Post written by Laura
A new travel experience for me! Hurrah!!
Having only travelled premium economy twice in my entire life, both times on return night flights and both times having exchanged a few extra Virgin miles I was super excited at the prospect of travelling in style! This is someone who doesn’t even book speedy boarding (with the priority being to save cash towards future travel…)
This is a post on my first experience of travelling business class and how it came about.
I had booked my trip to Ecuador with Explore travel and while they had offered and found me return flights I decided I would shop around for myself and book them separately.
I first looked at Sky Scanner then left Sky Scanner and looked directly at the British Airways site for some flight options where I found the required flights:
London to Quito (via Miami)
Guayaquil to London (via Miami)
I entered the details to get a quote and routinely clicked through on Economy each time… then I did a double-take, clicked the ‘back’ button and found that for this return flight the Business option was actually cheaper than Economy or Premium Economy!!! Wow!!! Book book book!!! I hurriedly continued with the booking before the prices changed, feeling super chuffed with myself.
I paid just £300 more for BA Club World (their name for business) than I had been quoted by Explore for the return economy flights with a budget airline! Well… 3 of the 4 flights were business as this wasn’t available for the 4 hour Miami to Quito leg… hey ho… I could live with that 🙂
Heathrow to Miami
I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 about 3.5 hours before the flight was due to depart and walked across to the BA Club World desk to drop my case for it’s transit through to Quito and to obtain my boarding passes. And there was no queue 🙂
I fast tracked through security and once in the Departure Lounge I made my way to the Club World lounge. Having never been in there I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was slightly taken aback that it was so busy!
I found a seat and looked around at the options which included bars with help yourself unlimited alcohol, a shower or the free buffet breakfast. I settled for breakfast and relaxed with this and a glass of Prosecco at 7 am. The breakfast was OK… fresh and good quality but not too much variety.
Soft ‘chillax’ music played in the background and as I ate breakfast I glanced around the lounge. My fellow Club World travellers looked pretty normal… I was expecting them all to be wearing either business suits or designer clothes.
After an hour or so I ventured out into the frenzy of the main departure lounge, brought one more US plug adapter and decided it was time to scurry back into the more relaxed and serene Club lounge.
As boarding time neared I made my way to the departure gate. Of course one advantage is boarding first and being near the front of the plane. The initial glance of my seat is above. An aisle seat facing forwards.
I explored what was to be my own little space for the next 9 hours and found the seat was really comfy, there was masses of leg room and I had a large ‘proper’ pillow. There was a foot rest which you could pull down later in the flight if you wished. There was also a little draw to store your own things and which contained a bottle of water and a ‘White Company’ refreshing pack complete with socks, an eye mask, some moisturisers and a toothbrush kit.
As people were boarding and I was getting settled I was given a glass of Champagne. This is the life…
The flight was 35 minutes late to take off but I didn’t mind on this occasion… I was enjoying myself!
Shortly after take-off (by which time I had pulled up the privacy screen so I didn’t have to look at my sleeping seat neighbour) I selected a ‘Gin Zing’ from a choice of cocktails. This was described as ‘a tantalising mix Tanqueray No. 10, citrus and bubbles, served over ice’ which was cold, delicious and refreshing and served in a lovely crystal glass.
Soon it was time for lunch and in Club World this doesn’t arrive on a trolley… About 20 minutes before I was asked what I would like to choose from the menu and which drink I would like with the meal. The starter was then served on a white linen covered tray together with a glass of chilled Chardonney and water in another crystal glass.
And the cod tasted superb… with delicious flavours…
After dinner I decided to relax and watch a film. On this occasion there was no issue with annoying the person behind by reclining the seat (which I don’t tend to do for that reason… I don’t like to encroach on the space of the person sitting behind me). I simply pushed the button and the seat glided into place. Had I continued I could have had an entire flat bed! But no, a partial recline was fine for me. And plenty of arm room too without jostling with a stranger for the arm rest.
I occupied myself with the usual plane activities such as flicking through the film and TV channels, listening to music, sorting photos on my phone and reading my Ecuador guide book. After a few hours afternoon tea arrived 🙂
Leading the high life came to an abrupt end as soon as I landed at Miami International and followed the signs to immigration along with the other 500 passengers from the Airbus A380 flight.
I haven’t so far mentioned the stress I had experienced shortly before the trip. Having been a bit smug at my good fortune with my business class seats my excitement was hampered with some confusion about entry to the US for those with a Cuba stamp in their passports… long story short but this applied to me and I found out about 2 weeks before the trip.
Simon Calder, a well known UK TV travel journalist had tweeted that US border officials could refuse entry to anyone who had visited Cuba since 2011! BA and other sites suggested this applied to visits since January 2021…
Worse case scenario and I could have been sent back to the UK at my own expense and missed part of my Ecuador trip! And incurred hefty additional expenses!
Thankfully I had a cheerful US border official who waved me through to catch my connecting flight to Quito and told me to enjoy my trip… phew! And thankfully I hadn’t changed my flight to avoid the US transit and lost my once-in-a-lifetime chance of comparative flying luxury!
Fast forward the economy connecting flight from Miami to Quito as, ahem…, this is not applicable for this post. This involved a 4 hour American Airlines flight, cramped in at the back of the plane with the offer of just one cup of water and a free biscuit.
*** 2 weeks later ***
Guayaquil to Miami
Following my wonderful Ecuador trip I had two business class flights to look forward to as I headed home. There were no ‘special’ lounges at Guayaquil International airport so I spent this time as usual in the small departure lounge.
This flight was an American Airlines (BA partner airline) Boeing 737 with its 3-3 economy seat config and its 2-2 business class. I had a window seat which was nice and roomy and had a large armrest so it wasn’t a problem sharing it with my seat companion. Breakfast was nothing special, just a coffee, some fruit, a small bowl of muesli and a warm croissant but at least this was preferable to a cup of water and a biscuit. Apart from the wide seat and extra legroom and wide armrest there were no significant advantages of this being business class.
The views were great however! Flying over the Caribbean on a clear day where I could see many of the islands.
Miami to London
Flying business class doesn’t save you from the anxiety of an enormous immigration queue and the prospect of nearly missing your connecting flight. Upon arrival and having de-planed fairly quickly as I was at the front of the plane I made my way to the US border control and joined the end of the seething mass of people.
Given my incoming flight was on time and had landed at 13:30 and my next flight was due to depart at 17:05 I should have had plenty of time. But the immigration queue moved about as fast as a sloth running a marathon.
After an hour and with me being less than half way through I put on my best British accent and politely asked one of the staff if it would be possible to fast track as I had a connecting flight. Thankfully after a bit of a pause and some hesitation I was directed to the next available official who, after a quick look at my passport, allowed me through.
But next was another queue for bag scanning with no information of what terminal I was in or where I should be going or even if I was in the right place. This queue took 25 minutes.
I arrived in the middle of the Terminal D gates but couldn’t find an information board. Eventually I did and found I should be in Terminal E.
Next was the Skytrain to Terminal E (although the signage wasn’t clear but I worked out I needed to disembark at stop 3).
Having arrived at Terminal E I then found I had to get another train transit to Gate 24!
Eventually I arrived at the gate and kind of slumped in the seat for 30 minutes without having the energy or motivation to do anything except reply to a couple of Whatsapp messages!
Boarding for my flight began at 16:10 and I was soon relaxing in my business class seat with a much appreciated glass of champagne.
After take-off I had another Gin Zing and I also tried a ‘Jonny Ginger’ which was premium whisky, orange juice and ginger ale served over ice and a slice.
Starter: Cream of celery root soup with herb croutons. This was a small bowl and for some reason I had a mozzarella salad too. Maybe they had run out of soup 🙂
Main course: Vegetable korma with saffron rice, roasted baby pepper and dal makhani. A little slopped about but this is the nature of flying and the odd bit of turbulence 🙂
After dinner I tried to get some sleep and fully reclined my seat into a bed. Due to the jet stream the flight from Miami to London was shorter at 8 hours.
It didn’t seem long before breakfast arrived. I was still full from dinner! So being the cheapskate I can be sometimes, I wrapped most of this up in tissues and ate it later at Kings Cross station while waiting for my train home.
On this occasion and as this was a new travel experience for me, spending £300 extra to enjoy this delux beginning and ending of what was an incredible trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos was wonderful and well worth doing.
If I could seek out these kind of opportunities in the future it would be amazing as the prospect of future economy flights is not quite so appealing. However I have personal spending limits and I’m not sure I would justify spending £2,000+ extra just for a few hours of additional comfort… in fact no chance… this could be another holiday!