This will be the first in a series of posts about our recent trip to London. It was a whirlwind trip but a lovely trip. Rather than give a day by day, blow by blow account of the trip, I’m going to focus on several key aspects of the trip that are worth writing about. It was mostly a business trip – so there isn’t much touristy stuff to write about.
First up is our experience flying British Airways Club World – also known as business class.
We were leaving for London on July 4th – yes, I do appreciate the irony of leaving for London on July 4th. As usual, we were flying out of Chicago O’Hare – which is a fine enough airport. We had an overnight flight planned – British Airways currently has flights 2 flights out of Chicago every day – one of them is a sleeper service (I’ll get to what that means shortly).
As I wrote about previously, we would be traveling at guests of British Airways and that meant we were flying Club World – which is also known as business class to everyone else. Obviously, we were quite looking forward to the experience as we had never flown Club World before.
Arriving at O’hare Airport
The British Airways Club World experience begins right when you arrive at the airport. Club World has it’s own checkin line, a line that is always shorter and moves much faster. When we arrived we waited a short time, our bags were checked and then we were off to security. And now, another perk of Club World, you also share the same security line that you do with First Class. It was the quickest security line I ever went through!
British Airways Terrace Lounge
Now, by far one of the best perks of traveling Club World is that you get access to the lounge (it’s the Terrace Lounge at O’Hare). If you’ve never flown business class before – the lounge is a quiet place for you to relax before you travel. Much food and drink is provided, all the British newspapers you could ever ask for are available and there are many big comfy couches to doze off on.
When you get inside the lounge you’re greeted by the friendly BA staff at the desk and then you’re prsesented with many delicious food options. Even though I’m a very picky eater, I still managed to eat very well. Best of all, you can eat as much as you want and I took well advantage of their delicious chocolate chip cookies.
We were flying on a sleeper service – which meant that we needed to eat our dinner in the lounge. After take-off, the lights would be shut off and we would be encouraged to sleep for the flight over (after a final delicious snack). So, we ate. Eating helps you sleep so I was was sure to eat!
After you’ve eaten dinner, it’s time to go rest in the comfy lounge area. The best part of the lounge is that it’s insanely quiet. It’s filled with people checking e-mail on their laptops, watching the silent TV, reading newspapers or taking liberal advantage of the free alcohol. There is ample free wifi and it’s fantastically fast.
My favorite part of the lounge was the wide selection of free British newspapers for every political taste. The staff is very friendly and helpful – keeping us updated on the status of our flight.
I’m used to waiting for ages at the gate until boarding of the flight begins. This time we were entertained in the lounge so well that the time passed very quickly. When the time came to board – Club World and First get their own boarding line so we didn’t have to wait in line with everyone else.
It was literally two minutes from the lounge to our seat on the plane.
On Board in Club World
The first thing that will amaze you about Club World are the seats. They’re huge! The most innovative feature – and the one I was most looking forward to – was the fact the seats lay flat in a horizontal position, creating a comfy bed.
One of the most unpleasant aspects of flying transatlantic is I usually fly Coach and I can never sleep on the plane. I always arrive in London having been awake for 24 hours. It’s a real shame because most flights to London arrive early in the morning. You’re so jetlagged that the whole first day is wasted because you’re so bloody tired.
Since we were blessed with Club World seats, my goal was to sleep the whole way to London and wake-up refreshed.
We made ourselves comfortable and the plane took off quickly and on time. Once we’d reached cruising altitude, we were given a delicious snack (mine was two warm cookies). And it was not long after that pretty much the whole Club World cabin had fallen asleep.
I stayed awake for a little while, enjoying the comfort, reading a newspaper and watching a little bit of TV on the on demand entertainment system. You have access to the same entertainment that everyone else on the plane has – except the screen is bigger, which is nice.
The cabin crew staff (despite their negative perception right now) were nothing but kind and helpful. I could not have asked for a better flight experience and the cabin crew certainly played their part.
After my snack was well digested and I was suitably tired, I grabbed by complimentary pillow and blanket, moved the seat into the lie flat position and went to sleep.
I woke up in London refreshed and ready to go for our first day. The plane arrived at Heathrow Terminal Five – by far one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s a pleasure to go through every time.
The Arrivals Lounge
The Club World experience doesn’t end when you land. Since you’re at the front of the plane – you get off the plane first. No waiting for the rest of Coach to get off before you can hustle your way into the arrivals area. Before you land, you’re also given a special invitation to a fast track immigration line. This is quite nice as this line is obviously much shorter than the regular immigration line. Within 10 minutes of landing our passports were stamped and we were welcomed to Britain.
After you’re through immigration and you’ve claimed your bags you have one final stop – the British Airways Arrivals lounge in Terminal Five. I don’t know about you, but after a 7 hours flight, I’m usually starving. The Arrivals lounge solves that problem. It’s literally wall to wall fresh breakfast food. They even have delicious pancakes. The staff are friendly and helpful and of course, there is ample free WiFi.
Once we were suitably stuffed, we headed for the Heathrow Express to venture into Central London for our first day.
I cannot thank them enough – but a huge Thank You goes to British Airways for flying us in Club World as guests. It was an incredible experience.
As an aside – British Airways is currently running a sale on Club World – if you book now until the end of the month – some Club World tickets are half as much as they usually are. Great deals are to be had if you want to spring for Club World. I highly recommend it!