CHECK-IN British Airways launched a daily direct service from London Heathrow Terminal 5 to the Argentinian capital on March 27, 2011. The service, the only direct flight between London and Buenos Aires, departs every day at 2155 on the BA245 and arrives at Buenos Aires Ministro Pistarini International Airport the following morning at 0735.
I arrived at T5 via the Piccadilly line at 1930 and, after taking the lift up to departures, headed, to zone J at the far end where check-in is located for British Airways’ premium classes (I was booked on Club World, British Airways’ business class cabin). With several desks open, I was seen to immediately and by 1940 myself and my luggage, were checked in. Security is located just behind zone J, and I joined the fast track queue, which took just five minutes to get through (had the people in front of me travelled before and known they needed to use the grey boxes to put coats, keys in etc, I would have been through in under a minute).
Once through security I made a quick detour to Boots and Dixons – both to the left of the security exit – but otherwise avoided the terminals’ high-end shops before heading to British Airways’ Concorde lounge, situated immediately right after security. (Concorde lounges are open to BA first class passengers, however, as this was a media trip I was granted access). At reception, I was given a cordial explanation of the facilities, which include free wifi, a formal dining area and Elemis spa (treatments are complimentary for First and Club World passengers, and Gold Executive Club Members travelling long-haul).
The complimentary pre-flight menu includes light meals like Caesar salad and antipasti with Cornish bresaola, fennel and Peppadew, there is a bar and impressive outdoor terrace with huge sofas, overlooking the terminal. I had not pre-booked a spa treatment and unfortunately they were full, so I had some complimentary champagne before heading to the gate at 2120.
BOARDING The gate was a fifteen-minute walk away, and by 2135 I had joined the queue for boarding. It was just a ten-minute wait until we had boarded via a tunnel. I was ushered to my seat and immediately offered a drink and chose the Taittinger Brut Reserve. The plane pushed off on time and we were airborne by 2230.
THE SEAT BA operates its B777-200ER on the route to Buenos Aires, an aircraft configured with three classes – World Traveller (economy), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and Club World (business). There are six rows in Club World, configured 2-4-2 in a Ying Yang formation, three in World Traveller Plus configured the same and 25 rows in World Traveller configured 3-3-3. The Club World seat is fully-flat and comprises a remote controlled reclining seat and leg rest. For a seat plan of this aircraft click here.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I was seated in 10E which, along with row 11, is separated from the rest of Club World by the toilets and kitchen (there is also a bar with help-yourself soft drinks and snacks that I was happy to be seated behind). The seat faces backwards and is in the middle of the four central rows, which meant having to climb over the feet of the passenger in 11D when their chair was fully reclined. Although it is a little strange to be seated backwards, it actually made me feel quite removed from the rest of the cabin and provided plenty of privacy.
If travelling with a partner, seats 11E and 11F would be ideal as they are side by side backward-facing seats, with plenty of privacy and no passenger feet to climb over as it’s Club World’s final row. For solo passengers, 5A/11A or 5K/11K are best for the same reason, with the latter located the furthest from the toilets and kitchen.
THE FLIGHT After take-off at 1030, the meal was announced and in-flight entertainment explained, shortly after which orders were taken for dinner. I mentioned to the flight attendant that I was not feeling well, and she suggested the two less rich courses on the menu, fresh salad with vinaigrette followed by chicken kiev with tomato and artichoke sauce and parsnip chips. Both courses were delicious, fresh and tasty – I had to fend my fellow passengers off for the parsnip chips. Remembering I was feeling under the weather, the flight attendant kindly came back once the food was cleared with extra bottles of water.
The seat was incredibly comfortable, and once dinner service was over the lights were turned out and I managed to sleep, only waking every now and then due to turbulence. I woke at 0610 when the lights were turned back on and breakfast announced. I was served my first course of fresh fruit (a raspberry and oatmeal smoothie and yoghurt with pecans, strawberry granola and compote were the other options) at 0620, but did not get the main course until 0650, at which point it was 40 minutes till landing. I had the pecan pancakes, accompanied by a blueberry compote, which was tasty but very dry (the generous full English caused me to have a bought of food envy). Clean-up was rushed through and we landed on time at 0730.
ARRIVAL Ministro Pistarini International Airport is fairly small, and in the baggage hall (a busy mess of duty free, exchange counters and people) my luggage it the conveyor belt around twenty minutes after landing. The only cause for queue was as we were leaving the airport, as we had to put our bags through x-ray machines. Despite a queue, I was out of the airport by 0820.
VERDICT BA’s flight might be London’s only direct service to Buenos Aires, but it is also excellent in terms of timings and delivery. Arriving at 0730, I felt well-rested and was impressed by the quality of the seat and service during the flight. My only quibble would be the rushed breakfast service, finishing so close to landing – though, in fairness, I’d always choose to have the extra sleep.
PRICE Internet rates for a flexible return Club World flight from London to Buenos Aires (not including a Saturday night stay) started from £7,306.