I'm not really a Grinch when it comes to Christmas, but travelling on the day itself had two key advantages – cost (prices drop dramatically) and the avoidance of a day of what can only ever be described as organised family chaos. However, when we set off I had already warned my family of intense nervousness that Christmas flying might involve an unwelcome encounter with Santa hats, Christmas jumpers, and worst of all tinsel….
Two horrors were dispensed with at an early stage in our journey. Terminal 5 was relatively peaceful with only a handful of flights operating each hour. But why were we called to the only desk where the agent who had chosen to dress down for the day in Santa hat and Christmas jumper? Alas, the cheeriness stopped there! Said individual also took the opportunity to remind me that up there on my hate list is being referred to as 'guys', as in 'where are you guys going?'. That said we were checked in swiftly and the good news was that the B gate had already been assigned so we could safely avoid the miserable North and South gallery lounges.
Well unfortunately the festive cheer hadn't made it as far as the B gates. The dragon simply stared at us and held out her hand. Unbeknown to me, my wife was standing directly behind me prompting the dragon to ask curtly how many of us were travelling. Once all accounted for we were told (not invited) to enter. Bad marks so far! Maybe this pair didn't want to be working on Christmas Day, weren't being paid more and had lost out in some ballot, but really they should have made more effort. Things improved thereafter as the lounge was peaceful, except for one gentleman who was snoring loudly rendering the remaining free window seats unusable. But there was a good supply of breakfast, which I think tends to be the best fare offered during the day.
The flight was called about half an hour before scheduled departure, a sure sign that a 747 isn’t going to leave on time. Fasttrack boarding, however, meant we were soon at the door and greeted by a cheerful CSD (about time we encountered someone smiling), alas her good work undone by a large blob of Kryptonite (ok, tinsel) pinned to her jacket. Up the stairs the words "Merry Christmas" finally escaped a BA employee and we made our way to our seats, passing the other crew member who was busily attending to a passenger's table with a wet wipe, providing some clue to the general state of cleanliness. While superficially clean my seat area had the usual smattering of crumbs, hair and those curious stains that are always to be found on the dividing screen. The windows looked as if someone had spluttered milk all over them, and as I subsequently tucked into the latest Patricia Cornwall corpse fest, I couldn't help but wonder what else the indomitable Kay Scarpetta would have discovered with her Luma Lite. The upper deck remained slightly chaotic while a large group of friends travelling together did a tour of each others' seat, making it somewhat difficult for drinks and amenity kits to be distributed. Alas hot towels only made it after take-off once I was tucked into a packet of nuts, which felt somewhat untimely, and not a helpful time to have wet hands.
Not surprisingly we were late leaving, but with a very short flight time this didn't matter. Drinks were served swiftly by the cheery pair, who worked well together and took the time to engage personally, asking about travel plans etc. Lunch was also served in good time. Having read an article somewhere about the thousands of Christmas dinners that BA would be serving over the festive season, I was already resigned to my choice being down by one. However, much to relief not a whiff of turkey, or more likely sprouts, in sight. Of the two starters, the prawn salad was ok if a little tired in appearance, though apparently the Indian offering was better. I had a pressed lamb dish which looked most unappetising as a cube of meat served with roast potatoes, cauliflower frittata and carrots in a jus. It was all too brown and geometric, but it was piping hot and actually quite delicious. Finished off with a chocolate torte, also brown, and a glass of Tattinger (not properly chilled) it was probably 6 out of 10. Curiously only one of our party of four had the chocolates on our tray that were mentioned in the menu?! Other family members who had the chicken curry said it was very good. There was also a vegetarian option and a chilled salad, which I always avoid as invariably tasteless.
The swift service meant that I was soon able to settle down for a long winter's nap, but I did notice how attentive the crew were throughout the flight offering drinks and snacks, and keeping the washrooms clean. The second meal was decidedly peculiar – western or Indian savoury snacks. They would have been ok had they been served with salad or something. But just to eat a slab of quiche or a samosa followed by mini cakes wasn't quite right. The brownie had the consistency of industrial mastic and I'm sure I'd still be chewing it ten days later if I hadn’t eventually been obliged to spit it out. (Well not actually spit – but mentioning the word it suddenly dawns on me that may be that's how the windows and dividing screen get to be in that state – perhaps the previous passenger had succumbed to a particularly indigestible rice pudding?) Back to the brownie, should BA's engineering department need some adhesive to repair the 747's roof and wall mouldings, many of which appeared to be coming adrift, they need look no further than their colleagues in Catering.
We arrived slightly early into an extremely foggy Delhi and waited a while for a follow-me car to lead us to the terminal. Indira Ghandi international is a huge building and it was quite a route march to the immigration. Our bags were among the first off.
Despite the mixed observations, it was a comfortable flight. The upper deck offers so much more personal space in the window seats, and despite its well documented drawbacks, I actually found the seat very comfortable with so many available options, and a good sleep meant I arrived refreshed. The crew were cheerful and attentive and we arrived in good spirits. I've given up making mental comparisons between CW and business class on the likes of EK or SQ, but even If BA could up its game on food and clean its cabins it could, it could be so much better.