British Airways (trans-Atlantic)
by Luigi Vallero
Route: London Gatwick (IATA: LGW/ICAO: EGKK)–Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW/KDFW)
Date: November 10, 2006
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200 (G-VIIB)
Passenger: Luigi Vallero
Expecting long queues at security at London Gatwick, I decided to leave my airport area hotel early. By 0745 I was already on my way through an extremely busy North Terminal. To my great pleasure, the dedicated check-in desks in Area D for ‘Club World’ passengers were deserted. In no time I received my boarding pass, as well as all the information on how to go to the BA Lounge. The well-groomed and pleasant representative also informed me that my flight would be leaving from Gate 54, adjacent to the lounge.
Unfortunately, Fast Track channels were not open this morning, and therefore all passengers, in complete democracy and regardless of class of travel, had to join the same seemingly endless queues through security. This process took the good part of 30 minutes. I finally reached the Terraces Lounge at 0830, with plenty of time to spare.
Although quite full at this time of day, the lounge provides a pleasant environment on two different levels, with plenty of snacks, drinks, and magazines on hand, as well as Wi-Fi broadband Internet connections.
On the second floor a nice stone garden, a wine bar, a toy room for children, library, and spa and showers, provide most amenities a traveller could ask for, along with good views of the activity on the apron.
I left the quiet oasis by 0930 and after a very short walk was at the gate, where the flight was called at 0940.
The Club World cabin looks odd, with a staggered layout, and my over-wing window seat was one of the rearward-facing ones. ‘My own private space’ gave the feeling of a cocoon, with almost no view of my immediate neighbor— screened by a retractable fan-like partition—nor of the rest of the cabin. This promised a ‘solo flight’ experience. The first impression was a bit claustrophobic, but the seats proved very comfortable. Plenty of natural materials, such as wood, leather, and fabrics, have been used to create a homey atmosphere, although I think the designers went overboard with the navy blue.
CABIN - REAR-FACING SEATING
In front of my seat was an ottoman, which can be used in case the passenger wants to invite fellow travellers, or simply as a footrest extension whenever the seat is converted into a bed. Hi-fi headsets, a comfortable and warm duvet, and an embroidered cushion were already placed on the seat.
Very friendly and eager flight attendants offered to hang up my jacket, and shortly afterward returned offering newspapers and a welcome drink of water, juice, or Champagne.
This being an almost full flight, boarding was completed by 1000, but then an apologetic captain explained that we had to wait for the need to check a baggage discrepancy. In the meantime, he informed us of an expected flying time of 9hr 54min to DFW. We finally pushed back at 1022, and passed under the impressive bridge on the way to the threshold of Runway 08L.
Before takeoff I was requested to put my seat in a reclined position, and during the climb-out I understood why this was necessary because the rearward-facing seat gave the sensation of slipping toward the tail of the aircraft.
Our cabin manager for the day was a bright and cheerful British lady, who introduced over the PA, name by name, all the cabin attendants working the flight.
In-flight service started during the secondary climb as we headed northwest toward Manchester over a cloud-covered England, with the distribution of hot o-shibori refresher towels, amenity kits, and an attractive menu and wine list.
An aperitif was offered, and my classy Kir Royal was served in long-stemmed glass and came with a packet of high-quality Kenyan cashew nuts: a canapé or two would have been more welcome, though.
Lunch started an hour and a half into the flight. I chose a pleasant smoked salmon and shrimp with lemon crème fraiche appetizer, accompanied by a large garden salad, followed by a substantial main course of fillet steak with morel sauce, vegetables and mustard created by celebrity chef Shaun Hill, washed down with a good Californian Cabernet. This was followed by a selection of British cheeses served with fresh fruit and oatcakes, and a nice caramel custard.
After the copious meal I took a short nap by placing the versatile flat seat in its almost completely horizontal position: when I awakened, we were already crossing the vast snow-capped expanses of southern Greenland. Having played with the easy-to-use IFE, which had a good range of entertainment possibilities, including BBC News, we entered North America north of Goose Bay, proceeding on track toward the Great Lakes.
After a quick visit to the spotless toilets, featuring a wide range of toiletries and well-appointed with fresh red and yellow carnations, I took some nibbles and fresh juice from the new ‘Club Kitchen’, which has replaced the previous ‘Raid the Larder’ option.
Almost immediately after having returned to my seat, cabin attendants came around offering a chocolate ice cream cup.
Yet the food service on this long flight was not yet over, because as we passed east of St Louis a comprehensive traditional high tea, consisting of a choice of roast beef sandwiches or Greek salad, warm scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and chocolate and black cherry pie was offered.
Descent began roughly an hour after tea had been served and, following a circuitous approach from the northeast, we approached gigantic DFW from the south, landing at 1504, blocking at our gate in the new Terminal D at 1521.
After a long walk it was then time to face the immigration line, which—exasperatingly—took more than one hour, before I rejoined my suitcase that was already available on the carousel.
Definitely an extremely comfortable flight, with a great cabin crew providing warm service; good marks for the seat and for the generous amounts of food, although—for me—the epicurean style was a bit too ‘British’.
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