The US Bonanza – Day 8

>New York – London in British Airways New Club World

And there it was… the early alarm that said “Holiday’s over”. Well… not quite. Normally when I fly back from the US, I take an evening flight and make use of the flat bed to get a good night’s kip. But, since we were on holiday, the idea of 9 hours (including lounge-time) of solid champagne drinking seemed appealing, so we booked the 08:45 flight from JFK.

We climbed into a taxi and headed in the general direction of JFK Terminal 7. One thing of note – it always used to be the case that taxi rides from JFK to Manhattan were fixed at $45+tolls, with the return journeys being metered. Now both ways have the $45+tolls flat rate – which is pretty good considering my last taxi ride to JFK was about $70!

When we got to the terminal, we went to the First check in at the far end, where there was one person queuing in front. The agent at the desk looked up and asked “First class?”, to which we replied “No, Club”. She half smiled and said “Club check in’s over there” and pointed back the way we’d come. We politely shook our heads and said “And Gold check in’s here”. The half smile disappeared and she went back to annoying the passenger she was currently trying to check in. For some reason the agent was suggesting that the lady might not be allowed into the UK… even though she was a British Citizen. Quite what was going on I can’t remember, but in the end, the passenger was right, and as she turned to go to the departures lounge she looked at me and rolled her eyes in the direction of the check in agent.

Our check in was less eventful. It was a very empty flight, so there was going to be no chance of an upgrade. Even if there had been, I’m not entirely sure I’d have taken it as I wanted to try out New Club World. Having said that, we wouldn’t know for definite until we got on the plane that it would indeed have the new product.

We made our way to the First Class lounge, which is right next to the Terraces. As it was a morning flight, the Molton Brown Spa wasn’t open, so we sat and sampled the champagne. Unfortunately it was only Perrier Jouet Grand Brut… a far cry from Belle Epoque.

We left the lounge about 40 minutes before the flight was due to depart, and arrived at the gate just as boarding was announced. We joined the Fast Track and then went down the jetty to the aeroplane. As we walked on, we were welcomed with those magical words “Thank you sir, turn right and up the stairs”. Not quite as magical as “Please follow me sir”, but still nice to hear 🙂

As we walked through the cabin, it had all been worth it. The brand new Club World seats were out in force. As we got to the top of the stairs, the crew took our jackets and we took our seats; 64J and 64K.

Our first impressions were that they were a little less sturdy than the previous generation seats. They were however still very comfortable, and we there were quite a few improvements. The first, obviously, was the AVOD (Audio & Video On Demand). The screens were a decent size, and being able choose when films start and stop, and to pause when you need a slash, is a massive step forward. On the downside though, the selection wasn’t great. Some of the films that were out on the old system hadn’t made it onto the AVOD list yet, and I couldn’t see much that I wanted to watch. Still, I did manage to find a couple to fill the flying time.

The new seat has “Z-position” which is designed to be ideal for watching films. It’s 6″6′ in length, and looks as follows:

Instead of a fan between the seats, there’s now a clever frosted screen which goes up and down at the touch of a button. The screen is designed so that when you’re in the seat, you can’t see the person in the next seat, but if you’re at a higher angle (i.e. cabin crew) you can see through the screen. The only problem was that the screen going up and down was quite noisey, and so trying to sleep while your neighbour’s being served by the cabin crew isn’t ideal.

Another nice touch is that when you convert the seat to a bed, the arm rests descend, making the shoulder area of the bed wider. This is a big plus. Also the reading light is now within the seat unit so it only illuminates you, rather than the old system where the light was in the overhead bins and it illuminated everyone around that was trying to sleep!

Our crew were fantastic. They could see that we enjoyed a chat and the odd glass of champagne, and were happy to provide both. We had a chance to speak to the whole upper deck crew, and they were all a good laugh. We probably made our way through about 6 or 7 full sized bottles of champagne between us, which is pretty good going. We were pretty merry by the end of the flight!

Fortunately we also had a fair bit of food to soak it up. Brunch kicked off with Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese, and then this was followed up with a Mixed Grill. The champagne was Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve – this is certainly a step up from the Monopole that had previously been served in Club.

Overall it was another fantastic flight. The New Club World product is a definite step in the right direction, and I’m glad I got to try it. Now that I have tried it though, the difference between First and Club is still apparent, and while I enjoy Club World very much, First is definitely a nice upgrade.

Speaking of which… BA are due to announce a new First Class product in the not too distant future… I can’t wait 🙂

The Aftermath

The Easter Bank Holiday gave us a couple of days to recover from the US Bonanza, the constant time zone changes, and of course our occasional tipple of bubbly.

Looking at our miles and points balances, it was well worth it and a good laugh too. Overall, my accounts grew by the following:

BA Tier Points: 840
BA Miles: 18,300
AA Miles: 1,250
Priority Club Points: 34,296

…and another BA Gold Upgrade for Two voucher earned 🙂