At eight hours and 15 minutes, the British Airways haul from London Heathrow to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport is the fastest direct route available with no Dubai breaks or Frankfurt stopovers. The outbound flights depart at a decent hour with one at 11.40am and the other at 3.25pm – perfectly endurable in World Traveller. But for some reason return flights from India depart at an utterly hellish hour – either 3.40am or 7.05am. There’s no point in trying to sleep before catching them and by the time you struggle through the neon-lit halls and onto the plane you’re nauseous with tiredness and ready to kill someone. All hail the Club World flatbed.
Despite the current debate, I have no objection to children travelling in Club World during the day, and certainly not at weekends. But on my outbound flight I changed my mind. I was heading to Delhi for the launch of my first book and had readings to choose, interviews to respond to and a rogue 18-month-old climbing onto my blanketed legs. I smiled through gritted teeth in the hope of not encouraging him, but his parents saw no problem with allowing him to stand by my armrest and watch me with my port, pudding and episodes of The Thick of It.
Lunch started with a self-congratulatory kir royale and smoked salmon, followed by a meaty fish pie and a glass of Chablis, and ended with two large gin and tonics and pulling the blanket over my head to dissuade the child from stroking my arm for the second hour running.
Eventually he screamed himself to sleep and I was able to emerge from under the blanket and crack on with my work. BA staff are very good at knowing when to fawn and when to back off and they pulled up my divider immediately and switched on my reading light, only returning to offer tea and a hot chicken roll. My seat was in the aisle, which offers much less privacy than the centre paired seats or the window bays, but the position of my footrest – which, when pulled down, completes the six-foot bed – was an annoyance to the passenger in the window who had to climb across my legs every time he needed to go the toilet or stretch his legs.
Ultimately the in-flight entertainment, regular food and sharp service make the flight time unnoticeable, and it’s all in tune with the first-class upgrades to Indira Gandhi International airport. You can depart your seat and be through immigration in under seven minutes. But a word of advice: skip the priority queue for First and Business passengers, of which there is only one, and nip under the assault course of ropes to the seven or eight empty “All passports”. You’ll be nosing the Chanel duty free long before the rest have even filled in their embarkation cards.
Monisha Rajesh is a London-based author and journalist