FIRST IMPRESSIONS I had already checked in for the 0531 departure on BA0036 the previous day, and so arrived at Chennai’s International Airport at 0350. It’s a chaotic place, with large-scale construction work taking place to expand the airport, though this extension won’t open until 2013. In the meantime, it is unlikely your car will get close to the terminal, and once you arrive there you will find a long queue snaking out of the terminal as people wait to show their passports and tickets to gain entry. I walked halfway down this queue and then was waved to the front. Once through this I was met by someone from BA, who must have been on the lookout for BA passengers, and led to the X-ray machine where my hold baggage was processed. I was then escorted to the business class check-in where I dropped of my bag.
Unfortunately, from this point you are on your own, and there is a long queue to first of all hand in your departure form (you will have to fill this in somewhere between the check-in desk and this queue, and then you queue again, no fast track) for immigration.
THE LOUNGE The lounge is on the first floor. Walk past one lounge on the ground floor, take the escalators up, ignore the lounge on the right and instead walk towards the duty free shop and then take a left. There are signs for BA, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways and Etihad, among others.
The lounge is a fair size, though busy at 0400. I was handed a card. This said BA had “...listened to your feedback on the refreshments in the lounge and as a result are trialling some new options”. There was then room to give feedback. The snacks were limited, though I suppose if I had been very hungry I might have had something. There were Western cereals with cold milk, which I imagine was one of the suggestions from passengers, but it was too early even for breakfast. The BA lady said they would call the flight from the lounge and we would then have to go through security. The flight was departing from Gate 3.
BA flies five times weekly direct to London Heathrow from Chennai, omitting Thursday and Friday. The aircraft on this route is a three-class B777 having business (Club World), premium economy (World Traveller Plus) and economy (World Traveller). To see the seatplan, click here (though note that on the way out we were on a four-class aircraft, so there can be changes).
On check-in I had been offered a choice of seats in the Club World cabin because the flight was lightly sold. I chose 1E and took up the offer of having 1F blocked so I could spread out and work. Shortly before take-off someone came and sat down next to me. Then the flight attendant asked if we would both mind moving since there was an elderly couple who wished to be seated together. I was offered 1B, which I didn’t want, and 5B, which was similarly bad. Then I noticed 4G, which was better, and went there.
The pilot told us there were headwinds which might slow us down. I was so tired I didn’t much care, since it would give me longer to sleep, but I was grateful for the information.
Shortly after take-off breakfast was served. After chilled fruit juice, smoothie, fruit or dried fruit muesli, the choice of mains was as follows:
- Full English breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, pork sausage, mushrooms and hash-brown potatoes
- Masala omelette with Parmentier potatoes, mushrooms and pepper
- Indian vegetarian breakfast of Andhra upma, rava dosa and sambhar (V) (Andhra-style semolina porridge, crispy semolina crepe and vegetable stew).
I didn’t have any of this and chose instead to recline my seat and sleep for eight hours, however I was awake for lunch.
- Salmon and fish mousse roulade with potato and spring onion salad
- Mozzarella, basil and tomato on pita bread with arugula pesto and olive tapenade and grilled courgette on creamed leaks with tarragon vinaigrette
The main courses were:
- Pan-fried fish fillets with cream sauce, new potatoes with parsley and seasonal vegetables
- Stir-fried lamb and peppers with nei choru (lamb peppers and rice sautéed with onions, cashews and spices)
- Indian vegetarian dish of ellu sadam, vegetable korma and vendakkai varuval (V) (sesame rice, vegetable curry and fried okra)
I had this last dish, and perhaps because I was hungry found it delicious. The wines offered with this were the same as outbound.
- Lovivalo 2009, Rueda, Spain
- Sancerre 2009, Domaine Bardin, Loire
- Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2009, Paarl, South Africa
- Old Well House Grenache Blanc, Chenin Blanc 2009, Western Cape, South Africa
- Chateau Landat 2005, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux
- Ermita de San Felices 2007, Crianza, Rioja
- La Puerta Malbec Reserva 2008, Famatina Valley, Argentina
- Langmeil Three Gardens “SGM” 2007 Barossa Valley Australia
ARRIVAL Having slept for so long, in the very comfortable Club World seat, there wasn’t even time to watch a film so I read some magazines and we landed about 15 minutes late, but on an airbridge on Satellite B. By the time I had made it to the main terminal and through the IRIS scanner at immigration (working), the bags were already appearing on the carousel.
VERDICT Another excellent flight with no surprises. The Club World seat is excellent for a good sleep after a week’s work elsewhere.
PRICE Internet prices for a return from London to Chennai start from £2,139.