It had been a bad week for flying in India. The first I’d got wind of fresh tensions with Pakistan wasn’t from the front page of the Times of India over my morning coffee, but when I had an email from Jet Airways cancelling two of my upcoming internal flights, but not the third one. Strange indeed … I wasn’t going to be able to use that third one, because it was the second leg of one of the cancelled ones. So … thanks for that folks. Jet Airways then locked me out of the booking online and took their phones off the hook, leaving me and – judging by social media – a lot of people stuck, stuck, stuck. So much for customer service. The reason for all this? Almost all air space north of Delhi being closed due to possible imminent war. Thankfully not all airlines reacted to the crisis by simply hiding under the duvet.
A quick look at Twitter revealed extraordinary flight paths being employed between India and the UK
The British Airways app on my phone had already indicated an hour’s delay with my London-bound flight from Delhi, but the estimated arrival time back in the UK kept fluctuating. A quick look at Twitter revealed extraordinary flight paths being employed between India and the UK. The BA flight the day before had refuelled in Budapest. I was assured at check-in by a disarmingly cheerful employee that this wasn’t going to happen today and we were looking at a little over 11 hours from A to B, not a great deal longer than the standard 9 hours 45 minutes.
Boarding was fairly well organised, albeit involving a secondary wave of x-ray security at the gate which is always a faff. The Boeing 777 BA uses for this route has the 2-4-2 configuration in Club, and I was pleased to bag an aisle seat. I am intrigued by many things about the imminent redesign of Club World at BA – I hope we’re going to see a less wobbly arm rest, and a sturdier tray table for laptop use, but most of all I’m looking forward to direct aisle access as standard. No one wants to clamber over someone’s legs to get to the toilet.
The welcome drink during boarding was water or juice, with no sign of champagne. Slightly odd, as there’d been fizz (albeit not, from my what my tastebuds detected, actual champagne) on my way out in World Traveller Plus. From an original scheduled departure of 11.05am, we finally took off at 12.30pm, with the staff forced to offer a manual safety demonstration when the usual video wouldn’t play properly. I breathed a sigh of relief – I’ve had Asim Chaudhry and Joanna Lumley give me seatbelt advice one time too many. That joke has worn paper thin.
I started watching The Favourite – which I’d been saving for weeks for this particular flight – during the opening round of drinks (the first of many glasses of Canard-Duchêne, Cuvée Léonie Brut) but then the AVOD for the whole plane needed resetting, which was going to take around 10 minutes. Le sigh. I had a copy of the film on my laptop so continued watching it that way instead with, of course, a notable increase in quality thanks to my extortionately overpriced MacBook Pro’s retina display. I hope the new Club product comes with sharper TV sets. Although a comparison with a £2k MacBook is a little unfair.
Around two thirds of people in the Club cabin seemed to opt to sleep for as much as the journey as they could, with blinds down, sleep masks on and seats in the full flat-bed arrangement. I always find this slightly strange on a day flight heading west with a midday departure, and I worked my way through A Private War (excellent), Bohemian Rhapsody (reprehensible and homophobic) and assorted comedies. The crew were faultlessly cheerful for the whole journey, and the catering was generally top notch. For lunch, served 90 minutes into the flight, I had tandoor chicken and then chicken makhana with saffron rice, corn and spinach masala. I’d have eaten it three times over if I could, although the roti it came with was a little stale around the edges. A paneer wrap served later was pretty wonderful.
The current British Airways Club World product may have needed tweaking for some time, but in terms of overall service and reliability, this is still a five star product. To have to spend a little more time with it on the way back to London than I had planned was no hardship at all. As for Jet Airways, I’m still waiting for my refund …