We were due to fly from Gatwick South to Tirana in Albania with British Airways who were not covering themselves in glory at the time. Not only were pilots’ strikes looming, fortunately during the middle of our trip, but they’d wrongly issued letters to unaffected passengers, telling them their flights were cancelled. Then the day before our flight, luggage belt failures at Gatwick North, meant flights were taking off minus luggage. It was not a promising start.
On checking the flight status first thing, I found that instead of taking off at 4.45pm we were delayed to 6.04pm. However, they advised us to check in as normal with the message “we’re working hard to resolve the issue”. By mid-morning, the departure time was 5.38pm and at mid-day, we were back on track. I wished I’d never bothered checking.
BA have a dedicated Business Class area for check in and access to the premium lane security. So, from being dropped off by taxi, to sipping our first glass of champagne in the lounge, was probably only 15 minutes max (and that was via a quick detour into Dixons). The BA lounge had an excellent range of help yourself alcoholic, non-alcoholic and hot drinks. Despite being at the tail end of lunch, hot food (e.g. Mexican meatballs, chilli, jacket potatoes and pasta) was still available with salads, and towards the end of our stay, afternoon tea appeared with a selection of sandwiches, scones with jam and cream and cakes. There was plenty of seating in various styles with quiet corners, lots of plug points and we began to feel thoroughly chilled.
The gate number appeared when it said it would, 30 minutes before departure time, and there was a separate lane for business class boarders.
Business class on the A380 was the first five rows which in standard, were 3 on each side, but we had the ‘luxury’ of the middle seat with its flip down tray. The pilot’s announcements were somewhat lacking especially having boarded everyone well before departure time, nothing had happened 10 minutes later. However, things sprang into life and having set off 30 minutes late, the flight time was 30 minutes less than scheduled. Hey presto, we arrived exactly on schedule.
Service was attentive as there were only 14 passengers in the 20 seats, and a number weren’t eating or drinking much to the bemusement of our charming cabin stewardess. Consequently, we were plied with drinks (“you might as well have 2 G&T each”) and the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc flowed during what was an excellent dinner. The starter was a mixed mezze a couple of olives, feta cubes, stuffed mini pepper and a sun blush tomato. My first choice of main, an interesting sounding salad, had run out by the time the trolley reached us at the back as there was only one on board. However, the roasted cauliflower and asparagus risotto was an excellent substitute. The chocolate and blackcurrant torte was delicious and the cheddar and brie, served with biscuits and grapes, rounded things off beautifully.
Meanwhile in standard class, Marks and Spencer sandwiches could be bought for exorbitant prices!
Our return trip six weeks later was similarly good and having taken off exactly on time, we arrived 30 minutes early. Interestingly the meal was exactly the same.
Whilst I wouldn’t normally fly business class for a short flight, we’d used Avios points. However, our experience would certainly make me think again.