) with footrest. After take-off you can recline the seat into a cradle position – best for watching movies – or all the way down to a 183cm flat bed for a comfy snooze under a soft lightweight quilt, part of the bedding and amenities supplied by the White Company. While the new Club Suite will offer direct-aisle access, a door for increased privacy, and 40% more storage, on this flight the traditional but perfectly comfortable formation still applied. Once we were airborne, I raised my privacy screen, stashed my shoes in the small storage drawer, slipped on my sleeper socks, and applied the lip balm from my zip-up amenity kit before perusing the menu.
CUISINE: With the emphasis on fresh seasonal produce, my starter salad comprising mixed lettuce, baby rocket, celery, cherry tomato, apple and walnuts was deliciously crisp. Other choices included smoked salmon or Thai-spiced butternut soup. Main courses offered roasted Cajun breast of chicken with unami rice, pak choi and rooibos tea jus; a spinach-and-ricotta tortellini; or seared fillet of beef, porcini mushroom, potato puree, baby carrot, and green beans. The latter was succulent and tender – no mean feat on an aircraft – with the red wine and thyme gravy providing the perfected foil to the veggies. I washed it all down with two glasses of a Cabarnet Sauvignon 2017 from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. Mindful of my waistline, I passed on the pudding – lemon curd and pistachio tartlet, pecan tartlet with white chocolate drizzle or chocolate dome cake – and opted for the cheese board featuring mature cheddar, Simonsberg Blue, Caraway seed Kwaito with date and fig chutney, accompanied by a glass of Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port, a ripe, full-bodied vintage affair that no doubt assisted my blissful seven-hour sleep, making the 10-hour (or so) flight go very quickly indeed. I awoke to breakfast aromas and opted for the ‘hot English’ featuring an omelette with sausage, bacon, hash brown, and Twinings tea, one of several British brands introduced to celebrate the airline’s centenary.
LANDING: Arrival at Heathrow Airport went smoothly, and I wasted no time in hurrying off to Terminal 2 to catch a connecting f light to Copenhagen, refreshed, rejuvenated, and raring to go!
VERDICT: Flying business class means not needing at least three days to recover from the cramped ordeal of uncollected food trays, arm nudging, and fractious brats kicking the back of your chair. While I’m often the witch sprinkling sneezing powder over the fairy dust in many a PR tale, it’s hard to find fault with consistently good service, friendly crew, and being able to jump the check-in queue. Most of all, I love getting a good night’s sleep far above the clouds, something well-nigh impossible for me when wedged like a battery hen into an economy seat. In my experience, British Airways’ Club World lives up to its promise and then some!