I boarded the Boeing 777-200ER by door two, was greeted by the bubbly purser, and immediately turned left to find my seat, 4A. The aircraft that I was on was one of the newly refitted 777-200ER aircraft based at Gatwick, with only Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller.
Club World was only 32 seats between doors one and two, with an expanded Traveller Plus cabin of 56 seats. However the major change on these aircraft is the increase of Traveller from 3-3-3 to 3-4-3 making them a lot less comfortable for those down the back than the previous configuration.
I settled into 4A, where there was a big pillow and the bag containing the White Company bedding, which I find to be really good. The crew were quickly around offering both pre-departure drinks of champagne (or water or juice), plus handing out the amenity kits and a bottle of water. Menu’s were also passed out, with apologies for the very blue tinge of the photos – that’s due to the rather pleasant mood lighting the aircraft have fitted.
Seat 4A backs on the bulkhead, and thus is one of the few seats that you can get out of the window without having to step over someone’s feet – it’s the ’64K’ of the 777 fleet.
Unfortunately cleaning standards on British Airways haven’t improved – there was an ugly stain down the bulkhead.
However that said, with the privacy screen up, it’s a great place to sit if you’re travelling by yourself. However the seat is missing a window, so you have to crane your neck backwards or forwards to see out of the window.
The doors closed bang on time and after about a further five minutes we pushed back and started to taxi. Flight time today would be nine hours exactly.
There was a short queue to take-off, but nowhere near the wait you typically get at Heathrow.
It wasn’t long before we were above the Sussex grey and on our way over the US. I later spoke to the CSM and she said that for these flights they intentionally give a slower service in Club World – given it leaves at 09.00 and provides a “lunch” service, they try and get the main courses out around midday, otherwise it feels too early to be eating again.
I have to say I did notice the service appearing slow, but actually it felt very much the right way to do things. The service was entirely hand-run from the galley by doors one, meaning that it perhaps took longer than it could have done.
Hot towels were handed out and then the mandatory gin and tonic, with nuts, arrived. This was proactively topped up after it mysteriously evaporated – I’m blaming the dry air.
The starters arrived after a bit of wait. It was good, but the portion size seemed small, especially the side salad.
It was cleared away and after a further wait, my main course arrived.
Again, this was ok, with the beef very well done.
However one thing that I did notice was the (lack of) quality of the wines. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t flown for a while, but they all seemed cheap and low quality – the kind you’d spend a fiver in your local off license for.
The cheese course rolled around next, which was also pretty good. I was practically forced to have a glass of port to go with it, which didn’t take much persuasion.
Finally, I asked if they had any of the desserts left over, which they very kindly did. It was pretty small again, but very good. It was washed down with a glass of cognac.
After that it was time for a snooze. I woke up around two hours to go, just as they were about to serve afternoon tea. Again, this was not bad, but seemed quite a small portion.
We arrived about thirty minutes early to our stand in Fort Lauderdale. Oddly, despite arriving at a gate with a jetbridge, and a first for me arriving into the US, we were bussed to the terminal.
For the past five years, I’ve had Global Entry – this allows expedited entry into the US once you’ve passed a number of background checks and an in-person interview with CBP officials.
Normally, you go to a kiosk, scan your passport, then your fingerprints, answer a few questions on the touch screen and you’re done. You’re given a receipt which you then present to customs and walk out.
They seem to have recently updated the system. I walked to the kiosk and instead of asking for my passport, it took a photo of me with my glasses on (I normally take them off).
With nothing more than my photo, after about fifteen seconds, my global entry receipt spat out, welcoming me to the US. I was very impressed indeed.
Return Flight from Fort Lauderdale to Gatwick
For the return flight, I checked in at Fort Lauderdale Terminal 4 – a terminal that British Airways share predominantly with Spirit. Spirit are an Ultra Low Lost Carrier, the RyanAir of the US. Not only did that mean there was no lounge, there were no arrangements with the restaurants at the airport either. That was disappointing.
However I didn’t have too long to wait before boarding G-RAES which was to take me home. This was actually a four class aircraft in that it had a first class cabin as well as Club World. As the flight was pretty full, I managed to snag seat 2K about 48 hours before departure, after I’d set a seat alert on ExpertFlyer.
When this happens, British Airways still offer the regular Club World service and amenities, however you just get the nicer seat.
Unfortunately I had to go straight into the office and back to work immediately upon landing so upon boarding let the crew know that other than a bottle of water, I’d be heading straight to sleep, skipping both dinner and breakfast to maximise my rest.
To which I did. I got one of the best nights sleep on an aeroplane in ages, going to sleep soon after wheels-up and waking up over seven hours later when the Captain announced 40 minutes to landing.
The cabin crew both ways were outstanding. Motivated, friendly, hospitable and couldn’t do more for me, or the other passengers.
The food was so-so. The wine was pretty poor. The seat is what it is, and with the new Club World Suite on its way, is finally being replaced. However it won’t be until 2022 or even 2023 before it finds its way to Gatwick.
The First seat though is a great business class seat, and I did get a fantastic night’s rest on the way back.
To be honest, next time I’d probably fly from Heathrow to Miami. The ground experience at Fort Lauderdale was rubbish, and the arrivals experience at Gatwick is non-existent (save for the Regus lounge), of which more on that tomorrow.
Overall, though, it was a perfectly fine trip with great crew.