One Sunday this June I jetted off to the jewels of the Indian Ocean: Sri Lanka and The Maldives. I’d been told in an email to meet my travel-industry companions at Gatwick’s British Airways Premium Check-in Desk. We jokingly crossed our fingers for Business Class.
And lo and behold…
As Club World passengers we were treated to priority check-in and the fast-track premium security channel. Smooth. Once in the main terminal we were invited to unwind in the luxurious Club Terrace lounge, which was excellent. There was a self-service buffet of fresh, complimentary food including sandwiches, salads, pastas, crisps and cakes plus beers, wines and soft drinks. There were showers to use in the upscale bathrooms and free magazines and newspapers. The lounge itself was very peaceful, away from the hustle and bustle of the airport proper, and afforded runway views through the floor to ceiling windows. Should the urge to get in some last minute duty-free shopping take you, you could come and go as you pleased.
British Airways Club World is the epitome of travelling in style. Priority boarding beats the gate queues and a glass of champagne is served with a smile as you take your seat. After the safety announcements you can put up the privacy screen and settle in to your (very spacious) personal space. Soon, a full menu and wine list is distributed by the super-friendly cabin crew who will then take your order – starters, main, dessert – just like in a restaurant. I remember reading the mouth-watering food descriptions on the menu (beautifully printed on textured card) and thinking ‘No way is this going taste like that.’ Well, I was wrong. The peat-smoked salmon pâté actually had that delicious, unmistakably smoky flavour. These were more than just words arranged optimistically on a menu. I also enjoyed a couple of glasses of a 2009 Chateau La Claymore red, which was sublime.
The fully flat beds are just that. A footrest comes down and you press a button that adjusts your seat electronically to whichever angle you prefer. Your TV screen flips out and angles down too so you can stretch out and watch the latest Hollywood releases lying flat, propped up on a pillow. It was amazing. I was on cloud nine. (Probably literally at this point.) It was an 11-hour flight to Colombo in Sri Lanka (via an hour on the ground in Malé, Maldives) and I actually got a couple of hours’ shut-eye. And I’d never slept on a plane in my life before. This fact alone, irrespective of the divine cuisine, faultless service and leading-edge in-flight entertainment, is enough for me to rate my flight with British Airways Club World as a real highlight of my trip.
In the world of budget airfares where customer service is acceptingly compromised to save a quid here and there, it’s becoming increasingly common for passengers to stoically put up with discomforts and hidden charges; air travel is seen as something ‘you’ve just gotta get through’. British Airways Club World from Gatwick to Colombo, though, was a flight to enjoy rather than endure; to applaud rather than abhor.
Many thanks to Ron at British Airways and Shikha at Taj Hotels for putting together this excellent trip.