The entire reason I ended up in Poland was because my travel thought process doesn’t work like that of a normal person. If I see an enticing airfare, on a new airline or a new product, I tend to book it, then figure out the details later.
In this case, I had discovered that British Airways was offering some reasonable fares in their most recent Prime First product across the Atlantic. Better still, one leg (LHR-ORD) was going to be on a 747. In this case, G-BNLK.
I flew to Heathrow from Seattle aboard a G-VIID, a 777-236ER built in 1997. The only advantages I can point out between it and the 744 are the larger overhead bins and slightly more modern AVOD In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.
The legs to and from Warsaw were aboard an A320. Club Europe is a bit tight, but the lamb rogan josh was nice. What was not nice was arriving into Terminal 3. The flight arrived early, giving me a two-and-a-half-hour layover. Ample time to change terminals and go to the lounge, right?
Wrong – this is Heathrow! Having to walk half a mile from gate 24 to the transfer bus was the first nuisance. The second was the fifteen minute drive to Terminal 5. This was followed by another aimless walk to the connections desk and finally, Fast Track security. It is “Fast Track” in name only – I was stuck behind at least three passengers who forgot the 3-1-1 rule. Noticing that we were at gate B42, I realized that I would have no time to visit the Concorde Room (British Airways’ first class lounge), which I was really looking forward to.
Boarding was also a little odd. Instead of BA staff looking at IDs, security was inspecting everyone’s travel documents to confirm the ability to enter the United States. Evidently, he was either very suspicious or just slow. I shall stop dwelling on my sub-par airport experience and talk about the aircraft experience, as it was infinitely better.
The BA Prime First (F) cabin takes its inspiration from private clubs and business jets. It exudes a modern, classy atmosphere, which I much prefer to the “living room” or “restaurant” themes other airlines have moved towards. I do not need to watch the other passengers eat dinner; to me, first class is a solitary (or binary) experience.
While BA thinks the whole mini-suite “doored” concept is a step too far, I am legitimately torn on that issue.
The seat itself, of course, offers full flat capability, and comes with a turn-down service.
One of the best features of the First Class cabin aboard BA is the window shades; they are designed to remind passengers of business jet fittings. They even glow blue.
Finally, it was time to turn my attention to the pajamas and other amenities. They were situated on the footrest which – if you desire to squash your partner – can double as an additional seat for meal service. In BA’s defense, however, no airline does jump-seat dining comfortably. I understand the allure of offering it, but having tried it many times now, it is a novelty that always leaves one passenger suffering.
Prior to takeoff, as drinks were served, I was informed that loads were very light in F that day and that I was free to move about the cabin. Not wanting to abandon or move all my things, I decided to move to seat 1K for takeoff.
It was a very, very, good choice.
From this seat, I was able to feel every turn of the nose wheel and every tap on the brakes. I was also airborne before anyone else on the aircraft! If that was not cool enough, I could hear the wheel spinning as it retracted into the landing-gear bay immediately below me.
Everyone needs to sit in the nose of something at least once, and I had finally done it. It is a shame that safety regulations prohibit passengers from sitting ahead of the exits on newer aircraft, in what Boeing calls “Zone A”.
Even though the flight was only to Chicago, the flight time was scheduled to be eight hours and ten minutes. Despite all that time, I felt as if I had just run a small race. I was starving. I politely asked for my dinner to be served as soon as possible.
Up first was the quail.
I’m not partial to quail, even on land. That said, I can appreciate the skilled execution and seasoning that went into making a dish with such a strong flavor while at 38,000 feet.
Next was a salad of English vegetables and sundried tomatoes. The dressing was light and tangy. Definitely ahead of the stodgy wilted lettuce some North American airlines offer. Still, it was a salad – so I am surprised I even had that much to say.
BA, in general, always has delicious soup in first class. This was no exception.
It was around here when I realized that BA’s first class menu is focused on “classics”. They do not want to push the envelope as their target passenger does not want that. They want to do the classics and do them flawlessly. Philosophically, I am okay with this and I enjoyed my meal.
I ordered the filet. Not sure why the pressurization makes the texture of the meat springy, but it always does. That said, this in-flight steak was bursting with flavor. I am always impressed when an airline is able to perform a flawless, formal dining service at cruise. Even with the cabin’s one busy flight attendant, nothing was delayed, improperly set, or left unfilled.
I did not opt for dessert as everything seemed to be “fruit covered in other fruit”- which I do not equate as dessert. Instead, I went straight to the tea and chocolates.
British Airways uses bespoke chocolate boxes from Highland Chocolatiers. In most circumstances, you can take one or two from the box.
This was not a full flight, however, and the box ended up on my table. Magic! I am a man of zero restraint, so you can assume this did not last long.
Even though I knew it would ruin me in terms of jet-lag, I had not been sleeping well the past week. I opted for the turn-down service and decided to get some sleep.
Fabulously comfortable. I dare say, probably the most comfortable bed I have yet slept on in a premium cabin.
Six hours later, I awoke – hungry.
What else but a course of classic British Airways scones with cream! They were very good, and gone very quickly.
Served with the scones were a collection of petit-fours.
The eclair was the best, but the cakes were also good.
After the second service completed, it was time to land at O’Hare.
It was a nice change to enjoy what is often tacitly marketed as “England on a Plane”. I look forward to flying with British Airways again.