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Flying high in business class

Published Sep 12, 2013

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Johannesburg - Forgive me for swooning a bit, but I’ve now had a chance to see how the other half lives, flying to London in the luxury of British Airways’ Club World business class.

And, called me spoiled if you must, even call me an elitist, but I think any regular traveller should book themselves on Club World at least once in their life. Maybe if you are on honeymoon, convince your husband to splash out, buy two tickets on CW. Or use your BA Avio miles to upgrade.

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The debate, of course, is whether the considerable extra charge is actually worth it – for having 11 hours of comfort and privacy.

Perhaps if you fly on business regularly, then the extra money would be worth it to your company because there is no doubt that flying economy class – on whatever airline – to an overseas destination leaves you tired and a bit frazzled when you arrive.

If you’ve got business to do, then the time you waste getting your head together could be worth more to your employers than the difference in cost for a Club World seat.

If you’re travelling for holiday reasons and you’re a middle-of-the-road consumer, then I cannot see the intrinsic value in moving up to the front of the plane.

So how much is 11 hours of relative comfort worth to you? R20 000? If your answer is no way, then fly economy. If that amount is reasonable, then go Club World.

For those who want to vicariously share the pleasures of Club World with me, then read on… and dream.

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Your experience on Club World starts with your online check-in. Where you sit in Club World is not important, because each passenger has their own little cocoon and the riff-raff are kept well away.

Checking in on-line saves the body and mind from getting irritated with long queues of people winding through those metal poles with ropes attached that can’t be moved so you can just jump to the front of the line. Not a headache in sight since the website is easy to negotiate from the comfort of your home or office.

Check in your luggage, pick a seat, print it out and head to the airport. That’s just one of the options given to you 24 hours before takeoff. Selecting your seat with the click of a button is immensely satisfying. Mind you, even if you check in at the airport, Club World passengers have their own desk, where the queues are either short or non-existent.

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I have done a small amount of travelling overseas and believe you must be able to carry your own luggage – if you cannot, then you’ve got too much.

At Club World, you can take more than you can in economy, but remember: once you’re off the aircraft, you still have to lug your belongings.

That’s not as easy as it sounds because, even travelling light, you always return with far more than you walked out of the house with.

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Passport control at OR Tambo was the most tedious part of the process, because of the longish waiting time.

But the smile returned to my scowl-racked face when I arrived in the Club World lounge, which had a full bar, a buffet and if you needed a shower, this was available as well.

I found a well-dressed man (looked like a businessman) out for the count on a comfy couch.

Oh my word, a pleasant sight compared to the straight up-and-down seats in the public lounges and especially if you have a couple of hours’ stop over.

You can also catch up on e-mails and browse the internet with the free Wi-Fi… I spotted a number of passengers making use of this facility.

Once on board, the treatment was royally memorable.

My only apprehension was flying while facing the wrong way as the seats in Club World are arranging facing both ways in the aircraft to maximise privacy while at the same time optimising available space.

On take off, the G-force was on my stomach, where the safety belt was, instead of pushing me back into the seat – but that was short-lived.

After our meal, I felt like a child in a candy store or a man in his new Ferrari after he has just come into ownership after owning a little runaround number a tenth of the price.

It’s a little embarrassing to ask the air steward how to fold out the foot rest and get the seat into the sleeping position so you can softly tuck your pillow under your head, turn onto your side and hop into noddy land.

There’s a screen that gives you some privacy.

Once I mastered that, along with the window that separates you and your neighbour (with strange looks from fellow passengers who had clearly flown in this section of the aircraft before), I got to thinking.

Is it worth it?

If you can afford it, then it is.

Thank you and goodnight.

l Karen Sandison’s trip to the UK was sponsored by British Airways. - Saturday Star

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