FIRST AMONG EQUALS
SUITE DREAMS ARE MADE OF THIS. CHECK INTO FIRST CLASS ON BRITISH AIRWAYS FOR A FLYING EXPERIENCE FIT FOR A KING, DISCOVERS PRACHI BHUCHAR
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.
DESSERT PLATTER SERVED TO FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS USES FRESH INGREDIENTS