Route: London Heathrow (LHR) - Istanbul Ataturk (IST)
Date: August 28, 2006
Aircraft: Boeing 767-336ER - G-BZHC (cn 29232 / 708)
Seat Number: 4A
Departure Time: 1030
Arrival Time: 1620
Photo © Manfred Biel
Starting my day in Dublin, I was pleasantly surprised to have the Aer Lingus check-in attendant offer to check my bags right through to Istanbul. Every other time I've connected to a BA flight, I have been told "we can't" check my bag right through, despite being a member of the same alliance.
When I arrived in Terminal 1 at Heathrow, I proceeded to check-in zone R in order to exchange my boarding pass for a British Airways one. This is a completely separate area for premium passengers, away from the main check-in areas. For the first time I had ever seen, there was a line and I had to wait five minutes to be served. This wasn't a problem, and shortly after I proceeded through the dedicated security channel with no trouble at all.
The Terraces Lounge in Terminal 1 at Heathrow is one of the finest Business lounges in the world. Upon entering you may cloak your carry-on bags if you wish, saving you having to haul them around the lounge. The lounge is quite large and there are plenty of Internet enabled PCs available along with desks for laptops. Nearby are low tables and plush chairs next to racks containing a selection of international newspapers and magazines.
There is a ramp leading down to a sunken area with a gorgeous self-service bar decked out in blues and greys, filled with a fine selection of wine's and spirits. Across from there is a self-service food area containing biscuits, danish and other such food. Further on there are deckchairs and sofas for relaxation. Upstairs is the mezzanine, which also has its own small bar.
Flight information is presented on flat screen televisions and there is also a customer service desk if you have any questions. The bathrooms are very modern and just adequate for the amount of people passing through. Additionally, there is a smoking room which is worth visiting for the period Imperial Airways / BOAC posters that adorn the walls. Finally, there is the Molton Brown travel spa which you can use for free if travelling long-haul. A twenty minute massage here is well worth it before a long flight!
Club Europe passengers are invited to board first and we were on board and seated within minutes. Overall boarding didn't take very long, partly due to the fairly light load. Our cabin had 12 passengers and one infant - meaning that almost everyone had the seat next to them free. The flight attendants told me later on that they had a full load for the return flight.
The seats are the usual navy blue leather Club seats like the rest of the fleet, with a aqua and white headrest cover with 'Club Europe' written on it. Seat pockets contained a Business Life magazine, High Life magazine, the Duty Free catalogue, a sick bag and the safety card.
Photo © EDDL Photography
The front wall of the Club cabin had two framed prints of canals attached to it, but the general ambiance was lost by the age of the cabin. The lights along the window line were yellowed and the covers dirty with age. There were no personal air vents and a wire was hanging near my head from a former crew rest partition curtain.
That said, there were packaged headphones on the seat, along with a thick blanket and a pillow for comfort during the flight. Space for carry on luggage was plentiful and the toilets were clean and functional - featuring Molton Brown hand cleanser and moisturiser products.
We pushed back on time and after the safety demonstration an announcement from the flight deck informed us that we were expected to arrive forty minutes early and we'd have a smooth flight. Shortly after take-off, hot towels were distributed to the passengers and quickly retrieved once they had been used. This was followed by a drinks service and I availed myself of the Monopole Brut Champagne, which is the usual champagne on the BA club menu.
In-flight entertainment was switched on, and was viewable by televisions set in the ceiling above the aisle - or via the smaller panels in the main bulkheads. The BBC News was shown first, and just about everyone put their headphones on when the headline read, "Turkey Bombings". However, no-one seemed to be concerned about it. After the news, the movie was Mission Impossible III, which had been announced soon after we took to the air.
Soon enough it was time for lunch. An aqua table cloth was laid over the trays and for a starter we were served Smoked Trout Tureen with Tomato Compote. This came with a salad (which had no dressing), a plate of red grapes and two cheeses, and a slice of chocolate cake with cream, a mug for your coffee/tea and a glass.
The idea is to eat your starter and that plate is then replaced with the main meal. The rest at your leisure. A basket of bread was brought around containing a variety of different breads from around the world and the flight attendants encouraged us to take more than one piece.
Once done with the starter, I was offered a choice of main meal which was Beef Korma with rice, or Chicken Penne. I chose the beef and found it to be a little on the fatty side. Additionally, the plate for the main is quite big and takes up a lot of space - meaning you need to rearrange everything around you - a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. We were generously offered a choice from the bread basket again and our drinks were kept filled.
After service coffee or tea was offered, and the Royal Doulton mugs now feature English country scenes on them in colour. Previously, the scenes were in black and white - a minor detail, but very noticable. The flight deck came back on to confirm our early arrival time and most people settled back to watch the film or to relax.
One of the flight attendants, Sabine, noticed that I had been making notes and taking the occasional picture and struck up a conversation with me. We got talking for a while, and she informed me that she used to fly with Swissair. Her name tag had a German, French and UK flag to denote she spoke three languages and I found out that this was a requirement at her old company. It was an interesting chat - and her service standards validated the comment that I had always heard about how fine the Swissair service was before the company folded.
The four flight attendants assigned to the business cabin upheld my favourable impression of British Airways cabin crew. We were always offered drinks when our glasses were empty, took multiple servings of bread from the basket, and nothing was a problem for any of them. The uniform is navy blue and white uniform with a black and red scarf, and looks both professional and attractive.
Our flight was early arriving into Istanbul, arriving at 1530.
As most European airlines don't offer a continental business class product, the fact that British Airways does automatically puts them a step ahead of the competition. The airline has one of the best selection of airline lounges in the world, along with some of the finest cabin crew in the sky. The consistency of service, great meals and personal treatment continues to keep passengers coming back again and again.