Joining the British Airways Executive Club was probably the best thing we did in terms of our travel opportunities. By saving our air miles and companion vouchers, Mr S and I always travel Business or First Class for long haul flights, paying only taxes which generally amount to the same cost as an economy flight. We would be kicking off our epic Asian adventure in style by travelling British Airways First Class to Tokyo and I wanted to tell you about the incredible service that we experienced especially when we had a mishap onboard the plane.
At Heathrow Terminal 5, there’s a dedicated First Class check in desk which means queuing is limited, in fact you’re likely to be seen straight away. And you can check in as many bags as you like so a separate suitcase for shoes is perfectly acceptable…
Once checked in, we were fast tracked through security with the whole process taking less than 10 minutes giving us plenty of time to enjoy British Airways’ most luxurious lounge, The Concorde Room.
If you’re travelling First Class, I’d definitely advise arriving early to take full advantage of the amenities in the lounge. For example you can relax with a massage at the Elemis Spa, have a chat about your travel plans to the Quintessentially Lifestyle concierge and if you’re in transit you can take a shower and get your clothes pressed.
The lounge itself is perfectly plush with comfortable sofas, chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and a fully stocked bar of fine wine, champagne and spirits. In the Business lounge you’ll find a buffet of varying food options depending on the time of day, whereas in the First Class lounge there’s actually a separate restaurant with full waiter service and your own private booth.
With an mid-afternoon flight, Mr S and I decided to take full advantage and have lunch at the restaurant, accompanied by the finest vintage champagne.
You don’t get much better than Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle, a blend of the champagne’s best vintages, once called the ‘Rolls Royce of champagne blending.’
Can you believe this is airport lounge food? Mr S choose a juicy steak and chunky chips…
Whereas I went for a light plate of crab cakes, knowing we’d been in for an absolute feast when we boarded the plane.
After enjoying our meals and some coffees, we were ready for boarding and First Class passengers board the plane first allowing plenty of time to get settled before take off.
Champagne (or a soft drink) is pressed into your hand pretty much as soon as you sit down…
And you can stretch and enjoy your very spacious cabin pod, fully equipped with power supplies and a 15 inch television.
A window from your pod means that you can toast your travel companion…
Or shut the privacy screen when he starts snoring…
There’s a luxurious well-being kit provided by Elemis, and something else I love about First Class. The pyjamas! So you can change into something warm and snuggly and when you arrive at your destination you can put your clothes back on and feel fresh. As the plane took off, I settled back in my state-of-the-art seat, enjoying my champagne. And that’s when it happened. I was turning my wedding ring on my finger when it slipped off and fell down the side of the seat. I scrabbled down the crevice but it was buried deep and I couldn’t get a hold of it. As soon as the fasten seat belt sign was off, I alerted the air steward – who for the record was the nicest air steward I’ve ever met – and he began his own search. Unable to retrieve the ring, he radioed Tokyo airport and assured me that they would have an engineer on the plane to find it as soon as we landed. Feeling distraught, but with nothing left to do about it, I returned to my seat and watched a comedy film to lighten my spirits.
I really wanted to try to forget about it and enjoy our flight experience (champagne helped with that) and when dinner time rolled around, Mr S and I were able to share a table and have our meal together.
A large table is spread with a white table-cloth with proper cutlery, salt and pepper and butter dishes. There’s several options for champagne (we chose a vintage one), wines, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks.
There really is the feeling of a proper restaurant service, starting with an amuse bouche and with silver service from the airline steward.
For me, the food was the only aspect of the flight that I felt let down by. I was excited by a mixed starter of sushi and Japanese inspired food but I actually found it inedible.
My first choice main meal of black cod had run out so I chose a salmon salad which was decent enough but not very filling. Fortunately I do think the bread on British Airways First and Business tastes very fresh and I helped myself to a few rolls!
Mr S fared better with his beef main course and vegetables but after a disappointing meal we skipped dessert but feasted on some artisan chocolates. Feeling sleepy I changed into my pyjamas in the bathroom, ready for bed. The steward, rather sensitively suggested I took a different seat to sleep in as he was worried that reclining my seat might crush my ring. In the First Class cabin, the stewards make up your fully reclining 6 foot 6 inch bed for you with a quilted mattress, a cotton duvet and a fluffy pillow, and he set it all up for me in preparation for a decent night sleep.
After a 12 hour flight we were about to arrive in Tokyo and I headed back to my own seat to enjoy a light breakfast of fruit and muesli, while Mr S went whole hog with a full English.
True to his word, minutes after we landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, my favourite air steward had an engineer on board to look for the ring. That engineer was a true hero, pulling apart the seat, removing all the upholstery, searching out my tiny wedding ring with a torch and feeling around with a pair of pincers. Meanwhile Mr S and I sat back, tired from the long flight and worried that we may never see the ring that he put on my finger on our wedding day ever again. We must have been sat for about half an hour as the engineer moved the chair up and down, searching in every tiny nook and cranny and finding lots of elastic bands that looked like rings, but not that precious piece of jewellery.
After waiting that long, the steward suggested he took our hotel details and he would get in touch if they found it. ‘Don’t worry,’ the engineer said, ‘I won’t stop looking.’ Impressed by the customer service, and the engineer’s determination, we left the plane with heavy hearts. I felt incomplete as I looked at my finger minus the wedding ring. Telling myself, it’s just an object and no one got hurt, I couldn’t see how I would enjoy my holiday without an item that meant so much to me emotionally. Mr S and I went through arrivals and reclaimed our luggage from the carousel and headed to exit to meet our transfer to the hotel thinking there was no hope left for recovering the ring. When suddenly an airport employee from Tokyo Airport came running towards us, calling ‘Mr and Mrs Silver…’ I looked at him with a glimmer of hope as he held out his hand to reveal my wedding ring in his palm…The relief was indescribable as I slipped the ring back into it’s proper place next to my engagement ring. It sounds cheesy, but I felt whole again.
A huge thank you to the British Airways steward for his kindness and to the engineer for his determination, a true testament to the excellent customer service provided by British Airways. Oh and travelling First Class is pretty bloody good!
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This is an independent review, I have no affiliation with British Airways or the Executive Club but I will remain as ever a loyal customer.