➔ British Airways Club World, Boeing 777-200, Gatwick – St. Lucia
➔ Club Aspire Lounge, London Gatwick North Terminal
➔ Harmony At Coconut Bay Resort, St. Lucia
➔ British Airways Club World, Boeing 777-200, St. Lucia – London Gatwick
For my first proper long haul trip of the year (I’m not sure Tel Aviv counted as a long haul), things were a little tricky.
For obvious reasons, the choice of destination was the hardest part of the process. When looking around in the summer, Dubai was the preferred destination. But that looked less and less likely to open up. Then with the rumours that a travel corridor between London and New York could appear towards the end of 2020 this was another option. But again, things went a little quiet on that front. Next up was Barbados. Somewhere I had visited before, although many years ago. Again, that all but closed to the UK in September 2020. Slim pickings.
The final roll of the dice came with St Lucia. Again, things weren’t too straightforward. You could visit, however you had to stay in a COVID safe property. And you weren’t allowed off the premises. Not ideal, but at least you weren’t confined to your room for the duration.
In addition, a COVID PCR test was required. £195 and an uncomfortable process later and I was nearly set. The final piece of the puzzle was to submit everything to the St Lucia government to be granted a travel authorisation. This dropped into my inbox around 72 hours prior to departure and I was good to go.
Sure, this all sounded like an awful lot of hassle. But it really wasn’t at all. The paperwork side of things took no more than 15 minutes on my side. The PCR test was undertaken at a local surgery that I found on google.
The Day Of Departure
For the first time in a long time, I would be departing from Gatwick. I would have preferred Heathrow, but never mind.
The first thing that struck me was the price of parking. For a week in the Gatwick long stay, it was £30. I’ve been paying double that for a weekend at Heathrow lately…
There was a premium parking option, which was basically a dedicated floor in the short term parking. However, the transfer from the regular long stay to the terminal took no more than around 10 minutes.
As British Airways current home at Gatwick is closed, it was over to the North terminal.
As I was staying for a little longer this time, it was over to check in to dump my bag. Being a temporary home for British Airways, it was a shared Club and First check in area. As it turned out, it wasn’t too busy, therefore was processed in a couple of minutes. The checking of the paperwork for St Lucia took a little extra time, but everything was in order.
After this, it was through security. The fast lane (or Premium as its called at Gatwick) was only available for staff, so it was the regular line. Not that it was much of an issue. It wasn’t particularly busy. As is standard for most regular security lanes in the UK, it filtered straight into the duty free shop.
After a brief look around the shops, it was up to the lounge.
As British Airways no operate from the South terminal at Gatwick, this meant that a third party lounge was used. I will review this separately so won’t say too much about it here. All I will say was that whilst the breakfast options were a little limited, they were tasty.
London Gatwick – St Lucia
Boeing 777-200ER G-VIIW
Knowing how BA do boarding at Heathrow, I purposely left it a little later than usual to get to the gate. As it turned out, I timed things perfectly, as boarding was just finishing up. So I was able to walk straight on board.
Due to the somewhat late nature of this booking, it was slim pickings when it came to reserving seats. I did manage to nab a window seat, however the view wasn’t that great.
There was a reasonable load on board today. Despite the now older generation Club World hard product getting a bit of a bad press, the Gatwick based 777’s have had a refurbishment very recently. Whilst the seat is the same as before, the colour scheme has been updated and new IFE fitted. The downside of this being that the Club Suite, introduced in 2019, likely won’t be heading to Gatwick any time soon.
Ready and waiting at the seat was the White Company pillow and blanket, along with a pair of noise cancelling headphones.
One of the biggest complaints of this seat is the lack of storage. Whilst I agree that it is lacking somewhat compared to other products out there, there is some storage. Just don’t expect to have too much close by though.
The seat controls are identical to what is found on the Heathrow fleet. It’s important to remember that this is the exact same seat as before. They have simply been recovered and had the former beige panels replaced with the grey/silver that’s found on the newer Boeing 787’s and Airbus A380’s.
And of course, as I was flying during COVID times:
One of the longest pushbacks I’ve experienced came on time. A non stop journey over to a very wet runway followed, and wheels were up around 15 minutes after leaving the gate.
Shortly after departure, the seat divider screens were unlocked. Once these are raised, the window seats can be very private.
The service got underway shortly after the seatbelt sign went off. First off was the entry forms for St. Lucia. This was followed a few moments later with amenity kits and bottles of water.
Next up was the bar service. This was identical to what is served on Club Europe flights currently.
Not too long later, the main service began. British Airways recently brought back hot meals to long haul flights. I was expecting an economy meal, however things were a little better than I was expecting. The choices were some sort of curry (I don’t recall what type) or duck. I went with the duck and it wasn’t too bad. As mentioned above, having only flown Club World the once before, and that being many years ago, I don’t have too much to compare it to!
This was finished with a coffee.
And a Baileys.
Sure, the presentation wasn’t up to the usual standards, but everything tasted fine. I’d rather have a meal that I enjoyed with presentation lacking over something that I absolutely hated that was served on fine china.
After this, the crew were a little anonymous. However, this is standard procedure really.
The Club Kitchen, a self service area was still provided though. So you could help yourself to snacks throughout the flight.
As the Gatwick based 777’s underwent a refurbishment less than two years ago, the IFE was one of the more up to date systems available. The Panasonic eX3 I believe.
A forgotten downside of the pandemic, is that there haven’t been too many new releases not he film front lately. Therefore the selections on the IFE reflected this. As such, the only film I watched was Zombieland – that I’d seen anyway. Luckily, I had loaded my iPad up with things, as I nearly always do anyway.
WiFi was also available. I went for the full flight, full fat browse and stream service, for £17.99.
However, I wouldn’t go as far as to say it was fast. Admittedly, I didn’t attempt to stream anything. Although I’d imagine it would struggle to stream anything more than about 720p resolution.
The novelty of being able to track your own flight whilst you’re on it still hasn’t worn off…
Some tea a little later into the flight. Along with some biscuits that I didn’t ask for, but were offered anyway. Always a sign of good service when things like this are offered without prompting.
The British Airways Club World window seats are rear facing. This may put a few people off, but the reality is you don’t really notice it at all.
With a little over an hour left to run, the second service started. Much like the main service earlier in the flight, it was ok for what it was. But nowhere near as impressive as on a regular flight.
What was offered though (either a chicken salad sub, or a cheese and onion sub) was very tasty.
Descent started, although as expected there was nothing much to see until we had more or less touched down.
Touchdown came around 15 minutes early.
As St Lucia is a very small airport, it was more or less straight off the runway and on to stand. To the point where the flight deck interrupted the crews welcome speech to give the “doors to manual, cross check” command.
As is standard these days, disembarkation was made in small batches from front to rear. First was the first to leave. Followed by Club, with those on the A side of the aircraft leaving by door 2L and those on the K side heading through the First cabin to leave via door 1L.
Then the fun began. St Lucia has fairly strong protocols in place with regards to the virus. First stop was a make shift tent in which staff in full hazmat suits take your temperature and check your paperwork. If everyone had their paperwork in order, this would have been a much quicker process. However, that’s too much to ask. Despite being advertised online, email, at check in, forms handed out on the plane and surely pure common sense, there were more than a few people who didn’t have their paperwork in order. Which delayed everyone behind them. This did make for some good photos opportunities whilst waiting in the Caribbean heat however.
Once I had made my way to the front of the queue, it was a reasonably quick process. My health form was taken, details checked and that was that.
Due to the bottle neck, passport control was a very quick procedure. Another bonus was that by the time I made it to baggage claim, my bag (along with many others) was ready and waiting. Meaning I could simply grab it and head outside. Via a brief stop at customs.
I didn’t hold particularly high hopes for this flight if I’m honest. Only once previously have I flown British Airways Club World, and that was many years ago. Although I have sat in the seat more than a few times on the Madrid route.
The reduced COVID service dashed my hopes further.
However upon boarding I was pleasantly surprised. As it turns out, the only cut back to the on board service was to the meal services. Bedding, amenity kits and the Club Kitchen were all still being offered.
And even the reduced catering, whilst lacking somewhat in presentation, wasn’t too bad.
It certainly did enough to convince me that maybe the older Ying-Yang Club World set up isn’t too much of a hardship on a long haul flight.
I suspect that the new Club World Suite being slowly introduced will be a very strong product. Stay tuned for more on that – barring any last minute changes of course.