How to fly to London in style
Anyone from the Gulf region who chooses to fly to London on business class is spoiled for choice. The airports and lounges that belong to the leading Gulf carriers are as fantastic as are their ultra-modern planes. But this doesn’t come cheap, and if you’re footing the bill yourself then it’s a hefty price to pay. Which is where British Airways is re-establishing itself as a viable luxury alternative, but for a much lower price. The cost of flying Club World (business) to London on BA regularly comes in at well over a third cheaper than at least one major regional rival, which is a big saving. Indeed, it is available throughout the year from Abu Dhabi for Dhs8,735 if booked at least 60 days in advance.
But of course, anyone flying business expects a certain level of service, so how does BA compare? The answer is more nuanced than you might initially think. For instance, Emirates has the best lounge at DXB because it is the host airport. However, BA last month unveiled a new lounge at the airport’s newly built Concourse D, which is a huge upgrade on its previous offering. And that’s just one of a host of new initiatives.
For starters, non-frequent flyers often don’t appreciate the difference between planes, but anyone who racks up the air miles will know that not all planes are not created equal. British Airways has used the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner on its Abu Dhabi and Oman routes since last November, and will add Dubai in October this year. The First cabin will have just eight seats in comparison to the 14 available on other British Airways long-haul aircraft, giving more privacy to customers. And one overlooked details is that the internal cabin altitude throughout is the equivalent of 6,000ft on a Dreamliner, which is 2,000ft lower than on other aircraft. This reduces the drying effect of the cabin air, so customers arrive feeling more refreshed, which is not an inconsequential detail, as any business traveller who needs to hit the ground running at the other side will attest.
The airline has also revamped 18 of its 747s in line with the newest arrivals to British Airways’ fleet. Sixteen Club World seats have been added, the cabins have been given a facelift and, perhaps most importantly for economy travellers, a new in-flight entertainment system has been installed.
So: flat bed, good food, new plane, modern fit-out… for the price that is an extremely competitive offering. But when you land at Heathrow, BA really comes into its own. Terminal 5 has quietly developed into a top-class destination since opening in 2008 and has been recognised as the world’s best terminal for the fourth consecutive year in the Skytrax awards.
It has six lounges, collectively capable of hosting 2,500 people. Amenities include an Elémis travel spa and 94 shower rooms. You can also get your suit pressed or make use of one of the cabanas with infinity bathrooms (which is basically an overflowing bathtub) and if you’re schlepping on to somewhere like New York, a shower and hot stone massage to break the journey is a lifesaver.
Alternatively, it’s a great option if you’re arriving first thing in the morning and need to freshen up before heading into town for meetings. These spas are open to first class and Club World customers or Gold Executive Club members travelling on long-haul flights, and all treatments are offered on a complimentary basis.
There are some other great touches: a concierge desk enables customers to book theatre tickets and taxis or manage flight details, and there’s a boardroom for customers to conduct private meetings.
Finally, Terminal 5 has also had a Dhs215m refit of its luxury offerings. Chanel now has a store to add to Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Burberry and Montblanc and a raft of others. Best of all, the terminal offers a complimentary personal shopping service. Book ahead and not only will they walk you through the stores and collections but can also help source items in advance. You can also send in your measurements or preferences so they can select pieces before you arrive. It really is a fantastic service that is genuinely useful, particularly if you’re flying from a warm climate to a cold one and need some suitable clothing on arrival.
So, for the business traveller who’s short on time, Terminal 5’s well thought-out comforts as you step from or onto a brand-new plane makes BA an extremely worthy option for your next trip. Especially if you’re the one who is paying for the privilege.