In this new monthly series, we review flights to and from Africa in order to help travellers decide which airline(s) are most efficient, comfortable, friendly and punctual. This month we start with BA’s Cape Town-to-London route, the only year-round, non-stop flight between the two cities. Depending on the season, there are between 10 and 14 flights on the route each week.
Check In: Check-in at Cape Town International Airport was seamless, especially as I’d used the airline’s online check-in tool, which allows you to select your seat 24 hours before departure. With bags checked in, it took barely 10 minutes to get through security and passport control, thanks to the improved immigration section in Cape Town.
Lounge: British Airways has also seriously upped the ante on lounge facilities in Cape Town, investing almost R20-million in a spacious new lounge that is modelled on the award-winning Galleries facilities at Heathrow Terminal 5. There are ample shower facilities and workspaces available, along with a spacious and stylish seating area. There’s free Wi-Fi and no shortage of power outlets, so for a change there’s no fighting over access to a plug! The food and wine offering is impressive too, with a dedicated wine area with a good selection of local estates.
Unlike many lounges, departing flights are ‘called’ here, allowing you to maximise time on the ground. Boarding was seamless and efficient, with a dedicated lane for Club World and First passengers.
Flight: On board, the calm confines of the Upper Deck are a fine place to while away the 12-hour flight north. The airline uses a Boeing 747-400 and 777-200 on the route, but the upper deck of the jumbo jet offers the best choice if you’re flying Club World/Business Class. The smaller cabin has the feel of a private jet, with better privacy and service than the busier main deck.
Welcome drinks were offered and menus handed out as the flight taxied to the runway, and shortly after take-off dinner was served. Meals are a three-course affair, with linen napery and decent metal cutlery. Trolley service is still standard here, but the excellent service from the cabin stewards lends the experience a touch of classic air travel. I also liked the ‘Club Kitchen’ of ice cream, snacks and fresh fruit that is available throughout the flight, for when the late-night munchies hit.
Although the cabin design of Club World hasn’t been updated for some time, the seats remain comfortable and well equipped. There’s in-seat power if you need to catch up on work, and a decent selection of in-flight entertainment. The 10-inch TV screens are starting to show their age, but otherwise the layout is modern, with easy aisle access from every seat.
Club World seats also recline to a fully flat six-foot bed: there’s no angled recline that’ll leave you in a pile on the floor by the end of the flight. Window seats are your best option if you like your personal space; the ‘Lumisty’ screens creating mini-suites with plenty of privacy.
Arrival: Despite spending some time in a ‘stack’ due to the ever-present air traffic delays over Heathrow, we landed on time at the mid-field Terminal B. A ‘Fast Track’ channel at arrivals allows non-EU passport-holders to speed through the often-crowded immigration hall. Luggage came out promptly and less than 40 minutes after landing I was out of the airport and heading for the Underground.
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