First impressions: This was a flight to Cancun (duration 10 hours and 20 minutes) on BA2203 departing at 0950 in mid-April, before international travel was allowed. I had permission to travel to visit and report on the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit. Before the flight I was sent several emails by British Airways reminding me of the requirements of international travel and also issuing the normal reminders that I should not come to the airport if feeling unwell or having a high temperature.
The Saturday morning of the flight, as you would expect, London Gatwick was very quiet, with only a handful of flights departing from the North Terminal. The other unusual aspect is that British Airways is flying from North Terminal at all, having swapped over to the South Terminal in 2017.
Check-in: this was in Zone A. British Airways also had a flight departing to Antigua, and for that flight passengers had to present evidence of a negative PCR test. That wasn’t true of the flight to Cancun, though I had done a lateral flow test the morning before and tested negative, just for my own peace of mind.
The Lounge: there is no lounge for BA passengers at present, although I imagine alternative arrangements will be made if the airline continues to fly out of the North Terminal. In place of that I was offered a £30 voucher to spend on food and drink at one of the outlets either before or after security. Readers will be aware that spending it before security is probably not wise, since any drinks will have to be consumed before going through security. Before passing through security my documents were checked to prove I had permission to travel internationally. Security was very quick, and then airside the airport was very empty, with only a few shops open, including Boots, WH Smith, Pret a manger, and Fat Face.
Boarding: We boarded from gate 571 which was a short walk from the main shopping area. Once there we waited for ten minutes before boarding, and a member of BA staff would walk around the gate area reminding people to keep on their facemasks (a surprising number of people either had pulled them down or removed them altogether). Boarding was done with Club World and business class passengers having priority, and, after a short wait on the air bridge, we were welcomed onto the aircraft.
The seat: This was a B777-200 aircraft (registration G-VIIO) with 336 seats in three classes: economy (252 seats in a 10-across configuration); premium economy (52 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration) and business class (32 seats). It was the old Club World seating on board, though with a new IFE Panasonic eX3 system including wifi. In Club World, there were four rows of eight seats (32 in total) in rows 1-4, AC-DEFG-JK. I was in 1E, a backward facing seat in the centre. There is a washroom at the front, and a washroom at the rear, though that seemed to be used by premium economy as well. The cabin was almost completely full, and so my centre backward facing seat had a neighbour in 1F. Nevertheless, I recorded a flight review, which can be viewed below.
Best seat: Opinions differ on this one. If you are in a couple, then the centre seats (EF) are best, I think. If on your own, I’d go for a window seat, though bear in mind that you have to step over the feet of the person on the aisle seat unless you choose the window seats at the back of the cabin (4A and 4K), and then you might get some noise from the galley. I’d definitely avoid 1C and 1J because you are on the aisle, facing the front galley and everyone using the front washroom (which is on the left hand side of the cabin) will come past you.
The flight: We took off at 1010, 20 minutes late, because of complications with paperwork and border force according to the captain, who kept us informed. Once we had departed we waited quite some time for the first drink we had ordered before departure, but thereafter service was excellent.
I settled down to do some work, though since this was a full flight and the cabin was full, once again the main disadvantage of the Club World seat was very clear, since it is difficult to work on a laptop, have a drink and at the same time, let alone have something to eat. There is the one storage area in the foot locker, and power for the laptop in the same area, difficult to reach, especially if the fold down table is being used. The table vibrated and slanted down and so I had to jam my blanket between its bottom and the arm of the seat to work effectively.
There is usb charging available as well, just by the IFE controller, but if you use this for your phone make sure not to store your phone on the seat, since if it slips down into the seat, it is very difficult to retrieve, and don’t rest it on the ledge where the screen between the seats can be made to go up and down, since it can get damaged when this screen is lowered.
The wifi was turned on almost immediately. There were several packages available, with the less expensive ones offering texting only and the more expensive one being £19.99 for the entire flight.
The IFE system is the improved Panasonic eX3 one, which has an excellent choice of entertainment and both the screen and the sound were of good quality.
Food and drink: The menus for both drinks and food follows, so if you are not interest, please skip this bit. Taking it in the order it was on the menu, it started with cocktails, which were Gin Zing; Cranberry Blush and Johnnie Ginger. (The mocktails were Citrus Burst and Zizzberry). I tried the gin one which was supposed to come with sparkling water, but it was flat, so I sent it back and just had a regular gin and tonic. This was so strong it curled my hair, but was lovely with another can of tonic.
The spirits on offer were Tanqueray Gin, Gordon’s Gin, Ciroc Vodka, Bacardi Carta Blanca, Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey, Singleton 12 year old single malt scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker Black Label. Liquers: Baileys, Otard VSOP Cognac, Cointreau. Beers: Brew Dog Jet Stream, Heineken and Heineken no alcohol. Other non-alcoholic drinks includes Schweppes Signature Collection and a selection of Twinings teas.
Menu: There were two meals – a lunch and then a light meal before landing. For the lunch, the starter was hummus with pea and preserved lemon, seared asparagus, bocconcini mozzarella, pickled walnuts. The mains were a choice of three: braised beef short rib, stroganoff sauce, colcannon mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables; seared North Atlantic cod, saffron mashed potatoes, shellfish bisque, blanched samphire; butternut squash gnocchi, blue cheese sauce, wilted cavolo nero.
There was a selection of cheese: passion fruit and raspberry slice, mango compote. Chees board: Blackstone Vintage cheddar, Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, apple chutney.
Speciality coffee sourced direct from smallholder farmers in Peru and Honduras and hand roasted in small batches in East London.
Wines: Canard-Duchene Cuvee Leonie, Brut NV; Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition Rose, Brut NV, Champagne. Whites: Spy Valley, Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand, Ramon Bilbao, Albarino 2018, Rias Baixas, Spain. Reds: Vina Carmen. MORE DETAIL
I didn’t drink any wine, but my seat neighbour tried all of it and told me there wasn’t any Bordeaux, and the Spanish red was not good.
I had ordered a vegan Asian meal, since I like the curried flavours and the lighter food that you usually get, and once again this was the right choice. I also got served about 20 minutes before everyone else.
I intended to get some sleep, and did recline to a full flat bed and read a book, closing my eyes from time to time, which was relaxing but I didn’t fall asleep and so watched a film – Tenet – for the third time. It doesn’t make any more sense even the third time.
There was a smaller version of a Club Kitchen in the galley, with chocolate and biscuits, and the flight attendants were very good at asking if we wanted snacks or drinks during the flight – this wasn’t one of those services where they disappear into the galley for hours.
About 90 minutes before landing, there was a further meal of a starter: Greek feta cheese with parsley, coriander, chives, lightly spiced tomato salsa.
Choice of: rosemary and lemon marinated chicken breast, chicken jus, tomato confit, lemon and garlic mash, courgette.
Spinach and ricotta and cannelloni pasta, Bechamel sauce, tomato basil sauce, toasted bread crumbs, Paremsan cheese.
Dessert: Chocolate alcazar cake, pistachio sauce.
Once again, I had a vegan Asia meal, which was delicious.
Arrival: We had no problems or delays landing at Cancun, arriving at 1450. Once there, we were warned we would be disembarked in groups to avoid overcrowding. Club World was first to disembark. There were fairly long queues at border control, but we were through in less than 30 minutes.
Verdict: A really good flight with excellent service – I have no idea whether this was because we were all so pleased to be flying again or it was just a very good crew, but it made the long day flight pass quickly. The Club World seat is dated but the new IFE and wifi is a welcome addition.