British Airways relaunched services between London to Tehran on September 1, after a gap of four years. There are six flights a week (daily except Sundays), departing Heathrow at 2110, landing in Tehran at 0525 the next day. The return leaves at 0735, landing in London at 1110. The flight time is five hours 45 minutes. It is the only carrier serving the route directly from the UK.
I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 1800, taking the lift up to level five departures, and then walking through the check-in zone. For those that are travelling with hand-baggage only, you can check-in online and then head straight to security as normal.
Fast-track for premium passengers was very quick – and it was easy to grab a plastic bag for your liquids before having your boarding pass scanned.
Entering the screening area, there were several channels open so it didn’t take long to remove my laptop and send my various items cruising along the conveyor belt through the X-ray machine. There was a body scanner in operation but I wasn’t asked to go through it. I was airside by 1810.
I went to withdraw some cash as had been advised to take either British pounds or US dollars to Iran and change it at the hotel as ATMs won’t work in Tehran and you can’t use credit or debit cards.
Club World passengers have access to the Galleries lounge and/or Terrace lounge.
I headed down to Gate 53C in Satellite Terminal C at 2020, when boarding was announced. This was via a free shuttle that moves between the main part of T5, and T5B and T5C. There was then a bit of a walk to the gate (make sure you allow enough time so as not to rush).
When I got there at 2035, I found boarding had been delayed until 2155, although parents with small children were being called first. There was a bit of a scrum when boarding was finally called but crew expertly (and politely) separated economy passengers from business and first (it wasn’t a busy flight) who had priority.
Boarding passes and passports checked, and we then went down a set of escalators and boarded the B777 via an airbridge to the front between Club World and First. I was told to go to the far side and turn right. My seat (10K) was a window seat at the front of the business class cabin. (It went back to row 15.)
Within a couple of minutes I was offered a choice of water, orange juice and champagne. Menus and amenity kits containing socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturiser, a pen, lip balm, ear plugs and an eyemask were handed out before take-off. I placed my shoes in the floor-level drawer and relaxed.
There are 48 British Airways Club World (business class) seats on this four-class B777-200, configured across rows ten to 15 in a 2-4-2 layout (A-B, D-E-F-G, J-K).
As regular flyers know, they are a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats in “yin yang” pairings. All recline fully flat, meeting a flip-down footrest built into the back of the seat in front (you can’t sit on it as it will collapse).
Eye-level screens pop out of a side panel. Buttons allow you to customise the recline to your liking. Pillows, blankets, bottles of water and over-ear headphones are also provided. This plane also has economy, premium economy and first class.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Window seats (A, K) and middle pairs (E, F) all face backwards, while aisle seats (B, D, G, J) face forwards. Some people will have a preference for one way or another so bear this in mind.
Personally I prefer a window seat as it feels more private and am not bothered about facing backwards. Note, however, that if you are in a window seat and someone next to you has reclined their seat into the bed position, you will have to clamber over their legs to get out.
There is maximum privacy for passengers by the window, or in central pairs (if you are a couple but not if you are next to a stranger), as there are dividing screens that come right up between the seats. As there is no under-seat storage in any row, all bags must be stowed for take-off and landing.
Sitting nearer the front will mean you can disembark quicker but note that aisle seats in row 10 are closer to the washrooms than others.
Take off was a little late but once we were airborne and the seatbelt signs were turned off, drinks were served at 2205, and dinners orders taken. There was a full bar with three types of champagne (Henriot Brut Souverain NV, De Castelnau Brut Reserve NV and De Castelnau Brut Rose NV), G&Ts (with Gordon’s or Tanqueray and Fever Tree tonic), Kir Royale cocktails, St Austell Tribute pale ale and Tiger lager among the options.
Aperitifs were followed by a tray of starters and dessert at 2230 (following orders). I went for the cous cous, red pepper and oven-roasted tomato salad, which was fine, but there was also the choice of smoked Balik-style salmon, trout and mackerel with horseradish crème fraiche.
There were three main courses to choose from (note that meat is halal). Being vegetarian I chose the penne pasta in slow-roasted tomato sauce with Parmesan and rocket, which is a staple on airlines but one I am perfectly happy with. It was rich and tasty if a little over cooked.
Passengers could also order roasted corn-fed chicken supreme with polenta crespelle, wilted kale and baby vegetables; and grilled fillet of Atlantic cod on balsamic-infused lentils with parsley potatoes and saffron cream sauce.
On this flight there were two red wines: a 2010 Spanish Rioja (Senorio de Cuzcurrita Crianza) and a 2013 Argentinian Malbec (Don David Malbec Reserve Bodega El Esteco, Calchaqui Valley). There were two versions of a 2014 Spanish white (Albarino, Adegas Morgadio/Terras de Lantano from Rias Baixas), and a 2015 South African Sauvignon Blanc (“Chip off the Old Block”, Ormonde Vineyards, WO Darling).
If you have a big appetite, you can have both the milk chocolate mousse with hazelnuts, fresh banana and mango sauce that came with the starter, as well as the cheese plate (vintage Cheddar and Normandy Brie with quince jelly), fresh fruit or hot chocolate with warm hazelnut and chocolate chip cookies. The Club Kitchen in the galley has self-service snacks, “retro sweets” and drinks for the duration of the flight.
While watching a film, the cabin lights went out at 2300 for those who had already settled down to sleep. I made up my bed at 2330 (under sheets are not provided but the pillows and cotton coverlets are comfy). I slept well for just over two hours when I was woken at 0210 by the captain announcing that we would be landing at 0250 (0620 local time – there is a 3.5-hour time difference). The official flight time is five hours 45 minutes.
Hot towels were given out, and I went to the washroom to change into a culturally appropriate outfit for landing (headscarf and long shirt-dress). Female cabin crew, I noticed, had done the same (they had long coats and neat headscarves on).
I had no time or desire for breakfast. A member of crew thanked each passenger personally for flying (the cabin wasn’t full), asked how long we were staying and wished a good trip.
We landed at Imam Khomeini International airport at sunrise, a little later than scheduled at 0620, with a mountain behind Tehran like a small rhino horn on the horizon framed in orange. Down on the ground I could see Mahan Air, Qeshm Air and Iran Air planes, as well as one Lufthansa aircraft.
It didn’t take too long for passengers to disembark (there were only two people in first class who were given priority) via an airbridge to the terminal. There was a seven-minute walk to immigration where there was a short wait to get passports stamped.
The fact that BA has launched this route is good news not only for people already frequenting this destination (it is the only carrier from the UK serving Tehran directly), but the upsurge in tourists and business people expected to travel to Iran in the future. The service on board was top class, and the Club World product familiarly comfortable.
SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-4-2 (A-B, D-E-F-G, J-K)
SEAT WIDTH 25in/63.5cm
SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
SEAT PITCH 72in/182.8cm
PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight in October started from £2,759.