British Airways turned 100 this year and, on a recent flight from our nation’s capital to the British one, I was reminded why British Airways should still rightly be considered the world’s favorite (or favourite) airline. For all the seasoned transatlantic travelers out there, you’ve doubtlessly been hearing about the heavily-hyped Boeing 787 Dreamliners that get you “across the pond” a little bit faster and with a little more environmental efficiency than those hulking and not-so-young-anymore 747 jumbo jets. But a lot of recent travel on the Dreamliner actually made me nostalgic for the days when the jumbos ruled the skies. And most of those low-cost carriers (at least, the ones not already filing for bankruptcy) can’t afford them and the American airlines no longer want to afford them—so when I learned that British Airways has 34 Boeing 747-400s in its fleet, I knew it was time to refresh those jumbo jet memories and, with London calling, to get on board.
My experience traveling in Club World, the long-haul business class service aboard British Airways, started on the ground. I’ve often thought that the best thing one can say about Washington, D.C., is that it feels great to leave it, so I arrived at Dulles early with plenty of time to check out the business class lounge after security (by the way, next to the ongoing mess that is LAX, security at Dulles is a breeze). It’s on the upper level, situated close to BA’s departure gates, so no need to sprint when boarding time approaches. There was a good selection of British newspapers and magazines and an array of finger foods that were better than most of what you find in an airport food court. There’s a separate dining area where you can choose from a selection of gourmet items served buffet-style or order from a small menu.
Aboard the Club World cabin itself, the seats extend to fully flat six-foot-long beds. I’m not a huge of fan of sleeping on planes, but no matter, because the Club World seats “are designed for relaxing, sleeping or getting work done, with more space and privacy.” One of the things I like to do is check out the entertainment offerings and BA’s do not disappoint. Plenty of movies and TV shows and all that, but for me, British pop music usually does the trick. In celebration of the British Airways centenary, several exclusive BA Centenary 100 mixes were specially commissioned for the Highlife Entertainment system: We’re talking long, dreamy mixes by the likes of Paul Oakenfold, Groove Armada and Deadmau5. Following an in-flight safety demonstration video featuring the inimitable Joanna Lumley of “Absolutely Fabulous” fame, things were looking decidedly British, which is as it should be.
Feasting on the acoustic menu tastes even better when paired with one of the finest business club menus in the skies. There is of course plenty of fine wine and champagne on offer—think Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie Brut NV and Champagne Besserat de Bellefon Grande Tradition Brut Rosé—but none of that for me, thank you. In fact, I even skipped the starter, but very much enjoyed my main course of roasted Atlantic salmon with pea fricassee, tomato confit, spinach and crushed lemon-scented potato. I followed that with a warm sticky cherry brioche pudding in a cherry coulis. I regret not making time for the cheese board (there was brie and a lemon pear marmalade involved) or the specialty coffees but, in truth, the time flies by on a jumbo jet like this and six-and-a-half hours is just not enough time to properly sample all the sophisticated treats on offer.
But, you do what you can. As a few hours into the flight I was feeling a bit peckish, so I got up to inspect the Club Kitchen, which “is always open for you to tuck into a range of healthy snacks or indulgent treats, including artisan biscuits, Cadbury chocolates and premium crisps.” One of the treats I found was a popcorn with caramel and sea salt made by Joe & Seph’s, a gourmet popcorn producer based in Britain. I should have grabbed a couple more bags of that! The elegant white amenity kit, by the way, is made by The White Company. In First Class, amenities are by the luxury Elemis line.
A few quick notes about arriving at Heathrow: This is a massive, busy airport but it’s actually getting easier to navigate than it has in the past. My suggestion for those with connecting flights is to make your entire booking on British Airways, because by doing so you can transfer terminals without having to clear customs or rechecking your luggage—saving you both time and energy. If you need to overnight, the new Staybridge Suites Heathrow is excellent and an exceptionally good breakfast is included in the room price.
For more information on Club World and for all flight bookings on British Airways, visit britishairways.com.