28 December 2018

Flying Business Class with British Airways

by Roberto Revilla

I wish I could be a bit shorter just for 12 hours or so.

I’m currently sat on a red eye from Mauritius back to London, 36,000 ft up in the air propped up on a flat bed in British Airways Business Class unable to sleep.

Ok I just realised that opening statement immediately flushed any sympathy credits for the rest of this article down the toilet.

But how do people do it? How do they sleep soundly on flights like this? I just had a quick walk around looking at my fellow passengers in our little exclusive section at the front of this Boeing 777 (which as I write now sounds slightly creepy). They are all, without exception, fast asleep!

There can only be two possible reasons for this: they’re all on some sort of drugs that got passed around when I was in the loo - and I’m definitely the tallest person here.

I’m not exactly that tall - 6’ I don’t think is huge by todays standards, but I guess it must have been when these planes were first designed. Because I defy anyone over 5’11” to be able to stretch out properly on this flat bed - I’ve tried and tried for the last couple of hours. It is impossible without contorting myself into something resembling the foetal position. Which I’ve not done for my entire existence outside of my mother’s womb.

Actually there was the week at my in-laws house in Soria, Spain about 11 years ago (when I asked Carolina’s dad if I could marry her). The very fact we were not married at that moment meant I was confined to her brother’s old bedroom and the bed he must have been using between the ages of 0-5 years.

And even attempting the foetal position is a feat in itself as the bed is about a foot wide. Ok two foot wide.

I realise there is very little point to me telling most of my clients any of this as they have all travelled in Business or First, if not regularly certainly a lot more than I have... this is only my second time (the first was a couple Christmases ago with Thai Air and let’s not even go there with the sizing of their flat bed system).

So naturally it got me thinking about my clients who travel long haul for business. One lovely chap in particular (all our clients are lovely of course, just in case anyone is actually reading this, you’re awesome!), a senior partner at Mckinsey & Company and seems to spend most of his natural life on 15,000 mile round trips: plane, meetings, plane, meetings, repeat till he gets back home to London for a day or two and then he is off again.

Part of a previous post I wrote on Business Travel which focused on how you dress and therefore might pack for such a trip talked about how you could travel light and avoid hold baggage. This experience has made me have a slight re-think on long haul and I’m not sure sitting in a suit and shirt on anything over a 5 hour flight is possible. Or even practical.

Fair enough I’ve just been lying on a beach for the last two weeks so boarded the plane in jeans and a t-shirt - after an hour I then got rid of my jeans and swapped into a pair of these things from Abercrombie which are neither for jogging in nor sleeping in, more lounging around the house in the evenings in. I think. When it comes to smart casual jeans and a (nice fitted & good quality) t-shirt are the lowest rung of the ladder I can bring myself to go down to. So I don’t know what these things are called. An ex-girlfriend would definitely have referred to them as “slouch house pants” so you work it out.

So there’s the sleep/lying flat issue and if you’re under 5’10” you’re obviously fine according to my quick creepy census up here. The more demure in stature you are the better you’ll be so hold on to that small victory (pun completely intended).

Then there is the question of how you get serious work done. I was very excited about travelling Business Class with BA for the first time especially after my wife’s glowing reviews when she has done it on annual trips to India. The marketing tells you how you’ll have your own space, space to stretch out and relax, or catch up on work before you reach your destination.

You can’t. Seriously. Unless your work just involves using an iPad with a keyboard cover, or a small laptop (I mean a 12”-13” inch screen and no more), you can just forget it. Because you are not going to use the tray table to hold a laptop, your phone and any form of paperwork. Never mind the size, it’s wonky and wobbly. Besides where do you fit your endless supply of free drinks?

For all my apparent complaining it is infinitely better to turn left while most of the rest of your fellow passengers are told to turn right therefore enabling you to completely avoid all of them for the rest of the flight. The service is very good and the staff are lovely. As someone who still doubts the physics involved in getting 300 people, their kids and baggage up in the air (I still think it’s some sort of black magic), it’s nice to be sat in the front row (thanks Vikki at Kuoni in Brent Cross) so I can stalk the cabin crew and keep an eye on the captain.

But I can’t get any sleep on this teeny tiny flat bed, our suit and shirt prices will have to stay the same for 2019 because I can’t “spread out” and revise the schedules and the whole grand plan of getting a red eye flight back in Business Class with flat beds has been entirely defeated due to my height.

Oh and Carolina did notice my disappointment right before she tucked in for a good nights sleep:

Carolina: “What’s the matter?”

Me: “(Tells her an abridged version of all of the above) AND you told me it’s amazing travelling this way.”

Carolina: “Oh, I remember now - I travelled First, not Business. There’s a big difference. Sorry. Love you! Night night!”