Luxury Hotels

FLYING HIGH

All too often Girlahead laments the silos that have engulfed travel. We have hotels, who think of airlines as merely a mega-nuisance making customers arriving a their properties late and/or stressed. We have cruise lines who are regarded by hotels as a competitive nuisance. And airlines couldn’t care less about hotel or cruiselines, although working with those sectors does bring more business, albeit at a reduced rate.  Right now, for instance, British Airways is collaborating with Four Seasons Taormina Palace on a trip that shows less than a handful of top UK-based travel agents what the Sicilian hotel that hosted the second series of the phenomenally-successful White Lotus is really like.

It is therefore, in the determination better to unite the various sectors of tourism, an appropriate moment to salute the upgrades that British Airways is making at its lounges at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.  They did bring in lovely fresh flower displays a few months ago but these have been replaced by seriously-big green plants. Real. Good idea.

Go into the Concorde Lounge and, epecially if Lucille, above, is on duty, there’s a really authentic welcome. There’s a neew gin bar: a bottle of Aviation Gin is just visible on the right. The fruit bowl is more generous. The at-bar seating now has high chairs covered in a zingy patterned fabric.

Tables out on the covered terrace – where New York’s top travel promoter Melanie Brandman, she of The Brandman Agency, prefers to sit –  are now set up for service. Out there is no longer pariah-parish. Order food in the ‘inside’ section and your table is similarly dressed. In the past your order was merely brought as-was, with a linen-wrapped cutlery roll.

Add the menu has been enhanced, says Manager Luke, who works for outsourced caterer Baxter Storey.  He wears British Airways’ gear so he is even more part of the whole team.

Girlahead ordered a salad, and her table was immediately set up, with proper salt and pepper mills and two rounds of semi sourdough bread. No more than a couple of minutes later a bowl arrived, set on a big dish, patterned with ‘cracks’.  And head chef Alex came by to check everything was all right.  It sure was. The happy travelling customer cannot wait to have a repeat of that black rice and fennel salad.