Now anyone who has ever flown in to the US will know what an emotionally and physically distressing experience US Homeland Security can be, but it seems the clever people at British Airways have found a rather unique way to alleviate this stress with its Business only flight from London City Airport to New York JFK. British Airways operate this route using the Airbus 318-100, a single aisle, twin-engine jet manufactured by Airbus Industries, the European consortium. It is the smallest member of the Airbus 320 family and thanks to its steep approach compatibility, can fly longhaul from London City airport. The A318 has a passenger capacity of 107 in a two-class configuration, however, British Airways operate this particular route with only 32 business seats across the Atlantic, and the result is not only efficient but elegant with features resembling contemporary art in design. BUT the piece du residence of this service is that en-route to New York the plane makes a stop to refuel the aircraft at Shannon, Ireland, before starting the transatlantic crossing. Now this may sound like an obstacle to an otherwise smooth service but this is where the magic happens, while BA prepare the aircraft for the journey to New York, you pass through United States Customs and Immigration and as a result, the flight lands in the United States as a domestic flight enabling you to bypass New York passport and customs control. For me, whether I am flying for business or pleasure, the opportunity to bypass such a gruelling ordeal would get my vote every-time.
Checking in at London City Airport is a breeze, within about 20 minutes I go from luggage drop off to the BA lounge at the gate where the plane sits waiting, ready to whisk us lucky 32 off to New York. After a glass of bubbly or two the boarding is called and we cross the tarmac in Hollywood starlet fashion to board the plane via steps to the front. I am greeted by Catherine, the Head Steward for this flight, who is charming, upbeat and in typical British Airways style has a great sense of humour. I find my seat, I always opt for front of the plane (usually because I only fly First Class and refuse to sit near a bathroom) but in this plane, what with only 32 seats one does not have to be so picky as they are all in great location. Now the seat itself is unique to this particular service, the Club World London City seat is a new seat to the British Airways fleet, designed to adapt to your needs, whether one wishes to work, sleep, eat, or relax, and the genius part is that when one is ready to settle down to sleep the seat reclines to a fully flat 6 foot bed, what more could one want? Well it seems the bods at British Airways did not just stop there, for those who do business in Business Class there are two sockets which can take UK or US plugs for your laptop and personal devices fitted in to the seat and if that was not enough British Airways operate OnAir on this particular route. OnAir allows you to use your mobile phone on board giving you access to email, text messages and the internet. OnAir is exclusive to British Airways on this route and is accessible once the aircraft has reached an altitude of 10,000 feet which is normally about 10 minutes after take off. I however took this opportunity to turn off my devices and get in some R’n’R before my whirlwind tour of New York and British Airways comes up trumps again with personal iPads featuring recent movie releases, classic film titles and a selection of TV programmes you can watch on demand.
o what about the cuisine? With such a service which tries to minimise on weight one may think the food and drink selection would suffer, well much to my delight, this is not so. After another glass of Taittinger I am given my menu as to my meal selection, it is good to see such an array from British classics to lighter options, I opt for the curried aubergine tart with onion marmalade for starters and the grilled fillet of beef for my mains. The tart is a sight to behold, creamy and lightly spiced, the pastry is flaky and the filling is flavoursome, not at all what I was expecting from “in-flight” catering, the same goes for the beef, not burnt to a crisp or dry as a bone, meaty and juicy with a lovely accompaniment of caramelised onions and blanched vegetables, all washed down with a rather fine Chateau du Moulin Noir 2009. Now if dinner and cocktails is not enough this service also operate a “Club Kitchen” which stocks tasty treats from biscuits and cakes to savoury snacks, a rather good reason to stretch ones legs I would say! Now sated I reclined back in chair, headphones on and iPad at the ready, before I knew it we were in New York and thanks to having passed through Customs at Shannon I found myself in a limo on my way to the wonderful Ritz Carlton Central Park, no fuss, no queues, NO stress.
The same was for the return flight in to London City Airport, as a Club World customer you can use the wonderful facilities of the BA Galleries Lounge at New York JFK, this includes restaurant dining, fully stocked bar and an Elemis Spa, where they offer a complimentary two-tier treatment menu exclusive to British Airways customers. After a spot of dinner in the restaurant I made my way to the Spa for a 15 minute facial and massage, make sure when you get to the lounge to book your appointment as during busy periods you may have to wait an hour (an excuse for a beverage or two) before your treatment. As I sat in a rather ominous looking chair the therapist told me to lie still while the chair measured my pressure points for the massage, a very odd experience indeed but once the chair started the massage I was transported to pre-flight bliss. Combined with the Elemis facial I left there feeling ready for my red-eye back to London town, relaxed , cleansed and smelling minty fresh (thanks to the anti-stress gel used on my neck).
Boarding the plane I was ready for the comfort of my fully flat bed and my magic carpet ride back to my home city, the charming Catherine, from my outbound flight, was at the helm and put me at ease with my last glass of bubbles before Neverland. The inbound service is designed to promote sleep and comfort so you arrive in London ready to hit the ground running, after all this is a business service. Your sleep will be undisturbed until breakfast and the inflight crew check before takeoff which breakfast option you would prefer. If you like to eat a hot breakfast the crew will gently wake you on approach to London City but if you would rather maximize your sleep time, you can request to take away the City Breakfast option to enjoy after landing and on your way to the office.
As I drift off after takeoff under my blanket with fluffy pillows and an eye pillow shielding my eyes from what little light is left in the cabin I realise British Airways really have thought of everything on this service. Whether you are flying for business or pleasure on this service you can have the best of both worlds.
British Airways Club World London City service operates a twice-daily service to JFK, New York, with prices starting from £2,520.01, return, including all taxes, fees and charges. Contact British Airways online or call 0844 493 0787