New York is something of a second home to us at SITC and each trip feels like visiting an old friend. Nevertheless, the nature (and charm) of the city means that every visit always brings something new. Little did we expect that this time the discoveries would start before we arrived, courtesy of the BA Club World London City Service. The service flies from London City Airport to JFK via Shannon and, whilst a longer journey on paper, knocks the socks off the usual Heathrow option. Not only do you feel like you have chartered your own plane (more on that later) but the US customs pre-clearance in Shannon means that you land in JFK as a domestic flight. As such, when you arrive in the big apple you simply pick up your bags and go, minus the two hour immigration queue.
The London City Service experience starts on arrival – you check in and head straight to the gate lounge. That’s right, the “gate lounge” – as an all business class flight the two are not mutually exclusive. The lounge is compact but you can feast on a breakfast buffet that runs the full gamut of food preferences: from fresh fruit to smoked salmon with pumpernickel bread and the less traditional breakfast of choice: jelly babies. Breakfast is accompanied by surprisingly good coffee and the first of what transpires to be many offerings of Taittinger…
As nice as the lounge is, it is when you get to the plane that the experience starts to take on a league of its own. For the BA London City Service is less of a commercial plane but more of an extended private jet. The plane has eight, yes eight, rows of seats. Each row consists of four seats, two either side of the aisle, all of which fully recline into flat beds. That said, if the prospect of 32 passengers is too many, there were only nine availing themselves of the flight on our journey. In terms of the interior, the plane is an exercise in sleek white and grey interiors – if Apple were to do commercial flights it would be this. It’s iTravel if you will.
Once on board, you fly to Shannon where you pre-clear US customs. The short journey to Shannon is passed with canapés and champagne, whilst your lunch order is taken. You disembark at Shannon, walk through customs (no queues), then immediately reboard the plane for JFK. As the second leg of the journey starts, a ridiculously good lunch is served (a further three courses), washed down with more Taittinger (or whatever your tipple may be). This being iTravel, you are of course handed iPads preloaded with movies and TV shows to keep you entertained on the remainder of the journey.
The beauty of this route is that you you land in JFK having cleared customs, avoiding the interminable delays in immigration. You simply collect your bags and are free to head into the city; refreshed, well-fed and wondering why you have not taken this route before.
If you are looking to book a business class/Club World ticket to JFK I cannot recommend this route enough. It may, on pure flying hours, seem a longer journey than a direct flight but when the journey is taken as a whole, it is a much more efficient route and the benefits are immeasurable. Points to note are: (i) the return journey is a shorter, direct, flight into London City Airport (and in our experience a little busier); and (ii) the ability to pre-clear US customs is not available on all of the flights that stop in Shannon so double check that pre-clearance is available for your flight. Oh, and did we mention that you can use air miles to book your ticket…?
The facts: more details on the BA London City Service can be found on their website here.