As a change from all those luxury hotels, it is time for Girlahead to look at other aspects of top-end travel. Yes, you pay for luxury flying, but some would spend $2,000 or more on a pair of shoes, and $10,000 on a handbag and $75,000 for a vanity number plate (the gal saw VC1 on a car today, think what THAT is worth). Fly at peak level and you have a private jet. Fly scheduled and the best you can do is First Class, and frankly nothing beats Middle East airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways) or some Asian airlines (Singapore and Thai) and, in Europe, British Airways or Lufthansa. For any US-based airlines, First Class is laughable… the gal, being English, flies British Airways a lot.
There is so much in common, actually, with hotels. A beautiful terminal, like British Airways’ Terminal Five at London Heathrow Airport, has the same effect as, say, looking at Burj Al-Arab in Dubai. Simply stunning. There are also some differences. An airline, unlike a hotel, can publicise itself ahead of time, a plane in the sky, a tail fin you recognize, you feel at home already (take my word for it, there IS a British Airways plane in this picture but it was going so fast I could not get a close up!).
Arrive at the terminal and you note how beautiful it is – even the elevators impress, even if there are not enough of them. The terminal is a gleaming art gallery of steel and glass, with bright specks of colour, day-glo green here, yellow there. As a First Class passenger you get inbuilt exercise, in the form of a 300-yard hike to the dedicated help areas, furthest end of the terminal possible. This could be done intentionally, to help you build up an appetite for things to come.
Once through Security, you become special. Most of the masses flying out of Heathrow today wait in the main departures area, although cleverly the duty-free shopping people tempt with enormous boxes of chocolates and toys that you certainly did not know you needed and now you have bought them, and how to get them into the tiny storage space for your Economy seat… You, meanwhile, luxury traveler today, are immediately ushered to your right and into the Concorde Room, named for the dearly beloved beauty that, sadly, flies no more. There is a tiny model in a display case nearby.
If you know the form, you have pre-booked one of the Concorde Room’s three cabanas. These are brilliant. Each is about 140 sq feet, with a living area with ample-for-two (slimline, that is) people on the silk-like lounger, a big television, orchids, connectivity and full room service, plus a complete bathroom with shower. Denise Maunsell, Duty Manager for Quintessentially, which oversees the cabanas, says some come in with entire families, like how many can we squeeze into a mini… She and her team of six offer First passengers temporary concierge service – a great reason for flying this way!
The smart have also pre-booked an Elemis spa appointment, which comes free with your First Class ticket (well, there have to be some perks!). I had an outstanding back and shoulders massage from Maria. Lavender or lime oil to inhale, she asked? My man, meanwhile, was back in the Concorde Room having what the English call a ‘slap-up breakfast’, fluffy scrambled eggs and a lovely warm, also fluffy, croissant, and the coffee was sensational. This is just like a luxury hotel’s room service, order whatever, whenever, wherever. Don’t they serve food onboard? Watch this space.