BACKGROUND: British Airways started flying the A380 between London and Johannesburg in February 2014, and currently offers a daily service.
CHECK-IN: I was nice and early at O.R. Tambo International and walked straight to the check-in desk, before quickly progressing through security and immigration.
LOUNGE: The BA Galleries lounge is situated about five minutes’ walk from immigration, towards the furthest gates. It’s long and thin, opening out to a wider, more popular space with lounge-type seating and TVs, whilst there are quieter, more secluded spaces towards the entrance, with tables and chairs, desktop computers and food stations. I heard two complaints about the Wi-Fi and then struggled to connect myself, so I was fortunate to have my own 3G access. The food offering was simple, but very tasty, with hot options in the form of the braised beef in soy sauce, rigatoni pasta with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, sweet potato gratin, chicken and mushroom soup, and chicken curry. I loved both the soup and the braised beef, which came with nicely-done roast potatoes and vegetables.
BOARDING: I was told at check-in that the flight would start boarding an hour before its 20h25 departure time, and by the time I arrived at gate A09 at about 20h30 it was already boarding. I used the fast track queue and was soon onboard, where my jacket was taken and I was offered a newspaper.
THE SEAT: BA’s A380 has 14 First Class suites and 97 seats in Club World (Business), with 44 on the main deck and 53 on the upper deck. There are also 55 World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and 303 World Traveller (Economy) seats. Club World is configured 2-4-2 on the main deck and 2-3-2 on the upper deck where I was seated in 56B, which was an aisle seat at the front of the back section. I think the window seats are more appealing, as the person next to me had an extra ledge to use for storage space. The aisle seats obviously have easier access to the bathrooms, but the window seats are more private. Privacy screens separate the individual seats, but on occasion food was served over me to the person in the adjacent seat, which wasn’t ideal. I would avoid the two middle seats – E and F – on the main deck, unless you are travelling with your spouse, a colleague, or close friend, as those two seats do not offer as much privacy as the others. It’s also worth noting that the rear-facing middle seat – E – on the upper deck offers additional storage space, enhanced privacy and aisle access in either direction. The seat itself is really user-friendly with self-explanatory controls offering you various sitting and sleeping positions, as well as lumbar support and headrest adjustment options. There is also an in-seat power socket and USB port. A feature I really liked was the laptop tray below the seat, which saved me having to stow my PC whenever I had to switch it off. I didn’t make use of the inflight entertainment, but I could see that the offering was extensive, including a host of latest-release and Oscar-nominated movies.
THE FLIGHT: We took off a few minutes late, but were quickly informed that we would more than likely land early in London. I was offered a menu before take-off and opted for the tuna carpaccio starter, followed by the seared fillet of British beef with smoked potato fondant, broccoli, carrots and a Tellicerry black pepper sauce – all delicious. I declined the dessert offering and curled up on the lie-flat bed where I had a good sleep and woke about 90 minutes before landing. I grabbed some coffee before landing, but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to sample the Club Kitchen, which offers a host of treats you can help yourself to during the flight.
ARRIVAL: The BA fast-track invite was appreciated, but I spent an hour in the fast-track queue at Heathrow. Fortunately, we had landed early and the arrivals lounge was great – I had a hot shower and tasty hot breakfast, before checking my email and heading off.
VERDICT: A quality Business Class experience.