Flight: BA 112
Type: Boeing 747-400
Class: Club World (Upgraded from Premium Economy)
BA had their work cut out with this one for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I had just disembarked from the Queen Mary 2 at the end of a memorable Atlantic crossing, and was feeling very much like Cinderella the morning after the ball.
Secondly, I was flying home on what is traditionally one of the worst days of the year to travel- one that, from personal experience, had always proved to be a nightmare in the past.
All of which made what follows that much more surprising,
I arrived at JFK’s Terminal 7 a good six hours prior to my flight. Booked into Premium Economy and already allocated a decent seat, my main concern was to get through the usual, pre Christmas train wreck of long check in lines and shockingly painful security screening.
Incredibly, only three people were in line ahead of me at the BA check in. It took me fifteen minutes- no more than that- to complete a process that usually took around an hour in the past. Beginner’s luck?
I was dreading the whole ‘belts, shoes and jackets off, alp tops out of bags’ routine. As everybody does.
Only this time, there was none of that.
Posted notices invited us not to bother doing any of those things. Hardly daring to believe my eyes, I rocked up wearing the lot. And went through the entire process, end to end, in less than fifteen minutes.
Just ponder that; curb side to air side, on one of the busiest travel days of the year, in less than half an hour. Talk about Christmas miracles.
It gave me ample time to do some last minute Christmas shopping, though it has to be said that JFK’s Terminal 7 is pretty light on shops compared to, say, T5 at Heathrow. Still, there was enough time for me to shop, grab a bite to eat, and chill out with a last pint of Sam Adams in New York. By now, my mood was pretty light hearted, and not at all what I had anticipated.
It was about to get better.
Check in was called bang on time. On going to the gate, I got an early Christmas present; an upgrade to Club Class, seat 14G.
Turned left at the entrance to the plane with a real spring in my step.
The seat converted to a fully flat bed, with a perspex privacy divider to the inward side. I was offered a glass of Taittinger by a charming, very affable Scottish stewardess as I sagged into the lounge seat- a great way to start a flight.
The seat entertainment centre came courtesy of a large, fold out screen but, to be honest, I never used it. My main priority was to eat, and then try to get a few hours’ sleep before we landed at what I imagined would be a nightmarish, busy Heathrow
Once airborne, bottled water and hot towels came round, as well as landing cards for those needing them. Menu orders were taken, including a thoughtful ‘wake up’ breakfast, delivered about an hour before final approach.
If you are used to flying Economy, it might come as something of a culture shock to have your own, properly laid table with real silver cutlery, and the food delivered as separate set courses.
Warm bread rolls came fresh from a basket. And, while I passed on the salad, the main course (I opted for beef) was both filling and fulsome. Washed down with a gorgeous drop of Pinot Noir and followed with a wickedly light Chocolate Parfait, the meal was a far more indulgent, relaxed and enjoyable affair than the usual in Economy. With plenty of room to move around in, and a blessed absence of tin foil, cling film and plastic cutlery, dinner really was something approaching a feast.
But the piece de resistance was a trio of saucer sized, warm Cranberry cookies and an utterly seductive cup of delicious hot chocolate. Whoever thought up that particular combination ought to be knighted.
I should also mention that there was a ‘raid the larder’ option that allowed passengers to grab sandwiches and other light bites at any hour of the night. I passed on this.
There then followed three hours of dreamy oblivion, as I put the bed to flat mode and snuggled up under a toasty grey duvet. Cabin lights were dimmed, and I drifted off to some welcome sleep.
I was awoken an hour before landing with my breakfast order; a gratefully devoured bacon sarnie, warm croissant, orange juice. and hot coffee. Rested and totally free of the normal pre landing irritation, any lingering regret at leaving New York was, by now, quite literally, thousands of miles behind me.
Now, the service. As someone whose background is in hospitality, I know a good working team when I see one. The staff on this flight were, quite simply, outstanding. All wore various bits of Christmas garb- antlers, Santa hats, that kind of thing. They were courteous, upbeat and cheerful, and that made the cabin a happy, cheerful place as well.
Wash bags featured Elemis products. Toilets were clean, well stocked with good quality hand lotions and, more to the point, never besieged by conga lines of sleep deprived passengers.
This flight encountered very little by way of turbulence as well, and we were kept up to date on our transatlantic progress from the flight deck.
Landing at Heathrow was as smooth as our nocturnal progress had been. Fast track worked perfectly and, without any problem or hassle of any kind- was this really Heathrow?- I made my connecting shuttle up to Newcastle with ample time to spare.
This flight left me with the feeling that I had been ushered home in a gentle, pleasant style. Club Class was a kind of pampered cocoon for sure, a subtle cocktail of space and ease, deftly served and perfectly primped.
Recommended? Absolutely. On one of the worst travel days of the year, BA got me where I needed to be on time, in style, and in nothing like the frequently frazzled state in which I come off an overnight transatlantic flight. Grateful thanks to an outstanding cabin crew that provided me with, quite simply, the most pleasant in flight experience of all my travels in 2014.