- British Airways is a leading airline on the highly lucrative New York-London route.
- The COVID-19 pandemic, however, has changed the airline's offering on the route.
- Boeing 777s now solely fly between New York and London instead of Boeing 747s and premium Airbus A318s.
British Airways has long dominated the skies between London and New York, shuttling a lucrative mix of business and leisure travelers to the tune of $1.1 billion in some years.
Recent history has seen British Airways deploy some of the most exclusive aircraft to New York from airports across the UK capital. Most notably, the Concorde served the route for nearly three decades.
British Airways retired the Concorde in 2003 but replaced it six years later with the Airbus A318. Though a slower and smaller jet, the entire aircraft consisted solely of 32 business class seats and utilized London's City Airport as opposed to the busier and more distant Heathrow and Gatwick Airports serving London.
And until 2020, the mighty Boeing 747-400 was a staple on the route that offered an exclusive first class cabin in the nose of the aircraft as well as 86 business class seats on the main and upper levels of the aircraft.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, forced British Airways to downsize and retire its most iconic aircraft, including the Boeing 747 and Airbus A318. Now, only its Boeing 777 aircraft fly between London and New York.
I flew British Airways from London to New York in August. Here's what it was like.
My British Airways journey started a bit chaotically at Heathrow Airport after arriving from Doha, Qatar on Qatar Airways. Our inbound flight had been delayed by an hour leaving Doha and the chances of making my connection to New York appeared quite slim.
I rushed through the terminal but it was too late to make my original flight as Heathrow Airport requires international transit passengers to go undergo a security screening before boarding onward flights.
The next flight to New York was scheduled for three hours later and I was easily able to get a new boarding pass at the transfer desk.
After clearing security, I headed to a lounge to wait out the stay. Club Aspire is part of the Priority Pass program, for which I have a complimentary membership through my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card.
And after enjoying some of the lounge's Indian cuisine, it wasn't too long before it was time to jet off to New York. I gave myself some extra time to navigate the airport to ensure I wouldn't miss this flight, as well.
Heathrow Airport, in the three times that I had visited during the summer, was quiet as international travel had yet to fully rebound. The flight, I was told, was going to be decently full even though non-US citizen UK residents were still barred from entering the US at the time.
Taking us to New York was a Boeing 777-200 aircraft with British Airways' latest seat products. But even with an upgraded interior, no twin-engine plane could ever beat the Boeing 747 for me, especially on this route.
Seats were not blocked in the terminal but British Airways did have hand sanitizer stations throughout the gate area.
And gate agents distributed health declaration forms required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure that travelers had required COVID-19 documentation to travel to the US.
Boarding commenced around 45 minutes before departure. First class and frequent flyers with elite status boarded first followed by business class and eventually economy class.
Gate agents briefly checked each traveler's documents and then it was a short escalator ride down to the jetway.
Boarding the aircraft was split between two jetways, with the eight first class travelers boarding through the first jetway and the rest of the aircraft boarding through the second.
Flight attendants greeted each passenger with a small plastic bag containing two hygiene wipes to be used to clean the seat or just freshen up.
I turned the corner towards economy class and found British Airways' latest business class product, named the "club suite," that's being deployed on its wide-body aircraft.
Flights to New York will see the club suite on every aircraft as part of British Airways' commitment to serving New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport with its latest seat product, the airline announced in October.
Source: British Airways
A total of 49 seats can be found in the cabin arranged in a reverse herringbone configuration. Seats along the cabin wall all face the window while seats in the center aisle are angled inward.
Each seat has all the standard amenities including an 18.5-inch in-flight entertainment screen, extra storage space, USB charging port, and 110v AC power outlet.
It's a massive upgrade from the business class product found on the 747 and offers every passenger increased privacy and direct aisle access.
Premium economy class directly follows business class with 40 seats across four rows in a 2-4-2 configuration.
Each premium economy class seat is a large recliner seat offering additional seat pitch and width compared to economy class, ideal for premium-minded passengers looking for an upgraded experience without having to pay for business class.
Economy class occupied the final with 138 seats in 3-4-3 configuration that's standard for the Boeing 777.
I arrived back at my window seat, 34K, and settled in for the flight. I had flown from London to New York a few times in my life and always found it to be an easy flight.
Each economy class seat offered a reasonable 31 inches of legroom and 17.5 inches of pitch. I felt perfectly comfortable even as a larger traveler.
I also didn't need to use the wipes for the seats because they appeared quite clean.
The seats did appear to be new but they had a noticeably older in-flight entertainment setup in the back of the seat. And each seat also has a hardshell back that doesn't provide much comfort for those travelers that like to rest their heads on the back of the seat.
Other seat amenities included an adjustable headrest, coat hook, foldable tray table, tethered remote to control the in-flight entertainment system, and 110v AC power outlet. Pillow and blanket kits were also left at each seat.
British Airways also has a penchant for cloth seats which are incredibly comfortable.
Our flight was all set for an on-time departure but a few passengers were denied boarding due to not having their required documents to travel to the US. We waited around 45 minutes while their bags were offloaded from the cargo hold before pushing back.
Soon enough, though, it was time to fly and the flight time to New York was only six hours and 45 minutes. It's comparable to flying from New York to Los Angeles except that this flight actually offers meals and alcoholic beverages in economy class.
This British Airways flight included a few public health recommendations including wearing face masks throughout the flight and avoiding wandering around the aircraft cabin.
Flight attendants quickly jumped into action after takeoff to begin the in-flight service. Drinks were served first, along with a snack of sour cream and onion-flavored pretzels.
Flying on a British airline called for having a British drink, a gin and tonic consisting of Tanqueray gin and Schweppes tonic water. The flight attendants were quite friendly and even let me move back a row so that I could have an empty middle seat.
The meal service soon followed and on the menu for the early evening flight to New York was chicken chasseur with mashed potato or vegetable lasagna.
I opted for the chicken chasseur with mashed potatoes that also came with a small salad and a pot of chocolate and salted caramel for dessert. The tray, however, was a bit lacking as normally there's a dinner roll or cheese and crackers to accompany it.
But ultimately, the main dish was incredibly tasty and I was satisfied with the meal. The gin and tonic also proved incredibly refreshing as we continued over the North Atlantic Ocean.
I then turned to the in-flight entertainment system to see what could tide me over for the next five hours until New York.
The system included a good variety of content including movies, television shows, music, and games, as well as a moving map to keep track of our progress across the Atlantic.
In-flight internet was also available for purchase. I ended up using my own entertainment for the flight so that I could get some rest and enjoy the natural entertainment just out of the window.
The flight quickly passed and seeing the St. Croix River meant that our flight was entering US airspace and that there was around an hour left of flying time. The sun was finally disappearing over the horizon after six hours of us chasing it across the Atlantic.
Flight attendants came around one final time for the pre-landing snack of a half cucumber and cream cheese sandwich accompanied by two Kit Kats and a bottle of water.
I'm not the biggest fan of cream cheese on anything other than a bagel so I declined the sandwich but the Kit Kats were a nice treat.
The final hour of the transatlantic crossing continued uneventfully as we overflew Boston and Long Island, New York on the approach to New York City.
Although we had departed late, we managed to make up the time in the air and arrive right on time.
The final COVID-19 protocol of the flight consisted of flight attendants deplaning the aircraft by rows. But since the front half of the aircraft consisted of first class and business class seating, it didn't take long for the plane to empty out.
British Airways uses Terminal 7 at JFK Airport which means that US Customs and Border Protection is just a short walk from any gate. And just like that, I was back in the US.
There is no shortage of airlines flying between London and New York but British Airways certainly proved that it's among those leading the pack.
British Airways might not be the coolest or hippest airline on the route, as Virgin Atlantic Airways arguably holds that title, but it offered a reliable service with a great in-flight experience, even in economy class.
Read the original article on Business Insider