India Today - - LEISURE -

Istretch, lux­u­ri­at­ing in the sense of space, the soft pil­low un­der my head tick­ling my fancy, the du­vet pulled close to my chin. There’s a gen­er­ous hum in the back­ground and as I flip over, with a jolt I re­alise that I am not home, but thou­sands of miles above the ground in a first class cabin that is a rem­i­nis­cent of the Ori­ent Ex­press. The cav­ernous seat that drawls into a large bed is self con­tained, sans the so­phis­ti­cated trap­pings as­so­ci­ated with first class cab­ins on many nou­veau air­lines. The ini­tial dis­ap­point­ment of not hav­ing a shower cu­bi­cle on board is stowed when a cabin crew mem­ber non­cha­lantly ex­plains the per­ils of all the ‘ im­por­tant’ guests in first class clam­our­ing for a shower si­mul­ta­ne­ously just be­fore land­ing. I am happy to do with­out the glitz and steer clear of any­thing that sug­gests clut­ter on board. The ef­fort of trav­el­ling first class is min­i­mal and the nicest thing about be­ing on a British Air­ways flight from Lon­don Heathrow to Delhi is the ab­sence of overkill that so many rel­a­tively new air­lines thrive on. The new first class cabin re­flects the air­line’s per­son­al­ity, its her­itage, and ef­fec­tively com­bines mod­ern tech­nol­ogy, de­sign and ser­vice style. I have never ex­ited a long haul flight want­ing to go back, but on board this air­craft, it is easy to see why fly­ing could be ad­dic­tive.


There are 14 beau­ti­ful suites with smart seats that beg to be un­furled. The suite is 31 inches wide, mak­ing it a foot wider than the old First class cabin. The beauty of these flat beds is that at a stretch, it’s at six and a half feet, en­sur­ing that you are not left curl­ing your toes and cramp­ing your style for want of stretch­ing room. The bed is also kit­ted out us­ing the most com­fort­able ma­te­rial as op­posed to foam on metal which is the stan­dard. The new first has am­ple space to put your travel knick knacks out of sight but not reach. There’s even a thought­ful cup­board for hang­ing your coat and an al­cove to stash your shoes till you need them.


For those who travel fre­quently, the in­ter­play of harsh light and shadow can be a se­ri­ous an­noy­ance. If you don’t want to look like Bat­man with an eye mask, the new first is a hit. Each suite is fit with an elec­tronic blind that al­lows you to con­trol the amount of light you let into your space at a given point. In ad­di­tion, the over­all lighting of the area changes from day to night to em­pha­sise what the sky is re­flect­ing. There is an el­e­gant lamp in your suite as well, which is quite con­trary to what you find on other air­crafts in the same class.


For many, din­ing on board is a te­dious ex­pe­ri­ence with lit­tle vari­a­tion. While the food on board BA is not fan­tas­tic, the air­line has ditched style for sim­plic­ity and holds the ‘ whole­some’ tag dear. You can let the cabin crew know when you would like to eat and it is a real joy al­low­ing meals to be dic­tated by your stomach and mood rather than be force fed when its time by the clock. Don’t ex­pect to be im­pressed by the style, fo­cus on sub­stance in­stead. The tea is served in Wedge­wood cups and crisp white linen is laid out on your ta­ble ahead of the meal. The wine se­lec­tion re­mains among the best in the sky, with the ad­di­tion of a clas­sic cham­pagne cock­tail.


The qual­ity of en­ter­tain­ment on board re­mains a key fac­tor in de­cid- ing which air­line to be on, es­pe­cially on long hauls. In the First class on BA, the ex­tra space in your suite calls for ex­tra large screens ( 15 inches). The High­life en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem is com­pa­ra­ble with some of the best in the busi­ness and has over 200 movies and tele­vi­sion shows to choose from. In case you want to lis­ten to your own mu­sic, a USB port makes that pos­si­ble as you can plug in your iPod.


The ser­vice on board is not over­bear­ing but the crew goes out of its way to please you. While some of the BA crew can be out­right stuffy, in First class you are ok most of the time and the jour­ney can be ef­fort­less.


One of the big­gest perks of trav­el­ling BA is hav­ing ac­cess to the cov­eted lounges, es­pe­cially at Lon­don Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 5. The Con­corde Room, re­served for First class pas­sen­gers only, is a thick- car­peted, Swarovski- lit space with a pri­vate din­ing area, a full- fledged bar stocked with the best liquor, and a board room fit with com­put­ers in case you need to hold a last minute video con­fer­ence. While the food ( or­dered from a menu rather than buf­fet- style) is ex­cel­lent and the ser­vice ex­em­plary, what’s re­ally a treat is the Elemis Travel spa lo­cated here. While you would do well to book a treat­ment with a spe­cial­ist well in ad­vance ( Call: + 44 161 448 3013) if you have half an hour to kill, ask for one of their mas­sage chairs and sink into it for a gen­tle knead­ing or in­sis­tent pound­ing. A range of face and hand care prod­ucts are on dis­play and can be tested as you wait as well.


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