by Trent Nickson
PHOTO: IAN BOWLEY
Route: London Heathrow (IATA: LHR/ICAO: EGLL)–Istanbul-Atatürk (IST/LTBA)
Date: August 28, 2006
Aircraft: Boeing 767-336ER (G-BZHC)
Seat Number: 4A
Departure Time: 1030
Arrival Time: 1620
Passenger: Trent Nickson
Starting my day in Dublin, I was pleasantly surprised to have the Aer Lingus check-in attendant offer to check my bags right through to Istanbul. Every other time I’ve connected to a BA flight, I have been told “we can’t” check bags right through, despite being a member of the same Oneworld alliance.
When I arrived in Terminal 1 at Heathrow, I proceeded to check-in Zone R in order to exchange my boarding pass for a British Airways one. This is a completely separate area for premium passengers, away from the main check-in areas. For the first time I had ever seen, there was a line and I had to wait five minutes to be served. This wasn’t a problem, and shortly after I proceeded through the dedicated security channel with no trouble at all.
The Terraces Lounge in Terminal 1 at Heathrow is one of the finest business lounges in the world. Upon entering you may cloak your carry-on bags if you wish, saving you having to haul them around the lounge. The room is quite large and there are plenty of Internet-enabled PCs available, along with desks for laptops. Nearby are low tables and plush chairs next to racks containing a selection of international newspapers and magazines.
There is a ramp leading down to a sunken area with a gorgeous self-service bar decked out in blues and grays, filled with a fine selection of wines and spirits. Across from there is a self-service food area containing biscuits, pastries, and other such snacks. Further on there are deckchairs and sofas for relaxation. Upstairs is the mezzanine, which also has its own small bar.
Flight information is presented on flat screen televisions and there is also a customer service desk if you have any questions. The bathrooms are very modern and just adequate for the amount of people passing through. Additionally, there is a smoking room which is worth visiting for the period Imperial Airways/BOAC posters that adorn the walls.
Finally, there is the Molton Brown travel spa that you can use for free if travelling long-haul. A 20-minute massage here is well worth it before a long flight!
Club Europe passengers are invited to board first and we were seated within a few minutes. Overall, boarding did not take very long, partly due to the fairly light load. Our cabin had 12 passengers and one infant—meaning that almost everyone had the seat next to them free.
The flight attendants told me later that they had a full load for the return flight.
The seats are BA’s standard navy blue leather seats, with an aqua and white headrest cover with ‘Club Europe’ written on it. Seat pockets contained Business Life and BA’s High Life magazines, a duty free catalogue, a sick bag, and the safety card.
PHOTO: TRENT NICKSON
Two framed prints of canals were attached to the front wall of the Club cabin, but the general ambiance was lost by the age of the interior. The lights along the window line were yellowed and the covers dirty. There were no personal air vents and a wire was hanging near my head from a former crew rest partition curtain.
That said, there were packaged headphones on the seat, along with a thick blanket and a pillow for comfort during the flight. Space for carry-on luggage was plentiful, and the toilets were clean and functional —featuring Molton Brown hand cleanser and moisturizer products.
We pushed back on time, and after the safety demonstration an announcement from the flight deck informed us that we were expected to arrive 40 minutes early and that a smooth flight was expected.
Shortly after takeoff, hot towels were distributed and quickly retrieved after use. This was followed by a drinks service and I availed myself of the Monopole Brut Champagne, which is the usual champagne on the BA Club menu.
PHOTO: TRENT NICKSON
In-flight entertainment was switched on, and was viewable by televisions set in the ceiling above the aisle—or via the smaller panels in the main bulkheads. The BBC News was shown first, and almost everyone put their headphones on when the headline read ‘Turkey Bombings’. However, no-one seemed to be concerned. After the news, the movie was Mission Impossible III, which had been announced soon after we took to the air.
Soon enough it was time for lunch. An aqua-colored table cloth was laid over the trays and for a starter we were served Smoked Trout Tureen with Tomato Compote. This came with a salad (which had no dressing), a plate of red grapes and two cheeses, and a slice of chocolate cake with cream, a mug for coffee or tea, and a glass. The Royal Doulton mugs now feature English country scenes in color. Previously, the scenes were in black and white—a minor detail, but very noticeable.
PHOTO: TRENT NICKSON
The idea is to eat your starter and that plate is then replaced with the main meal. Then the remainder is served at your leisure. A basket of bread was brought around containing a variety from around the world, and the flight attendants encouraged us to take more than one piece.
PHOTO: TRENT NICKSON
Once done with the starter, I was offered a choice of main meals: Beef Korma with rice or Chicken Penne. I chose the beef and found it to be a little on the fatty side. Additionally, the plate for the main is quite big and takes up a lot of space—meaning you need to rearrange everything around you—a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. We were generously offered a choice from the bread basket again and our drinking glasses were kept filled.
Coffee or tea was offered, and the flight deck came back on the PA to confirm our early arrival time. Most people settled back to watch the film, or to relax.
One of the flight attendants, Sabine, noticed that I had been making notes and taking the occasional picture and struck up a conversation with me. She informed me that she used to fly with Swissair. Her name tag had a German, French, and UK flag to denote she spoke three languages and I found out that this was a requirement at her old company. Her service standards validated the comment that I had always heard about how fine the Swissair service was before the company folded.
The four flight attendants assigned to the business cabin upheld my favorable impression of British Airways cabin crew. We were always offered drinks when our glasses were empty, took multiple servings of bread from the basket, and nothing was a problem for any of them. Their uniform is navy blue and white with a black and red scarf, and looks both professional and attractive.
We arrived early into Istanbul, at 1530.
As most European airlines do not offer a continental business class product, the fact that British Airways does automatically puts the airline a step ahead of the competition. BA has one of the best selections of airline lounges in the world, along with some of the finest cabin crew in the sky. The consistency of service, great meals, and personal treatment continues to keep passengers coming back again and again.
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